Band: Band of Rain | Album: The Sun King | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
This is decent, mid-tempo prog that goes more for atmosphere than technicality. (That’s not to disparage the bandmembers’ instrumental chops, though.) The overall sound is lush, and the band skillfully layers different textures and melodies. I also appreciate the many touches of jazz scattered throughout this record. The vocals come off as fairly weak, unfortunately, which does hamper this release, along with a general sense that everything here is too long.
Band: Fanatism | Album: Inverted Evolution | Genre: Progressive rock, Krautrock | Bandcamp
Inverted Evolution has an unhurried pace which allows the band to stretch out and weave wonderful atmospheres. This Swedish act draws heavily from ‘70s hard rock in a lot of their musical vocabulary, but elements of jazz, post-punk, and gothic rock are readily evident, too. Eerie synths, hypnotic rhythms, and progressive song structures are hallmarks of this album. The ending is a little weak (though not bad), but beyond this hiccup, it’s a strong release.
Band: Kuunatic | Album: Gate of Klüna | Genre: Tribal psych-prog-folk(?) | Bandcamp
This Japanese trio is enchantingly weird. The keys are often strange and warbling; the bass is up-front; and the drums establish and maintain a loose yet propulsive feel. Zeuhl-y repetition is utilized to great effect as these compositions swell and lurch toward their climaxes. The atmosphere can shift from creepy to fun without it being too jarring. This release is one of the stranger records I’ve heard this year, and I love it.
Band: Mahogany Frog | Album: In the Electric Universe | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
This instrumental album has a lot of strong ideas and unique guitar and synthesizer tones. The album’s most energetic moments are its best ones, and they imbue the songs with a sense of purpose. Many instrumental acts (this one included) often suffer from a feeling of aimlessness during slower moments. I do appreciate that each track on this album has a distinct feel. Late ‘60s psychedelia and garage rock is drawn upon in creative ways, twisting those old sounds into something their own. However, with this being an hour-long instrumental album, it is occasionally long-winded. Overall, it’s one of the better instrumental releases I’ve run across this year.
Artist: Robert Reed | Album: The Ringmaster Part One | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
This album–like all of Robert Reed’s output–is perfectly fine. It’s well-played, and the songs all demonstrate good structure. However, every album this man puts out sounds so much like Mike Oldfield that it’s distracting. If you’re looking for something like Incantations or Hergest Ridge but you’re tired of those albums, Robert Reed isn’t a bad choice. I just wish he’d try being a bit more distinctive.
Band: SEIMS | Album: Four | Genre: Post-rock, Math rock | Bandcamp
I’ve really liked this Australian act’s previous two releases, the color-themed EPs 3 and 3.1. Though Four doesn’t seem to have the same thematic focus on color and light, there is obvious sonic continuity between these releases. Deft percussion, vacillating guitar, and lush synth, string, and brass textures are this band’s bread and butter. The songs build effective tension, and each track is distinctive while also fitting into the album’s unified whole. The best moments are when the band embrace their heavier tendencies, but even the gentle tracks are quite strong.