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This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2020/11/24/vennart-in-the-dead-dead-wood/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=vennart-in-the-dead-dead-wood
A new album from Mike Vennart is certainly something to get excited about, and an unexpected one released with little build up – only a week after it was announced – is even more of a treat. In the Dead, Dead Wood marks the third chapter in the ex-Oceansize man’s solo career, seeing him strike out anew with particularly satisfying results.
The blurb points to songs being “written quickly during lockdown 2020, with some forgotten bits exhumed and rescued from years ago”, which suggests something cobbled together. Not so: this is skilfully crafted stuff, full of excellent diversions that both cast your mind back to Vennart’s former band and also project it forward to a tinsel and glitter future of wonderfulness.
From the off, Silhouette rises majestically on an elegant guitar figure, Joe Lazarus’ drums pitching in as Vennart launches into the verse. It crackles with energy as the chorus punches through, a fine opener with Mike on top form, big and brash in a staticy blast of fuzzed guitars and subtle keyboards. If this doesn’t open the show when Vennart and band are once again able to tread the boards, there’s something else wrong with the world. Jerky bristles of bass and guitar jump in on punky drums as Super Sleuth snaps and bites at your ankles. Again, Mike’s swaggering vocal is superb, the winning and groovesome chorus built on a massive riff. The drop into Charlie Barnes’ delicate piano melody is perfectly judged, then a thumping section of pitching and weaving guitars that could have come from Oceansize’s angsty Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up, Mike’s trademark screams ramping up the tension. The acknowledgement “Singing recorded at home. Thank you neighbours” is rightly directed.
Phew! It’s as heavy as a grand piano in a lift shaft, but put together with a refreshing lightness of touch. Elemental pulls things back, the pace slowed with piano adding a beautiful restraint. This is a different kettle of fish entirely, wistful and reserved, delivered with engaging emotion, the complete antithesis of what has gone before, at least until the buzzing guitars take hold and Mike’s voice rises. The undulating piano returns though, add in a guitar solo with rough edges retained and it’s a fabulously dynamic listen, the vocal almost intoned in the quiet moments, brooding power unleashed around these calm oases. Very nicely done.
This is an album that lends itself to a good ol’ fashioned track by track, Lancelot changing the direction with a foundation of sparse electric piano supporting the voice, until driving drum patterns picks things up. Guitars and synths work around each other, the melodic side rising gracefully over a busy bass. It’s fragile and fragmented, a hint of Cardiacs spite sliding in with the demonic vocal. Deftly delivered, it’s a real palate cleanser, growing in intensity towards the end as an epic melody emerges, heavy but held back from fully putting the boot in.
The title track is as spooky as its name suggests, glowering synths weighing down like a ghostly fog. The epic quality remains, images of Dracula’s castle appearing from the gloom, all towering and malevolent stone, but is it a mirage, smoke and mirrors to baffle the senses? This is unlike anything in Mike’s catalogue, setting a whole new tone, and forming a nice end to the first half, from which Weight In Gold picks up, suggesting that ‘Side Two’ has started. These final tracks are longer, the pace slow. From the plaintive guitar intro, things soon morph into power trio stadium rock with amps fully cranked. Mike sings forcefully in his high registers, tipping over into shrieks of emotion with more expansive Oceansize tones, melody lines emerging from the fuzzy wall of sound, an intense thing of charged beauty.
Mourning on the Range suggests wild west gunfights, the tension held by the drums. Another fine and characterful vocal with the sweep of descending keys opening the horizon whilst also making everything strangely claustrophobic, like falling down a well. A chugging riff emerges as the vocal goes off-piste with more busy bass. There’s room for frenzied soloing, the measured vocal holding it all together in a song of many phases – all of them noteworthy.
Finally, Forc in the Road, distant guitars emerging from slow, disjointed drums, coloured with distinctive piano flavours. There’s a sedate lift off, the lightness carrying through into a vocal so airy it needs ropes to hold it down, but it still escapes, floating out of reach on mesmerising gossamer touches, fragile and intriguing. There’s just as much power here as in the thunderous earlier tracks, but the buzzing guitars that slowly appear roll beautifully, massive and intensely melodic as the pace doesn’t waver, measured power with the piano line flowing beneath the menacing darkness, giving way to the sunshine of trebly picked bass.
Jaw dropping. This is the parachuting aftermath of the earlier tornado blowing your house away and casting you spinning over the rainbow. An album to play LOUD. But there’s more; Forc in the Road is not the 12-minute epic it appears, it is appended by the cunningly veiled bonus Concierge where piano and harmonium sway over ’60-tinged bass. It’s the perfect comedown, optimistic and upbeat, almost dreamlike, Mike imperious amid the swirling sounds.
What a fucking album this is.
The writing is succinct and on point, focused on achieving its goals, and Mike’s vocal performance is probably his best ever, showing huge variety and versatility amid a veritable shit-ton of interesting musical avenues. This is sure to keep his supporters not only happy but jumping up and down with delight.
