Last year when I reviewed Cosmic Fall’s Kick Out The Jams, I knew that this German trio would be a band I would review again here at Power Of Prog. Cosmic Fall are certainly a true reason that much of the fuzzy oriented progressive/psychedelic/stoner rock did not die in the 1970’s. This brand of rock just continued on a ongoing everlasting metamorphosis that is not only still relevant today but it is thriving like a volcanic caldera waiting for the right time to explode within the progressive/psychedelic/stoner rock communities. It is due to this ground swell and underground demand for such genre of progressive/psychedelic/stoner rock that this is my third review this year concerning it along with Bla Lotus Tube Alloy’s and Mother Engine Hangar.
Their previous album Cosmic Fall’s Kick Ot The Jams saw the band produce a more atmospheric/progressive/psychedelic album with much longer tracks that had that album clocking in at 90 minutes. As with their contemporaries such as Earthless, Samsara Blues Experiment, Electric Moon, The Spacelords, Murky Red, etc, Cosmic Fall are another band of this genre who bring something different to the table with every new effort and In Search Of Outer Spaceis a brilliant display and testament to this. Plus due to changes between albums it makes for a very diverse live set in concert.
Jabberwocky opens up with a huge straight away fuzzy stoner chord progression. This is perfectly matched by the deep thunderous rhythm exchange between the bass and drums. Soon it is joined by a trippy psychedelic vocal. The track takes on a vast atmospheric chord progression with the brilliant work of Marcin Morawski – Guitar, on the guitar. About the 4:00 mark the track takes a bit of a drop where the bands more atmospheric side of various isolated chord progression or rhythm sections are more front and center displaying their individual genius. From the 4:00 mark to the end of the track the band offer a delightful buffet of various psychedelic/stoner passages anchored by progressive minded riffs.
Narcotic Vortex opens up with a very profound intense rhythmic exchange between the bass and drums. This is also done sointense to produce a deeper level of that beloved stoner fuzzy sound that Cosmic Fall are known for. The guitar enters in the equation providing a lot of direction and purpose within the beautiful deep intense rhythm section. The very depth to the rhythm section borders towards ‘Doom Metal’ and is like a Kyuss, Candlemass and Black Sabbath on steroids. At the 1:20 mark the track drops where the drums work as a melodic percussive instrument allowing layers of both bass and guitar to begin to build towards a up tempo towards a melodic mesa. Daniel Sax – Drums uses the actual rim of the drum head to form a very unique off time signature to perfectly compliment the rhythmic work from the bass and guitar. Marcin Morawski – Guitar has a brilliant way of playing a various time signature exchange between both rhythm and lead guitar where some chord progressions feel like a keyboard may be involved however is not. This is also one of the more atmospheric yet bizarre tracks on the album allowing for a very strange and intricate chord progressions to usher in a kick ass drum solo towards the end of the track.
Purification opens up subtly with a very atmospheric element created the drum cymbals. The bass continues and adds a very brooding and moody layer to the intro to the track. This track also reveals the true method to the madness that is Cosmic Fall. The way the band takes this 4+ minute track that appears to be a bit simple yet brought together in a complex throughout provoking song is incredible. This is soon followed up by a very 1970’s stoner-acid semi bluesy rock atmospheric guitar that completely peels back the various layers that are to come in the track. The track begins a upwards climb through various melodious twists and turns. This is one of those songs on the album that really allow the listener to absorb the whole album experience.
Lumberjam opens up with heavy drum work that serves as the perfect anchor for the remaining rhythmic bass and a all out guitar riff frenzy. Lumberjam is definitely the perfect title for this song. The band definitely take no prisoners laying down a all out psychedelia of various thunderous riffs and rhythmic bliss. About the 1:30 mark the guitar takes on more lead character and depth allowing for the rhythm section to provide a atmosphere where the lead portion of the guitar to sound a bit more upfront and center. This also carries some light doom metal elements especially with the fuzzy rhythm section. The guitar solos are varied and very often throughout this song.
Spacejam opens up with a classic psychedelic and very trippy effect which the band are very known for to their fan base. Think Frank Zappa meets Earthless meets Oresund Space Collective. This effect actual gives the listener the appearance they are somewhere in space and have been recording aa track just in case they meet any alien race and/or lifeforms on their journey. Following the psychedelic effect the bass comes in very isolated with the character of intrigue and mischief. The band certainly are not shy of incorporating old school vintage yet proven psychedelic chord progressions and percussion’s mixed in with modern melodic special effects. Spacejam proves this true on the album. This is definitely a track I would consider mixing in 5.1 surround sound to amplify and enhance the auditory senses of the listener. The band has a very unique ability to isolate every instrument involved rendering all of them to be enjoyed individually while still maintaining a collective harmonious balance with all of them.
