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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/05/28/syncage-unlike-here/

Syncage was formed almost a decade ago, by brothers Riccardo and Matteo Nicolin together with their best friends Daniele Tarabini and Matteo Graziani, when they were all teenagers. They have previously released a single, Hellhound in May 2014 which they followed up with the EP Italiota in September of the same year. Matteo Nicolin moved to the Netherlands and doubt was cast over what this meant for the band, but within months he began writing for what would become Unlike Here. Later other members chipped in to enhance the music with their own contributions, and once they had got down to recording the band signed to Bad Elephant Music for this, their first full album.

And what an album they have delivered here; there is a saying that youth is wasted on the young, not so here as Syncage have presented a piece of work that is mature and confident, all delivered with that youthful vitality. The music is an experimental fusion of jazz, metal, rock, ambience, with some touches of classic Italian prog. As they put it themselves, “Syncage are a musical project which aims to sting listeners’ resonance through various psycho emotional devices”.

This is certainly a varied and well constructed album, from the art rock opening track School you are immediately engaged as the band take you on a journey of discovery which delivers a sparkling array of songs. The performances are outstanding throughout with particular note to Matteo N’s amazing vocals, which can range between subtle and falsetto. Syncage make use of what they call the “Unlike Here” String Quartet to add extra texture and emotion to the music, always well placed and not overused.

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After the opening song we get the track Uniform which is a sparse arrangement of violin and drums before the guitar and vocals join in, giving the song an almost folk-like feel. At times there appear to be influences from The Mars Volta and King Crimson in their delivery, indeed the KC influence is felt on Redirect and Edelwiess. The former has a harsh Crimson-like guitar riff, then a driving rhythm from bass and drums, with the violin playing over the top, before it gives way to Matteo’s high vocals, which seem manic at times with some Bruce Dickinson-like screams. Things begin to mellow slightly with the return of violin, the harsher riffs returns with the drive to the end.

Edelwiess is the epic track here, clocking in at fourteen and a half minutes. A spoken word intro leads to the line “guys are you there, is anyone?” which then leaves the violin to take over. The spoken word continues the story, accompanied by guitar before the focus changes and the music returns to Crimson-like menace. Driven along by the rhythm section, the violin comes back with a slightly crazed solo, leading to a great guitar solo with things lightening up with bright guitar and bass to the fore. The spoken word gives way to sung lyrics and the track contains a wonderful trumpet solo from Sean Lucariello which becomes somewhat unsettling towards the finish.

Elsewhere the songs continue the high standard; Still Unaware with its bright guitar and jazzy piano fairly bubbles along before its mid-song change of mood. The acoustic guitar, flute and violin feature on Stones Can’t Handle Gravity, which beautifully demonstrate the gentler side of the band. The album closes with the nine and a half minute title track, the strings and rhythm section leading at the start, eventually joined by atmospheric keyboards as the song continues to develop throughout, each added instrument giving extra textures. Matteo’s vocals are again top notch and used almost like another instrument, there’s a natural flow and progression from start to finish.

Unlike Here is an engaging album which holds the attention throughout. There is a cohesive whole to the songs which also have enough variety to stand up in their own right. Syncage have developed their own musical style, which will make them stand out in their future endeavours, and I for one look forward to where this band will take their music on subsequent releases. Give this a listen; I don’t think you will be disappointed.

TRACK LISTING
01. School (4:38)
02. Uniform (4:14)
03. Still Unaware (6:20)
04. Skyline Shift (5:49)
05. Stones Can’t Handle Gravity (5:48)
06. Redirect (7:56)
07. Bearing The Colour (5:05)
08. Edelweiss (14:31)
09. Hunger Atones (5:12)
10. Unlike There (9:29)

Total Time – 69:02

MUSICIANS
Matteo Nicolin – Vocals, Guitars, Programming, Morin Khuur
Daniele Tarabini – Bass, Flute, Backing Vocals
Matteo Graziani – Keyboards, Violin
Riccardo Nicolin – Drums, Vibraphone, Percussion, Backing Vocals
The “Unlike Here” String Quartet:
– Matteo Graziani – 1st Violin
– Sarah van Eijk – 2nd Violin
– Michele Sguotti – Viola
– Enrico Graziani – Cello
Additional Musicians:
Sean Lucariello – Trumpet Solo (on Edelweiss)
Fabio Ferrante – Additional Vibraphone (on Edelweiss)
Fabio Ferrante and Beatrice Lannelli – Additional Scream of ‘NO!’ (on Redirect)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Country of Origin: Italy
Date of Release: 5th May 2017

