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This news story was originally published here:

Another band following in the currently popular minimalist jazz fusion tradition, the Swiss group AKKU Quintet make music that is at one and the same time glacial and precise, yet human and emotional. The plaintive conversation between piano and guitar on Aeon Part I highlights this in addition to setting the scene for the track Aeon. Nominally split into three parts, but played as one piece of music, this beautifully constructed piece weaves its magic, the intertwined sax, guitar and piano crystalline in perfection. The gentle insistence of the piece builds in waves, and in Part III the tension, kept just below the surface propels the piece to its conclusion and the safe hearth of home. All of this is underpinned by the metronomic precision of the rhythm section, the whole thing arriving at a predestined point with an almost clichéd unhurried Swiss precision.

Unusually the drummer is the sole composer here, and Manuel Pasquinelli has continued his spacious groove from the previous album Molecules with style and grace. Polar witnesses more of guitarist Markus Ischer’s Eno/Fripp-esque sky-saw guitar as the piece unfolds in layers of icy calm, twinkling in the low but strong sunlight offered by Maja Nydegger cyclical piano figure that eventually breaks down to start again, rejoined by the ice-sheet guitar. This is a lovely piece of music, regardless of what convenient pigeonhole it may get put in.

Flying Low increases the tempo and uses repetition well to somewhat ironically create a hypnotically climbing piece, with clever and sparing use of electronic effects on the guitar and piano making for a fraught atmosphere as it zooms past your ears under the high tension lines. Markus Ischer is an impressionistic player in the European style, and his soundscapes – you can’t really call them solos – are enthralling.

The lengthy Satellite repeats the lesson that the space between the notes when used well is just as relevant as the notes themselves, the tune unfolding in its meditative stately fashion, subtly changing time signatures as it goes. We end with Waves and the longest is saved until last. The clue is in the title, as the piece, borne on Andi Schnellmann’s repeated high register bass figure, initially ebbs and flows with Maja’s piano. These waves are of the gentle, lapping variety, there is no storm here on this inland lake of contemplative vastness. The other lead instruments all get their turn in the groove, locking into the disciplined rhythmic structure, only to fall away again, and so it goes, and so it goes…

This is a triumph of composition and arrangement with which to end a fine album, and one that will bear repeated playing chez moi.

Much like Molecules, AKKU Quintet will not be rushed on Aeon and use the time well to reveal subtleties in musical patterns by way of precision playing. With Nik Bartsch and Sonar (of whom Manuel Pasquinelli is also a member) in their locality they are in very good company, and if you are partial to that kind of minimalistic compositional trait, then AKKU Quintet with its slightly fuller sonic palette will certainly get your cuckoo bouncing on its spring.

01. Aeon Part I (1:49)
02. Aeon Part II (3:44)
03. Aeon Part III (9:25)
04. Polar (10:08)
05. Flying Low (9:42)
06. Satellite (12:10)
07. Waves (21:01)

Total Time – 68:02

Manuel Pasquinelli – Drums
Michael Gilsenan – Sax
Maja Nydegger – Keyboards
Markus Ischer – Guitar
Andi Schnellmann – Bass

Record Label: Morpheus Records
Catalogue#: MORPH013CD
Date of Release: 24th March 2017

AKKU Quintet – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp


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Sub89, Reading
Thursday 28th April 2017

I rather like Sub89 as a venue. Whilst the public image it portrays tends to focus on its use as a thriving night club, it is nevertheless quietly acquiring a growing reputation as a notable live music venue and becoming a welcome stopping point on the tours of many new as well as already established bands. The unassuming exterior gives no indication of the expansive and open space it offers with excellent acoustics and widely accessible views of the stage.

The atmosphere is warm and welcoming as a lively and receptive audience gathers for the launch of the second Lonely Robot album, The Big Dream. For a Thursday night, the sizeable numbers are a gratifying reflection on the increasing appeal this band is beginning to exercise. Nor is it entirely unexpected given the popular success of their debut album Please Come Home, released in 2015, along with the deep and widespread respect in the prog community for front man John Mitchell.

