Gaodhal's Vision (77)
Irish Violinist. His album Gaodhal's Vision features an all-star lineup, the sound is jazzy and ethereal, with occasional outbursts of fusion, and may remind of Jade Warrior's Kites period at times.
The Surrealist (94)
This guitarist from Quebec offers an instrumental music based on guitar work. The arrangements on The Surrealist also involves carefully programmed parts of bass, drums and percussions. A guest on tenor saxophone also contributes a few furious improvisations. The result is an experimental music with shades of rock and free-jazz. Ther rhythmic base often includes bass, drums and vibraphone to which are added crisp sounding acoustic guitar and heavy electric guitar. A fairly intense music that flirts with dissonance. -- Paul Charbonneau
Ancient Dreams (85), Hit (??), Between Two Worlds (87), Rivers Gonna Rise (??), Eldorado (89), Indigo (??), Mix-Up (90), The Private Music of Patrick O'Hearn (91), White Sands (92)
Studio musician, member of Missing Persons and Group 87. Hit is just a bunch of pop trash covers, but Indigo shows off his versatility more. The guy can play just about everything. But his stuff is considered new-age. At least, that's where you'd find it at the record stores.
[See Group 87]
Product of Pisces and Capricorn (70), Amalgamation (71)
Woden's Eve Live (02, Live)
Conquest of the Pacific (07, limited release in 2006)
Original entry, 2/14/06:
The recording quality on this CD is excellent for a live album, and the music is all well orchestrated and expertly performed instrumental arrangements. There's a nice, wide variety of musical styles on this recording, yet it always sounds like the same band, not like they don't know who they want to be. This would have been an excellent concert to be in attendence at, and I'm sure the Armenian prog community was highly enthused by this performance. It's not like Armenia is a hotbed of prog action or anything, though this band is associated with the other Armenian prog band I'm aware of, Artsruni, via their mutual manager, Arman Padaryan. I can only hope their success spawns further prog action in Armenia.
One of the main reasons I bring up Padaryan's name is that I don't know how to tell you to get a copy of Woden's Eve Live other than by e-mailing him at email@example.com. It's unlikely you'll find this album at any of the usual distribution sources, and Oaksenham do not have any web presence I've been able to find. But for fans of mellow melodic prog, this album is a must, so if you're among them, try to contact Padaryan. I hope you have better luck with getting the CD from Armenia to where you live than I did, though ... my package went through some really strange adventures I can only guess at on its way to me. But that's another story ... -- Fred Trafton
But of even more interest, Oaksenham now has a studio album of their work available. It's titled Conquest of the Pacific after the "side long" epic that makes up the second half of the CD. As good as Woden's Eve Live was, it only hinted at what this band might be able to do in a studio setting. Conquest of the Pacific contains studio versions of several of the Woden's Eve Live pieces, plus much more newly composed for the album.
It would be a back-handed compliment to call Oaksenham "the best prog band in Armenia" since they have so little competition there. No, let's just call them one of the best prog bands anywhere in the world. They deserve an audience not only among prog rockers but also people who enjoy classical music, because this is really a chamber orchestra with the usual rock instruments (guitar, bass guitar, drums and keyboards) added to the classical instruments (violin, cello, flute, harp, oboe, english horn, bassoon, french horn, and clarinet). The rock instrument part of the ensemble gets about equal time with the acoustic instruments during sections where they play separately, but my favorite parts (and they are many) is when everyone's all playing together or playing one short phrase and then handing the melody off to the other part of the band, only to have it thrown right back like a fast tennis match. This is the sort of game I thought only Gentle Giant could pull off, but Oaksenham does it just as well ... with a bigger band!
It's pretty clear what sorts of prog Oaksenham has been listening to. The interplay between flute, acoustic guitar and organ frequently reminds of Jethro Tull (in fact, they claim to paraphrase Tull's "Velvet Green" in "Jester's Pipe", though you'd need a musicology degree to be able to detect it), and their counterpoint and love of fugues brings Gentle Giant to mind (they also cover two GG tunes on this album, "Talybont" and "On Reflection", substituting instruments for the vocals). But far from being rip-offs, these come across as homages, and there's plenty of originality to be had in the band's own compositions and the sound they've put together with six regular band members and six more guest musicians, all making huge contributions to the overall sound. This is more like a rock orchestra than a "combo". I've heard plenty of other attempts at this sort of recording, and they typically come off sounding either muddy or overproduced, but in Conquest of the Pacific, each instrument can be heard in crystal clarity because the compositions don't allow the players to walk all over each other. It's pretty clear that band leader Vahagn "Jeff" Papayan is classically trained or he wouldn't be able to arrange the music this perfectly, though the rock instrumentation and rhythms keep it from sounding sterile and boring as much classical music does. No aimless noodling here, this music is Composed with a capitol "C". And finally, it should be mentioned that the recording quality is also second to none.
There's just not a bad thing to say about this album unless you don't feel a rock composition is complete without vocals ... Conquest of the Pacific is all instrumental. But the music is so compelling, my guess is that you won't really miss vocals at all. This album goes beyond "highly recommended" and well into "essential". Conquest of the Pacific is a true prog gem shining in a sea of "merely OK" albums. I actually received my promo (CDR) copy about a year ago from the band, but it hasn't been available to the public until now (in the West at least). But it will be released in mid-July 2007 by Musea (see link below). -- Fred Trafton
Speaking of downloads, Conquest of the Pacific is available for (paid) downloading at Mindawn. Click OGG or FLAC links in discography above. -- Fred Trafton
[Based upon Woden's Eve Live]
Highly accomplished and sweet sounding group playing instrumental Celt-rock with a modern polish to it. If Prog supergroups such as Asia had lived up to their promise -- or the ideal many envisioned -- they might have sounded a little like Oaksenham with a symphonic but not overly grand mix of keys, guitar, flute, bass and drums. More sophisticated than Camel and a little jazzier than Gentle Giant, sometimes these guys sound to me like what would happen if Tony Banks, Robert Fripp, Carl Palmer and Ian Anderson suddenly popped out an album together. Though not in the same league as those artists, one can never tell about supergroups and I wouldn't be surprised if Oaksenham were able to make a more consistent album than that theoretic mix of personalities. -- David Marshall
Click here for Oaksenham's web site
Click here to order Conquest of the Pacific from Musea Records
Oblivion Sun (07)
Oblivion Sun - Bill Plummer (keyboards), Frank Wyatt (keyboards, sax), Stan Whitaker
(guitar, vocals) and Dave DeMarco (bass). Not pictured: Chris Mack (drums)
Original Entry, 3/17/07
Oblivion Sun is a five-piece, Stan Whitaker on guitar and vocals, Frank Wyatt on keyboards and sax, Chris Mack (Iluvatar, Puppet Show, Jeremy Cubert Project) on drums, Dave DeMarco on bass and Bill Plummer on keyboards who also offers his engineering and production skills. The Oblivion Days web site describes the music as "downright funky at times" and containing "serious rock grooves" and improv, but reassures us that "this is still prog, and fans of HTM's lush arrangements will not be disappointed!" You can get a preview by listening to some work in progress on their MySpace site (see link below). -- Fred Trafton
The promotional blurb I got with the CD said something about some songs that would allow them to
play on the same stage as King's X. Hey, I like King's X just fine, but the only way
these guys should ever be on the same bill together is if King's X is the supporting band.
The two songs they compare to King's X are "No Surprises" and "Re:Bootsy", and the only thing
I can see about them that compares to King's X is the fact that they are more heavy
guitar-oriented. But I'd say more heavy Phil Millerish than Ty Tabor. They also
compare the album to some of the old standard prog bands like Gentle
Giant or King Crimson (true enough, though I would
compare them more closely to National Health) and then
throws Battles into the comparison list, which I also find strange. I guess they want to give
some parallels that a younger audience might be familiar with rather than simply comparing themselves
to those old dinosaur proggers. But for those of us that are old dinosaur proggers, comparisons
with the best of the old '70's bands will do nicely, though I must say these guys sound much more mature
and polished, yet still utterly exciting.
If I gave out "stars" ratings, this one would have five of five without any question. One of the
essential releases of 2007 unless you're the type who has to have prog-metal stylings or avant
dissonances in every release. There's not much of that here, nor is it even slightly missed by this
listener. Totally brilliant, totally modern, yet with all the attitude of the bygone giants. Oh, also
ignore the AMG's categorization as "Neo-Prog". Only in the broadest sense of "new progressive".
Topnotch. -- Fred Trafton
If I gave out "stars" ratings, this one would have five of five without any question. One of the essential releases of 2007 unless you're the type who has to have prog-metal stylings or avant dissonances in every release. There's not much of that here, nor is it even slightly missed by this listener. Totally brilliant, totally modern, yet with all the attitude of the bygone giants. Oh, also ignore the AMG's categorization as "Neo-Prog". Only in the broadest sense of "new progressive". Topnotch. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Happy The Man | Iluvatar | Jeremy Cubert Project | Puppet Show | Whitaker, Stan and Frank Wyatt]|
Première Vision de L'étrange (77)
Obscure. Ken Golden of The Laser's Edge says that A Triggering Myth reminds him of Ocean. To many, A Triggering Myth sound very Happy The Man influenced, so Ocean may also be in that vein. -- Mike Taylor
After The Fall (80)
|Symphonic prog rarities.|
Bons Amigos (02)
Octohpera 2002 - (not in photo order) Pablo R. Marques (guitars), Pablo Elizardo
(keyboards), Robson Bertolossi Jr. (vocal) Márcio Baltar (drums) and Julian
You know, there's just no accounting for taste. I've read some of my fellow reviewers opinions on Bons Amigos and found them to be everything from confusing to downright hostile. The assertion that they are a Gentle Giant clone band seems absurd to me ... yes, there are certainly GG-like vocal harmonies and a similar attraction to medieval and classical motifs, but come on, now we can't have classical influences without being a Gentle Giant clone? I don't think so!
What I do think is that Bons Amigos is a wonderful album from a very fresh and talented Brazilian band. Every song is a joy to listen to, and I really like the way they vary the sound to keep things interesting. From Tull like folk mannerisms to classical guitars to much more "proggy" rock, these guys have a lot of interesting musical ideas. Most of the songs have lyrics sung in Portugese, but there is one in English ("The Continuous Rebirth of Life in the Infinity of the Horizon". Wow. Really.) The songs are all on the shortish side for a prog album, but this is not a problem as far as I'm concerned ... the songs each seem the right length for what they are. Several band members get "solo" songs where theirs is the dominant instrument, and this also adds to the variety and charm of this album.
So all I can say is ... ignore what those other reviewers have said. Order Bons Amigos from Musea if you like mellow, melodic prog with a lot of melodic (NOT atonal/modern) classical influence in it. I've included these guys alleged web site link below, but it seems to have dropped off the internet. I do hope this isn't a bad sign. Their liner notes say that they have a lot more music ready to be recorded, and I'd be sad if it wasn't released. I really like these guys. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for their website ... if they have
got it working again.
Click here to order Bons Amigos from Musea Records
Boat of Thoughts (76), An Ocean of Rocks (77), Queen of Rocks (78), Rubber Angel (79)
I have Boat of Thoughts, which is a fine example of early melodic symphonic progressive from Germany. Guitars dominate the mix, but there is plenty of synth and Mellotron work for the keyboard fan. The band sets up a good groove that was typical of many bands active during the early UK progressive scene but develop it in a somewhat symphonic style that was to later pervade much of the progressive scene during the mid-70's. The female vocalist will remind you a Janis Joplin without the "grit" in her voice. She's not a very powerful singer, but she's pleasant enough. It all comes to a head in a fantastic way with Mellotron bursting through the guitar groove, followed by washes of synth. -- Mike Taylor
Thaerie Wiighen (81)
One of the rarest Scandinavian albums, possibly the most collectible album of the 1980s. The basic sound is bright symphonic prog with a Scandinavian feel. The vocals are rather nice, all in Norwegian, of course, with a pleasant lilt which is appropriate to the impressionist nature of the music. The musical base is a strong foundation of keyboards, mainly polyphonic synths, expressing the classically-inspired themes in a Rick Wakeman-esque manner. There seems to be a sonic similarity to some of the Italian bands. Drawbacks? There's one track with a funky beat that quickly wears out its welcome and goes on longer than it needs to. Also, the main theme could have been expressed more subtly, it recurs so much, it's like they're hammering it into you. Still, on the whole, a rarity worth searching out. -- Mike Ohman
There were several bands with this name, maybe even one for each leg of the real creature! I've got a 1969 release from this particular American version. It's nothing spectacular. The liner notes indicate the band went into a New York studio while tripped out on acid. The music isn't wigged out, as you might expect. As a matter of fact, there are two really nice blues jams. The other songs are attempts at politically aware psychedelia and aren't anything to write home about. It's your basic guitars, bass, drums quartet with occasional saxophone. I'd recommend against this particular album. -- Mike Taylor
Odin was a trans-national band made up of bassist Ray Brown and drummer
Stuart Fordham from England, guitarist Rob Terstall from the Netherlands
and German keyboardist Jeff Beer.
The genesis of Odin was the band Honest Truth that, with the services of Brown, Fordham and Terstall, played the German rock circuit in the 1960’s. When the group folded, the rhythm section returned to England, but the Dutch guitarist stayed behind. In 1971 Terstall joined up with then 19 year old German organist Jeff Beer in Bavaria, the two persuaded the Englishmen to return to Germany and, with that, Odin was born. The band obtained a deal with Vertigo Records due to the strength of their furious live performances, and released one self-titled LP in 1972. After three years of struggle the group disbanded.
The group's sole album is a minor classic of the genre, featuring an unusually talented line up of player attempting to find their niche in the progressive rock world. The disc boasts acoustic balladry, angular, keyboard based mini-epics and lushly melodic instrumentals. The disc allows the four band members to display a generous portion of impressive instrumental prowess and no lover of keyboard wizardry will be able to resist Jeff Beer's mastery of the Hammond organ.
Not a very interesting band.
Blues-based psych, lots of acid guitar, some organ.
Moondrive plus (03, re-release of Moondrive w/ bonus tracks)
|Links||Click here for Odyssice' web site|
Offenbach Soap Opera (72)
Saint-Chrone de Neant(73, Live)
Never Too Tender (76)
En Fusion (80)
Rock Bottom (80)
Coup de foudre!! (81)
A Fond de Train (83, Live)
Le Dernier Show (85)
1-3-5 (91, box set)
2-4-6 (92, box set)
... plus lots of compilations ...
|French-Canadian. Organ-based prog with light religious touches.|
The band was founded in the sixties playing covers of pop anglo acts translating them
to french, they called themselves Les Gants Blancs, then L' Opera Pop
D'Offenbach then Offenbach Pop Opera then Offenbach Soap Opera in
1970. That year, poet-songwriter-lyricist-singer Pierre Harel joined them and
gave them the necessary boost the band needed, convincing them that they should sing
in Quebec's street french.