LINKS
Syncage – Website | Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/05/27/arjen-lucassen/

On 22nd April 2017 – Earth Day. While protests to mark the “Science March” were proceeding across the USA and the world, TPA’s Professor Mark sat down with one of the great musical sci-fi storytellers, Arjen Lucassen, and conducted a Skype interview about his latest album release as Ayreon, The Source, and all things Lucassen. Mark would like to thank Arjen for the amazing opportunity to talk to him ‘face to face’ for the first time.


Ayreon - The Source

When you try to imagine the prolific discography that this musical maestro has created and the journeys he has taken his fans on, you realize that any interview can only scratch the surface of all the things that he has accomplished…so far.

Let’s start with The Source. It is a prequel to the amazing saga that has comprised the fans’ favorite part of Arjen’s four-pronged musical experience that includes Ayreon, Star One, Ambeon, and the many bands he has launched, including Stream of Passion, Guilt Machine and the Gentle Storm. All of these “worlds” are great, but it’s the Ayreon world that is respected the most by Arjen’s metal fans. It has the largest discography of all the groups. And Arjen seems to enjoy it the most.

So, my first question to Arjen:

If money was no object, being the space traveller you write about, where would you like to travel to, outside the Milky Way?

I would probably go to Planet Y in the Andromeda Galaxy M31, because it was included in one of my earlier Ayreon projects, The Universal Migrator Part II: Flight of The Migrator. The song I wrote was Out of The White Hole. Some of the lyrics include: “We come out of the white hole into the M31 galaxy, which is also known as Andromeda. We see a planet that looks much like Earth. Could it sustain life? And if, who lives there?” So, potentially another chance for humans to maybe start over.

Ayreon - The SourceThe Source seems to travel down some of the same paths you have travelled before with the Ayreon saga. You’ve brought back James Le Brie – thank you for this. Is he your favorite singer, or who is your favorite singer of all time? You have certainly ‘screen-tested’ many.

Yes James is one of my favorite vocalists. We have met, and understand each other well. He enjoys working on these sci–fi futuristic projects as well as the evolution and emotions of the species. His voice mixes soft and hard and can cover all aspects of human emotion.

You have an incredible storytelling ability and are prolific in recording. What do you read to keep up with all the innovative ideas coming into each of your new creations?

I read scientific magazines online and have a wealth of books and literature that I consult when I’m ready to create. I am constantly reading and discovering additional information on the Science Channel and other such outlets.

Who from music, movies or culture inspires you to write and record music?

Most of what inspires me is people and the way they interact with each other, the world, music and technology.

I know The Source imagines where things could go in the future. What are your feelings on the state of world affairs?

I think this album reflects the fears that I and many people have about our future. Sometimes I don’t even want to go anywhere outside my house, ha ha!

Dissect a song like Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, or your favorite song and describe how you see it evolving. What do you see as the highlights and best riffs and sounds?

Arjen starts to hum the melody…

That is such a cool hook and melody. Few songs I know could ever compare to the power and simplicity of how perfect Set the Controls… sounds. Just perfect. I wish I could create something that powerful.

I think you have, with songs like Dragon on the Sea; the way those boats sound like they are right in front of you, when you close your eyes. Beneath the Waves is another one that just sends chills down my spine. All the tracks from Guilt Machine are just perfect melodies, and so different from everything else you or others have created.

You must have been very happy with the completed version of the DVD and theatrical production of The Theater Equation.

It was a lot of work, but in the end it was very fulfilling and a lot of fun.

Will there ever be another Guilt Machine album?
 
I never plan ahead, but it’s definitely an option! I’m very proud of that album. I guess it wouldn’t be with exactly the same musicians though.
 
Can you bring Fish to the theater and re-animate The Electric Castle?
 