Icarus starts of very Sabbath,The Re-Stoned,Murky Red, and The Spacelords in its nature. The doom metal like elements are there and the stoner rock elements are all there. The opening is a very kick ass straight up psychedelic fuzzy style passage. This track sounds like the band went into the studio as a collective unit, plugged in to the amps and mic’ed up the drums and just went after it with a classic non premeditated improvised mindset. The track takes on various progressive style patterns with a very up tempo intro followed by a a very mellowed psychedelic middle. This is the second and last track with lyrics in it. The lyrical content is a various mixture of a space rock, stoner heavy psychedelic nature. With this being the final song on the album the band go out with a big robust sound of all the elements they are known for.
Cosmic Fall may not be the first band to put all the progressive/psychedelic/stoner rock elements together in a pioneering spirit , but they are certainly on the vanguard of the next generation of bands that will carrying this further into the future. The band also are developing a great body of work to present to the world both with albums and live sets. Depending how the band go from here they could be talked about 20 to 30 years from now. Much like Kick Out The Jams in 2017 making my year end list in the top 10 do not be surprised that Cosmic Fall’s In Search Of Outer Space does the same thing. I give Cosmic Fall’s In Search Of Outer Space a 5/5 for sheer consistency.
The idea of Artificial Intelligence-supported A&R has become big news in the music business lately, with UK-based scouting tool Instrumental raising $4 million for aggressive growth, and Warner Music Group acquiring Sodatone for an undisclosed fee. Here, Instrumental Founder & CEO (and ex-President of Warner Music Entertainment), Conrad Withey , argues that machine learning isn’t hurting the tradition of signing and developing artists – it’s improving it…
There has been a lot of noise in the music media recently predicting that bots will gradually take the place of experienced A&R teams, by making calls on what tracks or which artists are going to be hits.
People claim that this tech can accurately predict the likelihood of artist success in the future, and subsequently question the need for old school ears.
I even heard a recent alarming question concerning Instrumental’s own AI-driven scouting platform: ‘It’s listening to 20,000 songs a day – so who needs A&Rs?’
“AI OFFERS THE MOST EXCITING DEVELOPMENT IN THE WORLD OF TALENT DISCOVERY SINCE THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN MUSIC BUSINESS.”
Most of the time this kind of stuff is pure speculation, based on misunderstanding, or peddled by data scientists trying to make a name in an industry they don’t understand.
(Or it’s just a good punchline: a recent meeting at Instrumental HQ in London triggered this very article. MBW publisher Tim Ingham joked that – with both AI-supported A&R and AI-generated music continuing to emerge – we might soon be witnessing “robots signing robots”!)
My serious view is that AI offers the most exciting development in the world of talent discovery since the birth of the modern music business.
This isn’t about a binary choice between ‘gut instinct’ and ‘data’ – it’s about technology which helps all of us get better at what we do.
To get to the truth, let’s take a step back and look at what AI actually means. It’s a hot topic in investment circles right now, but it’s bandied around a lot without an enormous consideration for what machine learning is really all about.
A quick look at Wikipedia tells us that artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning is “the field of computer science that uses statistical techniques to give computer systems the ability to ‘learn’ (i.e. progressively improve performance on a specific task) with data, without being explicitly programmed”.
That’s a helpful summary because it gets us to the crux of the matter: why might it be useful to employ machine learning in the process of scouting in the music business?
THE MUSIC INDUSTRY IS DROWNING IN DATA. THERE’S NEVER BEEN SO MUCH OF IT.”
The simple answer is that we are now drowning in data. There’s never been so much of it – from Spotify to SoundCloud, Shazam to SongKick and Instagram to YouTube it just goes on and on. And it’s only getting worse (or better, depending on your disposition). Spotify – currently the biggest audio streaming platform by a country mile – recently confirmed that it’s adding 20,000 new tracks to its service every day. That’s 7 million+ each year!
Granted, the vast majority of these tracks won’t be of interest to most labels or publishers (the democratisation of the business has done great things, but it also means there is a lot of poor quality music out there).
However, within that 20k-a-day stat, there are definitely future hits and emerging stars.
As we all know, in 2018’s music business, play listing is an essential A&R tool in itself: Spotify’s curators and algorithms drive streams, and streams drive commercial value.
On Instrumental’s platform we can see that there are currently over 8,000 ‘influential’ playlists in existence on Spotify – by which we mean those with 10,000 followers or more.
