THE DAY OF TIMESTOP 2017

                                     Welcome To The Listening Room  -   Waiting for Masterpieces

 

"Shadows of shadows. Passing. It is now 1831 and as always I am absorbed with a delicate thought. It is how poetry has indefinite sensations to which end music is an essential. Since the comprehension of sweet sound as our most indefinite conception, music when combined with a pleasurable idea is poetry. Music without the idea is simply music. Without music or an intiguing idea, colour becomes pallor. Man becomes carcass. home becomes catycal and the dead for but a moment become motionless. "

                                                                                    -Edgar Allan Poe

 

Profound.

Douglas Adams offers another thoughtful perception of music in his fantasy novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency :

" Every single aspect of music can be represented by numbers. From the organisation of of movements in a whole symphony, down through the patterns of pitch and rhythm that make up the melodies and harmonies, the dynamics that shape the performance, all the way down to the timbres of the notes themselves, their harmonics, and the way they change over time, in short, all the elements of a noise that distinquish between the sound of one person piping on a pccolo and another one thumping on a drum - all of these things can be expressed n patterns and hierarchies of numbers."

David Byrne, leader of the lead singer/songwriter of the new wave/punk band The Talking Heads wrote about music  in an article in The New York Times in October 1999 :

" Hearing The right piece of music at the right time of yourlife can inspire radical change, destructive personal behaviour or even fascist politics. Sometimes all at the same time. On the other hand, music can inspire love, religious ecstacy, catharic release, social bonding and a glimpse of another dimension. A sense that there is another time, another space and another , better, universe. It can heal a broken heart, offer a shoulder to cry on and a friend when no one else understands. There are times when you want to be transported, to get your mind around some stuff it never encountered before."

Peter Shaffer, the English playwright and screenwriter in Amadeus :

" It started simply enough just a pulse in the lowest registers - bassoons and basset horns - like a rusty squezebox... and then suddenly, high above it , sounded a single note on the oboe. It hung there unwavering, piercing me through, till breath could hold it no longer, and  a clarinet withdrew it out of me, and sweetened it to a phrase of such delight it had me trembling."

Jazz Legend Charlie Parker:

" First you learn the instrument, then you learn the music, then you forget all that shit and just play."

    

Music is often beyond words and has a very special and strange way of speaking to us in abstract mathematical progressions employing the physics of sound waves. Unlike the previous nofreakouts section  I've taken the time here to extrapolate some personal thoughts on music through the individual work of some of my favourite artists and compositions. Just like every feature here on my Day Of Timestop site this section it is work in progress , so I add something whenever I feel inspired to share any "delicate" musical thoughts or reflections. Recently I came across this particularily well done edit from Tangerine Dream's Rubycon album from 1975 on Youtube and thought it was worth sharing. This expressive avant garde electronic sound sculpture was recorded during the period in the mid - seventies when the group was crossing new musical plateaus with  albums like Rubycon , Ricochet, Phaedra and Stratosfear whose titles are only suggestions for the music which describes abstract ideas and moods which often give impressions of compressed time ensconced within their expansive walls of sound.  My favourite, Rubycon, has a hyperboreal atmosphere to it for me ( it was recorded in the month of January ) and always reminds me of a vast foreboding arctic land and timescape,  images of geological processes and transformations, glaciers in motion, the tragic plight of the polar bear, terrible beauty.... Many people refer to this music as mood music, elevator music, backround music and even new age music. Alas, they are missing the very point. You have to close your eyes, get close to the music and it's deep melody and let your imagination flow  creating your own world within it's comlex structures and developments. Devoid of the human aspect, the music of Tangerine Dream is so sublime that it can be about anything you want.  A lion stalking it's prey in the darkness of the Serengeti, the calm and fury of the stages of a weather system or the middle of an asteroid belt. It is very visceral music and once you feel it takes you to places that are limited only by the immagination or as Poe puts it, by an intruiging idea.

No conventional top 40 crap here folks. Hope that you will glean something from my listening room.

            Focus - Hamburger Concerto , April, 1974, Dutch Progressive Rock

 

Personel -

Jan Akkerman   acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lute, percussion, tympani, hanclapping

Thijs van Leer    Hammond Organ, church organ, mellotron , Arp sythesizer, harpsichord, electric piano, accordian, vibraphone, alto flute, vocals, spoken voices, recorder, whistling, handclapping

Bert Ruiter  electric bass, autoharp, percussion, triangle, Swiss hand bells, finger cymbals, triangle, handclapping

Colin Allen   Drum kit, castanets, congas, tympani, tambourine, flexatones, Chineese gong, cabasa, cuica, woodblock, handclapping

Delitae Musicae / La Cathedrale de Strassbourg/ Harem Scarem /      Birth / Hamburger Concerto - i starter ii Rare iii Medium I iv Medium II vi Well Done / Birth / Early Birth

Recorded Feb-March 1974 at Olympic Sound Studios, Barnes, England

 Originally released in vinyl format on ATCO Records ( Cat# SD-36-100 ) in the USA and currently available on CD from Red Bullet Records and on 180g vinyl on Import Records. Yes folks vinyl is rising from the dead! 

Album Critique & Overview

A classic from the art rock effusion of the glorious seventies, Hamburger Concerto was arguably the most accomplished work by Dutch band Focus who by this time assimulated British drummer Colin Allen formerly with Stone The Crows. The album was compositionally diverse incorporating elements and influences from  medieval music ,  baroque period music,  Chineese folk music, Spanish traditional music, modern jazz as well as Gregorian chanting. The  20 minute suite that the album is named after was developed  and expanded around a traditional theme which was originally adapted and orchestrated by Brahms and then further developed by Haydn and became more popularily known as " The St. Anthoni Chorale Variations On A Theme By Joseph Haydn, Opus #56 ". Rock interpretations of the classics by adventurous progressive rock bands in the early seventies were generally scorned by the purists and raked over the coals by critics but Focus' Hamburger Concerto was special. When I was taking a classical music appreciation course back in university I lent my copy to my prof and she liked it so much that she went out and bought herself a copy! To this day it is one of my favourite rock albums and features some of guitarist Jan Akkerman's finest playing and displays Focus at their peak before stylistic and personality clashes started to dissolve the band in 1976. The acompanying video features edited highlights of the main piece which was concieved in a hotel room while guitarist Jan Akkerman was eating a hamburger. What else?! Another story that I've heard is that it is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Johannes Brahms' birthplace, Hamburg, Germany.The Brahms theme can be clearly distinquished on Thijs van Leer's Hammond organ intro section in the live video. Enjoy.
 
 
 
 
 
 Video of Focus on a Dutch television special in 1974. The video includes Dutch language interviews with the principal band members Jan Akkerman ( guitar ) and Thijs van Leer ( Keyboards/flute/vocals ). Tracks include a speeded up version of House Of The King, Hocus Pocus, Hamburger Concerto ( complete ) and Sylvia with a short reprise of Hocus Pocus. Very rare footage of the band during this period and  is well worth sitting through the interviews
 

                         Guru Guru - Kanguru  /  Krautrock, Germany 1972

Personel -

 

Mani Nuemeier / Drums, Vocal

Uli Trepte / Bass, vocal

Ax Genrich /guitar, vocal

Conny Plank / Engineer 

           

 

                                                   Track listing

         Oxymoron/ Immer Lustig / Baby Cake Walk / Ooga Booga

      Recorded Feb 28-Mar 6 1972 at Windrose Dumont-Time Studio                                               Cologne, Germany

 

The third album from Krautrock pioneers Guru Guru was laced with fusions of pop, jazz, free-form audio experiments,  deranged vocals and humour that made it one of the most unusual rock albums ever heard. Trippy and atmospheric it was as adventurous as it could  get in 1972. Fortunately Guru Guru were signed to the fledgling German Brain  label that encouraged such audacious musical explorations. The album contains only 4 expansive tracks and although representative of the wacked out music being heard from German "kosmische"  bands in the early seventies Guru Guru's Kanguru stands out as the most off the wall and "out there". Just look at the cover. The whole thing is warped in a weird and wonderful way and these guys are not just your average three long haired freaks. A bit of a suprise for the more conservative listener. No verse /Chorus /verse / chorus here.  Here's a video of the first track Oxymoron. If you can follow the spaced out lyrics that only occur at the 4 minute mark you will find that the song is not talking about a figure of speech but rather bad drugs. Go nuts !

