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Legendary Swedish progressive-symphonic band Änglagård will return to North America for a brief 3 dates tour next month of May, the first one happening at Salle Jean-Paul-Tardif – Quebec, Canada (May 5th), then headlining the prestigious progressive rock festival RoSfest under the beautiful vintage-looking ceilings of The Majestic Theater at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (May 7th) and then wrapping it up at the Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago, Illinois (May 9th).

For those three performances the Vikings have planned an incredibly special presentation that will delight old and new Änglagård fans alike, as the band will be playing their landmark, genre-defining album, 1993’s “Hybris”, in its entirety, in addition to other Änglagård set-list fan favorites. The RoSfest show will alo have an extra exciting detail: It will be professionally filmed for an upcoming Blu-Ray/DVD box which will likely accompany the release of their awaited fourth album, a project the band is working on since the last months of 2016.

Änglagård’s first ever official live video saw the light of day last February in the form of a Blu-Ray/DVD set. Captured at Musikkflekken, Sandvika, Norway on February 21, 2015, the show marked the band’s return to Norway stages after 23 years of absence. The release has garnered very positive reviews around the progressive rock circles:

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“…Änglagård gave their fans their money and times worth with a colossal two-hour set. Tracks played include crowd pleasing Jordrök from their notorious album Hybris and the beautiful Sorgmantel. Their folky sound was accentuated by Anna Holmgren, who carries a real sense of magic in her articulate sound. The crowd were absolutely lapping up every moment of the lengthy performance. This was an absolutely fantastic showcase of real, creative and exciting music from a band that can’t be ignored…” – Louder Then War (Leema Sadia)

“… I won’t say Änglagård has arrived, they did that in 1993. But whatever anticipation I have for a new studio album has definitely increased because their potential has never been higher at any point in their career. Meanwhile, the band has finally delivered a live release on par with their studio work… “ – Mike McLatchey (Avant Music News)

Anglagard Rosfest Poster

SOURCE: Joel Barrios


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Back in the days of the tabloid-sized music weeklies, or “inkies” as they were known, for a period from the mid ’70s until the early ’80s the NME was my music Bible. It was The Guardian to the Melody Maker’s Telegraph, and to Sounds’ The Sun. That will mean little to anyone outside the U.K., suffice to say it was much more cutting edge than the fusty and dusty old MM, and way more intelligent than the populist Sounds. With writers like Nick Kent and Charles Shaar Murray, and occasional guest pieces by the daddy of rock journos, the mighty Lester Bangs, it brought to life the unattainable and otherwise unknowable seedy underbelly of rock’n’roll in those very pre-internet days.

In 1977 a young whippersnapper by the name of Paul Morley joined the NME, and together with his brainiac comrade-in-arms Ian Penman they began to slowly dominate the writing of the paper with their dense and impenetrable prose. With their references to obscure philosophy, social theory, and use of critical theory, their reviews and interviews often spent far longer on pseudo-intellectual discourse, or self-centred egocentric ramblings than the subject in hand, a Thesaurus never far from reach. Pseuds’ Corner wasn’t big enough to contain these two, thus alienating a big chunk of the readership, leading to the paper losing around half its circulation by the mid-’80s, me included.

The typically esoterically titled Zang Tuum Tumb, or ZTT, the record label he ran with Trevor Horn from 1983, with its arch and knowing style, often deliberately pretentious, summed up the Manchester miserablist’s outlook, although I will admit they put out some great music. While I tap away at the keyboard right now, I’m listening to the Andrew Poppy box set, On Zang Tuum Tumb, a fabulous meeting of modern classical music and the Fairlight, that should not work but does.

I have come across the permanently gloomy countenance of the author of this tome a few times on late night TV arts shows and read a few of his newspaper articles since those heady days, and he doesn’t seem to have changed much, viewing the world like it’s something he just stepped in, or at least that’s the impression given. I can’t ever recall seeing him smile, can you? Therefore, you can imagine my delight when I saw that Morley had written a book on his hero David Bowie, published a mere six months after the death of our generation’s John Lennon. I asked my better half to put it on my Xmas present list, and I’m glad I did, not necessarily for the reason you might assume given my dislike of the author!

