This news story was originally published here:

For all the great bands of Norway and Sweden, I often think it’s a shame that neighbouring Finland seems to miss out on similar acclaim. If anything, I find many of the Finns make far more eclectic and experimental sounds, and draw from quite different inspirations. Bands from Norway and Sweden invariably sound Western, but Finland often has as much of an Eastern sound. Onségen Ensemble definitely seem to incorporate a little of both, but even when comparing to bands from the West, they are all over the musical map. Morricone and Magma meet Tool and Tusmørke in a psychedelic indulgence of Eastern mysticism. It’s trippy space rock that is less Komische than Khanate or Carnatic. The band present and perform a series of epic and mystical enigmas. It’s best not to dwell too much on what you’re listening to and just ride the wave where it takes you.

Apparently this is the third album from the ever-changing Ensemble, and if the previous two are as high a quality as Fear, then they will be well worth checking out. I’ve definitely made a mental note to do so, when I have a chance. (I’m not sure when that will be, as I’m still working my way through a long list of releases from this year I still want to hear, let alone diving into the past.) The most odd thing about this release, though, is not the music but why the album is titled Fear. Of all the emotions I might feel when listening to this album, fear is not one. Even when the music evokes striding forth into the unknown, it is with confidence and swagger. There is no fear.

What really makes this album special for me comes in just after a minute-and-a-half. Until this point, the rich rumble of stoner goodness is quite lovely but when a trumpet cuts through the atmosphere, I was initially dumbstruck. It’s an instrument I never expected to hear, and by crikey, it sounds good! Every appearance of the instrument on this album adds so much to the tone and texture of what are already amazing soundscapes. The choral chanting is another masterpiece, and perfectly placed in the mix. In fact, the mix is absolutely wonderful, with everything exactly where it needs to be, so that the focal point is where the band wants at any one time. It makes the music a pleasure to listen to, time and time again. The seven-odd minutes of opening number Non-Returner are over in what seems no time at all. I had to check that I had read correctly, and that the track was indeed seven-and-a-half minutes long. As I said, this is music to be swept away by, and time and space are exposed for the wibbly, wobbly concepts they are. They have no meaning here.

Generally speaking, vocals (other than wordless vocalisations) are sparse on Fear, the only lyrics to the following track, Stellar, are an incomplete quotation from The Gateless Gate, a well-known collection of teaching stories. They are delivered in a potent and powerful fashion, and provide moments of heightened intensity. About three minutes before the song ends is a passage so exultant, I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to listen to this without movement of some part of my body to the insistent rhythm. And, of course, that trumpet. The track has been building to this throughout, and it’s just wonderful when it comes. Stellar climaxes with one more refrain of the sole lyric, before slipping quietly out to the same ambient folk sounds that introduced it.

Over the length of the seven compositions on Fear (the shortest is just over five minutes), my mind never wanders. Or, at least, it wanders where the music takes me, because the mind is encouraged to wander, but I never lose focus, nor interest. Not that I’ve ever had one, but the closest analogy I can draw is to an out-of-body experience – at least as I’ve read it feels like – where you remain attached and aware of where your body is, but outside it. The music has a hypnotic effect, so that no matter how repetitive much of the music is, it draws in, rather than pushes away. There is no room, nor time, for boredom. The kaleidoscopic effect of the brass, choir and some truly nifty percussion, that is liberally added to the mix only further draws me in. When Earthless segues into the title track, it’s through such percussion.

And Fear. Fear. What can I say about Fear? The title track is so startlingly good, I’m not sure anything I can say can reflect how enjoyable it is. It reminds me a little of the music of Indukti, a Polish band who like Onségen Ensemble are mostly instrumental, and inspired by the sounds of both the West and the East. And I absolutely love Indukti, so that comparison from me is high praise indeed. I’m wary of drawing inferences, or attempting to guess what the underlying concept of the album. The particular Zen couplet used in Stellar is warning enough, as it is a caution not to think one’s own insight exceeds another. And yet, I can’t help but think this is an album about death, and a celebration of life in defiance of death. Hence Fear, and why I can hear no fear within Fear. Fear of death is probably a common fear, and yet you cannot fear death, when you celebrate life. Perhaps I am predisposed to think this way, because I have recently been enjoying Astrolabe’s Death: An Ode to Life. Perhaps I am hearing something that isn’t there. And yet….?

Regardless of what Fear as an album is about, Fear the song is a centrepiece of some distinction. I love every song on this album, and Fear rises high above them all. You might then think, after such heights, I might be disappointed by what follows. Far from it. Very cleverly, Onségen Ensemble do not attempt to compete with Fear, and provide a distinctly different sound for Sparrow’s Song, which for the first half is sparse, expansive and minimalist. As light and fragile as a sparrow, I guess. It makes for a great surprise when the piece picks up pace in the second half, and introduces new instrumentation and vocalisations. It’s another track that ends too soon for me, and I wish the Sparrow could sing for me a little longer. I can’t help but think that the use of a sparrow only further adds to my theory of the concept of the album, given it is widely believed to be a harbinger of death.

The Sparrow’s Song, while not particularly jaunty, is positively spritely and chirpy compared to the Lament of Man that follows it. This track is the closest the album comes to representing fear, but even here it doesn’t seem present so much as a dour (dare I say funereal) acceptance of something inevitable. Sure enough, Google translates the sole lyrics as something along the lines of “I look at the fire – the inevitable judgment”. I don’t really know the Bible, as I’ve never been a believer, but I’m pretty sure there’s something about God’s final judgement involving literal and symbolic fire. That said, those lyrics do not appear in the first part of the Lament that sounds like a lament, but in the ensuing chaos that the track descends into. It sounds more like someone fighting their judgment, rather than awaiting it. It’s no longer a lament, but a labour; no longer a cry, but a confrontation, and by the climax, a celebration. There is no doubting the jubilant nature of the closing minutes.

When I write my reviews, I tend to do so as a stream of consciousness on my first listen. I put those notes to one side, and pretend they don’t exist, and I listen again without doing anything but listening, I’ll do that time and time again, without worrying about writing a review, and listening to all manner of other things (including other albums I’m reviewing), until such time comes that I’m listening and realise I’m ready to write. I’ll listen from the start again, and write more notes. Then I’ll go back to my first notes, and see what I can piece together from these two experiences (one when the album is totally novel, and one when I know it well). Why am I telling you this? Because in this instance, I decided I didn’t care for my newer observations, and that my initial thoughts were those most pertinent.

