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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Susan Clynes - Life Is...

Belgian pianist, composer, and songwriter Susan Clynes has been around since she performed in College doing Drama, Music Composition, and earning a degree at the Ghent Conservatory, which was founded under Leopold I back in 1835 who was the first King of the Belgians in which it was under independence from the Netherlands. Clynes is also married to keyboardist Antoine Guenet of SH.TG.N, The Wrong Object, and RIO legends Univers Zero, so she has been very busy in the music world.

That and her second album, Life Is…, which is a follow up to her 2005 debut, Sugar for a Dream, is released on the Moonjune label, is her international introduction, and the album is a live recording that she did at three live concerts and recorded them at two different locations; The Archiduc, and the Library of the Cultural Center of Bree with Simon Lenski on Cello, Pierre Mottet on Bass, and Nico Chkifi on Drums. Susan is almost both a singer and a conductor and she gives both Lenski, Mottet, and Chkifi to improvises on where she would go on the grand piano to decide which variation she would go into and take it up a notch that is hypnotic and mind-blowing to listen and hear. Not to mention five centerpieces to grab your attention and understanding of Clynes music.

You can feel the gentle and power on Clynes piano work and beautiful vocals, in which it has a resemblance to Thelonious Monk and Vince Guaraldi on the opening title track. It has this lovely melody that I’ve mentioned on Guaraldi’s lines that has a very much on waltz and a score to Charles Schulz’s Peanuts specials back in the mid ‘60s as if she is paying tribute to both pianists as if she is carrying the torch of the Jazz world.

When You’re Dead begins with this Gentle Giant-sque piano introduction with a soothing and emotional beauty of Clynes voice which it resembles Tori Amos and Laura Veirs as the tense between the melodic line of Susan and Lenski’s instruments as she sings the line “Where will you be when you’re/Where will you be when you are/ Where you will be when you’re” sixteen times before she sings the line, “Where will you be when you’re dead?” as the echoing sounds of the Cello and Clynes concerto waltz work that is a question for someone what will happen when you pass on and what will happen to me?

Les Larmes (Tears), is a features both the trio combined into one, deals with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is filled with emotion, ominous and heavier tones that sets up the tension between the two barriers and hoping for peace. You can feel the intensity between both Cello and Piano as the shrieking level comes to an increase yet nightmarish feel as if the war is still going on and it’s disturbing, yet raw and energetic before the scatting vocalization comes in and not to mention different time signatures. A moving and eruptive composition that would send shivers down your spine.

Le Voyage is Susan’s chance to give the listener a journey to the Scheldt with another of her piano concertos. On this composition, she pays tribute and homage to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells-era for the first two minutes and then the last few minutes of the piece that gives it a huge jolt before it goes into a lullaby and relaxation for the young one to sleep and let them know that everything’s okay before heading back into dance-mode to give it that beautiful warmth closing.

A Good Man, is both Pierre and Nico on Bass and Drums as to get away from the ominous, classical, and sadness pieces into a joyous romp enjoyment. From the sounds of the chord progressions that Susan does and Pierre’s walking bass line to do a catchy workout as they head into ‘50s rock-and-roll with a fast-driven tempo that gives them a perfect relaxation and have a blast before heading back into the progression tone.

For all of the amazement and un-expect the unexpected, and I have listened to this album about twelve times already and it is proven that Susan Clynes has brought a lot of power and energy to Life Is… and she provides the moment where she plays and sings to give the right moment at the right time she gives the band members the moment to hit at the exact same moment. This is an album that deserves some recognition. I can’t wait to see what she will think of next in the near future and this is an album that is highly recommended.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Machine Mass - Inti

Now for me, I’ve always admired of what Michel Delville has done with bands and projects like; DouBt, The Wrong Object, and of course, Machine Mass. Well, the group are back for seconds with the follow up to 2011’s As Real as Thinking, to their new album Inti. Alongside with Michel Delville and drummer Tony Bianco, they brought along saxophonist Dave Liebman, who worked with jazz legends like; Chick Corea, Miles Davis, and Elvin Jones.

Once you put the album on, you are about to experience something magical and hypnotic at the same time the moment the opening title track begins. It has this wonderful improvisation between Bianco and Liebman as they pay homage to John Coltrane’s Acknowledgement from A Love Supreme for the first few seconds as Dave just takes it out of the ball park with his shining tribute to Coltrane himself by doing these insane improvisations as if the master himself is watching him and being proud of him before going into an ominous fusion-sque surrealism as Delville’s guitar fly into space in the styles of Robert Fripp.

