The Word of Life - Dust. 1995 Sweden

The Word of Life return with their sophomore, and ultimately last effort, Dust which is somewhat different from the predecessor. There's more variety within the compositions, and is overall more song based and less jam oriented. It appears the album tries to please on a number of fronts. When I Was in Space opens (on the CD version that is) auspiciously with its oscillator-emulated synthesizer runs and heavy percussion cadence. As with Further Ahead, there's an amalgamation of psychedelic styles ranging from roaring space rock to folk. And flute meets fuzz continues to be a predominant instrumental theme. The lyrical songs on this album have a sort of retro lounge naïve melody line motif which I find oddly appealing (like on Flying, Up Here, and Love You). No doubt there are plenty of sizzling guitar jams to bang your head to, just a few less than the admittedly more ambitious debut.

Personal collection
CD: 1996 Subliminal Sounds

The original was an LP only release on Xotic Mind, which was the precursor to Subliminal Sounds. As with the debut, the CD has a different track order than the original LP (and in this case features 3 bonus tracks).

The Word of Life - Further Ahead. 1992 Sweden


For a short period in the early to mid 1990's, a collective of Swedish musicians decided to relive the past and pushed on with creating improvisational psychedelic rock music similar to the early 70's masters such as International Harvester and Algarnas Tradgard. Local acts such as S.T. Mikael, Adam, Stefan, and The Entheogens all recorded for the underground label Xotic Mind during this era. The primary difference between the modern day purveyors and the 1970's masters is the one-dimensional nature of the proceedings. This trait can be attributed to the fact that most of these albums are solo projects with guest musicians, rather than cohesive band units.

One of the highlights on the label were The Word of Life, a band lead by Mans P. Mansson, a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, sitar, synthesizers, percussion, as well as taking on vocal duties. He is joined by many guests, though most important is the fine flute work provided by Anna Nystom. On the debut Further Ahead, Mansson manages to create a varied improvisational psychedelic album. Long burning jams such as 'Space Fu?king' and 'Can You Feel It - Flowing Free' are offset by calm flute and hand percussion ragas like 'The Devil'. What one notices with repeated listens is the need for a judicious editor (a problem for many solo ventures). Most of the jams meander on for far too long and the inclusion of a couple of Earthy-Country-Bumpkin vocal tracks with Louisiana-front-porch harmonica are in complete contrast to the hazy heady cosmic aspirations the album aspires to be. All the same, the album works on many levels, most notably the trance-like jams, which can get quite intense as they penetrate. The guitar tone is super-fuzz-loud and the percussion is particularly active (always a good sign). Recommended for all fans of Krautrock, space rock, and the early 70s Swedish pioneer groups as mentioned above.

Personal collection
CD: 1992 Satori (UK)

The Word of Life is a group I've known about since their inception. I first purchased Further Ahead on LP (top photo), which featured a paste-on cover. I sold it once I obtained the CD (second photo). I'm not entirely convinced the CD is from 1992, but that's the date appended on all the online discographies. The CD itself doesn't list a date, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out it came out a few years later (I think I would have purchased the CD initially rather than the LP if that was the case).

Spyros adds: "It is strange to think that Mans P. Mansson played in metal bands (he even guested on Candlemass recordings). The CD of "Further Ahead" came later than the LP. Must be late 1993 or early 1994, because that was when I saw it first time at a very updated local psych record store. I remember it puzzled me that it had a different cover to the LP, which I owned upon it's release..."

Under the Dome - Wot No Colin? 2003 England

Wot No Colin?, which came near the end of Under the Dome's recording career, is a high energy sequencer fest with some very fine electric guitar leads. If you drew a straight line from Tangerine Dream’s Encore to Pergamon, rather than traverse through the rock era that was Cyclone and Force Majeure, you would encounter this particular Under the Dome album. Fitting then, that this is a live album too. Look for some unexpected experimental sections with heavy echo on the sequences. Under the Dome were one of the best of the retro EM bands coming from England during this time, and Wot No Colin? is a good representation as to why.

Personal collection
CD: 2003 Neu Harmony

P. P. Zahl - Alle Türen Offen. 1978 Germany

German polit-rock albums are typically a tough minefield to navigate. From the punk angst of Checkpoint Charlie to the theatrical Floh de Cologne to the earnest Ton Steine Scherben and onto the always changing Oktober, all these bands are a challenging listen. The German language is much welcomed, though the meaning is lost on me. P.P. Zahl are closer to the Oktober recipe (and apparently related as well), and that’s a good thing for those who are going more for the music than the lyrical component. Other than the usual rock instruments, a distinctly Spanish acoustic guitar makes numerous appearances. Fellow German language compatriots Novalis seem to also have played an influence, primarily the spacey texture of sound. And Minotaurus comes to mind on the synth bits. Picked up some counterpoint ala Gentle Giant on Side 2. One of the best for the style. Named after poet Peter Paul Zahl.

Personal collection
LP: 1978 Antagon

Originals come in a nice gatefold cover. No reissues exists as I write this.

Orne - The Tree of Life. 2011 Finland

I haven't heard Orne's debut, so we'll dig right into their second The Tree of Life. Orne are yet another retro prog band on Black Widow. And honestly, at least from my viewpoint, you really can't have too many of those. In some ways, Orne are really like a 1970 band from the United Kingdom. That is, it can be a bit dirgy and slow. The English vocals are a bit flat, and not sure they're entirely necessary to be honest. On the plus side, the all analog instrumentation (though they cheat and use a Memotron rather than an actual Mellotron) is much welcomed, and includes some lovely Hammond B3 and flute, and that will always warm the cockles of my heart. Plenty of fine guitars leads as well, with the appropriate effects on display. But one does hope for a good meter break - the moment that transcends the composition to another level. Even Pink Floyd did that from time to time, at least through their Meddle era. Orne is an offshoot group to the doom metal band Reverend Bizarre, who I've not heard prior. I'm a casual listener to the doom metal genre (for example, I have all the Candlemass albums, and a handful of others from the genre - and of course I know Black Sabbath inside and out), but it's not something I've done a deep dive on. Some doom metal can be excruciatingly slow and monolithic. And there's some of that kind of pacing here as well. It's a style thing, but I prefer a bit more kinetic energy. All that said, I hear plenty here to a) recommend to fans of the old Vertigo Swirl bands (Still Life comes to mind in particular) and b) they clearly have the talent to release a more dynamic album. I also credit Orne for not falling into the typical Stoner Rock traps (90's styled metal slabs for example), that many bands of their background tend to do. Let's see if this project continues, and what they do with it.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Black Widow (Italy)

