Genesis ELP Yes
PROG ROCK INFLUENCED
Brainstorm Two - Earth Zero
Brainstorm is a relatively new Australian space-rock/psych band that I was introduced to recently. Their newest album, Tales of The Future(reviewed below), features a compact style of space-rock that could impress both fans of space-rock, and its casual listener. Meaning, the band neatly keeps their space explorations within mid-length song structures. The music sounds composed and planned. I'm impressed by the vocals in this band, which reminds me of the Moody Blues mixed with traditional rock n' roll and the 60s San Francisco sound. Earth Zero is a recent reissue of Brainstorm's second album. The album was released in 1995 on cassette format, and shows a band with great talent for creating catchy rock-based tunes that touched on psychedelic music. The focus seemed to have been on song-writing, and keeping things focused. The first half of the CD consists of songs that rarely drift off into an instrumental interlude. But the music starts to become more experimental as the CD heads towards the last, 20-minute, track titled "Armageddon". I'm reminded of the Moody Blues and Pink Floyd, and, at times, I also start to wonder if Brainstorm are Amon Duul II and Hawkwind fans. Nothing really confirms that, but I find subtle hints here and there. Overall, Earth Zero will please Brainstorm fans. But, if you're curious about space-rock, yet afraid of indulgent noodling, this Australian band is a great introduction to the genre.
Brainstorm - Tales Of The Future
Tales Of The Future is Brainstorm's newest release.
The music is strongly influenced by the sixties and seventies psychedelic
music from England and Germany. Some bands that quickly spring to
mind include Syd Barrett, The Moodie Blues, Hawkwind, and Amon Düül II.
Many sections consist of dreamy interplay between acoustic/electric guitar, Moog
synths, and a mellotron-sounding device. Compared to some of the more
avant-psych bands, Brainstorm are relatively tame. Each song on the CD seems
composed from beginning to end, and, aside from the solos, very little seems improvised. The vocals are great and feature harmonies
that have a lovely west-coast psych influence.
Out of all of the demos and CDs that come my way, Tales Of The Future ranks near the
top. Fans of psychedelic-prog will enjoy this recent release from Australia.
Sebastian Hardie - Four Moments
Sebastian Hardie are considered Australia's first symphonic rock band. They have two albums that were released in the mid-seventies, and a live album from their Progfest '94 gig. Four Moments is the band's classic debut album consisting of a side-long epic, and two long instrumental work-outs. Listeners will instantly notice the strong Yes-influence in the music, yet the mellotron work here is much stronger than on any Yes album. The vocals are also deeper with a strong John Wetton influence. The first side of the original LP was filled by a 20-minute title track. The band really focused on creating a beautiful masterpiece of mid-70s symphonic prog. The music is gradiose, colorful, and sometimes quite funky. One theme in particular is repeated throughout the epic, but goes through a series of variations before transforming back to its original form. The outcome is stunning, and leaves the listener wanting more. Side B consists of a shorter track, and a 13-minute epic. These two tracks are completely instrumental and emphasize melodic guitar work. I'm reminded less of Yes here, but the dutch band Finch comes to mind. Overall, this is an excellent album. A classic, in fact.
Vocals(in English): 9/10
Recording Quality: 9/10
Sh'mantra - Sub_Floating
Sh'mantra is a 5-piece band from Sydney, Australia. The group started jamming back around 1995, and have so far released a demo tape, and two CDs. Sub_Floating seems to be part of a new series of releases featuring the band's improvisational skills. And from the sounds of this EP, fans of spacerock and psychedelia will be in for a treat. Sub_Float consists of 3 tracks. The first track is about 5 minutes long, while the last two tracks come in at 13 and 20 minutes each. We find a slightly different band compared to Formula Orange. While FO leaned more into post rock territory, Sub_Float leans more in the droning electric-psych direction. To my ears, the improvising is top-notch. The themes that I hear coming out of the jams are high-quality and memorable. I'm sometimes reminded of the synth work from Jean-Michel Jarre, while other times I tend to hear newer influences from the eletronica scene. What will attract prog collectors to this EP is that a real band is playing, and the musicians react to the sounds around them. The drumming, for example, sounds more similar to Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd than it does to electronic music played today. I much prefer this form of modern electronic psychedelia to say Ozric Tentacles, since Sh'mantra have better ears for creating memorable music. Overall, this is one of the top releases I've heard this year. Fans of improvised spacerock and psych should check it out.
Sh'mantra - Formula Orange
When I received Sh'mantra's Formula Orangein the mail, the fact that it was a double CD scared me. But to my surprise, these guys managed to pull-off a great double CD album. The music, in a nutshell, mixes psychedelic textures, modern electronic manipulation, minimalist post-rock, with a noticeable Starless and Bible Black-era King Crimson influence. Overall, Sh'mantra have plenty in common with post-rock groups like Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Mogwai, Sigur Ros, and the last two Radiohead albums. Most of the tracks, which average about 10-minutes each, slowly build up to dramatic climaxes. The electronic and guitar sounds are unique and absolutely fascinating to listen to, and although repetition plays a big part on most of the tracks it never becomes boring. Like most post-rock groups, Sh'mantra stay away from traditional song-structures, standard guitar chords, and "boom-dat boom-dat" drum patterns. The result sounds fresh and unpredictable. Vocals appear on several tracks, which reminded me a bit of Thom Yorke's depressed voice. In all, this gets my vote as one of the best releases for 2001. Fans of the post-rock groups that I mentioned above, and fans of mid-70s King Crimson will love the music here. If you're not familiar with post-rock, this is a great place to start.
Where Echoes End - By The Prickling Of My Thumb
Although I wouldn't classify Where Echoes End as a traditional prog band, the music on By The Prickling Of My Thumb will appeal to
most prog rock fans who also enjoy high-quality ambient, and soundtrack music. The
emphasis here is on beautiful symphonic/cinematic textures done with modern
keyboards(which sound very warm, and rich), vocal samples, and an occasional drum track(on
real acoustic drums). The album is divided into 5 parts consisting of a total of 19 tracks. And there is enough
variety to keep the album very interesting during its entire 70+ minute duration. I must admit being very impressed by this album although I'm not a huge soundtrack music fan(listening to maybe 20-minutes a week). The music might not appeal to RIO, or symphonic prog enthusiasts. But if your in the mood for
something cinematic, yet musically interesting, then By The Prickling Of My
Thumb is an excellent place to start.