Showing posts with label Indie Artist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indie Artist. Show all posts

7/17/2014

Get Your Song Ideas from Symphonic and Heavy Metal Music

Russ Suereth

Last week we discussed getting music ideas from new age and ambient music. This week we’ll discuss getting ideas from symphonic music and heavy metal.

It’s hard to find two types of music that are more different from each other than heavy metal and symphonic music. But they are also similar, because both can excel at musical passages that are simple and hard to get out of your head.

Case in point is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor. Written around 1805, this composition starts with the famous ta-ta-ta-daa, ta-ta-ta-daa. These eight notes are part of our ordinary music knowledge, and have been used by modern groups such as the Electric Light Orchestra.

The point here is that these eight simple notes can be used as a basis for your eight-note or ten-note hook. Sometimes it’s the simple things that are memorable and that catch a person’s ear.

The same goes for heavy metal music. There have been a lot of great hooks in heavy metal for years. Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album is full of powerful hooks. For instance, the beginning of the song “Ironman” has a great guitar hook that feels like a giant metallic beast stomping across the countryside. That piece still makes me smile today.

Other heavy metal examples, of course, can be found in Led Zeppelin tunes. The song “Good Times Bad Times” starts off with a great riff from Jimmy Page that is simple and memorable.

Just because Beethoven and Page were, and are, great artists does not mean you should be intimidated. Just focus on the notes, and forget the rest of the song, and everything else. Start playing some notes on the keyboard or the guitar, and find something you like and that sounds catchy. Keep it simple. And then embellish it a little with your style and tone. Or embellish it a lot. It’s your riff!

7/07/2014

Get Your Song Ideas from New Age and Ambient Music

Russ Suereth

I like to listen to different types of music. They provide me with different perspectives, and they fit the different moods that I have. But I also like different music because it gives me different ideas for creating new music.  That’s the topic of this article, borrowing aspects of different music to incorporate into your own music.

When you think about creating a song there are two main areas you can consider.

     
1. The song’s foundation or chord structure

2. The melody

I’ve always felt that a great source of ideas for a song foundation can be found in new age and ambient music. Those styles often focus on the atmosphere of the song. Lush pads and eerie landscapes can last for several minutes. During that time, an occasional string pluck or keyboard tingle helps provide focus.

Of course, you just can’t steal someone’s work. But you can take chord progression ideas and modify them to suit your style and taste.

When I’m listening to new age and ambient music, my mind usually embellishes the sound. It inserts a few notes here and there to fill in where it thinks something is missing. After a while into the song, I’ve created a basic melody. The song provided the foundation and I’ve added a little melody, sometimes without even noticing.

It’s the same with the rhythm. The song may have a distant repeating bell in the background, or a pulsing drone. Many times my mind will add a low bass drum to emphasize a rhythm.  Maybe even add some toms to fill in a transition.

You could even record all of this on your cell phone so you can retain it. Without even realizing it, you can have the start of a new song.


7/02/2014

New Age Instrumental Review: Marika Takeuchi-Impressions

Release Date: September 10, 2013
Label: MRG Recordings

When you begin studying classical music at the age of three there is a good chance that by the time you are an adult that you could be making your own adaptations of classical scores or creating your own. In the case of Marika Takeuchi she came via Japan to Boston to study film scoring at the esteemed Berklee College of Music in 2009. Since then she has released two albums, Impressions being her second with a third release coming this fall.

The release clocks in just over 26 minutes however it does make its mark in a prolific manner. Through 10 tracks Marika paints a canvas of beauty and elegance with the ivory keys. Truthfully all the lady needs to do is sit on the piano stool and play. The end result of what she creates is absolutely gorgeous and serene melodies that would relax the most frazzled human.

This is a soundtrack made in heaven; it makes you feel relaxed, spiritual and whole. I agree with the artist, music is healing. It has helped me my entire life, it makes laugh, cry, reminisce, and get in touch with my inner being like nothing else can. Marika has the magic touch with her fingers, almost as if she is channeling an entity that that comes from a higher plane of consciousness. I know for certain her music will allow you to reach that level of existence.