Louder Still
[Louder Still – photo by Rob Fisher]

First up are Reading based band Louder Still, who deliver a thoroughly accomplished and supremely entertaining set of pulsating, energetic and good old fashioned rock and roll. More than once I found myself drawing fondly nostalgic comparisons with Rainbow and echoes of Deep Purple. They bring an undoubtedly fresh and exuberant development to the classic hard rock sound. The enthusiasm and commitment of Craig Carlaw’s drumming is matched by the relentless intensity of George Twydell’s guitar, grounded in the driving, thrumming bass work of George Ives and lifted by the Gillan-esque vocals of Tom Rampton. Most enjoyable.

After a short break, Lonely Robot casually saunter on to the stage to a light smattering of anticipatory applause and launch straight into a feisty rendition of Airlock from Please Come Home. Immediately there is an intense sense of presence, even gravitas, and as the band continue with God vs Man and The Boy in the Radio it quickly becomes clear that a driving and determined vision is lying behind and directing the course of the music.

Lonely Robot - John MitchellMitchell, decked out in the spacesuit familiar from the two album covers, humorously quips they need to get the “old stuff out of the way” before they can move on to the new material. And whilst we get our first taste of the new album four songs in with In Floral Green, he quickly returns again to the first album for the bulk of the main set. It is not until the end, after an astonishing drum solo from the brilliant Craig Blundell, that we are treated to a fantastic performance of Everglow and the wonderful Sigma from The Big Dream.

Nor is this accidental. Far from getting things ‘out of the way’, one of the revelations of the evening is the sense of continuity, development and evolution that exists between the two albums. The key figure of The Astronaut acts as a core theme which is gradually being explored across different contexts and the music is an unfolding narrative of the journey being experienced. Starting the evening with an emphasis on the first album is a natural ‘setting of the scene’ for us to begin to understand what is happening in the new album.

Watching the band in full flow is an absolute pleasure and delight. Whilst Please Come Home featured a large number of guest musicians, The Big Dream sticks closely to the core members. Mitchell certainly seems a lot more settled and at ease and the music is both tighter and more creative as a result.

Lonely Robot
[Lonely Robot – photo by Rob Fisher]

Steve Vantsis has a precision and insight which makes the bass penetrating and powerful. Liam Holmes brings an incisive attack to the keyboards which fills the soundscape and adds plenty of bite and depth. Mitchell, as always, is phenomenal and it is hard to name another guitarist who possesses his timing, mastery and sublime touch. Craig Blundell continues to shine quite spectacularly, an effortless whirling dervish of supreme intensity disguising a steely discipline and tight control. We are also treated to a guest appearance from Kim Seviour who brings a lovely balance and harmony against Mitchell’s gritty vocals.

The net effect is a band who are now growing together, gaining in confidence as they interplay with each other’s skills and producing music which is compelling, direct and, at times, simply mesmerising. They leave the stage to thunderous applause, a chorus of whistles and the appreciation of a breathless audience who have experienced and enjoyed the very highest levels of musical creativity and musicianship. A great evening and a wonderful way to launch the new album.

Lonely Robot

[You can read Rob’s review of The Big Dream HERE.]

God Vs Man
The Boy in the Radio
In Floral Green
Lonely Robot
A Godless Sea
Are We Copies?
Humans Being
The Red Balloon
~ Encore:
Drum Solo (Craig Blundell)

Craig Blundell – Drums
Liam Holmes – Keyboards
John Mitchell – Guitar, Vocals
Steve Vantsis – Bass

John Mitchell – Website | Facebook | Twitter


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Whilst having an ever active schedule, Steve Hackett, the former Genesis guitarist, graciously took time out to talk to TPA’s John Wenlock-Smith about his latest album, The Night Siren and his current U.K. tour (which started tonight in Cardiff), also of his future plans and the progress of writing his memoirs that is currently underway…

Good afternoon Steve, how are you doing?

I’m doing well, very busy though but that’s better than the alternative!

Lets talk about The Night Siren album for a moment, how has it been received?

Very well indeed all told, it’s been in the U.K. Chart, the Germany chart and the Italian chart, and I’ve just found out its doing well in Holland too.

I was in Holland myself recently seeing Marillion, they love their music over there.

Indeed they do. I played at a club called Boerderij in Zoetermeer in the middle of Holland. It’s a lovely club that holds about 2,000 people and it’s always a good crowd there too. It’s the heartland of Dutch music.

