This news story was originally published here: http://www.insideoutmusic.com/newsdetailed.aspx?IdNews=24366&IdCompany=8

Legendary Dutch progressive rockers KAYAK are pleased to announce they will return with their 18th studio album ‘Out Of This World’ on the 7th May 2021. Following the bands return in 2018 with a new line-up, new record label and first new album since 2014 in ‘Seventeen’, the band are excited to reveal its eagerly awaited successor. 

Founding member Ton Scherpenzeel comments: “Many people seem to consider the past year as a lost year, due to Covid. I don’t. I am not saying it was great, but it made me realize, once more, how fragile we all are. How connected everything and everyone is, with actions and consequences that touch us all. And that, on a smaller scale, and much closer to home, the new Kayak album could only have turned out the way it did. More than ever, it is clear that working with each other on this level can never be taken for granted. It requires dedication, and respect for each other’s talents and input. That’s the foundation upon which Kayak in 2021 is built.

Watch a short teaser for the new album here: https://youtu.be/zo-YUX4RbWM

The first single from ‘Out of This World’ and the album pre-order will launch 19th February.

‘Out Of This World’, the band’s eighteenth studio album, with 15 new tracks, spanning 70 minutes of energetic and incredibly diverse material- though still very much recognizable as Kayak. It is clear that the new found energy has gained even more momentum since Hans Eijkenaar rejoined the group. Although they were forced to cancel all tours because Ton Scherpenzeel suffered a heart attack at the end of 2019, and immediately after that because of the Covid pandemic, we’re hearing a band that, since the demise of Pim Koopman in 2009, has not sounded more together, balanced and motivated. The current line-up of the band is as follows:

Ton Scherpenzeel – Keyboards, lead and backing vocals 
Bart Schwertmann – Lead and backing vocals 
Marcel Singor – Guitar, lead and backing vocals 
Kristoffer Gildenlöw – Bass, lead and backing vocals
Hans Eijkenaar- Drums

Kayak History:
KAYAK was formed in Hilversum, The Netherlands, back in 1972, by keyboard player Ton Scherpenzeel and drummer Pim Koopman who struck up a friendship in their early teens after meeting at a local volley ball club. They were committed to writing original material. With loads of melodic, symphonic songs in their pocket they recruited fellow music conservatory student Max Werner (lead vocals) and Johan Slager (guitar). After bass player Cees van Leeuwen joined, the first lineup of KAYAK was complete with the new band being signed by EMI Records being launched as a new supergroup. Their debut album ‘See See The Sun’(1973) featured a minor hit single , ‘Lyrics’, with ‘Mammoth’ and the title track also reaching the top 40. The album sold well in Holland, earning the band significant critical acclaim and developing a growing army of passionate followers. 

After a series of successful albums and several hit singles in their homeland KAYAK was on the verge of an international breakthrough in 1977 when the single ‘Want you to be Mine’, from ‘Starlight Dancer’ achieved chart success in the U.S, peaking at #55 in the Billboard Charts. KAYAK was even voted Most Promising Band of the Year by the influential American music magazine Record World. Due to the fact that charismatic lead singer Max Werner wanted to fill the vacant position of drummer meaning the band was suddenly without a lead singer, making it impossible to embark on an American tour. KAYAK focused on finding a vocalist instead. The search began with advertisements placed in British magazine ‘Melody Maker’, spotted by Edward Reekers, a huge fan of the band since the early days. Passing the audition with flying colors he became the new frontman for KAYAK and with the addition of two female singers the band returned to the recording studio to create their 6th album, the award winning ‘Phantom of the Night, which turned out to be their commercial peak. The blend of progressive rock and immaculate pop brought them phenomenal success. The album went to number one on the charts, reaching platinum status and ‘Ruthless Queen,’ became their highest charting single, (#4 in the Dutch charts). 