Under Harel's guidance the band recorded a string of innovative albums including Saint-Chrone de Neant, a live album recorded in a church, with choir, church organist and a priest giving a mass in latin! The band themselves sang the lyrics in latin making for a unique experiance. The style of music on that album could be described as a cross between Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, very original and innovative.
The rest of the albums up to 77's eponymous LP are more in the early 70's organ driven prog/hard rock similar to Uriah Heep, Atomic Rooster and some german bands like Birth Control, Jane etc. ... maybe a tad blusier. After many personal change-ups the band re-settled in '79 for a more boogie oriented sound. They did record a fine album with a big band in '79 (En Fusion). Even though Harel was long gone (he left in '74), they were very popular in French Canada, filling 17,000 seaters under the [aegis] of co-founder Gerry Boulet who died in 1990. Nowadays the band frequently re-unites for small scale gigs and festivals, events etc., but not permanently. I would suggest trying to find the two boxed sets released in the early 90's as they contain most of recorded output of the band, even some unreleased songs. -- Alain Mallette
Offering I-II (86)
Offering III-IV (90)
A Fiieh 93)
|Another outlet for Stella and Christian Vander.|
|Links||[See Magma | Vander, Christian]|
|Recorded in a small studio in Argyle, Texas (yeah, even us Texans ask: "Where?"), I suppose one might classify Ohm's Voices as an "avant-garde" or "RIO" album featuring the late Doug Ferguson (of Yeti) playing synthesized soundscapes and electronic noises behind odd, repetitive woodwind sections, sometimes reminiscent of Philip Glass and sometimes free-jazzy woodwind noodlings with low-key drums and percussions burbling into the foreground on occasion. The pieces are all long, evolving, dreamy (sometimes nightmarish) and heavily improvised-sounding without much in the way of melody. Distorted electronics, Mellotron and woodwind (saxes, clarinets) all figure in prominently. Pretty good stuff. Not as dark as Yeti, but every bit as strange and experimental. -- Fred Trafton|
Tubular Bells (73)
Hergest Ridge (74)
The Orchestral Tubular Bells (75)
The Killing Fields (84)
Heaven's Open (91)
Tubular Bells II (92)
Songs of Distant Earth (95)
Tubular Bells III (98)
Millennium Bell (99)
In the early (and in my opinion best) period, he tended towards making long 50 minutes instrumental giga-works. (Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn, Incantations (lasting almost two hours), QE2 (shorter, more approachable tunes, like a cover of an ABBA song)). Unfortunately he began making pop-albums in the middle late '80s and is still doing a lot of poppish stuff. The only good thing from a prog rock-point of view is, that these albums always contain a long, instrumental prog rock composition on one side of the album, and a lot o poppish vocal things on the other. (Five Miles Out, Crisis, Discovery, Islands, Heaven's Open). Fortunately there is one exception to the pop, namely Amarok from 1990, which featured one tune, "Amarok," lasting one full hour and three seconds and featuring such diverse instruments as toy dogs, toothbrushes, feet, the contents of an airplane modeller's toolkit, etc. Highly recommended, which leads us to: Recommended albums: Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn, Five Miles Out, Platinum, The Killing Fields, Amarok. Albums to avoid: Earth Moving, Heaven's Open.
|Tubular Bells is an absolute must, no two ways about it. Instrumental music with a wide variety of instruments. Some of his later stuff contains more marketable stuff. Islands, for example has a side long instrumental called "The Wind Chimes," but the other side is pop music with guest vocalists like Max Bacon (of GTR), Kevin Ayers, and Bonnie Tyler.|
|Tubular Bells transcends many genres of music: Progressive, new-age, jazz, symphonic, and was used as the theme to the movie The Exorcist.|
|I've always thought Tubular Bells was overrated but Tubular Bells 2 is incredible. It's amazing how many musical avenues he explores, listening to TB2 is an adventure. His originality and instrumental variety is great.|
|A musical genius, but his large output of pop songs is frustrating. Some of his pop songs are excellent but some are dreadful. It's the instrumentals where he really shines. Recommended: Tubular Bells II, Amarok, Incantations.|
|Discovery was, relatively speaking, one of Mike Oldfield's more obscure releases, and was recorded in 1984, as we all know, in the Swiss Alps, at 2000 metres, within sight of Lake Geneva on sunny days. This contained two "hit singles," the tracks "To France" and "Tricks Of The Light." The music is in the same vein as on Five Miles Out and Crises, with playful lyrics and catchy melodies. The last track, "The Lake," is a long, instrumental track, with echoes of the guitar sounds and mood changes that appeared on Tubular Bells and in many instrumental tracks thereafter. Mike Oldfield's soundtrack to The Killing Fields is orchestral at times, with much help from longtime acquaintance David Bedford. The compositions are also relatively dark and sombre, presumably to reflect the mood of the movie. The tracks are, as is typical of a soundtrack, very short and expressive, and, when taken together, offer up a pretty varied listening experience. Tubular Bells II is , for the most part, an updated version of his classic work, yet with enough variation to satisfy the listener.|
|Great at times, not-so-great other times. The more epic works are almost invariably the best. Tubular Bells is a must-have, no doubt. Hergest Ridge is also great. Tubular Bells 2 is also quite good, and is not just a re-make of the original. Not a bad starter, actually. Oldfield is a multi-instrumentalist whose best stuff contains no vocals (although his later albums are littered with vocal tracks). Powerful music that doesn't just sit there. Avoid Earth Moving, according to every Oldfield fan I have heard from.|
|Oldfield is one of those guys that's hard to pigeon-hole into any style. The multi-instrumentalist has his own rather unique style and it's changed from album to album over the years. His classics include Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge which are conceptual works with one or two songs spanning the entire album. On these, the songs develop slowly with a few instruments stating the theme. As the song continues, additional layers of instruments join the mix and work out variations on the theme. In this regard, he is similar to band like Tangerine Dream, except Oldfield uses many different instruments instead of just synths like T-Dream. Albums he recorded later in his career, such as Earth Moving display a religious bent in well-crafted "prog-pop" songs. If I'm going to listen to pop, I'd rather listen to Mike Oldfield that anything on the radio. The songs are very engaging, though somewhat disappointing for diehard fans of his long works. Islands has one side-long cut and several shorter songs ala Earth Moving. Oldfield is a talented and unique musician and it's usually easy to select several enjoyable albums from his discography. -- Mike Taylor|
|Amarok is incredible. Tubular Bells is classic. Ommadawn is another great one. Tubular Bells 2 was pretty good too, but I thought it sounded like a cross between the first one and Amarok without much new ground being covered.|
|The Songs Of Distant Earth is a beautiful piece, based on a novel, so it flows like a soundtrack, all tracks connected and with recurring themes. Excellent mix of guitar, synth, piano, chorus, and percussion, much like Incantations but with much more energy. No lyrics, but a lot of background vocals, all very melodic. Nothing at all like Amarok. It sounds similar to Tubular Bells 2, but has a much more smooth flow to it. His best work. -- Kris Heber|
[See Bedford, David]
Click here for Mike Oldfield's official web site
Standing Stone (74)
Twisted eccentric prog.
California Demise (93, EP)
The Giant Day (96, EP)
Music From the Unrealized Film Script Dusk at Cubist Castle (96)
Explanation II (99, EP)
Black Foliage: Animation Music Vol. 1 (99)
The Olivia Tremor Control vs. The Black Swan Network (99, EP)
The Peel Sessions (99, Live)
The Singles and Beyond (00, Compilation of early EP's & unreleased material)
Olivia Tremor Control is one the foremost proponents of neo-psychedelica. In
the late 80s, XTC formed an offshoot called The Dukes of Stratosphear that
did psychedelic pastiche. This was fun and unexpected; but largely a lark.
Olivia Tremor Control is the real thing. Their music has certainly been
influenced -- notably by the Beatles in their psych mode ("Lucy in the Sky,"
"I Am the Walrus," "Strawberry Fields") and Ummagumma-era
Pink Floyd; but it really doesn't sound much
like either one. There are technical similarities: backward tapeloops,
distorted voices and instruments, jumpy time-signatures. But the real
similarity is in mood. Psychedelic music differs from prog rock (if the two
can be distinguished at all) by its roots and its attitude: psychedelic
mainly derives from pop, and is bouncy and juicy and upbeat. (I think prog
derives more from blues, R & B and classical, and so is all over the map in
OTC is certainly bouncy and upbeat: their vocal harmonies soar like those of the Beatles and Beach Boys, and their songs for the most part are short, and, even when somber, don't stay somber for long but quickly jump into something else.
The main thing you note about Olivia Tremor Control is the inventiveness and risk-taking and aural architecture. They use everything from distorted guitar to toy piano (sometimes distorted) to kazoo to slide-whistle (which sometimes sounds like slide-elephant) to synthesizers that sound like a balloon with its neck squeezed to xylophone to saxophone to tubular bells to road noises to typewriters to ... you name it. But all of this is very tastefully put together. They are not experimental for experiment's sake, but for the songs' sake. And their songs, and the whole sequence of songs, are paced and interconnected beautifully. Think of all the recurrent themes of "Close to the Edge," and you will have an idea of the meticulous construction.
OTC is from Athens, GA. Their first CD came out in 1996 and is called Dusk at Cubist Castle. The second came out in 1999 and is called Black Foliage. They also have a CD of singles, but I haven't heard it. The two full-lengths are LONG (over 74 minutes for DCC and over 69 minutes for BF) but don't seem long because of how well interconnected all the music is. It is not exactly symphonic but more like a river that flows naturally from one thing to the next. They are mostly very melodic but also very atmospheric and the lyrics -- this is psychedelica, remember -- are somewhere between the drugged and the deep ("Where we are, in the blink of an eye you get several meanings").
If you have any interest in psychedelia at all, try them out. -- Paul Schumacher
|Links||Click here for an Olivia Tremor Control web site|
Overnight Letters (95)
Orpheus, The Initiate (97)
Symphony Nr 1 * (99)
Terres sans Frontières * (99)
Attacama (01, w/ Hernan Saavedra)
Méditations * (01)
Cristal Rêveur (02)
Arsamian Symphony * (02)
Figurative Translations * (02)
Orange Love (05)
* These titles available only via Olyam's web site, not distributed by record companies
Olyam (aka Olivier Brigand) is a synthesist and guitar player whose music is usually described as "New Age". He contributed a cut for a Tangerine Dream tribute album, so this might give you an idea of his style. Actually, his style is more like the later, melodic TD than their earlier, more experimental stuff. I can also compare Olyam to his countryman Jean Michel Jarre.
For the album Attacama, Olyam teams up with Chilean flautist/pan pipe player Hernan Saavedra. If you've ever heard the Patrick Moraz album Coexistence from 1984 with pan pipe player Syrinx, this album has its similarities. Attacama also features wood flutes that inevitably sound like Simon & Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa". Attacama is a desert in South America, and the music is illustrative of the sombre, stark beauty of such landscapes.
Attacama isn't a bad album or anything, very relaxing and well produced. Nice, simple latin-flavored instrumental melodies with Olyam's massively overdubbed flamenco-style guitars weaving a rich background chordal tapestry which, along with dreamy synthesized string ensembles, provides a backdrop for Saavedra's flute and pan pipe soloing. But I would use the words "New Age", "World Music" or "Easy Listening" to describe this album long before I would use the word "Progressive". Easy, relaxing, meditative. Not bad. Not prog. If you like this kind of thing, a highly recommendable release. If you'd rather be caught dead than listen to a "New Age" album, you'd best stay away. Olyam and Hernan are not brothers from Chile, as claimed in Vitaly Menshikov's review on the ProgressoR site.
Cristal Rêveur is another Musea release I've heard from Olyam. It's similar in texture to Attacama, but without the pan pipes and wood flutes. This one is heavier on Olyam's classical guitar picking, which is of course very relaxing and mellow and is highlighted by the usual shimmering/breathy digital synth tones found on most new age albums these days. Like the previous album, it's a nice listen, but not very prog.
Orange Love is a bit more interesting. Still plenty of new-agey, light-jazzy mellowness, but also adding some psychedelic elements like swoopy synths, sitars, a chanting female voice and gated drum sounds. Some of the pitch bends in the acoustic guitar work on the first track "Parvati 2004 (Move the Feeling Mix)" actually sounds a bit like Pink Floyd and the bass guitar in the second cut "Distant Culture (Space Experience Mix)" is reminiscent of Angel's Egg-era Gong, though in each case the overall effect of the song isn't very similar to those bands. The overall sound is somewhat reminiscent of Zinkl (hope that helps ... hehe). The cuts are all longish (6 to 7 minutes each) with a long (nearly 16 minutes) "bonus track" called "Quantic Spiritual Renovation (Prism Mix)" (... what's up with the "mix" subtitles? I have no idea ...) that's the best thing on the album. This song has some space rock elements like a heavily sustained electric guitar lead and percolating synths. However, the synthesized rhythm section sounds like more modern techno, though lighter and without the heavy bass thumping and kick drum. The whole album is very light and airy, I might have preferred the bass further up in the mixes and more bass-EQ on other instruments. Still, this is by far my favorite album of those I've heard, more varied and interesting and less "new agey". -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Olyam's web site
Click here to order Olyam titles from Musea records
Zelva (68), Handful (70), 4 (7?), Olympic (7?), Marathon (7?), Holidays On Earth (79), The Street (82), Rock and Roll (82), V Lucerne (83), Laboratory (8?), Hidden In Your Mind (??)
The most popular Czech rock band. Started in 1963 as a Beatles cover band. Their first LP, Zelva, is supposed to be a psych classic with a ten-minute track, "Psychedelic Pill". Rock and Roll is a bunch of covers of old '50s rock tunes. V Lucerne is their 20th anniversary live album, and includes an info-packed poster-sized insert. Holidays On Earth is the English-language version of a Czech-titled 1978 album and is the first installation of their sci-fi trilogy, volumes two and three being The Street and Laboratory. These are supposed to be the ones of only real interest to prog fans.
