Grovjobb - Under Solen Lyser Solen. 2001 Sweden

After first hearing Vättarnas Fest, I wrote an enthusiastic review for both their albums at the time, and couldn't wait to hear a 3rd from them. So when Under Solen Lyser Solen did get released, I snapped it up immediately, and.... well, I didn't write a review, let's put it that way.

Yes, I was sorely disappointed. The album didn't have the dynamism of its predecessors. After a couple of listens, I filed it. Now 16+ years later, here we are again - and I'd gone as far as tagging it "weedout". This could be the final listen.

It won't be. Now it's also been about 17 years since I heard the first 2, so I cannot draw any memorable comparisons. What I will say is that the first word I think of when listening to Under Solen Lyser Solen is organic. This is a very laid back, drawn out, psychedelic work based on Swedish folk themes. There's no rave-ups, or meter shifts, or that much in the way of songcraft honestly. It just sort of drifts along, with quite a bit of repetition, and lovely flute and electric guitar shimmering away. It appears the band knew they were going to sunset, and this was the way they wanted to exit - riding out into the fields slowly as darkness descends. They certainly didn't go out in a ball of flames, that's for sure.

If memory serves, the final track here 'Reflection of Rafi' seems more in line with their other albums, and is the highlight.

Personal collection
CD: 2001 Garageland

Eclat - Le Cri de la Terre. 2002 France

On Le Cri de la Terre, it seems the band has moved away from their Minimum Vital-ish roots, which is to say there is less of the Medieval here. But in its place is a more aggressive kick-ass style guitar rock, with some nice keyboards (though not recommended for digital-phobes). Taken this further, I'd admit that the short electronic pieces are definite minuses here. On the plus side, guitarist Alain Chiarazzo can play with the best of them, his style is very much in the French school, and the Paysson (Minimum Vital) comparison continues on.

Personal collection
CD: 2002 Musea

Sanhedrin - Ever After. 2011 Israel

Sanhedrin are a new band from Israel where guitar and flute are the main thrust of the music. Features Shem-Tov Levi from the legendary Sheshet on flute. Melody is first and foremost, with a strong emphasis on old school analog instrumentation and production values. I'm reminded of bands from the 1980s and early 90s underground that were highly influenced by prime Camel. Groups such as Asia Minor, Minimum Vital, Solaris, and Rousseau all come to mind here. Towards the end of the disc there's a distinct Pulsar (hence Pink Floyd) influence. The modern Japanese group TEE also could be a reference here. A superb debut.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Fading (Italy)

Diagonal - The Second Mechanism. 2012 England

If the debut laid down the premise that Diagonal were to be the retro progressive rock band to be reckoned with, then The Second Mechanism fulfills that conclusion. Perhaps more studied than their first opus, with even more twists and turns to keep the modern short-attention-spanned listener completely enthralled - ironic given Diagonal's 1971 disposition. But such was the state of that era - and ours. Diagonal are a band that have gone from great to greater, and I can only imagine what they will come up with next. Let's hope the group continues to explore these paths that were not as tread upon as many people might initially presume. Diagonal are walking the little known side trails from the main highway. And there are many aural treasures to be found.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 England

Diagonal - s/t. 2008 England

Diagonal are the first modern UK band, that I know of anyway, to truly capture the essence, atmosphere, and sound of the original progressive rock movement from 1970-1971 England. Many groups have come along and tried their hand at generating the sound of Yes, Genesis, ELP, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Renaissance, King Crimson, and Van der Graaf Generator. And while all of those groups are worthy of imitation, they only represented a fraction of the original UK movement. Of course, they were the ones that made the big time, so it's more than understandable how they attracted more admirers than others. But Diagonal has clearly absorbed the record collections of the deep divers - in particular the Neon, Dawn, Transatlantic, Vertigo, and Deram labels and their stable of bands. With Diagonal you'll hear references to bands such as Cressida, Samurai, Raw Material, T2, Beggar's Opera, Gravy Train, Spring, Clear Blue Sky, Diabolus, East of Eden, and Indian Summer. But here's the most important part to understand: They have absorbed the influence, not copy it. And so you get an entirely new album within a familiar context. And because the band has clearly studied this era in depth, not to mention incorporating the period instrumentation (mellotron, Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, fuzz bass/guitar, sax), they are able to create an extract of the genre. What that means for us modern buyers is an enhanced product - perhaps even exaggerated. For my tastes, Diagonal have created the perfect retro progressive rock album. An album to be held up as an example of how to do it right. If you're a student of the genre, then let Diagonal be your teacher.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Rise Above

Astrakan - Comets and Monsters. 2012 England

While the first album stayed completely in the underground, at least Astrakan's latest album Comets and Monsters is slightly more accessible, being readily available from online retailers. Musically the band stray further towards the jazz end of the Canterbury spectrum. Adding female vocalist and keyboardist Celia Lu has defined their new direction. She sings in a higher pitched fashion - perhaps even pseudo operatic at times - similar to Dagmar Krause. But with a Chinese accent. It's a bit bizarre to say the least. I personally wish they'd exploit their rock abilities, but it seems Astrakan are more intent to stay within the jazz idiom. Henry Cow circa In Praise of Learning is a major influence on Comets and Monsters, but without the annoying tuneless improvisations, thus endearing the band more to my tastes.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Jaguar Steps

Astrakan - s/t. 2008 England

Astrakan starts afire with 'In & Out', which possesses a distinct Canterbury sound but completely run amok. The shredding wah-wah guitar left me breathless. Too bad there isn't much more of that psychedelic sound present throughout. Have no fear though, the melodic jazz rock that the Canterbury sound is noted for remains intact. The jazz influence becomes more prominent in the middle of the disc. Sax and organ all get plenty of time to shine. I particularly enjoy their extended use of the latter. It's important to note that Astrakan focus more on composition and atmosphere rather than noisy soloing, thus endearing itself to the UTR.

Astrakan says this: "Friends and followers of the band have likened their sound variously to Soft Machine, Zappa, Gong , Dave Douglas as well as to the newer jazz outfits such as Fraud, Led Bib and Get the Blessing." Apparently the band is looking for a bass player as well (now's your chance!).

Highlights: 1. In & Out (4:39); 2. Roundelay (3:50); 5. Andromeda (7:08); 7. Mostar (7:36)

Personal collection
CD: 2008 private

Psycho Praxis - Echoes from the Deep. 2012 Italy

[1971. A major city in the USA] Me and my friend Billy went over to Peaches Record Store and I just bought this great import album by an English band called Psycho Praxis. Dude, I spent 3 week's allowance on it. Looks awesome. A killer gatefold cover on Vertigo, mannn. Features acid guitar, Hammond organ, dreamy/amplified English vocals, fuzz bass, and flute. Reminds me of that other new band we bought called Uriah Heep, crossed with Jethro Tull, Atomic Rooster, and Raw Material. Right Billy?

