1. An art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill, 2. Skill or dexterity 3. Skill or ability used for bad purposes; cunning; deceit; guile. 4. The members of a trade or profession collectively; a guild
When a band makes a album they frequently use words like write, record, produce, engineer and master. That conventional wisdom is not wrong whatsoever and those words are very appropriate to use to describe the album making process. Now when some people work on a project like a album they use attention to detail in every facet of that process. Attention to said detail can be called craft, crafting or even crafted once the process has reached its completion.
To craft something is to take extra attention to detail by carefully using a special set of skills to get a special set of premium results. This is exactly what Sweden’s Bla Lotus have done with their Melodic Revolution Records debut Tube Alloy’s. When we think of Sweden and progressive rock or metal music we usually think of Opeth or a Pain of Salvation, Flower Kings, Änglagård, Anekdoten, Spiritual Beggars,Nad Sylvan, etc …
Bla Lotus are a serious heavy prog band that carry various old school influences of late 1960’s to early to mid 1970’s stoner fried psychedelic music to a modern age of listener. Bla Lotus are a Hammond Organ lovers paradise combining elements of Rick Wakeman and Jon Lord meets Per Wiberg – Spiritual Beggars to craft a very unique melodic stringed section which is highly due the fact the band has no guitar whatsoever with the various Hammond, Mellotron and other synth’s. The fact they do not have a piece like a guitar does not cheapen the product at all. Even in the description on their official Facebook page says, ” Progressive rock trio. No six-strings allowed”.
For a band that started only two years ago in 2016 they have developed such a tight cohesive sound. On Tube Alloy’s you can certainly notice that Fredrik Andersson – Hammond Organ and Farfisa Organ/Mellotron/Synth’s/ElectricPiano/Flute and Vocals , Linus Karlsson – Bass Guitar/Theremin & Random Sound Effects and Wiktor Nydén – Drums/Percussion all mastered the craft at their individual instrumental roles much like musical journeymen. Now a breakdown of Bla Lotus Tube Alloy’s track by track.
Trajectory begins heavily with a very deep bass/drum rhythm section that is soon met in perfection with a Hammond Style organ. From the first hooks the band transports the listener to the 1970’s based chord progressions and passages with a modern relevant sound. Fredrik Andersson definitely display’s his extraordinary finger talent on the synth sections on this one. Trajectory is also a instrumental track that gives the listener the appearance it serves as a smooth seamless transition intro to the next track Omnistellar Firefly.
Omnistellar Firefly picks up quite smoothly from Trajectory. This starts off in a very psychedelic manner much like the psychedelic music coming out of San Francisco California,London England or New York at the time. With very deep rhythm toned chord progressions and vocals that echo like a LSD trip this is any psychedelic purists paradise. You literally do not need a synthetic substance nor drug to feel the full melodious effect the band is portraying here. This also reminds me very much of the late great Jon Lord’s solo material with the orchestra.
Mephistopeles is a much more methodical groove laden piece. The rhythm and stringed sections definitely have a method to their madness and specific purposes in the body of the track or song itself. At 8:09 this is the second longest song on Tube Alloy’s and allows the band much more freedom to display their own skills while building a unified body of work. The echo vocals really accentuate the psychedelic feel to the song. The organs play in perfect time to the bass and drums within the rhythm section much in the vein of Deep Purple’s Space Truckin‘.
Moebius fades in quite subtly. This is most definitely the most experimental Avant Garde psychedelic track on the album. It is also a straight away progressive psychedelic track with standard stringed section and rhythm section until about a quarter or half way mark and then the experimental elements come into play. The experimental section works on all three major channels of the auditory senses, the right channel, the left channel and center channel. The band engineers this quite brilliant into a full surround sound package on the listener.
Recreational Nuke is the shortest track on the album, however do not be deceived it is still as full of progressive twists and turns and time signature changes. It may start a little slowly however do not let that be the focus. There are huge Hammond organ and rhythm sections. This is arranged perfectly within the album allowing a bit slower pace for the listener to begin to absorb the tracks of the album as a collective. It may require a few spins and listens for this to make sense to the listener. The psychedelic vocals are as strong on this as every other song on the album as well.
Indian Money starts out with big pounding and deep drum based rhythm sections. The drums are semi isolated allowing for a more heavier sound before the bass and Hammond and other organs come into play. This track takes all the various elements the band employed within the album as a collective. This one is written much like it was orchestrated or a symphony.
There is certainly a massive ground swell of this style of psychedelic progressive rock. Look at it like a over inflated balloon or a underground caldera waiting to burst through. I believe Bla Lotus will be at the forefront once this style of progressive psychedelic rock really takes off. This style of music will be the next significant genre to take off and bands like Bla Lotus will headline the pioneering spirit and craft of this style of music. Once this style does take off again Bla Lotus Tube Alloy’s will be one of those future essential albums any fan of the genre must have. This is why I give Bla Lotus Tube Alloy’s and 5/5.
Darrel Treece Birch is on a red hot roll as far as music is concerned. Last year we presented two reviews to you that this keyboard virtuoso, one was his solo album No More Timeand the one he did as a member of Nth Ascension with In Fine Initium. In 2017 we see Darrel Treece Birch return with his other band Ten with Gothicaand now his new solo album Healing Touch. Darrel Treece Birch has absolutely no lack of substance when it comes to creative license is concerned and it is demonstrated by the quick turn around between releases. Darrel Treece Birch is a flowing fountain and well spring of melodious bliss.