The Run of The Spring (94)
Ritual Places in Bulgaria (97)
The Long Way (98)
Nikolai Ivanov, founder of OM Art Formation (guitar, piano, voice, electronics)
OM Art Formation are a 3 piece outfit who blend progressive music with traditional Hindu-Indian music. These 3 guys are very talented as they tackle about 3-5 instruments apiece. The album has a psychedelic feel to it with the sitars in the foreground of many pieces. But they also play some mean guitars (in the King Crimson-like "Discipline - Sheltering Sky" vein) and use saxophones. There are vocal chants rather than vocals and periodic voices here and there. If you're looking for a good blend of progressive music with Hindu-Indian touches [you'll like The Long Way]. Some very creepy melodies and structures. If Indian music is not to your liking, you best avoid this album. -- Betta
|Links||Click here for Nikolai Ivanov's web site|
Trombitás Frédi és a Rettenetes Emberek (68)
Tízezer Lépés (69)
Éjszakai Országút (70)
Élõ Omega (72)
Omega 5 (73)
Omega 6: Nem Tudom A Neved (75)
Omega 7: Idõrabló (77)
Omega 8: Csillagok Útján (78)
Elo Kistadion '79 (80)
Omega X: Az Arc (81)
Omega XI (82)
Jublium Concert (83)
Omega 12 - A Föld Árnyékos Oldalán (86)
Omega XIII - Babylon (87)
Arranyalbum 1969-1971 (??, Compilation)
1968-1973 (??, 5LP box set)
Trans and Dance (95)
Omega XV - Egy Életre Szól (98)
200 Éwel Az Utolsó Háború Után (98, Recorded in 1972)
Szvit (99, Remix of Omega 5)
|Hungarian band. This time a more typically "progressive" band, although on the later side of the scale. Not too bad, but not worth killing for. Several albums were released in Hungarian as well as English. Make sure you get the Hungarian version: their English is not fantastic. And besides, Hungarian is a wonderful language for singing.|
|In the Barclay James Harvest vein and active from 1967 until 1991. Go for Time Robber. After their first six albums, they ventured into space-rock.|
|Hungary's most popular band, starting with a psychedelic style on Red Star, then developing into a more progressive style derived from Pink Floyd, Eloy and the like. Nem Tudom A Neved is a pretty raw album. The title track is pretty good, other songs have the germ of an idea but come off as undeveloped. For a country's most popular band, they really could use some better production values. Hall Of Floaters is a good deal better, benefitting by being recorded in the west (England, in fact) and including some orchestrations. Most of the songs here were originally on Nem Tudom A Neved, the extended versions here are far more interesting. Unlike the other album, all vocals here are in English. -- Mike Ohman|
[See Benko, Laszlo | Locomotiv GT | Presser, Gabor]
Click here for Omega's web site
Tras el Puente (00)
El Vals de los Duendes (02)
Solo Fue un Sueño (07)
Omni in the studio - Michael Starry (guitar), Ismael Colon (drums), Jose Luis Algaba (bass),
Pepe Almadana (Engineer), Alberto Marquez (keyboards), Rafa Tardío (manager) and
Salvador Velez (guitar)
Original entry 3/13/02:
The band was founded in the late 80's, by three core members: Mike Starry (lead guitar), Salvador Velez (rhythm guitar) and Jose Luis Algaba (bass). A few drummers came and went to fill the duties behind the kit. Keyboard duties were shared between Mike Starry and a few guests - among them, Sebastian Fernandez, ex-Cai. Also, Pepe Torres, sax/flute player, guested now and then.
Their first CD (the only one up to date) is actually a selection of demos recorded in 1993 and 1994. They were recued and compiled under the title Tras el Puente in 2000. The band had split up in 1994, but motivated by the release of their old material, they rejoined and nowadays are enjoying some success. Their performance in BajaProg 2001 was very well received by both the crowd and the critics [they were invited back for BajaProg 2002, as a matter of fact! - Ed.]. Meanwhile, Tras el Puente has received positive reviews in many prog e-zines.
Because Tras el Puente is basically a selection of demos, the sound is a little sub-par, despite the fact that those demos were remastered. Nevertheless, you can appreciate their melodic sensibilty and crafty musicianship along each and every track. They are currently recording their second CD, or more accurately, their first proper CD.
Their line-up is currently very steady. Along with the three core members, other members of Omni are: keyboardsman Alberto Marquez (ex-Onza); Pepe Torres on sax/flute, now a permanent member; new drummer Ismael Colon entered the band in September 2001. -- Cesar Mendoza
Omni 2005 line-up - Ismael Colon (drums), Alberto Marquez (keyboards), Juan Ríos
(spanish and rhythm guitars), Michael Starry (guitar) and Jesús "Chuchi" Cabral.
Pepe Torres (woodwinds) not pictured.
It was obvious that Omni had taken advantage of the diversity of musical ideas that all members provided during the writing and arranging process. But it didn't take too long before this same diversity gave way to musical differences, which eventually generated an internal turmoil in Omni's line-up. Bassist Jose Luis Algaba and rhythm guitarist Salvador Velez intended to re-direct the band into the Flamenco-meets-Latin jazz trend, while founding lead guitarist Mike Starry was determined to keep the prog core intact. The crisis grew so unbearable that keyboardist Alberto Márquez (also prog-centered) quit in October 2003 and, a few days later, Starry officially dissolved the band. Fortunately, this hiatus was soon followed by a reformation before the year ended, with Starry and Márquez returning to the fold: they summoned back drummer Ismael Colón and wind player Pepe Torres, and later on, the refurbished quartet welcomed new members Jesús Cabral "Chuchi" (bass) and Juan Ríos (Spanish & rhythm guitars). Having retaken the sextet format with this new steady line-up, Omni has been working on demos of new material during 2005, while writing and rehearsing the intended repertoire for their next album, planned for a 2006 release. -- Cesar Mendoza
After reading all the wonderful reviews above, I was enthused when Omni contacted me about a promo for their new album Solo Fue un Sueño. I had really wanted to hear them. Well, after listening to the new album, I suppose "disappointed" would be too strong a word to describe my feelings, but I must say I don't really know what all the fuss is about. Solo Fue un Sueño is an OK album ... the music's not bad and the recording quality, though a bit on the amateurish side, is not atrocious. There are some parts that sparkle and sound really excellent, but there's more parts that are merely OK. It's just your average symphonic prog paying homage to all the usual suspects like Genesis, ELP and various Italian prog bands (Le Orme came to mind more than once).
*SIGH* ... maybe I'm just getting jaded from listening to too much prog. But there's nothing in Solo Fue un Sueño that made me want to recommend it above many other bands, nor was there anything that made me want to throw it away. It's a B ... maybe a B+. Not what I expected from a band whose previous album "was labeled as one of the best prog recordings to come out of Spain". -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Cai | Onza]|
Songs Of Resignation (89)
This is more of an industrial thrash band than anything one might consider progressive. Songs Of Resignation does feature guest appearances by bassist Bernard Paganotti of Magma, but he's very much the fish out of water here.
Reino Rocoso (91)
|Spanish folk-tinged fusion band on the Musea-Parallele label. A three-piece, their sound is fairly unique, doesn't compare to much else out there: sorta light and fresh, with plenty of sophisticated musical muscle, extremely tight playing, and a well-balanced sense of direction. Tends to be acoustically oriented, and should appeal to fans of Pat Metheny, Al Di Meola, and like that.|
Open Air (78)
Three piece of keys, guitars and vocals, with guest musicians handling the drums and bass. Their sound is very melodic, but relatively simple and straightforward - and seems to be influenced by Machiavel and Genesis, maybe others as well, but generally substandard by comparison. Vocals are in English, but not that awe inspiring (certainly not the caliber of Machiavel's vocalist). Overall, I'd say it falls somewhere between OK and mediocre. A few tracks are good.
Spiritual Lovers (9?)
Current psych; spaced out guitar and keyboards.
My Arms, Your Hearse (98)
Still Life (99)
Blackwater Park (01)
Opeth (Still Life line-up) - Mikael Åkerfeldt, Peter
Lindgren, Martin Mendez and Martin Lopez
Opeth are an original musical entity. Their style can be labeled as progressive extreme metal, but their music has absolutely nothing in common with the Dream Theater clones, as well as the extreme fusion bands (Atheist, Cynic). Rooted both in the more advanced death metal traditions (i.e. later Death) and the melodicism of bands like Camel, early Genesis or their Swedish contemporaries Änglagård, Opeth combine it all into a dynamic mix, adding their own mystic cover and originality. Sound-wise they are guitar-based (no keyboards). Unlike traditional death metal, where there's a clear division between low-end riffing and solos, Opeth dwell in rich polyphonic textures and haunting harmonic progressions; electric and acoustic guitar patterns are intertwined and have an equal importance to the compositions. The vocalist posesses a deep and melancholic clean voice, but also a versatility in extreme vocal styles - growls, rasps - but not barking; the harsh sounds from his throat are usually long and extended, and fade out slowly. Composition-wise they have their own approach, the closest known siblings would be Genesis' "Supper's Ready" or, again, the songs of Änglagård. The movements (the word "songs" is inappropriate here) consist of sequences of complex repetitive riffs/patterns, which (after being introduced) mostly disappear never to return again, or to return as a variation, or a mutant version. In the hands of a less talented band, this approach would surely lead to failure, but after a few missteps, Opeth have mastered this form perfectly - the seemingly unrelated themes flow naturally from one to the next, and later reappear as reminiscences. Most of the riffs are multi-part webs of guitar melodies and harmonies ranging from haunting melodicism to dark dissonances (there's a discernible VoiVod influence in the later albums); the acoustic parts are melancholic but always busy and intense. With such complexity within a single riff, repetition never seems pointless or unnatural. While there are a few guitar solos scattered throughout their albums, the band always focuses more on composition, balance, flow and dynamics. Here's a description of their albums.
Orchid: All trademark elements of the Opeth style (described above) are present on the very first album. The music here is based on twin guitar post-Iron Maiden melodies, but where Iron Maiden thrived on recycling the same melodies and extending pointless guitar-passages to no end, Opeth just take the basis of that melodic aesthetic and exploit it to the fullest extent on a radically new level. The music fluently and logically travels from section to section, and as a whole this album has a certain trance-like and hypnotic quality, built by powerful reverbed guitar themes and monotonous drumming. The notable songs are "Under the Weeping Moon" with its simple and surprising acoustic/psychedelic breaks, the dynamic and intense piano piece "Silhouette" and the most hypnotic track - "Forest of October". The highlight comes with the closing track, "The Apostle in Triumph" - a masterfully crafted composition, with contrasting themes - acoustic guitar passages together with fast improvised bass give way to an open, epic and powerful theme, which reappears in a different form towards the end and develops to an ambivalent climax - this piece of music is their first which posesses a "storytelling" quality, which would be reborn with new force on later albums. All in all, a good album - no signs of immaturity.
Morningrise: A logical development of the Orchid style in all directions, with all the benefits and drawbacks such development can bring. The melodies are becoming more exquisite, the progressive influences are more obvious than before, but the compositions are suddenly lacking in flow and logic of structure. The first three tracks have no identity, since they are constructed from totally unrelated parts, and while individually each melody is beautiful, mostly they are wasted. The other two tracks are slightly more focused. "Black Rose Immortal" is a 20-minute journey through alternating folk and metal snapshots, and succeeds at building a mood, while "To Bid You Farewell" is a subdued, mostly acoustic number with no harsh vocals and a melancholic aura. Overall, this album is OK for a casual listen, but in the end it's too meandering, and most of the dynamic of the first album is lost. I have to note, though, that many Opeth fans have this album as their favourite.
My Arms Your Hearse: With an updated rhythm section, Opeth come out with a renewed sound and a considerable leap forward in quality. Gone are the twin guitar-melodies and the frequent start-stops of Morningrise. Instead we receive an overwhelming polyphonic assault; raging chordal guitar attacks and fast, brutal drumming mingle with Camelesque lead melodies so naturally that one may think they were supposed to sound together from the beginning of time; simpler sections give way to more complex and extended themes; underneath the seemingly common minor-mode acoustics and leads we can discern subtle dissonances which are barely noticeable unless you pay attention. While structurally it's still the same as Morningrise - no riff ever repeats - the flow is much more natural, and even the really disjointed parts work together in an absurd way. The album is a concept, and the division into songs/tracks is more symbolic - but a few pieces are definitely praiseworthy: "Demon of the Fall" is a disturbing collage of eerie sonic paintings - even the acoustic passages are relentless and brutal; "Credence" is a brilliant, ghost-like acoustic "ballad" where again, a seemingly simple chord-change is tastefully peppered with "wrong" notes and details; "Epilogue" is a moody guitar-instrumental in the vein of Camel's "Ice", set against an autumnal backing of a Hammond organ. A special praise goes to the vocalist, Mikael Åkerfeldt, for great improvement in expression and ability. One of the band's darker and moodier records, very good and recommended.
Still Life: An even more dramatic improvement and probably the band's highest achievement so far, this album is their most complex and intricate work. The compositional technique has developed far beyond the linear riff-sequencing of the two previous records; the songs have a clear, cohesive identity and are tied together by motifs and themes whose echoes reappear as variations in different parts of the song, thus enhancing the "storytelling" aspect of the music. Music-wise, here you can find jazzy chord-progressions and leads, atonal chaotic death-metal, classical guitar detours, lush polyphonic layering of acoustic and distorted guitars, and a whole variety of vocal styles. Again, this is a concept album. Every song is brilliant here. "The Moor" begins with a surreal, uneasy acoustic-plus-lead mantra which leads into a journey through open spaces of fast riffing; later all guitar-layers dissolve one by one for a quiet, introspective detour and then back into intense movement; a very picturesque song. "Godhead's Lament" starts with an intense burst reminiscent of the darkest and most ironic symphonies of Shostakovich; the theme slowly hides behind new images, only to return after a folkish song-within-a-song, as a mocking variation. "Benighted" offers a meditative respite : a classical acoustic guitar theme develops beautifully and contains a bluesy guitar solo. "Moonlapse Vertigo" is another well-crafted composition, held together by a shifting rhythmic pattern; a relaxed song, even in the distorted parts, with a very prominent Camel influence. "The Face of Melinda" is the emotional core of the album - a moody jazz-rock song with rhyming verses transforms into a moving, powerful hymn. "Serenity Painted Death", after a neutral introduction, erupts into chaos and despair; themes with seemingly incompatible moods frantically escape from each other - vision of death, anguish, desolation, indifference, rage, pain, oblivion, awakening and again the vision of death. In this song the "inconsistency" returns with a soul-shattering result. The closing track, "White Cluster" continues the chaos, the peak comes with an ascending scale-recitation, repeated on and on with growing intensity, conjuring a feeling of inevitability. Close to genius and absolutely recommended.
Blackwater Park: Produced by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree (he was apparently hugely impressed by Still Life), who also added some piano and guitar parts, sung a few lines and brought amazing textural depth to the band's sound. At this stage Opeth are equally comfortable with structured and disjointed composition, and push every aspect of their music to the extreme. The distorted parts are dense, brutal and more prominently disharmonic (like VoiVod, but not "robotic", more like overwhelming walls of dissonance), the acoustic parts are minimalistic and desolate. While the previous records were warm and emotional, here we get the total opposite: cold apathy, scorn, disillusionment and plain hatred. In some places, like the Porcupine Tree-meets-Jeff Buckley acoustic "Harvest", the warmth returns, even if it's the warmth of relief before dying. "The Drapery Falls" continues in the same tempo, but after a while plunges into blackness and briefly displays its chaotic core, then attempts to escape it - this is one of the band's most perfect compositions. "Dirge for November" paints a long, almost endless nighttime funeral procession in the fog. This album is their most surreal and visual - much effort is taken to invoke images in the listener's head - and the biggest success is the gripping, doomed title track. In the beginning a couple of themes are introduced, and after a drugged psychedelic-blues detour these themes are gradually deconstructed piece by piece, until finally the music goes astray and turns into murderous guitar noise. Brilliant! One of the band's biggest achievements, but also a transitional album.