....Except it's 2012 and they're from Italy.

I'm most anxious to see what they come up with next! Great album.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Italy

Litmus - Planetfall. 2007 England

Continuing on from You Are Here, Litmus ups the intensity level on Planetfall. Once again, Litmus trades in on the Hawkwind meets Omnia Opera market, though this time everything gets the "turned up to 11" treatment. 75 minutes of brain blasting fun. Hard rock thrash, aimless wah wah solos, Moog tweets, mellotron interludes, and monotone vocals. It's sooooo English spacerock. Not sure there's anywhere else Litmus can go with this concept - they've exhausted the possibilities of the style.

Personal collection
CD: 2007 Rise Above

Litmus - You Are Here. 2004 England

Litmus' debut You Are Here blazes out of the gates with a monolithic guitar riff, twee-twee-twee Moog knob twiddles, and a neanderthal 4/4 rhythm, I was immediately reminded of those 90s aggressive festival rockers Omnia Opera, minus any of their Floydian cosmic buildups. Or, of course, I could have mentioned the real inspiration at work here – which would be primo early 70s era Hawkwind, if Lemmy ran the band that is. They put the “B” in subtle, and pulverize most of the songs right through the wall. The keyboardist is the same gentleman who runs the excellent Planet Mellotron site, and so no surprise the mellotron gets more than its share of studio time. Though good luck in hearing it over the racket. I like my space rock a bit more cosmic and trippy me-self, but OK, that’s not their bag.

Personal collection
CD: 2004 private

My Brother the Wind - I Wash My Soul in the Stream of Infinity. 2011 Sweden

While the debut album traded in on some familiar modern concepts of space rock, I Wash My Soul in the Stream of Infinity reaches further back into the recesses of time, and adds a dollop of atmospheric Krautrock to the proceedings. This is exactly what the band needed, thus providing the proper context for the inevitable psychedelic jamming parts. There's an art to setting the table before dinner, and it appears many bands just want to jump into a bucket of chicken, and call it a meal. While the first album appears to have been a spontaneous jam session, followed by the idea that maybe it would be worthwhile to edit and release - I Wash My Soul in the Stream of Infinity starts with the knowledge of why the band exists, and where it wants to go. It may be improvised, but this time it was "planned randomness". So a bit more thought was applied before starting, rather than just plug in, find a key to play in, and wail.  The atmosphere here is much more dense and exotic, including a propensity to look East, just as their forefathers had done 40 years prior. My Brother the Wind is bordering on the brilliant here, and one hopes they follow this path further to release something truly incredible. I think this album also benefited greatly from an expansion of the instrumental palette - including Hammond, Mellotron, acoustic guitar, percussion, and electric sitar. So while I have rated both these albums the same (for now that is), I Wash my Soul in the Stream of Infinity is near the top of the range while the debut is at the bottom. Let's see what happens next.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Transubstans

My Brother the Wind - Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet. 2010 Sweden

Formed by guitarists Mathias Danielson (Gösta Berlings Saga, Makajodama) and Nicklas Barker (Anekdoten), My Brother the Wind (named after an obscure Sun Ra album from 1970) exists as the musician's vehicle for improvised space rock. I had feared initially that My Brother the Wind would join the Post Rock ranks, given the lengthy free associated album title favored by the genre, and the fact that Danielson had recently formed (and disbanded) a similar type group with Makajodama. But my fears were wiped away early on, as the guitar sounds are heavily affected in a psychedelic manner, and the group clearly is influenced by the 1970s masters. All the same, Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet takes some concentrated listening to work through the details in your mind. Because of the hour long length of the disc, there are many moments that probably could have been filtered out for a more compact and enjoyable experience. Like with many modern space rock bands, My Brother the Wind subscribes to the "if you can't find it, grind it" mentality to push an idea forward in a non-convincing manner. All the same, over time, I found myself enjoying the album more and more. There's something alluring about the psychedelic in music, a certain sound that makes you want to come back again and again. Interestingly enough, the one band that My Brother the Wind most resembles - and I haven't seen anyone mention this before - is the Californian group Djam Karet, especially if you consider titles such as Still No Commercial Potential. Nearby Oresund Space Collective would also have to be considered a reference, especially in the overall approach department. That is to say: Record hours of improvised space rock, and then edit it down for public consumption. It will be interesting to see where the band goes from here.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Transubstans

Mathematicians - Irrational Numbers / Factor of Four. 1994; 1996 USA

In the late 1980s through the early 90s, there was a movement for rock/jazz instrumental albums (think mid 70's Jeff Beck here), that brought on a slew of interesting releases, most of which are long forgotten today. The indie label I.R.S. started a series call No Speak, of which the majority of their roster was made up of top level electric guitarists whose commercially viable days were at least 15 years behind them (Jan Akkerman, Robbie Krieger, Wishbone Ash, Ronnie Montrose). They also had a series of compilation albums called "Guitar Speak" that were highly revered back in the day. In parallel to this, Relativity Records was pushing out albums by more trendy artists such as Steve Vai, Vinnie Moore, and Joe Satriani, while also signing up the middle generation guys like Steve Howe and Gary Moore.

Indianapolis based Mathematicians were clearly a product of this movement. It's hard edged guitar fronted fusion, with mild complexity, and a few good melodies. Keyboards are there primarily to provide accompaniment to the guitar pyrotechnics. Make no mistake, Mathematicians aren't a "guitar hero" band, as the compositions are fleshed out enough to enjoy in a listening session rather than as a "how to record" for budding guitarists. While the debut is well done, the level of intensity and songwriting dramatically improves on Factor of Four, and thus is the recommended place to start.

If you're a "man of a certain age", then this review will most assuredly bring back memories of that era, and you'll probably want to investigate these two CDs (or at the very least go digging through your closet for the IRS/Relativity albums you own... somewhere).  I bought these in the 1990s, and they've held the test of time well. In fact, they've improved with age.