Within these playlists, as we stand today, there are 400,000+ artists and 45% of them are not on major labels – ie. they are on indie labels or self-releasing artists.
So that’s 20,000 new tracks a day, many of which are being added to 8,000 ‘influential’ playlists, harnessing 400,000 artists, of which nearly half (circa 180,000) are independent.
And that’s just on Spotify!
“45% OF ARTISTS ON SPOTIFY’S MOST ‘INFLUENTIAL’ PLAYLISTS ARE NOT ON MAJOR LABELS.”
Stats like these help us see both the problem and the opportunity for AI.
Clearly, tracking all of this music the old way just isn’t going to work. An A&R boss can employ as many interns or scouts as they like – they’re never going to be able to sort through all of that manually.
Who’s hot, who’s climbing in popularity, whose music is worth taking the gamble and investing in; this is all information the music business needs, in real time, to effectively compete.
AI can do that sorting for you in a nano-second.
By applying preferences to the way the data is filtered, through machine learning, you can achieve results that have been hyper-qualified to your strategy and tastes.
At that point, when you have the results, the power of ‘old school’ A&R really comes into play.
That’s when you can start measuring things in terms of the hairs on the back of your neck.
Armand Ruiz, Lead Product Manager at IBM Watson, said recently: “[The] purpose of AI is to augment human intelligence.”He’s absolutely right.
This is not about replacing human intelligence. It’s about helping us do the intelligent things which we are paid to do… better.
So, A&Rs: apply AI to the scouting process and then apply your ears to the super-qualified results.
By doing so, you will undoubtedly improve at what you’re employed to do.
Here’s another point I think people get hung up on: letting a machine power your scouting isn’t some sort of cop-out.
It doesn’t make you a lesser music executive or label.
“LETTING A MACHINE POWER YOUR A&R SCOUTING ISN’T SOME SORT OF COP-OUT. IT DOESN’T MAKE YOU A LESSER MUSIC EXECUTIVE OR LABEL.”
Let’s face it – scouting isn’t the music business’s most highly-valued skillset anyway. If it was it wouldn’t have been left to the most junior member of the team for the last 50 years!
Scouting is the start of the A&R journey. It is the discovery bit.
It is the process that comes before the bit where you truly start applying the skills, experience and instincts that a bot cannot come close to replicating.
But scouting is also critical. Do it badly and your music business… isn’t in business.
So, ‘Data vs Gut’ in A&R really isn’t a binary choice. In the computerised world of 2018, the music industry truly does need both.
It’s time to welcome the machine into the creative process – not to replace your gut instinct, but, actually, to empower it.
Within some genres of music whether it is progressive rock, psychedelic rock, krautrock, etc .. there are leaders and then there are followers. The followers try to trace a picture or try and sound like another musical entity whether it is a solo artist or a band. The followers are like sheep gone astray that left to their own devices seem very bland or someone trying to fit in with the popular crowd. 75% of music is primarily made up of followers. The followers just seem they can not think or create anything for themselves. They are always ‘YES -MEN,’ who want to appease every person with every little thing due to fear or lack of confidence or perhaps talent.
There is also the other 25% that are the leaders. The leaders are always the visionaries who lead by example. Those who are leaders create their own molds in which to make their own casts. These are people who create and innovate while others imitate. The leaders are often times regarded as foolish daydreamers who live and behave in in a altered reality. The leaders are persecuted, scrutinized and often times discouraged from perusing the passions, dreams and visions. These are courageous who cut there own path’s towards their respective destiny’s.
Why open this review with such a comparison you ask? Well by closer observation I have come to the conclusion the Heavy Psych Sounds and their act Mother Engine are in the 25% leader bracket and Mother Engine’s current release Hangar in the perfect example to this. With only three people in the band, Mother Engine certainly have a full sound of what we have come to expect from 5 to 7 person bands. Through true knowledge of their respective instruments and much practice
Mother Engine are a very unstoppable ‘Three Man Progressive Psychedelic Symphony’.
What they create is a vast expanse of quality music that requires a long attention span. This is due to the fact that there are only four tracks on the album at almost 20 minutes each. Think Bla Lotus’ Tube Alloy’s with much longer soundscapes. Without any further delay lets look into the world of Mother Engine’s Hangar through those four tracks.
Prototyp (18:23)-begins with a heavily stoner/psychedelic induced chord progression that works also as a heavy atmospheric introduction. There is a very special effect as if the band are giving the listener the illusion or appearance that some kind of spaceship or space probe is closing at its air lock. It is as if the band are going to take their listeners on some cosmic voyage into the unknown. Soon the special effects would give way and fade when a deep bass progression comes into the track. From there a rhythmic progressive frenzy ensues.
