Teeth of the Hydra
Il Tempio delle Clessidre
Thee American Revolution
Thee Oh Sees
The Way (2009, 73.59) ***½
|You Can Never Know
He's Like You
Road to 2012
TCP (Temporal Chaos Project) are a new US East Coast progressive trio consisting of a vocalist, a bassist doubling on keys and a guitarist doubling on drums, which must make live performance interesting. They mix-and-match styles from across the years on their debut, 2009's The Way, with nods to Gentle Giant, King Crimson (especially the Discipline lineup), with elements of neo-prog and prog metal thrown in for good measure, although they seem to've synthesized their own style out of their influences, which is always welcome. Like so many similar, the album's chief failing is its length: over seventy minutes of music is quite a stretch, especially for a new, untried outfit. I'm sure the band just wanted to record everything they'd written, but a little self-censorship might've made this a better record.
The 'Mellotron' is pretty sampled-sounding, to be honest, with strings on most tracks and flutes and choirs appearing here and there (notably on I'm Me), to the point where they could actually have used it rather less and it would've made more impression (a common mistake made by bands suddenly given free reign with a sample set). Overall, then, recommended to progressive fans looking for something new, although bear in mind that TCP have a distinctly American sound to them, not least in the vocal department.
Major Turn-Round (2000, 58.21) ***½Worldproof
Ignition, Sequence, Start
We Are Standing Over
TM Network are mostly known as a J-pop, or synthpop outfit, although their tenth album, 2000's Major Turn-Round, has more of a progressive influence (note Roger Dean-esque lettering), especially in its three-part, half hour-plus title track, a bona-fide prog classic in its own right, although other tracks (notably closer Cube) operate in the same general area. Major Turn-Round itself is fabulous, switching between symphonic, almost prog-metal and synth-heavy sections without losing sight of the piece's overall pattern, and all almost unknown to the prog community at large.
Tetsuya Komuro plays 'Mellotron', although the too-even strings and murky, effected choirs on the title track are almost certainly sampled. While the album has some less essential moments, the title track and a couple of others make this well worth a purchase for the discerning prog fan looking for something new.
Noregs Vaapen (2011, 46.45) ***Fra Vadested Til Vaandesmed
Du Ville Ville Vestland
Dei Vil Alltid Klaga Og Kyta
Taake, who appear to be synonymous with a chap calling himself Hoest, play black metal, although a reviewers' consensus seems to be that they're more 'metal' than 'black'; I mean, you can even hear the bass. What's the world coming to, eh? Actually, 2011's Noregs Vaapen is a surprisingly tuneful effort, much of its content based more on old-school metal than the less listenable varieties that have emanated from Scandinavia over the last decade or three, although Hoest's cookie monster vocals have the standard negative effect on the non-fan. As every other online review has noted, the album's chief surprise is the banjo solo in Myr, but it's far from its only notable feature, the same going for the guest spots awarded to several other 'names' from the genre.
Bjoernar E. Nilsen supposedly plays Mellotron on two tracks, although the high-end solo strings part on Fra Vadested Til Vaandesmed is far too smooth to be real, while whatever's meant to be on Myr is entirely inaudible. All in all, then, a surprisingly decent release from a usually deservedly maligned genre, although that very silly sleeve will put off all but the BM faithful.
Junk Magic (2004, 41.55) ***Junk Magic
Bodies at Rest and in Motion
The Golden Age
Craig Taborn is chiefly known as a jazz pianist, although he's dabbled in the ambient and techno fields, amongst others. 2004's Junk Magic is his third solo album in a decade, shifting between his preferred styles, often combining them within tracks; the opening title track is mostly manic piano, violin and beats, Shining Through is rather more relaxed, while Bodies At Rest And In Motion is a smörgåsbord of jazz, avant-garde and electronica elements, the almost rhythmless programmed percussion subverting itself beautifully.
Closer The Golden Age features Taborn on very sampled 'underwater' Mellotron strings, but you're hardly going to buy this for their inclusion. Avant-garde jazzers and cut-up merchants should apply, while the rest of us should probably exercise a little caution. Incidentally, I don't know if Taborn's sample use here affects the veracity of his Mellotron work on David Torn's Prezens.
The Tangent (UK) see:
Sketches of Babel (1993, 44.23) ***
Barune (Mystic Fog)
The Moonblood Suite
The Time Has Come
Pierres Sacradées (Holy Stones)
Dance of the Fisherman's Wife
With All My Love
|San Ma Riene (Change)
Die Wahrheit (Ein Märchen)
Taras Bulba (named for the Gogol novel and/or its 1962 film) were the German ambient duo of Tom Redecker and Robin Carrs, the latter seemingly a pseudonym for the now sadly late Volker Kahrs, better known (at least around these parts) as keys man "Mist" from Grobschnitt. To my knowledge, 1993's Sketches of Babel was their debut, a partially intriguing mix of prog, electronic, ambient and dance-lite (that's the less intriguing bit), better tracks including gentle, proggy opener Span Holovand, the orchestralish The Time Has Come (the brief first part of The Moonblood Suite) and Dance Of The Fisherman's Wife, which bears faint comparison with what The Enid were doing at the same time.
