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STEVE ROACH The Desert Collection - Volume One (Progressive Electro…

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother — Steve Roach is a prominent musician of note working in the new-age, ambient and drone styles of
electronic music, composing literally dozens of albums as both a solo artist and collaborations with
others. With almost forty years of perfecting and constantly evolving his craft, this instrumental
compilation, entitled `The Desert Sessions - Volume One', is a superb collection drawn from four of
his solo works, and the eight pieces on offer here create a sustained and seamless ambient flow.
Gently soothing, hypnotic and endlessly melodic, the disc is a perfect way to relieve tensions,
slowly unwind from the busyness of everyday life while still offering fascinating light progressive-
electronic soundscapes for fans of the genre.

Drowsy harmonica gently pierces through low-key veil-like synths in `Ghost Train', completely
devoid of any percussive elements, the piece shambling along in a lethargic intoxicating manner.
`Flatlands' is the soundtrack to your trek across great unending plains of scorched earth,
wandering gentle tribal beats filled with subtle purpose urging you onwards over soothing washes
of electronics. There's a placid never-ending twinkling electronic loop weaving throughout all of
`The Breathing Stone' that reveals the world around you teeming with life. The near 18 minute `The
Eternal Expanse' is as grand and epic as it's title. Synth washes lap gently at your senses, as one
layer falls away, another rises to take it's place over and over, dying and being reborn into eternity.
They ready your mind for the inner journey to come, quickly exploding it with potential, just the
smallest traces of unease threatening to overwhelm and consume.

The curiously titled `The Ribbon Rails of Promise', another longer piece at 15 minutes, picks up the
pace, a little up-tempo skittering beat patters the background with joyous and comforting tones,
chiming synth shimmers and dusty harmonica darting forwards and retreating instantly. It fills the
listener with a stirring hope, of discovering a way forwards through troubles and stress. `Specter'
brings a little darkness, a haunting drone of slowly ebbing synths groaning with crushing isolation
and loneliness, a gradual maddening beat building the tension. The synths on another drone, `New
Moon as Forbidden Mesa', bring an almost spectral choral quality, their lulling ethereal cries
enveloping, mysterious, but never truly suffocating or menacing. `The Slow Turning' brings light
back to close the disc, a serene glistening uplifting spiritual quality that offers comforting blissful

Compiled from his works `Dust to Dust', `Desert Solitaire', `Western Spaces' and `The Ambient
Expanse', Mr Roach has successfully chosen a fitting selection of pieces that maintain an evocative mood in line with the title of the disc, always full of direction and variety yet
frequently open-ended and unhurried. It would make for an ideal introduction to newcomers of the
electronic, ambient and new age genres, as well as being easily enjoyed by established followers
who can appreciate less demanding yet intelligently written and tasteful compositions. Highly
recommended, and hopefully we see more volumes in the future!

Four stars.

UTU Songs in Flesh Minor (Crossover Prog, 2013)

Review by Matti — The Finnish UTU consists of musicians from Tampere and Helsinki. This is their only album so far.
And this is (my translation of) how they describe their music themselves: "We are a mind-blowing
group that makes new and individual art pop. Our storytelling is a mix of contrasts, between both
acoustic & electronic and styles & dynamics. When asked, the style or genre is said to be a state of
emotion." The leader and sole composer is Petra Poutanen who sings - in English - and plays
acoustic guitar and kantele, being probably the only Finnish pop/rock (non-folk!) artist to play

Those rather bold words are not without truth. At least for a Finnish group - even with our
historical/national instrument involved - this is quite original and fresh 'art pop' and actually in no
way reveals what country it comes from. Petra's seducing and slighly creaked / fragile, girlish voice
does resemble some English-speaking artists but I'm not sure who. JOAN NEWSOM is one of
them, and this is not just an association due to the closeness of kantele and harp (not that kantele
would be very audible in the sound, as harp is certainly in Newsom's music). There is a dash of
BJÖRK in the singing style, but no, she's not among those I'm trying to remember now. How about
Swedish SOPHIE ZELMANI, at least in the most delicate places? Anyway, the vocals are very
much in the centre; in a blindfold test I'd think this is a singer-songwriter album. A highly artistic
one, of course, but I probably wouldn't have had the guts to suggest UTU into ProgArchives. Glad
they're added.