Personal collection
CD (Irrational Numbers): 1994 Aljabr
CD (Factor of Four): 1996 Acme

Quaterna Réquiem - O Arquiteto. 2012 Brazil

O Arquiteto is Quaterna Réquiem's first new studio album in 18 years. And really, as far as I'm concerned, it's the first new album by the band since 1990. Quaterna Réquiem has successfully reunited Wiermann and Vogel, along with long time drummer Cláudio Dantas and two new members on guitar and bass, to continue on the legacy they began on Velha Gravura. Unlike the Sithonia reunion that we just wrote about, Quaterna Réquiem eschewed the temptation to go retro with all analog instrumentation. Rather they decided to continue on exactly as if it were 1991 and it was time for a followup album. Still, the production standards are definitely 2012 and the keyboard tones are fatter and better recorded than the 1990 album - so fear not as they wisely upgraded in the production department. The highlight, of course, is the compositional quality which is richly layered and deeply thought out. Violin, piano, synthesizers and guitar all take their turn at leading the instrumental parade. It's a long instrumental album, as 22 years of ideas come pouring out, that requires close listening to fully appreciate. Quaterna Réquiem were at the forefront of the 1990 progressive movement, one that never really had much chance to spread its wings as the commercial neo-prog bands were dominating the contemporary audience at that time. If you long for the progressive rock sound of the 1990 era such as Solaris' 1990, Nuova Era's Dopo L'Infinito, Minimum Vital's Sarabandes, and Tribute's Terra Incognita, then Quaterna Réquiem's O Arquiteto will fill that void. It brought a rush of memories back for me. Highly recommended.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 private

Quaterna Réquiem - Velha Gravura. 1990 Brazil

Quaterna Réquiem were one of the first bands of the late 1980s/early 90s progressive rock renaissance to review the works of the Mediterranean bands such as Quella Vecchia Locanda and Gotic, rather than the standard English "Big 3" of Genesis, Yes, and ELP. As such, their in-depth research of 1970's progressive rock adds a dimension sorely missing from most works of this time frame. Quaterna Réquiem performs a new interpretation of a much missed genre of music - what was once known as "Euro Rock". And the only thing keeping Quaterna Réquiem from classic "retro prog" status, that which is all the rage in 2000+, is the lack of analog keyboard instrumentation. But the compositions, skillful playing, and youthful exuberance carry the day here, so that Hammond organs and mellotrons are hardly necessary. A very fine work from a band that dissolved all too quickly in its original form.

Personal collection
CD: 1992 Faunus

My original copy was the LP purchased upon release. It was an easy decision to switch it out for the CD not long after.

Ornithos - La Trasfigurazione. 2012 Italy

Ornithos are a sextet that is culled from the excellent ensemble Il Bacio delle Medusa. Like many new progressive bands from Italy, Ornithos looks back to the classic 1973 era for inspiration. On that front, Ornithos will remind the listener of other such groups like La Maschera di Cera, La Torre dell'Alchemista, and Il Tempio delle Clessidre. But Ornithos doesn't stop there, as they also have one foot in the classic Vertigo label heavy rock sound of 1971 England. In this way, they recall groups such as Areknames (Italy), Diagonal (England), and Astra (USA). With an equipment setup straight out of the 70s (Hammond organ, mellotron, sax, flute, loud psychedelic guitar) along with female/male vocals and a songwriting style from the past, Ornithos are the perfect recipe for a heaping dish of Retro-Prog. So if you have a craving for such a meal, then be sure to stop by Ornithos. They're open all night!

Let's hope that Ornithos doesn't take the classic Italian concept too far - that is to say - we are requesting another album! Too many of the best bands from 1972-1974 Italy were "one and done".

Personal collection
CD: 2012 AMS/BTF

The CD above is housed in a beautiful gatefold mini-LP design.

Sithonia - La Soluzione Semplice. 2011 Italy

It's a rare case indeed when a band that possesses a full 6 piece membership reforms after 13 years with all attendees still accounted for and present. Perhaps even more surprising is that it sounds like Sithonia picked right up where Confine left off, especially from a compositional standpoint. And, best of all, this time the band showed up with some old-fashioned analog gear, allowing Sithonia to showcase their immense songwriting talents with the proper (or preferred I should say) instrumentation. So I had asked the question in my Spettacolo Annullato review what that album would've sounded like with a less tinny and digital sound. And we get our partial answer here. It's different material, but the style is similar, and thus I think we know that the album in question would benefit with the addition of organ and mellotron, as presented here. Not to mention the fatter production.

All the trademark sounds of Sithonia are present: Great songwriting, an impassioned vocal performance (appropriately done in Italian), and excellent instrumental work which also now benefits from a larger palette of sounds to choose from.

In short, La Soluzione Semplice is Sithonia's best album to date. Quite a remarkable achievement for a band that was gathering mothballs for over a decade. Let's hope they continue this reunion with another effort!

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Lizard

Sithonia - Spettacolo Annullato. 1992 Italy

Spettacolo Annullato is Sithonia's sophomore effort and is a huge leap in quality from their good-not-great debut.

In some ways, the band succeeds despite itself. The guitarist plays in that annoying pseudo-metal riffing style, stopping just short of actually being balls-out metal (which would be far more preferable actually), with plenty of pig squeal guitar leads to send everyone racing from the room covering their ears. Worse are the digital keyboards, a set of plastic wonders that A Flock of Seagulls most assuredly would enjoy playing.

With that bit of grime out of the way, let's focus on why the album works. Primarily it's the compositions themselves, which are incredibly well thought-out while constantly on the move, in that classic early 1970's Italian style. There is quite a bit of thematic development as driven by the fantastic acoustic piano work, and the melodies are in your mind long after the music has stopped. With the right editing, and other factors, some of these songs could have been major label radio hits. But perhaps best of all is new vocalist Marco Giovannini's performance. What an outstanding impassioned display he gives here - some of the finest from the Italian progressive rock scene.

I rarely vote for re-recordings, but I would love to hear Sithonia record this album with a instrument setup of all analog gear and perhaps a bit more crispness during the recording. It should prove to be a masterpiece.

Personal collection
CD: 1992 Mellow

Lumerians - Transmissions From Telos Vol. 4. 2012 USA

Being the eternal packaging loons that the Lumerians are, they decided to put a mirror image on the different LP covers, so the bird faces a different way on each. The cover above is the French version, since that's all they have on RYM and I'm way too lazy to upload the version on Permanent. Oh, the US version is on white vinyl and the French one is beige. This band loves their packaging details that's for sure.

Putting the baseball card aspect aside for a moment, what about the music? As I'd read prior, this album is indeed more loose in structure. It features 4 long jams, that are untitled. "I mean, that's such a square thing to do man... who names songs anymore? They have no meaning anyway, ya know." Side 1 contains three songs. The first is within their trademark motorik territory, recalling the Can/Neu! sound. Track 2 is really interesting, like a freakbeat 1960's track gone amok. You can just picture the Girl in the Cage dancing her brains out, with the psychedelic liquid light show flashing chaotically behind. Track 3 is the real revelation here. For the first time that I can ever recall, a band has successfully attempted the Middle Eastern psychedelic jamming of Agitation Free's "Malesch". For that alone, the album should be held in high regard. Pounding drums, hand percussion, haunting organ atmospheres, with synthesizer solos laid on top. Breathtaking. What a sublime track! Unfortunately the momentum stops on the side long track for the flip side. I can appreciate a jam with focus, but this one just meanders aimlessly with far too much noise and chaos to have any impact. Such a shame to not capitalize on the fantastic first side. Still a recommended album - just not as much as the potential suggests.

