Band: Ahleuchatistas | Album: Expansion | Genre: Math rock, RIO | Bandcamp
Ahleuchatistas are something of an outlier when it comes to bands I like. I’m often not a fan of improv-heavy acts that sound like they’re constantly on the verge of falling apart, but this trio always manages to thread the needle of tight, complex riffs and wonky, off-kilter meters with loose improv. Expansion feels a bit more composed than some of their past work, and that pays dividends here. The riffs are weird and wild and wiry, and the songs have an odd, shambolic energy to them. This is a bizarre and rewarding album.
Band: Fren | Album: All the Pretty Days | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Had I known Wiosna was a single off an upcoming album and not an EP, I wouldn’t have reviewed it. But alas! All the Pretty Days is Fren’s second full-length album. Much like their debut, it’s melodic and dramatic instrumental prog. The songs are engaging and attention grabbing, and despite their length, there is very little bloat here. This reminds me of Änglagård’s best work while also being distinct. Hints of jazz pop in from certain piano lines, giving flashes of Magma’s lighter moments.
Band: Green Tree Novelty Tea | Album: The Lion’s Suite | Genre: Progressive rock, Math rock | Bandcamp
I really am not sure why this is tagged as “black prog” on Bandcamp. This music isn’t blackened at all (aside from some arguable shouted vocals on one song), and the two members look like young Weird Al and Murray from Stranger Things. Confusing genre tags aside, the music here is pretty good. It is energetic with jangly guitar lines. Post-hardcore flavors are evident on some songs, too. The band started as an improv act, and the skills honed during that phase are evident. I get flashes of acts like Thank You Scientist and Children of Nova.
Band: Masal | Album: Ahora | Genre: Zeuhl, Canterbury, Progressive rock | Bandcamp
This French ensemble’s latest release is an intoxicating instrumental blend of avant-garde, Canterbury, chamber, RIO, and zeuhl influences. The music is full of odd, twisting, jazzy passages prominently featuring saxophone and marimba. That’s paired alongside moments of beautiful, melodic evolutions. Ahora incorporates some uncommon, daring musical ideas into a satisfying melange. Many moments here remind me of Hot Rats or other Zappa releases.
Band: Mellow Beast | Album: Mind Worm | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Space rock | Bandcamp
Mellow Beast’s second album of 2022 is an interesting foil to their first. There are certain commonalities between the two. Both feature lush, dreamy atmospheres and some distinctive vocal performances. But where Waiting Room was a tight, focused 30-minute piece, Mind Worm sprawls for nearly 80 minutes. Ideas are meditated upon at length, creating hypnotic grooves and meditative mantras. Naturally, there is some bloat on an album this big, especially the 20-minute title track. It doesn’t ruin the record or anything like that, but you’d better be in the mood for some extended jams when you put this on.
Band: Tau & the Drones of Praise | Album: Misneach | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Krautrock | Bandcamp
Misneach is an album of krauty psych-folk that captures a lot of fun, catchy moments. The music is often lush, and simple rhythms help to lend a sense of purpose. This band draws heavily from the psychedelic sounds of the late 1960s, but they manage to blend those with more modern sensibilities and styles. That makes this album feel familiar and welcoming without being derivative or uncreative.