The group's acoustically oriented, slightly jazzy sound is nice, emphasized on delicate nuances
instead of rocky sound walls. The songwriting is totally free of folk or Ethnic flavour in my opinion,
but naturally kantele, jouhikko (I don't know its translation), viola and accordion bring such
elements. The dry, slow and delicate percussion is present to a notable degree. Piano sometimes.
As they said, dynamics change and there's a lot of contrasts. And yet the sound seems to have a
thoroughly thought nature to make the whole very coherent.

The songs are mostly balancing between calmness and some sense of unease or self-search. As
pop music this is not easy-listening stuff, and it probably takes some time to get into its
introspective aura. My first impression wasn't very positive but now I'm enjoying this much more.
My favourites are tracks full of dreaminess and emotion, such as 'I Try'. 'Today' is too much built on
percussions in a way I don't like, but even that song has beautiful, more melodic sections,

There aren't memorable melodies in this album but once you get into the wave-length it offers an
interesting and emotionally deep listening experience. Not necessarily "prog" but so what.
Recommended internationally to listeners of calm, female fronted art pop, who accept some jazz &
folk nuances too.

STEVEN WILSON The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) (C…

Review by JCDenton — This album is so well-written all the way through. Every track sounds so great, both in context of
the album, and they even do very well as stand-alone songs. The best tracks for me are "Drive
Home", "The Watchmaker", and "Luminol". I know it's half the album.

There are many oddities about the album. The saxophone honestly sounds like a guitar to me
at times. The choice in harmonies also really sticks out, if anyone is so interested in such of a
thing, or being aware of that. It can be difficult to describe. I find a meeting between eeriness
and beauty, both at the same time present in sections like the later parts of "The Watchmaker"
and "The Pin Drop". The instrumental performances are also eclectic and highly expressive. It's
exciting. The sound produced on this album, though inspired by groups such as King Crimson,
is very distinguished. Steven Wilson has really done something unique here. I'm stoked to see
where he will decide to build off of projects like this.

Excellent album.

ROVO Phoenix Rising (with System 7) (Psychedelic/Space Rock, 2013)

Review by tszirmay — I decided to chase this hitherto unknown to me Japanese act, uniquely attracted by the lure
of Steve Hillage's presence on guitar as well as confirmation that he would be wielding his
slippery axe and leaving the synths to long-time partner Miquette Giraudy . Then, I also
noticed that this psychedelic/space combo was also staffed by two drummers. The clincher
was the presence of a cover version of a Mahavishnu Orchestra classic "Meeting of the
Spirits" Hmm! This could be good proggy stuff, further online video research revealed the
need to take a risk, as no PA review has yet been posted.

Well, they have been around since 1998, releasing regularly intervalled albums, to relatively
small prog-rock acclaim being more of a trance/jam band and I can only guess that by
adding the Gongster and his famous lady the prog community will join in on the fun. Truth
is the music presented here is definitely more club oriented techno/rave with stupendous
though binary drumming, relentless bass pummeling, scouring violin sorties, cyclical guitar
churnings and stop/start explosions. In fact, the correct definition would be a heavier, more
organic version of System 7 (Hillage and Giraudy's band are huge in Japan) with harsher
sounds, adding definitely more propulsion than a synthesized drum machine. The first two
tracks "Hinotori" and "Love for the Phoenix" are clear examples of what System 7 is all
about, electronic space jam excursions that are both linear and hypnotic.

One of the highlight tracks unsurprisingly is the John McLaughlin-penned "Meeting of
Spirits" off the Inner Mountain Flame album, showcasing Hillage's command of his
instrument as well as some spirited work from violinist Yuji Katsui, though the two
Japanese drummers cannot match Cobham's whirlwind technique. The piece comes across as a much heavier version, which is actually highly appreciated.