Meanwhile on Centipede, Delville is doing this fast string bass walk along with the virtuoso guitar work as Liebman and Bianco go at it and at times its almost this bizarre combination of the Soft Machine’s Third-era by creating the tension and the vibrations as well. The band give a chance for Dave Liebman to take center stage as he does his solo work with fast-driven tempo as if they are performing it back in 1973 to a mind-blowing crowd with jaws dropped to see what would happen next.

They go into the sounds of ‘70s Funk-Fusion with some cool smoothing beats in the night-time sky for some relaxation on Lloyd while going into the sounds of the Indian and traditional Japanese music thanks to Delville’s Flute introduction on his take of Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way. Michel goes through the first two minutes and nineteen seconds for an ambient/atmospheric vibrations featuring sitar, middle-eastern guitar sound, swirling percussion touches, and the sax howling at the moon to play all through into the evening and straight for the sun coming up by the right moment.

The 12-minute avant and droning twists on Elisabeth and Utoma, is Tony Bianco’s chance to go hypnotic on the drums by going through various patterns as if it could have been used during the sessions for Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma and for The Grand Vizer’s Garden Party as the surrealism between woodwind and the electronics of spacey yet moody atmospheres, gets the solar systems all hooked into the controls towards the milky way.

Machine Mass have a relaxation to take a break from their loud compositions as guest vocalist Saba Tewelde, comes in with a gently yet calming voice with her vocalizations to give a relaxation, is a touching and innovative composition as Michel helps her out with some wonderful creative ideas on his guitar to follow her voice wherever he lands between the notes on The Secret Place.

The homage to the Mahavishnu Orchestra comes in full swing as Dave Libman and Michel go at it again on the ominous along with bass and synth booming sounds on the chord tones with A Sight. And then more of the same vibes of the threatening vibes come into full swing on the closer, Voice. This time, the band are combined into one as they go through into darker territories, shrieking voices in their instruments as Blanco is going into the city with the coolness on his drum patterns.

I have listened to Inti about four times already and I have to say, I’m impressed and pleased of what I was hearing. Machine Mass are one of my favorite bands from the Moonjune label. There’s a lot of Free-Jazz, Avant-Rock, Atmospheric sounds from what comes on here and they have come into the light and have shown a lot of what is about to come. I can’t wait to hear what Michel Delville has up his sleeves for the years to come with his other projects and this is a must have album if you admire the Soft Machine, King Crimson, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane, this is it!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Twenty Committee - A Lifeblood Psalm

Since assembling back in 2012, The Twenty Committee are an up and coming band that have a theatrical presence in their music in which keyboardist and vocalist, Geoffrey Langley previously wrote to capture the effects and the vibe of the beauty and the symphonic structures as well. Alongside Langley, the band considers; Justin Carlton on Guitar, Steve Kostas on Lead Guitar, Richmond Carlton on Bass and Harp, and Joe Henderson on Drums and Vocals.

Geoffrey had the pleasure of meeting Neal Morse (Transatlantic, Flying Colors, Spock’s Beard) who launched the “Chance of a Lifetime” series on YouTube and played him some of his compositions in which he knew that he had something up his sleeves and soon the band went down to Nashville to record their debut album, A Lifeblood Psalm. Recorded in only two weeks at Radiant Studios and produced by Jerry Guidroz, it is one of the most compelling yet exuberating debut album they’ve unleashed last year.

The album begins with Introduction as the various speakers having a chat before the piano, guitar and strings as Geoffrey’s voice comes in to get you ready for an amazing journey that you will soon enjoy from beginning, middle, and end as it segues into How Wonderful. It has some wonderful chorus, well-written melodies that is a warmth relaxation of a dancing waltz in ¾ time as the midsection features a wonderful guitar solo, cool piano chord changes, drum patterns that has a flying atmosphere along with the vocals as well.

Her Voice, has a catchy yet fast up tempo time signature that has a driven guitar line, Fender Rhodes as Steve Kostas goes into town with his guitar work as if he is paying tribute to Frank Zappa and John McLaughlin with some feedback and going into a haywire mode on his instrument as the instruments go clashing together as he just goes beyond the frets to create the tension in the middle part with a spaced out feel. And then, it’s back into the Fusion feel before Geoff does this breathtaking organ solo with the Yes and Genesis feel as if they used this for the sessions to Close to the Edge and A Trick of the Tail for a thunderous yet lukewarm finale.

