Album Review: Louis de Mieulle – Side$how

ldmArtist: Louis de Mieulle | Album: Side$how | Genre: Progressive rock, Jazz fusion | Year: 2019

From: New York, USA | Label: Dalang Records

For fans of: Return to Forever, Magma, Brainticket, Probably a lot of those jazzy instrumental metal acts I don’t like

Buy: Bandcamp | Apple Music

I’ve been pretty open in my general hesitance toward instrumental albums. I’m not the kind of person to pay attention to lyrics, but the human voice adds so much character to music, which can be quite difficult to make up for with just instruments. I don’t believe I’ve discussed it in any great detail on this site—though I’ve made a few comments about it on Reddit—but I am also not a fan of the current zeitgeist of jazzy, instrumental rock and metal epitomized by acts like Intervals, Plini, and Sithu Aye. So much of it just sounds like aimless, speedy noodling. Thank God this album avoids those pitfalls magnificently.

French-born bassist and composer Louis de Mieulle’s newest album, Side$how, is a constantly-engaging blend of ambitious instrumental progressive rock with many trappings of jazz. Touches of electronic genres and krautrock crop up throughout this release’s 41-minute runtime. Consisting of eight songs, titled “Bed of Nails, Part 1-8”, the music was mostly improvised and recorded live by de Mieulle, a pair of keyboardists, and a drummer. Continue reading “Album Review: Louis de Mieulle – Side$how”

Album Review: Magma – Zëss

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Band: Magma | Album: Zëss (Le jour du néant) | Genre: Zeuhl, Symphonic music | Year: 2019

From: Paris, France | Label: Seventh Records

Buy: Digital OptionsPhysical Options

Magma are the founders of the zeuhl genre. Over the span of their 50-year career, they’ve been remarkably consistent in both their strange character and high quality of output. Strongly rooted in jazz and heavy on hypnotic jamming, their studio recordings were often taken to new heights in live settings, such as the version of “Köhntarkösz” on their album Live/Hhaï. Live performances have also seen epics be debuted and developed before reaching a studio album. Their 2009 album Ëmëhntëtt-Ré began life in the 1970s at live shows, and “Šlag Tanz” was debuted live several years before it was recorded.  “Theusz Hamtaahk” as yet remains unrecorded in the studio. Zëss similarly began as a live-only epic in the ‘70s.

“Zëss” struck me as an odd choice for Magma to record. The live recordings I’d heard came off as long-winded, meandering, and repetitious, and this was a critique I’d seen elsewhere online. I think the band may have been aware of this criticism, so they enlisted the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra to add some texture and dynamism. Distinct to Zëss, band founder Christian Vander takes lead vocals over the span of the entire album. There are the usual female vocals in the background, but Vander remains at the forefront. He also does not play drums here, another first for the band. Continue reading “Album Review: Magma – Zëss”

Album Review: PoiL – Sus

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Band: PoiL | Album: Sus | Genre: Progressive rock, Zeuhl, RIO | Year: 2019

From: Lyon, France | Label: Dur et Doux

For fans of: Magma, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Ni, Frank Zappa

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

I’ve written before of France’s unique place in the world of progressive rock. Of the countries with distinct national sounds, theirs has always been the most unashamedly weird, fusing progressive rock with jazz and avant-garde music. Zeuhl was an almost-exclusively-French genre for the first twenty or so years of its existence, and two of the five founders of the Rock in Opposition (RIO) scene were Francophone. (Univers Zero were from the French-speaking Wallonia region of Belgium.) PoiL, the experimental Lyonnais trio, are one of the most prominent contemporary bands carrying on this tradition.

Last year, PoiL fused with the band Ni to become three-sevenths of the supergroup PinioL. Ni’s particular brand of experimental rock music has frequently bordered on metal, and on Sus, it sounds as if some of that may have rubbed off on the guys in PoiL. PoiL lacks a guitar player, but that doesn’t stop the band from laying down their heaviest music to date. The bass on this album crunches and snarls; the electric piano pounds out weird, dissonant chords; and the drumming is downright virtuosic. Continue reading “Album Review: PoiL – Sus”

Odds and Ends – March 21, 2019

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Odds and Ends is a segment where I do brief reviews of albums I either didn’t prioritize for longer-form reviews, or ones for which I don’t have that much to say.

a1945761875_10Band: Cheeto’s Magazine | Album: Amazingous | Genre: Progressive rock, Pop, Progressive metal | Bandcamp

This album was a disorienting experience. Cheeto’s Magazine blend sunshiny pop with metal riffs and complex structures. The closest analogue I can think of would be A.C.T., though this has an even more aggressively poppy edge. The songwriting is consistently ambitious, and there are some moments reminiscent of Dream Theater’s better output. I give them a lot of credit for ambition, but the juxtaposition of metal with those bubblegum synths is often jarring.

Score:  69/100 Continue reading “Odds and Ends – March 21, 2019”

Odds and Ends – February 18, 2019

Odds and Ends is a segment where I do brief reviews of albums I either didn’t prioritize for longer-form reviews, or ones for which I don’t have that much to say.

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Band: Cosmocracy, Inc. | Album: A Ride Across Your Mind | Genre: Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp

This is a delightful album. It’s a high-energy, progressive garage rock piece, and it’s a ton of fun. The guitars have a distinctly bluesy twinge, and the keyboards lend a wide, galactic atmosphere. The bass tone used here comes across as downright funky. The vocals are a little rough and weak, but I’m hoping that’ll be improved on future releases. This band have some room for improvement, but they’re starting off strong.

Score: 80/100 Continue reading “Odds and Ends – February 18, 2019”