Tonton Macoute - s/t. 1971 England

Tonton Macoute was the name of Papa Doc Duvalier's private military force in Haiti, loyal to his rule. They brought forth a reign of terror that paralyzed the island state with its systematic violence. With such a menacing moniker, one would presume Tonton Macoute to be a heavy and sinister rock band. Quite the opposite. Their sole album is a proto-progressive jazz rock affair, similar to other UK artists of the day like Raw Material and Diabolus - though more instrumental than either. The album features one brilliant flute driven composition in 'Flying South for the Winter'. Other classic tracks include 'Don't Make Me Cry' and 'Natural High' Parts I and II. Only misstep is 'You Make My Jelly Roll'. I don't know what "campfire prog*" is, but if Tonton Macoute is its representative, then consider me a fan of this sub-genre!

* - A "reviewer" on RYM uses this term often as a pejorative.

Personal collection
LP: 2001 Akarma (Italy)
CD: 2010 Air Mail (Japan)

Lady Lake - SuperCleanDreamMachine. 2005 Netherlands

Lady Lake's comeback album is how all such reunions should be. No nods to modern music such as techno or heavy metal. No attempts at trying to win over a radio friendly audience. No overt plagiarist 1970s sound. Nope, Lady Lake pretty much picked up where they left off on No Pictures and recorded a new album in a similar style. Sure, it sounds like it was done in 2005 rather than the late 70s, just as it should be (though there's plenty of tasty Hammond and real mellotron here). Lady Lake play a type of music that is difficult to get right, since it's almost entirely built on melodic structure. Similar to like minded bands such as Camel and Sebastian Hardie. There are no sophisticated arrangements, fancy time signatures, or long jams. So if the music quite simply isn't appealing from a melodic perspective, it's going to be a yawn fest. As most are in this genre, truthfully. But Lady Lake is that special band that transcends the scene and the group hasn't lost their magic touch one bit. Maybe not the classic No Pictures is, but an excellent reunion, one of the best I've heard.

Personal collection
CD: 2005 Musea (France)

['ramp] / Ramp - Frozen Radios. 2000 Germany

Frozen Radios begins to demonstrate that ['ramp] have a penchant for the dark ambient sounds of Klaus Schulze's Cyborg or Tangerine Dream's Zeit. On the back cover, they inform us to "File Under: Electronic Industrial Ambient". And that's quite accurate, except the sequencers are still going full bore here, so you're never too far from the friendly confines of the Berlin School. Another highly recommended album for fans of the genre.

Personal collection
CD: 2000 private

Ramp - Nodular. 1998 Germany

Regular readers of the CDRWL know that I'm quite fond of the Berlin School of electronic music as founded by Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. Atmospheric keyboards that give way to blazing sequencers, choral mellotron tapes (likely sampled in Ramp's case), and melodic synthesizer lines (and even better if there's guitar which Ramp unfortunately doesn't employ) will blow me away every time. Instant mental movie soundtrack music. Ramp were part of the original renaissance of the movement that gained quite a bit of traction in the late 1990s (especially in the UK and The Netherlands) with Radio Massacre International, AirSculpture, and Redshift leading the charge. Ramp were rare in that they were from the namesake country. Certainly Germany had support of the style within, but mainly from various individual synthesists like Bernd Kistenmacher and Mario Schonwalder (and owner of the influential Manikin label). So Ramp were indeed unique given they were a group effort.

Ramp originally started as a trio, and the synchronicity of ideas is apparent. There were (and are) a ton of solo electronic musicians, but many of those sound monolithic to these ears. The best acts, like the ones I mentioned above, feature at least 3 performers if not more. Later, the band changed their sound to what they call "doombient" which I hope to hear one day as well, though I'm not entirely convinced it's a style I'll embrace. Hardcore EM followers no doubt are already very familiar with Ramp.

The lineup on Nodular is:
Frank Makowski: sampling, sequencing, electronics, loops
Stephen Parsick: electronics, sequencing, rhythm programming
Lambert Ringlage: electronics, micro composers, tapes
Martina Fantar: voice on "before the storm"

Martina's atmospheric voice is positively enchanting in this setting.

All the tracks are good, but the 19 minute 'Phasenverzerrung' is absolutely brilliant. If it doesn't lay you out on the first try, then there's a better than average chance this style isn't for you.

Personal collection
CD: 1998 Manikin

Siniaalto - Tallentumia. 2004 Finland

Tallentumia is Siniaalto's second album, and represents a unique twist on the retro electronic sound. There are some Berlin School sequences of course, but more emphasis is paid on atmospheric keys, including novelties for the genre like processed Fender Rhodes. It’s as if Siniaalto wanted to explore every avenue from Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra album, to the point of exhaustion perhaps. Many sections go for long periods of time, making this not one of the easier electronic albums to digest in one setting. All the same, a strong entry for the genre, if a bit different.

Personal collection
CD: 2004 If Society

Siniaalto - s/t. 2002 Finland

Finnish trio Siniaalto (Sine Wave) can trace their musical heritage back to an earlier electronic music era, primarily Tangerine Dream circa Phaedra. A full array of keyboards, both analog and digital, are on display here. Though it’s the good old Rhodes piano, heavily echoed and treated, that truly gives their debut album an early 1970s feel. I could swear there is a Mini-Moog in play as well, but it’s not listed. The general modus operandi for each composition is to start out by creating a dark atmosphere followed by a plodding, low pitched, sequence. This is then followed by the group adding a series of alien sounds, of which the most notable is the treated Rhodes piano as mentioned prior. There are only four tracks, clocking in at close to an hour, so plenty of room for meditative listening. A good start from a promising band in the ever increasing fold of groups performing in the Berlin School style of electronic music.