Originally released on the (green) Brain label in 1972 ( Cat.#1007 ) it was the seventh title to be released on the recently formed label. It has been re-released both on LP and CD and is currently available in CD format on Brain Records (Cat # 531 859-6).

      

          Leonardo & Music

 

It sort of bewilders me that when you enter the word Da Vinci into any search engine on your computer that about a million responses will pop up related to the Dan Brown novel and movie The DaVinci Code. Even exhibitions capitalize on the book and film.Those who are acquainted with Da Vinci'suniversal genius will know that both have little to do with neither. I see it as a pity that so many people associate him with this pop culture status rather than with his sublime intellect. What has always personally fascinated me is that DaVinci was always ahead of the game regardless of what discipline was occupying his thoughts at any given time. He was constantly seeking to make advancements on existing knowledge or methods and what I have defined as a hands on philosopher. He got his hands dirty and proceeded with ways to apply his thoughts.

Although his mind was preoccupied with the study of anatomy, engineering and architecture many questions about the the nature of sound absorbed the mind of Leonardo Da Vinci as well. He studied the vibration and propogation of sound waves and when he was an apprentice to Verrocchio it is quite possible that he was exposed to music, Verrocchio himself being a musician. He produced designs for potential musical instruments that included flutes with key systems and the viola organistra ( above ), a keyboard instrument with a frictionless band that when absorbing the vibrations of strings, created the effect of a full string orchestra.In Decenmber 2009 a group of Leonardo enthusiasts constructed the one shown above using drawings found in his 1000 page Codex Atlanticus from 1488. One has to bear in mind that pianos did not exist in Da Vinci's time. Combining the sound of a viola and a harpsichord, this instrument offered the advantage that the piano had over the harpsichord in that it could play chords. The first pianos did not appear until the early 1700s! So chalk up another one up for Leonardo! Powered by the players strides ( it had to be played while the performer was in motion )  which powered an internal circular crank that pulls a looping bow much like a car's fan belt. As the keys are pressed, the strings are pressed into the bow and an appropriate pitch is achieved.Why didn't I think of that?   

Da Vinci was also accomplished on the lira and was an inproviser of rhymes and recitation. As a poet improvisor his preferred instrument was the lira de braccio, a medieval fiddle with two drone strings that created sympathetic effects and was often invited to perform in the courts of his patrons. During Da Vinci's time many Italian musicians worked in the old minstrel tradition of improvising their music and much of it has been lost to time. It was only around 1490 that Italian music began to be composed using notation and it is thought that fragments of some of Da Vinci's compositions have survived.

.

Finally, here are a couple of CDs that contain music that Leonardo might have been exposed to during his lifetime. The first is appropriately titled The DaVinci Collection by a musical troupe from Toronto Ontario known as The Toronto Consort. A very wide ranging collection of virtuosic performances that seek to depict just about anything that Leonardo might have been exposed to and includes secular polyphonic songs, frottala, lively dances and sacred works. Very alive and vibrant and whimsical at times. The second, Da Vinci - The Music Of His Time is performed by 3 ensembles: Ensemble Villanella; Oxford Cemeratta; Unicorn Ensemble and is a bit more "serious" in nature. It contains 23 selections that also includes vocal music and includes a booklet that describes the musical environment that existed during Leonardo's era.

  The Toronto Cosort CD is available through their website   www.torontoconsort.org/

While the Da Vinci - Music Of His Time CD can be obtained through the Naxos classical music label here :

www.naxos.com

 Djam Karet - 30 years of absolutely no commercial      potential and counting. One day they might get it right!

 No Elevator Music Here Folks ! 

If I want to listen to every band that ever blew my mind at once then I turn to my latest unearthing, the very cool Djam Karet which means something like " Elastic Time " in Indonesian. The Mahavishnu Orchestra ( '72-73 edition ), Tangerine Dream, Shankar, Peter Gabriel, Pink F;oyd, Hawkwind, KING CRIMSON, Shankar, John Abercrombie ( Gateway sessions ) and tons others are represented in Djam Karet's tripped out unconventional sound that undergoes a metamorphosis from album to album, 17 of them plus shorter  CDrs and EPs not to mention offshoot solo ventures. If it were not for some CDs arriving from out of the blue one day in April 2013 from Djam Karet member multi-instumentalist and composer extraodinaire Gayle Ellett my life would certainly be different . I am indebted to him for life for this enlightenment. This has to be one of the the most important musical discoveries of my life. At the young age of 51 I thought that I had heard it all. I actually felt like an idiot. How could this creature have eluded me? Since my musical re-birth I have been  exploring everything Djam Karet I can get my paws on. I feel like that geeky 15 year-old who used to haunt the Montreal second hand record shops for that elusive sonic anomaly back in the 1970s.

The best place to start is with their 2010 release The Heavy Soul Sessions. This is the first Djam Karet music I had ever heard and believe me I was flying blind, completely unaware of what was going to hit me. No band has had this kind of profound impact on my ears in years. I could only say to myself, " what the fuck was that?" . It revisits previous works with twists and turns. A King Crimson tribute composition by Richard Pinhas of Heldon is also included and reflects the band at it's most intense in a studio jam situation with no over-dubs where the band themselves are their own audience allowing them to find a certain inner voice using technological advantages not afforded on the live stage. Once you delve more and more into the band's music that spans 30 years the Dr Jeckyl and Mr.Hyde dichotomy between heavy post progressive rock and electric/ambient sophistication becomes evident.

 

  

Now, my children it is time  here is your Djam Karet starter kit :   

                   

 

 

 

 SWAMP OF DREAMS

 This is music only the abstracted brilliance of  Djam Karet could give birth to. The greatest band that nobody has ever heard of! Swamp of Dreams contains 6 titles have been dredged up and reworked  from various one off contributions that appeared on anthologies and benevolent albums between 1990 & 2006. They have been cleverly  presented in reverse chronological order which is a real treat for hard core followers like myself. Dark, vaporous and menacing sequenced rhythmical effects drive each piece with boundless intensity. A multitude of styles and devices are employed and melded together into something that has some semblance of congruity and it is hard to believe that they were all conceived over a 16 year time span. The whole album is characterized by flawless production, superb musicianship and technical prowess.