Personally I'd advise the newcomer to begin with Still Life and Blackwater Park, and then chronologically backwards. -- Andrew Orel
Opeth are a Swedish band that, while inarguably a metal act, are based as
much in progressive rock bands like Camel as in
their more obvious death metal roots. The standard Opeth song is a long and
meticulously-detailed composition, bouncing between heavy parts with harsh
(i.e. growled) vocals, beautiful acoustic sections often featuring outstanding
clean vocal passages, and impressive instrumental sections. Most albums have
at least one almost-entirely-acoustic song, typically rather bleak and
introspective in nature. Although Opeth largely sticks to this same
songwriting formula from album to album, it does not get stale. In fact, the
band seems to improve from release to release.
Another interesting aspect to Opeth is that both varieties of vocals are provided by guitarist/songwriter, Mikael Åkerfeldt, a fact that often comes as a surprise to the unitiated, given their disparity. Filling out the rest of the band are Peter Lindgren (guitars) and "new-comers" Martin Lopez (drums) and Martin Mendez (bass), who replaced the rhythm section of Anders Nordin and Johan DeFarfalla after the Morningrise album.
Their 1999 and 2001 releases, Still Life and Blackwater Park respectively, would make good starting points for prog fans looking to try on a little Opeth for size in that, aside from some very memorable tunes, they contain more "clean" vocals than previous albums. In addition, Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson makes a guest appearance (backing vocals, guitars, and piano) on Blackwater Park. -- W. B. Henderson
|Blackwater Park is possibly one of the most unique metal albums to come out in quite some time. Mixing equal parts death metal and atmospheric progressive rock, Opeth has created one of the bigger surprises of 2001. Having Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson as producer can't hurt either. The leadoff song "The Leper Affinity" sets the tone in an abrupt way, with heavy and complex guitar lines amidst ominous death metal vocals. At the halfway point of this wonderful epic track, the band quiets down for an acoustic interlude that features some wonderful clean and melodic vocals, which then segues into some more bombastic metal fury. The tension that is created is simply amazing. A song like "Bleak" has such a complex and intricate arrangement that bands like Nevermore and Cynic come to mind. The band does a great job of switching back and forth between the death metal and clean vocals (I believe Steven Wilson handles some of the clean vocals), and although I am normally not a fan of the "razor throated growl", this band has so much going on musically that the vocals are by no means at the forefront. There is even a nice acoustic number called "Harvest" which contains some great melodic vocals, and is a nice break amidst some of the heavier songs. "The Drapery Falls" is another classic of heavy progressive rock, and at just under eleven minutes manages to take on many forms before the final closing chords. Fantastic use of different vocal styles on this one as well. Fans of more extreme metal will love "Dirge for November" and "The Funeral Portrait" two speedier numbers with unrelenting yet melodic power chords and screaming vocals. Some of the guitar work on "The Funeral Portrait" will remind of early Slayer. The epic title track is saved for last, and is a mighty statement of dark and crushing progressive death metal. In fact, with this album, I think Opeth might have started up a whole new genre. -- Peter Pardo|
|Links||[See Porcupine Tree]|
Contre Courant (76), Serieux Ou Pas (89)
Excellent '70s Canadian symphonic fusion band that released one album and one posthumously. Excellent and classic music.
Introspezionne (74), Lord Cromwell Plays Suite For Seven Vices (75), Strata (87)
For the more avant-garde of the Gibraltar readers, Opus Avantra are more avant-garde than most. They combine operatic, neo-classical, and progressive / classical rock styles. Opus Avantra created a very interesting music that succeeded in their first of three Introspezzione but was less effective in Lord Cromwell Plays The Suite for Seven Vices. OA also made an album recently on the Artis label entitled Strata.
The sound of the band is a avant-garde (AVAN) and traditional (TRA) mix of music. These are two good LPs. Nowadays, Tony Esposito (percussion) is a famous soloist.
Italian avant-garde band featuring vocalist Donella Del Monaco. Their style blends elements of progressive, classical, opera, jazz and just plain general weirdness, using keyboards, bass, drums, violins, cellos, clarinet, flutes and other instruments. Because their style draws on such diverse influences, it's difficult to make any quick and convenient comparisons, but suffice to say that this type of music is definitely not for everyone. It may be too, say, aesthetically challenging for many. Still they are one of the all time best Italian bands. If you're up to it, start with Introspezzione.
[See Del Monaco, Donella | Katharsis | Nuova Idea]
Opus I (83, re-released on CD w/ 3 bonus tracks in 2003)
Opus II (06)
Opus Est (1983, around the time Opus I was recorded) - Anders Olofsson, Kent
Olofsson, Leif Olofsson and Håkan Nilsson
Opus Est was formed in Sweden around 1977 by guitarist Kent Olofsson, drummer Anders Oloffson (no relation) and bassist Torbjörn Svensson though in those days they played improvised jazz-rock along the lines of Mahavishnu Orchestra and called themselves Krishna. During their first couple of years, the band moved more into a prog rock direction, heavily influenced by Genesis, Yes and ELP. In 1978, they recruited a friend, Håkan Nilsson, as vocalist, then in 1979, they added Kent's younger brother Leif Oloffson to the band (he was 14 years old at the time!), and Opus Est was complete. The name Opus Est was suggested by a drunken Dutchman who two of the band members met while on holiday in Spain. They had no idea what it meant, but they liked it, and it became the band's new name.
In 1982, Torbjörn left the band, and bass duties were moved to keyboards and bass pedals, though sometimes Kent switched to keys while Leif played bass. It wasn't until 1983, after winning recording time in a mobile recording studio for being the winners of a band competition, that the band committed 8 of their compositions to tape. Together with three cuts recorded a few months earlier, the band put out an LP with a pressing of only 500 copies. Two of these tracks were left off the album due to the LP length limits. However, in 2003, Musea Records re-released this album on CD, including the two missing tracks recorded at that time as bonus tracks along with a live track.
The music has a definite '80's vibe owing to the heavy use of string ensemble in the keyboards (not the ARP String Ensemble, but a Roland keyboard with a very similar sound), but the vocals sound like a mixture of Marillion-era Fish, Phil Collins and sometimes Greg Lake (lyrics are all in English, mostly written by poet W. H. Auden), while the bass lines are as punchy and intricate as Chris Squire's and the drumming is a match for most '70's prog drummers in power and complexity. Though Kent's guitar work isn't particularly reminiscent of anyone else's style, it is very good and appropriate for the music. In short, these guys are as good (or better!) as any prog band you might wish for, and it's a huge pleasure that Musea has rescued this band from obscurity and re-released this masterpiece on CD. Highly recommended to any fans of symphonic prog, as long as you can forgive the use of the string ensemble instead of Mellotron. I forgave them about five minutes into Opus I, especially since some of the fast sections couldn't possibly be played on a Mellotron. The live cut, "No Change of Place" has some sound quality issues, not the least of which is recurrent feedback squeals, but what the heck, it is a bonus track after all, and it is a pretty cool song.
Opus Est (Reformation, 2003) - Standing: Torbjörn Svensson, Håkan Nilsson,
Anders Olofsson. Sitting: Leif Olofsson, Kent Olofsson.
The story might have ended there, but it didn't. The CD re-release of Opus I inspired Kent Olofsson to finish recording "Four Metamorphoses of a Face", parts 2 and 4 of which were recorded in 1979. Parts 1 (11:05) and 3 (12:07) were recorded in 2004, with Kent recording scratch tracks on MIDI instruments and sending them to Anders for him to record the drum tacks in his own studio. Torbjörn (now surnamed Syrén rather than Svensson, but it's the same person -- I don't know why the change) rejoined to record the bass lines, recorded in Jämjö. Then, in 2004, Kent went to Stockholm to record the vocals with Håkan. The four sections of this piece blend seamlessly, though recorded 25 years apart. The most noticable difference is the addition of Hammond B3 to the new tracks, an instrument they had always wanted to use, but couldn't afford back in the late '70's, so now we hear the music as they had wished it could be at the time. There is also some acoustic piano in the new sections which was not in evidence on the older material.
Together with four other songs recorded in 1983-84, there was enough material for a second CD of previously unreleased material (aside from the handful of dubs made for friends of the band). The new album is entitled -- obviously enough -- Opus II, and is again released by Musea. Opus II is as good or better than Opus I, with a very similar sound to what I've already described, though I now hear some definite Steve Howe-isms in Kent's guitar work for the newly recorded material. The four songs from the '80's are comparatively dull-sounding (from the perspective of recording quality, not musical quality) but they're still very good. The 43+ minutes of "Four Metamorphoses ..." would have filled an LP in the '70's, so I could easily consider the four '80's songs to be "bonus material" anyway. I can recommend this album just as highly as their first.
As for the future, according to the CD liner notes in Opus II, the band really enjoyed getting back together for these new recordings, and it's possible that there will be an Opus III in a few years ... they still have a lot of material they wrote in the '70's and '80's which exist only as rehearsal tapes, live recordings or not at all. They're also considering new ideas ... I, for one, will be on the lookout. -- Fred Trafton
Click here to order Opus I or Opus II
from Musea Records
Click here for a detailed history of Opus Est on the DPRP web site written by Jerry van Kooten
Click here for Kent Olofsson's web site. A page for Opus Est is supposed to be here but was incomplete as of this writing
Orange Peel (70)
Organ-based heavy prog, w/Peter Bischof (Emergency) and Curt Cress (Passport).
[See Emergency | Passport]
The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (91)
Aubrey Mixes: The Ultraworls Excursions (92, Compilation/Remixes)
Live 93 (93, Live, 2CD)
Orbvs Terrarvm (95, pseudo-latin album cover spelling of Orbus Terrarum)
Auntie Aubrey's Excursions Beyond The Call Of Duty, Pt. 1 (96, Compilation/Remixes, 2CD)
U.F. Off (98, Compilation/Remixes, in 1CD and 2CD versions)
Back to Mine (03, Remixes, mostly of other bands' material)
Bicycles and Tricycles (04)
Auntie Aubrey's Excursions Beyond The Call Of Duty, Pt. 2 (05, Compilation/Remixes, 2CD)
Okie Dokie It's the Orb on Kompakt (05)
Orb Sessions Vol. 1 (05)
The Art of Chill 4 (07)
The Dream (07)
I'll Be Black (07)
Baghdad Batteries: Orbsessions, Vol. 3 (09)
Metallic Spheres (10)
The Orb - Archie Patterson and Thomas Fehlman - Photo by Constantin Falk
Original Entry 8/11/06:
The Orb is a band. Nope, they're "remix artists". Or studio guys. Or maybe they're just a couple of DJ's. They've blurred the line to the point that I don't know what they are. But they're famous. And interesting. And if this isn't "progressive", then the term has lost all meaning.
So I'll just forget about my confusion over what they are and review the album I've heard. I've always been curious about The Orb ever since I heard about their work with Steve Hillage. So when I ran across a copy of Orbus Terrarum (spelled on the album cover as ORBVS TERRARVM) for $1.98 at Half-Price Books, I decided it was time to satisfy my curiosity. Other reviewers have said that this album was a departure from their previous work, and less danceable. Which suits me fine. Those in the know from the rave scene seem to categorize this as "chill-out" music, evidently the stuff that gets played at 2:00 am when everyone is exhausted from dancing for hours. I would call it ambient music, related to the likes of Brian Eno or even Tangerine Dream, with only occasional outbursts of rhythmical techno. I've always been a fan of this sort of electronic sound manipulation, and Orbus Terrarum doesn't seem like that much of a departure from those forebears, though the sounds are quite a lot more "digital" sounding than the earlier examples. This is actually quite a good album, though I can't speak for how it relates to their other works. I wouldn't have felt disappointed at paying full price for this CD, so I feel like I got a real bargain. -- Fred Trafton
Well, for better or worse, the other reviewers were dead on. This is, indeed, no David Gilmour solo album. In fairness, it doesn't claim to be. The credits say it's The Orb featuring David Gilmour, and that's exactly what Metallic Spheres is. It's music by The Orb with Gilmour playing solos on various sorts of guitars around the trancey electronics. From what I've read, the influence went the other way too, with Gilmour soloing and The Orb (Archie Patterson and Youth) composing a backing context for it, and rearranging the guitar parts to fit as well.
So, is it OK? Well, yeah, it is. It's not the next great thing in music. It's certainly not the next David Gilmour solo album. But it's not bad. I've listened to it several times. It's The Orb. Expect no more than that and you won't be disappointed. And one more chance to hear Gilmour's Floydian guitar work along with that? It's the icing on this cake. I think many GEPR readers will like this if they give it a chance. -- Fred Trafton
[See Hillage, Steve |
Click here for The Orb's web site (which
currently just sends you to their MySpace page)
Ordinaires (85), One (86)
American big-band ensemble that mixes chamber-music with rock in an interesting way, using classical instrumentation (strings and horns) as well as rock. I've only heard one track, their take on the Led Zeppelin evergreen "Kashmir". It's surprisingly good. I only hope their originals stand up to it. -- Mike Ohman
A Tale of a Tortured Soul (08)
Orenda - Anthony Lefebvre (lead vocals), Julien Estève (bass and vocals),
Stéphane Coubray (keys and vocals), Cédrick Saulnier (guitars
and vocals) and Raphael Léger (drums and vocals)
Orenda's primary influence is immediately obvious on their debut album A Tale of a Tortured Soul, and that's Dream Theater. But unlike many DT wannabe bands, these guys actually have some talent and originality. A Tale ... is a concept album about Mem'ocho, a fallen angel who starts off in heaven, falls to Earth and (I think) eventually finds his way back. The story's less important (to me at least) than the music, which sounds like the very best of Dream Theater with the addition of some multi-part vocal harmonies in some places. All five members are credited with vocals, so there's lots of variation in singing style (including some growled metal stylings in a few places), but the lead vocalist sounds like -- you guessed it -- James LaBrie ... but with a slight French accent.
Bottom line: if you think a younger, fresher version of DT sounds interesting to you, then you should enjoy this album. I did. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Orenda's MySpace page
Click here to order A Tale of a Tortured Soul from Musea Records
Øresund Space Collective (06)
Picks from Space Vols. 1-10 (06, Burned-on-demand CDR's available individually or as a set of all 10)
It's All About Delay (06, 2CD) CD1 CD2 - CD1 CD2
Black Tomato (07)
Picks from Space Vol. 11 (07, Burned-on-demand CDR)
Picks from Space Vol. 12 (07, Burned-on-demand CDR)
Inside Your Head (08)
Good Planets are Hard to Find (09)
Dead Man in Space (10, vinyl only)
Øresund Space Collective in Germany, May 2007
Original Entry, 11/10/07:
The Øresund Space Collective is a Space Rock band playing totally improvised instrumental music. There is no "band" in the sense of having the same members. The musicians in the Collective come and go, and a live concert may feature a small or large number of players depending on who shows up. The band offers fans the opportunity to jack into their sound board to create recordings for their own enjoyment. They used to have a large number of MP3's available for download on their web site, but now seem to be offering these on low-cost "burned on demand" CDR's available from their site. I've heard their first three official releases from the Transubstans label; their eponymous debut, It's All About Delay (a 2CD release) and Black Tomato.
