Genesis—Supper’s Ready illustrated

Twenty-three minutes of progressive rock magnificence illustrated by Nathaniel Barlam.

“Supper’s Ready” appears on the 1972 Genesis album Foxtrot.

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Russian Circles—Station (2008)

Russian Circles—Stations (2008)

Russian Circles—Stations (2008)

Details

Recorded at Studio Litho in Seattle, Washington in December 2007. Produced, engineered and mixed by Matt Bayles. Mastered by Ed Brooks at RFI. Management: Cathy Pellow and Sargent House. Released on Suicide Squeeze Records.

http://russiancirclesband.com/

Band

  • Mike Sullivan—Guitar
  • Dave Turncrantz—Drums
  • Brian Cook—Bass

Additional musicians

  • Morgan Henderson—Double bass
  • Matt Bayles—Keyboards and organ

Tracks

  1. Campaign
  2. Harper Lewis
  3. Station
  4. Verses
  5. Youngblood
  6. Xavii

Review

Looking at my music collection, in light of listening to this CD, I realise that I have very few instrumental records: the most obvious being Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, Shutter and the occasional track from other albums. Perhaps I ought to make a compilation of all my instrumental tracks and report back with a list, as a comment. My point, though, is that I don’t have too many bands in my collection to compare this to.

I had two immediate thoughts when I first listened to this album. One was that I loved it; the second was that it reminded me of ShutterAmplifier and Jesu. With comparisons like those how can you possibly go wrong?

One of the great things about progressive albums is that the songs are longer than most, so even though there are only six tracks on this LP it still clocks in at a very reasonable 43 minutes 23 seconds.

The album starts quietly, like a single note fluctuating in the darkness, joined by an arpeggio that weaves itself around the tone. It sounds like the dawn, like an album waking up. It’s quite beautiful. And then only two and half minutes after the main song has begun it ends. “Campaign” creeps up on you, wows you, and then disappears again into the darkness.

“Harper Lewis” opens with the kind of drum pattern and tone that makes me long to be a drummer. Joined after forty seconds my the kind of bass ‘bounce’ that takes me back to performing on stage with a few bands and why I loved, loved, loved playing the bass: a simple, understated but highly effective bass line.

The pace quickens on the title track “Station”. The distorted guitar riff about a minute in provides a metronomic wall of sound for the bass guitar to dance in and out of. This is a song that can’t fail to put a smile on my face every time I listen to it. But then just under five minutes into the song it begins to slow to be replaced forty seconds later by another theme. A palm-muted guitar picks out a new rhythm and melody.

If there was one song that most reminded me of Jesu it is the next one, “Verses”. A majestic bass line, legato guitar squeals that I presume have been teased out with an EBow, and then the most exquisite melody picked out on a clean guitar. Check out the unofficial video below, featuring video from NASA and the international space station.

“Youngblood” is a seven and a half minute exercise in arpeggios, chugging distorted guitars and… well, I love it. It has a subtle melody that sounds ‘sour’ in places.

Finally, “Xavii” begins with a picked melody that reminds me of a Steve Lawson track. The song is laid back and melancholic (or maybe I’m just projecting my own mood today) and very reminiscent of Shutter with its crystal clear guitar melody. It’s quite a beautiful song to close the album.

Conclusion

I had never heard of Russian Circles before. I had bumped them to the top of my list because I loved the name and I found the album cover intriguing, and I’m glad I did. This is definitely an album I will be playing again; a lot. And they are definitely a band I will be looking out for in the future. There really isn’t anything I can fault on this album, so I’m going to give them a full 10/10.

Review score: 100%

Video

Haken—Aquarius (2010)

Haken—Aquarius (2010)

Haken—Aquarius (2010)

Details

Music by Richard Henshall, lyrics by Ross Jennings, arrangements by Haken. Drums recorded at Monster Trax Studios by Misha Nikolic. Additional instruments recorded at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama by Loz Anslow. Mixed by Christian Moos at Spacelab Studios. Mastered by Eroc at Eroc’s Mastering Ranch. Artwork and design by Dennis Sibeijn.

Band

  • Richard Henshall—Guitar, keyboards
  • Diego Tejeida—Keyboards
  • Thomas MacLean—Bass
  • Charles Griffiths—Guitar
  • Ross Jennings—Vocals
  • Raymond Hearne—Drums

Tracks

  1. The point of no return
  2. Streams
  3. Aquarium
  4. Eternal rain
  5. Drowning in the flood
  6. Sun
  7. Celestial elixir

Review

I don’t usually read reviews of albums that I’m listening to for this project. But after my first listen through to this album by UK prog-meisters Haken I really wanted to know what others made of it. It seems that people either love it or hate:

Contrast this review:

“The greatest debut album I may have ever heard, Aquarius by Haken would be one of the greatest releases of the year standing alone. Taken in context, it is one of the most promising releases I have heard in an incredibly long time.”

Sputnik Music

with this one:

“Some asshole took a fat shit in my aquarium […] any point on this album is a perfect time to stop listening […] Aquarius is not an album worth anyone’s sweet time. It’s a piece of shit that’s just as pretentious as it is bloated.