Personal Collection
CD: 2002 If Society

Fernand Pena et Puzzle - s/t. 1977 France

Fernand Pena and his backing group Puzzle are one of the few bands who actually put the psych in psychedelic folk. You've heard me go on about this already, but I often question where the rock parts are in these supposed acid folk / psychedelic folk albums. A lot of this stuff isn't terribly far from my Old Man's collection (that I still possess), and his albums were pure Irish/Scottish/English/American folk music. My pop couldn't stand listening to rock music  - and yet there's plenty of the "psych folk" albums I picked up along the way that he enjoyed. Because there was no rock!

About the only group from France that Fernand Pena et Puzzle remind me of is Canelle. And as you may recall from that entry, my initial thought about them is that they were from Quebec. Perhaps Fernand Pena et Puzzle is a bit less pop/country than Canelle, and more geared toward progressive and psych. So in that light, Fernand Pena et Puzzle recall groups such as L'Engoulevent, Connivence, and Harmonium more so than the standard Brittany groups of Malicorne or Gwendal. While it's not specifically cited in the liner notes, I doubt Pena is from Breton, and thus that adds another dimension to the usual folk music coming from France. There is some really fine electric guitar work here, among the folk/vocal based compositions. At times it's straight rock, others it's haunting acoustic folk, and even a little bit of funky business to date it precisely at 1977. Despite the band moniker, this isn't really a solo affair, as the group Puzzle features no less than 10 members (mostly on various stringed instruments).

Personal collection
LP: 1977 Centaur

The album is housed in a nice gatefold cover. Still no legit reissues can be found.

McLuhan - Anomaly. 1972 USA

McLuhan's sole album, despite being American, is a very British sounding, quirky progressive rock / horn rock blend. Fuzz guitar, organ, menacing bass, wailing sax, some narration with twisted lyrics, flute, and horn charts ala early Chicago define this fantastic work. The soft vocal style and composition structure calls to mind Uriah Heep's side long title track on Salisbury. Brainchild and Heaven (UK) are other good references, without the pop aspirations. The only missteps here are a short ragtime bit and a funk soul sequence that is off track. For those who love both progressive rock and horn rock, McLuhan comes as an easy recommendation.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 Brunswick

This album never did get reissued. I was in touch with McLuhan member Paul Cohn back from about 2007 to 2011 or so, but I hadn't been able to find out anything else. I don't think they ever found David Wright, who was the primary songwriter. There's more info from my old CDRWL blog here. That post also points to Paul's blog, where he has a recent entry that should be read.

Far East Family Band - Parallel World. 1976 Japan


While Germany is most known for being at the forefront of electronic psychedelic music, Japan certainly had its share of cosmic travelers. One of the best of these groups was Far East Family Band, a band who would gain some stature throughout the world during the latter part of the 1970s.

Klaus Schulze was one such luminary to be attracted by this large Japanese ensemble. Helping produce their early albums (the first two albums are very similar, the latter of which was re-recorded and sung in English, and other slight variations), Schulze saw an opportunity to promote cosmic rock all over the globe. However, I always felt the debut album/successor tried too hard to be the next Dark Side of the Moon. The instrumental bits are great only to be ruined by sensitive pop ballads - not Far East Family Band's strong suit I'm afraid.

But it all came together on Parallel World. Focusing on their instrumental cosmic sound and pretty much foregoing the pop commercial-oriented songs, the six-piece Far East Family Band unleashed a gem that easily could have found itself on the Kosmische Kouriers label. In fact, the recording comes closest to sounding like the first Cosmic Jokers album with more focus given to the whooshing synthesizers than the guitars (Schulze's influence?). As one can guess, the two keyboard players are featured most prominently, and it's hard to imagine that Far East Family Band actually had two guitarists as well!

The album opens with 'Metempsychosis' (Arzachel anyone?) which is a tribal drum and synthesizer atmospheric backdrop piece that sets the stage for 'Entering' which contains some intense fuzz bass and a ripping guitar sequence among the 12 minutes of keyboard ecstasy. Brilliant, and this is the finest track Far East Family Band has ever recorded! 'Kokoro', thankfully, is a short psych ballad. This is the sort of piece their first albums featured, so one can get a brief whiff of this style. The side long closing title track sounds like a long-lost Galactic Supermarket recording and aptly finishes a masterwork of cosmic progressive space rock.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Super Fuji

There are at least two covers for the original. The first scan above represents the original cover. My first exposure to this album was the second LP press (second scan). I eventually sold it, once I obtained a CD press, which ended up being a boot despite it being sold in legitimate channels. One has to be very careful when looking for the CD. There are only 2 legitimate presses that exist, as I write this. One is the very obscure 1991 release on Columbia, and the other is the Super Fuji Japanese mini-LP, which I ultimately sourced for the collection. There are numerous pirate editions, so be careful!

Versailles - Le Tresor de Valliesres. 1994 France

Versailles' 3rd album continues to mine the 1600's French bawdy theme of Don Giovanni, and actually expand upon, the motif artistique of the theatrical French bands like Ange and Mona Lisa. The album cover art perhaps underscores this more than the music itself. Musically, Versailles doubles down on the direction of its predecessor. On Le Trésor de Valliesres, Versailles goes for broke on their early 1970s sound and composition obsession, going as far as adding mellotron and throwing in crazy progressive ideas / meter shifts / thematic inconsistencies wherever they feel like it. Add to that the Chris Squire inspired bass playing, and Gilmour (or perhaps more pointedly, Pulsar) styled glissando guitar, and you're in progressive rock heaven (at least how I define it). Had this album been released in 1974, it would today be considered one of France's all-time great symphonic progressive masterpieces. But alas, this was 1994, an era that is today much looked over. But have no fear fellow intrepid travelers, the eventual discovery is coming. And we'll be awaiting when the ships arrive. For those that love Gallic progressive rock, this one is an all-timer.

Personal collection
CD: 1994 Musea

Kirkbinsinek - Sis Pus Sus. 2015 Turkey

My vision of what I want Turkish rock music to be is always much more psychedelic than the reality. It seems like such a natural path for the indigenous sounds of Turkish folk music to merge with the exciting and exotic scales and tones of the psychedelic. And even though an entire genre exists that somewhat addresses this - namely Anatolian Rock - I haven't really heard much to excite me. Yea, sure, Erkin Koray, Baris Manco, Bunalim, and the lot of them have moments of excitement, but none captured my imagination wildly. All of that to state - Kirkbinsinek is what I've been looking for. Right from the opening notes of the instrumental 'Hoyrat', one will be automatically transported to a secret hideaway in 1969 Istanbul. The music is a combination of retro psych and Ozric Tentacles like space rock, especially when the latter borrows from Middle Eastern scales. So if the idea of a band like Vespero or Quantum Fantay mixing with Wolf People - and a dash of early Agitation Free - sounds good to you, then I suggest you make an effort to obtain Kirkbinsinek's debut. Excellent album and goes straight to the top spot in my (limited) Turkish collection. I hope we hear more from them soon!