I came to that realisation when recalling the jolt I felt when I first came to the final track, Satyagrahi. Reading the lyrics as I was listening to them being sung, I realised my gut feeling had been roughly accurate. The key lyrics for me were the couplet “The only way to have peace is to live it” (which is fairly self-explanatory), and “The only way to have an unarmed world is to live unarmed”, which seems to hark back to the caution from Zen Buddhism in Stellar. Ultimately, we are all Non-Returners. It’s up to us to either fear that inevitable outcome, or have peace by celebrating living. Even if this year life hasn’t felt much worth celebrating, it’s worth remembering that being alive is better than the alternative. And Fear is a life-affirming album that’s well worth listening to.

01. Non-Returner (7:34)
02. Stellar (8:57)
03. Earthless (5:18)
04. Fear (7:24)
05. Sparrow’s Song (5:05)
06. Lament of Man (8:45)
07. Satyagrahi (6:17)

Total Time – 49:20

Pasi Anttila
Heikki Häkkilä
Esa Juujärvi
Merja Järvelin
Sami Lehtiniemi
Samuli Lindberg
Joni Mäkelä
Niina Susan Sassali
Mikko Vuorela

*Onségen Ensemble has a revolving cast, responsible for all sounds you hear on Fear and listed above.

Record Label: Svart Records
Country of Origin: Finland
Date of Release: 20th November 2020

Onségen Ensemble – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube

This news story was originally published here:

After the worst year in living memory, here we are back in lockdown and holidays are becoming a dim and distant memory. While there is no imminent prospect of foreign travel (5 miles is frowned upon in some quarters!) Steve Hackett’s new album Under A Mediterranean Sky is the perfect antidote to brighten your day and whet the appetite for better times to come.

With this album Steve Hackett, Genesis’s guitarist through their classic period in the 1970s, paints such wonderful and vivid images of the wide and varied cultures and landscapes of the Mediterranean region, one has the feeling of being on a whistle-stop cruise!

“I think you’re right,” Steve agreed when we spoke recently, “and, because we can’t really travel substantially and safely at the moment, I hope this album will take people on that journey. It’s the quickest way to travel, in the mind, and it celebrates the Mediterranean which is just a beautiful area. Whether you sit down and listen to it or whether you drift off with a glass of wine…”

That would be very easy, me thinks.

“Well, I think it goes with that, really,” he laughs. “I’m very happy to do that! This sort of music, whenever we have friends round, always seems to go down well as a background to things. You don’t have to play it at vast quantities of volume, it works when it’s gentle.

“The Mediterranean is special because it connects lots of disparate cultures from the Europeans to the Arabic. We’ve had lots of extraordinary visits and it gave me a chance to look at classical roots of music and the flamenco aspect of ethnic music.”

Steve Hackett photo Geoff Ford

Following his departure from Genesis in 1978, Steve released a string of critically acclaimed albums. While most of his albums fall into the rock category, Under A Mediterranean Sky is Steve’s sixth classical/acoustic guitar album and his first acoustic outing since Tribute in 2008. It is a project Steve has had in mind for a while but, when his American tour was cut short last March by the accelerating global pandemic, he returned home without his electric guitars. They arrived later and were quarantined, leaving Steve at home with just his nylon-stringed acoustic guitar.

“I fell in love with the sound of nylon guitar from the first note that I heard Segovia play,” Steve says. “It is a completely different sound and, within the compass of what the nylon string guitar can do, there are a lot of different tones. You can do the full-on attack, the kind of salvos that you expect from the flamenco players but it can also be very gentle, gentle as a harp, and it conjures a number of different tones. It’s shades of black and white but, if you love it, that’s what it does for you. The idea that all that was even possible on one guitar seemed like a miracle.”

As he explains, the first lockdown was just the opportunity Steve needed to focus on the new acoustic project. “It made me concentrate solely on that for some time. I’d been putting in long hours, as I have over the course of a lifetime. It’s a mixture of thrill and frustration in equal measure as you always want to make it better and you’re dealing with your own limitations. Sometimes those limitations give way to surprising results. I didn’t rely entirely on technique and speed but it’s fairly nippy in places, so it’s not all laconic.

“When I first tried doing acoustic albums, like Bay Of Kings, I was thinking of music to accompany siestas, all the pieces were pretty slow. The last acoustic album I did was called Tribute, a tribute to lots of different composers, and I really had to work hard to be able to play those pieces. But, working with the speed of some of those pieces, I thought ‘Come on, now’, I had to make sure that speed must not be a limitation, I had to think like a composer. The great thing about classical composers is that great technique and speed is a foregone conclusion. They were my influences, if I could play it like a virtuoso then it gave a lot more possibilities. You could lay into it and gild it with speed but if you use enough chords it’s not just one more solo after another. There has to be a reason for it, to give it shape.

“Those records inch their way forward, bit by bit, and technique builds up, the imagination takes over and, over the years, it erodes the internal invalidator, thinking that ‘I can’t do that, I’ll never be able to play that well.’ When you work at it, bit by bit, despite yourself, I found that it led to areas that I’d previously rejected.

“When I started out I was a plectrum player on steel strings and I thought ‘The only way to do this is with two fingers, thumb and forefinger,’ and then, reluctantly, all the others come into use, even if it’s just to pick out chords. So many people have been my guitar teacher over the years. I’d be watching somebody on a street corner doing something, ‘That’s a good sound, that’s good.’ I never needed to have a guru, I just always picked up things that I saw other people do.”

Our journey around the Med begins on the island of Malta, in Mdina – The Walled City. It’s imposing strength is portrayed by Roger King’s dramatic orchestration while Steve’s guitar weaves through the atmospheric streets describing the creativity, love and strength that held Malta together between all the waves of conflict.

With Steve’s delicate guitar work, Adriatic Blue paints an enchanting view of stunning scenery as tall cliffs of forested mountains plunge into the deep blue sea along the Croatian coastline. Sirocco is altogether more atmospheric, inspired by the winds playing through the imposing structures of Egypt.

The lively Joie de Vivre expresses the unique sense of joy the French have through their wine, food and folk music, with paintings reflecting family gatherings, spectacular vistas and the vibrant colours of their cities. The art of dreaming is embodied in their sensual love of life.

“At first hand, I’ve marvelled at the mystical whirling Dervishes,” says Steve.  Along with otherworldly beings such as the Djin (Genie) they sprang from Persia’s dreaming past. The Dervish and The Djin captures the extraordinary atmosphere of this most exotic of civilisations with the help of (Steve’s touring band regular) Rob Townsend’s soprano sax, the tar of Malik Mansurov (from Azerbaijan) and Armenian Arsen Petrosyan’s duduk. “Of course, those countries are virtually at war with each other,” he adds, “and there has been something like a thousand casualties (at the time of speaking) on both sides. Again, it’s a case of music being able to do things that politicians fail to do, to do something constructive.”

The Memory of Myth embodies the deep and rich history of Greece and features the violin of Christine Townsend (no relation to Rob) while Lorato – ‘love’ in the language of the African Tswana tribe – is a pretty folk tune.  Love is the force that heals and links all disparate peoples of the Mediterranean.