The debut album Øresund Space Collective is your typical space rock, sounding a bit like Gong circa You's "A Sprinkling of Clouds" or Hidria Spacefolk (who happen to be friends of the band). But it's got a much rougher, more improvisational, less perfect sound like Secret Saucer, Alien Planetscapes or Quarkspace. It's Space Rock ... it's supposed to sound like this. It will appeal to those who like the afore-mentioned bands and bore the pants off of anyone who doesn't. I'm in the former category, so I liked Øresund Space Collective. The rest of you have been warned.
It's All About Delay is more of the same. A lot more, being a 2CD set. Actually, the recording quality seems a bit cleaner on this album, and the tunes sound a bit more rehearsed and tighter. I do like some structure even in totally improvised music, so I like this album even more than Øresund Space Collective. There's also a lot more guitar on this album, taking it a bit more into Hawkwind territory. But qualitatively it's pretty similar, so it won't win over anyone who isn't already a fan of the style. CD2 features a cut called "Jupiter Flyby" which is dedicated to Doug Walker of Alien Planetscapes, now playing with the big space rock band in the sky.
Black Tomato is the latest offering from ØSC. Basically it's again more of the same, like It's All About Delay in that it's probably closer to Hawkwind than the more electronic-styled space rock bands due to the heavy use of guitar, though there's still lots of synth swoops and tweets a la Tim Blake for those who like such stuff. Some of the delayed guitars here are also reminiscent of Steve Hillage only to then transform to Iron Butterfly. In other words, a huge range of styles. Black Tomato is really three long songs (or, more accurately, three long improvs) with artificial breaks for the sake of CD numbering. This album also has some processed spoken vocals ... not English, I think it's Swedish, but it might be Danish. Either way, I don't understand it, so I'm just hearing these as an additional instrument, and in that light they're pretty cool. There's also some noticably interesting drumming happening in some sections. I'd have to say that in spite of being similar to previous releases, Black Tomato is the most pro sounding album and I think it's my favorite so far. And it's still all about delay (reverb, slapback, echo and even longer delays). -- Fred Trafton
Each cut is really its own stand-alone piece, with differing feels and even recording quality. Though each song is definitely all improvised, each seems to me to be more pointed and less "meandering" than the previous albums, to a more or less extent depending on the song. But these guys have gelled into a fairly cohesive group, even if members do still drift in and out. Maybe they've just cut back on the drugs a bit ... or gotten higher quality drugs. No, I don't actually know that drugs were involved in the creation of this music, but it is space rock after all, and I don't think anyone would argue that it is traditional to play this kind of music under the influence of some sort of mind-altering effect, whether it's drugs, alcohol, or spiritual enlightenment.
But I digress ... my mind-altered excuse tonight is that I'm sick and running a mild fever, which makes me blather on a bit. But the music is also putting me in this frame of mind, and I must say it's perfect for my current mental state. This is the sort of music you need to put on and listen to, not be distracted by other things going on. There's a lot of nice '60's "classic rock" organ here, great guitar soloing and sweepy, bleepy, non-melodic synths. The bass and drums provide a rock-solid backbone upon which to build the improvised parts. Very nice. These guys just keep getting better. But I find I only want to listen to their latest release, since it's always the best yet. Well, it could be worse, right? If you like space rock, buy ØSC's latest album, which right now happens to be Good Planets are Hard to Find. Dumb title. Questionable cover art. Great album. -- Fred Trafton
ØSC will also be touring, with several dates in Denmark and Holland in March through
June of 2010. See their web site for details. They intend to have another CD released through
Transubstans in April before the concerts in
Holland (not Dead Man in Space, but another CD).
Courtesy of ØSC, check out half an hour of free music, Live at Cafe Cairo on Nov. 28, 2009 in Wurzburg, Germany. There are links to plenty more at the ØSC web site. Or just click the play button below to hear "Opening To The Sky".
-- Fred Trafton
Click here for
Øresund Space Collective's web site
Click here for Øresund Space Collective's MySpace page
Click here to order Øresund Space Collective CD's from Transubstans (Record Heaven)
Tone Float (70)
Predecessor to Kraftwerk.
Oriental Wind (77), Zikir (79), Chila Chila (79), Bazaar (80), Live in Bremen (82), Live in der Balver Hoehle (83), Life Road (83), Sankirna (85)
German world-jazz group comparable with bands like Paul Winter Consort, Oregon, Embryo, and others. Many albums from around '79 to present. On one album Sankirna, they join forces with traditional East Indian musicians and vocalists for a stunning tour-de-force.
La Nature Vit (79)
Includes flutes, various synths, folk influences, poetic lyrics; symphonic with a slight hard edge.
Ad Gloriam (69)
L'Aurora Delle Orme (70, Compilation)
Uomo Di Pezza (72)
Felona E Sorona (73)
In Concerto (74, Live)
Beyond Leng (75, Compilation)
Verita' Nascoste (76)
Storia O Leggenda (77)
Canzone d' Amore (77, Compilation)
Le Orme Vol. 1 (77, '70's Compilation)
Le Orme Vol. 2 (77, '70's Compilation)
Le Orme Antologia Vol. 1 (78, '60's Compilation)
Le Orme Antologia Vol. 2 (78, '60's Compilation)
Piccola Rapsodia Dell'Ape (80)
Le Orme (83, Compilation)
Live Orme (86, Live, 2LP)
Le Orme (90, Compilation)
Antologia 1970-1980 (93, Compilation)
Biancaneve (95, CD re-release of Venerdi')
Le Orme (96, '60's Compilation)
Il Fiume (96)
Amico di ieri (97)
Le Prime Orme (97, '60's Compilation)
Anthology (98, '60's Compilation)
Le Piu' Belle Canzoni (98, '70's Compilation)
Gioco di Bimba (99, '70's Compilation)
Gioco di Bimba e Altri Successi (00, '70's Compilation)
Le Orme circa 2002 - Michele Bon (keyboards), Aldo Tagliapietra (voice, bass,
bass-pedal, guitar, sitar), Michi Dei Rossi (drums, percussion), Andrea Bassato
(keyboards, violin, voice)
For Emerson, Lake, and Palmer fans, who like the three man classical-rock format style will undoubtedly love Le Orme, who's Nice, ELP, Trace, and Ekseption similarities are evident. Although similar, in my opinion Le Orme were the best of the genre who mixed the pompous classical rock of the Nice with the elegance and sophistication of the Italians. Although their first two albums are rare '60s beat-music, Le Orme's best albums starting with Collage and the ones that followed, all featuring incredible statements for the three-man band format and are highly recommended to any lover of progressive music. Also great are their fourth through sixth including the classics Uomo Di Pezza, Felona E Sorona (who's English version had lyrics by Peter Hammill), and their opus Contappunti. Others are supposedly slightly inferior yet are all worthy of exploration.
|One of the better known Italian bands, Contrappunti and Felona E Sorona are regarded by many as the band's finest hour. When comparisons are made, ELP is usually mentioned. I think they are kind of a cross between ELP (Hammond tones) and PFM (melodic content). Contrappunti is a very good album and gets better with each listening. Most of you would like this.|
|They started out with beat music and from the album Collage the sound become more prog. (like Quatermass and ELP). The album Felona E Sorona has an English version with the lyrics translated by Peter Hammill. After a bad album (Contrappunti), they recorded Smogmagica in California. The best album is (IMHO) Verita' Nascoste, which has a rocky sound.|
|Early albums (Collage to Leng) were based on the keyboard trio sound of bands like ELP, and while not being a copy band - Le Orme's sound was more folk influenced, and generally imaginative - the influence is unmistakable. Beyond Leng is a compilation of the best of their early stuff with English lyrics replacing the Italian. From Smogmagica, they began exploring a more varied sound with a four-piece lineup (guitar added), absorbing more folk, jazz, and classical influences and moving away from the power-trio sound. These feature much more varied styling, and some of the band's best work. From the early period, the place to start is Felona E Sorona, and from the later period go with Storia O Leggenda.|
|Ah, the cozy sound of keyboard, bass and drum. The many comparsions to ELP are valid, but these guys also have an identity of their own. Melodic Hammond and Moog symphonies that deserve a place among the progressive giants. Recommended: Contrappunti.|
|Italian progressive trio were one of the first to be able to shake off comparisons to ELP, mostly by being a good deal "classier." The ethereal organ reminds me much more of the "special-effects organ" on early Ange albums. Collage is supposed to be the first of the truly progressive albums. Uomo di Pezza and Contrappunti are supposed to be good, but the only album I've heard of the early period is the outstanding Felona e Sorona, which is one of the best Italian albums from this period. By alternating between intense synth-heavy classical-influenced works with melodic acoustic guitar-led tunes, they bring out the best tendencies of Italian prog. "Sospesi nell'incredibile," "Attesa inerte" and "Ritorno al nulla" are three standouts. After Contrappunti, the band added a fourth member on guitar and became far more conventional. Smogmagica was recorded in Los Angeles and is supposed to be terribly commercial. Verita Nascoste is probably the best from this period, the more rock-orientated guitar-based songs ("In Ottobre," "Vedi Amsterdam") tend to win out over the feathery keyboard-based songs ("Regina al Troubadour"). Not an outstanding album by any means, but very nice. Storia o Leggenda is the worst I've heard by them, very commercial and poppish, resembling Formula 3 circa La Grande Casa, though the closing instrumental is pretty good (but far too short). Avoid this one. Florian and Piccola Rapsodie dell'Ape are supposed to be much improved, all acoustic with lots of chamber-music influence. I haven't heard these. -- Mike Ohman|
|I wanted to find other great progressive bands from other countries other than England and when I read a write-up in a prog rock book about Italy's "big three" I became curious. These three were PFM, Banco and Le Orme. The writer of this book had high regards for the haunting melodic passages in Le Orme's music especially. My journey into their music proved well worth the visit. Now that I am familiar with many other prog bands from Europe from the '70's, I can honestly say that Le Orme were the most consistent in melody output. Simply put, Le Orme were the best prog band to come out of Europe south of England!! The lead singer, Aldo Tagliapietra, was one of the few Italian singers with a clean voice and he was the group's main song writer from day one. Their biggest pop hit was "Irene" which came out the year before they became a prog band. Then they released my favourite album of their's called Collage which yielded two of their most powerful tunes - both keyboard driven called "Collage" and "Sguardo Verso il Cielo". The next two were also classics - Uomo di Pezza and their most highly rated Felona e Sorona with their signature song "Sospesi nell'incredibile". Their sound reminds me of the kind of music you may have heard in the '70's while at a roller rink only with a progressive twist and Italian lyrics. -- Clayton Self|
Click here for Le Orme's web site
Accessible as Gravity (83, Cassette)
Wake Up You Must Remember (84)
Luminous Bipeds (86)
|One of the earliest efforts associated with drummer-extraordinaire Pipin Barnett [Boom, Curlew, Nimal], they melted RIO super-idioms with elements of wave. Their release [Luminous Bipeds] on Swiss Rec-Rec is nowadays almost completely forgotten. A few members have ressurected orthotonical sound under the name Rattlemouth. -- Nenad Kobal|
|Links||[See Curlew | Nimal | Rattlemouth]|
Salsa Catalana (7?), D'Oca A Oca I Tira Que Et Toca (7?), Mirasol Colores, La Boqueria (7?)
Latin Mass (70), 43 Minuten (72)
Arrow Head (72)
When the band split, Bob Callero went to play with Duello Madre and Il Volo. Marco Zocheddu went to play with Duello Madre. Interesting hard rock band and a little bit jazzy.
[See Duello Madre | Volo, Il]
L'Uomo (71), Milano Calibro 9 (Preludio, Tema, Variazioni, Canzona) (72), Palepoli (73), Landscape Of Life (74), Suddance (78)
Fusion in the sense of a fusion of many different styles of music in which this fantastic band move from genre to genre with ease. Their first three are masterpieces in their own right. The superb L'Uomo in which heavy rock and spacey jazz are only a few of the styles included. The soundtrack Milano Calibro 9 and their best, Palepoli, which is so bizarre and complex beginners may be too dazzled by the array of styles presented. Progressive (as opposed to popular) opinion warns me to stay away from Suddance although I haven't heard this either.
The first rock-sounding album is very good: the lyrics are in Italian and English. This LP was the soundtrack to the film "Grazie, Signor P.." The second LP was the soundtrack to the film "Milano Calibro 9." The last album was very bad. When the band finished, Lino Vairetti and Massimo Guarino went to play in Citta Frontale.
Time to let all my biases hang out. For my money one of the best progressive bands ever. Many might shy away because of the Italian vocals, but to do so would miss some incredible music. Palepoli is perhaps their best though I have not as of yet heard the most recent release of their material, Landscape of Life. If Osanna were to be categorized (and if any band defies that they are it) they could be called symphonic. Palepoli is an incredibly diverse album, full of ever changing moods. Honestly, I cannot find a true comparison or state influences, I find this band to be so creative and unique. An earlier release of theirs Milano Cabrano 9 is also quite good. However it is not quite as strong as Palepoli and is perhaps a little darker album. Definitely check this band out...you will not regret it.
Based on Landscape of Life, I don't see what all the fuss is about these guys, this album sounds like very average '70s Italian. I've been told that their album Milano Calibro is supposedly better.
I have their first three albums. The one thing that they have in common is music constantly shifts among different styles, ranging from acoustic guitar and tambourine to driving guitar and fluttering flute to jazzy passages and screaming sax. I think they cover all possible territory in between. Some comparisons could be drawn to early Jethro Tull (but heavier) and even Focus in one or two places. For the most part, they sound totally unique because they rarely settle into one style. This seems to be a problem for some people so you may want to try before you buy, if you can. Palepoli is a monster and the recommended starter. Stylistically, it is similar to Semiramis and Balletto di Bronzo in that there are many unpredictable changes in the music. At one time it well be laid back prog, then manic and frantic, then blues-rock, then off someplace else. The changes don't come as often, perhaps, than the other two bands mentioned, but they are probably more varied and cover a wider range of styles. Vocals are in Italian, but the instrumental sections dominate. Milano Calibo 9, the sound track to the movie of the same name, is also quite a good starting place though Palepoli is a tad better. -- Mike Taylor
Landscape Of Life is the fourth release of "hard" progressive rock with classical influences from the Italian band that is probably best compared to Jethro Tull and Focus.
I've only heard one album: Milano Calibro 9 (a.k.a. Preludio, Tema, Variazioni e Canzona). It's a very short but first-rate Italian prog album, mixing Pink Floydian music with jazz fusion, hard rock, symphonic, Jethro Tull, whatever. Lots of synth and Mellotron, and great guitar work by Danilo Rustici. Elio D'Anna is a very forceful flute player, some of the variations feature some really fiery flute work (interjected with Can-like shouts), his sax playing is very good as well. Orchestrations by Luis Bacalov give this album a very full sound. I definitely hope to hear more by this band. -- Mike Ohman
[See Cervello | Citta Frontale | Jethro Tull | Luna | Nova | Uno]
Heldon-inspired, Richard Pinhas plays on this album.