I think Fish will stop playing live soon. I asked him for the Ayreon Universe shows, but unfortunately he was unavailable.
 
Do you envision performing any of the rest of the catalog live? There are only so many hours in the day, after all!
 
You mean as a theater production? Yes, that is definitely an option. But I know nothing about the theater, so someone else would have to set it up.
 
That cocoon at the end of The Theater Equation forecasts a drift back to Actual Fantasy or maybe The Universal Migrator – The Dream Sequencer.
 
Yes indeed! The idea was that the whole story was just a figment of my imagination inside the Dream Sequencer.
 
What is next for Arjen?

First the Ayreon Universe shows, and after that… I really don’t know! As always I don’t plan ahead. So, it will be a surprise for me as well!

Thank you again Arjen for taking time to speak with us at The Progressive Aspect.
 
Cheers!

Arjen Lucassen - photo by Lori Linstruth


And you can read Professor Mark’s review of The Source HERE.


LINKS
Arjen Lucassen – Website | Facebook | Twitter

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/05/27/ayreon-the-source/

Arjen Lucassen has returned with a new Ayreon album for 2017, The Source being the latest adventure in the long saga which has been the stalwart concept and story of Lucassen’s discography. The Source is actually a prequel to the Ayreon story, of which I have been a fan since I first heard about it. There have been many magical moments throughout the now nine album saga. I particularly enjoyed Into the Electric Castle, The Human Equation and 01011001, although Actual Fantasy, The Final Experiment, both parts of The Universal Migrator and The Theory of Everything were also excellent.

It is a fantastic storyline, full of power and momentous music. From ancient times through the evolution of our world and onward towards space travel and planetary colonization, it has been a powerful journey, full of great lyrics and musicianship, pulled together with fine performances by musicians and singers from throughout the globe. Lucassen has been akin to the George Lucas of the musical experience and every aspect of this journey, from the in depth stotylines to the choosing of the players and singers, has made Lucassen the premier composer of this type of futuristic space rock. Arjen has melded traditional rock, space rock, heavy metal and progressive rock to paint from this grand palette his stories which document history and warn of potential future outcomes for planet Earth.

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In this latest reading of the story I feel that Arjen has accomplished a rewrite of sorts, a prequel to the story, using new singers and musicians. Although the songs have changed, the story is very similar. Like Hollywood, he has decided to try a fresh re-boot of the Ayreon story with new performers. This also seems like a summary or overture of the complete storyline. I know that Arjen’s fans love the Ayreon concept and never want the story to end, but with this disc I feel he is replaying it, but it’s a fun story which engages a multitude of talented artists.

Yes, there are highlights, like Everybody Dies, and James LaBrie’s singing as ‘The Historian’ character on The Day that the World Breaks Down, The Star of Sirrah and others. Any album graced with his singing will always hold the interest for Dream Theater fans like me.

Marillion’s Mark Kelly plays keyboards while Epica’s Simone Simmons and Floor Jansen from Nightwish play central characters, singing their roles perfectly. Any band would be more than happy to include the guest list of top new heavy metal talent in whatever project they were creating. There is no question that assembling these great talents is both fun and creates some excellent music, their performances interpreting the story in innovative ways and sending it in new directions.

The record label, Mascot, describes the album in these words: “The title of The Source invites various interpretations. It’s a reference to water — the source of life — and the water planet where the escaping Alphans find a safe new home after their long, arduous journey. The Source also points to the origins of humanity and the question of where we come from. The title also hints at the role that the album itself plays in the whole Ayreon catalogue. Given that it is a prequel, it can be thought of as the source of the entire Ayreon epic.”

The only question I am left with is, ‘Why?’

For me it is time for a new story. It is hard to branch out when this direction is obviously so profitable and enjoyable for the artists, but for fans like me it’s definitely time for something new.

I like this album, and highly recommend it for anyone new to Arjen’s fan club or this genre of music. That said, I hope to review something completely different from Arjen the next time he releases an album.

2017 will be a very Ayreon year, with multiple live performances taking place across Europe. Having a new album with new songs, singers and players is important to that end.

Get this album and enjoy the re-start of the Ayreon Universe.