Steve and his wife Jo were enchanted by the little Faun statue in the House of the Faun, Pompeii. “The villas there seemed to come back to life as we walked through those wonderful atriums and gardens,” inspiring Casa del Fauno and featuring the light and airy flute of Steve’s brother John.

The only non-original piece is Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata. This embodies the Baroque music of Italy, a sensitive interpretation embellished with cross-string trills, a technique introduced to Steve by the fine classical guitarist, the late Theo Cheng.

Steve also expresses his admiration for the flamenco guitarists of Andalusia who are celebrated on Andalusian Heart. “One of the flamenco guitarists was showing me the extraordinary things they are able to do,” he explains. “Seeing the gypsies playing and dancing in caves there, you get the feeling that these people are dancing for their lives. I think that they are the best players in the world, the flamenco players.

”There’s a couple of videos with the album,” Steve adds. “Some of it was shot while we were away, they’re very much travelogues, in a way. It’s a chance to celebrate those things on film. It’s a mixture of things Jo shot – we originally met when she wanted me to do some film music for her. And then Paul Gosling has put stuff together as well. It’s interesting the way those videos have come out, really nice.”

Our journey comes to an end with The Call of the Sea, a gentle and peaceful reflection of the vast body of water that unites these many civilisations, both ancient and modern.

“I had a great time doing this album,” Steve reflects, “seeing it take shape, and I’m very pleased with the outcome and very proud of it. When I work on rock stuff, I often wish I could get that degree of subtlety into it.”

01. Mdina (The Walled City) (8:45)
02. Adriatic Blue (4:51)
03. Sirocco (5:13)
04. Joie de Vivre (3:42)
05. The Memory of Myth (3:29)
06. Scarlatti Sonata (3:40)
07. Casa del Fauno (3:51)
08. The Dervish and The Djin (4:57)
09. Lorato (2:29)
10. Andalusian Heart (5:34)
11. The Call of the Sea (4:44)

Total Time – 51:15

Steve Hackett – Nylon, Steel & 12-string Guitars, Charango, Iraqi Oud
Roger King – Keyboards, Programming, Orchestral Arrangements
John Hackett – Flute (track 7)
Malik Mansurov – Tar (tracks 3 & 8)
Arsen Petrosyan – Duduk (track 8)
Christine Townsend – Violin (tracks 8 & 11)
Rob Townsend – Soprano Sax (track 8)

Record Label: InsideOut Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Formats: Limited CD Digipak | Gatefold 2LP + CD + LP-booklet | Digital
Date of Release: 22nd January 2021

Steve Hackett – Website | Facebook | Twitter


Welcome to From the Attic 12, the latest in Brian’s continuing battle to get Graham Harfleet to number his podcasts. In this week’s episode you’ll SWOON, as we play Solaris by Ronny Stilts and the King Flower Band, GASP as we we tackle a Giant Hogweed. And in the end remember, as if you even needed to be told, that The All Is One.

This news story was originally published here:

Whoa! I can’t believe I’ve gone all this time without being aware of the wonder of Russian band The Grand Astoria, a band that has put out a dizzying array of singles, EPs and albums since 2009, with their own unique take on many different musical sounds and styles – even a song sung in Kobaïan, and a series of (literally) solo pieces inspired by Roscoe Mitchell. The band seems to have a revolving carousel of members, with the only constant being the musical mastermind Kamille Sharapodinov. The only other long-standing members I can discern are Igor Suvorov and Danila Danilov. Of particular interest to some, I’m sure, will be the presence of Gleb Kolyadin (of iamthemorning) on this release. I would love to get inside Kamille’s mind and see what makes it tick, but in the meantime, listening to The Grand Astoria will do very nicely. I’m slowly working my way through their discography, after being introduced to the band by From the Great Beyond.

So what do The Grand Astoria sound like? Well, based on what I’ve listened to so far, there’s very little consistency in their sound at all – and that is no criticism. Indeed, to the contrary, I love not knowing what to expect next from the band. There’s not yet been an unpleasant surprise. I guess you could call the band psychedelic, as psychedelia does seem to pervade the great majority of their work – but very rarely in the same guise. The journeys may be similar, but every trip is different. From The Great Beyond was potentially a good starting point for me as it definitely eased me into their world of weirdness.

The opening title track welcomed me to their home, and continues to do so. It’s almost a spacey prog version of Violent Femmes, with its vocal and percussive acrobatics and sparse minimal feel. The clean sound disappears in a wave of fuzz as Wasteland follows. The percussion is heavier and darker, the chanting hypnotic and shamanic. Waves of Tangerine and Pink float over the rhythmic barrage, and now there’s the galloping riffy intro to Njanatiloka, like a psychedelic Iron Maiden, before erupting into something more like Black Sabbath, and that’s just the beginning. It jumps all over the place over its ten or so minutes and is easily my favourite track here. However, while I’m mentioning names, realistically The Grand Astoria doesn’t really sound like any of these. It’s just an attempt to show how nimbly the band leaps from one sound to another. So let’s add some more. How about Queen and Chrome Hoof?

Like many Russian bands I’ve encountered, The Grand Astoria seem to draw influences from the East as much as the West, which only adds to the eclecticism of their sound. I am kind of reminded of Faith No More or System Of A Down, not in sound, more in the way that the band so fluidly experiments with sound impulsively and indulgently, without it ever sounding overwrought or overindulgent. The way that they translate their experimental tendencies into something quite melodic, and verging upon mainstream despite very definitely coming from the fringes. The way that they subvert their instrumentation and approach their music from unexpected directions. Interestingly, I tend to be mentioning names that are not normally the ones that might come to mind as prog (though if you think they’re not progressive, I’m not sure what you’re hearing).

By the time Anyhow hits with its unlikely jazz-cum-bluegrass fusion, if you’re not ready to expect the unexpected and expect to enjoy it, then The Grand Astoria is not the band for you. Again, I have to reiterate how well they play with the various styles, so no matter how disparate they might seem, they never feel disjointed. The Grand Astoria takes their listeners on a series of ambitious adventures to the Great Beyond, but for sure always returns them and welcomes them back home. The band manages to pack a lot of punch into any track, no matter the length, and not one of the longer tracks ever feels too long. This is perhaps unsurprising when you consider the wonderful The Mighty Few album which comprised only two tracks in its fifty minute duration – both of which are incredible in their pacing and structure, revealing many intricacies and leaving no room for attention to wander.