Personal collection
LP: 2012 Permanent

Lumerians - Transmalinnia. 2011 USA

Transmalinnia is the debut full length CD debut from The Lumerians, a new-ish group from Oakland, California who recall both the late 60s UK psych scene as well as the Krautrock masters. The rhythms are pure Krautrock motorik, straight from the Can and Neu! school. The dreamy vocals recall Barrett era Floyd, or perhaps more to the point, the early 90s neo psych of Sun Dial.  But the real highlight is the fuzzy 1960s vintage organ, which has this most wonderful thick and wedgy sound. As the music wears on, the albums goes deeper into the vortex. Pounding drums, celestial voices and the overall air of the original early 70s Kosmiche movement is upon us. The only thing missing is the cosmic blues guitar jamming of a Manuel Gottsching or Ax Genrich. Certainly the closest a modern American band has come to creating the original aura, energy and atmosphere of 1971 Germany. It avoids most of the hipster trappings, though not all of them. It is a bit too self-conscious to be authentic (not sure how one can avoid that 40 years later), but I'm very happy with this sincere effort and look forward to exploring more from the band. If you all are looking for a similar sound, then allow me to recommend Cranium Pie from England, a band that perhaps owes more to '69 Floyd than '67 Floyd meets '72 Can, but you get the idea.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Knitting Factory

Scherzoo - 02. 2012 France

Though released on the Soleil Zeuhl label, I think the users of RYM are right in labeling this band (on their debut) Avant Progressive first, and Zeuhl second. Scherzoo 02 dabbles in both styles, though I think the scales are tipped even further towards the dissonant avant prog methodology. It appears Present is a good blueprint here, with the addition of squonking sax - perhaps to its detriment. I'm really torn on Scherzoo. I want more of Thollot's Heldon-like Contact mixed with the Zeuhl styling of his latest outfit. Which isn't fair of course, since that's not what Scherzoo is about. But then again, as a consumer, who says I have to be fair? They're going in the wrong direction as far as I'm concerned and I may need convincing to go further with them. I think I just lost fanboy status.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Soleil Zeuhl

Scherzoo – 01. 2011 France

Scherzoo is lead by Francois Thollot, whose Contact album was one of the finest albums from the last decade, as noted above. Thollot has been in a couple of bands since then, and I've been wondering what he would come up with on his next album. With Scherzoo he's back behind the drum kit, with a full band in front of him including guitar, bass, piano and alto sax. Make no mistake though, this is Thollot's band, and these are his compositions.

The music definitely has a Zeuhl underpinning in the rhythms, though the lack of vocals (wordless or otherwise) drifts the music further from the source. The heavy guitar reminds one of Eider Stellaire, though again I'd say Scherzoo are more Avant Progressive than Zeuhl. In the end they come across like recent Nebelnest with a dash of the Dutch group Blast. If I was to nitpick, I'd say that on the first two tracks (roughly 15 minutes), the sax is a little unhinged for my liking. Too much squealing, squeaking, and honking for me. But fortunately the remaining 40 minutes demonstrates some restraint and he seems more a part of the ensemble, rather than an instrument that stands out and needs to tighten a screw. A very good album, and I'm most curious where Thollot goes from here. Count me in as a fanboy.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Soleil Zeuhl

François Thollot - Contact. 2002 France

Though a percussionist by trade, Thollot's second solo album Contact features his guitar and keyboard work. Thollot then went about to recruit the rhythm section of One Shot (a band created as an offshoot of the Magma reunion), and released this one incredibly powerful album.

In fact, I'd say Contact is one of the Top 10 albums of the last decade - and that's quite an achievement in a very busy, and very qualified ten years. What Thollot managed to create is an album about as close to Heldon's Stand By as you'll ever find post-1979. Stand By as many of you know, was Richard Pinhas' swansong for the famed Heldon, and he must have left the studio still smoldering from the inferno he had just unleashed. It's also worth noting that Stand By was the one time that Pinhas had incorporated a little bit of the Zeuhl style, and the mix was a stroke of brilliance. In that manner, Contact is basically intense guitar filled electronic rock with a Zeuhl undertone as provided by the One Shot guys. Absolutely stunning album.

Personal collection
CD: 2002 Soleil Zeuhl

Deformica - Páramo. 2010 Argentina

One step forward, two steps back. Ironic in that the one step forward is the use of vintage equipment such as Fender Rhodes and Hammond Organ. The two steps back is the choice of musical direction. Gone are the psychedelic guitars of H and its place is the pointed move in the post-rock direction. Lots of Frippian sound-on-sound barely amplified guitar, and laid back melodic sequences. Too restrained and static for me. Borderline 9 (3 stars). The exception is the opening track 'Novelesco' which sees the group try their hand at instrumental psychedelic music with great success. The post-rock thing has been done over and over by countless bands. Not many modern bands have gone all out for a 1970 psychedelic sound (plenty of stoner bands have captured the hard rock / Sabbath sound however). This album at times is pure boredom. Too much potential to give up on. I anxiously await to see what they do from here.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Viajero Inmovil

Deformica - H. 2006 Argentina

Interesting debut by Deformica who hail from Argentina. Clearly the post rock bug has bitten them and one can hear influences anywhere from Tortoise through to Don Caballero. To my ears, that would imply they are a bit boring, but Deformica take the music much further, with many changes of mood, texture, metrics and dynamics. On this point, one can hear mid 70s King Crimson and their current following channeled by groups like Yang, Exsimio and Djam Karet. Deformica are not afraid to experiment and it’s interesting to note the band will throw in a loose improvisation at the very end of most tracks, providing a relaxing interval for the next blast off. I’ve never heard a band systematically improvise on the last minute of each track like this. It’s a winning idea. The keyboard tones tend to be digital emulations of electric piano and are far too timid for what this band needs. The dual guitars generally play in unison or in counterpoint rhythm mode, but occasionally break into a nice solo, though it doesn't seem to be their forte. The guitar tones tend to the psychedelic which I find highly appealing. The rhythm section is solid, and the bass player demonstrates some massive potential, that isn’t yet completely realized. A very impressive debut, though I would like to see them blow the lid off a composition once in awhile - in a place where you’d find Nebelnest maybe.

