Odds & Ends – October 12, 2020

Band: Days Between Stations | Album: Giants | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

Though technically not a member of the band, ex-Yes multi-instrumentalist Billy Sherwood produced and contributed heavily to this album. This band is extremely Yes-y, almost to the point of distraction. It’s a skillful aping of Yes’s sound, but it does leave me wanting a bit more originality at moments. I’m also not wild about Sherwood’s production; this album sounds thin and washed-out. However, if you’re craving something in the vein of (good) ‘90s Yes, these guys are a decent way to scratch that itch.

Score: 70/100

Band: Enslaved | Album: Utgard | Genre: Progressive metal | Bandcamp

This is certainly an Enslaved album. It’s melodic black-ish metal with frequent intrusions of harmonized clean vocals and prominent keyboards. Enslaved’s albums tend to grow on me over time, but they’re also often structured significantly differently. This record feels like Enslaved are trying to be more accessible. The songs are shorter than usual, and the band’s black metal background is played down. When RIITIIR (my favorite release from this band) came out, it didn’t click with me at first, but I felt the itch to revisit it. I don’t think I’ll be having much urge to put this album on repeat.

Score: 72/100

Band: La Maschera Di Cera | Album: S.E.I. | Genre: Italian progressive rock | Bandcamp

I’ve often mentioned Italy’s prog scene on this site, but this act is the first band to play in such a style that I’ve actually featured. This trio of epic tracks is full of dramatic moments, often punctuated with a Mellotron’s choir setting. Like most Italian prog bands, there’s a whole-hearted embrace of Italian folk motifs which contrast against and complement the songs’ rock backbones. The closing “Vacuo Senso” is an especially strong piece, with big jazz tones dominating.

Score: 78/100

Band: The Light In The Ocean | Album: The Pseudo-Scientific Study of Oceanic Neo-Cryptid Zoology | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

The Light In The Ocean play a somewhat light, jazzy variety of progressive rock that reminds me of acts like The Flower Kings. However, they manage to avoid The Flower Kings’ saccharine schlock, so I find this more consistently enjoyable. There are hints of Steven Wilson’s solo work, as well. Folk and jazz elements are scattered freely throughout this cumbersomely-title album, and the occasions where the band cranks up the intensity contrast excellently against their usual gentle sound.

Score: 81/100

Band: Lore City | Album: Alchemical Task | Genre: Post-rock, Art rock | Bandcamp

Portland duo Lore City’s latest album is a gentle, flowing piece which gradually washes over the listener. The compositions are replete with rich atmosphere and haunting vocals. Many of the droning synth tones remind of early krautrock acts, and I love those textures. However, for all this record’s good ethereal moments, much of it comes off as plodding. Each song is based around a good idea, but that idea often overstays its welcome and becomes stale.

Score: 58/100

Band: Mildlife | Album: Automatic | Genre: Jazz-fusion, Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp

This Australian quartet play a bouncy, spacey variety of jazz-tinged rock music. Keyboards glimmer over funky backdrops, and the band members are not shy about astral instrumental asides. Many of the solos channel Patrick Moraz, or a jazzier, more relaxed version of Keith Emerson. Vocoder is smarty deployed at a few points on the album, and the vocals are an overall highlight as well. The title track, which closes this album, is an especially potent distillation of the band’s strengths.

Score: 84/100

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