The track lengths may be considerably shorter on From The Great Beyond (it is an EP, after all), but the multitude of ever-changing sounds and textures are still present – and still not one ever feels extraneous or forced. Listening to The Grand Astoria from their beginnings really reveals how far the band has travelled to reach this point. While I don’t think I could ever call them a stereotypical stoner band, their debut does reveal the band started out closer to those desert (or perhaps tundra) horizons. But the depth and breadth they have traversed since is quite astounding. A lot of the heavier moments still lean towards doom (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but some of their composition is almost classical in nature, and this interplays with improvisation (or, at least, a lot of the music sounds joyfully spontaneous). They flirt with jazz, blues and funk, the only constant is the psychedelia – which, as I pointed out earlier, does not present itself in the same way, meaning even the only constant is not particularly constant.

It’s possibly worth stating that while the band call From The Great Beyond an EP (because they believe it not long enough to call an album, in the context of their discography), their label (Addicted/No Name), considers it a full length album. Personally, I don’t really care, so long as the music is good, and damn, this is good music. The only difference it would really make to me at this point of the year is that as much as I love it, I might struggle to find room for it in my list of favourite albums of 2020. However, if I call it an EP, it’s a sure fire contender for the top spot. Whatever you want to call it, this is a fantastic release that is worthy of your attention. It almost passed me by – don’t let it pass you by!

01. From The Great Beyond (5:14)
02. Wasteland (2:51)
03. Njanatiloka (10:18)
04. Us Against The World (8:31)
05. Anyhow (4:23)
06. Ten Years Anniversary (1:49)

Total Time – 33:06

Kamille Sharapodinov – Guitars, Vocals, Percussion
Danila Danilov – Vocals, Percussion, Keyboards (track 2)
Alexander Vorontsov – Bass
Konstantin Smirnov – Drums
~ with:
Gleb Kolyadin – Keyboards (tracks 1,3,4 & 5)
Igor Suvorov – Lead Guitar (track 3)
Kirill Ildyukov – Lead Guitar (track 4)
Denis Kirillov – Flute (tracks 3 & 5)
Boris Shulman – Banjo (track 5), Backing Vocals (tracks 1 & 5)

Record Label: Addicted/No Name
Country of Origin: Russia
Date of Release: 30th November 2020

The Grand Astoria – Facebook | Bandcamp

Edition 244 of THE PROG MILL for Progzilla Radio (464 in total), first broadcast 17 January 2021, is now also available to stream on demand or download. Two hours of fantastic melodic and symphonic progressive rock.

Also this week.. Andrew Halley from The Progressive Aspect reviews the latest album by The Flower Kings, and (if listening in time) you can win a great Polish prog rock double CD. (Competition closes midnight UK Tues 19 Jan).


1 Rain – Devils Will Reign (Singularity)
2 Argus – Depressed (The Outsider)
3 The Ryszard Kramarski Project – First Spirit (Mr Scrooge)
4 Kosmos – Ajan Peili (Ajan Peili)
5 Pierpaolo Bibbo – Ritratto D’Inverno (Razza Umana)
6 The Flower Kings – Solaris (Islands)
7 Omega – Gammapolis II (Gammapolis)
8 Friendship Time – Anonymiteten (Friendship Time)
9 Checking for Echo – The Distant Sunrise (Life & Other Short Stories)
10 Tim Morse – Voyager (The Archaeology Project)
11 The Mastelotto’s – Elephant Talk (A Romantic’s Guide to King Crimson)
12 Nick Bensen – Vegetable Man (Love You – A Tribute to Syd Barrett)
13 Bo Hansson – Black Riders/Flight to the Ford (Music Inspired by the Lord of the Rings)

You can hear The Prog Mill on Progzilla Radio at these times every week ( – via the tune in and other internet radio apps and platforms – or ask your smart speaker to “Play Radio Progzilla on Tune-In”)

Sundays 10pm – Midnight UK (2200UTC) – main broadcast
Tuesdays 0300-0500 UK (0300UTC) – For North America – Mon 7pm Pacific/10pm Eastern
Tuesdays 2300-0100UK (2300 UTC) – 1500 Pacific/1800 Eastern
Saturdays 6-8pm UK (1800 UTC) – Family friendly Saturday evening repeat

Plus: A podcast of the show which you can stream anytime or download as a mp3 file is normally online by Monday evening each week, with links here and at

Your melodic and symphonic progressive rock music suggestions for the show are very welcome. Just email, or message via twitter @shaunontheair or

This news story was originally published here:

Lyrically, and musically, the award-winning Dutch artist lays her soul bare with the most evocative record of her career – captivating song-stories told with acoustic guitars, strings, horns, percussion, and Anneke’s hypnotic vocal harmonies

Anneke van Giersbergen announced the release of her new solo album ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ last year. Today sees the release of the second single and video of said album, called “Hurricane”.

Anneke comments on the single as follows: “For the new album I wrote a lot of songs filled with messages of love and heartache, but I also went on a more propulsive journey, with darker storytelling. The percussive opening groove of ‘Hurricane’ is maintained until a slightly ominous middle section. The track closes with heavy drums and a glorious trumpet solo.

You can watch the video here: 

‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ is available for pre-order. The album will be available as eco-friendly CD Digipak (plastic-free), as 180g Gatefold LP (incl. the album on CD) & as digital album. It will be released on February 26th, 2021.

Click here to pre-order the album:

“The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest” – Tracklist:
01. Agape
02. Hurricane
03. My Promise
04. I Saw A Car
05. The Soul Knows
06. The End
07. Keep It Simple
08. Lo And Behold
09. Losing You
10. Survive
11. Love You Like I Love You

The album’s title, ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’, refers to the idea that, when facing personal challenges, we are forced to find answers to life’s biggest questions. But, at this point in her near-three-decade-long music career, this solo album – and, crucially, the heartbreak that inspired it – was not something Anneke van Giersbergen ever anticipated writing.

In 2018, Anneke began working on new material for her metal band, VUUR. Although their debut album, ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’, was met with a mixed reception, fans were warming up to their heavy, progressive sound. Therefore, a rapid follow-up album would surely establish Anneke’s return to fronting a metal band. However, behind the scenes, these were troubled times.

Anneke shares, ”My belief in VUUR saw me spend all my savings on recording VUUR’s debut album and taking the band on the road. After completing our first touring cycle, I realized that more VUUR would mean yet more, huge financial risks.

To make matters worse, in 2018, her long-lasting marriage, which had always been wonderful, unexpectedly saw a storm approaching. Anneke adds, “I instantly knew I needed to write music about fixing my life. This creative endeavour would be far too personal for a VUUR album. And it would also require solitude.

With just her acoustic guitar and basic recording gear, Anneke retreated to a small house near the woods, just outside her hometown of Eindhoven. She let go of the pressures of what VUUR’s future might be, and fell into the meditative process of writing a solo album. In 2019, work continued on the new songs. In 2020, Anneke asked her friend and producer, Gijs Coolen, to help finish the album.

