R. Carlos Nakaí & Cliff Sarde
Pete Namlook & Klaus Schulze
Paolo "Apollo" Negri
Neverending White Lights
Nightmare of You
Nuvole di Paglia
Shell (2003, 60.29) ****Crisis 051209
I Found a Deep Dark Hole and I am Going to Jump in!
Naikaku are a Japanese heavy psych/prog outfit, seamlessly merging several (admittedly related) genres into a really quite appealing jammed-out stew, at least on their second album, 2006's Shell. Opener Crisis 051209 starts gently enough, before shifting into a vaguely '74 King Crimson feel, accentuated by some fairly out-there flute and trumpet work, while the album's other long(er) track, Shell itself, goes more for the slow-burn Crimson effect, amongst several shorter, but no less intense pieces.
Guest Daishi Takagi plays keys, including samplotron, with very upfront strings all over the title track, the first chord holding for over thirty seconds, just in case you were doubting my sample-spotting capabilities, with more on the considerably briefer Tautrogy. I'm really not sure whether prolonged exposure to this album might make me like it more or less; it could go either way. As it is, initial acquaintance makes me keen to hear more, although they don't seem to have recorded anything since.
Enter >> Tribal (2001, 47.56) **½
|Enter >> Tribal
Touch of Your Hand
Lakota Love Song
Common Ground, Shifting Sky
May There Be Beauty
Retire the Colors
Lakota Love Song (Tree Cody remix)
R(ay) Carlos Nakaí is a Native American flautist whose recording career began in his late thirties in the early '80s. His tenth album, 2001's Enter >> Tribal (a collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Cliff Sarde), while contemporary, may well disappoint lovers of 'authentic' Native American music, its programmed beats and heavy synth use clearly designed to sell to the new age crowd, rather than folk or genuine world music fans. It's all pretty much of a muchness, to be honest, the presence or lack of vocals being the chief method of distinguishing one track from another. Not selling this very well, am I?
Sarde supposedly plays Mellotron, but the melodic string part on the opening title track is fairly obviously sampled, ditto the flute (quite distinct from the real one) on May There Be Beauty. All in all, this isn't a lot better than the kind of guff sold in health food shops and the like; in fact, it probably is sold in such establishments, while half-arsed sample use on a couple of tracks do little to improve matters. Perhaps not, then.
The Dark Side of the Moog 5 (1996, 60.05) ***½Psychedelic Brunch, Pt. 1
Psychedelic Brunch, Pt. 2
Psychedelic Brunch, Pt. 3
Psychedelic Brunch, Pt. 4
Psychedelic Brunch, Pt. 5
Psychedelic Brunch, Pt. 6
Psychedelic Brunch, Pt. 7
Psychedelic Brunch, Pt. 8
Pete "Namlook" Kuhlmann has collaborated with many artists, not least the legendary Klaus Schulze, on a series entitled Dark Side of the Moog (ho ho); on 5, the Pink Floyd puns go further, with the eight-part Psychedelic Brunch being named for the Floyd's Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast from Atom Heart Mother. Unsurprisingly, the album (also featuring noted New York avant-gardist Bill Laswell) sounds less like Floyd than any number of Berlin School electronic artists, although there's considerable variation between tracks, working on the basis that you can tell the difference between any EM pieces at all (he said, cynically).
I've had this down as a 'Mellotron album' for some time, and indeed, Part 4 is essentially a 'Tron strings solo, but it took moments to realise that its smoothness indicated samples; good ones, but samples nonetheless. I can't say I'm surprised; Schulze's last obvious use of his MkV was at the dawn of the '80s, despite its being pictured on the rear sleeve of 1985's Inter-Face, and he was always more of a synthesist than a 'keyboard player', anyway - don't forget his first album was the Tangs' Electronic Meditation, as drummer. Anyway, Part 8 features sampled choirs over a more rhythmic backing, but that's your lot on the fake 'Tron front.