Part eulogy, part biography, part social study, and inevitably part Joycean ego-ramble, The Age of Bowie takes 68 pages to actually get going, but there are a few acute observations buried in the untrammelled verbosity of the long-winded introduction. These occasional buried jewels are aided by the fact that Morley is obviously a big fan, and his love and enthusiasm for his subject is obvious. As a “for instance”, Bowie’s death affected me more than any in the rock’n’roll firmament since the passing of John Peel, but I’m not a big enough fan to have noticed as Morley did, that * (Blackstar) was Bowie’s 27th album if you count the two Tin Machine releases, and thus those before it represent an ‘A to Z’, with * being a new beginning that sadly became a full stop only a couple of days after the album’s release. Of course, that is all conjecture, but knowing Mr Jones’ way with media manipulation, the * was probably intentional and just as Morley called it.

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A significant part of Morley’s forest of words in those introductory 68 pages describe his reaction to Bowie’s death, in one instance musing on whether or not to use part of his contribution to the Victoria and Albert museum’s 2013 exhibition David Bowie is as a eulogy he could give out to enquirers from the media who it seemed descended on the author like crows on a rubbish tip almost as soon as Bowie’s death became known to the wider world. This pondering results in sentences like this: “It was also a way of moving between and connecting all the Bowies there were – glam Bowie, tabloid Bowie, experimental Bowie, mad Bowie, mod Bowie, lurid Bowie…(followed by 18 (!) more Bowies)…and then ending with “…my Bowie, and amidst all these fragmented Bowies, fragmented Bowie.”

Then there are the intermittent pages of short sentences spaced as paragraphs dotted through the book, telling us what Mr Bowie “is” in unrelenting fashion, no doubt recalling that V&A exhibition:

“David Bowie is dancing at the edge of the world”
“David Bowie is a standing cinema”

Etc etc, all neatly line spaced and covering two pages, ending with…

“David Bowie is a log cabin”

(I may have made that last one up.)

I would bet everyone apart from Morley’s nearest and dearest, and his long-suffering editor, assuming he had one, skim read those! Yes, it sure is overly wordy in places, but this is Paul Morley, so what do we expect?

Page 69 reveals the start of the third chapter entitled Madness and beauty, and with it the beginning of the biographical section, and for me as a less than fanatical camp follower this is where it gets interesting for someone who has not read any other Bowie biography. The biographical detail in the book makes for a fascinating read, and you can forgive Morley’s occasional flights of conjecture as a result, as for the most part the analysis of the fast changing ’60s and the way Bowie interacted with them, and his unstoppable ambition in the face of numerous setbacks and false starts is highly astute.

Morley describes Bowie’s relationships with the important people in his professional life with an odd superficiality, and gets to the heart of his various collaborations with significant influences, managers, producers, and important bandmates in an unusually brief and cursory manner given his reputation for endless windbaggery, even to the point where a tad more insight might have been a good idea, especially where Mick Ronson and Tony Visconti are concerned. We end the book really none the wiser as to Bowie’s working relationships with those two highly significant colleagues.

Although he was only a handful of years younger than the prime movers in the Beatles, the Stones and the Kinks, Bowie was never a child of the ’60s, a place where most seemed to be under a naive delusion that everything will be OK if you only just let it all hang out, maan. No it won’t, it always inevitably ends in Altamont. No, Bowie was far more suited to the fractured and fractious ’70s where he performed the role of the cracked actor staring into a dark mirror that reflected all his numerous flawed characters, and with them the paranoia, glitz and sheer fucked-upness of that polluted decade right back at us via whichever costume or mask he happened to be wearing at the time. Bowie’s appearance on the Dick Cavett show in 1974 as a cocaine ravaged skeleton in a baggy suit elicits this from Morley: “It looks as though he was the result of a coupling between a ghost and a sewing machine”. You can gather from that that Morley manages to keep the fanboy sycophancy to a minimum!