Although it’s a rather short journey the tracks blend into each other, each taking you one step closer to that spiritual plane that allows complete clarity and peace. Music such as this can have many valuable assets and for this listener there were a multitude of things to appreciate. Some albums are boring if one song follows another too closely; with this recording it was more of synchronicity and flow that made everything just perfect. I normally like to choose three key tracks but in this case I felt there was not one track that stood out amongst the rest, it was rather the entire recording as a complete body of work that impressed me. 

Marika Takeuchi is an incredibly gifted and talented musical visionary that has an amazing future ahead if she continues on her path of creativity and enlightenment.


5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: ALL

Tracks:
01.Spring Awakening
02. Horizons       
03. Sparkle
04.Milky Way
05.Cliff
06.Morning Mist   
07.Reunion
08.Far Away
09.Daybreak
10. Peace

 
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck- New Age Music Reviews Founder

July 2, 2014

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

6/18/2014

Progressive Instrumental Review: Divus-Aureola

Release Date:  8th August 2013 
Label: Independent 
Website
 
This arrival for review was definitely one of those that would be found in the “that’s a band I’ve not heard of before” file. The band is called Divus, hails from Solothurn Switzerland, and the debut release is an album entitled Aureola.There are a few great Swiss bands around at the moment, with Zenit, Dawn and Diaphonic all being featured on the radio show recently, as was a track from Divus recently.

The band themselves describe their music as “relaxing, emotional, inspiring sound with a touch of wrath.” The music produced by the band is instrumental and is influenced by many artists, including, Tool, Pink Floyd and Dream Theater. The result of each of the individual members possessing different influences produces a unique sound which comes about by placing those influences into a large container and then letting them mix and blend together before drip feeding the results out. It is also important to the band that each piece of music has the ability to evolve through different moods to be expressed properly, hence the longer track running times. Divus look upon each track as a musical journey that invites the listener to become immersed in the aural soundscape that they are serving up.

Divus is a 4 piece band from Solothurn, which is in the north west of Switzerland. Although only three members were involved in the production of the debut album, Aureola, Simon Roth (drums), Sahin Dogan (guitars) and Rob Meroni (guitars), they have now added Marc on bass. 

Aureola is a 6 track album with a running time of around 69 minutes. The tracks are all relatively long, with track 6, “Mosaic III,” the shortest on offer at just short of 9 minutes (8:49) and track 2, “Anima,” the longest, playing for 17:42 minutes.

The opening track on Aureola, “Vates” (11:24) certainly grabs your attention from the word go. The track is quickly into some chunky guitar riffing with driving drums underpinning the sound, and progresses at full speed. Just after the 2 minute mark, there is a little relaxation in the music, with some terrific playing and then just the guitar and drums with some exquisite little melodic moments going on before the other guitar brings in the chunky riffs again and the track has seamlessly built up in intensity. After around 4 minutes there is a superb guitar passage which again varies in tempo effortlessly to leave a solo guitar backed by drums. The drummer then gets a little time in the spotlight before the other guitar reappears. The track weaves from the chunky riffing to the melodic guitar work and certainly gives the drummer plenty to do throughout the 11+ minutes. It is this evolving of the track that maintains the interest, with fast metal sections, slower superb melodic passages and a distinct lack of “metronomic” drumming, which for me, is a huge plus point. This is a terrific entry to Aureola, which then moves onto the longest track on offer.

“Anima” (17:42) has both guitars playing melodic passages which fit  like a “well worn” glove and the drums just edge their way into the proceedings before the chunky riffing heralds the driving drums back and the track builds after the opening 1:30 minutes. There are subtle time changes before the guitars get a chance to fly again and the track starts to ebb and flow from the “full on” to the more “laid back” approach. All too soon you realize that around 18 minutes have passed and track 3 is almost on you. “Awakening” (11:41) has the same trademarks that have gone before with that seamless movement from the light to the darker and back.

The last 3 tracks form a three piece suite with “Mosaic I” (8:51), “Mosaic II” (11:30) and “Mosaic III” (11:49), which surely nods in the direction of Pink Floyd, after a really gentle guitar melody backed by “shimmering” drums starts Mosaic I and then moves into a guitar, bass and drum building up of the track. This first part of “Mosaic” was featured on the radio show recently and is simply stunning. “Mosaic II” takes the “theme” up a level or two, but maintains that link to the “floydesque” sound. The final part of the suite, “Mosaic III” has a gentler starting point which builds to a whole band wall of noise before highlighting some excellent guitar work. Some superb guitar playing, with only a very simple background, brings the level down a notch and you get a chance to relax a little before the drums become more insistent and one of the guitarists “lets rip” a little. The track thunders along at full throttle until around 2 minutes from the end when a superbly atmospheric passage picks up to take the track out.