Personal collection
CD: 2006 Viajero Inmovil

Flor de Loto - Imperio de Cristal. 2011 Peru

I suppose it was inevitable, but Flor de Loto seems to have gone "whole hog" for prog metal on their 4th and latest album. While it would be unfair to classify this as Dream Theater with pan pipes, there is no denying the band's conscious move to the metal world. There's also many more vocals than prior, which detracts from their former focus as a creative instrumental band. Tracks like 'El Jardin Secreto' show that Flor de Loto haven't forgotten their past, and are more than capable to put together an instrumental psychedelic piece in the grand tradition of the masters like Los Jaivas, with gobs of wah wah fuzz guitar and flute. Still, it seems the band have painted themselves into a corner, and the concept is becoming monotonous. If reviews of any future albums state that Flor de Loto is moving even closer to the center, then I'll probably stop here at Imperio de Cristal. Too bad the band hasn't explored further their psychedelic ambitions that they hinted at on their first two albums. They were definitely unique among bands. Not anymore it appears.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Mylodon (Chile)

Flor de Loto - Mundos Bizarros. 2009 Peru

After two albums of pretty much perfecting their brand of instrumental heavy psychedelic rock meets Los Jaivas sound, it was obvious to Flor de Loto that they probably needed to alter their sound a bit, or they would begin down the road to irrelevancy. And that's just what they did. The collection of songs on Mundos Bizarros explore new directions in two different ways. One, they expand the compositions with more complexity and anted up the progressive quotient quite a bit. On the other, there are far more vocals here, adding some song craft that was missing prior. Not to say they've completely abandoned the sound of their first two opuses. In fact, when they do reach into their musical past, Flor de Loto are able to seamlessly mesh it within the context of their new direction, giving it a new fresh perspective. As well, the guitars are slightly heavier this go round, indicating a move to the prog metal camp on occasion. It will be interesting to see where Flor de Loto goes from here.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Mylodon (Chile)

Flor de Loto - Madre Tierra. 2007 Peru

Largely an extension of the debut, with perhaps a bit more extending of both of their distinctive styles, making the pole that much longer. On the one hand, the "Western" part of their sound is heavier with more jamming guitar and psychedelic solos. And then their Peruvian indigenous side is given more space for the variety of pan flutes and traditional melodies to be played out. Not surprisingly, Flor de Loto are at their best when melding the two for what becomes a pure fusion - a term that is often misused in the modern day lexicon. Overall Madre Tierra shows enough growth to distinguish itself from the debut. Hence, another recommended title.

Personal collection
CD: 2007 Mylodon (Chile)

Flor de Loto - s/t. 2005 Peru

The Mylodon label has been responsible for turning up some great bands from Chile, and it’s nice to see them reach over to their northern neighbors in Peru, where we find the excellent band Flor de Loto. Peru had quite the psych scene in the late 60s and early 70s, and they possessed one of the world’s most exciting music movements of the day. But political conflicts were particularly hard on Peru, and the country degenerated into chaos throughout most of the 70s and 80s. Stability seems to have returned, and now we’re getting a new crop of music acts. Flor de Loto are very much a modern band, but one with two feet in the past. One foot goes to the heady days of the early 1970s that produced the progressive rock scene. The other "feet" goes way back to the indigenous tribes, and their musical traditions and folklore. So along with the usual rock instrumentation of guitar, bass and drums, they have a dedicated winds performer who plays on a variety of flutes, both classical and traditional. Somewhere between the aggressive Japanese band Naikaku and the classic Chilean group Los Jaivas is where you’ll spot the sound of Flor de Loto. Their formula is one that can go in many different directions and still be exciting.

Personal collection
CD: 2005 Mylodon (Chile)

Hidria Spacefolk - Astronautica. 2012 Finland

Space rockers Hidria Spacefolk return 5 years after Symetria with Astronautica, an album that has been highly anticipated by many, including myself. A couple of changes have occurred in the interim. The original keyboardist moved to Germany and has been replaced by Veikko Sutinen, who seems to favor the Fender Rhodes a bit more than his predecessor (that's a good thing). Hidria Spacefolk have also expanded to a sextet (yet another good thing) with the addition of percussionist Olli Kari, formerly of the much respected Uzva. Olli plays marimba, vibrafone, xylosynth, and sundry percussion. Despite these changes, Astronautica is largely a continuation of the style found on Symetria. Broader strokes, larger sound, simpler compositions, with more emphasis on atmosphere rather than tricky intricacies. However, there's no mistaking that this is a Hidria Spacefolk album, and they continue with their lively instrumental melodic psychedelic music, with plenty of tempo changes and electric guitar solos. Great driving the highway music! Overall an excellent album, though still not up to the high standard (IMO) of Symbiosis and Balansia. I'm already waiting anxiously for the next album!

Personal collection
CD: 2012 private

Hidria Spacefolk - Symetria. 2007 Finland

Symetria shows Hidria Spacefolk cutting back on the edgy complexity of their first two albums, while adding more of a steady post-rock sensibility. These changes are somewhat understated, so it's more like a trimming of the hedges, rather than a replanting of another bush. The title track and 'Futrur Ixiom' demonstrate quite well this movement to the center. Gone are the high powered psychedelic sequences and ripping guitar solos, and its place is a more staid melodic and atmospheric approach. That's not to say the band has moved away from mid-tune meter shifts, it's just a bit more toned down. '322' seems inspired by the stoner metal movement, as no doubt the band performs live with many acts that represent that genre. However they do manage to avoid the standard trappings of stoner rock (slabs of metal guitar distortion, raw drunken vocals, etc...), and instead inflect the typical Hidria Spacefolk treatment, that as a bonus inserts midstream a cool funky rock sequence complete with horns. 'Flora/Fauna' is a new twist for the band, calling out their Scandinavian heritage - in this case the region's penchant to produce a type of [i]rural rock[/i], a favorite style of nearby Denmark, especially in the early 1970s. To be honest, at this point of the album, Symetria is a bit of a disappointment. However, Hidria Spacefolk saves the best for last, and the last two tracks, totaling close to 20 minutes recall the superiority of Symbosis and Balansia. All the same, I hear this album a full star less than its predecessors, though still quite excellent obviously. It's probably no surprise that Hidria Spacefolk decided to break at this point, probably realizing they were beginning to hit a rut. Fortunately they reconvened in 2012 for a new album.

Personal collection
CD: 2007 Next Big Thing

Hidria Spacefolk - Balansia. 2004 Finland

Picking right up from Symbiosis, Hidria Spacefolk deliver another set of smoking space rock tunes. All of the first 5 tracks are near or above the 7 minute mark, and each add a unique twist to their classic Ozric/Hillage/Gong inspired sound: 'Kokkola' features heavy percussion; 'Modus Operand Hermetik' goes east to India (at the break) for inspiration; 'Astroban' loads up on the wah-wah funky guitar and features some wild extended jamming; 'Pajas' adds bluesy Krautrock styled guitar and sampled organ; 'Pako Originaux' shows a remarkably researched track, full of classic 1970s French references (Clearlight, Heldon, and a host of obscurities). And then there's 'Tarapita', Hidria Spacefolk's one attempt to date at the extended atmospheric and exotic early 70's Kosmiche Kourier styled composition, with plenty of high energy jamming at the finish to polish it all off. Agitation Free meets Ozric Tentacles. An amazing album by an amazing band.