[And you can read Professor Mark’s recent interview with Arjen Lucassen HERE.]

TRACK LISTING
CD 1
Chronicle 1: The Frame

01. The Day That the World Breaks Down (12:32)
02. Sea of Machines (5:08)
03. Everybody Dies (4:42)
chronicle 2: The Aligning of The Ten
04. Star of Sirrah (7:03)
05. All That Was (3:36)
06. Run! Apocalypse! Run! (4:52)
07. Condemned to Live (6:14)

CD2
Chronicle 3: The Transmigration

01. Aquatic Race (6:56)
02. The Dream Dissolves (6:11)
03. Death cry Of a Race (4:43)
04. Into the Ocean (4:53)
Chronicle 4: The Rebirth
05. Bay of Dreams (4:24)
06. Planet Y Is Alive! (6:02)
07. The Source Will Flow (4:13)
08. Journey to Forever (3:19)
09. The Human Compulsion (2:15)
10. March of The Machines (1:40)

Total Time – 88:33

MUSICIANS
Arjen Anthony Lucassen – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Bass Guitar, Mandolin, Synthesizers, Hammond, Solina Strings, all other instruments
Joost van den Broek – Grand Piano, Electric Piano
Mark Kelly – Synthesizer Solo
Maaike Peterse – Cello
Paul Gilbert – Guitar Solo
Guthrie Govan – Guitar Solo
Marcel Coenen – Guitar Solo
Ed Warby – Drums
Ben Mathot – Violin
Jeroen Goossens – Flute, Wind Instruments
~ Vocalists:
James LaBrie – as ‘The Historian’
Tommy Karevik – as ‘The Opposition Leader’
Tommy Rogers – as ‘The Chemist’
Simone Simons – as ‘The Counselor’
Nils K. Rue – as ‘The Prophet’
Tobias Sammet – as ‘The Captain’
Hansi Kürsch – as ‘The Astronomer’
Mike Mills – as ‘TH-1’
Russell Allen – as ‘The President’
Michael Eriksen – as ‘The Diplomat’
Floor Jansen – as ‘The Biologist’
Will Shaw, Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars & Lisette van den Berg – as ‘The Ship’s Crew’
Zaher Zorgati – as ‘The Preacher’

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Mascot
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Date of Release: 28th April 2017

LINKS
Ayreon – Website | Facebook
Arjen Anthony Lucassen – Facebook

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This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/ritchie-blackmore-about-deep-purple-reunion/
RITCHIE BLACKMORE Would Reunite with DEEP PURPLE if Asked

Ritchie Blackmore recently did an interview with the Guardian, where he says that he would reunite with his formed band Deep Purple.

The post reads:

“He ‘bears no malice’ to Deep Purple now, and would play with them again if he were asked (‘It’s probably not probable, though’).”

The guitarist also reflected on Rainbow and the fact that 26 musicians in total passed through the band. The reasons for that, he says, are:

“I’ve been told it’s because I don’t pay anybody. I don’t see why that should make a difference. If you’re into music, you should do it for nothing. In fact, that’s the way the music business is going, isn’t it? I thought artists were expected to play for nothing.”

This news story was originally published here: https://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/ritchie-blackmore-about-deep-purple-reunion/
RITCHIE BLACKMORE Would Reunite with DEEP PURPLE if Asked

Ritchie Blackmore recently did an interview with the Guardian, where he says that he would reunite with his formed band Deep Purple.

The post reads:

“He ‘bears no malice’ to Deep Purple now, and would play with them again if he were asked (‘It’s probably not probable, though’).”

The guitarist also reflected on Rainbow and the fact that 26 musicians in total passed through the band. The reasons for that, he says, are:

“I’ve been told it’s because I don’t pay anybody. I don’t see why that should make a difference. If you’re into music, you should do it for nothing. In fact, that’s the way the music business is going, isn’t it? I thought artists were expected to play for nothing.”

This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/20-best-japanese-prog-bands/
Best Japanese Prog Bands

For many people out there Japan seems like a very strange country, especially when it comes to music. The relationship between Prog and the land of the rising sun, however, is very deep.