I’ve seen it advertised in Prog magazine, they seem to have great shows on there regularly.

Yes indeed, it’s a fantastic institution. It’s great, truly wonderful.

Steve Hackett - The Night SirenI reviewed The Night Siren for our site and felt it was a complete distillation of all your work and your talents, and a good summation of your releases over the last few years. I really liked it.

Yes there’s a lot of things on it, a lot of instruments that some people wouldn’t recognise, but I think the album was a product of having made 20 odd friends from all around the world and using different instruments from all around the world in an attempt to broaden rock’s shoulders and to go non-formula if possible. And to allow some protest material to appear as well, I’m particularly proud of it really.

It seems as if there have been other things to talk about, other than just the music with the little bit of the story and theme of musical migrants who ignore borders and just demonstrate that it’s possible for people to get on and with people from Palestine, Israel, Azerbaijan and recording all over in Hungary, Sweden, Bulgaria, with stuff recorded in Miami, London, also some of it was recorded in Sardinia, so there is an Italian influence on there too. Some of it databased, if you know what I mean, some of it not in time and sometimes they were just drum tracks. There have been a couple of albums that have come from the base material.

Djabe, for example, have done an album from the source material that was recorded in Sardinia, and it sounds great, rather ambient jazz with ethereal trumpets, and with Gulli Briem from Iceland on drums creating a kind of Weather Report vibe like on A Remark You Made from the Heavy Weather album with the bass player having played with a Jaco Pastorious feel, it’s good stuff. It’s all put together from jams, very laid back but beautiful stuff, I have some shows with them soon aside from my regular touring band.

Steve Hackett - UK Tour posterSo how’s the tour going?

It’s been good, we’ve done a Caribbean tour, the States, Scandinavia and played Europe and a few hot spots. We were in Stockholm just after the bomb went off, thankfully we weren’t there when it happened otherwise the show would have been cancelled, but it was on the next day so we played a few streets away from where it happened, and it’s Nad Sylvan’s hometown so it was a very special show.

There was a letter in Prog magazine from a guy who saw you in San Sebastian in Spain and he said he felt that you were very underrated in general, and you are so mentioned in the Wind and Wuthering article. And there is a six-page piece on you in there too.

I hope I said nice things about the others! Well I guess being away so much I’ve missed that one so I will have to get that.

And the U.K. Tour starts on Friday?

Well we play in Dublin on Wednesday and then the U.K. after that.

I’m hoping to be able to see you this time around, possibly in Manchester with Sue as she wants to see you again.

Well It will be great if you can and I can promise you it’s a good show. We do three songs from The Night Siren and most of Wind and Wuthering, including Inside and Out which should have been on the album, and always appears in my version of the album at least.

Steve Hackett with Gary O'Toole & Nad Sylvan - photo by Christian Arnaud

You mentioned in your interview that you are writing your book now.

Well I am writing it slowly, and I’d love to write half an hour every day but I’m so busy that it’s easier said than done. To get that I’d have to give up sleep but it will get written eventually.

I’ve just read Phil Collins book (Not Dead Yet).

What did you think of it?

I enjoyed it but I thought he had a bit of a downer on you though.

Yes, he did a bit really and I don’t know why.

I get the impression that he fits in better with the other two – The Charterhouse set – than you did.

It’s odd, I’ve heard Phil say that Genesis were over when Steve left and heard him say the opposite at times too, so there seems to be some inconsistency there. I think there must be a reason why that era is held in such esteem and why there are over 100 tribute bands who focus on that era.

I think Tony (Banks) may be a bit of an awkward bugger at times and he is very chordal and likes his Rodgers and Hammerstein twinkly parts.

Well here’s an interesting thing. I think there is nothing wrong with Rodgers and Hammerstein, or Rodgers, and love one and the other. I’ve been listening to some of those old soundtracks again and when you listen to some of those melodies they wrote and listen to what is going on, you have to have an open mind. If you don’t listen to Bach you’re missing out. If you don’t listen to blues you’re missing out. Musically in there it’s very interesting indeed, and also Phil tended to vote along with the other two and Mike always sided with Tony and he bossed Tony about too. I think they’ve always had a love/hate relationship.