Oceansize fans, rejoice. Vennart fans, rejoice. New fans who don’t realise that they’re fans yet – Rejoice!
The cohesion and sheer heft undoubtedly produce Vennart’s finest solo work to date, deftly covering a lot of ground to provide an experience both visceral and intoxicatingly beautiful, more rounded and full than The Demon Joke, less angular and ‘out there’ than To Cure A Blizzard Upon A Plastic Sea. If this suggests where Mike’s solo career is going, then good times are ahead, his confidence knows no bounds and he’s clearly enjoying his creative freedoms.
Alternative sounds, metal scope, mathy intensity and psychedelic bursts of colour are moulded into something mature and masterful, dripping with melody and gut-punch heaviosity. My boat is completely floated, it’s a long time overdue for this man’s talents to be more widely recognised.
01. Silhouette (4:29)
02. Super Sleuth (4:44)
03. Elemental (4:06)
04. Lancelot (4:37)
05. In the Dead, Dead Wood (3:06)
06. Weight In Gold (5:10)
07. Mourning on the Range (6:48)
08. Forc in the Road (12:37) (including hidden track Concierge)
Total Time – 45:37
Mike Vennart – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Joe Lazarus – Drums
Charlie Barnes – Upright Piano
Ben Griffiths – Bass (tracks 1,2 & 6)
Richard “Gambler” Ingram – Additional Keyboards (tracks 2,4,7 & 8)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 6th November 2020
An interview with Matthew Parmenter, of Discipline. Playing the Unfolded Like Staircase album. We chat about side-projects, collaborations and solo work, and generally have a fun time. Join us, won’t you?
1. Canto IV (Limbo)
3. Into The Dream
4. Before The Storm pt1
5. Before The Storm pt2
THE PROGRESSIVE TRACKS SHOW #391 (The Art Rock Age)
Prog? Progressive Rock? Neither was a common descriptor in 1970.
But ‘Art Rock’ was.
Time marches on…and many albums turning 50 this year deserve some love before this tumultuous year ends.
So it’s all 1970 this week!
- Pink Floyd – “If” from Atom Heart Mother on Columbia (1970)
- Gentle Giant – “Why Not?” from Gentle Giant on Virgin EMI (1970)
- Emerson Lake & Palmer – “The Barbarian” from Emerson Lake & Palmer on Razor & Tie (1970)
- Atomic Rooster – “Decline and Fall” from Atomic Roooster on Sanctuary (1970)
- King Crimson – “Pictures of a City” from In The Wake of Poseidon on DGM (1970)
- Rare Bird – “Hammerhead” from As Your Mind Flies By on Charisma (1970)
- Genesis – “Looking for Someone” from Trespass on Charisma (1970)
- Emerson Lake & Palmer – “Knife-Edge” from Emerson Lake & Palmer on Razor & Tie (1970)
- Genesis – “The Knife” from Trespass on Charisma (1970)
- Rare Bird – “Flight” from As Your Mind Flies By on Charisma (1970)
- Gentle Giant – “Giant” from Gentle Giant on Virgin EMI (1970)
- Pink Floyd – “Fat Old Sun” from Atom Heart Mother on Columbia (1970)
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 220 podcasts now!).
Most importantly, SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST below, so you’ll have it delivered to your fingertips weekly! ˅˅˅˅˅˅˅˅
The Progressive Rock show Sunday 22nd November 2020 – a 1979 Special
|Brand X||Don’t Make Waves||5:31|
|Dixie Dregs||Long Slow Distance||6:44|
|Joni Mitchell||A Chair In The Sky||6:37|
|Talking Heads||I Zimba||3:07|
|Vangelis||The Plum Blossom||2:33|
|Tony Banks||A Curious Feeling||3:51|
|Frank Zappa||Filthy Habits||7:32|
|Camel||Hymn To Her||5:34|
|Univers Zero||Jack The Ripper||13:13|
|Jethro Tull||Flying Dutchman||7:38|
|Steve Hackett||Every Day||6:08|
|Barclay James Harvest||Play To The World||7:01|
If you would like to contact Graham, please email email@example.com
This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2020/11/23/compassionizer-caress-of-compassion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=compassionizer-caress-of-compassion
‘Compassion’ sounds like a warm and fuzzy word. And yet, when you think about it, it is almost the opposite. Compassion is essentially the sympathetic consciousness of and concern for the suffering, distress and misfortunes of others. Its Latin roots translate it almost literally as “suffer with”. Not so warm and fuzzy then? I mention this because it is something I hadn’t thought about before listening to Compasionizer’s debut album, Caress of Compassion. I was expecting something cosy and comfortable, warm and inviting, and what I heard did not always match those expectations. So, then a ‘Caress of Suffering’, an almost paradoxical combination of ugliness and beauty wrapped up in twelve exquisite and atmospheric tracks, at once subtle and grandiose.