So; decent enough Berlin School stuff, with one excellent and one reasonable Fakeatron tracks, but you've really got to be into the genre to properly appreciate this kind of stuff, I suspect.
See: Klaus Schulze
What Colours the Sky in Your World? (2004, 37.42) ****Doors to the Dark Room
Ghosts in the Wind
Fathom (2009, 42.42) ***½Blacken Gold
Blink of an Eye
Heart of Darkness
Nautilus are that rarest of things, a decent modern British progressive band, who don't sound like the bastard sons of a satanic Marillion/Pendragon pairing twenty(-something) years on. I'm not going to pretend the Kent-based quartet are up there with the best Swedish and Italian bands of the last couple of decades (sorry, chaps), but both their albums to date are very listenable affairs indeed.
The first of these, What Colours the Sky in Your World?, was released by the band in 2004, then picked up by Brit-prog label Cyclops and reissued two years later. It's all-instrumental (hurrah!), slotting into a vaguely Crimson/UK vein, top tracks including opener Doors To The Dark Room and Halloween Factory. Keys man Paul Blewitt (hi, Paul), adds samplotron strings (notably to closer Release) and choir here and there, rarely that overtly, more in a 'just another sound' kind of way, which is probably the best approach when using samples. Take heed, M-Tron over-users...
Cyclops' Malcolm Parker advised the band to add vocals to 2008's Fathom, as this apparently bumps up sales (why?); not feeling up to tackling the job themselves, someone brought forth '70s pop bloke, bit-part actor and friend of/collaborator with Freddie Mercury, Peter Straker to do the job. Well, he can sing, but whether he was actually the right man for the job is a matter for conjecture; his voice is rather too close to Broadway for my liking, stirring unwelcome memories of Rick Wakeman's taste in singers. I'm not sure if it's the unwelcome vocal intrusions, but the material seems less punchy this time round, with the honourable exception of (instrumental) closer Cadaver, which isn't to say the rest of it's bad, just possibly not as good as previously. More Blewitt samplotron, notably the strident strings on Heart Of Darkness and the background choirs on a few tracks.
So; I don't know for how much longer Cyclops are going to be a going concern, so if you'd like copies of these, get in quick. I personally recommend What Colours... over Fathom, especially if you prefer the instrumental side of things. Now the band know me, expect real 'Tron next time round... Incidentally, Paul also uses his samples on two Paul Roland albums.
Nebelnest (1999, 59.10) ****Improv: Pooks part 1
Etude de Shimshot
Improv: Uncertain Journey
Improv: Pooks part 2
Nebelnest, or NeBeLNeST, as they prefer to spell it, are a current heavily Crimson-influenced band from France, adapting that esteemed outfit's take on improvisational prog to their own material, creating something both familiar and new in the process. First track, Improv: Pooks Part 1 starts with what sounds like Mellotron flute, until you realise the sound goes way over the 8-second limit. There's more of the same later in the album, and some very authentic 'Tron choirs, although keys man Olivier Tejedor has recently confirmed that they're all samples.
Real 'Tron or not, this is a damn' good album, particularly if you're into the slightly further reaches of prog, without actually going for the full Univers Zero/Henry Cow. Their second effort, 2002's excellent Nova Express, uses real 'Tron alongside samples, and is, if anything, an improvement on their debut.
A Bigger Tomorrow (2007, 136.28) ***
Can't Get Satisfied
Let the Sun Catch You Sleepin'
Mr. & Mrs. Thunderbird
3 in a Bed
Slice of Funk!