Here we have three musicians who are totally in sync and certainly seem to be enjoying themselves. I found the album superbly enjoyable as they show stunning skill and have the ability to create such aural paintings of light and shade that it is impossible not to be drawn in and immersed in the music. I can even forgive them a few instances of “metronomic” drumming, which I normally find an instantly irritating sound.

Aureola is a stunning debut album which gets better with every listen and deservedly gets both the “One to Buy” and “The Experience will last Forever” stickers on the album cover and an almost perfect score of 4.5 which leaves them a target to aim at with album No 2.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Vates, Mosaic I, Mosaic II

Tracks:Vates
Anima
Awakening
Mosaic 1
Mosaic 2
Mosaic 3


Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson-Sr. Reviewer Prog Rock Music Talk

June 18, 2014

Review Provided By Prog Rock Music Talk

4/01/2014

Instrumental Rock Feature: Divus-Aureola


Divus is a four -piece band from the North West Switzerland, which is dedicated to instrumental music. The friendship the band members have always formed the foundation of their unconventional and experimental way of making music together. The high acceptance and the insatiable curiosity allow them to beat musical bridges and find solutions, the vote for each member. 


3/30/2014

Hard Rock Review: D-A-D 30 - Years 30 Hits: The Best of D-A-D 1984-2014

Release Date:March 18, 2014
Label: AFM Records
Website


Longevity is something that is noteworthy, especially in the music business where fads come and go and audiences can be fickle. For a band to last for decades is an achievement in itself, but to continue to produce quality music year after year is something else. It is a testament to the bond and dedication between the members and, of course, to their talent as musicians.  


Formed in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1984, D-A-D has been producing their brand of rock music for 30 years. Originally known as Disneyland After Dark, they were forced to change their name after being threatened with a lawsuit from the Disney Company. The band consists of Jesper Binzer (vocals, guitar), Stig Pedersen (bass, vocals), Jacob Binzer (guitar), and Laust Sonne (drums). Impressively, they have had only one line-up change in their history together.   

30 Years 30 Hits is a two disc compilation album that spans from 1986’s Call of the Wild to 2011’s DIC·NII·LAN·DAFT·ERD·ARK. The selections of songs are just phenomenal.  From the good-naturedly defiance of “I Won’t Cut My Hair” to the catchiness of “Black Crickets” to the head banging “Jihad,” these songs really are the best of the best of D-A-D.  And no collection is complete without the song that brought them into the international spotlight and bringing the type of attention that caused their name change, the infectious “Sleeping My Day Away.”  It is precisely the type of song that will run through your head for days. 

From the opening note, “Marlboro Man” is hard rock at its finest.  Its uncompromising attitude, blistering guitar, and roaring drums make for one of the most memorable songs on the album.  Its visceral outro makes for one helluva impression.  This song demands to be played at full volume.  The narrative “Call of the Wild” takes things in a different direction.  The infectious refrain is undeniably pleasing to the ear in this dark tale. The cheekiness of “Point of View” shows of the humorous side of D-A-D’s lyrics and “Reconstructed” finds them at their heaviest.

The second CD opens up just as strong with the rocking “Naked (But Still Strippin’).”  Overall, the second part pretty much matches the first in quality; though there are a few songs I do not much care for, such as the forgettable “Home Alone 4,” sounding too much like any other 90’s soft rock, and the overly sentimental “Soft Dogs.” The bitter sweetness is done better on “Empty Heads” and “Hate to Say I Told You So.” Some of the highlights include “Nineteenhundredandyesterday,” which strikes a nice balance between being emotional and not too sappy, and the energetic, punk sounding “Evil Twin.” D-A-D are at their hard rock best on such songs as “Everything Glows,”  “Scare Yourself,” and “A New Age Moving In.”