  The opening track, Voodoo Chases The Muse is anchored by a pulsating,  regurgitating synth template. A groovy psychedelic guitar riff plays on as if the wah wah pedal was just discovered. Jimi Hendrix meets Tangerine Dream. It then reinvents itself into something more frightening and conflagrated in some bizarre time signature that only aliens can figure out with Moogs and Fender Rhodes going maniac. The Shattering Sky appeared in original form on a humanitarian CD to raise money for victims of Hurricaine Katrina which devastated New Orleans back in the summer of 2005. The sky actually sounds like it’s going to fall at the onset as the piece proceeds to work itself into a furious rage with frantic jazz bass and thundering synth barrages and fuzz guitar getting into a real cool groove that unfortunately ends too soon.. I actually googled the meaning of the title of the third track,  Pentimento, and came up with two different results and tried to associate them with this psychotic piece. It commences with phantasmagoric spacey atmospheres and then  transmogrifies into a manic guitar inferno with globs of plodding tonal wreckage. New Light On The Dark Age and  the title track are more coherent and fluid pieces and for the most part are free of all the sonic havoc that has to be dealt with on the other pieces. Inventions of the Monsters is my favourite track. An alternate auditory interpretation of creation possibly influenced by Dali’s surreal painting from the 1930’s. Grotesque cat, dog and horse sounds can be heard amidst shifting sound walls and spooky tubular bell-like progressions. The whole thing seems to be gradually closing in on the listener in slow motion. Far out terrifying stuff.

 I’m unaware of how the pieces that constitute Swamp of Dreams  sounded in their initial forms but what has been done here on the is simply eye watering. A must listen for anyone who wants to grow up to be a synthesizer. 

 ( from my review on Progarchives March 2017 )

Djam Karet Website

Ian interviews Djam Karet

     JANUS - The Band Who Came In From The Cold

 Janus in 1972, from left to right : Colin Orr, Bruno Lord, Roy Yates, Derek Hyett, Mick Peberdy & Keith Bonthrone
 
Back in the 1970s I was a compulsive record collector. After hearing music like Hocus Pocus by Focus I knew that there was a bit more to rock 'n' roll than what I was hearing on the AM band on my transistor radio. The regular stuff the other kids were listening to like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd weren't cutting it. Focus widened my mind and led me to all these freaky German bands which had the most potential to be "out there". I was soon snatching up anything that was German and looked weird during my trips to the record shops in downtown Montréal which were plentiful back in the day. Today they are almost extinct but Vinyl is starting to make a courageous comeback. I progressed through Amon Duul II, Guru Guru, Grobschnitt Jane and graduated to more sophisticated electronic music by Tangerine Dream. By and all  anything was possible with this music. It was an exciting time. Waiting for that next elusive jewel to fall into my paws.
 
I was trolling through the "J"s one day in 1977 probably searching for a Jane album when this Gravedigger record by a band named Janus appeared before my very eyes. "This" I said to myself " I gotta hear "  $3.50 plus tax . "Mine". I think the haul that day was about 10 albums but this particular one I had a strange feeling about. For those who can remember vinyl will know by the separation of the grooves whether the music was going to be heavy, mellow or a combination of both.  This album was strange.  It was a combination alright.  One side was definitely going for the high decibel range. But the other side which contained the 20 minute "Gravedigger" suite  looked like it was going to turn out like a Brahms concerto. This is an example of what popped out of side one :
 
 
 
 
Pretty far out! Wouldn't you say. These days this record in mint condition can fetch up to $350 on ebay or vinyl collectors sites!
 
 Side 1 - Red Sun 8:55 / Bubbles 3:50 / Watch Trying To Do 3:50 / 
 I Wanna Scream 2:43 /
Side 2 - Gravedigger 20:48
 
Lineup : Colin Orr, guitar, keyboards / Roy Yates, classical guitar /
Bruno Lord, vocals / Derek Hyatt, vocals / Mick Perbedy, Bass / Keith Bonthrone, drums
 
Original release on LP EMI Harvest 1C062-29433 ( 1971 )
CD release Worldwide Records SPM-WWR-CD-0035 ( 1992 )  
 
 
In the spring of 2010 I decided to do more exploring and managed to get in touch with Colin Orr the  keeper of the Janus flame and found out that 7 more albums had been released in the 1990's and 2000's! With his assistance I decided to write a biography of the band for Progarchives.com which I invite you to explore yourself through the link. You can also visit the Janus official  website. If you like what you hear a donation to the  Francis House Children's Hospice, however small would be recieved with thankfulness.
 
 
Janus 2012, ( L to R ) Bruno Lord, Colin Orr, Keith Bonthrone
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
New Janus album Under The Shadow Of The Moon March 2013 !
 
 
 
 
 
 
Janus' ethereal 1998 video for Agnus Dei 2000 originally released on the Dutch Arcade Music label.
 
The Story Of Janus
 
1) Roman Religion - Animistic spirit of doorways and archways.

2) Roman Mythology - God of all beginnings and endings, Janus saw backwards and forwards.

3) English Rock Band - Formed Krefeld, Germany ca.1970. Disbanded somewhere in England ca. 1974.
 
Ressurected ca. 1990 Glossopdale, England. Named as such by record company after aforementioned because of split personality nature of far-out music.

There are many one album wonders that emerged from the heady days of the summer of love social phenomenom of the late sixties. Some bands even lost concept of time and prolonged it well into the '70s and to quote a line from This Is Spinal Tap ended up in " the where are they now? file". Janus was one such band and their 1972 album entitled Gravedigger was one of those wonder albums. Though it may not be up there with the Beatle's Butcher Album it has been known to fetch ridiculous prices ( as much as $350 ) at record conventions and internet record trading sites. The early misadventures of Janus even rival the ficticious rock 'n' roll catastrophes of Spinal Tap. So, where are they now? One might ask. 7 albums have come to pass between 1990 and 2006. In 2012 mastermind and guardian of the Janus flame, Colin Orr, regrouped the band once more for another album that revisits the glorious '70s. But in order to understand the Janus story proper it's best to start at the beginning...

The original band had it's origins in the Midlands of England in 1969-70 when 18 year-old Colin Orr was in a nearly-made-it band that had fallen apart as a result of lack of money and creative failure. Disillusioned with the music scene in the UK, Orr packed a suitcase and along with his guitar headed for West Germany where he had found a job with NAAFI, a food supply company that serviced NATO bases. Upon his arrival at a youth hostel in Krefeld he was almost immediately noticed by a long hair freaky guy by the name of Bruno Lord who told him he was a singer looking for a guitarist to form a band. At the time there were other English lads hanging out in Germany and before they knew it they had a band together with Roy Yates on nylon string guitar, another vocalist, Derek Hyatt, Mick Peberdy on bass and Keith Bonthrone on drums. They decided to name the band Bonthrone after their drummer because they thought that it would confuse the Germans who wouldn't be able to pronounce it correctly. While working at his day job Orr started to write original material for the band. Orr liked the variation and contrast between hard and soft believing that the latter would make the former seem louder and harder and vice versa. In addition to writing some really heavy songs, some of which could have been the harbingers of the punk rock movement which was to appear a half decade or so in the future, Orr wrote some acoustic material as well. The music as a whole was completely "out there" and fit in perfectly with the burgeoning Krautrock scene and Bonthrone started to get gigs around Krefeld and generated a considerable amout of excitement. It wasn't long before some hats at EMI caught wind of the unusual phenomenom and invited Bonthrone for a session/audition which was really just a formality because they were signed on the spot to EMI's subsidiary progressive rock label Harvest. Among the bands making their home on Harvest at the time were Barclay James Harvest, Pink Floyd, The Edgar Broughton Band and Deep Purple so Bonthrone were all of a sudden running with the big dogs. The record itself consisted of one side of heavy psychedelic tracks almost exclusively written by Orr while the other side featured a sombre 20 minute suite-like group composition entitled Gravedigger ( after which the album was named ) which was ostensibly acoustic that underscored the nylon string guitar of Roy Yates along with vocal harmonizations and string arrangements that even embraced some classical motifs and themes. Astonishingly, to this day this piece surfaces from time-to-time as a teaching aid in some European universities! However EMI didn't like the name Bonthrone so they changed it to Janus after the mythological Roman god of beginnings and endings who saw both forwards and backwards presumably to reflect the the duality of the music. The cover with a skeleton crawling over sand dunes in a top hat with a white rose that record collectors are all so familiar with was the brainwave of EMI executive Ian Groves who was particularily fond of the Gravedigger suite. Initially it was proposed to put a dead guy on the cover but in order to avoid dodgy questions a skeleton was borrowed from the anatomy department at the University Of Cologne who also suggested the top hat and the white rose perhaps as some sort of a joke. If EMI were happy with the end product that was recorded in just 24 hours of studio time , the band themselves were somewhat dismayed. The way EMI had engineered it made it sound muted and more psychedelic and not as heavy as they would have liked. A shorter version of Gravedigger entitled Gravedigger II appeared on Janus' 1993 album "Innocence" that might better reflect the band's real intentions even if it was setting the record straight more than 20 years later!