Personal collection
CD: 2004 Silence

Hidria Spacefolk - Symbiosis. 2002 Finland

The obvious comparison to Hidria Spacefolk is of course Ozric Tentacles, but that's only part (albeit a large one) to the entire equation. What's left out of most reviews is what comes after the plus sign - the early 1970's Scandinavia song craft - a certainly melodic sense that adds the key ingredient which makes Hidria Spacefolk so special. As someone who has listened to countless hours of the early 70s Scandinavian progressive scene, it's apparent immediately. From Sweden, you hear snippets here and there of Algarnas Tradgard, International Harvester, Lotus, Kvartetten Som Sprangde and Saga. From Finland, there's Kalevala, Nimbus and Haikara. The driving rhythms, electronica bits, synthesizer sequencers and riffing guitar point to a modern era. The bluesy guitar solos, sometimes with a Latin Santana influence, the Indian Eastern mysticism, the lead melodies, and the Hammond organ samples all point to a different era - one these lads most certainly absorbed growing up, even if unwittingly (though I suspect they are quite aware of their origins). If Ozric Tentacles is the post graduate course, then Symbiosis is the perfect score - 100%. 'Nasha Universo' is my favorite short-form progressive song for the entire 2000 decade.

Personal collection
CD: 2002 Silence

My CD says it's on Silence. My guess is the label changed their name to Silenze later to avoid confusion with the legendary 1970s Swedish label of the same name.

Hidria Spacefolk - HDRSF - 1. 2001 Finland

Finland’s Hidria Spacefolk broke onto the scene in 2001 with HDRSF-1, which featured recordings from as early as 1999. And what a debut it is! Hidria Spacefolk are one of the very few bands to take the Ozric Tentacles space rock via Hillage formula, and actually take it further by adding more instrumentation, putting together more complex compositions and rocking harder than Ed Wynne and crew (that’s no small feat right there). While Hidria wasn’t even close to reaching their peak at this stage, there were plenty of signs they could put together a masterpiece (and their subsequent two albums did just that). Most notably ‘Sindran Rastafan’ is the type of space rock rave-up that leaves one amazed, exhausted and overwhelmed. Hidria mixes wah wah style funk, hard rock guitar, cosmic and very fuzzy synthesizers, Middle Eastern melodies, Indian flute and didgeridoo, sometimes all in the same song! Variety is their strong suit, and they mix high energy jams with meditative quiet sections with ease. The band likes to change things around in a rapid manner, so the music never gets stale and always remains exciting. This debut demonstrated to the world that Hidria Spacefolk were to be one of the best space rock bands of the modern era.

Personal collection
CD: 2001 private

Tanger - Mundos Paralelos. 2008 Argentina

With Mundos Parelelos, Tanger finally carries the same lineup forward. Not surprisingly, the sound doesn't evolve much. Though it's clear that Tanger are beginning to slow down as rockers, and the flute becomes even more of the focus. At this point, Tanger are starting to resemble more the Catalonian group Gotic more than Humus and King Crimson, though that's overstating it somewhat.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Viejero Inmovil

Tanger - Ciudad. 2006 Argentina

Once again Tanger changes the lineup on Ciudad, this time replacing the guitarist and the drummer. And as per protocol, not much changes regarding the music. The psychedelic aura is perhaps slightly more toned down, and melodic interplay is more championed. At this point, Tanger are sounding more like an updated version of the obscure 1970s Chilean group Blops at the time of Locomotora.

Personal collection
CD: 2006 Viejero Inmovil

Tanger - La Otra Cara. 2002 Argentina

Very little changes from their debut on Tanger's sophomore effort La Otra Cara, perhaps only scaling back the excess slightly, with only one of the (again) 12 songs exceeding the 5 minute mark. It is interesting to note that Tanger did swap out flautists, and yet you wouldn't notice unless you had a scorecard. Tanger seems to be modular when it comes to the individual's participation.

Personal collection
CD: 2002 Viejero Inmovil

Tanger - s/t. 1999 Argentina

Tanger's debut is quite startling, and was quite a revelation for me in 1999. The sound is right from the Mexican school of neo psychedelic space rock as championed by Loch Ness, Humus and Frolic Froth. A thick, wedgy and very psychedelic guitar sound permeates. Muddy bass and thunderous drums takes you through the wilderness of the Andes, and images of Krautrock legends such as UFO era Guru Guru are not far away. The angular nature of the compositions call out another obvious influence: King Crimson at the time of Larks' Tongues in Aspic. But that only tells half the story: Tanger's ace-in-the-hole is the contrasting instrument amongst the fray - that of the flute. So in the end you get 12 individual tracks of an all-instrumental psychedelic version of the Beauty and the Beast. Beautiful and melodic flute lines are offset by evil and mean fuzz guitar licks. Colucci himself is probably the least intrusive of the band members, primarily staying in the background, content on keeping the proceedings grounded with his steady hand on the bass. And this is the formula Tanger takes forward to the future.

Personal collection
CD: 1999 private

Bram Stoker - Heavy Rock Spectacular. 1972 England

Windmill was a UK based label that specialized in hokum. With titles like The Beatles Golden Songs (by the Studio Five Orchestra Singers & Chorus), Sing-Along With Phil Tate & The Happy Gang, and Immortal Reggae Hits by Black Funk - you pretty much know these were the albums staring you in the face as you checked out at the counter of your favorite discount nickel and dime with your undies and chewing gum. They were, as collectors call them today, an exploito label. A cash-in job.

And speaking of staring back, there was however one album that looked every bit as silly as the others, but in fact was a legitimate fully realized album. With the day-glo negative image of a mega babe, the album promises the middle aged housewife a Heavy Rock Spectacular - wow! What does that mean? Well to the cynic, it's probably more like happy organ covers of The Beatles, Stones, Doors, etc... right? Wrong. Then is it really a heavy rock album? Of course not. What the hell is it then?

It's a prog rock album, heavy on the keyboards with psychedelic guitar accompaniment and vocals. Not that much different from albums by Morgan, Fields, Duncan Mackay, ELP/The Nice, etc... Some of the tracks borrow from classical music, but they're serious arrangements, not trite renditions. The album is quite consistent, with no real highs - nor lows - but a solid entry for the genre. It's really a tragedy the album was marketed as it was. Had it come out on Polydor, with a Hipgnosis like cover, and a title like Schizo-Poltergeist (wait a minute...), then it would have been more highly revered. As it is though, it remains a curio piece - an album that was completely mishandled in its day.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 Windmill
CD: 1997 Audio Archives (as Schizo-Poltergeist)

Despite the exploito nature of the album, I love the cover all the same, and the original is prominently displayed on my wall of albums. It would have been even better had they left off the track titles from the front, yet another trademark of albums such as this.

The first CD to market was the Audio Archives release, which changed the title and cover art. This was my first introduction to the album. This release seems to obscure all band member involvement, and copyright info. And it's taken from vinyl. So it's probably not one of their legit releases (the label had a few CDs such as this back in this time frame). That isn't the same thing as saying the band didn't benefit. It's possible the rights were tied up somewhere else and everyone hushed up. We may never know the full truth and no one will talk. There are for certain legitimate releases today, that use the original cover and add bonus tracks (recently recorded apparently).