Personal collection
CD: 2015 World in Sound (Germany)

Dasputnik - Cyclokosmia. 2011 Finland

And really, there isn't much to add here from my Parapsykosis review, other than Cyclokosmia is even better than the debut! I don't think I've ever heard a band catch a heavier groove, while maintaining control throughout. I keep expecting the sax player to go bonkers, and start screeching and howling to the point of nausea. But he never does, preferring to maintain an almost smooth jazz tone, while holding up the melody lines amongst the chaos behind him. Meanwhile the rhythm is changing every 30 seconds, while the riffing  (non metal) guitar keeps shredding these amazing complex charts. Like Ozric Tentacles on speed. This juxtaposition of styles is absolutely brilliant, and is perfect for my set of ears. When Dasputnik combines guitar and sax for the unison melody, I'm most reminded of those great German bands of the early 70's like Brainstorm.

The track '...Phantom Wakes' has to be heard to be believed. What a smoker!

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Art Safari

Dasputnik - Parapsykosis. 2009 Finland

Dasputnik are an energetic and tight Ozric Tentacles styled space rock band, with furious guitar leads, synthesizers, a crack rhythm section and melodic sax. This latter element is a real differentiator from the pack. Up there with other great Finnish bands like Hidria Spacefolk and Taipuva Luotisuora. Also catching a vibe from the Hungarian Korai Orom in their more kinetic sequences. This album is awesome.

Highlights: 1. Hzz (10:31); 2. Electromagnetolithic Experience (7:13); 6. Space in India (11:22)

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Art Safari

Node - Node 2. 2014 England

The Node quartet are back after nearly 20 years (with a slight adjustment of personnel replacing Gary Stout with Hollywood composer Mel Wesson), easily at home on Ian Boddy's DiN label. The band's core premise is intact and they're still with all analog gear in tow, including a full array of fun toys like the ARP 2600, SynthiA, modified Mini-Moogs, PPG Modular, custom built synthesizers, along with well placed guitar (including some wonderful phased electric soaring over the full blast sequencers in the best Edgar Froese tradition) and other keyboards like Fender Rhodes, piano, organ, and Mellotron. The very detailed chronological Ultra-Technical Music Geek Notes (AC's trademark pending) gives us a glimpse into the world of Node. Each track has a melodic, tempo, and chord base from which to base their programming on. From there it's pure improvisation. If it works on try #1, it stays in. Otherwise they adjust a few things, and give it another whirl. It's 100% democratic and independent - 4 seasoned musicians each adding their own personality to the composition. When all is recorded, it's edited (filtered) down for the best possible listening experience.

For me, this is the most exciting Berlin School album since the heady late 90s days of Redshift. The sheer amount and variety of analog synthesizers, combined with a fully participating quartet, allows for unlimited possibilities in a genre that can easily grow stale (i.e . turn on the sequencers and beats, get a cup of coffee, then noodle for a bit). It's nigh impossible to even pick one track, as each one is brilliant, and yet very different. If you're a fan of the style, it's almost impossible to fathom not absolutely freaking over this album. It not only lives up to the promise of the debut, but exceeds it. Pure genius - a definitive statement. The bar has been reset.

Personal collection
CD: 2014 DiN

Ma Banlieue Flasque - 1979 France

Ma Banlieue Flasque sole album is an excellent work that draws from a variety of early 70s sources such as Moving Gelatine Plates, Komintern, and Frank Zappa. The music is complex, yet still melodic, with a bit of a wacky sense of humor thrown in. I'd submit that Ma Banlieue Flasque is perhaps more jazz influenced than the references above, but it I think would go down a storm with the avant prog crowd, plus those who like that European Continental fusion sound, as first pioneered and influenced by Zappa's Hot Rats.

Personal collection
LP: 1979 Celluloid

Originals come in a somewhat nondescript single sleeve cover. No legit reissues exist.

Mekong Delta - In a Mirror Darkly. 2014 Germany

And so after 27 years, Mekong Delta keeps going at a high standard with In a Mirror Darkly, an album that sounds like a cross between its two studio predecessors Lurking Fear and Wanderer on the Edge of Time. The hyper complex technical thrash returns, but with a strong dash of accessible material as well. The opening two instrumentals recall their 2010 opus, as does the complex instrumental 'Inside the Outside of the Inside'. And there are a couple of more accessible vocal oriented progressive metal tunes here like 'The Sliver in Gods Eye' and 'Janus'. But for those looking for the heavier, more murky and mysterious trademarked Mekong Delta material, then 'The Armageddon Machine', 'Hindsight Bias', and 'Mutant Messiah' will certainly delight. As with Lurking Fear, these tracks should be heard on headphones only, as there are lot of ideas thrown out that will be only picked up with careful listen. There isn't any of the jaw dropping greatness of a track like 'The Apocalypt - World in Shards', but overall the album is an impressive listen. Mekong Delta, since their reformation, may have not regained the heights of their early 90s formation - but they have proven to be more consistent in their wizened old age. Let's hope they continue and ultimately surpass what they accomplished over 20 years ago.

Personal collection
CD: 2014 Steamhammer/SPV

Pantha - Doway Do Doway Do. 1975 Australia

Pantha's sole album is a real gem in the rough. The music is like a mixture of that unique Australasian take on symphonic rock, similar to Sebastian Hardie (Oz) and Dragon (NZ) - combined with some of those wonderful early Santana grooves with sustain guitar. Which also reminds me of another regional band: Living Force (NZ). The album can be somewhat poppy in places, reminding me a bit of late era Fruupp actually, but the melodies are highly infectious. This is an album I reach for more often than usual from my collection. Like I said, it's a real gem.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Wizard

Originals come in a fine gatefold cover. Never been reissued and a long time feature of the CDRWL. At least one pirate edition exists each on LP and CD.

