Album Review: Perséide – Parmi les arbres

perseideBand: Perséide | Album: Parmi les arbres | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock | Year: 2019

From: Trois Rivières, Canada | Label: Independent

For fans of: The Moody Blues, Yes, Ange, early Pink Floyd

Buy: Bandcamp | Apple Music

Much of the non-metal featured on this site has its roots planted firmly in the years of 1971-73. That fact is neither inherently good nor inherently bad, but it does lead to the prevalence of certain tropes and trends. Perséide’s roots extend a few years further back. Instead of harkening to prog giants like Genesis or Yes, their music stems most obviously from late ‘60s psychedelia and proto-prog, a la The Pretty Things or The United States of America.

This Quebecois quintet is not wrapped entirely in the past, though. On Parmi les arbres (Among the Trees), modern touches of indie rock are present. These influences make the music feel like a vibrant descendent of ‘60s psychedelia, rather than a rehash.

“Hier ne saura jamais” (“Yesterday will never know”) opens with a simple but lively guitar line, backed with astral keyboard tones. This song, like much of this album, is brimming with space-age synth tones and lush Mellotron. “Istanbul”, meanwhile, is rooted in a vaguely Asiatic riff and a somewhat sparser arrangement.

A more openly poppy angle is taken on “Enracinés” (“Rooted”). The rhythm is bouncy, and the twin melody of the guitar and the organ are reminiscent of some of Pink Floyd’s earliest releases, like “Arnold Layne” or “See Emily Play”.

However, most of the tracks on this first half of the album possess detectable weaknesses. Most of the songs are about a minute too long, and “Le tombeaux d’Atuan” (“The Tombs of Atuan”) never really manages to get going and borders on being soporific.

The album’s second half is noticeably stronger than its first. “La nuit des faunes” (“The Night of the Fauns”) has a slow-moving first half that gives way to a fun, energetic extended instrumental period. Guitar and organ prance around in a nearly-folky melody before evolving into a Yes-like series of guitar exercises. “Contreplongée” is a gentle, acoustic piece which only serves to strengthen comparisons to early Pink Floyd. It’s a bit longer than it needs to be, but its placement on the album makes sense.

Parmi les arbres closes on its epic title track. The opening is slow and moody, built upon simple guitar strumming and light percussion. Mellotron flutes eventually are given a brief moment in the spotlight, adding to the dark folk character of this song’s first part. The second half is mostly instrumental and centered around an extended synthesizer solo. In a somewhat rare occurrence, the pitch bend knob is used a great deal, twisting notes in ways usually reserved for guitar solos. This gives way to the song’s finale: a menacing synth line is repeated over a dark, driving rhythm which eventually resolves with a brief return to the song’s folky opening theme.

Perséide’s second full-length album, particularly its second half, is a shining example of how sounds from decades past can be married with modern trends and sensibilities to yield impressive music. Not only do they draw from late ‘60s psych and modern indie rock, but they also channel the unique sounds of Francophone prog, such as fellow Quebeckers Vos Voisins and the French act Ange.

Score: 81/100

Album Review: Garcia Peoples – One Step Behind

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Band: Garcia Peoples | Album: One Step Behind | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock, Krautrock | Year: 2019

From: Rutherford, (NJ,) USA | Label: Beyond Beyond Is Beyond

For fans of: The Grateful Dead, Gong, The Moody Blues

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

Garcia Peoples’ 2018 debut album, Cosmic Cash, easily made my personal top 10 of last year, with its mixture of inventive song structures, psychedelic textures, and fun, loose garage rock atmosphere. Their album from March of this year, Natural Facts, while enjoyable, didn’t quite hit the same highs as their debut. It was more overtly folk-influenced, with significant touches of Americana. It seemed they were charting out a trajectory reminiscent of the Grateful Dead. With this context, this album took me by surprise.