|Point of Intersection
Under the Rain, Waiting for You
Old Grand Dad
Song for My Father
Filtersweeping, Mommy is
In the Haze
|Talking With Myself
Orange Peel (alt.ext.version)
3 in a Bed (Link Quartet version)
Filtersweeping, Mommy is
Weeping (Moogified version)
Preacher in the Well
|Hidden Behind a Cigarette
Slice of Funk! (Gianluca Pighi remix)
Can't Get Satisfied (promo)
Under the Rain, Waiting for You
Orange Peel (promo)
Song for My Father (promo)
Miss Cherry (promo)
Link Quartet's Paolo "Apollo" Negri is one of Italy's top jazz and funk (note: not jazz/funk) organists, a veritable Hammond god for our times, in fact. I believe 2007's sprawling double-disc A Bigger Tomorrow is his solo debut, an album for which the term 'groovy' could've been invented, stuffed with (mostly) instrumental Hammond workouts, straight out of the 1966 songbook. The trouble is, even disc one on its own is far too long, never mind the second disc of outtakes, remixes and alternate versions; maybe it's good to have on in the background at your '60s-themed party?
In the instrumental credits, Negri's quite specific about what he uses with regard to models, so we get a 'Hammond A102 organ & pedalboard' and a 'Hohner Pianet T electric piano + MXR Phase 90', but merely a 'Mellotron', which tells me a lot about its authenticity. Saying that, the brief, solo strings part that closes the album at the end of Filtersweeping, Mommy Is Weeping (not reiterated on disc two's 'Moogified version') sounds relatively real, although I'm quite certain it isn't. So; given that A Bigger Tomorrow is released by US label Hammondbeat, that should tell you everything you need to know about it. Like Hammond-led funk? You're onto a winner.
See: Link Quartet | Wicked Minds
Nektar (UK) see:
Sky Archeology (1999, 65.28) ***Sky Archeology
The Cygnus Loop
Tango Fornax 9991
1999's Sky Archeology is either Finnish electronicists Nemesis' second (according to their website) or third (according to other sources) album. It's an EM release that, while paying rather more than lip service to the Berlin School, as you'd expect, also throws in some more contemporary moves, not least the House influence in Tango Fornax 9991, which may or may not be welcome, but certainly makes a change.
One of the two musicians on board plays Mellotron samples on several tracks, more notable use including the phased strings on The Cygnus Loop, flutes on Tango Fornax 9991, upfront strings on Monocheros and choirs on closer Anaxagoras. More EM with sampled Mellotron? Music for the faithful, not the newbie.
Si Partie I (2006, 57.42) ****
|Danse de la Pluie (Nowea Fridjies)
Nemo are a current French progressive band who've somehow flown under my radar, which is a shame, as they're really rather good, certainly going by their fourth album, 2006's Si Partie I (II appeared the following year). The band's sound is an amalgam of current and past styles in the genre, metal guitar interludes followed by electric piano workouts or lengthy vocal passages, despite which it all hangs together quite nicely, thank you very much. The three shorter tracks in the middle are bookended by the two epics, the second of which, the five-part Apprentis Sorciers, is the album's crowning glory, throwing just about every trick in the book into the pot, while remaining cohesive.
There isn't a lot of 'Mellotron' to be heard here, with naught but a string part on opener Douce Mort, clearly sampled, but it's hardly the album's defining feature, anyway. I haven't heard anything else by Nemo, but if Si Partie I's anything to go by, I look forward to expanding my knowledge of their catalogue. No Mellotron, very little fakeotron, but a great deal of excellent music. Recommended.
A Million Stories (2007, 57.59) ***
|A Million Stories
Many Miles to Go
Everything I See
Three Between Us
It is What it is
|Just Give Me Tonight
Mile High Monkey
Georgian Barbara Nesbitt's debut album, 2007's A Million Stories, while ostensibly Americana, also incorporates elements of jazz (Horrible Moon), pop (Summertime - not that one) and rock, amongst other styles. Top tracks? The slow-burning opening title track and Fly are both pretty good, but pride of place is taken by closer Broken Girl, a very English-sounding folky number featuring some lovely open-tuned guitar work.