Nonetheless Gravedigger sold well enough for the band to party and live in a hippie commune that was run by the East German Communist Party where they lived the life of sex, drugs and rock & roll ( in that order!). They managed a few gigs and one particular outdoor performance was put to an abrupt halt when the West German police arrived with their guns drawn 10 minutes into the show responding to complaints from local townsfolk who were calling in from as far away as 3 miles complaining about the "noise". This could quite possibly have also had something to do with Orr's rendition of the West German national anthem a la Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner! Somehow through all the hedonistic mayhem Orr was able to compose a number of forward looking concept pieces that sounded like the musical direction Pink Floyd was taking in the eighties and nineties on albums such as A Momentary Lapse Of Reason and the Division Bell. The creative process could get pretty weird at times and almost always included illlicit drugs of the halucinagenic nature. Sometimes the band would stay awake for several days and write tripped out songs with outlandish titles as titles like " Cossack's Jazzy Rock Blues" that the bass player couldn't play because of the insanely fast tempo. On one occasion Orr veered off on a hallucinagenic sojourn and sat down beside a rushing river and came up with a song simply entitled " Isn't It Strange?". Possibly the strangest song that came out of the narcotic brainstorming was a furious piece entitled "The Devil's Opera" which was almost not finished because they were late for the session but with a little help from God they made it in time. The most serious piece written during this period was a 25 minute epic entitled "Under The Shadow Of The Moon" which was written by Orr in component parts that flowed into one another with orchestrations and intricate time signatures. Although the material was rehearsed extensively very little or none of it was retained in hard copy form because before they had time to formally lay it down for a record they had been ousted from Germany by the national police force. Apparently the political activities going on inside the commune didn't sit too well with the West German authorities and it was time to shut down the party. They were invited to the local police station to reclaim their passports and this is when Janus' finest hour occurred. A display case full of seized drugs the police were so proudly showing off proved too irresistable for singer Bruno Lord who tried to pry it open. He was caught red handed and this no doubt speeded up the removal process from Germany
They relocated to a holiday camp in Holland where they enjoyed more sex, drugs etc. and it was around this time that EMI voided their contract. Even though they still managed a few gigs the money well eventually ran dry and Janus high-tailed it back to mother England where they had a brief run at the college circut. This included a few monumental events including the distinction of being the only band in history to be ejected from The Cavern Club in Liverpool for playing too loud and behaving badly. In 1974 the band began to fall apart in earnest with singer Derek Hyatt being the first casualty. By the end of 1974 the individual band members had gone their separate ways, moving on to pursuits not related to music although Keith Bonthrone and Orr played covers on and off in bar bands. Bruno Lord would embark on a solo career eventually forming a Led Zeppelin cover band called Physical Graffitti of which he was an active member until just recently. Orr himself pursued various endeavours ultimately establishing a successful agriculture business.


The "what ifs" have weighed heavily on Orr over the years and he remains convinced to this day that the music written for the second Janus album in 1973 could have been just as colossal as anything released by heavy hitters from the seventies progressive rock movement such as Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis et al. All the "what ifs" notwithstanding the cult status that the Gravedigger album has attained among collectors is a testimony to it's mystique and stature as a lost Krautrock gem even if all the band members hailed from the UK!

In 1989 a friend brought to Orr's attention a CD review for Gravedigger that had appeared in Record Collector magazine that declared that Janus were "considered to be a turning point in German popular music". After doing some some checking Orr discovered that EMI had been turning profits on the Gravedigger album without his knowledge. A legal challenge was invited by EMI but it was arranged it such a way that in order to prevail Orr would incur heavy financial expense so he conceded defeat. Sort of. Music had never left him completely and by this time Orr had built his own personal recording studio for recreational purposes so he decided to get most of the original band back together to record another Janus album along the lines of the formula they worked with on the Gravedigger album. The new material that he came up with sounded stale, dated and "too seventies" so the project was abandoned and Janus remained in a deep hibernation.
 
 
 
2012 re-recording of I Wanna Scream from Gravedigger ( 1972 )
Bruno Lord, vocals, ; Colin, Orr guitar ; Mick Peberdy, bass ; Keith Bonthrone, drums
 
After some soul searching Orr decided that the creative wheels were ready to turn in another direction. He still had a desire to break down musical barriers adhering to no specific style in particular by writing something that interpolated Latin plainsong. As the name implies plainsong consists of a forlorn melody line rather than measured rhythm that also in times of old relied on the acoustics of cathedrals. Orr faced a daunting task because he wanted to include electric guitars and keyboards along with orchestrations and turn it into a rock liturgy of sorts. He enlisted the help of a salesman in a nearby Manchester music store by the name of Doug Boyes who was also a classically trained cellist. Boyes suggested another classically trained musician, vocalist Paul Phoenix, who was just completing studies at The Royal Northern College Of Music in Manchester. Phoenix had also previously sung lead in The St.Paul's Cathedral Choir which produced the theme song for the BBC television show "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" based on the John Le Carré novel of the same name. With his experience singing religious music he was perfect for Orr's latest brainchild which would be entitled "Agnus Dei" after the Lamb Of God. The 20 minute four part epic took it's Latin lyrics from various sources and is quite possibly the first ( and only ) modern composition to fuse plainsong with rock music. Agnus Dei had all the potential to set sail for the land of cheese but instead it turned out to be a sublime work that made it into the top 50 on the Dutch charts as an EP. The full album's title, initially released as Out Of Time ( after a down beat cover version of the 1966 Rolling Stones hit ) was then changed to Agnus Dei. The remainder of the album consisted of smooth AOR songs and also featured original members Bruno Lord and Keith Bonthrone. An orphan track called "Situation Critical" was salvaged from the material he had written in 1989 based on the early Janus style that was shelved. Complete with Monty Pythonesque Mr. Gumby vocals, even Orr dismissed it as sort of a joke ( it was late they were tired ), but it nonetheless held up pretty well as a contemporary punk rock song!

Now that Janus was reborn with a fresh new sound for the 90s Orr threw caution into the wind and started work on a darker introspective album largely based on a short story he had written entitled Journey To The Underworld ( Absent Friends ). It depicted, musically, what it was like to be trapped in hell experiencing one's emotional pains of the past over and over exemplified by tracks with titles like If I'd Listened, The Angry Tower and The Infinite Maze. Largely instrumental, the story was written out in it's entirety on the CD insert. The superb vocals of Paul Phoenix returned along with Doug Boyes on cello. A renowned Chinese violinist , Rick Shaw ( his English name ) , was invited to contribute as well as another guitarist, Paul May, who came to Orr's attention through SPM ( Worldwide) Records, previously playing with the rock band A.N.D. Both Boyes and May helped out with the songwiting this time around and as a result it was somewhat more complex than the Agnus Dei album with emphasis on keyboards and orchestrations. Inventive as Journey was, it unfortunately sold poorly but oddly snippets of it began to be heard frequently as television background music all over Europe!
 