You are certainly going to get your money’s worth with D-A-D’s 30 Years 30 Hits30 Years 30 Hits is one compilation that is full of hard rock gems.  The timelessness of these songs and the fact that they are just as good as they were years ago, is a true mark of D-A-D’s musical skill. It is a shame that they never broke out bigger internationally, because they have made some great music. Here’s to one of rock’s finest underappreciated bands.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Malboro Man, Call of the Wild, Sleeping My Day Away, Naked (But Still Strippin’), Ninteenhunredandyesterday

Brian McKinnon

March 30, 2014

Tracks:
01.Marlboro Man
02.Call of the Wild
03.Riding with Sue
04.It’s After Dark
05.0Isn’t That Wild
06.I Won’t Cut My Hair
07.Black Crickets
08.Sleeping My Day Away
09.Jihad
10.Point of View
11.Girl Nation
12.Bad Craziness
13.Grow or Pay
14.Laugh and a Half
15.Reconstructed
16.Naked (But Still Strippin’)
17.Empty Heads
18.Home Alone 4
19.Hate to Say I Told You So
20.Everything Glows
21.Nineteenhundredandyesterday
22.Something Good
23.Evil Twin
24.Soft Dogs
25.Scare Yourself
26.Lawrence of Suburbia
27.Monster of Philosophy
28.A New Age Moving In
29.I Want What She’s Got
30.We All Fall Down


Review Provided By Write A Music Review
 

3/24/2014

Prog Rock Music Talk Featured Artist: AISLES - 4:45AM

4:45 AM is about pain, blood, resilience, and strength. The most extreme hour of the day, the time in which you either get up or get completely lost, an hour shared by a soul in decline and one ready to rise.

3/16/2014

Rock Review: Venrez-American Illusion

Release Date: July 30, 2013
Label: Monarch Music Group 
Website

Venrez is an L.A. based rock band. That doesn’t mean as much these days as it once did, but Venrez still reminds me of the bands one thinks of when they think of L.A. rock. Bands like The Doors, Guns N’ Roses, and Van Halen just to name a very small few. While there are still great bands coming out of the City of Angels, not many of them rock, but Venrez is doing all it can to change that.

This is a quintet led by Venrez on vocals, Jason Womack and Alex Kane on guitars, Michael Bradford on bass, and Ed Davis on drums. Collectively they are an experienced bunch as members of the group have played with the likes of Juliette Lewis and the Licks , as well as Life Sex and Death. With one album to their credit already, 2012’s Sell the Lie, American Illusion looks to keep moving this band forward.

From the opening beats of Davis’ drums on “Unforeseen” American Illusion rocks. Guitars reminiscent of Alice In Chains come crunching in, and the track just wails. It’s clearly the guitar rock that many of us having been craving. I have to agree with Venrez, this is my favorite track on the album. There are several that aren’t far behind it though, “Hot Air” and “Silver and Gold” to name a couple. And guitar solos are back! It seems that most new bands these days refuse to solo, but definitely not these guys. “Vultures” provides an awesome example of this, but you will find many on here. From start to finish, American Illusion definitely brings the rock. It never really lets up, which may be a criticism for those that need to take a breather, but you’ll have to wait until closer “Temptress of the Moon” for that.

American Illusion is a strong rock album. There are times when Venrez’s vocals don’t fit though. He has limited range so the backing vocals and effects enhance this, but occasionally they need a little more help. That aside, the lyrics were good, and the music will cure what ails many a rock fan. Being that Venrez has been touring with the likes of Alice Cooper, Slash, and Buckcherry, I think many a rock fan already agrees, and I am sure more will follow.

4/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Unforeseen, Vultures, Temptress of the Moon

Kevin Kozel

March 13, 2014

Tracks:
01. Unforeseen
02. Sanctity
03. Hot Air
04. Free Will
05. Silver And Gold
06. Intellectual Drool
07. Vultures
08. Hunger
09. The Beat Goes On
10. Temptress of the Moon

Review Provided By Write A Music Review


3/10/2014

Progressive Rock Review: Hibernal-Replacements

Release Date:  24th March 2014
Label: Hibernal


My closing remarks on the review of the debut album by Hibernal, The Machine, released last March (2013) were, “Take a huge bow Mark (Healy) while I gently whisper the question “Where do you go from here?”” That question has now been answered by the release of the follow-up album, Replacements, and Mark has produced an album that sees the ground-breaking scenario of The Machine evolve to a higher level.