David Bowie shone his multi-faceted persona on those of us who went through the biggest part of our teenage years at some point in that decade, Morley being one of those pubescent urchins, as was I, and we understand all of this.

That each year of the seventies and 1980 gets its own chapter, and the time before and after is summarised in a more condensed fashion is no contrivance, for Bowie WAS the 1970s writ large, whether or not you were into his music. These chapters are split into 140 numbered sections across the eleven years, revisiting “David Bowie is…” by commencing each section “He is…” It does get a tad wearing after a while, and some of the sections seem arbitrarily separated, continuing a theme from previously with no real justification for a new sub-chapter, but the wealth of detail and Morley’s meaty analysis overcome this contrivance.

Following the 1970-1980 immersion is an extract from Morley’s time at the aforementioned V&A exhibition where he was “writer in residence”, and was asked to write a book on Bowie in situ, as a kind of living art installation. To help with this he gave out cards to exhibition visitors asking three simple questions. These are my answers to those questions, the first of which I have changed from the present to the past tense, for obvious reasons:

My favourite thing about David Bowie was: The way he never stayed the same, always going through ch-ch-changes.

I first knew about David Bowie in: Probably 1972, Ziggy on Top of the Pops, but I only really got into him when Low came out, and it is probably still my favourite Bowie album.

I would describe myself as: A very interested onlooker, but not a fan.

You may have possibly got the impression at the start of this ramble that I came to bury the author, but by the time I got to the end of The Age Of Bowie, .I can only grudgingly praise him despite his untrammelled verbosity. If you only ever buy one book on David Bowie, it may as well be this one, but you will need a surfeit of stamina and a machete to negotiate the verbal jungle, and the patience of a saint to forgive the author’s overbearing self-regard.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Year of Release: 2016

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From the first sonar-like ping to the last note, Third Quadrant’s 2016 album re:generator holds your attention, with a vocal style not dissimilar to Paul McCartney (at his best), and the modern prog interpretation of Dave Kerzner (with or without Sound of Contact). It has depth, very Pink Floyd in style in some of the instrumentation. Pink with Wings, does that mean pigs can fly?

Only 6 tracks but more than a pleasant listen, maybe not as involving over multiple listens upon purchase but it is a damned fine piece of work. The Floydian guitar sound is not a distraction, the keyboards creating that enveloping duvet of comfort sound; it is a nice diversion. As with the majority of bands that produce sounds that travel through the ether to mine ears, the musicianship is of the highest quality.

It is not a get up and boogie album, it’s a glass of Rioja, and perhaps some headphones, close your eyes and relax. But from that perspective it really is great. Clocking in at around 45 minutes, it fits the traditional two sides of vinyl design, but in that space, nothing has been wasted. Even with the delights of a good sound system, you do find yourself wondering how the perceived warmth of vinyl would make it sound.

When it drifts from Floyd central, harmonies, guitars and bass lines have Yes-like hints; Chris Squire would be proud of the bass on page:217. On this particular track the PF alter ego I find present too, in the shape of Alan Parsons. All this makes it sound like a pastiche of music past; it isn’t, there is more than enough originality to make it shine in its own right. The convoluted lyrics you would expect of Jon Anderson are there, though that in itself may just be the nature of a concept album. I think – although don’t they all – that the album seeks to address the human condition.

Third Quadrant have swallowed a lot of prog influences, but what will they be like live? A U.K. progressive rock band formed in the early 1980s and re-activated in 2012, this is an album that deserves a listen. Well, several actually. Yes it shows signs of the 80s but, in current terms, the use of soundscapes and narrative do not make it far removed from the music produced by Public Service Broadcasting; it is clever, it grows with repeated listens and has a cinematic quality. From bell:106 to 3:Arth it is rather beautiful. In a world of rush (small ‘R’), it has a calm and relatively peaceful feel. I’m inclined to reference the track titles, 62: miles being the distance from ground to space, I believe. The artwork is by Chris Hare, subtle and understated, but making me wonder if there is a connection between graphic artists and drummers?