Throughout the completion of the album, Anneke’s fragile, acoustic song-stories were fused together with an alchemy of panoramic strings, horns, and percussion. The resulting 11-track record has all the intimacy of Anneke serenading an audience of one, combined with surprising departures into swampier, foot-stomping grooves.

The Japanese art of kintsugi has inspired Anneke to use a repaired heart as the album’s symbol. Kintsugi teaches that bringing together the pieces of a broken object – with the use of a precious metal – adds value and uniqueness to it. And, instead of giving up on their marriage, Anneke and her husband decided to take the time to mend their bond. They now cherish the repaired heartbreak as something profoundly valuable. 

Their journey through this personal storm, and the album that Anneke created in the eye of it, proves that the darkest skies truly are the brightest. 

About Anneke van Giersbergen:

‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ is Anneke’s 23rd career album. It proves, once again, that the award-winning Dutch artist defies being pigeonholed by any genre. 

After thirteen years as the front woman for melancholic metallers, The Gathering, she struck out on her own in 2007. Since then, her creativity has known no bounds. Anneke quickly solidified a successful solo career (initially under the moniker Agua de Annique), and has recorded and performed with Canadian metal genius Devin Townsend multiple times. She has also lent her serene yet powerful voice to the likes of: Anathema, Icelandic folk group Árstíðir, Within Temptation, Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen, Amorphis, and prog legend John Wetton.

2012’s ‘Everything is Changing’ was something of a milestone in Anneke’s solo career. The album, which was the first to be released under her own name, received two Edison Award nominations – Holland’s most prestigious music prize – in the categories ‘Best Female Artist’ and ‘Best Album’.
In 2015, Anneke van Giersbergen and Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) released their collaborative album ‘The Diary’ under the name The Gentle Storm.
In October 2017, Anneke’s progressive metal outfit VUUR released their much-anticipated debut album. ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’ entered the Dutch Album Top 100 at number 2, Anneke’s highest-ever chart position.

Forever the unpredictable artist, in late 2018, Anneke released ‘Symphonized’, an 11-track live orchestral album. It was recorded at two career-spanning concerts alongside Residentie Orkest The Hague, and features rearrangements of songs from her entire back catalogue.
2019 saw Dutch music copyright organisation Buma Cultuur honor Anneke with the Buma ROCKS! Export Award. This is their award for the Most Successful Dutch Artist Abroad in Heavy Music.
In 2021, the release of her new solo album ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ will see Anneke surprise her fans all over again.


This news story was originally published here:

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – are pleased to announce their fifth studio album ‘The Absolute Universe’, set for release on the 5th February 2021. Representing the band’s first new music since 2014’s ‘Kaleidoscope’, with ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band have done something unique and created two versions of the record: ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’ & ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’.

Today they have launched the video for ‘Looking For The Light’, a track which features on both versions of ‘The Absolute Universe’. Watch it now here: 

Mike Portnoy comments: “Looking For The Light is one of the heavier tracks on The Absolute Universe. In the tradition of Transatlantic sharing all lead vocals, this track gave me my showcase to deliver the lead vocals as it called for a bit more of an aggressive approach. 
This is one of the few tracks that remains primarily the same and appears on both versions of the album. However not content to keep it simple, the version included on the music video is actually a unique version which combines both Looking For The Light and its Reprise from later in the album into one combined version available only here in this video.

Watch the previously released video for ‘The World We Used To Know’ here: 

Watch the previously released video for ‘Overture/Reaching For The Sky’ here:

Each album will be available on CD, LP & Digitally. But there will also be what has been called ‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’, which collects both versions together in one lavish package that includes 5LP’s, 3CD’s & a Blu-ray that includes a special mix that combines both versions into a third unique version in 5.1 surround sound with visuals and a behind the scenes documentary. All editions have artwork created by Thomas Ewerhard featuring the airship by Pavel Zhovba. 

As Mike Portnoy explains: “We’ve got two versions of this album. There is a two CD presentation, which is 90 minutes long, and a single one – that’s 60 minutes. However, the single CD is NOT merely an edited version of the double CD. They each contain alternate versions and even in some cases, new recordings. We wrote fresh lyrics and have different people singing on the single CD version tracks as compared to those on the double CD. Some of the song titles have also been changed, while others might remain the same, but compositionally what you’ll hear has been altered. You must appreciate that what we have done is unique. We revamped the songs to make the two versions different.” Pete Trewavas adds: “We did write some new music for the single CD, what’s more, there are also differences in the instruments used on some of the tracks across the two records.

The full list of formats is below, and you can pre-order now here:

The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’
Available as:
Single CD Edition, Gatefold 2LP+CD, or Digital Album

1. Overture
2. Reaching For The Sky
3. Higher Than The Morning
4. The Darkness In The Light
5. Take Now My Soul
6. Looking For The Light
7. Love Made A Way (Prelude)
8. Owl Howl
9. Solitude
10. Belong
11. Can You Feel It
12. Looking For The Light (Reprise)
13. The Greatest Story Never Ends
14. Love Made A Way

‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’
Available as:
2CD Edition, 3LP+2CD Boxset, or Digital Album

Disc 1:
1. Overture
2. Heart Like A Whirlwind
3. Higher Than The Morning
4. The Darkness In The Light
5. Swing High, Swing Low
6. Bully
7. Rainbow Sky
8. Looking For The Light
9. The World We Used To Know

Disc 2:
1. The Sun Comes Up Today
2. Love Made A Way (Prelude)
3. Owl Howl
4. Solitude
5. Belong
6. Lonesome Rebel
7. Looking For The Light (Reprise)
8. The Greatest Story Never Ends
9. Love Made A Way

‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’
Limited Deluxe Clear 5LP+3CD+Blu-Ray Box-set – contained within a foil-finished lift-off box with extended 16-page LP booklet & 60x60cm poster. Includes both versions of the album over 5LP’s and 3CD’s, plus a Blu-Ray with 5.1 mix & documentary. Watch the trailer for the box here: 

Blu-Ray Track-listing:
1. Overture (5.1 Surround Mix)
2. Reaching For The Sky (5.1 Surround Mix)
3. Higher Than The Morning (5.1 Surround Mix)
4. The Darkness In The Light (5.1 Surround Mix)
5. Take Now My Soul (5.1 Surround Mix)
6. Bully (5.1 Surround Mix)
7. Rainbow Sky (5.1 Surround Mix)
8. Looking For The Light (5.1 Surround Mix)
9. The World We Used To Know (5.1 Surround Mix)
10. The Sun Comes Up Today (5.1 Surround Mix)
11. Love Made A Way (Prelude) (5.1 Surround Mix)
12. Owl Howl (5.1 Surround Mix)
13. Solitude (5.1 Surround Mix)
14. Belong (5.1 Surround Mix)
15. Lonesome Rebel (5.1 Surround Mix)
16. Can You Feel It (5.1 Surround Mix)
17. Looking For The Light (Reprise) (5.1 Surround Mix)
18. The Greatest Story Never Ends (5.1 Surround Mix)
19. Love Made A Way (5.1 Surround Mix)
20. The Making of The Absolute Universe (Documentary)

Initial tracking began in September 2019 when the band met up in Sweden to write and arrange the new material. As Portnoy explains: “Over a period of 10-14 days, we mapped out the songs. Then we all went back to our home studios and did the recording. That’s the way we always do it. At one point, though, it was suggested that instead of doing what was by that time going to be a double album, we should just be content to do a single CD.”