[See Fluence | Heldon | Pinhas, Richard]
Myths and Legends (84)
Beyond Control - Live (02, Live, Recorded 1991)
|Osiris hail from that inexhaustible hotbed of modern progressive rock, the State of Bahrain. Exotica seekers should not bother, though, for at least on Reflections (Musea FGBG 4270.AR) they sound much more like IQ or some of the other neo-progressive bands from their former colonial motherland. Like IQ's, their style is rhythmically simplified and melodically more accessible take on the symphonic sound of Genesis and Yes, with a spattering of American arena rock guitar mannerisms here and there. But Osiris steer well clear of the most obvious cliches and give a lot of room for instrumental solos and interplay between guitar and two sets of keyboards. The playing is proficient but not given to too much empty flash or self-indulgence, and the keyboardists' tone policy manages a quite tasteful mix of old-style analog and the jingly digitals of the day. Neither of the two vocalists has a golden larynx but they handle their relatively brief parts with dignity. While a few production details (e.g. the needless synth tom fills on an otherwise impeccable instrumental "Lost and Found") are questionable from today's perspective and the rhythm section can be unimaginatively linear at times, the melodic writing and the fluid guitar work of Mohammed al-Sadeqi make this an enjoyable snack for fans of neo-progressive or simpler symphonic rock. Certainly in 1989 Osiris' neo-progressive colleagues in Europe could have taken a lesson or two from the boys from Bahrain. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
Click here to order Reflections
from Musea records
|Very interesting techno-industrial soundscapes a little like Mogwai but more atmospheric and with a stronger emphasis on prog rock. A nice combination of dark film music and ambient washes of color that at times evoke the pilgrimages of Bo Hansson and even avant-garders like Dave Kerman or Roger Trigaux. Part of Musea's Dreaming series. -- David Marshall|
Click here for an
Osirys web site (in French only!)
Click here to order Osirys from Musea Records
Nightnoise (84), Something of Time (87)
Otherwise known as Nightnoise, Oskay and O'Domhnaill recorded several albums for the Windham hill label, the most interesting of which are the first two: Nightnoise and Something Of Time. These are acoustic driven with lots of violin and other traditional type instruments, introspective, in the new-age vein, but not the excessively poppy stuff that's given the genre a bad name. These are good.
O Katalina? (??), others?
From the Basque region of Spain. I'm not sure if they are truly Prog or not but I did see them on a list of Basque music right next to Itoiz, for what that's worth. Mike Borella described the music as "...stunning! Very lyrical, very emotional. Primarily acoustic, and with all kinds of possible origins: Scottish, Irish, Greek, Gypsy...." -- Mike Taylor
The Shadow of Dreams (99)
The Othello Syndrome is Paul Kadman and Martin Rosser who treat us to the sound of what
would have happened if Van Der Graaf Generator had
acquired a sense of humor and had some members of Genesis
join the band as guests. The Othello Syndrome is one of the
F2 Music artists, and as such will
inevitably feature Rob Reed (Cyan,
Magenta and others) on keyboards and Tim Robinson
(The Fyreworks, Magenta
and others) on drums. The album is also produced by Reed.
The Van Der Graaf Generator feel comes from the songwriting, but also from Kadman's Hammillian vocals and the sax parts played by guest Ian Bailey, though it never degenerates into the noisy chaos that VDGG sometimes does. The Genesis feel comes mostly from Reed's Banksian keyboard work on both synthesizers and organ, though some of the organ work also sounds like VDGG's Hugh Banton (hmm ... nowadays, I would call this organ playing "gothic", though there was no such musical concept in the early '70's).
The Shadow of Dreams has a number of outstanding cuts; my favorites are the opener "Father of Leeches", unquestionably the most Hammillian (like "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers") piece, and also "Interlecherality", a sad tale sung by a bookish nerd who "can't seem to find love in print". A satisfying and nicely executed album. They are supposedly working on a follow-up album, though a title has yet to be announced as of this writing. -- Fred Trafton
[See Cyan |
Fyreworks, The |
Click here for F2 Music's web site with info on The Othello Syndrome and all the related bands
Ougenweide (71), All Die Weil Ich Mag (74), Ohrenschmaus (76), Fryheit (78), Liederbuch - Compilation 1971-1979 (??)
Ougenweide is a German band that performed roughly from 1971 to the end of the 1970s. Heavily influenced by German medieval verse, their music falls into the general Steeleye Span/Malicorne category, but with German lyrics. They range from faithful renditions of old songs to Fairport Convention-ish folk-rock, but may appeal to many progressive fans who enjoy folk and medieval/Renaissance music. Minne Graw's vocals are a definite strong point. There's a guy who sings as well who isn't bad, but it's very much like Maddy Prior and Tim Hart in Steeleye Span -- vocally, Maddy stole the show. The instrumentation is very good and varied (the instrument list is as full as on a Gentle Giant record), but some of the more "modern" sounding tracks have a tendency to sound dated. Overall, this is a fantastic folk band with many progressive touches. They sound unlike anyone I can think of, but with definite medieval ambience. Recommended album: All Die Weil Ich Mag. -- Piotr Dubiel
Wake Up (70)
Out of Focus (71)
Four Letter Monday Afternoon (72)
Not Too Late (00, recorded in 1974)
Rat Roads (02, recorded in 1972)
Out of Focus
All I've heard is their self-titled release from 1971, another example from the German underground scene. The music is organ dominated with good doses of sax and guitar, and some flute. Many of the songs have a moderate psych/underground feel. Tracks are moderately long, with one 13+ and one 17+ minute tune. Overall the sound is decent but nothing really outstanding. There are some nice guitar solos in the long cuts, but the sax doesn't ever do anything exciting, though it does give it a kind of Soft Machine (and occasionally even a Secret Oyster) feel. Recommended to fans of the German underground scene and guitar.
Formed in Munich, late 1968, Out Of Focus was an excellent band, transceding musical
boundaries. They made three albums for Kuckuck - all are absolutely brilliant, but a
little underestimated, in my opinion. The first production is a very exciting mix of
heavy rock, jazz and blues feeling with psychodelic organ and guitar, strong rhythm
section and baroque flute parts similar to Jethro Tull.
Lyrics are socio-politically engaged, humorous, philosophical and Moran Neumuller's
vocal sounds very accesible. My favourite tracks on Wake Up are "Hey John" and "Dark,
Darker" - exploring from quiet tones to powerful flute played with imaginativeness and
bewitching lightness. It's a really nice debut!
The second, self-titled album is a bit more diverse - the first track is fast, saxophone and organ dominated, relating to the first album, while "It's Your Life" and "Blue Sunday Morning" are complex reflective/ballad songs, with a little "hippie" touch. For me, the most interesting compositions on Out Of Focus are: "Whispering" - harmonious, constant rhythm section make here a background for extended sax and guitar solos, and the longest track, wonderful 17 minute "Televison Program" which starts with mellow mellody and slowly grows to well-arranged song with excellent organ/guitar/sax jams.
Out Of Focus have developed into their jazz-rock style with a double-album Four Letter Monday Afternoon. The band added brass section (saxes, trumpets and trombone) and here remainds me Canterbury scene even more than on previous releases. The second disc includes 50 minute suite "Huchen 55", splited into three parts, with a lot of interesting musical ideas and subdued improvisations in type of Soft Machine, also without loss of their psych-rock spirit, still keep providing nice rhytm and beautiful flute parts.
Not Too Late is a compilation of ideas from the third album, recorded in a home studio and released only in 2000 by Cosmic Egg (in 1974 they couldn't trade contract with no publisher). Overall sound, especially vocal is not as good as remastered "elementary" albums, but compositions recompense you for quality of transmission. They have another guitar (wah-wah) in organ's place here and again, you can count on a lot of free improvisations made by six harmonious musicians. The first and the second tracks are the most interesting, remains me Nucleus or Tonton Macoute.
Rat Roads is a collection of 9 tracks, remained unreleased - thanks to master tapes we can hear more music from Four Letter... session. I can't tell you more about its contents, because I haven't heard ... yet. -- Dominik Kawa
Made in Japan (81, Side B only ... Side A is Kanzeon)
Misty Moon (85)
A Boy Playing The Magical Bugle Horn (86)
The Scene Of Pale Blue (87) (ProgressoR review)
Indies Collection (87, Compilation)
The Silver Apples On The Moon (89, Studio Live)
Outer Mania (94, Recorded Live for NHK FM Urawa on 15 April 1987)
Outer Limits (2007 line-up) - Shusei Tsukamoto (keyboards), Sugimoto Tadashi (bass, vocals),
Takashi Kawaguchi (violins), Takashi Aramaki (guitars) and Nobuyuki Sakurai (drums)
The sound is heavily symphonic, and heavily influenced by classical constructs. In fact, there are solo classical-styled cuts for violin ("Caprice") and pipe organ ("Organ Small Works #4"), both of which serve as introductions to rock pieces that feature that instrument ("Spiral Motion" and "Constellation" respectively). Many of the songs are instrumental, and the ones that aren't are mostly in English. Unlike many Japanese bands who sing, the lyrics are well-written and the vocals have only a small amount of accent. In fact, it doesn't even sound particularly like a Japanese accent ... if someone had told me this was a slight French or German accent, I would probably have believed them. Very well done, quite comprehensible and not irritating in any way for a native English speaker.
Since their last album (nearly 20 years ago!), The Silver Apples on the Moon, band members Takashi Kawaguchi (violins), Takashi Aramaki (guitars), Shusei Tsukamoto (keyboards) and Nobuyuki Sakurai (drums) remain the same. Bassist Tadashi Ishikawa and vocalist Tomoki Ueno have been replaced on Stromatolite by Sugimoto Tadashi, who sings and also plays basses, cello and Stick, bringing the band's roster from six to five members.
There's only one thing that sucks about this band, and that's their web site. It's stale, low-tech (almost all just text) and poorly organized. But at least there are English versions of the pages, which many Japanese bands don't have. But the site is so stale it doesn't even mention Stromatolite except to say it's in the works. And there's not even a band photo. However, I managed to contact guitarist Takashi Aramaki (whose English is excellent, incidentally), and he pointed me to a Japanese-only web site about the recording of Stromatolite which has pictures. See below for link.
Well, that's the worst thing I can think of to say about them, so since there's no issues at all with the music on this CD, I recommend it highly to all fans of classically influenced symphonic prog. Good enough that it makes me want to hear their earlier albums, most of which are available from Musea Records. Excellent! -- Fred Trafton
|Very unique Japanese progressives with mindblowing covers on their albums. At times symphonic, but usually very hard to pin down. Odd vocals and occasional use of orchestration mark their albums|
|Their sound is varied, although there is strong King Crimson influence, especially on the album The Scene of Pale Blue, most of the tracks are predominantly instrumental, and most of the vocals (where there are vocals) are in English. Another excellent album is Misty Moon, again mostly instrumental with two vocal tracks, one English, one Japanese. The lineup is Keyboards, violin, guitar, bass and drums, with a full time lead vocalist. Silver Apples is a live set containing material from both of these, plus some new tunes as well. Their final album A Boy Playing The Magical Bugle Horn, is a more eccentric collection which, while very good, I would not reccomend for starters. Start with Misty Moon or Pale Blue.|
|I have the first two Outer Limits albums, Misty Moon and The Scene of Pale Blue. Though you hear brief passages that will call to mind one band or another (King Crimson, ELP, Moody Blues, Genesis, Minimum Vital, etc.) they sound unlike any of them or anyone else; thus, they are hard to describe except overall as symphonic. The sound of this six-piece band is characterized by violin, Robert Frippish guitar, synth and Mellotron. The occasional vocals are in both Japanese and English (not in the same song). The band runs through several different time signatures and key changes to keep things interesting. Good stuff.|
|Finely crafted Japanese band of recent vintage. I'd classify their 1985 debut, Misty Moon, as neo-prog, but strides ahead of the scads of Marillion clone-oids. Most of the music reminds me a lot of UK, thanks to the prominent violin work, but there is also evidence of King Crimson, as well as some more overt symphonic influence. Especially on the instrumental "Prelude," which has a Ravel "Bolero"-type of drum beat with bombastic keyboard fanfares. Perhaps the most interesting track is "Spanish Labyrinth." With its flamenco guitars and castanets, it sounds startlingly like Carmen! The Scene of Pale Blue shows a great deal of maturity. I believe it to be one of the best Japanese albums of the past decade, perhaps second only to Ain Soph's A Story Of Mysterious Forest. The King Crimson influence is more evident here, I can also hear some Pink Floyd and possibly some Can (in Tomoki Ueno's increasingly Damo-esque vocalizings) entering their sound. The dissonance and experimentalism creeping into their sound shows a desire to grow beyond the realise of mere neo-prog. As before, violin plays a prominent role, with the previously rarely emphasized guitar coming to the fore. Keyboards mix the classic sounds of the Mellotron and Hammond organ with latter-day digital synths, the end result sounding like nothing but themselves. The title song is 20-minutes long. They have a couple more albums: a live album and one more studio effort, apparently their last album. I haven't heard either.|
[See Ataraxia |
Pazzo Fanfano di Musica]
for Outer Limits official web site (English version)
What Planet (??)
|Their cassette release, What Planet? is great, but lacks the more broad instrumental sound they exhibited on their debut release, Groovism. The horns and extensive keyboards are gone, and their progressive sound is augmented by lots of latin percussion and odd chords. Great stuff.|
The Lord of the Dark Skies (87)
Current psych; sister band to Bevis Frond.
The Human Machine (90)
Pathetic Italian neo-prog band on Musea, Saga wannabees. Gack! Awful!
The Snowman Album (00, Demo)
And We're Not Here After All (08)
Finnish technology students are known to take great pride on their eccentric and quirky humour (some would call it infantile). Though Overhead were formed by four such students in 1999, their music has few traces of humour or particularly eccentricity. Yet it is quirky in its own, subtle way. Having expanded into a quintet with the addition of a vocalist, Overhead garnered some positive attention with their self-produced demo release The Snowman Album and their performances at the Alvari Aukio Art-Rock concerts in 2000 and 2001. Mellow Records agreed to release their first album, though the eventual release was plagued by delays and did not receive much publicity at the time. The music on Zumanthum (Mellow Records MMP 416) is best described as modern symphonic progressive. Too modern for the retro approach of, for example, countrymen Groovector, Overhead's music has an undeniable neo-progressive vibe: melodically accessible, frequently based on stretched but clear song structures and a repeat-modify-slightly-repeat use of textures and keyboard patterns modelled on - though rarely directly imitative of - Yes' and Genesis' symphonic sound spiced with a more aggressive lead guitar a'la Rush. Yet this is only half the truth. For one thing there are few references to the melodramatic mannerisms that plague the style, their incorporation of various contrasting sections and moods, as well as elements of hard rock and pop, is exceptionally smooth and sophisticated, and their arrangements have depth that belies the block-like construction of the tunes and the comparatively narrow instrumental palette (comparable to Quidam's approach on their third album, for example). They are in fact surprisingly difficult to pin down as anything specific.