Ben Moore is credited with Mellotron, but the only possible use is the vibes on Horrible Moon, which sound far too clean (at least to my ears) to be genuine. Despite a bit of a lull in the middle of a slightly overlong album, which could've been remedied by excising a handful of weaker tracks, this is a worthy first effort, although its 'Mellotron' use seems to be anything but.
Act 1: Goodbye Friends of the Heavenly Bodies (2005, 78.54) *½
|From What I Once Was
Angels & Saints
Age of Consent
Ending of a Story
Return Our Lives
I Hope Your Heart Runs Empty
A Little Piece
|Of All the Things You've Done Wrong
Tired of Saving Souls
How Could I Survive
First Days of Spring
Life is a Dead Scene
Our Final Hymn
Neverending White Lights are the Canadian one-man band of Daniel Victor and whoever he brings in as collaborators. Their/his debut, Act 1: Goodbye Friends of the Heavenly Bodies, uses different vocalists on every track, several of which are written by the relevant vocaliser. I suppose it's essentially the pop end of post-rock (there is one?) and about as dreary as they come, full of croaky vocals, heavily reverbed piano and lashings of artificial strings, all taken at a funereal pace. To add to the pretentious atmosphere of the whole sorry shebang, tracks 1-5 fall under the general heading The Hour Arrives, 6-12 are My Angel, My Queen, My Death, My Treasure and 13-16, A Pale Nation Sleeps in Misery. Drivel. Absolute drivel.
Victor is credited with Mellotron, but if the vaguely 'Tron-like strings and flutes on a handful of tracks are a real Mellotron, I'm an accordionist. OK, maybe they are, but if so, why have they been recorded to sound like crummy samples? Anyway, you have absolutely no reason to buy this album, so do yourself a favour and don't.
Night Watch (Italy) see:
Nightmare of You (2005, 39.43) **½
|The Days Go By Oh So Slow
Dear Scene, I Wish I Were Deaf
My Name is Trouble
Why Am I Always Right?
I Want to Be Buried in Your Backyard
Ode to Serotonin
|In the Bathroom is Where I Want You
The Studded Cinctures
Heaven Runs on Oil
Nightmare of You are a pretty typical indie outfit, at the higher-energy end of the spectrum, making them marginally more appealing than the dreary variety, which shouldn't actually be read as a recommendation. Their debut, 2005's Nightmare of You is, like a lot of indie stuff, probably more lyrically than musically orientated, leaving those of us looking for a great tune out in the cold. Best tracks? Didn't really hear any. Sorry.
Jason Lader guests on 'Mellotron', amongst other things, with background string parts on opener The Days Go By Oh So Slow, I Want To Be Buried In Your Backyard and possibly In the Bathroom Is Where I Want You (what is it with these titles, guys?). However... it sounds as fake as hell, although (as always) I could be wrong. It's a deeply unexciting album, anyway, so if I were you, I wouldn't even bother trying to find out. At least it's short.
Full Moon (2007, 49.25) **
|Blame it on the Music
All Night Through
Hey Little Boy
The Country That's Far
|Right Before the Dawn
Dialog From the Sun to the Moon
One Thing I Know
NightShift might be French and 2007's Full Moon might've been recorded in the late 2000s, but it's completely indistinguishable from a late '70s, Rhodes-driven West Coast effort like (let's say) Player; if this is irony, I feel a sudden (not to mention uncharacteristic) burst of sincerity coming on. I'm sure there's a market for this stuff, but I doubt whether I'm alone in thinking that it was bad enough at the time, so why subject us to it all over again? A couple of tracks slightly buck the trend, notably the rocking (albeit in a Foreigner stylee) title track and the radio broadcast-quoting intro to Dialog From The Sun To The Moon, but they're hardly enough to rescue this insipid album.
The band essentially being a duo, presumably either Gael Benyamin or Jerome Beuret plays the Mellotron samples on a few tracks, with background strings on You're Free, upfront ones, plus flutes, on Hey Little Boy and more strings on Right Before The Dawn. Recommend? Don't be silly.