Another cool track is "Cisco", which is a heftier lumbering bulldozer with an echoing guitar
that sounds like a harmonica, sort of wondering if it was not inspired by War's classic
"Cisco Kid" (I think so!) , creating an all-instrumental jam-fest that rambles on for 13
minutes of beat-infested glory. There is an obvious Ozric Tentacles feel, when bassist Jin
Harada steps up to the plate and starts swinging for the fences. Hillage, together with fellow
axe man Seiichi Yamamoto (who is legendary in his native country) then start carving some
serious slices of cosmic splendor, boldly going where few have gone before. This is a
highly bellicose arrangement, thrashing hard and mercilessly, skirting the outer edges of
delirium and unafraid to bliss out.

"Unbroken" starts out all fluffy white clouds, ponderous slivers of undulating rhythms and
serene atmospheres, until the violin starts screeching boldly, a twisting neo-jazz electro-
space shuffle, sort of urban cool in a delirious kind of way. Imagine JL Ponty meeting a
Gonged-out Steely Dan! Steve really kills it here, showing clearly why he is such a prog
guitar icon. Tremendous track!

The simmering and somewhat playful "Sino Dub" is a Yamamoto-penned epic that is just
too simplistic and frankly puerile to my ears, at odds with the three previous tracks that had
such massive doses of bite, grit, beat and fire. The eternal drum rhythm in particular is very
boom-boom-tchak, closer to the Orb than anything else (funny, Hillage played on the
debut!). This is a skipper.

The final track "Unseen Onsen" is an ambient Giraudy piece that showcases interplanetary
synthesized resonations that flicker about in seemingly Oriental spheres (Gong), strips of
Moogy stringlets forever blowing bubbles into the not too distant cosmos. It's refreshing,
meditative, spiritual and hypnotic. A definite mood driver.

Somewhere between 3,5 and 4 Elevating firebirds

DISTORTED HARMONY Chain Reaction (Progressive Metal, 2014)

Review by rdtprog — You wouldn't know this band if from Israël, listening to their second album. This is progressive
metal with a slight touch of djent with influences from Dream Theater and many more modern
progressive metal bands. The usual big guitar riffs are present throughout this CD, but what
separate this music from the average prog metal bands are their strong compositions. When the band
has showed their musicianship, they open the songs up with intelligent breaks by slowing things down
with more emotional content. The vocals range can go from the screaming to some smooth vocals.
Behind the powerful guitar riffs, the band has incorporated some nice arrangements and delicate
passages with some acoustic music from the piano and the guitars offering a nice balance between
metal and rock.

ACCORDO DEI CONTRARI AdC (Jazz Rock/Fusion, 2014)

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother — Three albums in for Bologona band Accordo dei Contrari, and as expected of this Italian group,
sublime and frenetic fusion displays are the order of the day (I'm fairly reluctant to use the `jazz'
with that usual description though), and they've truly stepped up and taken their music in bigger
directions than ever before. In addition to this perhaps being their busiest, noisiest fusion work yet,
they've also added sophisticated classical flights, Post-Rock cinematic flavours, more Rock in
Opposition/Avant textures and ambient passages to truly offer no better definition of a `fusion' of
styles! Enviable technical displays played with passion and fire, it's constant never-ending musical
eruptions effortlessly flowing from one seamless movement to the next and back, always melodic
and endlessly groovy. There's still little references to other Italian fusion acts like D.F.A, Arti e
Mestieri and the Canterbury sounds from the previous album, but the Accordo members are
definitely forging their own path and have never sounded so tight and focused.