Carrs/Kahrs is credited with Mellotron, but the flutes on Span Holovand and Barune (Mystic Fog) and vaguely Mellotronic strings here and there all sound sampled to my ears, despite the lack of easily-available samples in the early '90s. Are those flutes from Grobschnitt's old Novatron? Possible, but I doubt it. Overall, an album of two halves, really, the quieter stuff working better to my ears.
The Interzone Mantras (2001, 56.29) ****½
The Master & Margarita
White Water Siren
Dust to Gold
The Tea Party's second (but first widely available) album, 1993's Splendor Solis (****) and its follow-up, '95's The Edges of Twilight (*****) are masterclasses in how to produce gripping, original, epic-yet-tuneful hard rock in the '90s, avoiding the era's clichés (grunge, bands who forgot how to riff). At its best, their early material can probably be described as Jim Morrison fronting Led Zeppelin playing Kashmir on a loop, Jeff Martin's basso profundo vocals riding over Arabesque riffs, the band's consummate musicianship and multi-instrumentality causing them to blow many a more popular act off stage (Queensrÿche spring to mind). 2001's The Interzone Mantras is the band's fifth widely-available album, following the rock/electronica of Transmission and Triptych, generally regarded as a successful cross between their two previous styles. As with everything the band ever did, there are no bad tracks, but The Master & Margarita, Lullaby, Cathartik and epic closer Mantra particularly stand out.
Although bassist/keyboardist Stuart Chatwood isn't specifically credited with Mellotron, there was a mention of one in an 'instruments used' list on one version of the band's ever-changing website, although the Mellotronic strings on The Master & Margarita and White Water Siren (and elsewhere?) sound sampled to my ears, sadly. Well, much as I hate to stick this in the effective quarantine of the 'samples' section, unless I'm given any definite information to the contrary... Great album, though, as is everything (to one extent or another) by the band. The good news is that after splitting in 2005, they're playing some Canadian dates this summer (2011). Come on, chaps, new album please...
See: Tea Party
Greenland (2006, 50.58) ***Sawing Through the Ice
Our Strange Man
The Garden of Rotten Teeth
Voices Over Conus
Teeth of the Hydra (presumably named for a scene in Jason & the Argonauts, rather than the original Greek legend) are an American stoner/doom outfit who, in my opinion, would sound a great deal better if Matt Miner stopped growling and started singing. Their debut, 2006's Greenland, is a decent enough effort, the eleven-minute The Garden Of Rotten Teeth probably being its standout moment, although a shorter, tighter record might've got their message across more clearly.
Adam Smith is credited with Mellotron, but I sincerely doubt that those distant, repeated string notes on Narsaq have anything to do with a real one. Overall, then, one for stoner metal types who don't object to the vocal style to which Teeth of the Hydra subject us. And I didn't mention Black Sabbath once.
Telestrion (2007, 72.58) ****
|The One to Go
Song for the Sun
Get Your Mind Out
Hiding From Knowing
Middle of Something
Lost in the Sky
Molecule (2012, 32.37) ***½Molecule
Tunnel in the Sky
A National Acrobat
Time and Space
The Sacred Relics
Telestrion are a psychedelic hard rock outfit from Atlanta, GA, whose eponymous 2007 debut proves that while originality may be in short supply these days, the ability to take a handful of influences (Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, many long-forgotten early '70s bands) and turn them into something undeniably their own is alive and well.
Telestrion opens with what has to be a tribute to The Wall, The One To Go's riff being, er 'heavily influenced' by In The Flesh, although any other direct cops are more subtle. The overall effect is of something you might've heard before, but never really listened to properly, highlights including Blue Sunshine, Middle Of Something and thirteen-minute epic Lost In The Sky (for sheer overkill value), while their version of Astronomy Domine is only beaten in the rock stakes by Voivod's cataclysmic reading. Andy Samford plays credited M-Tron (at last! An honest band!), with strings on Hiding From Knowing, a strings/brass mix on Half and flutes on Lost In The Sky, all to reasonable effect. Somehow, Telestrion's absurd length actually works to its advantage, unlike most overlong efforts, the riffs and solos flowing past like a particularly murky, polluted river. In a good kind of way, of course.
After a long wait (partially filled by several solo Samford releases), 2012's Molecule doesn't disappoint. Although it's (just) over thirty minutes long, the band are promoting it as an EP, which shows how much things have changed; Rainbow Rising is only a minute longer. Its six tracks all conspire to sound different to each other, certainly not always the case in this genre. The opening title track's pretty much what you'd expect (also the album's possible highlight), Tunnel In The Sky and Slightly Sideways are Hawkwind-esque instrumentals, the gently stoned Time And Space is nearly as good as Molecule itself and closer The Sacred Relics is a trippy jam, although the album's most unexpected track is their cover of oft-neglected Sabbath classic A National Acrobat. Not that much samplotron, to be honest, with strings on Slightly Sideways and Time And Space, Samford showing considerable restraint, all things considered.
Fans of Bigelf and Astra should apply right now. Telestrion is probably more consistent than Molecule,but both are well worth hearing. Superb.