Novo Sub Sole (2005, 61.37) ****½Le Gardien
Nil are one of what seems like a handful of genuinely progressive modern prog bands, making angular yet melodic music that probably sells very little. Their third album, Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinaï, features real Mellotron, although there almost certainly isn't any on their follow-up, Novo Sub Sole, which is absolutely no reason not to buy this excellent album. Eclectic, inventive and (relatively) original, it's less impenetrable than its predecessor, partly due to splitting its hours'-worth of music over six tracks, as against two, allowing for a wider range of styles, without throwing them all in together in an untidy heap.
The Mellotron samples barely count as such, only occasionally sounding like a 'Tron as against some generic choir and string sounds. The choirs are used particularly heavily, although the nearest the album gets to anything like a Mellotron are a brief string part in 198 and the choirs in Abandon, but the fake 'Tron is not why you should buy this album. Very good indeed, and more than worthy of your time.
Returning Jesus (2001, 54.02) ***Only Rain
Close Your Eyes
Outside the Machine
Slow it All Down
All That You Are
Schoolyard Ghosts (2008, 52.58) ***All Sweet Things
Beautiful Songs You Should Know
Wherever There is Light
Song of the Surf
No-Man (originally No Man is an Island (Except the Isle of Man)) are the duo of Tim Bowness and Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson, who have shifted genres several times since their formation, as long ago as 1986. Their fourth non-compilation, 2001's Returning Jesus, is difficult to describe, although pointers include the 4AD label, electronica, ambient, Scott Walker and, er, prog, for what it's worth. I'll be completely upfront here and say that, while I know they're highly rated amongst certain sectors of the prog community and muso types generally, the album leaves me completely cold, although I'm fully prepared to believe that it's perfectly good. By and large, it's hard to tell exactly where the samplotron comes in, as it's mixed into an ambient stew with other string sounds, although the string part on Lighthouse is fairly obvious.
Two albums on, 2008's Schoolyard Ghosts is, in many ways more of the same, although Pigeon Drummer stands out for its creative use of distortion, while Truenorth's twelve minutes are 'No-Man go long-form'. Much more obvious sampled Mellotron this time round, with strings and choirs on most tracks, although they're all pretty obviously sampled. Do you buy any No-Man albums? Depends on your tolerance for proggy ambience conjoined with Bowness' crooner-inspired tones, I suppose. Good at what they do.
See: Steven Wilson | Tim Bowness | Porcupine Tree | Henry Fool
The Water Sprite (2005, 46.27) ****The Watersprite
How Fortunate the Man With None
The Fiery Flower
Moonface is Dead
The Riddle Seeker
The Grimalkin (2006, 41.32) ***½The Albatross
The Minstrel's Curse (2008, 34.23) ***½The Minstrel's Curse
Song of Durin
How Long is Ever
The Rumour and the Giantess
Noekk, named for one of Mitteleuropa's many goblins, ghosts and ghoulies, are a duo consisting of Markus "Funghus Baldachin" Stock (vocals/guitar/keyboards) and Thomas "F.F. Yuggoth" Helm (guitar/bass/drums), both ex- of Euro-metallers Empyrium, themselves Mellotron sample users. Their new project is a different kettle of fish altogether, having more in common with '90s dark Scandinavian progressive rock than anything else (hurrah!), with little or no metal riffing in evidence. The Water Sprite is their debut and reminds me, more than anything, of the heavily underrated Landberk, particularly on T.B.'s Notion, although most of the tracks have the gothic feel that band engendered so well. Just to accentuate the gothic vibe surrounding the album, as if it were needed, they cover Dead Can Dance's How Fortunate The Man With None, from '93's Into the Labyrinth; now there's a band who could've used a Mellotron...