For those quiet moments, it has my thumbs up!

01. bell:106 (6:54)
02. carbon:14 (6:48)
03. 62:miles (4:27)
04. page:217 (6:02)
05. deadstar:1 (19:03)
06. 3:arth (3:37)

Total Time – 46:51

Chris Dunn – Keyboards, Vocals
Chris Hare – Drums
Simeon Manners – Guitar
David Forster – Bass, Vocals
Shaun Bailey – Guitar
Clive Mollart – Keyboards

Record Label:
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 17th March 2016

Third Quadrant – Facebook | Bandcamp


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Atomic Rooster. Trojan Horse. Henry Cow. Er, Canned Goat?

I may just have made that last one up but farmyard-related band names appear surprisingly thin on the ground.

Bucking that trend (ahem…), please trot forward, in a genteel and decorous way, A Formal Horse.

The third EP from the Southampton based quartet is another exhilarating journey into fiddlyness, recorded and mixed by Rob Aubrey which gives it a mark of true quality. They’ve always been a highly interesting group having produced some superb pieces previously, but Made In Chelsea sees the stars aligned and is a confident step up overall.

The music, written by the guitar/bass/drums trio of instrumentalists, is well thought out, inventive and delivered with high-energy enthusiasm, guitarist Benjamin Short’s surrealistic lyrics sung by Hayley McDonnell with imperious charm. It’s a joyful explosion of the unexpected that succeeds in refraining from a shredding technique that would simply disappear up its own rear end.

The scurrying busyness of Chorale rouses the listener with a jolt, demanding attention before the intro to the exquisite Made In Chelsea (Apocalypse in 15/8), the music bringing King Crimson to mind rather than the nod to Genesis that the title might suggest. The scene set, Hayley’s first appearance sees her entrancing operatic tones soaring above the frenetic instrumentation, like an angel over a mass brawl.

“She: flies like
A piece of cake on an ill-tempered Sunday
She: buys like
A decent Sheikh, I can’t take that away.”

Her voice is simply lovely with a beautiful clarity that can rise to the required heights with ease, here giving a performance that could have come from Michael Nyman’s Prospero’s Books. The juxtaposition of the intense instrumentation with the beguiling beauty of the voice is enthralling and A Formal Horse have really hit on something here.

A change of tone after the big-hitting double-punch of the first two tracks, The Dead Hand Talks In Braille is plaintive and thoughtful, and at less than two minutes a gorgeous and tranquil oasis of calm, guitar and voice allowing empty spaces to enter the previously dense soundscape.

“The dead hand talks in braille;
Brains spilled in the cocktail lounge.
The mayor drowns
In champagne bubbles and hospitalised in a cocktail gown.”

The demonic KnobInANova returns us to a glowering Crimsoid universe, Frippian guitars niggling away like a physicist with Tourettes; this could be an outtake from the Starless and Bible Black era and is beautifully realised. I’m a complete sucker for a mighty bass sound and Russell Man succeeds in getting that “Don’t fuck with me” tone out of his instrument here. It’s a mighty beast of a thing that threatens to bludgeon you to death as soon as look at you, just the way I like it.

Finally, She Flew where, after a quiet intro, Hayley completely changes the outlook of the music with a magnificently stately performance.

“I hold the crowd and I;
With the flick of an eyelash turn young faces to flame
In dreams you repeat my name
I am and I am and too good, I flew again.
This town too tame.
This home too small.”

The chorus is strident and bewitching, the final vocal section coupled with frantic guitar scales the perfect way to end before sliding into a woozy fairground outro. There is plenty of variety within this EP which is spiky and epic all at the same time, and at less than 20-minutes it’s a real hit-and-run deal that doesn’t drag for a second, just making you want to hit ‘Play’ over and over.