Japan has embraced Prog in its early years, and one of the earliest artists who successfully mixed prog with psychedelia and blues was Flower Travellin’ Band, formed in 1967. The group was active until 1973, and then again from 2007 to 2011, when vocalist Joe Yamanaka passed away.

Kenso, who released a few great albums during the ‘80s, are also very important for furthering the Japanese prog scene.

Below is a list of 20 prog bands from Japan that, in our opinion, are the best representatives of the genre today.

Happy Family

Formed in 1987 at Tokyo’s University of Meiji, instrumental quartet Happy Family describe their music as chamber jazz-rock driven by the fast and heavy rhythms of hard rock. Reference points include Magma, Univers Zero, and Henry Cow, but Happy Family stake out their own turf with their stunning, sometimes furious, intensity. Founding members Kenichi Morimoto (keyboards), Shigeru Makino (guitar), and Tatsuya Miyano (electric fretless bass) were joined by drummer Keiichi Nagase in 1990. This lineup issued several tapes before releasing Happy Family on the Cuneiform label in 1995.

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KBB

Progressive rock group KBB was formed in 1992. The members of the group are Akihisa Tsuboy (violin and guitar), Gregory Suzuki (keys and theremin), Toshimitsu Takahashi (keyboards), Dani (bass), and Shirou Sugano (drums). Their debut album, Lost and Found, was released in 2000. The band released four studio albums—the most recent being 2013’s Age of Pain.

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Tatsuya Yoshida

Without a doubt, Tatsuya Yoshida was one of the most important drummers on the Japanese scene in the final decades of the 20th century, having spearheaded at least a half dozen of that country’s most important groups. Perhaps best-known among these would be Ruins, an ironic band name coming from a land in which most aspects of antiquity have been preserved rather than destroyed. This group’s unique basic instrumentation of drums and bass was no less than a palace revolt against the established role of the rhythm section. Although he has said his main influence was European progressive rock drummer Christian Vander, Tatsuya was still usually heard in the traditional drummer’s ensemble role. Having long since stepped beyond that, he has had an interesting development creating his own solo music; becoming a one-man band in the process and using elements of everything from sheer noise to disco and pop. Other band collaborations of his include Korekyojinn, Akaten, Koenji Hyakkei, Ybo2, and Gerogerigegege. He has recorded prolifically in every context.

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Acid Mothers Temple

After performing with such bands as Toho Sara, Ohkami No Jikan, Musica Transonic, and Mainliner, Japanese guitarist Makoto Kawabata decided to continue his musical explorations by bringing together like-minded individuals to create trippy psychedelic freak-outs inspired by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Krautrock, and ’70s progressive hard rock. Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. (Underground Freak Out) were founded in 1996 as a “soul collective.” It’s not a commune in the full sense since the members don’t all live together, but it is based on communal values and has even been mistaken by some people for a religious cult. The group has put numerous studio albums under different monikers around Acid Mothers Temple.

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Kikagaku Moyo

Kikagaku Moyo (Japanese for “geometric patterns”) are a Tokyo-based psychedelic rock band whose sound incorporates elements of Krautrock, Indian ragas, and acid folk. They balance heavy, crushing jams with softer, more contemplative moments, recalling Japanese psych groups like Acid Mothers Temple and Ghost, as well as their predecessors such as Far East Family Band and the Flower Travellin’ Band. The group was founded during the summer of 2012 by drummer/vocalist Go Kurosawa and guitarist/vocalist Tomo Katsurada. Joined by bassist Kotsuguy, guitarist Daoud Popal, sitarist Ryu Kurosawa, and guest vocalist/theremin player Angie Gotopo, the group recorded its self-titled debut in 2013. Initially self-released digitally, the album was given a vinyl release by Greek label Cosmic Eye later in the year, followed by an American release by Captcha Records in 2014. The group released two more albums in 2014 (Mammatus Clouds and Forest of Lost Children), and became darlings of the international psychedelic scene, with appearances at Austin Psych Fest and L.A. Psych Fest, in addition to successful tours of America, the U.K., and Europe. In 2015, the group shared split 7″ singles with Moon Duo as well as Kinski and Acid Mothers Temple leader Makoto Kawabata. In 2016, the group’s fourth album, House in the Tall Grass, was released by Japanese label Guruguru Brain.

