This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/03/25/once-and-future-band-once-and-future-band/

I forget now where I read about the Once and Future Band, but I was very interested in reviewing their self-titled album, released in January this year. The author made comparisons in the article, to Queen and ELO. OK, I was hooked.

I would describe their sound more like the later Beatles albums, with some progressive influence. Lead singer Joel Robinow reminded me immediately, not of Freddie Mercury or Jeff Lynne, but rather Perry Farrell from Jane’s Addiction, which is a good thing. It gives the music a newer feel and character. As well as Robinow, who also contributes keyboards and guitar, the Once and Future Band includes drummer Raj Ojha and Eli Eckert on bass, guitar and vocals). Raze Regal and Josh Smith add additional guitar with Danny T. Levin’s horns and backing vocals from Yea-Ming Chen and Anna Hillburg.

How Does it Make You Feel takes off like the burst from a Saturn V rocket. It is easily the second-best track on the album, full of emotion and fun with excellent vocals, keys and rocking electric guitars and drums. Unbelievable. “The look in your eyes gives you away”, and yes it does after hearing this song. The band never reaches these heights again, unfortunately, but there is still much good music left. I’ll Be Fine sounds almost like a Beatles song, maybe off Let it Be, maybe Dig A Pony, only this time Perry Farrell is singing instead of John Lennon, with a lot more instrumental support. Another good song with memorable drums and piano work, the lead and backing vocals make this one to remember.

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Hide and Seek really is my favorite song on the album. “Sarah on the white couch. I could see our old playground from here. You were young…and I was afraid, you would be a play thing not a peer”. The keys and electric guitar are excellent, this track reminds me of some of my favorite Tim Bowness solo songs; with a great storyline and lyrics, it may remain near the top of my favorite tracks of the year.

Rolando opens with excellent organ sounds and horns, like something off a Steely Dan or a Donald Fagen solo album, until the horns really kick in, then you get that Chicago horn section sound. The choruses are perfect, giving it a jazzy feel, reminding of something from SD’s Gaucho. Nice. Tell Me Those are Tears of Joy continues some of the same rhythms and sounds from the last song, only this is a jazzier progressive rocker in sound.

Magnetic Memory opens with slowly strummed electric guitar. The melodies and sounds are so unique, dreamy and may help you to relax and reminisce. Standing in the Wake of Violence, on the other hand, starts with some wild guitar and keys. There’s good drums, excellent vocals and the synthesizer/keyboard work is wonderfully dreamy.

This album was an excellent surprise. It sounds so fresh and different from anything I have heard in a while. Sure, there are similarities to some of the bands I mentioned above, but this band has created their own unique sound and I for one like it. I want to hear more. Give it a chance and I think you will as well.

TRACK LISTING
01. How Does it Make You Feel? (5:57)
02. I’ll Be Fine (6:28)
03. Hide and Seek (6:18)
04. Rolando (4:39)
05. Tell Me Those are Tears of Joy (5:19)
06. Magnetic Memory (4:41)
07. Standing in the Wake of Violence (5:17)

Total time – 38:39

MUSICIANS
Joel Robinow – Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar & Bass
Raj Ojha – Drums & Percussion
Eli Eckert – Bass, Guitar, Vocals & Keyboards
~ With:
Raze Regal – Additional Guitar
Josh Smith – Additional Guitar
Danny T. Levin – Horns
Yea-Ming Chen – Backing Vocals
Anna Hillburg – Backing Vocals

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Castle Face Records
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 27th January 2017

LINKS
Once and Future Band – Facebook | Bandcamp

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Arjen Anthony Lucassen – E-Police

Sebastian Hardie – Glories Shall Be Released

Gentle Giant – I Lost My Head

Peter Hammill – Friday Afternoon

Fantasy – Gnome Song

Pendragon – The Pleasure of Hope

Flamborough Head – Lost in Time

Citizen Cain – Lost In Lonely Ghosts

VDGG – Lost

Transatlantic – Bridge Across Forever (Live)

Camel – Lost and Found

Downes Braide Association – Finale

 

This news story was originally published here: https://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/john-myung-ernie-ball-string-theory/
DREAM THEATER's JOHN MYUNG Featured in Ernie Ball's String Theory [VIDEO]

In a new “String Theory” episode by Ernie Ball, Dream Theater‘s bassist John Myung talks about his influences, Dream Theater, his Ernie Ball strings, and more. Check the video below.