Hibernal is the sci-fi post rock project of Mark Healy, from Brisbane, Australia, and he is responsible for all the music, lyrics and mixing, as well as playing guitars, drums and keyboards. Rowan Salt plays bass on the album, and the storyline is given voice by guest narrators, Scott Gentle (Artimus), Faleena Hopkins (Sabel), Steve van Beckum (Roegner) and Chip Wood (Clerk).

The theme of Replacements is that of a man (an ex prisoner) who carries out an empty existence in a near future dystopian city, but becomes infatuated with a female, (a synthetic female), and learns that she is on the run from the law. This would seem to be a little nod in the direction of the Bladerunner genre of cinema.

This is another magical blend of superb instrumental music and storytelling, resulting in a product that straddles the areas of music, film and theatre. The album, Replacements, is a cinematic experience minus the visual aspect. The extremely clever man that Mark Healy is, he has provided the listener with everything, but then allows their imagination to paint the pictures.

Replacements is a 12 track album with a total playing time of around 65 minutes, and track 7, “Machinations” at 3:03 minutes is the shortest track, with “The City Ebbs Away,” track 2, the longest on the album at 7:22 minutes.
As this album, Replacements, tells a continuous story, then choosing tracks to cite as examples of highlights becomes very difficult.  The opening track, “Replacements Part 1” (4:00), sets the scene with Sabel, (Faleena Hopkins), giving a brief insight into this future world. Backed by a gentle synth and bass throb, the vocals seem to fit in perfectly, prior to the themes on the keyboards building up, creating an amazing aural soundscape. Drums add a little bit of drive to the track, and a simple guitar passage soars superbly before the drums fade to allow the track to slip gently into track 2. 

“The City Ebbs Away” (7:22), starts with an array of sound effects, then a guitar theme takes the track into subdued bass and drums before the “star,” Artimus, (Scott Gentle), enters with a powerful narrative, painting the visuals for the listener. There are gentle guitar passages, and subtle driving bass and drums, behind the narration, which then ebb and flow, with the gaps in the narration.

The final track, ”Replacements Part 2” (4:21), gives an answer to a question posed back in the opening track, and the initial theme is built up again and forms the perfect finale to what has been an amazing 65 minute journey.
The album is full of amazing solos, deep intense riffing and ground vibrating bass runs interspersed with neat unobtrusive electronic touches and also has some neat twists and turns in the story. Although the album is not a living entity, I am going to make an analogy to the living world and say that the music and the scene setting have a symbiotic relationship with each other. Each aspect helps the other and is in turn helped by the other to form a simply amazing conceptual album.

If you enjoyed The Machine from last year, be prepared to be taken to a much higher level, and if you missed out on the debut , ensure that album No 2, Replacements is high up on your “wish list.” Replacements gets both the “One to Buy” and “The Experience will last Forever” stickers, and must be a contender, even at this early stage in 2014, of being one of the top album releases of the year.

I should also mention that, as well as the standard Replacements disc, there is an instrumental companion disc also available. This will sell for a lower price, but at the moment, will be available free if the standard version of the
album is pre-ordered, before the 24th March release date.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: The City Ebbs Away, The Restless Man, The Place Where You Hide

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson-Sr. Reviewer Prog Rock Music Talk

March 10, 2014

Tracks:

Standard Disc
Replacements Part 1
The City Ebbs Away
The Restless Man
Evasion
The Streets In Darkness
The Place Where You Hide
Machinations
Time Runs Out
Truth
Fragments Of The Past
Fallout
Replacements Part 2

Instrumental Disc
Replacements Part 1
The City Ebbs Away
The Restless Man
Evasion
The Streets In Darkness
The Place Where You Hide
Machinations

3/03/2014

Prog Rock Featured Artist: Olivia Hadjiioannou (OH.) - Sleeping World

Caught between the deep economic crises in both Athens, Greece and NYC; singer-songwriter OH. released the progressive rock album, "Sleeping World" in March 2013 with a video clip for the song "Trials."

2/27/2014

New Age Instrumental Review: Peter Phippen, Enrique Rueda, Rahbi Crawford-Sacred Spaces

Release Date: January 1, 2014
Label: Promotion Music Records

Recorded live in a studio session, Peter Phippen, Enrique Rueda and Rahbi Crawford have captured the essence of peace and tranquility with their unique blend of New Age instrumental music. Grammy Award nominee and three time Native American Music Award nominee, Peter Phippen is best known for his prowess with many styles of flutes. Enrique Rueda crafts his own instruments and his work is devoted to the communication of man and musical object. He works internationally specializing in traditional cultural music. Roberta (Rahbi) Crawford is an international instructor and musician. Her work is entirely devoted to deeper spiritual experience. The combination of these three highly talented musicians has given way to an exceptionally beautiful album. Sacred Spaces is pure inspiration. It is a sound experience that once I began to listen to; I didn’t want it to end. 