The album pulls the listener in gently with the quite beautiful yet vaguely unsettling Whole. There’s a quote about compassion that I’ve seen do the rounds on social media several times over the year. It wasn’t too hard to find an example, and this is what it said: “I don’t just listen to your words. I listen to your use of words, your tone, your body movements, your eyes, your subtle face expressions. I interpret your silences. I can hear everything you don’t say.” Whole seems to be as much about what isn’t present, than is. So while it might declare itself to be ‘Whole’, it leaves me feeling that it isn’t. “I’m fine”, it declares in words, while all other cues suggest otherwise. It’s an absolutely fabulous opening number.
At this point, I should point out that the files I received did not have complete names, so ‘Whole’ was indeed not at all whole, as it is actually The Whole Creation Travaileth in Pain Together. So I reviewed an album based upon what I was hearing, and inferring, and it seemed to match the titles of the tracks. Yet they were not the full titles. I wondered whether to start the review again with this new knowledge, but instead merely inserted this paragraph as explanation.
The blurb I received declared Caress of Compassion to be “Melodic Atmospheric World Avant Music”, and one aspect that I love about this is the various textures and tones provided by using instruments from both the west and the east. As Whole progressed, it started to remind me of the recent album from 3,14 which fused the instruments and instrumentation of west and east in a musical representation of the various peoples and cultures spread along the length of the legendary Silk Road. And yet, the ghost of Roz Vitalis (from which Ivan Rozmainsky of Compassionizer will no doubt be better known) is ever present, giving Compassionizer an avant edge missing from that descriptive blurb.
Street feels like a somnambulant walk down familiar roads, which I am prone to doing on routes so well known I can walk them on autopilot. There’s a sense of haze and daze, and the beat is almost hypnotic, disappearing at times, the way I can be conscious of my footsteps, then not, as I drift away in my thoughts while continuing to walk. It’s over before I know it – just like those walks down those familiar streets. I had to check if it were just an interlude, because it seemed to be only a minute or so long. But actually, it’s almost three-and-a-half minutes long.
The intriguingly titled How Poems is beautifully minimal, and yet very much present. Unlike Street’s sleepwalking quality, How Poems booms and resonates in a quiet fashion, that precludes passive listening. I love what I assume is a bass clarinet in this number. It’s absolutely wonderful. But further delights are not at all far away! Caress #1 begins with a delicate, almost Disney-like melody. It’s the most beautiful passage so far, not seeming to have an undercurrent of something not so beautiful. This doesn’t last too long, though, as it becomes less assured. The chiming delicacy of this Caress is irresistible.
Beware begins in a suitably spooky and ominous manner. The beat that kicks in comes as a complete surprise (though not a jump scare), and it’s almost like listening to psychedelic-era Porcupine Tree, mixed with soundtrack-era Ulver. It’s a trick and a treat – and it’s a glorious and unexpected one. So much so, that when the darkness returns with Heart (heart of darkness?), I suddenly realise I have been as incautious as Red Riding Hood, and forgotten to heed my warning. Beware? I heard no wolves (unless you count the aforementioned Ulver). Heart sounds almost like an admonishment, nevertheless. It almost comes across as a conversation between two parties – one of which is giving the other some truths. There’s a back and forth movement to the piece, but one half of this is definitely in a stronger position than the other.
I’m only halfway through the album. I could go on, but I feel like this is something that, if you’ve read this far and are still interested, you’re already caught in the Sinkhole. Compassion can be misguided, and I’m well aware that I’m quite possibly reading into the music ideas which come from my own personal circumstances. Caress of Compassion feels like an album that will make every person feel something different, but will also without doubt make the listener think. This is the compassion, I feel, as the listener is drawn to think about what the music is telling them (or, as I alluded to earlier on, not telling them). Caress of Compassion is not a passive listening experience. It is not always a comfortable listening experience. But it is always a beautiful listening experience, and part of that beauty is the empathy the listener has for the music. This might well be Ivan Rozmainsky’s best work yet! Wow!
01. The Whole Creation Travaileth in Pain Together (7:16)
02. Street Out of Sleep (3:22)
03. How Poems Lose Relevance (4:15)
04. Caress of Compassion (Part 1) (3:22)
05. Beware of Evil Workers (3:47)
06. Heart to Heart Talk (4:04)
07. Sinkhole (3:29)
08. Caress of Compassion (Part 2) (2:13)
09. 1907 (5:14)
10. When It Is Too Late to Love (3:06)
11. My Soul as a Thirsty Land (5:13)
12. Caress of Compassion (Part 3) (3:04)
Serghei Liubcenco – Guitar, Doira, Rubab, Recording
Leonid Perevalov – Clarinets, Bass Clarinets, Recording
Ivan Rozmainsky – Conception, Keyboards, Percussion, Recording
Natalia Fyodorova – Gusli
Yurii Groiser – Drums & Programming
Stanislava Malakhovskaya – Harp
Oleg Prilutsky – Trumpet
Record Label: ArtBeat Music
Country of Origin: Russia
Date of Release: 18th September 2020