Soon the lush guitar atmospheres come in perfectly giving the listener a vivid melodic illusion of sheer melodic controlled cosmic chaos. The band certainly knows how to allow both stringed and rhythm sections to breathe and enjoyed very distinctly by the listener. Christian Dressel – Bass manages to perfectly execute a twofold approach between using the bass both as a melodic instrument and a percussive rhythmic instrument weaving in and out of both elements effortlessly. There seems to be nothing pretentious or contrived within the objective of the song composition. Mother Engine certainly has a great uncanny ability to create atmospheres of both stoner and psychedelic elements. With only three members in the band they manage with excellence to create a Stoner-Psychedelic Symphony that gives the listener the illusion that there are much more instruments and personnel involved.
Biosp(i)rit (18:08) opens up in such a precise way that has one perhaps recognizing a particular Jim Morrison and The Doors classic Psychedelic epic opus The End.Very soon after such ambient psychedelic intro, this song take on a very old school fuzzy distortion with how Chris Trautenbach – Guitar, creates it within the vast expanse of the song body. This is also supported with a deep rhythmic section that perfectly compliments the atmosphere created from the brilliant guitar. Following this great stoner symphonic introduction, the track takes on some very strong 1990’s alternative Stone Temple Pilots styled chord progressions and passages. To qualify that last statement, the band still remain very 1970’s progressive-psychedelic stoner minded and always on point to their main objective.
This track is one of those tracks that is perfectly ready for the band to give it to a live audience with the live treatment. It starts off very subtly building layer upon layer until it the absolute metamorphosis into the perfect ‘Jam Band’song is manifested for both band and public consumption. One thing I am starting to notice going forward in the album is that the band do not layer tracks or overdub tracks to death in studio making it very difficult to give their music the above mentioned live treatment. At about the 10:00 mark the track presents the listener to come killer riffs that are perfectly complimented by some very deep and deliberate space rock style chord progressions and rhythmic sections. That brief yet powerful explosion of sonic creativity soon fades down a bit around the 13:00 mark. It settles with a simple guitar chord progression that is met with a very intricate rhythm section that takes on a progressive rock personality about it. This roars out with a heavily fuzzy distortion element on a straight away rock track.
Tokamak (21:29)opens up with a eerie suspenseful atmosphere. It has quite a Krautrock meets psychedelic Syd Barret era Pink Floyd style about it. In a era where some music is being formatted for hi fidelity sound and surround sound the effects presented in the opening to this one remind me heavily of the days of 1970’s quadraphonic sound which was the a pioneer to surround sound and hi fidelity. While most music is listened to through a headset, the opening to this alone is well worth a open air listening session through professional studio monitors if one has access to that format of technology.
The use of the guitar to form a screaming sound along with the drums created a rain water sound is a thing of sheer beauty and genius. When you are familiar with your instrument enough where you can manipulate the presentation with various effects not typically associated with that effect you are a well studied musician and Mother Engine certainly meets that criteria and it shows on this song. Another dynamic going on here is that to the very seasoned consumer to this brand of music and to the trained ear that can pick up analog sound. it sounds like the fresh needle of a vinyl record being spun like music use to be. This is yet another depth of talent that Mother Engine possesses.
At about the 9:00 mark the band take the song into a more progressive/psychedelic jazz atmosphere with the various time signatures and chord progressions. After that the band do what they seem destined to do in the recording process, that being the layering element upon chord progression in a line of melodic precept after melodic precept.
Weihe/Leerlauf (19:18) opens up with a beautiful Indian Classical Music oriental scale blended with the signature psychedelic space rock that the band have already established on the album. Here is another track where the band uses their expertise in layering their sound with various sub tracks that make for a full and warm composition. The band also has a very intricate ability to go from painting atmospheres in the song to straight away psychedelic jam band rock chord progressions. Their signature fuzzy stoner riffs still anchor this track like they have with the 3 previous tracks on the album.
The band allows for the song to move in various different directions leaving for room to be non predictable where the listeners attention remains focused within the album. This track sees the band utilize their ability and musicianship to meet this very purpose. This track has one of the most definitive and solid 8+ minute outro’s in the history of this genre I have ever heard. It is a true roller coaster ride of up tempo, to atmospheric space rock styles, to crunchy straight up rock riffs.
This one certainly took me by surprise. Mother Engine are a band that truly makes great epic psychedelic rock without it sounding imitated or just another redundant jam band session. In their improvisation their riffs and chord progressions all have a purpose and direction without them just being ‘Fills’ or ‘Cogs‘ in the system or machine. With Hangar, Mother Engine have another melodious project to build their respective legacy on. Mother Engine’s Hangar gets a 5/5.