Opening up the album, the first track to greet you is “Poet’s Reverie.” Lilting flute sequences and multi-instrumentation lull you into a state of relaxation.  Like a fog rolling in from the coast, the song surrounds you in a blanket of tranquility, urging you to leave the concerns of the world behind you. Phippen’s bursts of passionate flute playing resonate against the backdrop of string instruments and the echoing sound of eternity.

“Autumn Memories” flutters to life. A crisp orange leaf falls to the ground and the season of change is upon us. Walk in the open and feel the span of time surround you. Memories of days long past come to mind. Running through the piles of leaves, your breath hard and fast in your chest as you speed up before a pile of wet leaves is thrown down your back—it is life. A tender kiss on a hay ride. The shy glance of a new puppy as it awakens in your arms. The exuberant force of a child’s joy as they see the leaves in their fiery glory for the first time. Images float by, slower than they were in reality. A slide show echoing span of mind and memory, the flute and multi-instrumentation capturing the poignant moments with those of loss and victory—these are the memories of a lifetime drifting like leaves in our minds eye. 

“The Dreaming Tree” features Rhabi Crawford. Crystal bowls and pyramids provide an ethereal depth to this piece. The echoing sound of the crystals reaches out, blending with the flute to ensnare the listener with a deep spiritual experience. Haunting and vast, this track is haunting.

“Lascaux” features Enrique Rueda and his traditional style instruments. Handmade with the knowledge of a master craftsman, Rueda’s style compliments Phippen’s flute making it a solid performance with a traditionally classic feel. This is one of my favorite pieces from the album. 

Peter Phippen, Enrique Rueda and Rahbi Crawford have created an album that gets back to the basics. It brings you to a basic elemental level, showing you what true musical artisans can create in the span of a few hours in a studio setting. Thirteen tracks were created and ten were hulled into the bounty of song in Sacred Spaces. Some instruments used in creating this album were: Shakuhachi, Patrick Olwell bamboo flute, Enrique Rueda quena and Native American flute, Michael Graham Allen Mojave flute replica, 1848 William Hall and Son boxwood flute, antique Egyptian kawala flute, Columbian Andean bandola, Renaissance harp, sail harp, kantele, tambor con paticas, crystal bowls and crystal pyramid. If you enjoy a musical journey as well-crafted as the finest tapestry, then you must listen to this magnificent album. It will truly take you away.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Poet’s Revere, Autumn Memories, The Dreaming Tree, Lascaux

Dana Wright

February 27, 2014

Tracks:

1.Poet’s Reverie
2.Ashes of Love
3.Violet Etchings
4.Ribbons of Darkness
5.Autumn Memories
6.The Dreaming Tree
7.Lascaux
8.Vast Fields of Forever
9.So Many Stars
10.Whispered Visions


 

2/24/2014

Progressive Rock Review: Frank Baker-Noctilucent

Frank Baker is a name I certainly wasn’t familiar with when Noctilucent, his first album under his own name, landed on my desk for review .He has produced music under various names as side projects such as Meadowy Temple, Landcold and Ociraa. Frank is a solo artist and record producer from Southern Germany and he describes his involvement in music more as a “sound architect” building audio-visual landscapes rather than “singer-orientated” songs. He places his material loosely into the prog rock area, but with heavy influences from cinematic areas and ambient sound. It certainly sounds like an interesting background to the production of the album, Noctilucent, and I was keen to hear what was on offer.

Frank is a multi-instrumentalist, covering vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, piano, percussion and drum programming on the album.

Noctilucent is a 10 track album with a total playing time of around 41 minutes, with the closing track, “The Avalanche Pt 1,” being the shortest at 1:10 minutes and track 4, “The Court of the Hunter,” the longest at 6:44 minutes.