One Step Behind is nearly 40 minutes long but contains only two songs, one of which stretches over half an hour. There remain ample doses of Dead-like jangly guitars, but the band have also included krautrock-like meditation and repetition, as well as technical guitar and keyboard lines I would expect from the likes of Yes. Continue reading “Album Review: Garcia Peoples – One Step Behind”

Album Review: Merlin – The Mortal

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Band: Merlin | Album: The Mortal | Genre: Heavy Psych, Stoner metal | Year: 2019

From: Kansas City, (MO,) USA | Label: The Company

For fans of: Elder, Hawkwind, Pink Floyd

Buy: Bandcamp | Big Cartel | Apple Music

Merlin are one of the better examples of progressive stoner metal, and their last few albums have shown a clear musical evolution from dank groovemasters to artistically ambitious dank groovemasters. The saxophone which first appeared on 2018’s The Wizard now is more fully integrated, and with it, an injection of jazz influence. Blues elements are certainly present as well, but they don’t overpower, and many of the sludgy riffs are played with impressive restraint.

The Mortal appears to be something of a follow-up to The Wizard. Beyond their shared use of saxophone and similar titles, both close with an eponymous suite, and both those suites share musical and lyrical themes of magic. Continue reading “Album Review: Merlin – The Mortal”

Album Review: Babel Trio – The Island of Cretal

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Band: Babel Trio | Album: The Island of Cretal | Genre: Progressive rock, Stoner metal, Greek folk | Year: 2018

From: Crete, Greece | Label: Labyrinth of Thoughts Records

For fans: Elder, Baroness, Numidia, Anatolian rock

Buy: BandcampAmazonApple Music

Greece punches above its weight in regard to its metal scene. It’s no Finland or Norway, but for a rather small, sunny, non-Scandinavian country, its metal output is prolific and influential. Most of this tends to be in the form of black metal, with the scene-at-large’s sound being dubbed Hellenic Black Metal. Babel Trio produce music which, to my ears at least, sounds a bit more geographically-appropriate than black metal, which often is associated with cold, grim, wintry imagery.

Babel Trio is a Cretan band who play a brand of proggy, fuzzy, and distinctly-Greek metal. The Aegean is not necessarily a new location for heavy psychedelia to be fused with local folk traditions. Turkey’s been doing it since the 1970s. But where Turkey’s Anatolian rock is a celebrated niche genre, Greece’s folk traditions have remained largely absent from the world of rock music. Babel Trio aim to counteract that by infusing fuzzed-out metal with Cretan traditions and progressive ambition. The overall timbre of The Island of Cretal is evocative of many stoner metal bands from the US, but the melodies are unmistakably Grecian. Folk tunes are reinterpreted as complex, rolling riffs that help the band stand out. Continue reading “Album Review: Babel Trio – The Island of Cretal”

Lesser-Known Gem: Zerfas – Zerfas

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Band: Zerfas | Album: Zerfas | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock, Folk rock | Year: 1973

From: Indianapolis, USA | Label: 700 West

For fans of: The Beatles post-1967, Yes, Yezda Urfa, The Grateful Dead

Zerfas are one of those bands that there isn’t much information about beyond their music. I’ve ascertained they were formed in Indianapolis in the late 1960s by brothers Dave (drums, vocals) and Herman Zerfas (keys, vocals), and they persisted under a series of names until the early 1980s. They released one album, Zerfas, in 1973.

Zerfas, however brief their career, showed a lot of potential to fill several niches in the realm of progressive rock. Prog is a genre notorious for taking itself too seriously, with the music being played with near-surgical precision. A lot of the music on Zerfas, while structured and arranged in uncommon ways, has a loose, fun atmosphere to it. The timbre is frequently warm and sunny, thanks in large part to the vocals. Imagine if The Beatles (c. 1968) had tried to record a progressive rock album, and you’ll get a decent idea of what’s here. Continue reading “Lesser-Known Gem: Zerfas – Zerfas”