Melodic Revolution Records Featured Album For April 2018 Babal | The Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues
Label – Melodic Revolution Records Release Year – 2018 Country – United Kingdom Genre – Art/psych rockers tinged with folk,tribal,goth,jazz to make a challenging brew of musical/theatrical/mime/visual madness that allows for absurd social comment and hellish edgy grooves 🙂
Band Members Karen Langley – Vocals Rob Williams – Guitars/Synthesis/Ebow Jon Sharp – Drums
Guest Musicians Paul Smith – Double Bass – (Stolen Breath,He’s Got The Bends) Zoie Green – Keyboards – (He’s Got The Bends, The Great Overwhelm) Craig High – Clavino – (He’s Got The Bends) Ben Baisom – Bass – (The Great Overwhelm, Amanda, Monkey On My Banck,Partakers)
Track Listing Teeth Of The Universe Amanda He’s Got The Bends The Crooked Path Stolen Breath Monkey On My Back The Foot High Guy Partakers Volunteers The Great Overwhelm Skating On The Pond Blockpave Me Over
“This highway leads to the shadowy tip of reality: you’re on a through route to the land of the different, the bizarre, the unexplainable…Go as far as you like on this road. Its limits are only those of mind itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re entering the wondrous dimension of imagination. . . Next stop The Twilight Zone.” ― Rod Serling
Throughout my various journey’s and pilgrimages into the world of progressive rock I have ran into many characters. Some characters have been very uplifting and positive with both music and lyrical material. Other characters have taken me into some very intelligent and thought provoking areas of the mind. Meanwhile other characters have taken me into areas where I had to stop and ask, “WTF, did I just experinece?” This is as if I had found the Twilight Zone of Progressive Rock.
This is the case with Melodic Revolution Records latest sign Babal. You are truly introduced to some very mind altering characters on their recent effort The Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues. Babal are a heavy progressive rock version of bands such as Siouxsie And The Banshees, meets The Cure, The Church with a twist of Concrete Blonde on the Gothic end of their vast spectrum. On the psychedelic end of the spectrum it is more what would of been found on the corners of Haight and Ashbury in middle to late 1960’s San Francisco with bands like Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin & Big Brother And The Holding Company, The Byrds, Fever Tree, Mama’s and The Papa’s, etc … On the progressive rock end bands that come to mind are Yes, King Crimson, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, even the more eclectic appearance and sounds of early Peter Gabriel era Genesis. A full cacophony and cornucopia of various sounds that Babal have fashioned into their own unique world of eclectic psychedelic progressive rock.
The band themselves went very under the radar to me until I was able to obtain a copy of The Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues. The album is made up of 12 songs. Each song carries a different side to the personality of the band. It may require a few spins however, if the listener remains objective and open minded they will start to pick up on the many personalities that make up the character of the band as a collective. Let’s explore the 12 various and melodious personalities that make up the very character of Babal’s The Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues.
Teeth Of The Universe opens up with a heavy progressive funk element which is somewhat reminiscent of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic with a little Gothic sprinkle of Concrete Blonde’s Bloodletting album.There is a huge big top heavy drum layer that sets up the rhythm section to come with ease. There is a equal balance between the funk elements and the progressive rock rhythm sections. The rhythm sections are more rooted within more chord progressions found in psychedelic rock. Rob Williams certainly has a atmospheric approach with the lead guitars. Soon the dark, deep and sensual Gothic voice comes in who is owned by the ever talented Karen Langley. This is a sure fire roller coaster of various psychedelic chord progressions married to traditional progressive time signatures. There is also some great soulful backing vocals that add a accented flavour to the lead vocals.
Amanda opens up with a perfect union of bass guitar and synth’s. The open has a EDM vibe that is transcribed to a more progressive/psychedelic rock pallet. This has a very groove laden rhythm section. The vocals are semi spoken word, semi melodic as Karen Langley gives the listener the illusion of two separate and distinct characters in between her lead and backing vocals. The lyrical content is very thought provoking.
He’s Got The Bends starts out with a heavy psychedelic chord progression that is running in harmony with a more Indian Classical Music/ Oriental music passage. The beautiful vocals and articulate yet bizarre storytelling certainly add to the album. The listener starts to see a very unpredictable yet highly interesting pattern the band continually presents in the album. The Double Bass and the Clavino certainly add a whole otherworldly dimension to the bands sound and presentation. Babal are certainly not shy with experimentation whatsoever.