What happened was that everything kept expanding and expanding,” recalls Stolt. “Therefore we decided it made sense to make it a double album. It was Pete and Neal who then came out and said they felt this would be too long, and we should reduce it to one…But we were already recording, and it didn’t seem feasible to cut it back. There were so many pieces that each of us loved in what we were planning and didn’t want to lose. That’s when we ended up in discussions over the best way forward.”

This album also marks a return to the concept album for Transatlantic. “Well, the idea of Transatlantic deciding to do a concept record this time around won’t shock anyone, right?” laughs Portnoy. “What we have is essentially one giant composition, split into chapters. The storyline is about the struggles facing everyone in society today.” “We didn’t start out with the idea of this being conceptual,” admits Stolt. “The way things work with us is that we have a load of ideas, and these are developed spontaneously when we meet up. Everything happens in the moment.

So, how does this new ground-breaking album compare to Transatlantic’s previous four albums?

I always try not to compare albums as much as possible,” insists Morse. “It’s very difficult when you’re trying to be creative, because your natural instinct is to constantly compare. But in order to create you have to kind of step away from that. Having said that, I would say this would have more in common with ‘The Whirlwind’ album (the band’s third, from 2009) than others that we’ve created.” 

For Trewavas, ‘The Absolute Universe’ is a momentous project.“I think it is right up there with the very finest albums we’ve done. As the others have said, it compares very well to ‘The Whirlwind’, which I believe represents Transatlantic at our best. As on that album, we took our time to write and arrange everything, and that shines through. I am very excited for people to hear it.

Transatlantic were originally formed in 1999, releasing their debut album ‘SMTPe’ the following year as well as its follow-up ‘Bridge Across Forever’ in 2001. Following a 7-year hiatus, the band reconvened to record and release the much-acclaimed epic 77-minute, single-track album ‘The Whirlwind’ followed by a world tour in 2010 which included an appearance at High Voltage Festival in London where they were joined by legendary Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. The band’s fourth album ‘Kaleidoscope’ arrived in 2014, going on to win ‘Album Of The Year’ at the Progressive Music Awards.


This news story was originally published here:

In this update we feature:

• Jaume De Viala – Sonoritat De Mil Miralls
• Danny Markovitch – Russian Dolls
• Zach Tabori – Ensemble [EP]
• Master Oogway – Earth And Other Worlds
• Alan Emslie – Y 20 21 [EP]
• Shirley King – Blues For A King

Jaume De Viala – Sonoritat De Mil Miralls
Roger Trenwith
Jaume De Viala – Sonoritat De Mil Miralls

Forty or so years ago, guitarist Jaume De Viala was a member of and main composer for Barcelona band Celobert Màgic,, whose music was described as “Catalan progressive ethno-fusion”, a bit of a wordwang, but pretty much on the nail. Reinventing the group’s music for the 21st century, De Viala has made a beguiling album that is infused with the spirit of Catalan music, but also incorporates elements of jazz and progressive rock, with subtlely complex arrangements where melody is king.

Featuring contributions from such luminaries as past and present MoonJunistas Dusan Jevtovic, Xavi Reja, and Vasil Hdzimanov, and a further supporting cast of highly skilled Barcelona musicians, including the delightful voice of Judit Cucala, Sonoritat De Mil Miralls may not be my usual spiky fare, in fact it’s a million miles from it, but I’m loving it!

Danny Markovitch – Russian Dolls
Kevan Furbank
Danny Markovitch – Russian Dolls

Sax player Markovitch is one half of Marbin, the US jazz-rock band that draws heavily on Israeli musical traditions and deserves the label ‘fusion’ more than most. Derived from compositions in an old notebook found by his wife, some going back 20 years, Markovitch decided there was enough in the songs to make an album, so enlisted the help of musical partner Dani Rabin on guitar and bass (‘the bin part of Marbin’) and drummer Antonio Sanchez to record the seven tracks that make up Russian Dolls.

The title is inspired by an article written by Markovitch’s Ukrainian wife, putting forward the theory that the traditional Russian dolls are not a family of separate individuals but one person with several ‘selves’ nestling inside them. He thought it appropriate because the tunes were written at various stages of his life when he was a different musician, “a kid that had just picked up the saxophone and was becoming obsessed with it, a soldier suddenly inspired on his weekend at home from the army, a new immigrant to the US living in Chicago”.

The seven tracks that make up this short, 35-minute album that may be a bit of a disappointment to Marbin fans who were drawn to the band by the combination of not only Markovitch’s warm, expressive sax but also Rabin’s muscular but nimble guitar work. Here, Rabin plays a muted supporting role, frequently restricting himself to bass, while the sax takes centrestage.

Sometimes the compositions sound overly traditional and gloomy, such as the opener When Here Become There, or are little more than a repetitive statement of short themes, as in Yellow Roman Candles, but occasionally they really take off to showcase Markovitch’s remarkable ability to scatter around well-chosen notes, like confetti over a newly-elected president.

Generally, though, Russian Dolls is an album for rabid Marbin fans who really want to dig deep into the duo’s influences rather than an essential release. Incidentally, the artwork credits the album to Marbin, but this is Markowvitch’s 35 minutes in the spotlight.

Russian Dolls by Marbin

Zach Tabori – Ensemble [EP]
Graham Thomas
Zach Tabori – Ensemble [EP]

Young multi-instrumentalist and composer Zach Tabori describes his recent EP, Ensemble, as ‘an hour long prog extravaganza in eleven minutes’! That’ll do as a starting point. It has to be said that there are an awful lot of ideas packed into a very tight timeframe on this release, and it’s quite hard to separate the four songs, which hurtle at breakneck pace into one another.

The overriding thing which has to be said is that this EP is very obviously inspired and influenced by Zappa. It’s a bit like a bunch of out-takes from Overnite Sensation, there are Zappa-isms all over it, and yet Zach has created something which is much more tribute than copy. To ram home the FZ connection, Tommy Mars guests on keys and falsetto vocals to magical effect, and Cal Schenkel did the cover.