Perhaps the title track has some Hogarth-era Marillion air about it, as well as Led Zeppelin-like riffing and some raspy rock vocals of rather questionable taste from vocalist/flautist Alex Keskitalo. Keskitalo has actually got a fairly strong and flexible voice, but his approach can sound naïve at times. Though his voice bears little resemblance to Hogarth's, he too is at his best when moving in low-register, moody and sinister circles and somewhat insufferable when trying to be a well-'ard "rawk" singer. His voice does have its idiomatic charm and is as much part of the tight ensemble sound as any of the four instruments.
Overhead have performed King Crimson's "Frame by Frame" live. Their own "Confessions of the Grim Reaper" loans the song's rock-gamelan approach to decorate what is basically a fairly catchy 1980s rock song with strong melodic peaks and a few extra sections that don't sound too bolted on. They can muster enough compositional and melodic firepower to pull off a twenty-minute epic, that vaunted and coveted symbol of progressive worth that many young bands strive to build and few manage to make hold together. "Beginning to End" may not be the most impressive "suite" out there, but it stays engaging and interesting throughout. It also shows well the range of their influences, from Jaakko Kettunen's commendably restrained guitar-god pyrotechnics to Tarmo Simonen's flowingly elegant piano work with its Elton John-derived use of octaves to double the melody lines. The influences are recognisable, yet incorporated so skilfully as to sound idiomatic and natural. Quite different is the "short" (well, it's only five minutes) instrumental "Wasteland", a slow, reverberant guitar/synthesizer duet floating in a vat of ambient synthesizer textures and rhythm loops. "Asleep pt. 2 - Awake" is perhaps their greatest single achievement: it contains a jaunty and slightly folksy melody built up with the help of electric piano, flute and guitar, as well as a long but surprisingly effective guitar solo of somewhat Eastern modality, its combination of slow glissandi and long delay being an obvious nod to David Gilmour's style during Pink Floyd's psychedelic years.
The production is excellent, if somewhat faceless, especially on the keyboard department which is dominated by piano and unremarkable synthesizer pads. In the end, Zumanthum is a slow-growing but ultimately very effective album only slightly marred by some immaturities. It's a very promising start for a band that still has ample time to mature and develop. -- Kai Karmanheimo
"Prog" wouldn't be the first description that springs to mind when listening to Overhead's second full album, Metaepitome. "Classic Rock" or even "Psychedelic" would be closer, though there are surely many "proggy" touches throughout, including lengthy songs (the title tune "Metaepitome" is almost 20 minutes long), acoustic guitar picking, and nice organ chords and synthesizer solos, and even some Thijs van Leer-like flute solos. Add to this some guitar work reminiscent of early David Gilmour and CD liner art where each of the band members are eminating leaves, flowers and butterflies from various body parts, and you have a really nice retro album that has seen more time on my CD player than it needed to just to do a review.
Kai's above review comparing Overhead to Quidam's Time Beneath the Skies is quite appropriate (I assume this is what he meant by the "third album"). You could also compare them to The Moody Blues or even Sgt. Pepper's-era Beatles in some ways, though Overhead certainly isn't trying to sound like either of them. Overhead is far more progressive than either of these due to the variations on and ornamentation of their themes. Overhead also uses some more modern prog-metal mannerisms here and there, though these are tempered by (for example) cleanly-recorded piano playing a counterpoint to the chugging guitars.
The bottom line is that I really like Metaepitome and hope to hear a lot more from these guys. -- Fred Trafton
As before, I like the way these metallic guitar parts contrasts with the more laid-back keys and '60's vocal harmonies. Sometimes you think you're listening to the vocalists from Bread singing with Dream Theater ... until you start noticing the dark lyrics which are very un-Bread like. Still, the metal passages never get so chaotic that the melodicism gets lost. This is a melodically beautiful album with just enough bite to keep it from sounding like "your father's prog". A very enjoyable album, and worthy of your attention. I'll bet these guys would be a blast to see live. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Overhead's web site
Click here for Overhead's MySpace page
Click here to order Metaepitome or And We're Not Here After All from Musea Records
Demo (00, CDR, as Dalmation Car)
Freak of Chance (06)
Oxygene8's Frank D'Angelo (guitars) and Linda Cushma (stick & vocals)
Original entry, last updated 9/16/03:
Although the demo was pretty good, it didn't really prepare me for Poetica, their real debut CD. This is an excellent first release, as far as both composition and sound quality. There are frequent references to '80's King Crimson (the opening cut, "Stand" could be right off of Discipline if not for Linda's vocals, which in spite of being female still are reminiscent of Belew's vocal styling) and also to some of Peter Gabriel's post-Security solo albums, particularly the cuts "Hold On", "Larry's Lullabye" and "Heart to Weep". But Linda's vocals aren't as plaintive as Gabriel's.
Poetica features a couple of re-makes of tunes on the Dalmation Car demo, but the new versions are much more vibrant and interesting. Some of spots that seemed tentative in the demo are now fleshed out and intentional-sounding. "Funkernickel" in particular is quite attention-grabbing, starting off sounding like some '80's funk/disco tune, but quickly proving that it's anything but that.
Tim Alexander continues to play drums for them on this album, but still isn't a regular member of the band, which means they have some issues with playing live. However, for their recent tour of Spain they were joined by Gerard Mallorqui on drums and a second Stick player, the world famous Argentinian Guillermo Cides. A video was shot and has been shown on Spanish TV stations, but I'm still waiting for the DVD! I'd like to see/hear this ... I don't personally think that Alexander's drum style is the best possible fit for Oxygene8. Not that he's a bad drummer or anything, he just seems a bit on the heavy and rockish side for this music ... Bill Bruford would do these compositions more justice. But I've heard he's sorta busy lately, so I'd love to hear what Mallorqui did with these tunes.
Bottom line is that Poetica is excellent, and anyone who likes good Stick and guitar synth playing should find it to be to their liking. Frank tells me they're working on new material now that is even more in their own original direction. I can't wait! -- Fred Trafton
It's been a couple of years ago now that I heard separately from Frank D'Angelo and Linda Cushma that they had split up and Oxygene8 was no more. But now Linda has put together a new incarnation of the band and a new CD to go with it. The new CD is Freak of Chance and Linda is joined by an international line-up of musicians: Kiko King (Mexico) on drums, and lead guitarists Claudio Cordero (Chile) and Federico Miranda (Costa Rica). The CD also features guest drumming by Tim Alexander (USA) and bass from Tony Levin (USA). They will be touring Europe, once again joined by Guillermo Cides (Argentina). I haven't had a chance to hear the new album yet, but when I do, I'll let you know what I think of it ... sounds like it has definite possibilities!
By the way, since these folks are all from different countries, and leader Linda Cushma moves around between countries, coming back to the USA occasionally to visit her mother, the only fair "country of origin" (in the brackets by the band name above) seems to be "World Citizens". Linda agrees ... so until/unless they settle somewhere, they'll be the only GEPR-listed band in this category! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Oxygene8's web site
Insane Logic (00)
Videozone (01, CDR compilation of 29 soundtrack pieces)
Frozen Paint on Boiling Canvas (05)
Orange Apples (08)
Long-Range Influence (11, w/ artist Matt Howarth)
Ozone Player's Otso Pakarinen
Original Entry added 1/5/01, updated sometime in 2002:
To get an idea what Insane Logic is like, take a heavy dose of old (Phaedra/Rubycon-era) Tangerine Dream, some of the alternate tunings of Wendy Carlos, and throw in some of the nightmarish textures and cacophonies of The Residents, and you'll begin to have a flavor of the music. It is all instrumental, mostly synthesizers, and it can be innocuously cheerful one moment, then decay into frightening darkness the next. These emotional swings make it a bad candidate for the ignorable "ambient" label. My favorite cuts are the longer ones, especially the 7:31 "The Reality Dysfunction".
É is a smoother and more mature album, but no less odd. The first song, "The Name is Bond ... Jeeves Bond" sounds like some sort of warped arabic disco tune, with a strange synthetic rhythm and an interlude that suddenly changes from techno-pop dance music to a theater organ solo. Unexpected to say the least. I really like this tune, and another favorite is "Ollism" which is an all-percussion piece, though the percussion sounds like hand saws, sandpaper and different size hammers. Pakarinen has spent a lot of time on this album laboring over innovative samples and synthesizer patches to make the oddest clanks, scrapes and buzzes which are used as the percussion tracks for all the songs. To this he adds a dose of ethnic/world flavorings, and a bunch of '80's techno-pop dance music, and comes up with a really fascinating stew that is sure to maintain your interest. There are also some nice guitar solos in some of the songs just to add variety to the otherwise all-synthesized sound.
Neither album is going to make music history with it's uniqueness, but they're not "cardboard cutout" music, either. Pakarinen has shown some imagination in developing this style. Not "techno", "electronic dance music" or "ambient", but a little bit of each and some "world" flavors and just plain strangeness too. Definitely not "new age" either (to quote Pakarinen, "I can't stand new age ..."). As all prog, it's not easy to categorize, but I do know I enjoyed both albums. Maybe you will too. -- Fred Trafton
Ozone Player strikes again! Er ... twice, actually, since his fourth album Frozen Paint on Boiling Canvas has been on my "to do" list for years now. But now that he's released #5, Orange Apples, it's way past the time to upgrade Otso's GEPR entry.
I didn't delay reviewing Frozen Paint on Boiling Canvas because there's anything wrong with the album -- on the contrary, it's a crime for this album to have escaped the GEPR's notice for this long. It's about my time, not OP's quality. At any rate, Frozen Paint ... is similar to the previous releases, but even better in sound quality and interesting composition and orchestration. As a quick overview, one might say it sounds like a combination of Kraftwerk and Synergy being played by The Residents, perhaps with Peter Frohmader acting as a consultant ... strange sequences, unusual chord changes, dark dissonances and stridently intentional mistunings compete for ear-time with pretty, harmonious sections. A great example is "Limping Alien" which starts off with a drum and mistuned synth bass line ... then it's joined by a "piano" part that's not playing in a key that has anything to do with the bass's tonic. When the synth counterpoint joins, it's rhythmically in sync with the other parts, but is also harmonically at odds with the previously introduced sections. "Limping Alien" indeed!
Otso Pakarinen has used the previous albums as an orbital "slingshot effect" to send his compositions even further into the unexplored void ... try this as a comparison: Frozen Paint on Boiling Canvas is to "usual" album titles what these compositions are to your "usual" synth music. It paints a picture in your mind of something that almost makes sense, yet is also incredibly alien, forcing you to reinterpret the meaning according to your own biases and previous experience, which may not match up with someone else interpreting the same thing. For many, I suppose that means they will wrinkle their noses at this album because it's not what they would expect out of an electronic album. But I love it for the same reason. For the adventurous ...
If Frozen Paint on Boiling Canvas is a vehicle to explore the far reaches of the void, then Orange Apples translates the music into a parallel dimension where they physics of musical composition don't work the same as in our universe. For the first song, though, once we get here, we find The Residents' vehicle already cruising this part of the multiverse. Particularly, the "vocals" in the first song, "Extrasensory Deprivation", (furnished by Laura Soininen and Zorro the Dog, both distorted beyond recognition) are very much like The Residents.
For other songs on this album, Otso adds other guests as well, including Paul Ellis on guitar, plus several guests on sax, bass and percussion. Some of the sax parts, in particular, bring to mind Secret Oyster, though Pakarinen's synth parts continue to be as beautifully / painfully / artfully alien as ever. More ethnic influences creep in on Orange Apples than Frozen Paint ... (as they also did on É), making the music simultaneously more familiar and more strange. Pakarinen has created a new art form here ... let me say what I did in my original review a bit more positively: this album isn't so strange that there's nothing else remotely like it, but it does explore enough new ground to make it clearly progressive, and thus maintains my interest throughout. I recommend this album as much as I did the former ones ... very nice stuff.
Ozone Player's albums are available from CD Baby (see links below), or can be downloaded from iTunes. My first guess is that the iTunes versions will not do justice to the carefully-crafted electronic timbres because of the compression (though, to be honest, I haven't auditioned them to check it out). If you care about sound quality, I would suggest ordering the CD's. -- Fred Trafton
Ozone Player's new album Long-Range Influence was released with a dual credit ... Ozone Player and artist Matt Howarth. No, Howarth didn't do the album cover art, but instead has illustrated the concept represented by the songs in a PDF graphic novel included on the CD. Or maybe it's the other way around ... perhaps Ozone Player has set the graphic novel to music. Whichever way around it is, this is a collaborative effort.
An incautious listen to this album might cause one to dismiss it as synth-pop, and indeed there are some parts of some songs that remind one of The Moog Cookbook or similar kitschy synth music. But then it changes to symphonic electronic, dark industrial, '60's spy movie themes or just percussion pieces (with synthesizer percussion of course). The reminders of The Residents are very nearly gone on Long-Range Influence, and there's a lot more major-key bubbliness while still occasionally surprising you with a dissonant chord where you least expect it. It's quite good and has enough innovative synth programming and strangeness that I find it to be quite satisfying. Danceable? Well, some of it is, but I'd rather just listen. Another nice release by Ozone Player.
The CD Baby site says you might like this if you like Danny Elfman. I would have never thought of that comparison ... but they're right! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Ozone Player's web site
Click the album title to order this album from CD Baby: Insane Logic, Videozone, É, Frozen Paint on Boiling Canvas, Orange Apples or Long-Range Influence.