These guys are overdue for an album, but maybe that’s the secret; 20 or so minutes released at irregular intervals to keep the momentum going is the best way forward. All of their releases to date are worth hearing but this one completely nails it for me and I’m going to have to take steps to catch one of their live shows soon.

01. Chorale (1:57)
02. Made In Chelsea (Apocalypse in 15/8) (4:16)
03. The Dead Hand Talks In Braille (1:45)
04. KnobInANova (4:19)
05. She Flew (5:20)

Total Time – 17:37

Hayley McDonnell – Vocals
Benjamin Short – Guitars
Russell Mann – Bass
Mike Stringfellow – Drums

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

A Formal Horse – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram


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Two years after their first album, Inflamed Rides, this rather thrilling gathering of enquiring musical like-minds return with Soul Of An Octopus, their first for the always interesting Rare Noise label, and it seems that no little development of their previously visceral sound has occurred. While still brimming with ideas and thrills aplenty, Soul Of An Octopus is a refinement on the debut, the arrangements and melodies are slicker, aided once again by superb sonics, courtesy of Marc Urselli on the mixing desk.

Opener Too Numb witnesses the band steal the essence of The Alabama Three’s Woke Up This Morning, aka the theme tune to TV show The Sopranos, and bend it out of shape while retaining its loose funkiness. The tune has a restless yet addictive quality that will have you throwing shapes in your head. Come on now, we don’t actually dance, do we?

Vocalist and band leader Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari has a great voice, and can go from full-on chest beating rock god to sweet soul balladeer in the course of the same song with consummate ease. Good singers seem to be as rare on the ground these days as a social conscience in the Cabinet, so it’s always a pleasure when a genuinely talented singer happens along.

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Italian exploratory guitarist Carmelo Pipitone lets loose some real dirty guitar on Collapsing Hopes that sends the song into a sleazy corner of your grubby little mind where it rummages about, emerging covered in unspeakable horrors and grinning malevolently. In complete contrast is the following track Searching For The Code, a slinky, melancholy and languidly paced prog-soul affair of the broken heart, and quite lovely it is too.

Elsewhere we have modern prog ballads, agitated bursts of angst, spiky instrumental passages, reflective soul searching, and always the classiest of arrangements. With a rhythm section of Colin Edwin and Pat Mastelotto, both for the most part displaying restrained power, the band sound powerful and confident, and their sound is not easily put into a neat box, which is all to the good.

Heaven Proof House sees Lorenzo seductively whispering up close in a poetic song that builds into a spooky scene setting for the following Just Another Bad Day, another head dancer that has the hookiest of choruses and a great little guitar break from Carmelo. The album ends with another vocal tour de force from Lorenzo, and Till The Sunrise Comes with its guitar-as-cello and Pat’s slow tribal drumming underpinning Lorenzo’s heartfelt paen to days yet to come leaves this listener wanting more.

While neither could be described as “pop”, Lorenzo shares an ear for a catchy tune and an intricate arrangement with Tim Bowness, and if you dig Tim’s current direction you should like this album too. Musically O.R.k. may be slightly heavier, which you would expect given who comprises the rhythm section, but they come from a similar place despite travelling along rather different routes to arrive at their respective destinations.

01. Too Numb (3:54)
02. Collapsing Hopes (4:38)
03. Searching For The Code (4:02)
04. Dirty Rain (5:05)
05. Scarlet Water (4:12)
06. Heaven Proof House (4:25)
07. Just Another Bad Day (4:10)
08. Capture or Reveal (4:48)
09. Till The Sunrise Comes (5:20)

Total Time – 40:40

Lorenzo Esposito Fornnasari – Vocals, Keyboards, Electronics
Carmelo Pipitone – Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Colin Edwin – Fretted & Fretless Basses
Pat Mastelotto – Acoustic & Electronic Drums & Percussion

Record Label: RareNoise Records
Catalogue#: RNR075
Date of Release: 24th February 2017

O.R.k. – Website | Facebook

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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.

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

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

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

Once and Future Band – Facebook | Bandcamp


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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.

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

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)

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

Matheus Manente – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp


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