Wednesday, 27 February 2013

XII Alfonso - Odyssees (2000)

My opinion is that french band XII Alfonso is half-decently covered and rated...

Under the Claerhout brothers (displaying guitar and keyboards mpain input), they have achieved all along their five recordings a high level of musicianship and integrity, if not total originality. Unlike most of the french progsters, there's no Zeuhl or Ange's clone to be found, rather a stylistically inclined link to celtic and other western part of France traditions. So it's accurate to feel some ressemblances with Mike Oldfield and Camel for instance. Folk ingredients, few delicate songs in and overall instrumental work, musicianship devoted to the melody more than performance, attention to the general climate of the whole recording are qualities XII Alfonso share with their most famous british counterparts. While the two brothers form the core of the group, there is a lot of instruments and a long list of guests to be found on any of the records, so, if i choose Odyssées over any of the other records i enjoy equally, it's because of his immediate appeal, his perfect production, and within his 70 + minutes (which is the norm for them) a perfect summarizing of the seduction of XII Alfonso.

Symphonic for sure, the music clearly comes from classically trained musicians, and yet one can feel the energy inherent to rock idioms, in rythms and development. Clever they are for sure as well: any of the records benefits of the cohesion of a unique thematic path, based on artistic or historic topic. For "Odyssées" it is to be found on the great achievments of human mankind. The opening, with over 7 minutes in time, takes us on a space journey, portraying the american lunar missions of the 70's, mixing an array of synths with the recorded sounds of the the astronauts, alternating spacious sounds with rythms pulsations creating a captivating sense of motion. "Lythophonia", at the other end, takes us back to the beginnings, offering what could be the music of the cavemen. "La Révolution des oeillets" finds us aboard the first vapor machine trains; if not revolutionary in treatment, the idea of the railroad horsepower pulsing gives this other long piece a very efficient sound over which a nice guitar soloing trade licks with an effervescent acoustic piano. "Larrey"is a tribute to one of the first surgeons to bring medecine up to the front, during Napoleonian wars, and so on.Otherwise while the music is cleverly arranged and produced , there are a lot of small musical interludes, solo acoustic guitars ala Steve Hackett, peaceful piano, sparse songs with mostly female guests on vocals. A captivating while dreamy result that truly reach deeply into my musical soul...

Overtly recommended for those who enjoy the aforementioned artists, Anthony Phillips' work and most simply stated intelligence and subtility in art over raw energy or performance. Give me five! Review from

Songs / Tracks Listing 

1. Eclipse (7:26) 
2. Odyssée (5:58) 
3. Lithophonia (3:09) 
4. Message 95 (4:15) 
5. Tomorrow (1:43) 
6. Où Vont Les Amants? (7:43) 
7. La Révolution des Oeillets (8:25) 
8. Nil (2:56) 
9. Invisible Links (part 2) (4:30) 
10. Tout Passe (4:35) 
Bonus tracks: 
11. Noria (5:07) 
12. Le dernier voyage (2:11) 
13. Dominique Larrey (8:26) 
14. En Castille (live 10/10/98) (4:40)

Line-up / Musicians 

- François Claerhout / keyboards, programming, lithophones, rainstick, jaleos, percussion 
- Philippe Claerhout / vali, acoustic & electric guitars, bass, lithophones, vocoder, keyboards, Chapman stick, kora, balaphone, e bow, percussion 
- Laurent Dupont / bass 
- Laure Oltra / lyrics, voice 
- Judith Robert / vocals 
- Antoine Tome / vocals
- Stéphane Rolland / electric guitar 
- Michael Geyre / keyboards 
- Thierry Moreno / musical glasses, drums, percussions, lithophones
- Philippe Rougé / lithophones, flute 
- Stephane Merlin / keyboards
- Bernard Ozerol / bass 
- Sandrine Rougé / vocals 
- Mickey Simmonds / keyboards 
- Dan ar Braz / electric guitar 
- Julio Presas / electric guitar, bass, vocals 
- Tito Correa / lyrics
- Lionel Gibaudan / bass 
- Stephane Barrincourt / electric guitar 
- Jean Luc Payssan / mandolin, bass pedals (14) 
- Thierry Payssan / organ (14)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Paatos - Breathing (2011)

The term 'progressive rock' has come to mean a wide variety of different sounds and styles over the course of the past forty years. To some, Swedish band Paatos may sound like an indie act more than anything, but this art rock group should be of some interest to anyone who is looking for a more modern sound in prog. This is a female-fronted band whose music is highly song-based, and melodic. Although this band has been around for a while, they have always treaded on the underground, but hearing this latest album 'Breathing' as my first introduction to them, they appear to be one of those groups that doesn't get nearly as much respect as they deserve. 'Breathing' is a charming collection of songs that are instantly likeable; a great record to put on for any time a progger is looking for something a little less challenging to enjoy.