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Baraka

Baraka was formed in Tokyo in 1997 with three members, Shin (bass and vocals), Issei (guitar and vocals) and Max ( drums). The band defines their sound as “edge rock,” evolving around prog rock, jazz, funk, and blues. They create their own unique musical idiom in which an aggressive and thrilling presentation is combined with a freewheeling performance style made possible by the power trio setting.

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LITE

LITE are a four-piece instrumental rock band formed in Japan in 2003. The band are known for their thrilling and emotional compositions, progressive, edgy riffs and complex rhythms. Their explosive live show and tireless touring in the US, Europe and Asia along with worldwide album releases have brought acclaim from all quarters. The band have released three full length albums and several EPs including Illuminate (2010 recorded by John McEntire) and 2012′s Past Present Future which featured Caroline from Mice Parade and appearances at Fuji Rock Festival and SummerSonic. The band are widely regarded as one of the most exciting to emerge from Japan in the last decade.

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Minami Deutsch

Minami Deutsch was formed by Kyotaro Miula (guitar, vocals, synthesizer) in Tokyo in 2014. Their sound is influenced by both their love for Krautrock legends such as Can and Neu!, and the band members being self-professed “repetition freaks” who heavily listen to minimal techno. The music proceeds straightforwardly with the Motorik beat (Hammer beat), devised by Klaus Dinger (Kraftwerk, Neu!), as its central axis. Humorous, yet bizarre Japanese lyrics are whispered over a hard, cold beat that is maniacally repeated, creating a pleasant ambience of electronic pulses drifting in space. Sharp guitar tones reminiscent of Michael Karoli (Can) occasionally explode into fuzz distortion, on the verge of collapse.

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Rovo

Experimental instrumental rock band Rovo were formed in 1996 around the central creative duo of guitarist Yamamoto Seiichi, formerly of the Boredoms, and violinist Katsui Yuji, who via his background in numerous bands was also well acquainted with the Japanese underground music scene. Completing the lineup are drummers Yoshigaki Yasuhiro and Okabe Yoichi, bassist Jin Harada, and keyboard player Masuko Tatsuki. The initial impetus of the band came from Katsui‘s desire to incorporate some of the atmosphere of rave music into Japanese underground rock, and as a result, much of Rovo‘s music is built around psychedelic, dance music-influenced grooves, albeit with frequent diversions into jazz, funk, Afro-beat, dub, Latin music, progressive rock, and Krautrock. Neu! is a frequent point of comparison thanks to both bands’ propensity for minimalist grooves and repetitive, propulsive drums and percussion. Over the course of the band’s numerous original albums and live releases, Rovo have developed an instantly recognizable sound, thanks largely to Katsui‘s distinctive electric violin sound and the competing rhythmical textures of the two drummers/percussionists.

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OOIOO

Plenty of distinguishing characteristics separate OOIOO from the herd. First, you could mention the fluorescent body paint they wear on-stage. Or perhaps the demographics of their lineup: four Japanese women. Or their music, a furious amalgam of rhythmic guitars, patternless vocals, and energetic effects.

The frontwoman of the group is the irrepressible Yoshimi P-We, the talented and multifaceted percussionist from the Boredoms. In this incarnation, she sings and plays guitar, but not in the way John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, or even Kim Gordon would. Her role in the group is as the main energizer, the street light around which the other moth-like noises revolve, flutter, bump, and find themselves redirected in a million different ways. It’s next to impossible to describe “their sound,” because—by design—it rarely follows consistent patterns. Suffice to say they’re one of the most dynamic bands on the underground circuit—not in the way a mid-level purchasing director would be described as dynamic, but in the way a ballistic missile would. They’re bursting forth with excitement and vivacity in the way few humans, in few art forms, can. Plus, they’re fun with a capital PH.