 
 
1993s Innocence brought two new players into the fold. Scottish Cellist Sandy Bartai was another graduate from The Royal Northern College Of Music who had an adventurous outlook towards making music replaced Boyes ( who still had a smaller role ). An old friend of Orr's, Irish bassist Dave Harrald who also was playing in the Led Zep cover band Physical Graffiti with Bruno Lord also came aboard. Lord and Keith Bonthrone also made contributions as Orr steered Janus in yet another direction Although the music was streamlined and somewhat heavier, the melodious qualities of the "new" Janus remained in place on tracks such as Forever, Harvester and Ovine. Paul May, who began taking a more active part in the creative process, had found religion and he used the music as a conduit for this new found spirituality. Into The Light, Nothing Can Move me and a philisophical Christmas song entitled Dark Christmas certainly reflected these convictions. If it got in the way at times the religious slant certainly didn't do the music that much harm either. Orr, as usual handled the keyboards as well as the guitars and percussion and a number of other musicians also made contributions. As mentioned previously a new shorter version of Gravedigger was also included sung by Bruno Lord and along with the opening track Into The Light were unmistakable nods to Janus' distant past .
 
Both Sandy Bartai and Colin Orr became involved with composing commercial archival music before embarking on the next Janus project which would be the most experimental Janus album to date, not that that the previous work lacked trials and errors. A four member group by the name of The Janus Ensemble based in the San Fransisco Bay area that played unusual improvisational music mixing old and new perspectives using hand made electric & acoustic instruments had come to Orr's attention in 1994. He managed to arrange a collaboration with two of the members, multi instrumentalist Barry Hall and percussionist Richard Smith. In addition to the more conventional violin, a favourite instrument of Hall was the 1,500 year old Australian aboriginal wind instrument known as the didjerido or by it's more modern name the aerophone. Appropriately titled, a haunting piece of esoteric music entitled Abo Habit combined ancient rhythms and the visceral tones of the didjerido with some ecclectic electric guitar lines and supple keyboards to produce a piece of extaordinary offbeat music that literally looked down the ages. This monstrosity along with other music on this instrumental album ( save for occasional wordless vocal harmonizations) were where musicologists nightmares came from. Traces of East Indian stylings, jazzy interludes, wacky musical musings abounded and the ghost of Frédéric Chopin even dropped in for the chamberesque Sandman, a lullaby of sorts with electric guitar riffing. Some have categorized this album as new age music and others have even compared it to Jean Michel Jarre's electronic stylings but it is much more. Beyond category would be a safe bet.
 
'' This is a combination of classically trained musicians from England and an English sheep farmer/guitarist who writes music that hauls your emotions 180 degrees. I'm in shock - but don't be suprised if this is one of the biggest albums of the decade, it deserves to be and you heard it here first.''
 
-Sly Mareon, San Fransisco Music Journal, May 1994, on Freefall
 
After the release of Freefall in 1994 Orr put Janus back into stasis while he evaluated how the "new" Janus figured into the big musical picture. One thing was certain the music definitely had a pronounced future/primitive character to it. How could EMI have known back in 1972 that Janus would still be producing schizophrenic music in the 90s?
 
 
 
In 1998 Orr decided to revisit the Agnus Dei concept and raise it up a few notches. Vocalist Paul Pheonix, who by this time had joined the renowned cappella vocal ensemble The King's Singers, was an essential with his operatic-like vocals. This expanded take on Agnus Dei also required a special saxophone sound as well. Orr always had an uncanny meticulousness on the way he wanted his compositions to sound beforehand and the saxophone sound he had in mind for this latest Janus project was something along the lines of sessionman Scott Page' searing rock sax contributions to the music of Pink Floyd, Supertramp and Toto. Through a local music shop that he had bought a ton of gear from he located saxman Dean Houston. Although more of a traditional jazzman Houston adapted superbly to Orr's ecclectic composition style. The album also introduced 16 year-old Natalie Brown whose heavenly vocal talents were discovered by her parents when she started to sing along to a karioke track with perfect pitch at the age of 15. Orr was looking for a female vocalist with enough ability and confidence to accompany Paul Phoenix's rich tenor deliveries and through a music teacher friend located Natalie Brown. The album was named Agnus Dei 2000 in anticipation of the new millenium and was picked up by the now defunct Dutch record company Arcade Music who marketed the album and supported it with an ethereal video for the title track. The music itself had all sorts of religious manifestations with atmospheric musical textures and sold internationally, becoming paricularily popular in inuit communities in the northern region of the Province Of Québec, Canada. Once again, Janus had produced a work that was truly innovative and difficllt to classify. After the success of Agnus Dei 2000 it took another 4 years for another Janus album to materialize. Much like the Alan Parsons Project Janus was largely a studio edeavour with regular and guest collaborators although they managed a live appearance on the Stuart Hall's Hall Of Fame variety show in 1999 where Paul Pheonix sang live as the musicians mimed to a pre-recorded backing track.



2002's Sea Of Sighs saw the return of Paul Phoenix, Sandy Bartai and Dean Houston's immense talents and gave Natalie Brown a more signifigant role with her pristine voice, taking on lead parts which were reminicient of the Mike Oldfield/Maggie Reilly collaborations along with his daughters Thea and Rikki on backing vocals. Sea Of Sighs was the most accessible Janus album to date with celtic sensibilities figuring prominently which added some doom and gloom, albeit with romantic suffusions and affections. Orr also focussed a bit more on both acoustic and electric guitars which set it apart from the more orchestral sound of Agnus Dei 2000.

Never restful, Orr had always taken advantage of his personal recording studio puttering and experimenting on his own like some sort of mad scientist. By 2005 he had accumulated enough material that encompassed a wide spectrum of musical excursions from the metallic Speed Thrills ( with Bruno Lord on vocals ) to the thoughtful ballad Sit Down & Listen for an album. For the most part it really rocked it out in strange ways and after some encouragement from one of his daughters made this music ( collectively known as the "S" album because every track begins or sounds like the letter "S" ) available for free download on the Janus website ( see below ). The only thing in return that is asked for is a donation to The Francis House Children's Hospice in Manchester, Derbyshire, England which is a benevolent organisation that gives support to sick children and their families. Besides his Janus projects Orr has also been active in music education at Glossopdale Community College as well as collaborating with Carmel & Heather Parry, two sisters who form the celtic pop duo, Morgan Le Faye who currently have an album out entitled Away My Tears which is available through itunes. His daughters have even formed formed their own group calling themselves The Daughters Of Janus ( who would have guessed!) Orr also continued to create archival music for the BBC and his most recent activities in 2009 have included writing and playing music for the BBC Televevision production All The Small Things, a drama show about the triumphs and tradgedies of a small church choir with a rock 'n'roll twist.

The time for Janus to re-open a time capsule and rejoin the progrock party came in the summer of 2012. Mastermind Colin Orr along with special guests finally recorded " Under The Shadow Of The Moon ", the 20 minute epic written in 1973 as a centerpiece for an album of the same name released the spring of 2013. " Manic progressive rock for the 21st century ", as Colin Orr describes it. A specially re-mixed version of the Gravedigger LP was also released that breathed more fire into the original along with a digital remaster.

