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Old 10-18-2009, 09:46 PM   #11 (permalink)
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7.

Moonlight – DownWords (2005)



1. Spy (7:56)
2. Irreversible (6:09)
3. Pati (5:43)
4. Into My hands (6:40)
5. Insomnia (6:11)
6. My own Words (3:59)
7. Pill (3:10)
8. Circus (9:30)
9. Downwords (10:41)


Portishead meets Megadeth.

Trip-hop meets glitch-rock meets your Russian uncle's favorite tricky Polka-Metal album.

The old timers smoking at your local jazz joint open their filthy coats wide and divulge guitars of shimmering steel to break the night to pieces.

Polish group Moonlight are a rather intriguing group that have been around since 1991 or so with 11 studio albums (as of 2009) under their belt. Although unknown compared to bands such as Riverside, Moonlight are the real treasure from the point of view of a guy like me, as they delve into territory that few prog. groups touch, electronica, and seamlessly blend it within and throughout the chaotic riffing that forms the basis of their sound. DownWords, their 10th album from 2005, is where this their odd mismatch of styles reached fruition, and hence its the one I'm reviewing here.

In particular, 'Spy' and 'Circus' are ideal showcases of what Moonlight does best; folksy licks amidst classically-inspired grooves that burst free with riffagee when you least expect it. Accordions also get their fair share of screentime here, which contributes to the quirky yet dark mood that pervades DownWords.

Lyrically and structurally, the strangeness is never in short supply. Odd silences will manifest themselves as if this were some kind of experiment in minimalism. Beats and the wisps of an instrumental flourish will echo back and forth from distant spaces before being extinguished. And finally, female vocalist Maja Konarska (who sounds like a sultry cross between Bjork and Goldfrapp) keeps each track captivating and not lacking in a sense of mystery. Overall, a powerful and strange landmark within the weak-willed annals of progressive metal history, but already...not remembered.

Play this and forget your musical identity. The blandness of other things will become apparant, and you will get lost in the woods.

Goodnight number 7.
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Old 10-26-2009, 10:41 PM   #12 (permalink)
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6.

Thieves' Kitchen – The Water Road (2008)



1. The Long Fianchetto (21:01)
2. Returglas (4:12)
3. Chameleon (9:00)
4. Om Tare (7:44)
5. Tacenda for You (9:34)
6. When the Moon is in the River of Heaven (7:46)
7. Plaint (2:35)
8. The Water Road (11:13)


Beginning with a Swedish band called Anglagard back in 1992, the dank Mellotron-drenched schema originally pioneered by classic ensembles such as King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator has for over a decade now held a fairly good-sized niche in modern prog. canon. Too bad most of the bands who are part of that particular niche are hella boring and lack the ability to create anything memorable. From Anekdoten to Sinkadus to Wobbler...it's all just a big ol' pile of meh!

Thank the heavens above then for Thieves' Kitchen, a group who, on a little-known 2008 album called The Water Road, actually managed to innovate and breathe life into this approach with one fell swoop. This is partly due to the wonderful presence of Amy Darby on vocals, but also because the music gives listeners something most retro-prog does not: space. Take this part from the opener 'The Long Fianchetto' for instance:




The piano and jazzy drums, along with the cello and melancholic guitar licks is just so much more interesting and open from a listening perspective than the typical Mellotron-overwashing+guitar shredding. Although it still gets heavy at times, the fact that the interplay reminds me more of The Mahavishnu Orchestra than Spock's Beard is really something to be admired, with part 2 of our opening epic a prime cut for the ear in this regard;



These people CAN play, but they also fully grasp those principles of restraint and ambience so oft forgotten in a genre that prides itself on excess. Hence, I can also vouch that the rest of The Water Road is rather fantastic throughout the rest of its lineup, especially in the moments where flute and/or vocals take precedence over the usual antics you come to expect in this genre. Truly top class material, and at times seemingly beyond the trappings of a time or musical label in how it appeals to my senses:



So for those seeking progressive rock with steller atmosphere, timeless beauty and an ever-welcome shifting jazzy dynamic to keep things interesting, Thieves' Kitchen are just what the doctor ordered.
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Old 10-27-2009, 02:37 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I haven't heard moonlight or Thieves' Kitchen, but I'm in the process of getting a hold of them. Good reviews as always

edit :

Listening to Thieves Kitchen now and, I gotta be honest with ya .. It's awesome!
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Old 11-10-2009, 01:20 PM   #14 (permalink)
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5.