“String Theory” is a web series from Ernie Ball that explores the music of some of most innovative players.

Dream Theater is currently touring Europe on a tour billed as “Images, Words & Beyond,” which marks the 25th anniversary of the band’s seminal album Images & Words. The group also includes “A Change of Seasons” in their setlists, which originally should appear on the mentioned 1992 album. Speaking to Metal Express, Myung addressed it.

Originally, the intent was to have [‘A Change of Seasons’] as part of ‘Images & Words,’ part of that record.

But towards the end of the recording process, the record company wasn’t so keen on getting that recorded, I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe it was budgetary, we were running out of time in the studio and extra 20 minutes was probably more than they maybe wanted to invest. Back then, studios were $2,000 a day. [chuckles]

It might have had something to do with wanting to keep the album under an hour, too, to not overload the listener. That was sort of the thinking, I think, behind that decision.

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This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/john-myung-ernie-ball-string-theory/
DREAM THEATER's JOHN MYUNG Featured in Ernie Ball's String Theory [VIDEO]

In a new “String Theory” episode by Ernie Ball, Dream Theater‘s bassist John Myung talks about his influences, Dream Theater, his Ernie Ball strings, and more. Check the video below.

“String Theory” is a web series from Ernie Ball that explores the music of some of most innovative players.

Dream Theater is currently touring Europe on a tour billed as “Images, Words & Beyond,” which marks the 25th anniversary of the band’s seminal album Images & Words. The group also includes “A Change of Seasons” in their setlists, which originally should appear on the mentioned 1992 album. Speaking to Metal Express, Myung addressed it.

Originally, the intent was to have [‘A Change of Seasons’] as part of ‘Images & Words,’ part of that record.

But towards the end of the recording process, the record company wasn’t so keen on getting that recorded, I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe it was budgetary, we were running out of time in the studio and extra 20 minutes was probably more than they maybe wanted to invest. Back then, studios were $2,000 a day. [chuckles]

It might have had something to do with wanting to keep the album under an hour, too, to not overload the listener. That was sort of the thinking, I think, behind that decision.

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/03/24/matheus-manente-illusions-dimension-2017-remaster/

This new remaster of Illusions Dimension, Matheus Manente’s first solo release from 2014, has the dramatic feel of a film soundtrack. Some songs clearly stand on their own, while others seem to be intended as auditory backgrounds to theatrical developments. The beauty of this largely instrumental album is the ways its package of music, poems, lyrics, song titles, artwork, and sound samples beckon the listener to contemplate the “film” which has inspired Manente. As with many motion pictures, this work commences with a spoken segment that lays the foundation for the entire story’s setting and action:

“Sometimes, I wander through dark wet streets thinking about who I am. While occasionally I relieve my thirst of knowledge planning what to do in the next few days. I always forget what is the real purpose of life. Then, I sleep. When these illusions drag me into the dimension of dreams, I start to see both logical thinking and faith merging into one. This is what we call inner peace…”

The entirety of Manente’s lyrics is comprised of eleven sentences and appears at the very beginning of the album. Angelic singing, violins, percussive bursts, and exotic drumming complement the imagery and help arouse intrigue. Is this a personal journey? A philosophical one? Is the protagonist conflicted in his desire to unify science and belief?

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The album’s terse or cryptic textual, visual, and auditory allusions and references to topics such as astronomy, mathematics, mythology, philosophy, art, and the human condition allow the narrative to be largely left to the imagination of the “audience member”. This might cause the listener to investigate these clues/signs to determine their possible meanings, why each was included, and how they connect in order to attain a deeper understanding of Manente’s artistic statement. With my first listen, I knew only the artist’s name and the album title. I found the music to be quite rewarding, but not necessarily avant-garde. Based on the ways the vocals and samples complement the music, the album struck me as an exploration of scientific knowledge, spirituality, mysticism, perception, internal struggles and societal battles.