Talitha Qumi - Despre Cuvinte. 1996 Romania

Not sure I can describe Talitha Qumi any other way than this, but would you believe Eastern European free folk meets early 1970s Italian progressive rock? Atman meets Errata Corrige meets Pholas Dactylus meets Sensations' Fix meets Nu & Apa Neagra meets Museo Rosenbach. Yea... I didn't think you would believe me. This album has the reckless abandon of the early 70's era, something you rarely hear today. Usually it's measured and calculated nowadays. An absolute gem of an album.

Personal collection
CD: 2005 Soft

Recently the original cassette from 1996 has emerged as the source. So that proves its provenance which I wasn't sure about initially.

Various Artists - Psychedelic World Music: Discovery. 2012

Psychedelic World Music is a compilation featuring 9 bands from around the world that have recorded primarily instrumental psychedelic space rock music - two-thirds of it unreleased until now. The most obvious comparison would be the bands coming out of  the UK Festival psych scene of the 1980s such as Ozric Tentacles, Mandragora, and Soma. But as you listen closely, the groups featured on this compilation, regardless of location, seem to have adopted the Central and Eastern European variation of said sound. It's especially noticeable in the melodies, but the rhythmic structure looks Eastward as well. So if you're a fan of bands like Korai Orom, Ole Lukkoye, and Vespero, then this compilation is a must pick up. I am myself, and I found all nine bands here to be revelatory.

The first three tracks are especially captivating. Namely Cosmic Vibration (Germany), Triptych (England), and The Misteriosos (USA). If I were a label with money to spend, I'd start right here to build up my stable of bands and know that my label would have instant credibility. The latter, in particular, is the highlight of the entire disc with its mysterious female voice, atmospheric acid psychedelic guitar, and "Saucerful of Secrets" pounding percussion. Interesting to find out, then, that this is one of the three previously released tracks on the disc (none of which I'd heard prior to this). The Misteriosos track is from an obscure 2005 album, that apparently is completely different than this one track. That's too bad as it would have been my top priority to own. Starting with Track 4, the thrills become a little less per minute, but everything on here is at least very good. Considering the remainder, the Russian group Grey Mouse, and the Belgian band The Narcotic Daffodils are of particular interest. There are three bands here that are from countries that are rarely represented in rock music: Armenia, Belarus, and China - the last one being an all-time first for me. And something tells me that we will be hearing a ton of music from China in the next 50 years. In fact, I'd bet on that.

If any of this sounds at all interesting, then do not miss out on this wonderful compilation. Trail Records is the best USA label producing space rock today.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Trail Records (USA)

Klotet - Det Har Aldrig Hänt Och Kommer Aldrig Hända Igen. 2010 Sweden

As if to prove Det Har Aldrig Hänt Och Kommer Aldrig Hända Igen will be different from its predecessor, Klotet open their second album with death metal styled blast beats on 'Gastronomika Proportione'. Despite this bit of incongruity - Klotet, as driven by female Hammond organist/keyboardist extraordinaire Milve Sofia Rydahl, insists their music maintain its defiant stance on Swedish folklore melodies. All of this music is then funneled through an old school 1970's progressive rock approach with fuzz guitar and organ leads, as best defined by Kebnekaise, Solar Plexus and Bo Hansson's solo works. None of Klotet's album's instrumental tracks clear the 4 minute mark, also calling out the glorious debut from that obscure Swedish band Lotus and their fine 1974 album. If any of this review makes sense, then you're more than likely a good candidate to hear this album.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Musea (France)

Klotet - En Rak Höger. 2008 Sweden

Klotet are a modern band who play in a very Swedish 1970's sort of way. Utilizing only analog keyboards, and a fuzzy electric guitar, Klotet conjures up classic Kebnekaise, Harald Hedning, Lotus, and Flasket Brinner. The foundation of the melodies can be found in Swedish folklore, whereas the music approach is pure early 1970s. An excellent combination.

Personal collection
2008 Musea (France)

Änglagård - Viljans öga. 2012 Sweden

For years there was talk of a comeback. To the point of ridiculousness. It became something of a running joke. If not for the participation of actual band members on the various progressive rock focused chat boards, the whole thing would have been discredited. Then, seventeen years after Epilog had been released, another one of those tired announcements arrived: Änglagård has reformed and will have a new album out soon! Weee. Yawn. Heard that before.

Except this time it was real. The album cover was posted. The minute I saw it I just knew this was going to be special. Of course the naysayers were out in full force decrying the cover. Really? Where is the optimism of our planet anyway? To be honest, cover notwithstanding, I was still a bit skeptical. Spiritual leader Tord Lindman was no longer involved. And most importantly - 17 years is a long time. Really no band, in any era, is able to capture the spirit and angst of their youth. Anyone who has scaled challenging mountains, and the metaphoric equivalent in daily life, will tell their mighty tale on what a wonderful achievement it was - except the thought of doing it again is fatiguing. There's a price to pay for greatness. You have to exceed your mind, body, and spirit to accomplish it. And all of that is hard to regain, especially after going about the normal/mundane daily routine as we do.

But this is Änglagård, and they were always different. Personally, I'm floored by how great Viljans öga is. It sounds like classic Änglagård for certain, but it's still quite unique. They have changed some, and perhaps for the better. In fact, the two middle tracks 'Sorgmantel' (12:07) and 'Snårdom' (16:14) might be some the best compositions they've ever performed. Is it their best album? No, I'm not willing to say that. All three studio efforts are brilliant but I'm still partial to Hybris, perhaps the nostalgia factor wins the day.

So the question remains: Is this the bookend to a great era of progressive rock? Or are we about to embark on a new journey? I hope for the latter. Of course.

Personal collection
LP: 2012 private
CD: 2012 private
CD: 2013 Arcangelo (Japan). Part of a 3 mini-LP box set.

Änglagård is the rare modern band where I consider it paramount to own both the CD and LP. The latter is a stunning 2 LP gatefold with a full sized booklet. I have all 3 original Änglagård albums on display, placed side by side, in my audio room. It's an awesome sight to behold.