The next album, ‘Periscope Life’ (1980), was similar in style and recorded in Los Angeles. It consolidated KAYAK’s position as one of Holland’s most popular bands.
With their next effort, ‘Merlin’ (1981), KAYAK returned to its original progressive and symphonic rock roots, with a suite about the legendary medieval magician on side A. Many music fans considered this a milestone in the bands career. Personal and musical struggles within the band however led to a break up in 1982. The first era of KAYAK ended after the release of the semi live album ‘Eyewitness’. 

The next chapter in KAYAK’s career began in 2006 with ‘Kayakoustic’, presenting the now seven-piece band in an intimate setting.In the new millennium KAYAK was resurrected after an 18 year pause and came back with the strong symphonic crossover album ‘Close to the Fire’ (2000) with again Pim Koopman on drums and Max Werner on vocals. Unfortunately, due to ill health Max was soon forced to leave, with ex- Vandenberg singer Bert Heerink, who already joined the band on stage, taking over. With Heerink three studio albums were recorded, including the rock opera’s ‘Merlin – Bard of the Unseen’ and ‘Nostradamus – The Fate of Man’, their most ambitious efforts yet. The rock opera’s, dominated by longer, prog-based compositions, also showed KAYAK’s theatrical side with an extended cast of singers and dancers contributing to an impressive first rate live experience. It also marked the return of Edward Reekers and introduced Cindy Oudshoorn as first female lead singer. 

2008 was an important year celebrating their 35th anniversary and embarking on a large tour taking the group to the theaters and clubs. ‘The Anniversary Box’, a DVD containing the Paradiso concert as well as a collection of fan chosen tracks is released. 

The tragic, unexpected death of drummer and composer Pim Koopman one year later in the middle of the ‘Letters From Utopia’ tour almost led to KAYAK’s downfall, but two years later the group re- emerged with Hans Eijkenaar on drums and the album ‘Anywhere But Here’, dedicated to Koopman. After a period of two years preparing and recording the new rock opera ‘Cleopatra- The Crown of Isis’ was released in 2014. Shortly before the tour, lead singers Reekers and Oudshoorn unexpectedly and inconveniently announced their departure, leaving the band in disarray. But as they say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and like the proverbial cat with nine lives – in 2018 KAYAK came back with a vengeance and ‘Seventeen’.

Look out for more information on the bands 18th studio album ‘Out Of This World’ in the coming months

KAYAK online:
www.kayakonline.info
https://www.facebook.com/Kayak-209230952473801/
https://www.facebook.com/ton.scherpenzeel

I’m delighted to announce that the podcast for edition 376 of Live From Progzilla Towers is now available.

In this inauguration Special, we heard the following music:

  • Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Lies (Through The 80’s)
  • Alice Cooper – Elected
  • Adam Holzman – Truth Decay
  • Camel – Lies
  • Deluge Grander – Inaugural Bash
  • Easy Star All Stars – Electioneering
  • Frank Zappa – America The Beautiful
  • Shadowland – United States Of Insanity
  • The Bar-Steward Sons Of Val Doonican – Cockwombling Song
  • Jakko M Jakszyk – The Rotters Club Is Closing Down
  • Mr. So & So – Paperchase
  • Grey Lady Down – Truth
  • Necromonkey – Asshole Vote
  • The Flower Kings – The Truth Will Set You Free
  • RPWL – The Ugliest Man In The World
  • The Pineapple Thief – Versions Of The Truth
  • Visual Purple – Gangsters In The White House
  • Black Bonzo – Tell Me The Truth
  • Lunatic Soul – The Final Truth

iTunes/iPod users*: Just search for ‘Progzilla’ or subscribe to: http://www.progzilla.com/media/podcasts/podcast.xml

Enjoy!

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2021/01/20/onsegen-ensemble-fear/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=onsegen-ensemble-fear

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.

TRACK LISTING
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

MUSICIANS
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.

