The second part of Out of prog for 2017 releases is much more focused than the first article (click). Here you can read about psychedelic / acid rock, art-pop, drone, heavy rock, chamber and arabic jazz, modern classical, doom metal, afrobeat and drone music from eight different albums, all special for their genre.
Translation: Alexandros Mantas
Tigran Hamasyan – An Ancient Observer
[Nonesuch Records Inc.]
Two years after the exceptional Mockroot, the Armenian virtuoso pianist presents us his new work which draws from the same roots, taking once again the role of the observer of the musical tradition of his country, but also of the wider vicinity. The technical pyrotechnics and the rich arrangement of Mockroot are discarded this time since An Ancient Observer is clearly based on Hamasyan’s piano. Being indeed an illustrating example of a musician who has become one with the metronome, he pulls off to execute the rhythm parts almost on his own. But what makes him shine is the way he embeds melodies in his precise and accurate playing as if derived from the depths of history able to touch every listener’s heart. When the western civilization stands in awe before the historical memory and musical tradition, then opuses like An Ancient Observer are very strong.
Demon Head – Thunder on the Fields
[The Sign Records]
As a rule, displaying sheep / goats on album covers hints that their quality is poorer than the animals’. Fortunately, despite the Danish Demon Head have done it twice (with regard to the goats that adorn their covers), their short back-catalogue features equally remarkable releases. The album that they released this year is better produced than Ride the Wilderness two years ago and since the compositions possess all these elements that turned us into fans of the good old Witchcraft (until Alchemist, that is) it makes sense to catch our fancy. Tight heavy rock, within the hoary vintage / occult context of the last few years, and the best part of the compositions pulls off to get across their message, stripped of superfluous frills. If we had to pick top moments, it would be Gallows Omen, Hic Svnt Draconesi and the title-track that sport the trademark riffs of the album, while the closer Untune the Sky is probably the most completed and arty they have done up to this day.
Here Lies Man – Here Lies Man
The self-titled debut by Here Lies Man, a project by Marcos Garcia, is a heavy psychedelic, afrobeat and fuzzy exploration that dignify 70’s artists / bands like Fela Kuti, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd. There’s something compelling here, the funk and psychedelic mix that sounds so refreshing, groovy and enjoyable from “summer lovers” to more demanding listeners. The vocals that appear sporadically as small distorted phrases repeated by Garcia offer ethereal psychedelic tones that could be better. The truth is that the cover intrigued me to push the play button. The artwork is an excellent piece by the photographer Edward Echwalu and as the band mentions “the image was so striking and eerie that as an album cover it forces you to wonder what the music must sound like”. Βands like Funkadelic mixed funk afrobeat rhythms with rock, Goat did that successfully a few years ago, and now Here Lies Man. I definitely enjoy an easy flowing record even if it has repetitive moments depending of course on the style and here I can guarantee retro, groove, vital, dance rhythms and a unique style.
Arduini/Balich – Dawn of Ages
[Cruz del Sur]
The case of Arduini and Balich stands out because of the high quality of the final outcome and the inversely proportional hype that surrounds their venture. The first one is a founding member of Fates Warning and the latter is the singer of the great Argus and they decided to join their creative forces for the ambitious Dawn of Ages. Indeed, it’s an ambitious effort, if we take into consideration the duration of the songs whose majority approaches or even exceeds the ten-minute mark. This choice was kind of walking on thin ice, but fortunately it turned out that it was not detrimental to the quality of the compositions. The traditional doom (with expected references from Black Sabbath to Solitude Aeturnus) they delve into is based on the sparkling guitar work of Arduini with epic riffs and progressive touches and also on the potent voice of Balich that adds an epic dimension that suits the music fine.
It may be the album of the year in traditional metal and it might be proven with the passage of time and its infallible judgment that it’s a classic one, too.
Yazz Ahmed – La Saboteuse
The last few years, there is a prominent activity in the British jazz scene that looks optimistically into the future while standing firmly on the foundations of the past. The increasing synergy between the jazz formula and the electronic ambience on the one hand and the cultural background of every artist on the other, are more on display. Somewhere in there, there is the half-British, half-Bahraini trumpeter Yazz Ahmed who makes a stab at marrying these two worlds, musically speaking. Her hitherto collaborations (Radiohead, These New Puritans who covers them actually) have, granted, nothing to do with jazz, yet they are a testament of the variety that an artist should show whose intention is to explore their inner world and settle comfortably next to their influences.
The smooth vibraphone researches are complemented by the ambient, but crucial eastern element of Ahmed’s trumpet, Hutchings’ clarinet and also the necessary multidimensional playing of Sherriff on the keyboards, with an unprecedented and addictive finish that frames pleasantly the final outcome.
Man Forever – Play What They Want
The imagination of the drummer John Colpitts, whose stage name is Man Forever, tops itself strikingly from song to song in his new album when it comes to songwriting, maintaining an atmosphere that pierces the mind and the soul. Tapping into a sonic diversity which provides enough space for personalities with different idiosyncrasies (and consecutively the different musical propositions) to breathe freely, Man Forever, his companions and his guests (Yo La Tengo and Laurie Anderson) on Play What They Want set out a sensitivity that is rounded, mature, tangible, but at the same time otherworldly. It is about an orgasm of images and sounds, driven by the percussion and fleshed out by keyboards, guitars, string and wind instruments and vocals that, on the one hand, gazes and tries to gauge something that is far from the limits of our world, but on the other hand sounds more urban that the cemented skylines of the modern big cities. We speak of a spiritual jazz proposition which delves insidiously, but simultaneously deafeningly into our inner and outer world.
Träd Gräs Och Stenar – Tack för Kaffet
Oh yes, this is the natural continuation of Pärson Sound, International Harvester and Harvester, the pioneers of the DIY approach that were founded back in 1969. Tack för Kaffet is an homage to the late founding members Torbjörn Abelli and Thomas Mera Gartz that were part of the line-up of those recordings together with their old friend and companion Jakob Sjöholm as well as the new members of the band. Indeed, the album seems like a change of the guard with the input of Sigge Krantz and the amazing Reine Fiske who (once more) makes all the difference. The 71 minutes of music were recorded live and the improvisational disposition of the band comes to the fore, shooting down any inkling of walking over old ground, quite strangely perhaps. Indeed, Tack för Kaffet is mysteriously fresh and pulls off to hypnotize us, taking us far away or blasting us through the ceiling with its acid explosions, reminding us how revealing psychedelic rock in its purifying rawness is. Be it about farewell (Farväl) or a new beginning, this record is a modern epitome of pretentious-free experimentation, a product of an impeccable recipe with ingredients tasteable only by those who are willing to give in.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Sketches of Brunswick East
The Australians psych / pop / garage / acid rockers are, maybe along with Ty Segall, the most prolific band of our times who within a quinquennium have achieved to produce a remarkable number of albums. This is their third one in the current year, within six months to be precise (by the end of 2017 they will have released two more albums!). The troupe from Melbourne, Australia released the eleventh and counting studio album that sounds totally different compared to their two previous ones. Its title nods to Sketches of Spain of the great Miles Davies, while the final outcome is not credited solely to KGATLW, but also to their good alt / psych / soft rockers friends Mild High Club (check out Skiptracing!) The collaboration between them resulted in a masterpiece with impeccably dosed psychedelia along with equal doses of jazz rhythms and melodies. Concise, but at the same time lively and juicy compositions are flanked by admirable instrumental interludes. King Gizzard pulled out all the stops and gave us one of the best albums of the year!