Polestar 1 - Flying Thru the Universe. 1980 USA

Polestar 1 are a Baltimore based heavy progressive rock band that in many ways reflect the same standards and sound as their Midwest brethren close by. There's a certain directness from America's premier political region, and you hear it in bands such as The Muffins, Oho, Heavy the World, Mars Everywhere and Id's Where are We Going. The latter two groups in particular seem to have parallels with Polestar 1, especially the cosmic themes, vocal styling and guitar-centered space rock nature of the recordings. Like the Midwest groups, the playing is compact but complex. For fans of American progressive rock, this is an easy recommendation.

Personal collection
LP: 1980 Rascal

There are no legal reissues, though at least one pirate edition exists (and noted as such on my CDRWL blog by wife of the bandleader).

Kebnekajse - Elefanten. 1977 Sweden

Elefanten is Kebnekajse's 5th album and represents a wonderful return to form, after the somewhat middling African/world music affair Ljus fran Afrika. Elefanten is about as close to jazz rock as Kebnekajse would ever get. It's a particularly strong outing for guitarist Kenny Håkansson, who lights it up everywhere he can. Also worth noting the strong violin play from Mats Glenngård adding the folk touch one would expect to hear on an earlier Kebnekajse album. This is a very fine work, that for whatever reason isn't as highly revered as I would expect. I think it's their best album along with their self-titled second.

Personal collection
LP: 1977 Silence

Oddly this album has been completed ignored in the reissue market as well. And original LPs still go relatively cheap. Such an anomaly really. Well, grab one of those LPs while they remain affordable I guess. I've had my copy since the early 90s.

Djam Karet - No Commercial Potential. 1985 USA


Djam Karet's debut album, the cassette No Commercial Potential, was a true anomaly when released in 1985. The concept of long form, psychedelic guitar driven rock instrumentals, was an extinct concept in the mid 1980s. Whereas LS Bearforce released the homage to early Guru Guru in 1983, Djam Karet had taken the idea of combining mid period King Crimson mixed with any number of west coast late 60s psychedelia bands. And yes, with more than a hint of Krautrock as well. Djam Karet were born out of a (still operating) California record store, and it's no accident they possessed the historical capacity for musical research. Quite simply, they were considerably ahead of their time, and by the 90s many were following their lead, arguably to lesser success. It must be said, the title is as accurate as any in history.

Personal collection
CD: No Commercial Potential (2004 HC) 2 CD set w/...And Still Getting the Ladies (2002)

As noted above the original was released only on cassette.

Black Mountain - In the Future. 2008 Canada

In the Future is an intriguing release by Black Mountain. The band's background is one of both the stoner and indie genres, and yet In the Future is an authentic attempt at an early 1970s retro prog sound. As we learned from their followup Wilderness Heart, Black Mountain's "heart" remained true to their background, and In the Future ended up being something of an anomaly (or at least I believe that to be the case, having not heard IV, but the reviews indicate similar). To my ears, because of this juxtaposition of styles, Black Mountain ends up sounding like an "out of time" band from 1978 trying to recreate 1970, rather than a modern band doing such. In the Future is like discovering the most interesting looking album at the local Montgomery Ward, set inside some ancient mall that felt more like a DMZ than a shopping plaza (America in 1978 was a much different looking place than today). Black Mountain has captured the aura of what Arista Records originally intended to do, before giving into crass commercialism. It's the type of album you can hear over and over, because of the many different textures, colors, and styles. In some ways, I can also hear a band like Australia's Tarot here, with the focus on a hard rock style, and teetering that stoner genre, but not quite crossing over. There's also quite a bit of mellotron here as well for fans of the instrument. I really like this album, though it does appear to be one-off greatness in their canon.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Jagjaguwar (USA)

TEE - Trans-Europe Expression. 2012 Japan

So it appears TEE is going to be an acronym that remains fluid. For their debut album, they were known as The Earth Explorer. And now it is Trans-Europe Expression. Perhaps The Egg Enema won't be far behind...

Let me take you back 20 years to 1992. At that time, much was made of Änglagård bringing progressive rock back to its original splendor. Their appearance at the first Progressive Rock Festival in 1993 only solidified the legend. And I wholeheartedly agree with all the enthusiasm laid at the feet of this great Swedish band.

However, for myself and a few others, there was another album that had as much impact, but is not as well remembered. Two years prior to Änglagård, a band from Hungary released their second album: The mighty 2 LP opus 1990 by Solaris. It was a jaw dropper, a truly complex progressive rock album, with outstanding keyboards, guitars and flute. Perhaps it's only downfall for the revisionists is its lack of 1970s vintage analog equipment. And while I too would have enjoyed that, it has zero impact on my enjoyment of that amazing album.

Trans-Europe Expression is the second coming of Solaris' 1990!

This is a magnificent work, with some of the most melodic flute and guitar driven progressive rock I've heard in over 20 years. I find music like this irresistible. Love the European hill town photograph artwork as well.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Musea (France)

TEE - Tales of Eternal Entities. 2016 Japan

The fluidly named TEE this time stands for Tales of Eternal Entities, and this is the Japanese band's 3rd album. I had feared that TEE's involvement with French TV's latest album may have given the group a new found rigidity. Fortunately that is not the case, and TEE return with their distinctly mid to late 70s warm European progressive rock sound. Flute, guitar, and analog sounding synth lines dominate the melodies, while the rhythm section mixes things up often to keep the music from becoming static. As in the past, you'll hear traces of Asia Minor, Solaris, Gotic, and perhaps more pointedly than ever, the godfather of such a sound: Camel. TEE could also be seen as an instrumental parallel band to Spain's L'Herba d'Hameli. 'Epimetheus' is a brilliant opener, and it appeared this album may well in fact be their best work to date. 'Mother Earth' is another standout track. There is nothing less than what I would consider an "excellent" track here. I would offer that Tales of Eternal Entities is a hair off the pace from the prior Trans-European Expression, but all of their albums are outstanding and not to be missed. Borderline 4.5 stars here (Gnosis 11), but will stay conservative. One of the best albums from 2016 so far for my tastes.

Personal collection
CD: 2016 Musea Parallele (France)

Buki-Yamaz - s/t. 1975 Denmark

Generally I don't go for Danish fusion bands with Spanish album titles, but with Buki-Yamaz, the band has the perfect blend of instrumental dexterity and melodic consciousness. Lots of flute, guitar, and Latin rhythms. Some of it is pretty mellow, and there's a certain cruise ship lounge vibe throughout, that I find somehow appealing in a warped Love Boat sort of way (similar to the Opa from Uruguay we recently reviewed). Hookfarm is the same label responsible for Fred Israel and Drops.

Personal Collection
LP: 1975 Hookfarm

There is a compilation CD (on Music Mecca) that includes a few tracks from all of their albums. But the albums proper have not been reissued in full.

Quarks - Elemental. 2013 Chile

Quarks are an electronic trio from Chile, with most of the instrumentalists having a progressive rock background (namely SETI, Subterra, Caamora, and Taurus). On Elements, they pay homage to classic Tangerine Dream. Here, we have two keyboardists and a third on electric guitar just like Froese and company. I was hoping for a mid 1970's Virgin era Mellotron and  Moog Sequencer romp with psychedelic leads, but rather Quarks decided to feature electronic percussion and a decidedly more modern era keyboard sound. So it's like discovering a lost 1982 era Tangerine Dream recording instead. Certainly one can do worse than that, so most assuredly fans of the early 80s TD albums will find much to celebrate here (Pergamon anyone?). I do think it's all quite good, though it does seem it's been done before. But I'm all for an excellent reproduction. Quarks does a fine job at that. And with 3 protagonists, it does avoid the monolithic nature of the multitude of solo acts in this field today.

I'd be curious if the band takes this concept further, and makes full advantage of utilizing the electric guitar within an electronic music setting.  Similar to Radio Massacre International or early Redshift perhaps.

Personal collection
CD: 2013 Mylodon

SoulenginE - Mind Colours. 2012 Italy

While not the most representative nom de plume they could have selected, SoulenginE deliver a finely crafted instrumental selection of progressive rock compositions. Formed by members of The Watch, it would appear SoulenginE are yet another creative outlet for a band that has become notorious (and highly lauded) for their ability to embody all that is great about classic Genesis. And while the band can probably never distance themselves too far from penning a Nursery Cryme, I think the average progressive listener will be very pleased with this instrumental set. So have no fear, you are much closer to the made-up dance step of the Genesis Foxtrot than the disco imagery one immediately associates with Soul Train, er... Engine. Lots of mellotron, Moog, soaring guitar, time-signature-change goodness to be found within. Overall conclusion - and maybe a bit too esoteric here - but I'd say SoulenginE is to The Watch what Submarine Silence was is to Moongarden. Basically a more retro and instrumental outlook of their raison d'etre.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 MaRaCash

The Enid - In the Region of the Summer Stars. 1976 England

If one can imagine Camel, not as a rock band, but rather a true symphonic classically oriented group, then In the Region of the Summer Stars would have been the result instead of The Snow Goose. Contrary to what you might think, especially if one has been exposed to The Enid prior, is this album most certainly rocks out on occasion. This is about as true a symphonic rock album as you'll ever hear, minus actual symphony instruments. In other words, it's not like William Sheller either. A very refined, majestic album. Not one for hard rockers, no sirree.

Personal collection
CD: 2006 WHD (Japan)

I believe this CD is the 1984 "partial re-record" version. I'll have to hear the actual 1976 recording again to compare. It's been many years since I last owned and heard that version.

Del Jones' Positive Vibes - Court is Closed. 1973 USA


The single most intense Black America album ever. Basically Del Jones is the Philadelphia ghetto version of the Berlin based Cosmic Couriers clan. Intense does not even begin to describe this album. The anger that comes through will melt your mind. And all the freaked out vocals, wah wah guitar, flute and heavy rhythms will make you grab for your Ash Ra Tempel albums and hold on tight. Given the economic conditions of the housing projects of the early 1970s, it's surprising more albums didn't seep through like this.  Of course there are a couple of throwaway soul numbers that are fortunately short - but most of the album will fry your brain! 'Cold Turkey' has some of the most anguished freaked out madness since John L. went nuts on 'Flowers Must Die' (on Ash Ra Tempel's Schwingungen).

Personal collection
CD: 1997 Saucer Man / Hikeka (Japan)
LP: 200? Hikeka

Like Velvert Turner, Del Jones released two versions of the same album: A soul mix and a psych mix. The soul mix is available on CD and appears legit. The psych mix has only been reissued on LP so far, and did involve Del Jones who wrote contemporary notes for it, so we'll consider that legit. But no one has issued it on CD to date. The soul mix is not that much different really - there's an additional horn section, two extra tracks, and some of the guitar work has been moved into the background. It's still a monster and highly recommended.

Note: Not sure how I never added this review to UMR prior. I must have thought I did, and just spaced it. Oh well, debuting for the first time for UMR...

Sithonia - Confine. 1995 Italy

On the Spettacolo Annullato review, I mentioned that it would be interesting to hear that album with a more modern (and analog) recording. In some ways Confine is that album. Not quite what I would expect from a band today, but at least this effort from 1995 has more heft than its predecessor. Especially surrounding the guitar sound, which when in riffing mode, at least gives off a whiff of true heavy metal. Make no mistake, Sithonia aren't a progressive metal band, but at least if they're going to use a heavier tone, give it a little muscle - and they did. The keyboards are still digital, but are somehow mixed a little further back and the sound is a bit better as a result. On the down side, I don't think Giovannini's vocal performance is as inspired as on Spettacolo Annullato, and the compositions aren't as memorable or as deep. Perhaps they're letting the production be the star, like we see in the movie industry (who needs plot when we have special effects). However, there is no question they manage to capture the spirit of the best themes from their past. On the whole, Confine is a very good album.

Personal collection
CD: 1995 Mellow

Lizard - W Galerii Czasu. 1997 Poland

Lizard's debut is an unusual effort coming from the late 90s. Most of Poland's progressive rock scene were following along in the footsteps of Collage, and performing UK styled neo-prog. And there is definitely some of that sound present here, but there's also a bit of heaviness (not metal), perhaps paving the way for future stars like Riverside. But most interesting to me is the look back to the Iron Curtain years, and there's a distinct melodic songwriting as you might find on a late 70's SBB album, or even from the Czech group Modry Efekt. Odd combination, but it works.

I bought this CD upon release, and enjoyed it immediately. Strange that I never pursued anything else by the band (though it didn't help that some of their initial followup albums were "official bootlegs", which is rarely a good thing). Time for some research. The band is still around, and releasing albums, but they appear to have fallen off of everyone's radar. No idea if the quality is the same though.

Personal collection
CD: 1997 Ars Mundi

Vespero - Fitful Slumber until 5 A.M.. 2015 Russia

Fitful Slumber until 5 A.M. is the 7th studio album (if we include the split one with Zone Six) from Astrakhan's Vespero. They continue their drive into more progressive oriented compositions, with plenty of fiery jams, and exactly the type of ethnic sounds one would expect from a band residing near the Caspian Sea. Flute, mandolin, and local wind instruments only add to the exotic vibe. Vespero have encapsulated the best of a 40+ year old branch of psychedelic progressive space rock: 1972 era Agitation Free meets 1992 Ole Lukkoye meets 2012 Quantum Fantay. Blend it up, and you have one seriously irresistible dish. A can't miss recipe, no matter how much extra spice they add to it. Hungry yet?

Personal collection
CD: 2015 RAIG

Vespero - Droga. 2013 Russia

Droga is the 6th studio album from Astrakhan's Vespero. Here the band seemingly understands what they do best, and exploits the heck out of it. This may be the perfect place to start your exploration of what is possibly the best space rock group of the last 10 years - and that's saying something given the competition. What you'll get here is Vespero's core competencies: The exotic sounds of Western Asia, crystalline female voices, ripping guitar solos, complex rhythm patterns, and various instrumentation to keep you guessing throughout. Every track is labyrinthine in its execution. It's the Korai Orom meets Hidria Spacefolk recipe that they've long since perfected with their own spices. And this time, they have a surprise up their sleeve: How about a big dollop of aggressive space rock similar to the first Nebelnest album? Oh my heart be still. This is Red Bull mixed with espresso.

Personal collection
CD: 2013 RAIG 

The CD is housed in a printed cardboard box.

Vespero / Zone Six - The Split Thing. 2012 Russia/Germany

The next studio offering from Vespero is a split album with the German band Zone Six that is titled, appropriately enough, The Split Thing. Vespero contributes 3 new songs, totaling approximately 25 minutes. The sound is a continuation of By the Waters of Tomorrow and can be seen as a further move towards the 70s Krautrock scene. In particular, Can and Amon Duul II seem to have influenced the Russian band to a great extent. The steady rhythms hold everything in place, while the synthesizers float above and the shimmering psychedelic guitar provides the melody lines. There are distinct breaks in the music, giving it more of a progressive rock edge than its predecessor. Perhaps best of all is the addition of flute on the first two tracks, adding just the right spice to the overall dish. I found this a nice return to form for Vespero and is worthy of a 4.5 stars on its own. Personally I don't think Zone Six is a good fit as a complement to Vespero. They are of the modern variety of space rock - bordering stoner metal - where fuzz overload and static rhythms are the order of the day. At 24 minutes, their sole contribution begins to get long in the tooth after about 10 minutes. It's a fine track for the style, but perhaps misplaced with the much more kinetic, and exciting (IMO) Vespero.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Transubstans (Sweden)

Vespero - By the Waters of Tomorrow. 2010 Russia

Vespero continues on with their third album, titled By the Waters of Tomorrow. The band has shed most of their Southern Russian influences for a more straightforward Western European styled instrumental psychedelic rock sound (with 'Gao Zult' being the sole exception). Post rock and Krautrock seem to be the dominating genres here, with echo fuzz guitar, synthesizers, and a driving drum beat. The music on By the Waters of Tomorrow can be described as being relentless. This is a similar direction that Finnish bands Hidria Spacefolk and Taipuva Luotisuora took later in their career as well. Personally, I miss the localized exotic sound, but for what Vespero is trying to achieve here - they've done a more than admirable job. 'Amaryllis' and 'Seagulls Sing (When It Rains)' are the highlights here.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 RAIG

Vespero - Surpassing All Kings. 2009 Russia

Vespero's sophomore effort, entitled Surpassing All Kings, sees Vespero tighten the ship a bit, and add more structure to their compositions. The exotic sounds of the debut are intact, but the energy level is higher and more kinetic. So overall it sounds like Korai Orom playing the music of Taipuva Luotisuora or Quantum Fantay, which is a highly unique combination. There are some killer ear-catching breaks here, such as the mid section of 'Salma Simiere (Cross and Crown)' which recalls Relayer era Yes, of all albums. Other highlights include the powerful psychedelic space rock numbers 'The Tower (XVI)' and 'Serata (i.n.s.i.e.m.e.)', each featuring multiple meter shifts, psychotic guitars, swirling keyboards, ethereal vocals, and complex sequences - almost Canterbury like in their execution. The latter track even has slight elements of Zeuhl, though it remains unclear if that's intentional or not. Melodies are actually thought out, and there's more to latch on here than the usual music-school charts. This is a splendid album, clearly positioning Vespero as one of the best space rock bands on the worldwide stage today.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 RAIG

Vespero - Rito. 2007 Russia

Vespero are a space rock band from Astrakhan, a city on the northern shore of the Caspian Sea in Southern Russia, near the border of Kazakhstan. So, in effect, miles from anything familiar. And yet there are few bands today - or perhaps none - that have captured the European spirit of space rock, Krautrock, and progressive rock like Vespero has. Their music is at once exotic, and yet familiar. Somewhere between Korai Orom, Ole Lukkoye, Hidria Spacefolk, 60's Pink Floyd, Can, Ash Ra Tempel, and a yet-to-be-identified group from Kazakhstan. And with that, Vespero begin their studio recording career with the splendid Rito. Psychedelic guitar, spacey synthesizers, pulsating bass, echoed vocals, and pounding tribal drums are what you can expect here. And Rito features their finest track ever (as I write this in 2017) with 'Inna's Burst in Tears', a stunning piece of Agitation Free influenced Middle Eastern space rock with Lisa Gerrard styled wordless female vocals. This song alone leaves one breathless, and is reason enough to explore the entire band's canon. And they do not disappoint. Ever.