It was always about alliances and having a strong voice in a vote. For example, I put forward the opening to I Know What I Like several times before they ran with it; sometimes they’d throw the baby out with the dishwater, as it were.

I think I must be the Black Sheep of Genesis, sometimes they speak favourably of me and at other times less so, but composition by committee has its failing and I think Phil still sees himself as the new boy! I am very proud of what I did with them and the band they became. They seem very keen to forget the spotty youth era for some reason which is very sad as it is their history, although that said, if they ever wanted to reform with me included I’d be there like a shot, but I think even if I had the skills of Hendrix and Andrés Segovia they still wouldn’t want me.

I guess they’d want to revisit the pop era and do stuff like Abacab and Mama again. Sue and I laugh about that album, I tell her if she misbehaves I will play her Mama and that keeps her in line.

Well there is nothing wrong with having “Hits”, and I had that with GTR with Steve Howe, we were in the charts in the U.S.A. with When the Heart Rules the Mind for instance, but I guess they won’t contact me anyway. There is a science to having a hit, but I decided not to chase that as I think it can undermine an album because each album has its own journey really.

So what’s next for you?

Well I’ve got the stuff with Djabe and then I will reconvene with my band, if I can call them that, and we will be off to Australia and New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand and then more Italian dates too. I love playing in Italy.

Last time we spoke we talked about another blues album.

I was asked by Malcom Bruce (Jack Bruce’s son) to play at a show at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and I jumped at the chance as I love blues. There were about 40 musicians up there including Paul Young and Lulu, I played Spoonful and I was on fire, I absolutely loved it.

I love blues but it must be live as I don’t feel studio recordings capture it somehow, plus I was playing Gary Moore’s guitar.

His Les Paul Gold Top?

No, this was his Gold Top Fernandes that was made especially for him. It sounds fatter than mine does.

How did you get that?

A guy called Graham Lilley, who is my Guitar tech at times, was Gary’s full time tech and he is involved with Gary Moore’s estate and he bought it to me as a spare for me and I said if it ever comes up for sale give me a shout and he did, so I bought it. You can hear it on that last piece on The Night Siren album (The Gift).

Excellent. Well Steve, my time has gone so I’ll let you go. Thanks for talking with us, I wish you well with the tour and everything and I hope to see you on the road soon.

Thank you for talking to me too. Keep well.

Steve Hackett - photo by MichaelAarons

[You can read John Wenlock-Smith’s review of The Night Siren HERE.]

Steve Hackett – Website | Facebook


This news story was originally published here:

When it was announced that Swedish progressive music pioneers Isildurs Bane and Steve Hogarth, Marillion’s vocalist, had come together for a musical collaboration my interest was notched up quite a bit. Isildurs Bane have been around in progressive music circle since the Seventies with their rock based chamber music, employing strings, brass, woodwind along with traditional rock instruments. I have been aware of them for some time but to my shame have not investigated their musical world; this collaboration with Steve Hogarth seemed too good to miss.

The collaboration came about after keyboardist Mats Johansson invited Steve to join them after his appearance at Isildurs Bane’s annual concert at Halmstad in 2013, where he was a guest of Richard Barbieri. Mats wrote the songs with Steve in mind, and when he had agreed to come on board Steve contributed further ideas which expanded the album. Steve states that the invitation came at an extremely busy time for him but he was intrigued by Johansson’s writing and became engaged with the project. Colours Not Found in Nature is the first full album for Isildurs Bane since 2005’s MIND Vol 5: The Observatory as since then they have concentrated on their successful IB Expo concerts, educational workshops and theatre projects. Johansson felt that the biggest personal challenge was to find out if he could still write music, and if Isildurs Bane as a band were interested in working on a new album. As for Hogarth, he relished the opportunity to work outside Marillion, using more diverse topics for his lyrics, as he puts it, “as a creative artist I get to work with the kind of instrumentation and ensemble that I don’t normally work with. It’s a beautiful thing to be part of. I would jump at the chance to do it again.”

Indeed this album is a beautiful thing, Hogarth’s lyrics sit so well with the instrumentation of Isildurs Bane which support and enhance them while they weave their stories. The performances are all top notch here; special mention should go to Samuel Hällkvist whose guitar contributions are superb, adding colour and texture without dominating the other instruments.