`Nadir' opens with groaning unfolding spacey electronics and ends on serrated jagged feedback,
with wild guitar strums, slow-building giddy drumming, liquid bass and glistening electric pianos
spiralling into controlled chaos throughout the centre of the piece. Some bits are like a
schizophrenic take on the `Abraxis/III'-era Santana band, with moments of heavy grunt and softly
building ambient builds back and forth too. The infectious playful `Dandelion' offers muscular
twisting electric guitar/bass grooves over an exhausting mix of tempos that will have you grinning
wildly! Violin and piano pirouette around the opening of `Seth Zeugma', offering a surprising dose
of R.I.O/Avant Garde experimentation, but before long snappy drum lunges, molten bass spasms
and hellfire Hammond rip through the fanciful classical sophistication, racing dizzying circles
around the listener. Some of the Hammond aggression near the end even briefly calls to mind
parts of Delirium's classic third album.

The overwhelming `Dua' will drive you to madness with a wicked glee, with surprisingly intimidating
suffocating Hammond madness over endless looping piano/bass attacks. Improvisation `Tiglath'
opens and closes with creeping late-night tip-toeing electric piano suspense to reverberating
ambience along the lines of the Soft Machine's pitch-black `Fifth' album, with snarling slow-burn
electric guitar strangulations, violated Hammond runs and intimidating rumbling percussion
crescendos rising up from the pits of the Earth. `Piu' Limpida...part 2' closes the album with some
sedate acoustic guitar, piano and droning cello Post-rock prettiness.

Sometimes a self-titled work can suggest an artist running low on inspiration, other times it can
mean they are so confident with the results that they feel it's worthy of being considered their
defining statement. The latter must certainly be the case for Accordo Dei Contrari here, and on the
strength of `AdC', it's proof of a band slowly redefining what jazz/fusion can mean, not only for
themselves, but for their listeners and lovers of the genre. Three great works from this talented
band so far, and I still feel their best is yet to come!

Four stars.

UNIVERS ZERO Phosphorescent Dreams (RIO/Avant-Prog, 2014)

Review by DrömmarenAdrian — This is actually my first meeting with the Belgian band Univers Zero which is a part of the Rock
in opposition movement. It released its first album 1977 and "Phosphorescent Dreams" is the
band's tenth one. It has been possible to hear the record since january but I have heard it
recently some times and my thoughts about it are rather devided.

The band uses a lot of wind instruments such as clarinet and saxophones(Kurt Budé),
trumpet(guest Hugues Tahon) and trombone(guest Adrien Lambinet) beside drums(Daniel
Denis), bass(Dimitri Evers), guitars(Nicolas Dechêne) and keyboards(Antoine Guenet).

It is clear this band has high thoughts of their music and want it to reach high levels of
musicality and I think they manage to do that too. In the way they create their music it feels they
don't feel so many borders and walls. In my opinion though are the songs on the album
perhaps too similar and I am not sure I like the massive darkness that is present. I want to
laugh and feel joy. The music attacks the listener with this bombastic rock and hits him with the

I'd say the music here is powerful and there are a lot of great and create ideas that the band
tries to establish. My favourite track is perhaps a little lighter: "L'Espoir Perdu" and I also like the
opener: "Shaking hats". My concluding opinion would regard this album too sad, but yet
inspiring and I will give it three stars.

LALLE LARSSON Until Never (Eclectic Prog, 2014)

Review by DrömmarenAdrian — "Until never" is the Swedish keyboard player Lalle Larsson's sixth studio album and he has
done it this year 2014 with the bassist Jonas Reingold and the guitarist Richard Hallebeek.
The cover picture is dark and shows an iron bridge in a city at night.

Perhaps this is a good image also of the music on the album. This is not a rock record. The
music is very soft and don't make so much noise. It is an instrumental musical world of light
and digestible music. It start's very smooth and continues in that way during the whole record
but the musicians are painting a nice painting which could work as rest for often tired ears. The
melodies aren't progressive but sometimes you can here the similarity with symphonic rock. It
feels like many of the tracks respond to each other and the record as a whole encourages tthe
listener fantasize.

But how do I like it? Yes I like it. I welcome its difference according to other music and some of
the melodies were really nice. But at the same time the music doesn't strive especially high
and it doesn't make me shout wow so I am content with giving it three stars.