Baldachin plays Mellotron samples, along with various other (sampled?) vintage 'boards. The choirs on the opening title track sound a bit waterlogged, but the flutes sound great when used, and the strings do a pretty good job, but I'm quite certain these sounds have never seen a strip of tape in their life. The fake 'Tron work is actually quite magnificent, with strings cropping up on every track, and a beautiful flute intro on The Fiery Flower, with strings fading in behind the melody, amongst other highlights. All in all, we're talking a bit of a top sampled 'Tron album here; shame it ain't real.
The following year's The Grimalkin is, essentially, more of the same, albeit containing only three long tracks, with the attendant problem that an album almost identical to its predecessor is never going to have quite the same impact. Don't get me wrong; it's a good album, but just a little too like The Water Sprite for its own good. Plenty of fakeotron again, mostly strings, with the odd choir chord or flute line thrown in for good measure.
The duo's third album, 2008's The Minstrel's Curse, is a more metallic effort, with (slightly) shorter track lengths, although it retains elements of its predecessors' prog soundscapes. As a result, this listener finds it slightly less appealing, although the quieter parts work better to my ears. I'm not quite sure what's going on at the end of the album, either; last track The Rumour And The Giantess gets quieter and quieter until it disappears altogether, followed by a several-minute gap, before a strident spoken-word part finishes things off. Less fakeotron than before, although all tracks feature at least a little.
So, will the duo take their old fans with them? Only time will tell, but it looks like they're a proper band, not just a one-off project. In the meantime, The Water Sprite is not only a great album, but a killer (fake) 'Tron effort into the bargain, although its follow-ups pale slightly in comparison.
Shaped Like a Taco (2000, 75.52) **½
|Urban Latvian Stomp
Digital Bohemian Lifestyle
Scott's Doped Choreography Lesson
Did U Not Know?
Easy Ocean Swimming
Bobil School Funk (Live Intro)
Manana (Sorry for the Delay)
Server's Gonna Die
Tripluv (Blues for Anna)
Bumblebee (real version feat. W.Burroughs)
Nood were essentially the duo of Per Platou and Ulf Knudsen, sonic experimenters par excellence, going by their second (and last) album, the UFO- (and female sexual organ?) referencing Shaped Like a Taco. Listened to in one sitting, it's all a bit much, to be honest, mad, Rhodes-driven opener Urban Latvian Stomp having little in common with the Indian Subcontinent Clavinet funk of Bang Ras, the manic drum'n'bass/sports commentary mash-up of Anderson, Brazil, or the r'n'b of Bumblebee, not to mention the rest of the album.
Someone called Rhysea is credited with Mellotron on The Chair, but I'll be stunned if the smooth, reverbed flute on the track is anything other than sampled. Overall, then, one for fans of deranged sample manipulation, genre mash-ups and general lunacy, but the brief 'Mellotron' part is neither here nor there.
Programma 96 (1996, 51.15) ***
Wat is Hip?
Jedesmahl Hurts Me More
Het Oudste Jongetje Van de Wereld
Hilde en Het Huis
Meisje Jouw Show
Zij is Zoveel Keren Beter
Vrije Expressie #4
Noordkaap were a Belgian Flemish-language pop/rock outfit whose career spanned, yet did not exceed the '90s. 1996's Programma 96 was their fifth album, including a soundtrack, a largely harmless, mainstream effort, slightly like, say, a better Oasis with a proper singer. Better tracks include the rocking Het Oudste Jongetje Van De Wereld and the sparse Meisje Jouw Show, but while nothing here really excites, nor does it fully offend.
Wim de Wilde plays Mellotron string samples on Satelliet Suzy, to reasonable effect, although all other possible sightings seem to be generic samples. Can I recommend this? Not really, unless you're a Flemish speaker with rather mainstream tastes, as it does little that can't be heard in the English-speaking world.