The album has six tracks totalling 41-minutes of music, the perfect running time which leaves you wanting more and invariably leads to you hitting the ‘repeat’ button. The slightly discordant opening leads quickly into the guitar which kicks off the up tempo, lively riff of the first track, Ice Pop, the keyboards and guitar taking the lead ably supported by some great trumpet here and there. Towards the end the strings come in as the tempo slows to accompany Steve’s vocals along with a piano before the song segues into The Random Fires, a Beatles influenced pop/rock song, bright and almost cheerful.

This album at times has a big, varied sound with lots of instruments but they never seem cluttered, there is always space between them to ensure each is heard and no individual dominates proceedings. Each of the songs is superbly constructed, dynamic with quite an emotional or passionate feel, holding ones attention throughout.

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The track The Love and the Affair has Hogarth listing mundane and everyday tasks which are done in the name of “love”, the lyrics later in the song suggesting that something is missing and the consequences of this feeling, on this the album’s longest track at over 10-minutes. This follows the wonderful ballad-like Peripheral Visions, a beautiful song where the strings blend and weave around Hogarth’s voice, which appears at its best on this album. The lovely melody of Diamonds and Amnesia, which is provided by the strings and synths, gives way to the tour de force that is the album closer, Incandescent. Here the ensemble’s energy takes us on a turbulent and skillful ride, from a twinkling almost gentle start instruments are added as the song develops before it takes off at around three minutes with some great guitar supported by some brass, ebbing and flowing in a much more angry way than what has gone before.

The level of song writing and performance is top notch, with each contribution as important as the next. The songs appear to have a natural flow through the album, complex and dynamic blending together effortlessly elements of rock, prog, jazz and contemporary classical music into a cohesive whole. This has been a great collaboration, one which I hope they will do again. Give it a listen, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I certainly wasn’t.

01. Ice Pop (6:23)
02. The Random Fires (5:16)
03. Peripheral Vision (7:00)
04. The Love and the Affair (10:33)
05. Diamonds and Amnesia (5:18)
06. Incandescent (6:50)

Total time – 41:20

Steve Hogath – Lead & Backing Vocals
Katrine Amsler – Keyboards, Electronics
Klas Assarsson – Vibraphone, Marimba, Percussion
Luca Calabrese – Trumpet
Axel Crone – Bass, Clarinets, Saxophones, Flute, String Arrangements
Samuel Hällkvist – Guitars
Mats Johansson – Keyboards
Christian Saggese – Classical Guitar
Kjell Severinsson – Drums
~ Additional Musicians:
Liesbeth Lambrecht – Violin & Viola
Pieter Lenaerts – Double Bass
Xerxes Andren – Drums
John Anderberg – Choir Vocals (on The Love and the Affair)
Anneli Nilsson – Backing Vocals (on Peripheral Vision)

Record Label: Ataraxia
Catalogue#: ATX4CD
Date of Release: 14th April 2017

Isildurs Bane – Website | Facebook
Steve Hogarth – Website | Facebook

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Nooumena, with their odd name derived from Greek philosophy, hail from Caen in France and Controlled Freaks is their second album, the first, Argument With Eagerness, came out in 2011. They have close connections to fellow Caen avant-prog band Rhùn and having originally produced a demo as Nooumena back in 2006, after that 2011 debut album they spent some time with Rhùn’s various projects before concentrating on their own music once more. Other than that I know nothing about them, not having any PR info to go on. Suffice to say that Controlled Freaks is a rather fine maelstrom of dark prog with avant/RIO leanings, which is why it got my attention.

Seeds, Needs charges out of the traps foaming at the mouth, strident Zeuhl rhythms taking the thing out of sight down the track before it suddenly…stops, gets up off the floor muttering and cussing as it regroups its thoughts, lurching off again, slower and more composed this time, but gathering momentum as it goes. This is the world of Nooumena, and France is and has always been the go to place for this sort of brooding, heavy music.

Thibault Geay’s theatrical singing style, full of whoops and hollers, spoken/shouted parts, not to mention conventional singing, enlivens proceedings no end as the fabulous procession that is Bamboozled attests as it levels all before it.

