Monday, 22 August 2016

Melancholy Man (The Moody Blues, 1970)

Another Mike Pinder's melancholy (yes, yes, it's in the title) and inner song. This one comes from "A Question of Balance" album, likely one of the rockiest works by The Moody Blues, still I couldn't imagine a dreamier and more atmospheric track. The melody is simply perfect, and the rich arrangements never go too sweet, opening a distant horizon to the listener's ears. Asusual with The MB, there's a good deal of overdubbing and assorted effects, but such an elaborated studio work never spoils the magic the band build up in a few more than five minutes.

The Moody Blues liket to explore cosmic paths, as you can see here.

"Melancholy Man" also has a beautiful set of lyrics, an awesome depiction of man's situation between the solid ground and the infinite sky. There's a sense of loneliness balanced (yes, the allbum's title, this time...) by the wonder inspired by the cosmic architecture. Ten out of ten, I daresay.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Sparkling / 花火 (Fragile, 2010)

Chinese rock scene specialises more and more in post-rock acts, and some of them show many interesting progressive sides. This is the case with Fragile (well, the name isn't necessarily inspired by the Yes album...), a band that surely knows how to create delicate atmospheres, unpredictable changes and slow, majestic crescendos. "Sparkling" comes from the debut EP of Fragile, called "White Shadows" and is a charming instrumental, based on a well found series of chords and including some delicious breaks and a mandolin-like electric guitar à la Steven Wilson.

As many other young bands, Fragile debuted via Bandcamp site.

This kind of music is somehow dangerous as it can easily slip into a mere ambient sound, but Fragile are clever enough to skip such a risk, thanks to a good deal of musical diversions along the usual post-rock path. They like coherent tracks, but they know that coherence doesn't mean boredom. Hope to listen more from these Hong Kong musicians.

Friday, 19 August 2016

El Hijo del Sol (El Polen, 1973)

When it comes to acoustic folk-rock with proggy elements, it is difficult to find a better band than El Polen. These Peruvian musicians had a suprisingly large choice of arrangements and a wide range of instruments, mostly coming from their National tradition, but also from other, unexpected cultures. In spite of their strong Andean roots and of their acoustic set, El Polen also are a proper rock band, and exploit in a very clever way some of the main features of prog: tempo changes, instrument interplays and enthralling solos.

"Fuera de la ciudad" was the second album by El Polen.

Sure, all these solutions also exist in traditional music throughout the planet, but their combination in a single everchanging (and rather long) song is a Seventies innovation. So, "El Hijo del Sol" is a kind of suite, lining up different themes and different traditions, especially the South-American and the Far-Eastern ones. Not a common mix, believe me.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Египтянин / Egiptyanin (Пикник / Picnic, 2001)

Picnic (in Russian, Пикник) surely are one of the most eccentric and crossover bands from Eastern Europe. Their sound ranges between space rock and folk, including synth rock and many traditionally prog features.This is the title track from their eleventh studio album, obviously dedicated to the Ancient Egypt, one of the band's favourite topics.

This cover art reveals the ironic side of Picnic's songs.

The song has a rather traditional structure, a dreamy, catchy slow tempo ballad with a Floydian finale, where Edmund Shklyarskiy's guitar flies high above the listener. He even creates for this song a new instrument he calls novoegyptian to add a bit of visual show to the live performances. What I especially like in Picnic is the way they mix different elements to build up an evocative, arcane sound that also includes the right dose of irony. A theatrical way to (prog) rock Picnic never gave up during their long and everchanging career.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Into The Lens [I Am A Camera] (Yes, 1980)

As you might have read in other posts from my blog, "Drama" is an album I like very much, in spite of its weird Buggles  + Yes line up. More than this, "Into The Lens" actually was a fully-Buggles song (the duo also was working on it when they joined their new band and also released it in 1981 as "I Am A Camera"). To transform a synthpop tune in a progressive rock track was a challenge Yes accepted and won. The song has a an epic flavour, even if its "plastic" and 80s side isn't completely abandoned. Chris Squire provides the backbone for this version and a series of interplays, changes and vocal harmonies are spread throughout the song.

A short-lived line up, still responsible for an excellent album. 

Of course, the melody was a good one in the first place and the tricky arrangement only enhances it and gives to it the special symphonic rock touch that we all know and love. I also like the pleasant contrast between the tight and rythm-based verse and the wide open, full-bodied chorus, something that Downes had in common with the Yes tradition. Still an excellent track this one, and always worth one more listening.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Equinoxe Part 3 (Jean-Michel Jarre, 1978)

Following the planetary success of the album "Oxygène", Jarre released "Equinoxe" two years later and also gained a huge international acclaim. This LP described a day in the life of the industrial world based humans and the two sides of the original vinyl had the same duration time, so that the chosen day had to be an equinox (we still don't know if it is a spring or an autumn one...).

As for "Oxygène", Michel Granger signed the album cover art.
That said, this third part of Jarre's work should describe the busy morning, and it actually has a fast tempo and hypnotic rythm. When the main theme comes in, it sounds like a hundred typing machines or a downtown bus queue, still it is so well found and so well placed that one loves even the rush hour. Then here you are a hard electronic passage, kind of a robot dance, followed by the theme reprise. An exciting track, IMHO, full of daily echoes and memorable sounds. Enjoy.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Coming Around (The Third Ending, 2006)

Here you are another clever band, a Tasmanian one, playing what the papers call "modern prog", whatever that means. I better like to call it prog, as our genre hates barriers and labels. The Third Ending  surely mix some old and beloved sounds and many contemporary ones, as this melodic song will prove. "Coming Around", taken from the band's self-titled debut album, sounds like a soft rock piece, but with a deeper, introspective twist.

I also like the cover art The Third Ending chose for their first CD.

The theme is well found and well performed (Nick Storr is what I call a gifted singer), and the background sounds are  rich, full-bodied but never pompous, and a fine guitar solo by Andrew Curtis also graces the song. Even if the track is catchy and rather traditional in its pattern, you'll find many smart gimmicks, and even some welcome references to the past glory of rock and prog rock. In short, a pleasant and beautifully packed song, something I'll always ask for. Go on, my Aussie friends!