40 years after it's creation Janus came full circle living up to it's namesake Janus, the Roman God who looks forwards and backwards.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Crazed  Under the Shadow of the Moon video, 2013 

                            Canada's  Jazz Master

 I learned of Oscar Peterson's death as a result of kidney failure on Christmas Eve 2007. It was known that Oscar wasn't in good health but it still came as a shock and made headlines throughout Canada, especially here in Montréal, Peterson's birthplace and where he spent his formative years. The nation mourned one of it's greatest icons and world ambassadors who had overcame numerous obstacles to become arguably the greatest jazz pianist who ever lived as well as one of the greatest Canadians. Throughout his career he was bestowed with countless national & international awards and honours including the nation's highest civilian award award for civilian service, The Officer Of The Order Of Canada. I feel like I am writing about God here so I'll be brief as possible. Here's a video of Oscar playing Salute To Bach in Berlin in '85 with Neils Hennig Orsteed Pederson on bass and Martin Drew on drums.

  He recorded over 200 albums on 5 different record labels during his lifetime not to mention appearances as a sideman, so it's virtually impossible to hear everything. Here's a short  introductory guide as well as a link to the official Oscar Peterson website as well as a a sampling of Oscar Peterson's recordings on the Verve record label.

( Insert 10 " I'm not worthies " here).  

 

A Jazz Odyssey 2 CD set Verve 314 589 380 ( 2002 ) 

18 tracks taken from 1950-70 featuring Peterson playing with jazz greats such as Dizzy Gellespie, Stan Getz, Buddy Rich, Ella Fizgerald, coleman Hawkins and others. Released to complement Oscar's autobiography of the same name.

 

The Oscar Peterson Trio Live At The Cocertgebeow ( Verve LP 1957 CD 1994)

The first trio with Ray Brown ( bass ) Herb Ellis ( guitar ) in one of their finest moments recorded at The Chicago Civic Opera House in1957. The 1994 CD release contains 5 tracks from a concert in LA from around the same period from an LP that was shared wit the Modern Jazz Quartet. Although the recording quality is not 21st century the music is out of this universe.

 

Oscar Peterson - Dimensions : A Compendium Of The Pablo Years

 

This comprehensive 4 CD set from Pablo Records  is the most complete overview of Oscar Peterson's career ever released. Here you can listen to the master in every configuration, solo, trio duet, jam sessions on 46 tracks many of which are live  For those who have been hiding under a rock this is the place to start. oscar is joined by Count Basie, Louis Bellson, Ray Brow, Bennie Carter, Martin Drew, Harry " Sweets " Edison, Roy Eldridge, Duke Ellington, Jon Faddis, Dizzy Gillespie, Stephane Grapelli, Coleman Hawkins, Louis Hayes, John Hodges, Barney Kessel, Neils-Hennig Orsted Pederson, Joe Pass, Mickey Roker, Clark Terry,Toots Thielman, Ed Thigpen & David Young.

Oscar Peterson website

 Oscar Peterson On Verve Records

Finally, I couldn't resist including this video : Keith Emerson meets Oscar Peterson. This is from a BBC TV special aireed in January 1976, " Oscar's Piano Party "  The piece is a Keith Emerson composition entitled " Honky Tonk Train Blues".   

 

  

          Emily Remler & Larry Coryell - Smooth Jazz

This was a very special partnership. One that was almost inevitable. Although I had never heard of Emily Remler when " Together ''came out in August of '85, I snapped it up because it had Larry's name attached to it. A lady jazz player? This I had to hear. By this time, Emily Remler at the age of 28, had recorded 3 solo albums and was already running with big dogs including jazz guitar legend Herb Ellis who was one of her early mentors. Larry Coryell who really needs no introduction was a legend in his own right having played with just about everyone who mattered in the world of jazz from Chartrles Mingus to John McLaughlin

What is so notable about '' Together '' is that the two individual vituosos are a generation apart ( Coryell was 42 ) and yet this isn't even slightly noiceable so mature was Remleer's playing at her young age. It is very obvious though that this was a learning experience for both. The genesis of this affiliation had it's seed in a series of impromptu gigs in a Charlottesville, Virginia student hangout where they would jam with locall musicians arriving unanounced. This would elicit comments such as, '' Not bad for a couple of locals ! ''.

Both were veryy similar yet disimilar at the same time. Both had similar beginnings in that they both started out on instruments other than the guitar and both started out playing straight rock 'n roll and became progressively more adventurous. Coryell was spawned on the stylings Beatles and Dylan which he melded into a fusion style on his 1967 album with '' The Free Spirits, Out Of Sight And Sound '', arguably the first jazz/rock fusion album. Remler started out emulating the sounds of Led Zeppelin, Clapton and the Stones but gradually became more interrested in the tonal complexities of East Indian music most notably Ravi Shankar. She also explored Brazilian rythmns before graduating from the Berkley Scool Of Music at the very young age of 18 ! Coryell was literally all over the musical map while Remler took a more traditional approach embracing phraseologies of Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian and Pat Metheney among others..

'' Together'' is is mostly an electric album that features only the two Coryell penned tracks ( Six Beats, Six Strings and Arubian nights ) on 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars respectively. One of the beautiful things about the album is trying to figure out who is playing what and when. But sometimes it is more than obvious especially when Remler is playing the melody. Her smoother more rythmic approach is the polar opposite of Coryell's more abrasive right hand attacks but it works man! Don't expect anything like the Coryell / Philip Catherine or Coryell / Steve Kahn alliances from the late seventies where it was virtuall y impossible for the untrained ear to figure out who was who.

Women in jazz even at this point in the mid 1980s were more or less known as vocalists but by this time Remler had progressed from a novelty to a guitar force in the jazz world. I think she even steals the show somewhat on pieces such as the jazz waltz How My Heart Sings a bit of an upbeat version of the Earl Zundras standard, made popular to Jazz affivionados in the early sixties by pianist Bill Evans.This is not to say that Coryell ever gets left in the dust as he constantly adapts to her rather more lyrical phrasings although he does go off the deep end sometimes especially on his two compositions Arubian Nights anfd Six Beats, Six Strings the latter of which features a spooky solo, a wonderful contrast all the same.

The stand out track is without a doubt is the Antonia Carlos Jobin Bossa Nova How Insensitive ( almost certainly Remler's idea ) which is saved for the end of the 45 minute work. But I digress. The whole album in all it's differenrt moods is absolutely hypnotic. One of the suprises was the 1934 bluesy standard Ill Wind which was previously performed by such greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and even old blue eyes Frank Sinatra. Here we get an exquisite instrumental version played on Gibson electric hollow bodies. Another track that showcases Remler' s penchant for two tone rythmns is the Pat Martino' standard Gerri's Blues. Remler also gets to swing it out on Joy Spring a Joe Pass fave from the sixties.

One of my favourite jazz albums ever that not only introduced me to the brilliant musicianship of Emily Remler who left this Earth way to early at the young age of 32.I t also showcases Coryell at the top of his game. It seems that he goes through some sort of strange metamorphosis when paired with another guitarist or guitarists and '' Together '' is no exception. Positively one of the most expressive jazz recordings to emerge from the 1980s. Unfortunately original vinyl specimens are rather pricey. I saw a Japaneese picture dis pressing going for $ 80 on eBay. Anorther anecdote to this remarkable recording is that they toured together for the last half of 1985 and a few bootleg recordings surfaced not only highlighting tracks from the album but other interpretations of standards and originals. The only sad ending to this affiliation was that it was a one off and I'm sure the partnership would have rekindled itself had it not been for Emily's untimely death.

Absolutely essential listening for every jazz guitar head.
 
 ( From a review that I wrote for Progarchives in August 2012 )
 
 
 
 
 
  Here's a video of Emily playing her own composition " Blues For Herb", dedicated to the legendary Herb Ellis who helped Emily get her gigs and a record contract with the reputed Concord jazz label
 

             7for 4Fusion From Another Dimension

 Contact (2001)

 

If I met some aliens visiting from another world I would invite them over and let them some to some music from these guys.