According to Tabori, he was trying to recreate the sort of thing his band does in live performance in the studio, and it has a marvellous live atmosphere together with an ear for detail. They cover rock, metal, jazz, funk, you name it, and they do it brilliantly. If his live band can play these tight arrangements live, they must be worth seeing for sure. Lyrically, Buy My Shirt explores the LA music scene in hilarious fashion. Elsewhere, for the most part, the music does the talking, and it has plenty to say.

Master Oogway – Earth And Other Worlds
Roger Trenwith
Master Oogway - Earth And Other Worlds

Master Oogway: ninja tortoise, or Norwegian fusion project featuring four young chaps, none of whom is older than 26? Much as I’d like to deconstruct a Kung Fu reptile, it’s the latter under brief scrutiny here. The spotlight is on the febrile interaction between sax player Lauritz Lyster Skeidsvoll and guitarist/composer Håvard Nordberg Funderud, who also like to blow in unison to great effect.

The rhythm section of Karl Erik E. Horndalsveen on responsive double bass, and the deft rhythms and percussive embellishments of Martin Heggli Mellem, is in no way lacking either, it has to be said. The four of them, all recent graduates of the Norwegian Academy of Music, are still displaying the exuberant enthusiasm for their craft you would expect of players so young, and see this their second album released on the highly appropriate Rune Grammofon label, home of quality left-field rackets of all kinds.

Definitely one to watch!

Alan Emslie – Y 20 21 [EP]
Bob Mulvey
Alan Emslie - Y 20 21 [EP]

Not quite sure what happened, but apparently 2020 didn’t quite go to script in the Alan Emslie camp. Did I miss something? 😉 Anyway, his planned Witch-Hunt album had to be put back until 21/12/21. Alan explained that his latest release was to feature significant orchestral performances and simply put, those recording sessions were unable to go ahead.

But, not a man to be defeated easily, Alan retreated into Le Studio, Scotland and started work on one of his ‘sonic epics’. Something I first discovered as the title track to his 2018 Obnubilate album. And marvellous it was too.

Described as “…a 20-minute reset for your brain”, Y 20 21 continues Alan’s explorations into sonic manipulations of sound. Chillingly haunting, thought provoking, absorbing, and so much more. Each to their own when it comes to a ‘reset’ – for me it is firmly set within the realms of theoretical Dark Energy and Dark Matter.

Shirley King – Blues For A King
Mel Allen
Shirley King - Blues For A King

Known as ‘the Daughter of the Blues’, Shirley King is the daughter of the legendary BB King. On this, her latest album, she has gathered a notable line-up of guest musicians to assist her, Pat Travers, Steve Cropper and Martin Barre to name but a few. Shirley has gained a reputation as a respected vocalist in blues circles, and she demonstrates that here.

This album has cover versions from the Temptations, Traffic, Etta James and some blues classics spread amongst its eleven tracks, all coming in at around thirty-six minutes. This is an album which has a classic sounding blues approach, nothing new, but still enjoyable never the less. There is a different take on the traditional blues classic Gallows Pole with guest appearance from Harvey Mandel, also notable is her presentation of the Etta James song At Last.

A well presented selection of songs, and although not really fitting the progressive remit it does deserve some recognition for the daughter of a blues legend and also deserves to be heard. Personally, I enjoyed it.

This news story was originally published here:

Recently I reviewed Astrolabe’s Death: An Ode to Life, which I noted was one of two bands I knew of among the five nominees for Nación Progresiva’s Latino Progressive Album of the Year. Since then, Alpha Lighting System won the award, and I have been introduced to another of the nominees – and, no disrespect to Alpha Lighting System, but I’m far more impressed by Egregor’s Pachakuti. This is the second full-length album from the Chilean prog metal band, and on the strength of this I will definitely be checking out their debut. Wow! Just wow! I’ve listened to well over 200 albums this year (and as it’s been a while since I last checked, I guess I may even have reached 300 by now), but very few have had the initial impact, let alone lasting resonance that Pachakuti has. And prog metal is not even a genre I tend to be overly fond of.

The music of Pachakuti is chunky and heavy enough without knowledge of what the band is singing, but a little Googling reveals the lyrical content is pretty damn weighty too, making this heavy in every sense. The Aymara are an indigenous race of the Andes and Altiplano regions across the South American countries of Bolivia, Peru and Chile, and it seems than the Aymaran words ‘pacha’ and ‘kuti’ mean ‘land’ and ‘return’. The lyrics of the title track speak of repressed peoples, and conclude with a final refrain that translates as “Subjugated roots will be reborn; Humiliated roots will return”. Likewise, lead single Grito Insurgente (Insurgent Scream) speaks of “the strength of ancestors”, and ends with the cry “In the face of death you will scream… Freedom!”

There is anger and aggression in much of the instrumentation and the vocals, but it is never at the expense of the beauty that is overwhelmingly present. Before I listened to a note, I was engaged by the beautiful cover art, and the music within is no less beautiful. There may be anger, but the passion with which it is expressed shows it to be righteous and, yes, beautiful. This is apparent from the outset, as the album opens with the ambient introduction to the title track, filled with the sounds of nature and ancient culture, before the music crashes in with radiant energy. Magdalena Opazo‘a powerful vocals are glorious, and potent. Generally speaking, even when lyrics are in English, I pay little attention to them, hearing the vocals more as another instrument in the mix rather than thinking about what they have to say. Magdalena, though, almost demands me to find out what is being sung – which, given it is in a foreign language to me, is quite impressive.

Impressive also are the vocals of Giancarlo Nattino, and the contrast of his harsher vocals with Magdalena’s clean is easily the best I’ve heard in a long time. When these two trade lines, they sound incredible. Giancarlo’s screams are perhaps closest to Joe Duplantier of Gojira, and even for someone like myself that more often than not shies away from harsh vocals, are very pleasing to the ear, and perfectly fitting to the pounding and insistent music of the title track. What I love the most is the way the music sounds both entirely modern, yet evokes the sounds and history of the indigenous culture of the Aymara. This is in part due to the traditional instruments (charango, zampoña, quena and quenacho) played by Martín Romero, but by no means entirely. That would be only superficial, and it’s readily apparent that the composition and performance of the music wholly serves the past, the present, and the future, celebrating not just what has been, but what will be again. The music of Egregor is authentic, immersive, and as aforementioned, passionate. Return the Land, indeed.

El Principio Único is more subtle, if no less impressive. This time, rather than the twin guitar attack of Giancarlo Nattino and Richard Iturra, it’s the bass of Alejandro Heredia that dominates, providing some very tasty and nifty basswork on this track. While there are still aggressive breakouts, this track is notable for its restraint, which has the benefit of really highlighting how the band play in a precise, complex and intricate style that could easily sound mechanical and static, but which instead sounds organic and fluid. The music just flows. And in fact, flows so well that it’s easy to miss when El Principio Único ends and the following Indolente begins. They are actually quite distinct songs, but fit together more perfectly than some jigsaw puzzles. Indolente was the second single released from the album, and I can tell why: it’s anthemic and catchy, and in my opinion would have made a more impressive lead single than (following track) Grito Insurgente.