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Concealed has the feel of early Anekdoten gone Zeuhl, which is no bad thing, and the album as a whole is one heavy beast. That pervading heaviosity is leavened by passages of deathly dark ambience, in fact the track 7×6∞ is nearly five minutes of marvellously unsettling atmospherics that you won’t be playing with the lights out. Very creepy indeed, it ends with a tortured scream. Obvious debts to Univers Zero, Present, et al are there for all to see.

There is nothing particularly new here, thus proving that avant prog can be just as guilty of looking backwards as any other subset of Prog, but there is more than enough on this record to maintain one’s interest. At under 40 minutes it does not outstay its welcome, and Nooumena show no little talent in their swirling cacophonies, and produce music that is always lean and purposeful, and with very little fat, and for that I commend it to the house.

01. Seeds, Needs (6:38)
02. Bamboozled (6:07)
03. Death Toll (6:56)
04. Something Else (2:29)
05. Concealed (5:06)
06. 7×6∞ (4:46)
07. Dog eat Dog (5:28)

Total Time – 37:35

Pierre Blin – Drums, Synths
Thibault Geay – Voice, Guitar
Maxime Métais – Guitar, Sax
Simon Toralba – Bass

Record Label: L’étourneur/Decagon Records
Country of Origin: France
Date of Release: 28th February 2017

Nooumena – Facebook | Bandcamp


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Sounds like a hard slog, doesn’t it? Well Naryan have defied the odds by producing a highly listenable album, that as a side bonus will probably score highly with the suicidal, although that is probably poor marketing and likely to result in a reduced take up for their third album…

But enough of the flippancy, in all seriousness you should probably give this a listen, with the proviso that knives should be safely locked away before consulting the lyric book.

Naryan’s journey began in the early Noughties when current guitarist Lauri Kovero started composing progressive and, yes, melancholic instrumental pieces. The search for the right musicians to build the project was a long one, which seems to be continuing as two new members have appeared since the release of Black Letters in early 2016, the follow up to their 2013 self-titled debut.

Vocals are now a key feature, ably provided here by Ville Korhonen. The music is shot through with the aforementioned violin, piano and occasional flute which add greatly to the available textures, immediately apparent in the sorrowful strings of the opening title track. With a slightly more Gothic edge that does not permeate the whole album, Ville adds an impassioned vocal, the song moving in a folk direction with the appearance of recorder before bursting into a rockier flourish for the conclusion. Overall it’s a classy song with the emphasis on melody and bodes well for an album that continues beautifully with My End Leaf and Frost, the former having real sweep, coloured by strings and with the addition of harp in the quiet bit. The latter has more energy and Eveliina Sydänlähde’s flute works well with the strings, drive and energy coming from the guitars which are of the electric variety with a metallic edge.

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There are plenty of bands playing this kind of thing to stadiums, but Naryan have a pleasing homely quality that focuses mainly on the one-to-one relationships between the characters in the songs, a case in point being the delicate I Promise You, Pauliina Vilpakka’s beautiful voice working well in duet with Ville. The mournful tone of the violin is central to a piece that is very nicely arranged, building to a suitably appropriate climax. It’s pleasing that the guitars don’t take every opportunity to swamp the proceedings with distorted metal, the device used sparingly to add to the effect, supporting the strings and piano rather than being cranked to 11 for the hell of it, and it works a treat, as with In Silence, a quite beautiful piano driven song with lovely violin from Nona Onnela. It’s a real ear-worm and beautifully delivered, orchestration expanding the sound.

Fuzzed up guitars return for Together In This, but the colours from strings and winds remain. Ville tries a slightly different approach with a rockier edge, and it works, although I prefer his vocals on some of the other songs as this one would be a little too “straight-ahead” if it weren’t for the gorgeous violin and piano textures.

Misery is another lovely song, still devoid of any chuckles though, a big ballad with string support that brought The Moody Blues to my mind at times. The rising melody of piano and violin is lovely, an injection of guitar and a well-judged solo keeping the momentum. Sleeping Beauty is the kind of song that would be the “lighter in the air” moment for many a stadium band, another quite delicate number delivered by an imploring Ville but with enough balls to give it momentum. Similarly, piano and violin form the basis of Hey Girl, which on paper sounds light and throwaway. In reality it’s anything but and there’s real depth and thought in the arrangements.