In the Mist of Morning (2010, 58.50) **½
|In the Mist of Morning
In the Woods
|Make Me Believe
I get the feeling that Norwegians Nordagust might find themselves described as 'prog', when what the observer actually meant was 'goth'. 2010's In the Mist of Morning has its moments, although few of them are connected to the overblown vocals, while chopping at least fifteen minutes from its length would've improved the album no end. Well, a little. Imagine a heavyish band with a keyboard player who've never had any experience of writing anything with any complexity whatsoever (shouldn't be difficult) trying to do so. That's what In the Mist of Morning sounds like.
We get samplotron strings and choirs all over every track, to the point where you wish they'd shut up. And stop using the samplotron. I actually wanted to like this, but was stymied at some point during the six minutes of the opening title track. I can't even think of anything encouraging to say to the band, not that they'd take any notice, anyway. Not very good.
Erik Norlander (US) see:
Sol29 (2005, 64.09) **½
|In the White Air
Wearing Lies on Your Lips
The Child's Game
The Moment She Knew
Waves of Time
The Broken Parts
|Hope for the Future
NoSound apparently began as Giancarlo Erra's one-man project in 2002; crucially, Erra was also a member of a Porcupine Tree tribute band (I wasn't aware that such a thing actually existed). After expanding the lineup, the band released Sol29 in 2005, and it really shouldn't come as much of a surprise to learn that it sounds a lot like Steven Wilson's crew, although they're not a clone. Their presence on many prog sites is slightly odd, in my humble etc.etc., given that they're more post-rock than anything; then again, isn't their particular strain of prog heavily reliant on that genre? Sadly, the album is rather overlong and dreary, with little change in pace to keep the listener interested (a trick the Porcupine lads have used from the off), although one or two tracks in isolation aren't too bad.
Erra allegedly plays Mellotron on the album, although, in fairness, there's nothing credited, as the choir and strings all over Overloaded and the brief choir visitation on Hope For The Future are almost certainly sampled. So; one for Pineapple Thief fans, maybe, although symphonic progsters should definitely look elsewhere. Incidentally, the band released a DVD, The World is Outside, the following year, apparently consisting of audio and video material from the recording of Sol29. Maybe it tells us for sure what makes those 'Tron sounds? Maybe not.
Novox (2005, 64.00) ***½
Be My Guest
First Bridge of Tears
Looking Up to the Sun
Then There Was One
|Sunset on a Sad Horizon
Second Bridge of Tears
After superior Dutch neo-proggers Cliffhanger broke up in 2001, keyboard player Dick Heijboer started Novox (or NoVoX, irritatingly), calling upon all the musicians he knew best for the project, making it essentially an instrumental (Novox, geddit? Eh?) Cliffhanger reformation. Their sole, eponymous album is a far more eclectic beast than anything by Cliffhanger, throwing heavy, slightly jazzy symphonic prog (Be My Guest, Look Up To The Sun, much of the remainder), hugely distorted bass-led madness (Valentine Fuzztrations) and even an impressive piano piece (Then There Was One) into the mix in a way that the original band would never have dared.
Heijboer plays plenty of (fairly obviously) sampled Mellotron, with strings all over Looking Up To The Sun, choir on Never Mind and more of the same on a good half of the album, plus flutes here and there. This is certainly one of the better Dutch progressive releases I've heard lately, although the band's neo- past leaks through in places, so; cautiously recommended.
Schizophonic (1997, 58.33) **½
What You Want
2 Weeks in Dizkneelande
Pursuit of Happiness
Fine By Me
Note on the Screen Door
Got to Have You
Nuno Bettencourt was, of course, guitar prodigy with possibly the most inappropriately-named band ever, Extreme, who epitomised the commercial hard rock of the late-'80s/early-'90s, while never sinking quite as low as the likes of Bon Jovi. I can never think of Extreme without a) triggering my gag reflex at the memory of their atrocious hits and b) smirking at the memory of a couple of blokes I knew at the time, in those pre-Internet dodgy download days, who were bullshitting frantically in the pub about how good the band's new 'concept' album (1992's III Sides to Every Story) was, when it hadn't even been released yet. Priceless.