Don’t get me wrong, though, Grito Insurgente is fantastic, and definitely a contender for my favourite track on the album. As might be expected from what I’ve already divulged about it’s content, it’s insistent and aggressive. It might well have the most powerful vocal performance from Magdelena: impassioned, angered, and pained. The struggle of indigenous people to be heard and respected is tangible. The guttural cries of Giancarlo only heighten this feeling. My only criticism of the song is I want it to go on. It always ends before I am ready. The band does well to follow it with the near instrumental Origen (with only wordless vocalisations), as any song would struggle to compete with what came before. Instead, Origen just crescendos and swells from its humble beginnings, and sweeps the listener along with it. It’s far more bombastic than might be expected from its delicate piano-led introduction.

Animal is an emotional ride, and it’s no wonder when translating the lyrics appears to confirm what I had already inferred from the title. There’s a lot of hurt conveyed in this song. The following Portadores is a completely different beast, and probably the most unique sounding on the album. It sounds joyous and celebratory, and has some wonderfully hair-raising chanted passages. Even Giancarlo’s harsh vocals sound triumphant. It almost sounds out of place, and yet it feels completely right. It provides a terrific preface for Con la Fuerza del Sol, which is as forceful and radiant as its title implies. This song would not have worked as well if it came immediately after Animal, so again I have to praise the band for their thought in sequencing. Just as Origen was placed perfectly to balance what came before and after, so is Portadores.

And so we come to the end, and likely the only competition for Grito Insurgente to be my favourite track on the album, Somos Uno. A recognition and exhortation that we are one, that takes in the full spectrum of the band, from its most peaceful and delicate, to some of the heaviest. And again, like Grito Insurgente, my only complaint is that it ends far too soon. Given how unique in vision and execution Pachakuti is, the intensity of emotion and passion, and the balance and restraint shown, even if Nación Progresiva might not agree, this is definitely my Latino Progressive Album of the Year – and a definite contender to be one of my albums of the year in general. Don’t let this one pass you by!

01. Pachakuti (4:52)
02. El Principio Único (4:34)
03. Indolente (3:43)
04. Grito Insurgente (4:20)
05. Origen (3:18)
06. Animal (5:10)
07. Portadores (5:05)
08. Con la Fuerza del Sol (4:31)
09. Somos Úno (4:36)

Total Time – 40:09

Magdalena Opazo – Vocals, Synthesiser
Giancarlo Nattino – Guitar, Vocals
Richard Iturra – Guitars, Synthesiser
Alejandro Heredia – Bass
Martín Romero – Charango, Zampoña, Quena, Quenacho

Additional Information:ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Chile
Date of Release: 7th August 2020

Egregor – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube

This news story was originally published here:

I must begin with an apology to BYZMUTi!

This review is one of a few that I started writing in March 2020 and were somehow lost in time, overtaken by the events of the first quarter of 2020. Although I feel I lack the musical vocabulary to do this album justice, I’ll try and pigeon-hole the music and make useful comparisons with other artists, but this is really a collection of my gut reactions from back when the World was the old “normal” and re-reactions from the current “normal” to this curious music. After some careful consideration, I have decided to start by sticking my own genre label on Τίποτα (Tipota). And that label is Electronica-Avant-Art-Jazz-Garde. That’ll do nicely.

What does Τίποτα sound like?

Please imagine, if you will, a sci-fi themed acid trip in a recording studio, where a de-mockneyed Lily Allen is fearlessly making an experimental record with Snarky Puppy. In your completely imaginary drug-addled state, Snarky Allen has managed to hang on to the clinical precision that makes the Fam what it is, and Lily Puppy has added a sprinkle of seemingly nonsensical vocal phrases, painting pictures on your neocortex.

And you’re almost there.

Τίποτα has only four tracks, though they are all quite long, giving the impression that you should consider it a journey in four acts. The band unapologetically launches straight into Zygote Fuzz. There’s no attempt to ease you in, no build-up, no hint of what’s to come. By the time the first track is over you know you can expect some jagged, jazzy, swinging songs with many tempo changes, built in sections. The second track, iGuess, confirms this with a similar feel to the first. It doesn’t let you settle into the groove. Nestled within the tempo changes are occasional rhythms that wouldn’t be out of place if Steve Jansen had performed them on Japan’s Tin Drum.

Clearly you can stick an “i” in front of any word to get instant apple-coolness, but you might also use it to satirise modern gotta-have-style-over-content society. When BYZMUTi invite us to their GMO treehouse, is it a springboard for imaginative contemplation or just a bit pretentious? They see you out with an ambient noodling soundscape which all but segues into the more laid-back opening and softer vocal presentation and instrumental accompaniment of track three, Vacay, before the pace picks up again and it all starts hinting at “bad trip”. But no, you fell for that false sense of insecurity! It all settles into a nice, stable funky swinging groove in the last quarter, though on first listen I found myself wondering whether this would be maintained to the end of the song. It was.

More than halfway into the album and we’ve clearly established that this is not a record built on formulaic pop songs. No verse — chorus — verse — chorus —bridge — chorus — outro for you today! This is a collection of complex, sophisticated, extended musical compositions.

For me, the best track on Τίποτα is its closer. The Space Out goes off on a different tangent. I imagined what would happen if you beamed a small group of traditional jazzers into a sealed room furnished only with a microphone, a collection of modular synthesisers and a multi-track recorder and told them they will only be released if they produce a song. I think they’d spend 5 minutes whipping up a splendid collection of avant garde noises, but after 5 minutes of patching and noodling they’d whip the sounds into a recognisable jazzy shape, with layered vocals that could just be the elusive solution to the problem of bookending their new, somewhat unconventional album.

A journey of four acts? A song of sections? Many tempo changes? What, like a concept album? I can almost feel your ears prick up! No, there isn’t even the tiniest hint of eBow or Mellotron so prog it ain’t. Even better, this feels nothing like a collection of prog tropes and very much like really clever music. If tapping your foot and a good sing-along isn’t your thing but an unconventional mix of sounds from the ’70s and contemporary jazz is, then this will probably knead your pizza dough.

01. Zygote Fuzz (13:08)
02. iGuess (14:12)
03. Vacay (12:50)
04. The Space Out (9:24)

Total Time – 49:34

Eleni Sutter – Composition, Vocals, Keyboards
Parker Grogan – Production, Drums, Bass
Dan Van Duerm – Mastering, Keyboards
Luc Parcell – Consulting, Lead Bass
Karolina Prus Trap Jesus – Winds, Sax
Tyler Gasek – Sax (track 3)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 30th December 2019

BYZMUTi – Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter