Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Progressive Thanksgiving

I've had a soft spot for progressive rock from an early age. In my teens I discovered it, and through the years have followed it's famous originators to the present day. Certainly every holiday season, I find myself drawn back to it. It's my holiday music.

However, the aesthetic of the 1970's, however beautiful with those raw synth arpeggios, mellotron, and flute, timeless as some are, doesn't match us today. To play like Rick Wakeman would be, well, to play like him. It doesn't show us anything new, it is merely an acknowledgement of that legendary keyboardist.

I've explored contemporary prog in some detail. Mostly crunchy, endeavoring to keep some jazz elements alive with the same type of wonderful time and key changes. The best example I can think of is Matt Stevens. Check Oxymoron. Amazing musicianship, great production. This is really the state of the art in the direction of progressive rock oriented music.

But there are other directions as well. The strength of progressive rock was not the rock, not the sound even, but the ideas that were formed by those composers experimenting with new ways to put things together.

Today there are independent artists who work in this vein. Here some examples:

Helicopter Quartet's Off World
This duo creates wonderful long journeys. Interplay between the two musicians is finely honed, as these two have been working together for a very long time (in actual "prog" bands). Off World builds on the simple beginning to become something so much more.

Isotherme's Song of Sixpence
I'm often surprised by what can go relatively unnoticed by the masses. They certainly miss out on this incredible six part epic from Isotherme. I keep returning to it, and perhaps you will too.

Wolfgang Merx's Buried in the Past
I admit that I've collaborated with Wolfgang myself. That being said, his collaboration with so many other artists on his release Insecurity is a lot of fun. Buried in the Past is a good example.

Seven Seals (And One Spell)

Sitting down to listen to Seven Seals (And One Spell) by Trium Circulorum, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. However, I found it quite interesting, and listenable. Even as it played, it showed the skill that the composer has in creating sonic, very cinematic pieces. These are interesting and evolving environments, subtly crunching along in a distorted grainy bigness. There's a lot going on in the space created.

I find the engineering and sound to be quite good, and a purchaser gets a very good value due to the length and number of tracks.

Of course, this artist is also electronic acts 3dTorus and Kanal Drei. According to the bandcamp release: "This album is a teaser for and a sneak peek on Trium Circulorum, my new musical home from January 2016 on."

You can find Trium Circulorum on Twitter as @TriumCirculorum.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


I've followed the career of electronic pioneer Joel Ebner for a few years now, having reviewed his earlier project City States on the original scatterfilter blog. I always expect well crafted sound when listening to his works.

His new incarnation as Avvenir and the premier release Glyphs are no exception. The structures unfold in subtle ways, providing an elegance to the works. Random percussion and sound effects infect the tone paintings. Ear candy is provided with novel sound design, and clean production. A concept of typography is endemic.

This album is everything an experimental electronic music enthusiast might look for. Certainly it's worth some attention.

You can find Avvenir on Twitter as @_Avvenir and on Soundcloud. Also check the new video for Prepress on You Tube.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Available Light

I never quite know what I'll get when I listen to an Iceman Bob album. As with many artists reviewed here, he is eclectic. Beautiful soundscapes are built with plaintive, or ecstatic, piano, guitar, and synths. His influences are many, from progressive rock to new wave, and be sure to throw in a little jazz.

October's Available Light continues this prolific musician's explorations. Easy to listen to as a cocktail after work, it's mostly downtempo, and anodyne. Compositions are often built around a simple improv, then expanded with other tracks. When there is percussion, it's often an infectious loop. The sound is clean and clear, and the mix is excellent.

You can find Iceman Bob on twitter as @iceman_bob and on soundcloud as well.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Glimmer & Glow

Evoking eighties power pop, big drums, and big reverb, The Glimmer EP by Hilliat Fields continues this eclectic artist's exploration of pop. The lyrics are poignant and well delivered. There are brilliant moments of the song sometimes nearly spinning off and out of control, brought back just in time as in "She Didn't Love You." The EP ends with "You're all Going to Die," a hopeless refrain, reminding us all that we are ephemeral.

Released concurrently with Glimmer, Glow is an instrumental excursion. Big cinematic environments recall the sound design of Glimmer. Both have a shimmering, and sometimes pulsing quality, which really comes to the forefront in Glow. In the past, one might release the two as a single album, one side of pop, the other of an instrumental and cinematic nature. But far from a side-B attempt, these pieces are subtle and interesting, as I would expect from the composer of Four Corners, reviewed earlier this year.

You can find Hilliat Fields on twitter as @hilliatfields and on Soundcloud

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Train à Grande Vitesse

Stuart Russell's new album Train à Grande Vitesse continues his exploration into improvisation with analog synths arranged via sequencer. 

Inspired by a trip via high speed train to Toulouse, the music reflects the rhythm of the rails. Images of stations whirring past, with open country between, evoking in climate controlled comfort.

The machines pulse through sequences adorned by simple improvisation for a human touch. Interactions between sequences change and provide variation. The sequences shimmer and pulse, evoking the clicking rails, sonic peals like signal lights streaming by. A plaintive squeal of steel on steel. It's easy to close your eyes and experience the journey.

This is also excellent music to do math by, or perhaps even write a blog post. 

You can follow Stuart on Twitter as @stuart_comp and on Soundcloud. Check his blog at stuart-russell.co.uk and you can read prior #scatterfilter reviews here, here, and here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Destroyed by Business

Few artists can approach the sensitive subject of toxic capitalism, but Wet Dentist does a fine job of it in his new EP, Destroyed by Business. From the scathing first notes spelling the word "destroyed" to the final word of medical insurance out of control, the works are filled with the angst of our modern life.

Very unique and interesting arrangements are constructed as well. Although fittingly harsh, the mix is very listenable, combining interesting effects and sound processing with a coherent beat. I like the direction this collection of music is taking.

I enjoyed the lyrics, accessible on Bandcamp, and the package is nicely put together with a bleak watercolour reflecting the themes of the EP by artist @Russty.

You can find Wet Dentist on Twitter as @wetdentist and on Souncloud.