I then reviewed the song titles, lyrics, poem (which appears only in text on the back cover of the CD), and artwork to see how they would influence my appreciation with a second listen. It was indeed more satisfying as the imagery of the film I was imagining became clearer. Making notes on the various clues, such as The Shapley-Curtis Debate, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, the “symmetry of evil”, “ruins of Thanjavur”, and “the brain of 1985”, I was further intrigued to better understand Illusions Dimension’s storyline before my third listen. I found myself searching the internet, listening to the album again, and reflecting on its complexities and meanings in a repeating cycle. As a result, I’d add to the list above sentiments such as idealism, ambiguity, paradox, strange loops, anxiety, and a search for truth, certainty, convergence, and beauty. In my view, the album is dominated by contrasting sounds and metaphors (e.g. bombastic vs. delicate; stasis vs. frenetic motion; heavenly vs. earthly; reality vs. illusion; good vs. evil; sleep/dreams vs. awake/memories), which often seem to blur.

The music is in the vein of instrumental, guitar-dominated progressive hard rock/metal, popularized by artists such as Joey Tafolla, Michael Romeo, and Vinnie Moore over the past three decades. The songs tend to be longer and have complex, multi-layered arrangements, with regular signature changes, choral effects, aspects of fusion, and melodic counterpoint. The narrative and musical themes come across as poetic and intellectual. While not a djent album, there are djent influences to many rhythmic passages. Manente displays much musical technicality and his numerous solos work very well. While no new ground is broken here, it is a very satisfying album. Manente proves that he’s a fantastic guitar player and excellent multi-instrumentalist who has great talent for designing a unified concept album that rocks hard, evokes vivid imagery, and rewards the listener with repeated listens. The production is top notch. While this album of thirteen songs is cohesive, and certain elements are found throughout, each song has its own character. The guitar playing is a unifying component to the album and is consistently solid, yet also sufficiently diverse. This variety prevents the listener from becoming fatigued.

The introductory lyrics are not the only aspect of Illusions Dimension that are overarching. One of M.C. Escher’s impossible cubes, with an added solitary figure in silhouette (an “everyman”) is reproduced on 6 of the 7 pages of the booklet and covers. Escher’s impossible objects are typically viewed as mathematically-inspired explorations of perspective, infinity, symmetry, and reflection. They serve as metaphors for the human condition, especially our limited ability to assess our reality (our realm, other worlds, other dimensions). The poem, which is additional material found only in the booklet, is divided by thirteen Roman numerals, indicating which lines of verse correspond to which songs. The song subtitles do not appear with the music download, but are valuable cues found on the back cover. For instance, ones understanding of song IV, Inner Peace, is ameliorated with the added subtitle “claim for a minute together”, as is song VIII, The Seventh of Nights with its subtitle “one day, reunion”. The latter adds evidence that Manente is referring to the Asian folkloric tale of the weaver and cow herdsman, two lovers who the Sky King has placed at opposite ends of the Milky Way. They are sometimes allowed to reunite one day each year. Manente’s poem confirms this. How do these two songs relate to one another and to the whole? When is our protagonist on an actual journey and when is he consumed by thoughts of his purpose, his passions, faith, and aspects of the cosmos? Thanks to rich open-endedness, it is the listener’s pleasure to be attentive, review the clues and decide.

TRACK LISTING
01. Illusions Dimension (2:35)
02. Kinetic Disturbances (7:53)
03. The Shapley-Curtis Debate (5:22)
04. Inner Peace (5:31)
05. Symmetry of Evil (9:33)
06. Market Garden (6:38)
07. Castaway (4:56)
08. The Seventh of Nights (1:50)
09. Pamukkale (5:10)
10. Virtual Destruction (7:46)
11. The Burial of the Count of Orgaz 1:42)
12. Brihadeeswarar Temple (8:29)
13. Dreams and Memories (7:48)

Total Time – 75:13

MUSICIANS
Matheus Manente – All Instruments & Effects. All Production, Recording, Engineering, Mixing & Mastering. All Compositions, Lyrics, Artwork, Design & Concepts
~ With:
Gryzor87 – Keyboards (track 9), Piano (track 4)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: VmbrellA
Catalogue#: VMB0007
Country of Origin: Brazil
Date of Release: 1st February 2017

LINKS
Matheus Manente – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/03/24/beatrix-players-magnified/

Beatrix Players are a London-based female trio, comprising Amanda Alvarez, Jess Kennedy and Amy Buks. They have been described as combining elements of Folk, Jazz, Progressive and Classical music, citing influences as diverse as Michael Nyman and Regina Spector whilst drawing comparisons to the likes of Kate Bush, Ludovico Einaudi and, to my ears, Tori Amos.