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

LINKS
Onségen Ensemble – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2021/01/19/steve-hackett-under-a-mediterranean-sky/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=steve-hackett-under-a-mediterranean-sky

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.”

TRACK LISTING
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

MUSICIANS
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)

ADDITIONAL INFO
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

LINKS
Steve Hackett – Website | Facebook | Twitter

THE PROGRESSIVE TRACKS SHOW #39 (Turning The Corner…)

What do you do when you’re turning the corner from the 300’s to the 400’s… and you find yourself in a corner, as to what to play?
You play lots of great new music, of course!  Join Mike to hear stuff you haven’t heard… yet.
PLAYLIST:

Feel free to contact me any time via email:  ProgTracks@KPTZ.org

And remember, you can access podcasts of any previous Progressive Tracks Show at: http://www.progzilla.com/?s=progressive+tracks (there are over 235 podcasts now!).

Most importantly, SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST below, so you’ll have it delivered to your fingertips weekly! ˅˅˅˅˅˅˅˅

 

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 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: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2021/01/18/the-grand-astoria-from-the-great-beyond/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-grand-astoria-from-the-great-beyond

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!

TRACK LISTING
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

MUSICIANS
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)

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

LINKS
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).

Here’s THIS WEEK’S PLAYLIST

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 (www.progzilla.com/listen – 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 progzilla.com/podcasts

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

101 Dimensions Curated by Daniel Zambas

Project Citizen

Broadcast  16th Jan  2021 @ Midnight GMT

https://projectcitizen.bandcamp.com/album/less-than-equal-to-greater-than

  • Citizen – Less than
  • Ghost in the Shell – making of a Cyborg
  • Aphex Twin – Pulsewidth
  • Nine Inch nails – Shit Mirror
  • The Fierce and the Dead – The wait
  • Radiohead – Packt like sardines in a crushd tin box
  • We Are Kin – The Speech
  • Citizen – The wait
  • Shineback – Faultlines
  • Mothertongue – The Isle of not quite right
  • We Are kin – Nothing More
  • Shineback – The gentleman
  • Nine Inch nails – ahead of ourselves
  • Frank Zappa – Sy Borg
  • Radiohead – kid A
  • Metroid – Title theme
  • Shineback – I called him in vain (blog 4)
  • Isan – Cathart
  • Aphex twin – Xtal
  • Citizen – Second
  • The fierce and the dead – Part 6 (the eighth circuit)
  • Brian Eno – The Big Ship
  • Shineback – Kill Devil Hills
  • Citizen – The Construct
  • Streets of Rage opening theme

Connect the dots and connect with 101 Dimensions via any of the Curators Cliff Anthony or Emma

Cliff@progzilla.com , Emma@progzilla.com  or Progsquatch@progzilla.com

Every Saturday night from Midnight UTC  (GMT) till late all music no chat Electronic Ambient and Progressive

 Repeated  as Ambient Afternoon on Friday 1:00 pm UTC  (GMT)

www.progzilla.com/listen

https://tunein.com/radio/Progzilla-Radio-s242911/

Tales From The Tiger Moth

Edition 135

Broadcast 2nd Jan 2020

Album Round Up 2020

Kansas – The Absence of Presence
Swappers Eleven – Distance
Haze – See You On The Other Side
Lee Abraham – The World Is Falling Down
The Tangent – Life On Hold
Steve Thorne – He Who Pays The Piper
Colin Bass & Daniel Biro – Summer
That Joe Payne – By Name. By Nature.
Dyble Longdon – France
Built For The Future – Zenith
Pendragon – Soul and the Sea
Lonely Robot – Life Is a Sine Wave
Robert Reed – Erthynge
Marathon – Amelia
Nick D’Virgilio – Where’s The Passion
The Bardic Depths – Legacies
Abel Ganz – The Light Shines Out
John Holden – The Golden Thread
Magenta – Reach For The Moon
Long Earth – Summer
Camel – Long Goodbyes