See: Andy Samford
L'Incroyable Vérité (2001, 41.08) ***
|Oh Malheur Chez O'Malley
Trilogie Chien: L'enfance d'un Chien
Trilogie Chien: Une Vie de Papa
Trilogie Chien: Fin Chien
Kissed By You
Une Vraie Maman
Face au Miroir
Sébastien Tellier is a young French singer who approaches the concept of musical styles with a fluidity from which many hidebound artists could learn. 2001's L'Incroyable Vérité (The Incredible Truth) skips between genres at will, often within songs, throwing in bizarre touches like the super-distorted guitar on Kissed By You or the blood-curdling female screams on the last part of Trilogie Femme, Face Au Miroir (I'm not even going to bother translating that).
Although there's 'Mellotron' strings and flutes (and a smattering of choirs) to be heard on Universe and Fantino, not only does it all sound a little too perfect, but Universe has a string note that holds not so much over the eight-second mark as nearer the minute mark. I think not. Anyway, a decent enough album at what it does, but all a bit Gallic for me, sadly.
Il Tempio delle Clessidre (2010, 56.58) ***½
Insolita Parte di Me
Le Due Metà della Notte
La Stanza Nascosta
Danza Esoterica di Datura
|Il Centro Sottile
In 2006, two young musicians met Stefano "Lupo" Galifi, vocalist with the legendary Museo Rosenbach, naming themselves Il Tempio delle Clessidre after the final section of the side-long title track from that band's 1973 release, Zarathustra. Unsurprisingly, 2010's Il Tempio delle Clessidre isn't as good as that jaw-dropper, but what is? It's actually a very good, '70s Italian prog-influenced release, stronger tracks including Insolita Parte Di Me, the dynamic L'Attesa and the excellent, lengthy Il Centro Sottile, my only (vague) complaint being that nearly an hour of such relatively complex music is slightly exhausting. Minor editing, please?
Elisa Montaldo plays keys, including fairly poor Mellotron string and/or choir samples on most tracks (and flutes on Il Centro Sottile), although they do give a more '70s air to the proceedings, so yes, they work. Overall, then, an album that only missed getting four stars by the inclusion of a couple of weak tracks. Let's hope Il Tempio delle Clessidre (who, incidentally, also have an Ianva connection) get back in the studio soon for the second round. Well worth hearing.
See: Museo Rosenbach
Buddha Electrostorm (2008, 31.04) ***
|She's Coming Down
Blow My Mind
In Your Dream/Japanese Clone
Apples in Stereo's Robert Schneider, also the public face of the Elephant 6 collective (Ladybug Transistor, Of Montreal, etc.), has put together a completely non-psych, rocking outfit, Thee American Revolution, who seem to specialise in a kind of garage rock with, oh yeah, a slightly psychedelic edge. So I was wrong. Live with it. The chief impression you get while listening to Buddha Electrostorm is of a highly competent band playing deliberately way below their collective abilities for effect, although I'm sure the end result is the desired one, so what's the problem? Best tracks? Probably the raw feedback blast of Saturn Daze and Neil Young-ish closer In Your Dream/Japanese Clone, recounting Schneider's lonely adolescence and his first guitar (the 'Japanese clone'), which certainly struck a chord (ho ho) here. But what's with Grit Magazine and its Smoke On The Water rip, eh?
Schneider's credited with Mellotron, but seemingly as with all Elephant 6 bands, fakery seems to be the order of the day; I mean, are those really supposed to be Mellotron strings on opener She's Coming Down, Blow My Mind and In Your Dream/Japanese Clone? Yeah, right. Anyway, garage rock from psych sophisticates, for what it's worth. Heard better, heard worse.
See: Apples in Stereo | Beulah | Ladybug Transistor | Marbles | Of Montreal | Sunshine Fix
Castlemania (2011, 41.57) **½
|I Need Seed
Corprophagist (a Bath Perhaps)
A Wall, A Century
|Blood on the Deck
AA Warm Breeze
Idea for Rubber Dog
The Horse Was Lost
I Won’t Hurt You
If I Stay Too Long
What Are We Craving?
Thee Oh Sees (formerly The Oh Sees, so perhaps they should file under 'O') are a Bay Area psych outfit, whose thirteenth album in under a decade, 2011's Castlemania, is apparently their least freakout offering yet, actually consisting of recognisable songs, rather than jams with track markers inserted. Their overriding influence seems to be Syd's Floyd, their offbeat ditties to who-knows-what-or-whom sounding like Piper... outtakes, albeit without Barrett's genius, dragging on for what seems like far too long, despite the album's relative brevity.
Despite a considerable Mellotron presence, I'd be amazed if it were real, to be honest. We get flutes on opener I Need Seed and Pleasure Blimp, tubular bells on Corprophagist (A Bath Perhaps), strings and cellos on Stinking Cloud, strings on Blood On The Deck, overt strings on Idea For Rubber Dog and similarly upfront flutes on The Horse Was Lost, so plenty of samplotron, if you're unbothered about the fakery. I'm sure there's a great album in Thee Oh Sees: unfortunately, this isn't it.