Airtight begins with an gentle sunrise arpeggiated guitar opener as it goes into this folky feel as the band have a chance to take a break from the electric sound into a more wonderous uplifting relaxation and not to mention a swinging feel before they head back into the 5-part epic, The Knowledge Enterprise. The Overture starts off with a piano concerto for the first 30 seconds as the swirling synths, brass, guitar lines comes in handy along with some heavier rocking voyages with power riffs and a crazy synth solo before heading back into the symphonic work-out exercise.

Conceivers and Deceivers has the beautiful melodies in the previous track on the second composition and almost done in the style of Rush’s Red Barchetta, but it has a wonderful orchestral feel to it while Tonight has a comforting ballad that gives the listener a chance to understand how amazing the Twenty Committee can give you a calming and emotional touch on their songs and instrumental before getting the batteries all charged up and ready to go on the exploration With These Eyes. The closing, Finale, is synths and guitars having a blast along with the piano for the climatic climax with a wonderful roaring ending and Geoff’s concerto to give that jolt of an warming ending.

The Twenty Committee is a band that is worth listening to. And I have listened to A Lifeblood Psalm about eight times now and they have finally come into full circle and this is an album worth checking out that is recorded brilliantly. The road is a long road to walk through, but they are going to make it to the top of the Mountain one way or another.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Stamina - Perseverance

It’s hard to imagine the sounds of Progressive, Melodic, and Power Metal are combined into one from Italy to make it sound very orchestral and symphonic with an epic twist. But since their formation twelve years ago and with two demo CDs and two albums, they really have something up their sleeves. Their new album, Perseverance, delivers with expectations and a huge nod to Symphony X, Kansas, and Deep Purple as their inspirations to capture the essence of the three Metal genres to keep the spirit flowing.

You can imagine the curtains opening and the sound of thunder hitting as the alarming synths hit before the heavy riffs, bass, and drums along with the keyboards come kicking in on the opening track, Higher. Vocalist Jacopo Di Domenico resembles Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden with the soaring energy that he has while Luca Sellito might carry the essence of Blackmore, Luca Turilli, and Dave Murray, but he can carry the rhythm and leading parts to stay close to the beat.

Other compositions like, I’m Alive and Just Before the Dawn, deal with facing the days and nothing can stop the person to fight back for freedom in which it has a lot of the epic symphonic boundaries as the other has a lukewarm calming relaxing method along with the string quartet from the keyboards, shows Stamina could create some wonderful melodies in their sound.

Naked Eye, has a Jazz-Metal-Fusion type of groove with some mellowing beats to it in which it has it interesting crossover as if Herbie Hancock and Return to Forever had teamed up with Dream Theater to create some mind-blowing sounds of both Jazz and Progressive Metal with a crazy twist as the epic proportions come into full swing on the title track. Featuring strings, horns, heavy guitar sounds along with some wonderful keyboard solos that almost makes it very much like an Overture to a Metallic Opera set in the future before the energy comes in with the fast-driven beats.

And it so strong and planned, you can understand that Stamina have the got the ingredients needed for their influential surroundings. Alongside the title track, Breaking Another String, has the same similarities with the orchestral values as the keyboard goes into the fanfare introduction as the guitar goes into various time signatures and a touching tribute to the Power Metal sound and not to mention the Jazzy section near the last two minutes as a tribute to Steve Vai and the late great Jaco Pastorius.

For me, this is an exhilarating yet eruptive band I’ve listened to and they are soon going to be one of my favorites that have carried the essence of the genres I've mentioned in the sounds of; Progressive, Symphonic, Melodic, and Power Metal rolled up into one and it is a real eruptive yet explosive album that Perseverance is. They are worth exploring to look out for this year.

Friday, February 7, 2014

DarkUpside - A Taste of Unknown

DarkUpside is an Italian trio from Genova that considers; Diego Cazzaniga on Vocals and Guitar, Davide Di Marco on Bass Guitar, and Davide Incorvaia on Drums. The band has a Progressive Metal and Alternative Rock vibe in their music that combines the sound of; Foo Fighters, Mastodon, Porcupine Tree, and Karnivool to name a few. Now with the combining sounds of the four bands, and since their formation back in 2011 with a 4-track demo they did, the concept of their music is to do something different with the genres.