DEWA BUDJANA Joged Kahyangan (Jazz Rock/Fusion, 2013)

Review by ProgShine — Really nice and smoothy album by Indonesian guitar player Dewa Budjana!

I got used to have Moonjune Records albums in a Jazz Fusion line and this kind of music really
don't hold any water for me as I prefer something that was built and something with melody.

For my surprise Joged Kahyangan (2013) is one of this records! Dewa instead of trying to go
on full Free Jazz do what you want wrote some really pretty melodies in a more traditional Jazz
style, there's even a Vocal Jazz track on the album (As You Leave My Nest) with singer Janis

This is the kind of album that is indeed a joy to listen to and you can enjoy it even while reading,
but that doesn't make it a 'background music' album as Dewa is a great guitar player and the
line up on the album is amazing.

Recommended! Please Moonjune, more of this kind of releases!

TESSERACT Altered State (Progressive Metal, 2013)

Review by k3no444 — After scrolling through the long list of bands in attendance at Sonisphere, I came upon the band
TesseracT. Before Sonisphere, I had never heard of them. After some basic research, I found out
how renowned the band was in other countries, how they have been together for many years, and
have released two albums.

This five-piece from Britain has recently released their newest album titled "Altered State," their
only album featuring vocalist Ashe O'Hara. Spanning close to an hour, this album features 10
songs broken down into 4 total movements. I can describe this album as progressive metal, but the
sound that envelopes this entire album could help expand the genre into ambient or space rock.
The vibe throughout the album is very interesting, and goes almost unnoticed between songs if one
pays little attention to it. Over top this ambiance is the brilliant musicianship of the band as they
perform one of my favorite albums I've listened to recently.

The guitar work is phenomenal, using djenty guitar work for both bass and electric guitars. Acie
Kahney and James Monteith on guitar, and Amos Williams on bass guitar do a brilliant job, mixing
different styles of progressive metal throughout the entire album. The range of sound shifts
dramatically, from deeper, palm-muted riffs in the song "Of Matter" to a much softer, delicate, and
more ambient tone in the song "Of Energy." Although featuring less solos than a typical
progressive metal album, these guitarists more than make up for it in the beautiful sound they
create, ranging from sounds like Animals as Leaders to Pink Floyd. Using effects like reverb and
delay, the guitars are key components to the overall production, and become the driving force of
the entire album, like violins to a symphony.

Jay Postones does a magnificent job on the drum set. A change in sound from their last
album "One," Postones relies less on the double bass pedal and focuses more on crisp, clear hits
on the upper half of his drum set. The song "Of Reality" shows the drums at its finest, as the drums
display perfect timing and precision amongst the other instruments. The change in time signatures
that so often accompanies progressive metal is present throughout the album, but the drum work
helps to make the transition flow more smoothly, creating an easier listening experience to the

Having only sung on this album, Ashe O'Hara adds "Altered States" as a highlight to his musical
resume. O'Hara can truly belt out the lyrics with his talented voice, and easily proves his strength
early in the album. His voice is best represented in the song "Of Mind ? Nocturne," as his range
dives from lows to soaring highs. Unlike their last album, there is no scream or growl vocals,
proving that metal can be just as great without it. Vocals would be pointless without meaningful
lyrics, which TesseracT is able to surprise me with their complexity and significance.

The one thing that stood out most to me in this album is its composition. When I listen to "Altered
States," I feel like I'm listening to two different albums at once. The first album is a progressive
metal vibe, one with deep guitar rhythm, complex drumbeats, and vocals that set the overall mood
and tone of the song. The other album I can hear is more of a musical score, featuring guest
musician Chris Barretto on saxophone, and is full of ambient tones and spacey sound effects that
layer below the instruments. As stated earlier, it is almost unnoticeable if you aren't paying full
attention to the album, meaning you lose an entire layer of what makes this album so great. Unlike
their first album "One," "Altered States" shows the band expanding into new territory, providing a
much more ambitious and intricate album.

I love this album! Definitely a 10/10 in my book.