The Gourishankar – 2nd Hands (2007)



1. Moon7 (10:11)
2. Endless Drama (7:45)
3. Queer Forest (6:30)
4. Taste A Cake (1:47)
5. The Inexpressible Chagrin (6:54)
6. Syx (11:08)
7. ...End (8:40)
8. Marvelous Choice (18:16)


Walking just as much to the beat of Russian night club electro-pop as they do to Gentle Giant, Yes, Rush and Stravinsky, The Gourishankar are prime moderns on the progressive scene in a part of the world that, atleast up until 1990, was censored heavily on the music side of things by the Communist regime. Hence, whether or not the creativity exhibited here on 2nd Hands is due to their country's background or that these fine young players are simply exceptionally imaginative, the work they've put out here is a wonder to behold once you give them a chance to sink in.

..anyway, 2nd Hands is a record with a lot going for it. Some things are to be expected; the guitars have a technical crunch that lie in some in-between place between hard rock and metal, and the drumming and bass are lively. But this is not what makes The Gourishankar interesting.

No, what makes these lads interesting is the dance-floor pop sensibility that, like precious mineral veins in a cave which are separate yet intertwine with the surrounding ordinary stone into a natural whole, proves an inexplicably attractive framework for the prog. elements to run rampant amidst. Take the second track 'Endless Drama' for instance-




Club synths broken by guitar and a combination of drum and drum-machine, even some relatively catchy Rush-esque delivery...and you're not even two minutes in. Simply phenomenal!!

Still, its not all progressive rave music with extra glow stick. Opening instrumental "Moon7" is a delicious escapade into galactic jazziness whilst interlude 'Taste A Cake' is an unexpected slice of piano+cello with some soothing ambient touches to carry you onto the second half, which is also where the real standout tracks happen to be; the wintry electrics of 'The Inexpressible Chagrin', the soft-spoken but ultimately danceable '...End' and 18-minute rave epic "Marvelous Choice' end the album on a memorable note, leaving you with a solid sense of fulfillment...until you decide to play them all over again!

Ultimately though, my attempts to review and describe are pointless in the long run; the important thing is that something about these guys sticks with you once you get into them. They aren't well known, they're nearly impossible to understand lyrically despite the fact they're singing in English...but they still accomplish what most progressive rock groups seem to have a big problem with - being catchy - and still manage to bring a distinctive blend of ideas to the table. Because, in all seriousness, it's a shame these guys aren't full time musicians: they've got a wonderful approach to progressive rock that nobody else has got right now, and that's why they're being reviewed here.

For fans of electronic music, classical, metal-tinged intensity, or just interesting music in general...bon appétit!
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Old 11-23-2009, 07:49 PM   #15 (permalink)
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4.

King Crimson – THRAK (1995)



1. VROOOM (4:37)
2. Coda: Marine 475 (2:41)
3. Dinosaur (6:35)
4. Walking On Air (4:34)
5. B'Boom (4:11)
6. THRAK (3:58)
7. Inner Garden 1 (1:47)
8. People (5:53)
9. Radio 1 (0:43)
10. One Time (5:21)
11. Radio 2 (1:02)
12. Inner Garden 2 (1:15)
13. Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream (4:48)
14. VROOOM VROOOM (5:37)
15. VROOOM VROOOM: Coda (3:00)


Ten years after the release of Three Of A Perfect Pair, King Crimson returned in glorious swagger to a very different musical environment for the 1980's. Now was the age of grunge, of boy band schmaltz, of Blur and Oasis, and most of all the end of an era where radio and television completely controlled what music you were and were not exposed to.

In times such as these, what's a prog. band to do?

Change, evolve and kick some tail obviously!

THRAK marks a prominent evolution in King Crimson's already wondrous discography, putting the jazz and Frippertronics on the downswing and rediscovering that plodding wonderful density that made albums such as In The Court of the Crimson King and Red such marvelous attention getters. Furthermore, Fripp and the boys learned the value of "less is more': The track lengths were slimmed, the guitars and drumming brought up a notch in lieu with the tendencies of grunge and alternative rock, which wasn't that big a stretch considering the influence that King Crimson have on both genres; Kurt Cobain often cited Red as a favorite album of his after all.