Their self-titled debut album was released in the U.S. by Kill Rock Stars in 1998; their subsequent albums, Feather Float and Kila Kila Kila, were issued in the States by Birdman Records. Gold and Green was released domestically in the States by Thrill Jockey in 2005. Issued in 2006, Taiga, which means “big river” in Japanese and “forest” in Russian, was, aptly enough, inspired by nature. OOEYEOO, an album of remixes by Boredoms mastermind Eye, arrived in spring 2007. The same lineup that recorded TaigaYoshimi, guitarist Kayan, bassist Aya, and drummer Ai—regrouped for 2009′s Armonico Hewa, whose title was a mix of Spanish and Swahili words meaning “air in a harmonious state.” Their next studio outing would appear in 2014 with Gamel, an album loosely inspired by Javanese gamelan music.

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about tess

about tess is an instrumental band consisting of two drummers, two bassists and two guitarists. Their music has endlessly repeated riffs overlapped with palatable rhythms. They add a layer of improvisation over these riffs which will go from nothing but silence to thunderous roars of sound. The band’s live shows are not about “listening” or “watching” but rather “experiencing.” The most recent album, Shining, was released in 2014.

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Asturias

Asturias (also using names Asturias Multi-Track Style, Acoustic Asturias and Electric Asturias) was formed in 1987 by multi-instrumentalist Yoh Ohama. Heralded as “a Japanese answer to Mike Oldfield,” Asturias has released several studio and live recordings in different settings (acoustic, electric and multi-track).

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Show-Yen

Show-Yen was formed in 1998, initially consisting of Yasuhiro Nishio (guitars), Naoki Itoi (drums) and Y.H. (bass). As with many bands, it has taken them some time to attain a stable line up. Y. H. left in 2000, initially replaced by K. Y. (bass). Show-Yen appears to first and foremost be a live unit, hitting the stage on regular occasions each year. They have had the chance to release material along the way too. Musea Records issued their self-titled, initial production in 2003 and their second disc II in 2005. The latter was also released in a Japanese version by Poseidon Records the same year. In 2014, they released their third album, III, on JaProg label.

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Tricot

Tricot is an experimental rock trio formed in historical and cultural city of Kyoto 2010. The band consists of three female founding members, Ikkyu Nakajima (vocals / guitar), Motoko “Motifour” Kida (guitar / backing vocals), and Hiromi “Hirohiro” Sagane (bass / backing vocals). The band releases music via their own label, Bakuretsu Records.

Tricot develops a very unique world with perfectly mixed elements of pure, fragile but strong vocals and unpredictable song transition. The band’s experimental music primarily consists of melodic post-rock-inspired sounds and complex rhythm reminiscent of math rock. The trio’s most recent release is this year’s full-length album titled 3.

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Ars Nova

Influenced by ELP and 1970s Italian progressive groups such as Goblin and Il Balletto di Bronzo, Ars Nova was formed in 1983 by keyboardist and composer Kyoko Kanazawa (bass), Yumiko Saito (drums), and Keiko Tsubata (keyboard), who met at a university in Tokyo. In 1985, Tsubata left and was replaced by Keiko Kumagai. Kumagai left to get married not long after, and the band broke up.

Reforming in the early ’90s at the instigation of Made in Japan producer, Numero Ueno, the all-female group produced Fear and Anxiety in 1992, which was acclaimed for its strong classical sound. After Saito left, Akiko Takahashi (drums, violin) joined the group in time for Transi, which was released in 1994 and sold reasonably well in Europe and Japan. The Goddess of Darkness followed in 1996. 1998 saw the release of Reu Nu Pert Em Hru, which was based on the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Without a bassist for the album, Ken Ishita was featured as a guest. Mika Nakajima made the group a trio again in 1999, playing keyboards and violin in addition to performing as vocalist. She appeared on the group’s album with Gerard (1999), Keyboard Triangle, a tribute album to progressive rock. The group’s next album, Android Domina, was released in 2001. By that point, Ars Nova were among the most respected groups in their field. The most recent record of the band is 2009’s Seventh Hell.