Fresh Blood (96)
Ozone Quartet - Wayne Leechford (stick), Steve Smith (drums), Hollis Brown
(electric violin), Graham Fry (guitar)
While my musical taste is often associated with the words "difficult" and "heavy", music of this band most obviously isn't. Heading from North Carolina and featuring ex-member of Confessor, their life-job seems to be blending Mahavishnu Orchestra sort of fusion with the grand sound of mid- and late-period King Crimson. The line-up which consists of Chapman-stick, drums/percussion, violin and guitar speaks for that. Good band with skillful players, but also very derivative at the same time. I possess Fresh Blood, their much acclaimed debut, which unfortunately doesn't push me into state of euphoria. What I hear for the most of time are well-emulated Mahavishnus, usually slighty tinged with Kingsons or just Mahavishnus in a more Kingsonoid sound-cloth. Few tracks lean more toward Kingsons, majority of others sounds to be totally in the Mahavishnu fashion. As said playing is great, yet I barely trace something new (few riffs). Drummer sounds quite like Bruford, violin is pretty much in Jerry Goodman's mode and is prevalent instrument here, while guitar which surface now and then reminds more of Fripp than of McLaughlin. Chapman-stick is quite good, but usually remains in the shade of violin. Funny enough, Wayne Leechford's playing sometimes reminds me of Cynic/Sean Malone's one. Well, if you like both MO and KC, then you'll probably gorge yourselves while listening to Fresh Blood. I think that it is too hard to achieve something new with following (only) two bands which have so distinct and defined styles. I didn't hear Nocturne yet, but something is telling me, I better provide myself few other things first. -- Nenad Kobal
Click here for Ozone Quartet's web site
Tantric Obstacles (85)
Live Ethereal Cereal (86)
There Is Nothing (86)
Sliding Gliding Worlds (88)
The Bits Between The Bits (89)
Pungent Effulgent (89)
Live Underslunky (92)
Jurassic Shift (93)
Vitamen Enhanced (93, 6CD box set of first six cassette-only releases)
Become the Other (95)
Curious Corn (97)
Spice Doubt Streaming: A Gig in the Ether (98, Live)
Waterfall Cities (99)
Spacelines - Nodens Ictus (00)
The Hidden Step (00)
Pyramidion (01, EP)
Pongmaster's Ball Live (02, Live, CD or DVD versions)
Swirly Termination (02)
Spirals in Hyperspace (04)
Eternal Wheel (04, Compilation)
The Floor's Too Far Away (06)
Sunrise Festival (08, Live CD or DVD)
Yum Yum Tree (09)
Ozric Tentacles - 2001 promo photo
One of my personal favorites, the Tentacles have an absolutely unbelievable sound, in the same vein of fusion as Djam Karet, yet with bubbling spacey electronics, more keyboards and a Gong influence that takes that bands space fusion style and leaves their silliness behind. Yet again a band that has a virtual library of styles, Ozric Tentacles on the course of an album will move from intense high speed fusion, to incredibly atmospheric electronic music to a track that could only be described as a prog bands answer to reggae. Anything by these guys comes highly recommended, and I mean HIGHLY.
The music is virtuosic keyboard/guitar rock, anchored with a strong drum-bass rhythm, improvisational at times, yet always strongly executed. At times, the guitar work is reminiscent of Steve Hillage's work with Gong, with, as one reviewer put it, "...none of the metaphysical bullshit...." There is a strong improvisational element in their music, yet not to the extent of self-indulgent doodling. This band was hailed as one of the best bands of 1990, with Erpland. Live Underslunky was recorded at gigs played in November 1991. These guys manage to get their live pieces to live up to the standard of their studio material, and the result is a fine collection of "space rock" in the best traditions. All the favourites are here, including "Erpland," "Bizarre Bazaar," etc.
This is another band that has been raved about on the net in the past few months. What I've heard has been instrumental spacey stuff that is really difficult to classify, but I can hear strains of Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, and even Jethro Tull. Very heavy on the sound effects, solid bass lines. Worth a listen, without a doubt.
Ozric Tentacles is generally regarded as one of the best things to happen to progressive/psychedelic rock in recent years. I agree. They have developed quite a following in the U.K. and a cult following seems to be developing here in the States. Erpland is a non-stop psychedelic jam of the finest kind from start to finish. Erpland (and other Ozric music) is based around the incredible interplay between Ed Wynne's guitar and Joie Hinton's ethereal synthesizer. Hinton has the bubbling/gurgling synth down cold and I think the keyboard work on this album is some of the best space synth work in recent years. Wynne is an impeccable guitar player whose chops draw from the best of Steve Hillage. The obvious influence at work is Gong during their Planet Gong trilogy, though there isn't the silly fantasy themes that occasionally gets in the way of Gong's music (e.g., Angel's Egg) at times. There are no lyrics and the focus is on the incredible, mind-blowing jams with distinct mid-eastern influences that would feel right at home in any opium den. Titles such as "Tidal Convergence," "Mysticum Arabicola," and "Valley of a Thousand Thoughts" indicate the direction you'll head when listening to these, particularly if you recently visited that opium den. Songs like "Eternal Wheel" and "Tidal Convergence" highlight the intense fusion of Wynne's furious playing against a backdrop of celestial sounds from Hinton's keyboards. Others, such as "Toltec Spring," "Cracker Blocks," and "A Gift of Wings," use guitar, synth, and various percussion instruments to develop a wonderfully engrossing and meditative atmosphere. "Inscence" shows the band's exploratory style, which takes the space theory and overlays it on a reggae foundation. Unique, to say the least. Simply stated, this album gets my highest recommendation. Pungent Effulgent was actually released on LP before Erpland but on CD after Erpland. It is similar to Erpland though a both spacier and more experimental in many places. Wynne's trademark guitar is all over. Strangeitude is usually mentioned as a favorite by those who haven't heard Erpland, the most commonly cited fave. Strangeitude has a more aggressive edge relative to previous albums. Live Underslunky is an excellent live set though the "ambience" or "spaciousness" of their studio work is missing. Afterswish was a collection from their first six cassettes but its purpose is nearly negated by the Vitamen Enhanced boxed set which contains CD versions of the first six cassettes. Afterswish has a couple of new tracks, though, making it worthwhile for the Ozrics completist. Jurassic Shift finds the band treading familiar ground (ala Strangeitude) instead of breaking new ground. Start with Erpland or Pungent Effulgent. -- Mike Taylor
Top progressive instrumental band of the '90s from the UK. Erpland and Strangeitude are both excellent CDs full of consistently strong material and brilliant playing. As many have said before, Ozric Tentacles has just about everything you could want: a highly accomplished drummer with a huge sound, an aggressive bass player featured prominently in the mix, a guitarist worthy of praise, plenty of top-notch synthesizer work, and a flute player and two percussionists to boot. The sound is somewhat reminiscent of later Gong but much tighter.
Rather overrated psych-prog band. The only album I actually own is Pungent Effulgent, but if you ever associate yourself with other prog-heads, you can't help but be exposed to them. As for Pungent Effulgent, there are a few tracks with playing that will leave you spellbound ("Ayurvedic" and "Dissolution (The Clouds Disperse)," but especially "KIck Muck"). But for every "Kick Muck," there are two or three laborious "world-music" pieces that leave me bored. Their music has been compared to Gong, and indeed there is a similarity except that the Ozrics is all instrumental. I'd just as soon listen to Gong, or for something more modern, Djam Karet, who are much more original (they don't cop Hillage riffs, etc.). There is definitely some good music on all their albums, but overall they don't live up to their inflated reputation. -- Mike Ohman
Erpland and Pungent Effulgent are pretty good. Strangeitude and Jurassic Shift sound like progified dance music to me. Boring repetitive rhythms, endless jamming with no purpose. Yawn. Maybe if they took speed instead of pot they'd regain some of their intensity. -- Mike Borella
I find it a bit hard to listen to all two hours of Afterswish in one sitting, but so far my impression is fairly positive. The first 40 minutes or so is classic Ozric Tentacles. Killer psychedelic jamming reminiscent of very early Hawkwind. These guys can say more in an instrumental than most bands can say with words. However as the album progresses it goes a little bit downhill. In other words, from classic to just plain good. Great music for studying and/or sex. :-) Fans of Erpland will love the first disc while the second is more along the lines of Strangeitude. Maybe this isn't the best place to start with Ozric Tentacles, but it is a must for any fan.
I only have Afterwish, but it's enough to sell me on this band. Erpland is supposedly their best. Strong You-era Gong influence without the silliness. Very tight. Incredible, incredible, incredible band.
I have Erpland, Pungent Effulgent, and Live Underslunky. With all the raving, which is mostly deserved, I'm a bit hesitant to say this, but I'm not sure one needs to get more than one Ozrics album. The ones I have aren't distinctive enough (distinctive from each other, that is) for me to even think about which one might be my favorite. But I'd recommend checking the band out; it's wonderful stuff nonetheless.
This prolific British band plays in a style that dates back to the space-rock and psychedelic rock of the early '70s. The tracks on Arborescence consists essentially of guitar improvisations on a backdrop of groovy rhythms by the bass, drums, percussions and synthesizer sequences. The production is rich but retains a natural (live) feel that's perfectly suited for the spontaneity of the performances. Music with an energy that can transport you to far away places.... Every collection should include at least one Ozric! -- Paul Charbonneau
Afterswish is compilation from the six cassette-only releases (which are now out on CD).
Here's a review of sorts from '94-99:
1994 saw a major line up change for Ozric Tentacles, with Joie Hinton and Merv Pepler departing to concentrate full time on their electronic outfit Eat Static. Taking their place were Seaweed, a Tim Blake disciple and synth wizard, and new drummer, Rad.
1995's Become the Other showed that the new band was stronger than ever, delivering nearly an hour worth of new material with all the usual blend of traditional instruments with weird synths and ethnic sounds. There is a good balance of moods, ranging from full speed ahead space rock with furious guitar and drums to tracks anchored by deep bass grooves, to more mystical ethereal outings such as the laid back title track. If you liked Aboresence, you're sure to like this one.
Spice Doubt is a limited edition live album taken from a webcast in 1998. Featuring older tracks plus some new material, it showcases the talents of the band live, particularly the virtuosity of Rad (who cites Neil Peart as a major influence). While in the studio he is relatively restrained, live, he is all over the drum kit, particularly on the 10 min. "Dissolution" - incredible! Equally, Ed Wynne's guitar work is more over the top, with lots of wild playing and improvisation. Overall this album is 78 mins of high quality, high energy space rock from on of the finest bands in the genre. It will not disappoint.
The following studio album, Waterfall Cities shows a leaning towards modern ambient/trance styles which were hinted at in Curious Corn, with less organic playing particularly in the drum department. However this is not to say the modern sound is weak or more commercial (heaven forbid!) - it is still uniquely Ozric.
IMO, despite being quite different from the sound of albums such as Pungent Effulgent or Erpland, Waterfall Cities, like Curious Corn is an excellent album with strong compositions, especially on the more band oriented tracks. While there are still tablas and ethnic flutes to be found here and there, Eastern influences are less prominent on this album than on previous works. Although overall Waterfall Cities is somewhat light on guitar, when the guitar is featured it is impressive, with some of Vai's influence showing on Ed's "acrobatic" solos. Highlights are the impossibly tight opening track, Coily which starts out in a twisting 17/18 riff, first with synth, which is then joined by drums, and clanking bass, or the 9 min+ "Sultana De'trii", a mellower piece based around a progressive dub-reggae theme, with drifting synths and arpeggiated guitar.
Swirly Termination is a contractual obligation album, made up of outtakes and unreleased material from 1998 that is not supported by the band. Reportedly weaker than official efforts, with an unpolished sound reminiscent of earlier material.
The latest official release The Hidden Step is generally more band oriented with a bit less of a programmed trance feel than Waterfall Cities. Ed Wynne's trademark guitar is more prevalent throughout, and there is a stronger emphasis on Eastern/ethnic elements, both in composition and delivery. Touted as a crossover album that will appeal to fans of Hawkwind, Gong, Tangerine Dream and beyond. -- Daniel Briggs
I've listened to almost all Ozrics' albums, including CD-reissues of their early tapes like Erpsongs and There is Nothing (there are six of them in all, recorded before the first official release). Regarding Ozrics, I especially start with Strangeitude, because it is their "average statistical" album, although some words about it will be told just nearer to the end of this "Key" detailed review (in its true meaning consisting not only of enumerations of the songs with short descriptions of them). As well as in Nektar's case, I do not agree with the opinions of those critics, who compare Ozric Tentacles to such great bands as Pink Floyd, Djam Karet, Porcupine Tree, Gong, Jethro Tull, and Hawkwind, mixing things and thereby putting them all on the same plane in order to describe Ozric Tentacles, What a company for them! Well, we are all alike to a certain degree: two legs, two ears, one nose... yet so worlds apart! All of these Big Bands are different, too, each having its own originality, and originality is the main trump of the true artist of any kind of art. Influences are not opposed to Originality: God only knows where are the roots of music, and of all things. However, influence is not equivalent to cloning, don't you think so? What is more, the term "clone" used by reviewers in respect of almost all bands-"doubles" does not correspond to reality. "Marillion-clones" are beyond comparison with others on the margins of all prog-pages, where all of them have their own comfortable niches, and they're likely proud of such significant comparisons. And almost all of these "doubles", that are pseudo-doubles more correctly, are just poor unexciting copies of their idols, they are imitators of those, whose glory gives them no peace, though, strangely enough, more or less decent open imitation of their famous style gives them ... a phenomenal success and, accordingly, lots of money (read of Grey Lady Down!). I think, the terms like "imitator" and "poor copy" are quite suitable to describe that sort of bands, but not clone, because clone, all in all, is equivalent to the original. Alas, here and nowhere there is no place to discuss that, and please, don't look into scientific works, why? Just remember British sheep ... And as to "almost all of the doubles": in "CE" section read about the album "Somewhere but Yesterday" (Citizen Cain, 1994).
Back to comparisons (which are so symbolic, on the whole) I'll say some phrases, the first part of which is a universally recognized axiom. Yes, the presence of comparisons is undoubtedly necessary on all music pages dedicated to performers or their works. The complex of comparisons, such as a navigator for readers, is a key for helping them make a good choice: whether to buy a band unfamiliar for them or not (of course it's a simplified example). Now "part two". All the comparisons must be qualitative, because only through our own comparisons it will be easier for a music lover to make his own choice. And he believes us (whereas he must be sure!) as long as a product advised to him meets his expectations.
Well, it's time to go back to Ozrics and comparisons, now not so flattering for them. I know that Ozrics plays live proficiently, though Under Slunky and Afterswish both consist mostly of the songs from their best, and the only really good double Erpland. As to Ozrics' "average statistical" album Strangeitude (as well as Jurassic Shift of 1993, whereas their latest works, especially A Curious Corn of 1997, are very simple, and sometimes openly poppy), it shows that the band really has its own originality, but the level of quality of another most important ingredients such as composition and arrangements is far from the similar ingredients of the giants, that are compared everywhere with Ozrics, here (and in any "Story of Ozric Tentacles") is no place for Progressive's Leaders in respect of comparisons. There are no even stylistical similarities, especially with Jethro Tull (an absolute nonsense!): then equal me with the great Shakespeare, because I have one head too?! (In the context of Jethro Tull, Ozrics was compared to them, because the heroes of these lines have a flute in their instrumentation, too.
Summary: Putting Strangeitude into the CD-player I hear an excellent job of the rhythm-sections, some guitar solos, little of flute (though, I've retained from the flutist his primitive howling), but over the whole album I can also hear how ably their keyboard player works with various prepared samples (lots of these musical themes-"rings" are contained in the memory of any more or less decent key-mputers), which create the "progressive" atmosphere. And that is all. So, the bands really related to Ozrics you can find on (British) "Delerium" label, where only Porcupine Tree is a true progressive band, unlike the others, who are just semi-prog acts. -- Vitaly Menshikov
[See Hillage, Steve]
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|Ruff Mix (75)|
|This very rare album was published on Ozone records in 1975. The mastermind behind this band from Texas was Duane Massey, who did all the composing and played various keyboards and a horn. There is also bass, drums and a strong guitar on this record. The music is some kind of heavy rock with a lot of synths and keyboards, some horns and speedy guitar. Sounds like ELP jamming with Cream! -- Achim Breiling|