Still, despite a few nods to accessibility and 90's rock (or perhaps because of those nods) THRAK is a masterpiece of modern progressive rock at the end of the 20th century. This is partly due to the fact that 'Dinosaur' and 'People' are very strong tracks, the former due to being a perfect fusion of 70's KC and alternative while the latter boasts some of the best bass and drum work the group ever cut on a track shorter than six minutes.




What's surprising here though is that the album's strongest moment, atleast in my opinion, comes very early on in the form of a crooned ballad from Adrian Belew, 'Walking On Air'. It's quiet, spacey, and also a subtle nod to the band's 1981 masterpiece Discipline in both structure and approach. It's also one of the rare occasions that Robert Fripp and co. have blatantly penned a love song.




Still, the rest of the album is fairly awesome too, with my kudos in particular going to 'Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream', a fun track that starts off oddly bluesy before chilling down into a killer mantra which gets into a drum freakout after about 2 minutes in.

Within King Crimson's massive discography, its really hard NOT to recommend THRAK. It's concise, very accessible, still livid with the baddass bass+drum+guitar work that makes them who they are, and best of all a diverse work which lets multiple sides of the band shine through without cheese or extravagant drama.

If there ever was a good example of an old band learning new tricks and even innovating, this is the best you'll find. Also recommended for people wanting to get into King Crimson but who can't stand longer track lengths.
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Old 11-24-2009, 02:17 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Nice thread and good call on Mansun although I do prefer their debut although it's not as multi layered as Six. A couple of bands on there that I haven't heard too. Top stuff.
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Old 11-29-2009, 07:31 PM   #17 (permalink)
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3.

Frost* – Milliontown (2006)



1. Hyperventilate (7:31)
2. No Me No You (6:06)
3. Snowman (3:55)
4. The Other Me (4:51)
5. Black Light Machine (10:06)
6. Milliontown (26:35)


Quote:
"I've got nothing against pop music; it's like a family car, reliable and safe. But now and then you want to rent a Ferrari and race it along the Nuerburgring to prove to yourself that you're still alive. PROG IS MY FERRARI."

- Jem Godfrey

Jem Godfrey is not normally a name you'd associate with progressive rock in any form or shape. His resume as a producer is solidly within the realm of commercial pop and was pivotal in the success of many #1 charters such Atomic Kitten and Holly Valence. However, around 2004 or so, he decided to pursue working with a genre that was about as far from commercial as one could get, a form of music he had always loved but had never been able to work within before: P.R.O.G. rock.

So after calling up a few old friends and bringing in one or two neo-prog. scene favorites John Mitchell and Andy Edwards, Frost* was born: a project to bridge the expansive majesty of progressive rock to commercial pop-rock.

Was the fusion successful? With the release of 2006 debut Milliontown, the answer is wholehearted yes. Each of the six tracks here, from the industrial-tinged 'No Me No You' to the spellbinding 'Black Light Machine' encapsulate in some way or another both the grandeur of 1970's experimentation and the thirty years of musical revolution and change that came afterward, mixed into some of the slickest production values that bring guys like Alan Parsons and Quincy Jones to mind. More than just successful, this was a winning combination that neo-progressive rock had yet to even touch.

But praises aside, Milliontown is also one of those albums that changed the way I thought of music, and furthermore it singlehandedly hooked me onto a genre when I was a stupid sophomore back in high school that not even Pink Floyd or Yes had managed to excite me to explore. This stuff was very modern sounding, but sharp and grandiose in ways that radio wasn't. This was...well, intimate and intricate, and so different from what I knew. It was also really tight on the instruments, but colorful in execution vocally and taking care to try new things with every track.

This was also the first album I had ever heard with a nearly half hour track...and even more strangely, a nearly half hour track that was AWESOME all the way through. Extravagant but never boring, full of motifs and designed not as separate hum-drum movements but as one continuous whole to keep you interested...my first time sitting through this as someone who didn't know anything is still an experience I can't forget.