The songwriting of Paatos on 'Breathing' is very melodic and concise, with no moments where the instruments jump out of the song structure and do their own thing. Everything here is meant to contribute to the song, and back up the lovely vocals of Petronella Nettermalm, whose charismatic and sultry delivery bears a resemblance to the voice of Bjork. These songs are quite beautiful and have an optimism to their sound that I find really refreshing in prog. Beyond the songwriting alone though, these songs are backed up and driven by great instrumental arrangements, although things are kept pretty conservative when it comes to musicianship. The album has a somewhat Floydian approach in the sense that it is quite mellow and dreamy, especially in the flange of the guitars.

The highlight here are the vocals of Nettermalm, whose voice is distinctive enough to distinguish Paatos apart from other acts. The instrumentation is not particularly inventive or dazzling, but it is enough to make these songs sing. I did not expect to hear anything challenging or life-changing with Paatos' 'Breathing', and truth be told; there's nothing here that seeks to shake boundaries and leave a big mark on prog history. What we experience here however are well-crafted songs, and a kind presentation of something that much prog seems to lose in translation; the art of melody. Review from

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Gone (5:52)
2. Fading Out (3:36)
3. Shells (5:58)
4. In That Room (4:56)
5. Andrum (1:25)
6. No More Rollercoaster (4:15)
7. Breathing (5:56)
8. Sm?rtan (4:30)
9. Surrounded (4:48)
10. Ploing, My Friend (0:56)
11. Precious (4:25)
12. Over and Out (3:31)

Total time 50:08

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Nylander / guitars
- Ricard "Huxflux" Nettermalm / drums
- Petronella Nettermalm / vocals
- Ulf "Rockis" Ivarsson / bass

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Guapo - History of the Visitation (2013)

Back in ancient music history (circa the late '90s), Guapo were regarded by some as "playful." After various lineup changes and albums like 2013's CD/DVD set History of the Visitation, this does not seem to be a particularly playful group -- unless a darkly hued outfit like Univers Zero could be considered playful. Now a quartet with drummer David J. Smith the only original member, Guapo are identified with the 21st century resurgence of Rock in Opposition avant-prog, a style/movement/community of which UZ were founding contributors during the late '70s. Whether Guapo consciously considered themselves part of the RIO lineage from the start, they seem willing to draw from the dark side of that lineage on History of the Visitation -- while incorporating myriad other musical elements into their proggy instrumental blend. The five-minute buildup of ominous orchestral tones and textures comprising the "Visitation" intro to 26-plus-minute album centerpiece/behemoth "The Pilman Radiant" culminates in a slow and eerie melodic fragment echoing not only a similar bit from "Jeweled Turtle," the leadoff track to Guapo's previous album, 2008's Elixirs, but also the equally unsettling start to "The Funeral Plain" from UZ's 1986 Heatwave. A deep irregular throbbing drone underpins sustained metallic oscillations -- as at least some of the album's seven guest musicians on a variety of reeds, brass, and strings are slowly buried by the onslaught -- before "The Divine Vessel" continues the suite with initially waltzy understatement; the Fender Rhodes of new keyboardist Emmett Elvin (replacing Daniel O'Sullivan) is supported by drummer Smith and bassist James Sedwards before guitarist Kavus Torabi burns his way into the arrangement with a sustained tone and deliberate ascending melodic line. Elvin rips into dramatic organ chords before the band plunges into a full-on rapid-tempo bridge and a rhythmically shifting space jam melding the introduction's ambient roar with an insistent hard rock pound and Fripp-ish repeating guitar line. "The Pilman Radiant" alternately slams, gallops, (intentionally) stumbles, and floats through its second half before returning to its midpoint theme, as Guapo display their affinity for "Larks' Tongues" and "Fracture"-era Crimson over UZ's more chamberesque side. "Complex #7" is another dark ambient foray into the "Visitation" zone, but the concluding "Tremors from the Future" is an altogether different machine, cruising through uptempo and even catchy segments -- Elvin's staccato attack on the keys would be downright funky if he were playing a clavinet. The companion DVD of Guapo live (with O'Sullivan on keys) is dominated by a very professional multi-camera video -- in arty black-and-white -- of the band performing "Five Suns" at NEARfest 2006; the performance careens toward proggy bombast, with Torabi in particular throwing himself into his (foot)work. Despite its inferior single-camera video (but fine audio mixing/mastering by Udi Koomran), the band's sparkle-shirted performance of Elixirs' "King Lindorm" at France's RIO festival the following year is a more nimble affair, with a greater measure of "avant" poured back into Guapo's avant-prog mix. ~ Dave Lynch review from RDIO

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Pillman Radiant (26:15)
i. Visitation
ii. The Divine Vessel
iii. Wriggling Mange
v. Divine Vessel's Repreise
2. Complex #7 (4:47)
3. Tremors from the Future (11:1

Total Time: 42:17

Line-up / Musicians

- Emmet Elvin / Fender rhodes, organ, synth, harmonium & screeching guitar (on "Visitation")
- James Sedwards / Bass
- Kavus Torabi / Guitar, santoor
- David J. Smith / Drum kit, percussion, additional keyboard, sanitoor

Thinglink Plugin