Schizophonic is the by-now surnameless Nuno's only solo album to date, this time quite well-named, as it skips between late-'90s hard rock (Gravity, Karmalaa), acoustic balladry (Pursuit Of Happiness, Confrontation), near-punk (the vicious 2 Weeks In Dizkneelande) and the expected pseudo-commercial stuff (most of the rest). Quality-wise, it all sounds terribly ordinary to my ears, but then, as you may've guessed, I was never an Extreme fan, and this album works in the same general area, unsurprisingly. If I was forced (possibly at gunpoint) to listen to one of its tracks again, I'd probably go for 2 Weeks In Dizkneelande, as it at least injects a little energy into the proceedings.
'Mellotron' from Bettencourt himself, with string and flute parts on I Wonder, although I've been completely assured that they're fake. In all honesty, that's about all I can find to say about the album, as its overlong near-hour length passed largely without impinging itself on my consciousness in any meaningful way. So; thoroughly ordinary, one decent 'Tron track, that's it.
This is How I Feel (2007, 35.09) ***
|Staring at the Sun
Let Me Come
Place of Hope
Our Kind of Love
This is How I Feel
Dry the Tears
In My House
Shake it Babe
A Beautiful Day
Cherry Flavour Substitute (2008, 36.21) ***
|Sorrow Is The Colour
You Can't Hurt Me Now
Don't You Ever Let Me Down
I Wanna Be Your Dog
Bring Me Love
Katharina Nuttall is a Norwegian singer-songwriter, whose debut album, 2007's This is How I Feel, is a mostly gentle, yet oddly dark piano-driven album, although handful of tracks up the ante a little, not least opener Staring At the Sun and Place Of Hope. Best track? Probably her superb, balladic cover of New Order's classic Blue Monday, although her own material is generally pretty decent. (Jakob) Love (Ryman) Olzon is credited with Mellotron on Blue Monday, but the cello, string and choir parts on the song sound next to nothing like one to me.
Nuttall's follow-up, 2008's Cherry Flavour Substitute (nice to see the British spelling used for once) is rockier all round, her delivery even gothier than before. Highlight? Her take on The Stooges' I Wanna Be Your Dog is possibly even sleazier than the original; no mean feat, I can tell you. Nuttall and Lars Jonasson Rinman are both credited with Mellotron this time round, but the strings on opener Sorrow Is The Colour, Hold Me, Shimmering Light and Shine are pretty obviously sampled.
So; good at what they do, as long as you like what they do. No Mellotron, though.
And Then... (1994, 53.57) ***
|I'm Numbering Nine Stars
Love Me So in the Rain
Flashing With Love
Stop You! Time
Guardando te Mit Trovo Io
Sei Stata Tu
Tutti i Giorni Miei
The original Nuvole di Paglia were an early '70s Italian heavy/progressive outfit, who, sadly, were unable to get a record contract and split in 1975. A posthumous live album, Live '73, was released by Mellow in 1992, but apparently has pretty poor sound quality. Vocalist Franco Serena reformed the band in the early '90s, with one other original member, releasing a newly-recorded album of their old music, And Then..., in 1994. Most of the album sounds like slightly Uriah Heep-influenced hard rock, apparently their chief style at the time, with the odd flash of progressiveness here and there, with six English-language tracks and four Italian.
To be perfectly honest, nothing here really stands out from the pack, as like so many Heep-influenced Continental bands (and there were a LOT), none of them are as good as their chief influence, who had rather too many senior moments themselves for such a young band. Serena's English also leaves something to be desired; sorry, but calling a song Flashing With Love is just asking for trouble, isn't it? In fairness, Sei Stata Tu and Ombre Svolazzanti aren't bad, with a bit of a proggy bent, but it's all a bit second-rate, really. 'Mellotron' on one track (player unknown), although it sounds enough like (quite early) samples to end up here, with overdubbed flutes and strings on Love Me So In The Rain, so this is staying here until/if I find out otherwise.