I came across these virtuosos from Munich, Germany through a colleague on progarchives who wanted me to do an interview with one of the members, Markus Grutzner, the bass guitar player ( see link ). I had never heard of them and my knowledge of German jazz was limited. But being a big fan of the Krautrock movement of the early seventies I had managed to familiarise myself with some German jazz/rock  talent from that era such as KRAAN, Passport, Morpheous and keyboardist Rainer Burginghaus who had also  played with a jazz/rock band called Eiliff in the early seventies. More recently organist Barbara Dennerlein, also from Munich,  caught my ear in the early 90s.

The only thing I was told about 7for 4  was that they were a very complex jazz/rock band that also blended other styles from metal to country. The first thing that struck me was their unusual name so I thought that their music must be unusual and decided to check them out. I was floored ! Not since I was introduced to bands like Disengage, The Alexander Kostarev Group and Iamaboveontheleft from the Russian Federation had I heard anything as adveturous and "out there". I started out by listening to their most recent album " Diffusion" from 2008, a title that appropriately describes what the listener is about to experience. Defined in physics, Diffusion is the spontaneous intermingling of the particles of one or two substances as a result of random thermal motion, a fitting metaphor for the futuristic character of the music not only on this mindblowing creature but also their two previous works Time ( 2004 ) and Contact ( 2001) .

 

 Time ( 2004 )

You never know what direction each composition is going to pursue with fluctuating time signatures & discordant themes that are constantly being modified or rearranged within each individual composition. Most of the composing is undertaken by guitarist Wolfgang Zenk. Previosly he played on two albums in the 90s with progressive rock group Sieges Even before starting another band that led to the creation of 7for 4. His playing is extremely difficult to define or categorize, sounding like everyone from Jan Akkerman to Django Reihardt, his musical influences are  far and wide and, being a guitar teacher as well, he doesn't write off anything stylistically. There are pieces that have latino foundations ( Spiral Dance ), some that are outwardly rock ( Cyclotron ) and some that are just well, " out there " ( Burnt Chicken Wings).  Unlike other bands of this nature who just want to play fast, loud, arpeggiated freeform freakouts 7for 4 is more concerned with melody with each member of the band contributing to the quantum result. The group's name 7for 4, by the way, is a play on the intricate tme signatures that the 4 piece band prefers.

7for 4 are :

Wolfgang Shenk / guitar

Markus Froschmeier / keyboards

Markus Grutzner / bas guitar

 Klaus Engl / drums

 Check out one of my faves from the CD "Time" as well as the links.

 7for 4 Website

 Interview with Markus Grutzner

 

 

                               Golem

 

Shrouded in mystery because there were only 300 vinyl copies of this tripped out album pressed sometime in 1972 or 1973 and nobody seems to know who the freak is playing on it. Musicians are thought to be the who's who of the early 70s Krautrock scene but some sources indicate that the players originate from England. It surely seems that there are different combinations of players on each track and that the five tracks came from different sessions with the sound quality differring from track to track. I have heard of at least two sightings of  vinyl copies so there are at least a few out there. It was released on CD in 1996 and more recently in September 2010 and even these were limited editions and are very hard to dig up. A booklet attempts to explain the origins of this freaked out jewel. Listen to this monster and try to figure out what planet they emanated from. 

 

 My Golem Review On Progarchives

                                                   ROOM  -  An Obscure Classic 

 I was very suprised to find this audio video of this delightful English band that time forgot which was active from 1968-1969. Combining a myriad of styles that included psychedelia, jazz and folky stylings they could be best described as a slightly more adventurous version of Fairport Convention or Pentangle that leaned a bit more towards the progressive rock effusions of the early seventies. Their lyrics had a darker tinge than most psychedelic meanderings of the day and in this respect were a bit closer to contemporary King Crimson and Gentle Giant. It certainly would have been interesting to see how their inventive musical ideas would have developed had they not faded into oblivion. This particular album with it's complex orchestral arrangements and female vocals was recorded in just two days for the Deram subsidary label of Decca Records and was their soitary recording. It was one of those bands that were unfortunately overshadowed by other progrock bands that were coming of age at the time. For more details about this marvelously experimental band check out the link and if the vid stimulates your curiousity Pre-flight is available on CD through the second link at a very reasonable price of $10.95.

Room - Making The Leaves Dance

 

                         Australian Prog-metal Prodigies

For me the land of Oz has always conjured up popular images of the indigenous kangaroo or the drone of the ancient dideridoo so frequently heard creating mysterious atmospheres on documentaries about the vast & remote areas of the Australian outback. But a metal band named after an obscure Roman annalist?   The first thought that confronted me with this prospect was : this I've got to hear ! Well, so much for stereotypes. I was hooked right away. The first foray for Sydney based Hemina, " As We Know It" , a 25 minute extended play CD,  reminded me of a  take on the  progressive rock that I grew up with in the glorious 70s but with a modern metal mentality.

  Progressive rock bands in the late 60s & early 70s were adding other dimensions to rock music by augmenting it with classical motifs, introducing jarring time signatures only found in jazz and expanding instrumentation to include string and brass sections and even whole orchestras.  Hemina has done a bit of reverse engineering and come up with a hybrid that is full of melody, harmony and emotion with a metal foundation that assimulates many progressive rock hallmarks, most notably fluctuating moods and atmospheres, articulate philosophical lyrics and extended running times. Two guitars, various keyboard arrays and a solid rythm section of bass & drums configure the band and, with the exception of the drummer, all members sing vocals in one capacity or another thus offering many musical possibilities.

The mastermind behind Hemina is a gent by the name of Douglas " Dougie " Skene who plays guitar, sings lead vocals, writes the lyrics and most of the music along with 2nd guitarist Mitch Coull. What I found interrsting is that songs themselves are composed with the aid of computer software that convert the concepts into musical notation which allow for fine tuning afterwards. Individual band members then modify their parts with their own ideas. Pretty cool eh? Stylistically, it is a band that I find difficult to categorize because there are so many elements at work here. I would have to say that I wouldn't be afraid to play any of these songs in front of my grandmother and it's not music I would tell anyone to crank up to eleven, but rather listen to what the songs  have to say. Each song has it's own identity and speaks a message. Comparisons have been made to bands  like Dream Theatre, Pain Of Salvation and Ayreon but what I noticed most of all with my initial listens was early Steve Rothery era Marillion.

Prior to listening to this remarkable band my only incursions into Australian music were confined to artists like Midnight Oil, Wolfmother and er...Kevin Bloody Wilson so listening to this fledgling band came as a pleasant suprise and does credit to the metal scene that seems to be happening in the land down under. Geographically isolated, it is perhaps more difficult for Australian bands to break internationally and many otherwise promising bands remain local phenomenoms so check out the vid of a piece called To Concieve A Plan that is not included on the current EP. Lacking in quality it gives an idea of the energy the band possesses on stage. The three main exquisitely engineered tracks from the EP can be streamed through their facebook page linked below along with an interview with guitarist/lricist/vocalist Doug Skene. And if your ears  like what they hear there are two links by which you can purchase the CD at the very cool low price of only $6.99

Hemina on facebook

Interview with Doug Skene

Purchase Hemina from CDBaby

Purchase Hemina merchandise direct

 HEMINA are :

Doug Skene / guitars, lead vocal

Mitch Coull / guitars, vocals

Phill Eltakchi / keyboards, vocals

Jessica Martin / bass, vocals

Andrew Craig / drums, percussion

 

  

                  Hawkwind's Fantasy Masterpiece

 Warrior On The edge Of Time, United Artists, May 9, 1975

  The lonely silouhette of a warrior on horseback gazing out into a foreboding chasm on the cover of Hawkwind`s 5th studio album foretells the imagery and legend which inhabit the grooves on this psychedelic sci fi / fantasy freakout. Loosely based on Michael Moorcock`s 1970 fantasy novel, The Eternal Champion, themes are also borrowed from American Fireside poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and English romantic Percy Shelley to convey the fantastic . Warrior On The Edge Of Time is heavy, atmospheric and dark, drawing it`s energy from a maelstrom of synths, mellotrons, woodwinds and power chords. While the themes follow an implied chronological sequence each song represents an individual porthole to specific events which occur along the way on this eternal cosmic experience. Science fiction themes intertwine with fantasy elements and an air of continuity is achieved by the short pauses between songs along with solioqies spoken by an unseen higher power which cautiously guide the listener throughout this most treacherous journey.