Taking their name from the Latin ‘Viatrix’, which has been bestowed in various forms on self-denying mystics, royal consorts, self-sacrificing martyrs, heroines, assassins and even Holy Roman Empresses, the trio have given themselves something to live up to. No small irony then that the name is also often chosen by tragedians for some of their characters, the literal meaning being “she who makes happy”.

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The group first formed in 2014, but it was in 2015 that they decided to take their unique sound, an amazing combination of vocals, piano and cello, into Snap Studios in London to record their debut album. Magnified, due for release at the end of the month, is a self-produced work which was mixed by BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards winner Jim Moray.

There is what could be described as an adult flavour to the topics for these songs, focusing on relationships, change, childhood events, and even crisis moments. That said, Magnified does not come across as a solemn album, indeed it is most uplifting at times. The album opener Rushlight, for example, is about finding strength after being pushed around by someone, while Roses uses a historical moment to help express the love of a parent and how they would do anything for their child. Jess states, “they are not unafraid to examine the less pleasant aspects of the human condition and experience”. Amy explains the writing process as, “Jess comes up with a piano idea, song structure and some production ideas, I then come up with vocal melody lyrics before Amanda adds her cello parts”.

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The songs have a bewitching effect, haunting at times with some hypnotic melodies that draw you into the musical world of the Players. Considering the minimal instrumentation used, the sound often has a full feel to it without losing that space between the musicians, with both delicate and powerful chords used to clever effect. The songs are mostly piano driven with essentially placed cello wrapping around the song. Walk Away finds the cello taking the lead, here providing some beautiful moments. In fact the piano, cello playing and the vocals are all of a high quality, and it is this that helps to lift the album to another level, indeed it is the actual absence of guitar and drums that makes Beatrix Players’ sound unique. The thirteen songs here are beautifully crafted, performed and presented, creating their own sonic universe.

Music is a wonderful thing; there are times when an album resonates with you and this has happened here for me. Their classical and folk influenced take on prog and pop/rock should be allowed to reach a bigger audience, as iamthemorning have highlighted there is success to be had in this field. I would love to be able to see these songs performed live, as I am sure this would give them an even more emotive quality. Go listen and buy it, it’s wonderful and mesmerising stuff.

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TRACK LISTING
01. Rushlight (4:14)
02. Lady of the Lake (5:17)
03. Never Again (3:41)
04. Not for the First Time (3:47)
05. Molehill (3:19)
06. What Do You Say (3:28)
07. Ophelia (2:40)
08. Walk Away (3:02)
09. Obey Me (5:31)
10. Unpolished Pearl (3:14)
11. High Heel Shoes (2:17)
12. All That Thinking (3:00)
13. Roses (3:34)

Total Time – 47:51

MUSICIANS
Amanda Alvarez – Cello
Amy Buks – Lead & Backing Vocals
Jess Kennedy – Piano, Flute, Backing Vocals
~ With:
Robyn Hemmings – Double Bass (tracks 8 & 13)
Anna Jenkins – Violin (tracks 3,5 & 9), Viola (track 5)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: n/a
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 31st March 2017

LINKS
Beatrix Players – Website | Facebook

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This news story was originally published here: https://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/tosin-abasi-on-8-string-guitar/
TOSIN ABASI on Issues With 8-String Guitar

Animals as LeadersTosin Abasi talked recently with Total Guitar, and in the interview he spoke about the issues he has with 8-string guitars.

One of the issues I find with eight-strings is scale length. The best solution I’ve found is a compound scale – basically fan-fretting the guitar.

This means I have a shorter scale in the treble – retaining the tension of a six-string guitar – but it’s longer in the bass strings, so they have the tension needed for clarity.

It’s great, because dimensionally the neck is shorter, but you still have the benefits of a longer scale.”

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