Personal collection
CD: 2007 RAIG

Richard Pinhas - Chronolyse. 1978 France

Richard Pinhas' second solo album is an absolute classic of progressive electronic music. The music is very much in line with what he was accomplishing with his primary vehicle Heldon at the time. The album contains 7 vignettes of aggressive Moog sequencing, and one longer electronic piece on Side 1. And on the flip, there's a 30 minute brain blaster of guitar-bass-drums and electronics in the best Heldon tradition. A fine companion album to Heldon's Stand By. Brilliant.

Personal collection
LP: 1978 Cobra
CD: 2006 Captain Trip (Japan)

Though not difficult to find on vinyl back in the day, it's one that eluded my grasp. So my first exposure to the album was the Cuneiform CD that appeared in 1991. It was definitely the last Pinhas album for me to hear at the time, and it's also his best solo (IMO). Over the years I finally picked up an original LP as well as the Japanese mini-LP. The single sleeve cover is nondescript as most French albums are from this period. But I'll probably hold onto the LP for the distance.

Omnia Opera - Nothing is Ordinary. 2011 private

Here is Omnia Opera's long anticipated reunion, an album that was released well over a year after being first announced. Reunion albums are always a dicey proposition. It seems very few bands from the 1970s could ever get it right. As if they never understood why they were popular in the first place. But 1980s groups fared much better, and I think that's because of the circumstances from which they came about. In many cases, bands in the 1980s languished in the underground for years and years, with only their ardent supporters in attendance along with a dedicated-to-the-music-genre magazine press. Heavy metal groups were the most prolific, but on a lesser scale space rock, psychedelic, and progressive rock bands toiled in the small dirty clubs, and sold a small amount of LPs and later CDs to their fan base. Other than in the metal genre, the sales were too small to make a living at it, unless one wanted to remain a pauper their entire life.

With that in mind, Omnia Opera has really set the bar high for reunion attempts. The band went all out with a sprawling 2 CD set. Generally that's not appealing to me - presenting far too much music, and usually far too much filler. Two hour CDs are like 3 hour movies - they can be a slog to get through. Well I have good news for all of you here: There's not a moment wasted through the entire duration. It's as if they had spent the last 14 years putting it together. All the trademark sounds of classic Omnia Opera are on display: Heavy psychedelic guitars, thundering bass, active drumming, impassioned male and female vocals, and of course the cosmic keyboards. All the tracks are thought out, and present plenty of twists and turns to keep it exciting.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Umbilical

2 CD set in a digi-pak.

Progresiv TM - Dreptul de a Visa. 1976 Romania

Though Romanian, Progresiv TM seem like distant cousins to the Italian scene (well, I guess they are anyway if you think about it). More than I ever realized, there are parallels to the Italian band Delirium here. Except that Progresiv TM are considerably heavier and a bit less diverse. Progressiv TM are one of a few bands from the 70s that have that Black Sabbath guitar tone. They don’t utilize it in a doom-laden riff style like Sabbath does, but the sound is so very thick. Contrast that with a strong flute presence, an instrument that provides the melody line throughout the album. Vocals are well done, dramatic and well, seem Italian (no surprise as Romanian is as close to Latin as any active language). Note there’s also a strong post psych element at play here, which can be off-putting to those who aren’t 60's psychedelic fans. For me, appreciation of said style may also contribute a half star. I personally feel this album is light years better than anything else coming out of 1970s Romania. I just wonder how much great material could have been released during the progressive heyday, had it not been for the most oppressive dictator of the Eastern Bloc? Tragedy really.

Personal collection
LP: 1976 Electrecord
CD: 2002 Rock in Beat (Germany)

Originals are rare, like any good album from Romania would be. I traded for one in the mid 1990's and that was my first time to hear the album. For years it had been presumed this album was from 1973. But the catalog number clearly points to 1976, so kudos to Discogs for correcting this misconception. The CD is interesting. Discogs lists it as unofficial. It would, after all, seem odd that a German label would reissue an album like this. The CD certainly doesn't go out of its way to claim authenticity. But the label itself seems to be legit, with a focus on older 60s rock and beat albums. I had presumed it was legit all these years, but maybe not. Won't fall on my sword for it, but also won't sell until a better reissue comes along.

Regressive Aid - Effects on Exposed People. 1983 USA

Awhile back I wrote about a Japanese band called Nishin and their one album Dai Dai, and I have to say New Jersey's Regressive Aid reminds me quite a bit of that. The early 1980's sound is very apparent here, from the use of digital technology to the fast punkish pace of the music. There's no mistaking the Discipline era King Crimson influence, though Regressive Aid appear to have drawn the same conclusion as Fripp rather than just obsequiously following the master. By the time of Effects on Exposed People (like the EP before is itself a very short album clocking in just under 30 minutes), the Crimson influence is more apparent and the production values are of a higher quality. Another group that reminds me of Regressive Aid, but showed up a couple of years later, is the Virginia-based Famous Actors From Out of Town.

Personal collection
LP: 1983 Rhesus

No CD as I write this in 2017.

Public Foot the Roman - s/t. 1973 England

When I first started collecting progressive rock albums in earnest in the early 1980s, this is one of those "obscure" albums that I was told I must get. To be honest, Public Foot the Roman fell way short of my expectations, and I never understood what all the fuss was about. Some 30+ years later, I may not crown this a classic, but at least it makes more sense to me. I think the problem is the inclusion of standard rock and roll songs - like the opener - which can be greatly off-putting to those of us looking for something more adventurous. And my standards in the early 80s is that all "progressive rock" meant every album would be stood up against Close to the Edge or Selling England by the Pound. Well thousands of obscurities later - not much holds a candle to those albums anyway - IMHO of course.

Now in retrospect, I hear Public Foot the Roman in the way I do bands on the Neon or Dawn labels - albums that were still too far from my radar back then. And when shown in that light, PFtR holds up pretty well. The mix of straightforward material with more ambitious jazzy progressions is fairly typical of 1973 England. Maybe not the best representative of said style, but I can now see why folks touted this one back to me then. Certainly better than the dime a dozen Hit Parade pop bands of the day. And its presence on Capitol Records, made it more known here in the US at least - especially when compared to their Dawn label brethren.

Personal collection
LP: 1973 Capitol (USA)

And yea, still no legit CD as of Aug 2017.

The Word of Life - Dust. 1995 Sweden

The Word of Life return with their sophomore, and ultimately last effort, Dust which is somewhat different from the predecessor. There'...