And with their debut album released last year, A Taste of Unknown, is a heavier, ominous, and doomier at the same time in which the band brings the mighty electrifying ideas they bring into the sound of DarkUpside’s music. Not to mention the band’s five centerpieces that deserves some attention. Opener, Waving Steps, begins with a pastoral classical echoed guitar reverb done in the style of the sessions of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells before turning into a electronic vibe as it segues into the mellowing yet nightmarish tension of someone going insane on Unbearable Noise.

There are some killer riffs that Cazzaniga is doing in the styles of John Petrucci and Adam Jones as if he is taking it to different levels playing both the riff and the rhythm on his guitar to capture the atmosphere of going inside the mind of a person by seeing where he or she would go next of his mental conditions while Peace of Mind, sees the band paying tribute to Tool as if they have given the torch to them to see where they would go next.

Then, the band go into an instrumental composition combining the forces of Alternative and Extreme Metal an explosive powder keg that is ready to go off on Come Back. Beginning with a Bass and Snare Drum militant introduction done by both Marco and Incorvaia as Diego kicks the door open with some wonderful chops on the guitar, it goes through the minds of Pantera flown in through the landscapes as Davide goes into this powerful drum work as he makes it sound like a gun reigning rapid fire.

DarkUpside also go through on dealing with searching for the answers on who the person really is on Memories. There’s a lot of intensity on this track as the band go into a driven beat with some spacey sounds on the keyboard, soaring vocals, heavy rhythms along with the power riffs, and calming drums, the flashbacks on asking the person who the real self is to search and finding out what happen to their lives.

DarkUpside have something up their sleeves. And while this is their debut album, in which I've listened to about three times already, it has a lot of energy and eruptive power that is an absorbing yet riveting beginning for them. So if you love as I’ve mentioned, both Progressive Metal and Alternative Rock, DarkUpside’s A Taste of Unknown is right up your alley to check out.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tom Slatter - Through These Veins

Having been blown away from his previous album, Three Rows of Teeth, Tom Slatter shows no sign of stopping. And his latest E.P., is going beyond the Steampunk universe of rogue surgeons, suspended animation, and body horror. That is to say that once you have those ideas of a dystopian atmosphere, you know something dark and touching is about to happen.

Through These Veins seems to be almost straight out of the stories from the minds of; H.P. Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City. For a story of an insane woman named Dr. Margoyle, who turns her patient into the macabre of living sculptures, knowing that we are entering the mind of this person to see what she is doing and why she is completely insane and out of her head by tormenting them like no other.

Opener, I Am Not Your Heart, begins with the String quartet from the Mellotron before the drums and echoing sounds of the guitar with a reverb pitch comes kicking in to set the tempo into a Space Rock sound as if Slatter is paying tribute to Steve Hackett and Manuel Gottsching of Ash Ra Tempel. And then everything starts to relax as he goes into a moody and ominous atmosphere as the lyrics show how disturbing Margoyle really is.

The musique concrete and avant-garde between string section and doomy Rhodes on Segue – I Am an Artist, is done as narration of the character as she, herself, explains why she calls it art instead of butchering as she is talking to the detective on her obsession of her work that is almost straight out of The Silence of the Lambs. Without my Medicine, complete with electronic drums, rhythm guitar, chords from the keyboard, and soothing vocals from Tom himself makes it emotional, and very laid-back as the lyrics deal with without Dr. Margoyle’s ingredients, she is a complete mess.

The closing title track, begins as a Rhodes lullaby for the first 28 seconds before going into the style of Camille Saint-Saens heavy inspirations of the Danse Macabre in the sinister waltz time signature and not to mention the string section, keeps the tension going in this jazzy-classical-rock sound. And it is really terrifying and menacing, but the lyrics that Tom wrote are staggering and mind-boggling.

I have listen to Through These Veins, about three times already and the story line may not be for the faint of the heart, but Tom Slatter has got something up his sleeve for The Steam Engine Murder storyline that he wrote. And I can’t wait to hear what he will do next with it to combine the symphonic, mysterious, and the darkness on the E.P. itself. All in all, it is a striking E.P. So say goodbye to Hannibal Lecter, and hello to Dr. Margoyle.