The Crooked Path begins with a psychedelic and unorthodox chant from Karen Langley. You start to see the true depth of both her talent and her uncanny ability to experiment with the music of Babal. Rob Williams – Guitars/Synth’s and Jon Sharp – Drums certainly allow the music space to breathe to open up such experimentation. This track is the perfect example to that. The band are as articulate in the instrumental side of the melody as Karen is with her lyrics and storytelling. The track takes a more fuzzy stoner distorted fade out effect towards its conclusion.
Stolen Breath starts out like it has some very early pre-alternative vibe that came out of the sound of late 1970’s CBGB’s in New York. Rob Williams has a very serious depth with his synth orchestrations. Stolen Breath really opens the listener to this very fact. The vocal harmonies between the lead and backing vocals are tracked very well that it sounds like Karen has a mini choir following her in harmony to her lead vocal. Jon Sharp has a uncanny ability to use the cymbals to create atmospheres in the backdrop on the song and making those atmospheres more melodic at times rather that a rhythmic section sound.
Monkey On My Back opens up with a very heavy and traditional progressive rock chord progression passage. The brilliant brainstorms this band has allow for another beautiful articulate spoken word section in the lead vocals meanwhile playing in perfect harmony to the melodic backing vocals. This track is a straight away jam band style track. It has straight away drum textures along with a sick guitar rhythm section along with a nice thunderous bass line. Rob Williams executes some serious guitar solos towards the end.
The Foot High Guy starts out almost like a soundtrack to a television show of suspense or horror depending how you hear it. It is a very dark and brooding chord progression that is soon met with some seriously dark lyrical content in perfect harmony to the instrumental portion. There is a lot of consistency here allowing the listener to become enveloped in both the dark instrumental and the dark lyrical content. The lead vocals remain very soulful as well.
Partakers starts out much like a cosmic space rock style chord progression. The beginning comes much in the tradition of bands like Oresund Space Collectivemeets Buckethead. The bass/rhythm section certainly anchors this track and allows the guitars and vocals to open the listener up to yet another perspective of the bands very eclectic sound. The lyrical content remains absolute Genius in this song. The synth’s are very wonderfully orchestrated much like a horned section in this one as well.
Volunteers opens up with a very deep bass synth backed atmosphere. Soon the guitar and drums lend to the very eclectic rhythm section. The band seem to have a very great talent to make a song sound very different from the other songs as to not have the entire album sound like the same thing all the way through it. The lyrical content continues its articulate consistency on this track as well. In a way this track reminds me very much of Concrete Blonde’s Ghost Of A Texas Ladies Man.
The Great Overwhelm opens up with screeching high end lead guitars that are anchored by a very straight up bass/drum rhythm section. The very amount of rhythm on this going forward is insane. The synth’s are once again both use as a horned section and a sound effect section. Despite its title The Great Overwhelm allows a lot of space for the listener to digest what they are hearing at that moment. The heavy Gothic influence remains this deep into the album as well.
Skating On The Pond opens up as a very somber synth driven track. The synth takes on the very character of a traditional Hammond Organ that has been well associated with progressive rock since its inception. The beautiful vocal layers and harmony totally take the track to levels that are very Avant Garde meets Psychedelic. The lyrical content continues to be very heavily thought provoking.
Blockpave Me Over opens up with a strange yet interesting spoken word section. Soon the track takes on the very character of a deep bass/drum driven rhythm section. The synth’s come in to create layers upon layers of atmospheres. Those atmospheres are perfectly complimented by equally interesting guitar solos.
This album was certainly a treat to the ears. The way every track has its own character and basically forces the listener to take notice of every nuance about it is short of stunning. Where some albums start to lose the listener half way through them, Babal’s The Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues hooks you and never let’s the listeners attention go. I especially like a band that refuses to be pigeonholed into one sound as well. Babal take many elements out of many genres to make their own distinctive sound that is only Babal. This is certainly a discovery I have been waiting to see on the Melodic Revolution Records label. I give Babal’s The Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues a 5/5for sheer experimental brilliance.