Finally, the longest song 764 sees a change of direction with the integration of acoustic guitar, which would no doubt have been worth utilising more earlier on. Ville is harder and less romantic here – he’s clearly having a hard time – and the focus is on a grittier setting, although the acoustic instruments add the necessary warmth. It’s a kind of claustrophobic mini-epic, if such a thing is possible. The spoken word bit could probably have been dropped, and there’s a hint of a shriek in there too, but the melody is always at hand, even if in the background, and it finishes the album on a grand-scale high.

Give Black Letters a proper listen and it won’t let you down. Yes, it is indeed a solemn and melancholic affair, but the attention to detail, the instrumentation and the determination of the band in making this album the best they can shines through, so hats off to all concerned. Gothic with a small ‘g’, Naryan don’t overplay their hand and the writing, arrangements and performances are all of high quality. This is a band that has real class, the result being an uplifting listen – as long as you don’t stray too far into the lyrics! I understand that the next release isn’t going to be as bleak – I hope that doesn’t diminish their appeal as they have some good stuff going on here. Give it a go, well worthwhile.

01. Black Letters (4:27)
02. My End Leaf (4:33)
03. Frost (4:56)
04. I Promise You (5:31)
05. In Silence (4:04)
06. Together in This (5:39)
07. Misery (4:44)
08. Sleeping Beauty (4:30)
09. Hey Girl (5:44)
10. 764 (7:20)

Total Time – 51:28

Ville Korhonen – Vocals
Lauri Kovero – Guitars
Raino Ketola – Guitars
Eveliina Sydänlähde – Bass, Flutes, Backing Vocals
Nona Onnela – Violin
Klas Granqvist – Drums
Tuomas Ilomäki – Piano
~ With:
Emma Mäntylä – Cello (tracks 1 & 3)
Pauliina Vilpakka – Vocals (track 4)
Olli Syrjälä – Acoustic Guitar (track 9)

Record Label: n/a
Country of Origin: Finland
Year of Release: 2016

Naryan – Website | Facebook


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Following on from the pleasant discovery, late last year, of the rather intriguing Cubic album from LITE, I noted that regular touring partners were fellow countrymen and Tokyo based trio, Mouse on the Keys. At the time I remember checking out a few Youtube videos and making a mental note do some research after the festive season. Needless to say it completely slipped my mind until the recent press release, announcing that the trio would be performing in the U.K. and across Europe during April and May 2017, triggered the grey matter.

The press sheet also mentioned a new release from this keyboard-led trio.

Immediately dispel all thoughts of similar formations as not only do Mouse on the Keys comprise a variation on this theme, with two keyboard players and a drummer, but they travel a different musical pathway. Mouse’s music is rather more minimalistic in approach, although not without its own complexities, incorporating elements of jazz, funk, ambient and electronica. Perhaps mindful of the pitfalls of their rhythmically challenging, often quirky arrangements, the trio never lose sight of musicality and the playful Afterglow is a prime example here.

Curious, I decided to backtrack and Mouse’s previous album, The Flowers Of Romance (2015), which certainly pushes the boat out with it’s unfriendly foot tapping beats and rhythmically angular keyboards. There’s also a firmer grasp on the dissonant, however it still retains many of the aforementioned elements. I suppose there’s more meat on the bone with The Flowers Of Romance, clocking in at just under forty minutes, whereas Out of Body doesn’t quite get into its stride. Or perhaps I’m just being greedy? At just under eighteen minutes I’m not entirely convinced that Out of Body has enough time to fully work. What’s there is fine and the sombre and evocative Dark Lights, for instance, is delicious.

Out of Body does suggest a slightly more introspective phase for Mouse on the Keys, but given the underlying theme of death, or near-death experience, perhaps not unexpected.

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Above is Leviathan, a track taken from the band’s previous album The Flowers Of Romance – and well worth checking out.

01. Intro (0:11)
02. Earache (3:10)
03. Dark Lights (4:50)
04. Afterglow (3:44)
05. Elegie (3:25)
06. Out Of Body (2:33)

Total Time – 17:53

Akira Kawasaki – Drums
Atushi Kiyota – Piano & Keyboards
Daisuke Niitome – Piano & Keyboards

Record Label: Top Shelf Records
Catalogue#: n/a
Date of Release: 25th January 2017

Mouse on the Keys – Website | Facebook


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