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Toe

Bearing no relation to the short-lived Chicago-based group of the same name, Toe are a primarily instrumental rock quartet consisting of guitarists Mino Takaaki and Yamazaki Hirokazu, drummer Kashikura Takashi, and bassist Yamane Satoshi. Often categorized as post-rock or math rock, their free-flowing, highly melodic songs feature splashy yet tightly controlled drumming and dynamic guitar interplay, as well as occasional electronic elements and additional instruments such as vibraphone and Rhodes piano. Rather than having an expansive, cinematic, crescendo-heavy style similar to bands like Explosions in the Sky, Toe have more of an angular, guitar-driven sound reminiscent of bands such as Ghosts and Vodka and Euphone. Restless live performers, Toe have toured at home and abroad with bands such as the Album Leaf, Mogwai, and Envy, in addition to notable appearances at festivals such as Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival. Their latest studio album is 2015’s Hear You.

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Envy

Since forming in the early ’90s, Envy have become one of Japan’s premier exports to the international post-hardcore scene. Their experimental, cinematic approach to heavy melodic rock has made them a favorite of post-rock and alternative metal fans, and their intense, emotionally direct vocals and lyrics have won them accolades in the emo/screamo worlds as well. Envy have toured with Mogwai, Isis, and Explosions in the Sky, and have released split EPs with Jesu, Thursday, and Yaphet Kotto. The group’s lineup has generally consisted of members Tetsuya Fukagawa (vocals/programming), Nobukata Kawai (guitar), Manabu Nakagawa (bass), Masahiro Tobita (guitar), and Dairoku Seki (drums), although other members played drums on the group’s earliest recordings. The group’s sixth album, Atheist’s Cornea, was released in 2015.

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Yuukai Kenchiku

Yuukai Kenchiku were founded in 2009 as a promising symphonic “multi-dimensional” rock quintet by five Zeuhl followers—Nami Adachi (flute), Hidehito Tamba (guitar), Shintaro Kanda (bass), Kei Akita (drums), and Takenobu “Hassan” Takahashi (keyboards)—in Kyoto, Japan. With a light music club in Kyoto Univ., where Takenobu and Kei have belonged to, as a starting commune, they have played not with getting tied to traditional rock but with strong intention for flexibility of soundscape, gigged basically around Kyoto, Osaka or Kobe. In 2014, a new flutist, Raku Sakamoto, joined the band. Yuukain Kenchiku released six studio albums to date—the most recent recording is this year’s three-track Seibou.

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Ling Tosite Sigure

Japanese indie rockers Ling Tosite Sigure (or “Rin Toshite Shigure” in the more commonly used Hepburn transliteration) play elaborate post-hardcore with alt-prog influences, showing a remarkable ability to mix tempo changes and emo screams by the two vocalists (male and female) with good melodies and strong emotional messages, and scoring on the Oricon charts despite their complex songwriting. The band was formed in Saitama in 2002 by guitarist/vocalist TK (Toru Kitajima), a buddy of Art-School‘s Masafumi Todaka, and bassist/vocalist Miyoko Nakamura, who went by the moniker 345; the drummer Pierre Nakano (real name Masatoshi Nakano) joined some time later, allowing Ling Tosite Sigure to start playing live. The group had four demos—#1, #2, #3, and Tosite—out in 2003-2004, and in 2005 released the debut album #4 on their own label, Nakano Records, promoting it with a nationwide tour, the first of many. The EP Feeling Your UFO came the next year, and the second album Inspiration Is Dead followed in 2007, when Ling Tosite Sigure also played the Countdown festival. LTS’ latest, fifth album I’mperfect was released in 2013.

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Mono

Japanese experimental group Mono came together in 2000, choosing to forgo vocals and concentrate instead on atmospheric, classical-inspired rock music. The foursome, bassist Tamaki (the lone female in the group), drummer Yasunori Takada, and guitarists Takaakira “Taka” Goto and Yoda, released their first full-length record, Under the Pipal Tree, in 2001 on John Zorn‘s Tzadik label. In 2003, after switching to Arena Rock Recording Company, Mono issued One Step More and You Die, a remix version of which came out the following year as New York Soundtracks. That same year their fourth album, Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined, recorded in Chicago with producer Steve Albini, was released on Temporary Residence. Albini also performed the same duties on Mono‘s April 2006 record, You Are There, and in September the band issued Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain, a mix between classical and rock that also featured a collaboration with World’s End Girlfriend, among others. Mono’s tenth studio album Requiem for Hell was released in 2016.

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