Unlike 2016’s offering No More Time, Darrel Treece Birch decided not to have multiple guest musicians and go it all alone. Another difference with Healing Touch is it is not the conceptual piece that No More Time was. Do not be fooled however, Healing Touchis one serious exotic and melodic safari through the soul of one Darrel Treece Birch. There are 10 new songs that are all instrumentals yet they each have their own individual identity while remaining on point to the main spiritual objective that becomes the common theme throughout Healing Touch. Without any lyrics, Darrel Treece Birch manages to convey subjects of life and faith quite eloquently with just instrumentals. To date Healing Touch is perhaps Darrel Treece Birch’s most diverse album.
God’s Prescription immediately sets a cool smooth mood for the listener of the album. It sets a mood like one is transported into a futuristic world of electronic jazz fusion. This sounds like it may in fact be 25 years ahead of its time. It is certainly a soothing track in that Darrel uses more atmospheric theory to transport the listener into the world he intended them to be. Some of the electronica atmospheres subside to a more traditional jazz fusion rhythm section and soon both of the sum of the parts gel into a perfectly balanced melody. The track even provokes visions of the future which is a testament to Darrel Treece Birch’s forward thinking and sometimes groundbreaking work. There are many elements to this track that also remind me of Kraftwerk meets Alan Parson’s Band. Even more so this track represents a celestial element as well.
From The Mouth in many ways keeps with the subject of faith, hope , healing and love. It opens up with some seriously heavy synth work along with a beautifully deep bass and drum rhythm section that is not always synth manufactured. It gives the most seasoned listener the truth appearance that every instrument was recorded prior the synths and keyboards. Although the futuristic mood is still there, this track takes upon itself some very heavy elements of jazz fusion, especially in the context of the rhythm section. The rhythm section takes on a very 1970’s mood with fuzzy elements serving as a main feature. This lending a heavy Pink Floyd influence about it.
Cast It Out starts out with a wall of synths that hearkens back to the later 1970’s Kraftwerk style meets the earlier 1980’s Buggles. Darrel Treece Birch certainly puts on the first of a few keyboardist music and theory clinics with this one. He is always venturing out into territory that easily keeps him from being pigeonholed into one style and Cast It Out is a perfect example to this. Cast It Out is also a serious departure from what we have been use to hearing in Nth Ascension and Ten, Darrel’s other musical outlets. The track eventually levels out to a more conventional progressive hard rock song that eventually ends with some very beautiful progressive rock atmospheres.
Re-Boot sees Darrel Treece Birch channel heavy elements to the late great Keith Emerson with the production mind of a Alan Parsons. It also leaves a very heavily ELP influence as far as atmospheric soundscape structures. The guitar work is very ‘Floydian’ in nature leaving void or filler for the sake of having a complete song. The rhythm section is very well balanced and subtle leaving the guitar and keyboard stringed section much room to breathe and thrive within the songs own identity and purpose.
The Fruits Of The Spirit opens up with beautifully orchestrated sounds of nature in harmony with radiant wind chimes. This track from the first note already transport the listener in a state of tranquility and peace. This is also a very intricate track where it appears that the keyboard is distributing various chord progressions of the other instrumental interests throughout the duration of the track. This track is a soothing balm perfectly arranged to keep the listeners attention in the album.
The Stand opens up like a whirlwind with a very windy atmospheric effect generated by the synth’s. It is soon followed up by a beautiful rhythm section with some more ‘Floydian’ guitar soundscapes. The pure fusion approach to this track is yet another departure from some of the normal work we are used to hearing from Darrel. His experimental side truly knows no boundaries. This track in particular explores a more avant – garde side to Darrel Treece Birch that I honestly never knew was there.
The Release reminds me a lot of Arjen Luccasen’s Ayreon work , specifically the Actual Fantasy album. This is very heavily rooted in the electronic orchestral chord progression. When the other instruments such as the lead guitar and drums come in they are immediately highlighted and allowed to breathe throughout the composition. It is almost a melodic play on words in that there is a play on various chord progressions and deeply instrumental rhythm sections that would make Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk blush. This track truly lives up to its namesake in that Darrel Treece Birch appears to open up yet another level of musicianship.
The Expanse starts off with the illusion of a music box playing tender little wind chimed melodies. This transports the listener into a melodic fantasy realm. The rhythm section shines through deeply. Both the stringed sections and rhythm sections are in a perfect harmonious persuasion. The track builds layer upon layers as it maintains its uplifting objective. This track has a heavy science fiction aesthetic working through is various passages and intricate chord progressions.
No Fear Here basically continues in the tradition of The Expanse and The Release. It is both heavy on the keyboard atmospheres and the unorthodox rhythm sections tat keep hooking the listener. There are some elements of classic rock keyboards much like Keith Emerson meets Rick Wakeman at the crossroads of modern fusion.
God’s Medicine opens up with a immediate guitar solo. This is yet another unconventional and surprising element of Darrel Treece Birch’s approach on this album. This is also some very beautiful classically rooted atmospheric fusion. In its isolation it brings absolution and proper closure to Healing Touch.
Although this one took me a little longer than expected it was well worth the time invested in it. This is well worth the investment to any progressive rock or instrumentalist fans collection. Healing Touch has many personalities and dimensions to it. Darrel Treece Birch really took many risks and chances with this one. Darrel Treece Birch’s Healing Touch gets 5/5.
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