Stone Circus - s/t. 1969 USA-Canada

Here's another Mainstream label gem, and possibly my favorite album on the label. These Montreal based musicians (save one), decided to journey south of the border to New York to find their scene. Known as The Funky Farm, Mainstream decided to change their name for the release of the album. In typical record business style, Mainstream didn’t even inform the band of the name change! Featuring an outrageous psychedelic cover of a very colorful and oversized clown engulfed in flames emerging from an earthquake, it certainly would catch ones attention even for 1969, when such a sight was more common. I probably listened to the album 5 times in a row, as the music is the closest I’ve heard to that most magical of 60s psych bands – Strawberry Alarm Clock. Stone Circus possess the same songwriting qualities, and period instrumentation (fuzz guitar, old organs). It does miss that magic ingredient of naivete, that SAC was able to tap into so perfectly. Whether it’s the California sunshine, or the late date of 1969, it’s clear there's a little somethin' missing. Maybe a bit too much Velvet Underground? 'What Went Wrong', 'Adam's Lament', 'Mr. Grey', and 'Carnival of Love' are the more obvious tracks where the comparison holds to SAC. Side 2 does deviate from that particular harmony psych unfortunately. Stone Circus ends wonderfully with a fuzz psych jam in 'People I Once Knew'.

Personal collection
CD: 2007 Fallout (UK)

I just purchased an original LP of this one, but unfortunately it was over graded significantly and I had to send it back. It was just too expensive to rationalize keeping. As for the CD, we already know the Mainstream label is locked up tight by Sony, and they've shown zero intention of reissuing these important works. So this reissue is of suspect provenance as they say. And that would apply to just about every other LP and CD reissue as well. Tragedy that. There is one intriguing reissue out there from P-Vine of Japan. Now it is very possible they entered into an agreement with Sony Japan for this reissue. They are an entirely a legit concern, so that would have to be considered the definitive reissue at this point. Or at least on the surface it would seem that way.

Saluki - s/t. 1976 Norway

So.... I completely blew the call on this one. My initial review some 8 years ago tagged this as a failed funk attempt by Norwegians emulating a distinctly American style (which Norwegians are wont to do on occasion). And ya know, after hearing opener 'Come Down', few among you will disagree with said claims, though it's pretty good for the style if pressed. Then comes 'Autumn', and I could already see my story breaking apart. Some sort of Muffins confusion on whether to go Canterbury or Henry Cow-styled avant prog annoyance. I'm sure that was the internal band debate anyway... (sure). 'The Awakening' is a waste of time, I think we can all agree on this - including the band. 'Love to the Sun'. Yea, OK Mahavishnu John, where are we taking this? There apparently. With a funk angle. Hmmm. 'Uranus in Cancer' is a title already asking for trouble. It's kind of emotional proggy, a bit AORish, and pretty good actually. 'Fantasy Suns' is a waste of time, I think we can all agree on this - including the band (sound familiar?). At this point, I'm OK with my initial assessment. Then comes 'Hidden Path III'. Ah damn, this is really good. Deep jazz with a bit of funk in that Miles Davis sort of way. But more toward Kraut Fusion (1970s /early 80s) actually. And this leads us to the closer 'Take the Road Across the Bridge'. I swear I recognize this music! So time to Google for a reference per chance. I KNEW IT! It's a cover of a Junipher Greene track - in fact the opener to their landmark/brilliant 1971 'Friendship' suite. I mean, who covers Junipher Greene? In 1976? Oh yea, author Freddy Dahl was in both bands. I could not find another reference to this observation on the internet. A job well done, ashratom. And how about that naked genie-out-of-a-bottle cover? These guys had it going on, that's for sure. Problem is, I'm starting to look like the dude with the magic book. Uh-oh.

Personal collection

I was looking to ditch the CD-R until this revisit. This one needs a legit reissue for certain. I should get the original vinyl in the meantime.

Arbatel - Sumerios. 2009 Mexico

Following the debut comes Sumerios, their unheralded follow-up. Released under the cover of darkness in Chile by the excellent Mylodon label, the album has thus far seemed to completely escape notice. And that’s a tragedy really. There’s even a bit of encouragement from no less a luminary than Gianni Leone (of Il Balletto di Bronzo fame) with his enthusiastic liner notes (translated to Spanish). Gone is the violin and in its place is the key addition of soprano female vocalist Rosario Maza Hernández, who adds a bit of exotic narration as well. The music is primarily keyboard based, and has now gone decidedly analog, with copious use of Hammond organ, Mini-Moog and good old fashioned acoustic piano. Electric guitar, bass and drums provide the usual backbone and the rhythm section reliably lays down odd time signatures to keep everyone guessing.

The album starts off with an Indian tribal/religious bit that unfortunately isn’t revisited. I suspect its purpose is to tie the theme to the ancient Sumerians, but I love the atmosphere it provides. Once the rock instrumentation kicks in, there is no doubt this is a 1970s influenced progressive rock album. Like Gamadion, the Italian progressive movement of the early 70s seems to be the main influence here (thus the Leone narrative I suspect).  In the early to mid-1980s, Mexico possessed a burgeoning progressive rock scene with such stalwarts as Iconoclasta, Delirium and Praxis all putting out very good albums. None seemed to cross the threshold to greatness. It seems to me that Arbatel has accomplished everything those bands had originally set out to do. And if you’re familiar with these acts, then the raw Mexican production qualities shouldn’t bother you on Sumerios. It adds to the charm. This is a deep, complex album that requires a few listens to penetrate. And it’s an album that needs more of an audience.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Mylodon (Chile)

Arbatel - Gamadion. 2004 Mexico

On Gamadion, Arbatel are an instrumental rock quartet with electric guitar and digital keyboards (including some cool pipe organ sounds) providing most of the input, with guests on vocals and violin rounding out the sound. Sure, it's not a crystal clear sound, and a muddied production (especially the drums) mars this slightly - though it's also part of the charm really. Apparently the band at one point covered a few classic Italian progressive rock songs by Le Orme and Il Balletto di Bronzo, so clearly their influences are a bit more interesting and researched than just the usual suspects from England. There's an excitement to listening to music such as this, as you're really not sure what's going to happen next, yet it's all within a comfortable progressive rock context.

Personal collection
CD: 2004 private

Forgas Band Phenomena – Acte V. 2012 France

Patrick Forgas continues on with his 5th namesake Band Phenomena album. No surprises here if you're familiar with the great trajectory Forgas' career has taken since his early solo career from 1977 (has it been that long!?). What makes the Forgas Band Phenomena so great is the synergy of an instrumental 7 piece band. So in addition to the standard rock quartet of guitar, keyboards, bass and drums - you also have dedicated members providing violin, trumpet and sax/flute. The music is tight and energetic, while never forgetting that their main premise is to rock your britches off. How many progressive bands today forget this last component? Anyone familiar with the early to mid 1970s European jazz rock scene will find much to enjoy here. Forgas, in addition to writing and arranging all the compositions here, keeps everything moving forward with his fine drumming precision.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Cuneiform (USA)

The CD cover is a nice homage to their debut Roue Libre album. Along with the CD, there is a full DVD of their NEARFest 2010 performance.

Grovjobb - Under Solen Lyser Solen. 2001 Sweden

After first hearing Vättarnas Fest, I wrote an enthusiastic review for both their albums at the time, and couldn't wait to hear a 3rd ...