 The record conjures so many vivid images both instrumentally and lyrically that it gives the impression of a double album which belies it`s original 43 minute running time. Blasting off appropriately with the guitar led Hawkwind classic, Assault & Battery, based on the Longfellow poem Psalm Of Life , synth orchestrations, harmony vocals and surreal electronic effects then start to breathe life into the journey the on The Golden Void as if one were living amidst the vast imagery they conjure which makes it a superb headphone album. References to Moorcock`s novel appear both in the music and the soliloqies throughout the work, two of which are voiced by Moorcock himself despite not even having recieved a studio fee!  Even the instrumental Opa Loka, which takes after the sound experiments of German avant garde duo Neu!, describes the city, Loos Ptakai, that is the setting for a pivotal battle in the book. Early on in the first soliloqy a champion is declared by the unseen power and the plight of this champion will be followed throughout his time-quest. The space ballad, Demented Man almost positively references this character, Erekose, who is torn between loyalty and betrayal. Swathed in synths, mellotrons, violins, flutes and effects Spiral Galaxy 28948 ( which corresponds to Violin/keyboardist Simon House`s birthdate ) is one of the spaciest instrumentals ever recorded by Hawkwind and adds an abstact futuristic aspect to the whole adventure. Nik Turner`s The Dying Seas complete the work appropriately but the odd track out is the more straightforward rock song, Kings of Speed, which may be referring to the drug or blasting off into the future but does sound notoriously like another attempt at charts in whatever context one percieves it. On CD releases the Lemmy composition, Motorhead appears which has absolutely nothing to do with anything here.

 

 

 Original LP gatefold cover ( back & front ) & inner sleave

It`s difficult to avoid mentioning the album`s stunning cover with it`s mystical artwork. When it was originally released in vinyl format on United Artists Records in mid `75 it featured a cover which folded out to form an eight pointed shield from the inside, which made further references to The Eternal Champion. On the inside a Rubin vase-like visual illusion was created from the cover painting by Compte Pierre D`Aubergne which forms the impression of the face of The Champion along with some sexual references if one wants to read more into it. This would make more sense to one who has read THe Eternal Champion which wasn`t one of Moorcock`s most popular works as a result of it`s ominous conclusion. Even though the album is not a recreation of the story per say reading the novel itself does explain some of the concepts which make up the album. On early Canadian Dojo CD releases of the album the complete 160 page novel was included with the package along with an attempt at recreating the effect of the original record jacket with the shield being reproduced in black & white only. Long live vinyl !

Certainly Hawkwind`s most ambitious recording up to `75 which many consider to be the band`s masterwork and turning point including guitarist Dave Brock himself. Many changes within the band coincided with the release of Warrior On The Edge Of Time including a switch to Charisma Records and the notorious sacking of founding member Lemmy for alleged drug possession in the middle of the supporting North American tour. Fittingly, Longfellow`s introductory lines from the opening track, And departing leave behind us footprints in the sands of time bear testimony to albums the greatness. Of course Hawkwind endures to this day but this remains their piece de resistance, and the ULTIMATE sonic Scifi / fantasy trip. A true seventies progrock classic.

( from my review on progarchives.com )

 

 

                       2  Norwegian Rock Bands

These days whenone thinks of Norwegian rock the first thing that comes to mind is all that underground black death metal crap that isn't even endorsed by the mainstream metal community with names like Mayhem, Death Throne, Immortal and ...well you get the gist. Many of them have been linked to white supremists and neo-nazi movements and aren't representative of some of the remarkable popular music that has emanated from this unlikely location. I picked two whom I think are worthy from different eras.

 

 

The first is an interesting obscure folk metal band that I discovered on the web. Couldn't find anything on them at all except that that they were from Norland County in the northern part of Norway. Their music with vocals sung in Norwegian was very melodic, dark and atmospheric with clean female  vocals. As far as I know they only  made one album in 2006 before disbanding.

 

 

 

 

My next selection is New Born Day  by Ruphus who are arguably  the finest  rock / jazz rock band ever to emerge from Norway. Singing in English they began their career in Trondheim in1973 following early seventies progrock formulas set by bands like Yes, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Uriah Heep and others progressing into more jazzy explorations towards the end of the decade. I managed to find a youtube entry that showcases the complete album for the uninitiated. This is one of the best albums of the early seventies progrock movement as far as I'm concerned. I also highly recommend their 1975 album Let Your Light Shine which reveals the changes in musical direction. Both are 5 star albums with exceptional musical faculty. Here's the review I wrote for Prrogarchives a few years ago that you can read while listening to samples from this extraordinary recording.:

 

 

Ruphus - New Born Day, 1973, Brain ( Ger ) & Polydor Records ( Nor )

Lost Norwegian classic that time forgot from '73. Solid debut from a band that never really became known outside their native land although they did perform in Germany & Switzerland, this album in particular has over the years been unfairly compared to the likes of Uriah Heep and Yes but it really stands by itself. Harder rocking than the afore mentioned with powerful male/female vocal pairing and thoughtful lyrics despite the overall heaviness set them apart from UK contemporaries and if any comparisons could be drawn then the German band Octopus, who were yet to arrive on the scene would come the closest. Every track has it's own catchy groove here with vocal harmonies, keyboard orchestrations, guitar freakouts and some really heavy dominant Hammond organ.The sheer energy and dynamics of New Born Day cannot be over-stated with it's fluctuating arrangements which also have classical suggestions and jazz aspirations which would come into prominence as the band's career progressed. Not lacking faculty, the music veers into so many directions with more melodic sections featuring acoustic guitars, saxophone and flute which are particularily effective on tracks such as the prophetic Scientific Ways and up-tempo Still Alive giving the compositions even more colour. Other devices such as vocal incantations and emotive screams from vocalist Gudny Aspaas also come into play making this a total early seventies art/rock package which would give any contemporary band a run for their money. Although not a concept album per say all the tracks are loosely connected by cold war themes which are evident on tracks like Scientific Ways, The Man Who Started It All and Day After Tomorrow. Anyone into everything from early Deep Purple, Gentle Giant, King Crimson or Yes ought to check out this precious blast from the past to see what was really happening musically in Scandinavia during the early seventies besides ABBA. While it may sound a bit dated, without question it personifies the true spirit of what was progrock back in it's glory era

 

 - Gudny Aspaas / lead vocals
- Thor Bendiksen / drums, percussion
- Hans Pelter Danielson / guitar
- Håkon Graf / organ, piano, vibes
- Kjell Larsen / guitar, flute
- Asle Nilsen / bass, flute
- Rune Sundby / acoustic guitar, saxophone, vocals

 

 

In  December 2010 most of the members of past Ruphus lineups got together for a blowout concert in Oslo. This is what they looked like almost 40 years on.

 

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