Melodic Revolution Records Feature Album March 2018 | Marco Ragni | The Wandering Caravan
Label – Melodic Revolution Records Release Year – 2018 Country – Italy/International Genre – Progressive/Psychedelic Rock
Band Members Marco Ragni – Vocals/Electric and Acoustic Guitars/Bass/Keyboards/Mellotron/Piano/Mandolin Dave Newhouse – Sax/Clarinet/Flute/Keyboards and Woodwinds Arrangements Jeff Mack – Bass Peter Matchuniak – Lead Guitar Maurizio Antonini – Drums
Special Guests Luca Zambini – Hammond Organ Ian Beabout – Flute Nadav Yitzhak – Oud Michael Zentenar – Violin
Track Listing What We Have Done In The Past We’ll Be In The Future Waiting On The Threshold Promised Land Which Is The Right Path To Take ? It’s Only Fantasy What Are We Willing To Lose To Regain Our Freedom ? Keep Dreaming Back Home Again
Sometime in early to mid spring of 2015 I came into a discovery of Melodic Revolution Records. Its founder Nick Katona had friend requested me over on Facebook and soon the discovery unfolded much like the opening of Pandora’s Box for me. The talent on this label is on par with any other label on the planet today. As far as progressive rock, psychedelic rock, etc … Melodic Revolution Records is both untapped as far as its deep roster of talent and a label on the verge of just one release breaking right to become a household name within the progressive, psychedelic rock community. I feel that the subject of this review Marco Ragni will have a lot of say into the future of Melodic Revolution Records as a collective.
Marco Ragni is no stranger to the Power Of Prog community either. Back in 2016 I presented two very different reviews of this Italian Progressive Genius. The first was the very personal introspective double concept album Mother From The Sunand the very intelligent and thought provoking Land Of Blue Echoes. Now in 2018 I return to review the appropriately titled, Marco Ragni’s The Wandering Caravan. This current offering sees Marco Ragni return with some familiar faces and label mates such as Jeff Mack – Bass – (Scarlet Hollow), Peter Matuchniak – Guitar – (Gekko Project, The Steppes Tribute To Early Steve Hackett and Bomber Goggles).
Then there are some newer musicians to the Marco Ragni franchise. Making their debut’s to the franchise on The Wandering Caravan are Italian drummer Maurizio Antonini, Luca Zabbini – Hammond Organ– (Barock Project), Ian Beabout – Flute, Nadav Yitzhak – Oud, Michael Zentiner – Violin – (Zenlandband). Marco Ragni has a uncanny ability to assemble world class musicians on his projects and The Wandering Caravan is certainly no exception. The returning talent is also a testament that Melodic Revolution Records has a very heavy family like atmosphere where its musicians really want to work with one another.
With The Wandering Caravan, Marco Ragni brings a little of his last four releases with him. There are some of the vast atmospheric structures from Mother From The Sun, the technical, yet futuristic and forward thinking progressive rock from Land Of Blue Echoes, there are the more precise to the point radio hits much in the vein of Californiawith songs like It’s Only Fantasy, Back Home Again,Which Is The Right Path To Take and Promised Land, with some of the more experimental psychedelic elements of Rajanty especially with tracks such as What We Have Done In The Past We’ll Be In The Future and Waiting On The Threshold. The Wandering Caravan is basically a progressive rock symphony in 8 movements. Each movement that I will now proceed to elaborate on.
What We Have Done In The Past We’ll Be In The Future begins with a little Latin flair with the acoustic guitar style of Marco Ragni himself. It soon fortifies into a well structured atmospheric track off the flamenco acoustic chord progressions. The acoustical chord progressions allow for the heavier more straight forward lead guitar sections which are done by one of the world’s most criminally under rated guitarists Mr. Peter Matchuniak, (Gekko Project, The Steppes : A Tribute To Early Steve Hackett). Peter Matchuniak is a beautiful well balanced blend of David Gilmour meets Steve Hackett with a sprinkle of ‘The Canterbury Sound’ of Pye Hastings of Caravan.
A cacophony of various woodwind instruments along with a Hammond Organ make for a blast of sheer progressive bliss. They carry elements or progressive rock’s past with modern more contemporary elements for a current listening audience. This is also a a testament of true growth as a songwriter and musician that accompanies further maturity. With the flutes there is a heavy Jethro Tull style within this track. Whether it is deliberate or by influence it is done with the utmost taste and class. This is all enhanced by lyrical content that allows the listener to take the song in so many directions within the screen of the theater of the mind.
Waiting On The Threshold opens up with a fine woven tapestry of various piano, wind and keyboard passages. Marco’s very distinct vocal comes in with semi isolation off the instrumental portion. The relationship between the vocal and instrumental allows for both sides the ability to breathe without one suffocating the other. There is also a beautiful dynamic of lead guitar and acoustic guitar’s in a gentle, warm inviting melody. The underlying flute makes for a very interesting world music element that will have a instant international flavour to the composition. This one is also full of some longer instrumental passages.
This track also contains some heavily induced folk elements. Marco Ragni has some strong elements of Pink Floyd and Cat Steven’s vocal elements blended with the great expanse of the instrumental working perfectly in union with one another. The song closes out with some beautifully arranged jazz elements which are articulated by the saxophone. Some of the closing jazz portions remind me a lot of Weather Report meets Camel with a little twist of Caravan.