Hundreds of new progressive rock albums are released a year; the sheer volume overwhelms anyone even trying to figure out where they should begin. But, whether by fate or coincidence, I cannot express how great a doorway to modern prog. that Milliontown was for me. From the vocals to the memorable yet complex arrangements that perpetuate the six tracks here, even a casual listener will find something to latch onto with surprise and a smile.

For those looking something accessible yet accomplished, Frost* are where its at amidst the lameness and sameness that prevail about us. Enjoy!




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Old 12-03-2009, 09:15 PM   #18 (permalink)
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2.

Sigh – Imaginary Sonicscape (2001)



1. Corpsecry - Angelfall (06:42)
2. Scarlet Dream (05:11)
3. Nietzchean Conspiracy (05:24)
4. A Sunset Song (06:49)
5. Impromptu (Allegro Maestoso) (01:24)
6. Dreamsphere (Return To Chaos) (06:51)
7. Voices (7:02)
8. Ecstatic Transformation (05:35)
9. Slaughtergarden Suite (10:57)
10. Born Condemned Criminal (5:41)
11. Bring Back The Dead (06:40)
12. Requiem - Nostalgia (07:58)



The band? - Sigh
The country? - Japan
The genre? - Prog. n' black metal based ear-rape that goes WAY beyond the trappings of either genre.

/summary end...and now for a real review! :

Before becoming one of the coolest progressive outfits to ever operate under a metal genre tag of any kind, Sigh, like many well-to-do black metal bands back in the early 90's, began their career by doing lots of Celtic Frost covers and sending it shitty sounding demos to any and every label that might want to get some fans' heads bangin'. Needless to say, they got signed before too long to Deathlike Silence Productions and since that time have gone from being merely a novelty (Japan has black metal??1 zomg1) to a bunch of individuals working together in glorious harmony to see how far black metal can be bent and twisted without losing grip on a thrashy, raw foundation.

Still, it wasn't until 2001's Imaginary Sonicscape that all that Sigh was and aspired to be finally coalesced into a singular vision for the rest of the world to hear, and GODDAMN if it isn't one hell of a ride from start to stop!

Opener 'Corpsecry - Angelfall' sucks you right in from the get-go, giving listeners who are unfamiliar with Sigh's basic approach a general idea of their oddly catchy sound (NWOBHM guitar-riffage, proggy keyboards, snarling black metal vocals) while providing utter delight to those more familiar with their work. The production is sharp, the instruments all balanced and mixed in quite well, and you couldn't ask for a better start from a bunch as eclectic as this.

By 'Nietzschean Conspiracy', the third track, though, even new listeners know this isn't going to be your typical awesome black metal. Sleazy sax, psychedelic keyboards and a FREAKIN' violin ensemble provide a backdrop to an unusual crooning-yet-snarling delivery, as if Marvin Gaye gargled acid then teamed up with Emperor to become lead vocalist, and the result is nothing short of stupendous.




But when every track here is a step outside the box in some way, shape or form, the highlights become an ocean, everywhere around you as the volume goes up and the minutes tick away like youth. Howver, a few other particular high points include the, dare I say it, sunny-disco-Beach Boys black metal of track #4 'A Sunset Song', which in and of itself is worth getting this album for, and the oddly operatic closer 'Requiem - Nostalgia', which features a HARMONICA of all things. Strange, but awesome nevertheless!

In closing, Sigh is one of modern progressive/black metal's best kept secrets, blessed with more talent and edge than they will ever be appreciated for. They're less blatantly weird than Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, closer in spirit to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal groups with cleaner and more interesting riffing than most black metal, but best of all aren't afraid to try new things even if it makes the music catchier or simpler than what some people seek in the worlds of prog., metal, and progressive metal.

But if you guys want to hear something a bit different, a tad accessible, and even a mite groundbreaking, then Imaginary Sonicscape will flavor many a musical palette in the coming days and ages, hopefully influencing other bands to up their game a bit along the way.




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Old 12-03-2009, 11:58 PM   #19 (permalink)
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What? Sigh? What?

<3 Lovelovelovelove them.
Actually, I discovered them here.
When I first joined. ^_^

The first two tracks are my favourites.

I'm glad you reviewed them.
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Old 12-04-2009, 04:41 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Heh good choice with Sigh, that is easily their best album. I wasn't even aware of this thread, but there's some excellent choices and some that I will certainly look into.
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