Encyclopedia Metallum

And actually that was one of the more positive reviews. Wilytank there gave it a generous 18%. Another reviewer, Empyreal, gave the album 0%. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. I’ve never seen an album score 0 before. He summed up the review with “disgusting and deceitful” describing the music as

“fluffed up, prissy progressive rock in the Yes/Gentle Giant style with bloops and bleeps and little keyboard noises everywhere beyond a heavy layer of orchestrations and the God-awful vocals, which I’ll get back to later.”

Encyclopedia Metallum

I didn’t find any reviews which said it was alright. A gap in the review market, I feel. So here goes.

Let’s just get one thing out of the way first: this isn’t a metal album. A few heavy riffs a metal band does not make. It’s definitely prog rock. It reminds me in part of Dream Theater at their most pretentious and self-indulgent. It reminds me of Steve Vai… at his most pretentious and self-indulgent. It has elements of… well, any virtuoso musician at their… well, you can probably guess by now.

I quite liked it to be honest. Not on my first listen through, mind you, but as I became familiar with the songs they grew on me, for the most part. There are some songs which I still cringe at while listening to it.

Take the opening track “The point of no return”, for example, which at 6’03” takes a left turn into some kind of 2/4 circus-cum-seaside theme tune. What was that all about?! I’m into a lot of experimental music but that just seems unnecessarily indulgent and to my ear doesn’t really add anything to the song.

The final track, “Celestial elixir”, is another example. All of a sudden it morphs into some kind of 1920s Charleston-like song. As though someone accidentally changed the TV channel for a moment.

It’s annoying! It’s like you’re watching the latest Judge Dredd movie when all of a sudden Mr Darcy suddenly walks into the scene. No! Just don’t do it.

The quality of playing is exceptional, the mix is smooth and well balanced. But it didn’t really set me on fire. It became background music very quickly for me: pleasant enough but nothing really to pay too much attention to.

You know what it reminds me of? The soundtrack to a made-for-TV American movie. I am sitting here listening to track five, “Drowning in the flood” and can imagine the credits rolling up the screen at this point.

Conclusion

Parts of the album was recorded at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama—it sounds like an album for musos who enjoy their progressive rock pretentiously morphing in and out of genres and providing a beautifully played soundtrack to the next 73 minutes.

Yeah… it was alright.

Review score: 50%

Video

Here’s the whole album kindly uploaded to YouTube by someone who doesn’t understand copyright law.

27 / Twin Zero—27:00 (2005)

27/:TwinZero—27:00 (2005)

27/TwinZero—27:00 (2005)

Details

27: Songs written and recorded, May 2005 at The Garment District. Twin Zero: “In Sha’ Allah” recorded at Rainstick Studios, Nottingham; “Monolith (Reprise)” recorded at The Distraction Room @ Zi Studios, Nottingham. 27/Twin Zero: Sampled elements from tracks 1-4 by 27 and TwinZero. Remix and additional guitar: Reuben Gotto. Mastered at Ideal Mastering, London.

Bands

27:

  • Maria Christoper—Vocals, guitars
  • Neil Coulon—Drums, clarinet
  • Ayal Naor—Baritone guitar, samplers

Twin Zero:

  • Karl Middleton—Vocals
  • Bing Garcia—Guitar
  • Dave Cheeseman—Keyboards
  • Reuben Gotto—Guitar
  • Anf Morfitt—Bass
  • Si Hutchby—Drums

Tracks

  1. 27—Half Life (Half)
  2. 27—Downfall of the upright
  3. Twin Zero—In Sha’ Allah
  4. Twin Zero—Monolith (Reprise)
  5. 27/Twin Zero—0027

Review

27 are an American indie / lo-fi rock band from Cambridge/Boston, Massachusetts, Twin Zero are a British prog rock band from I guess in or near Nottingham in the UK. This EP it seems came about following a tour that the two bands shared in 2005.

The EP features two tracks by each band followed by a final track created from samples of the previous four songs by Reuben Gotto (Guitarist with Twin Zero). Two bands, 27 and Twin Zero (00), release a 27 minutes’ long EP called… wait for it… ’27:00′. See what they did there?

The EP opens with a very fragile song “Half Life” by 27Maria Christoper has a beautifully  delicate voice which put me in mind of Björk (without the craziness) and Melissa auf der Maur (MadM). Their second song, “The Downfall of the Upright” is a little rockier with a very simple but catchy bass riff. This definitely put me in mind of MadM’s first solo album.

British progists Twin Zero‘s first song “In Sha’ Allah” begins with a delicately picked acoustic riff in front of a chorus of voices. The vibe of the song put me in mind of Missouri-based band Less (one of my favourite internet musical finds).The sound, however, reminds me of something from Alice in Chains’ acoustic EPs Sap (1992) or Jar of Flies (1994). Their second song “Monolith (Reprise)” is more a laid back, piano led offering that kicks up a bit of a pace about halfway through. Think lo-hi Spiritualized and you’ve more or less got it.

The final track is a fusion of the previous four tracks on the EP. It’s very well done, so much so that it took me about five or six listens through to realise what they had done. As a whole the track reminds me in places of Nine Inch Nails.

Conclusion

This is yet another CD in this project that I really like. It contains what sounds like a fusion of a few of my favourite bands but also manages to retain its own identity. What could have made this release better is simply it being longer.

Review score: 90%

Video

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwaL4xvjzYQ&feature=share&list=PL7814706B4ACFCCCA%5D