Promised Land opens up with a very strong psychedelic folk passage. This is created with the well blended elements of acoustic and semi acoustic guitar’s mixed with elegant flutes to accompany them. Soon the vocal harmonies and more up tempo chord progressions enter in along with the powerful rhythm section. This is the first track on the album that really has a distinct and definite rhythm section compared to the previous two songs. The rhythm section has more atmospheric than heavy laden time signatures. It also transitions smooth and seamlessly into the following track Which Is The Right Path To Take? The seamless transition has some serious overall 1960’s style psychedelic vocal harmony’s and song melodies.
Which Is The Right Path To Take? picks up smoothly where Promised Land left off. It does so with heavy and profound psychedelic elements. The vocal harmonies are very woven off various layers where one vocal track is blended in from another vocal harmony. This layering continues to the point where there are three to four vocals playing off and on each other. The various vocal layers continue until there is a main lead vocal passage anchoring the track. The lead guitar has a heavy influence into the various directions of the song. These heavy stringed influenced sections are a definite staple into the identity of Marco Ragni’s music and this track validates this. Both the lead and backing vocal’s run in spot on perfect time with the open expanse of the stringed section.
It’s Only Fantasy opens up with a deep dark piano passage. The passage gives the listener the appearance that Marco is isolated in a open acoustic friendly room with just him, his heart and voice. This is very heavily laden elements of Avant Garde and RIO, (Rock In Opposition). This is done with a lead piano chord progression that meets up with various woodwind instruments along with some semi conventional keyboard passages that sound very heavy in a regressive state of mind. If you, the listener, enjoy some Avant Garde/RIOcream in your straight blacken normal progressive coffee than this is perfect to start your morning music journey. This song finishes up with more straight away traditional heavy prog chord progressions.
What Are We Willing To Lose To Regain Our Freedom? opens up with a more traditional progressive rock passage. You can hear all the hallmarks that distinguish progressive rock from other genres. There is a beautifully performed Hammond Organ along with a deep bass and drum aesthetic. The deep tones from both the rhythm section and organ synth’s along with the strong atmospheric backdrop satisfy the purists of the genre. Soon the instrumental atmosphere gives way to various effects of innocence as we here children at play. Much like Mother From The Sun, Marco Ragni has a very uncanny method at conveying innocence through his musical compositions. What Are We Willing To Lose To Regain Our Freedom? continues to validate what seems to be a signature staple in Marco Ragni’s musical legacy. Overall What AreWe Willing To Lose To Regain Our Freedom? is a very uplifting song that is both a progressive rock opus and a classic rock masterpiece.
Keep Dreaming opens up with a deep profound piano with highly lush tones and dark melodies. The added beauty in darkness is the vocal which perfectly compliments the instrumental section. The first few minutes transport the listener into a symphony hall atmosphere. Soon after a hint of the acoustic guitar is sprinkled in to add melodious flavour to the arrangement. The song goes from dark and somber to one of uplifting enlightenment. The instrumental is uplifting and the lyrical portion is in perfect harmony to the instrumental. Marco Ragni always has a intricate way of taking the listeners minds and moods from dark somber landscapes to horizons of pure enlightenment. Towards the end the track display’s heavy symphonic and progressive folk elements. Keep Dreaming is a classic textbook example to this. It is also a track with many vintage elements from the late 1960’s and 1970’s however with a modern 21st Century accent on it. Keep Dreaming seamlessly transitions into the final song of the album Back Home Again. The transition reminds me a lot of the seamless transition from Any Colour You Like to Brain Damage off Pink Floyd’s Darkside Of The Moon.
Back Home Again transitions beautifully from Keep Dreaming. The track takes a very heavy folk rock chord progression along with vocal harmonies that perfectly compliment the instrumental part. The tone that Back Home Again takes is very simple yet relaxed. This is written in such a way that allows the listener to begin to absorb and appreciate what that have just heard on the album as a collective, which is difficult to do sometimes. The violin eloquently performed by Michael Zentenar is the unsung hero on this one and helps to anchor mood of the song.
In the short few years I have known Marco Ragni through social media and his music, it has completely been bewildering and inspiring all at the same time. He definitely has the ability to transcend many sub genres that now lay under the progressive rock banner. Marco Ragni is definitely one of progressive rock’s new standard bearer’s who is carrying the flag among the contemporary progressive rock community. The Wandering Caravan is another masterpiece that will cement Marco Ragni’s legacy as such. I give Marco Ragni’s The Wandering Caravan a 5/5.