An aptly named opening track, simply called “Opening” (1:38), starts Noctilucent and certainly fits into the more ambient area and leads directly into track 2, “Fingerprints” (5:40). “Opening” has a beautiful piano passage with some extraneous background noises which builds up with the keyboards, before a “harsh” drum takes the track out and into “Fingerprints.” This has superb acoustic guitar work, painting a soundscape, which is then superseded by guitar, bass, drums and a very breathy stylized vocal. There is even a beatlesque hint with some of the vocals. The music is excellent, very cinematic in its build-up and these two opening tracks certainly maintain the interest of the listener with some time changes and some intriguing percussion breaks.

“Scared Little Birman” (3:45), “Noctilucent Clouds” (3:56) and “A Lull In The Wind” (3:30) share the more acoustic gentle style of the initial part of track 2 and give a little nod at times  to the sound of early Pink Floyd. This is an excellent trio of similar styled tracks, letting the listener float along on their melodic nature.

The other tracks, “The Court of The Hunter” (6:42), “Paleness” (5:23), “Into the Snow” (5:25), “Colored Mountain Ranges” (4:48) and “The Avalanche Pt 1” (1:11) share the more complex and slightly heavier side of the music. “The Court Of The Hunter,” in particular, sets out a stunning soundscape which “doffs its cap” in the direction of Porcupine Tree, as does “Into the Snow.” ”Colored Mountain Ranges” has some swirling keyboards and a beautifully played guitar melody, while “The Avalanche Pt 1,” which takes the album out, is a very interesting track, even in its brevity and I was left wondering why this track was so short, but perhaps it will be continued at the start of album 2?

All in all, Noctilucent is a very intriguing debut solo release, with some amazing work on show. While the album doesn’t quite get both album stickers, it definitely gets the “One to Buy” sticker. If you wrap your ears around this album for several plays, you will realize that Frank Baker has produced an album that hits very close to a bull’s-eye and we should all be on the alert for the follow up release, when it ultimately appears.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Opening/Fingerprints: The Court of the Hunter: Noctilucent Clouds

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson-Sr. Reviewer Prog Rock Music Talk

February 24, 2014

Release Date: 13thDecember 2013
Label:  Independent
              

1/09/2014

Instrumental Guitar Review: Vin Downes-Unlike The Stars


Artist: Vin Downes
Title: Unlike The Stars
Release Date:Januarry 28, 2014
Genre: Instrumental Guitar

Vin Downes was so taken by the music of finger pickers like Will Ackerman from the Windham Hill label after listening to a sampler; he took his electric guitar and put it away. He never looked back and has been playing an acoustic ever since.

With Unlike The Stars, his third release, Downes gives you a reason to believe that he did indeed made the right decision stowing away that six string electric. The acoustic guitar can have just as much impact and power as any electric if it’s played properly. I would have to say with conviction that Mr. Downes knows his instrument quite well. 

All of the tracks presented on this album convey warm tones and atmospheres that relax and put you into a state of simple gratefulness for life itself. The title track is one of the highlights along with “Departure.” The title “Departure” is quite apt as it will force you to literally depart from whatever it is you are doing or focusing on. If you happen to be stressing out about something in particular, that feeling will melt like snow in the spring.
Good music creates an ongoing movie in your mind’s eye. I had visions of a warm summer breeze touching my face and I heard a babbling brook, which in turn gave me a slice of serenity rarely felt (except when I am asleep!). All of this beauty was brought forth by this man’s music. The delicate yet impressionable sounds emanating from his guitar will lead you down a path of enlightenment, and I do believe that is the purpose of this music. If that is a fact then this album gets the job done.

Some of the tracks are accentuated by some cello, which promotes a sense of sadness and longing at times depending on the overall makeup of the track. But in this case, because of Downes’ guitar placed just were it needs to be, those feelings never surface, he keeps everything light and airy.

Perhaps the track “Window Looking…” closing the curtain on this recording, really is a hint that the music of Vin Downes is a doorway to his soul and more importantly, you the listener. Give it a try, sit back and relax and let everything empty out of that busy mind and let Unlike The Stars show you the way.

4/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Departure, Unlike The Stars, Window Looking…
 
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck

January 9, 2014

Tracks:
1. where i began
2. riverbend
3. dark blue wind
4. departure
5. all we ever wanted
6. unlike the stars
7. skies and openings
8. window, looking back
9. unweaving
10. what falls away
11. turning years
12. window, looking back (solo)
13. turning years (alternate mix)



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