Tag Archives: Progify

Chris Picha Tokyo Tower

Chris Picha

Guitarist Chris Picha is from a musical family, and their home had in it an organ with a cassette deck on it for recording.  Chris would record his own ideas, play it back, and play over them.  He learned to record all of that onto a separate tape recorder, and his multi-tracking career had officially begun.

He was listening to hard rock bands like Kiss and Van Halen from a young age.  His older brother had an electric guitar, so just to be different Chris chose to play bass. His folks got him a bass and he started teaching himself how to play songs from his favorite bands, Rush, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

After 2 years of playing bass Chris switched to guitar.  He then discovered bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy,  Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax.   He had been exposed to all-instrumental guitar music with Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow, but the genre really caught his attention upon hearing Joe Satriani’s “Surfin’ With the Alien”, Steve Vai’s “Passion and Warfare” and Yngwie’s “Rising Force.”  Then Dream Theater’s “Images and Words” landed and it inspired Chris and a few friends to form progressive-metal band Shadowmere. The band recorded demos and played many gigs around the Chicago area, the highlight of which was opening for national hard rock act Mindfunk.

He later moved to Los Angeles, bought some digital recording gear and began making demos. He was featured in Guitar Player magazine’s “Myspace Hordes” column in November of 2007 for his track “Mountain Shred.”  Chris then joined LA hard rock act Vyrus, playing Craig Goldy’s guitar parts off their debut album in gigs around the Los Angeles area, including the famed House of Blues on the Sunset Strip.

Chris then contacted noted keyboardist/producer Derek Sherinian and recorded a 4-song EP with Derek producing and playing keyboards. To work with a musician of such high caliber who also happens to be a huge musical influence on him was quite an honor and a thrill.  The EP is called “Transcendence”, an all-instrumental progressive rock/metal showcase which also features world-renowned drummer Brian Tichy.  The record was released on September 24th, 2013.

www.facebook.com/ChrisPichaGuitar
www.twitter.com/cnotes1
www.chrispicha.com

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Simon McKechnie

Simon McKechnie (pronounced Makeknee) is a composer, arranger and musician who is based in London, UK. His new album Clocks and Dark Clouds was released on June 17th and features seven new prog rock compositions. The album has been heard on prog rock stations in the USA, Argentina and Greece. His 2011 release London Reborn is a collection of interpretations of old London Folk songs. The Telegraph said of London Reborn, ‘The story-songs have freshness and humour about them which is very London.’

Simon has written for BBC television, classical ensembles Golden Section and The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments, and written arrangements for Roberto Pla’s Latin Jazz Orchestra. He was the founder, leader and composer of the music for the jazz fusion group Azul. Azul’s 2004 tour with a contemporary dancer was a Jazz pick of the week in The Guardian. Their music was regularly heard on BBC Radio3. He also wrote a musical with author Gary Waterman that is based on the life of the 18th century Sephardi boxer Daniel Mendoza. This was featured as part of Greenwich Theatre’s Musical Futures festival in 2005.

Simon currently also plays guitar with London-based Portuguese Fado singer Nuno Silva.

http://www.simonmckechnie.com/

Le Maschere di Clara

Le Maschere di Clara

Everything arises from the desire to develop a sort of artistic “venting” coming out from classical studies and a visceral passion for rock, trying to tie two cultural currents so far and, at the same time, idealistic nearby.

Lorenzo Masotto (vocals, bass, piano), Laura Masotto (vocals and electric violin) and Bruce Turri (drums), all three with classical studies behind themselves, play in various chamber ensembles and for a variety of projects ranging from pop to rock, from jazz to electronic experimentation.

Two-thirds of Maschere (Lorenzo and Laura) are brothers and have played together since childhood, respectively, the piano and violin. Being three allows them to work harmonically on the concept of Bachian counterpoint, using bass as tonal harmonic carpet and the violin as regards the melody. Voice is intertwined between the two instruments, creating a sort of chamber trio, spiced with the rhythmic precision of the battery.

In 2009 Le Maschere di Clara release an EP “23″ for Jestrai Records and in 2010 the debut album“Anamorfosi” for the label Black Widow.

Anamorfosi reprinted in 2011 in a makeover with valuable unreleased songs, produced by Max Monti (Quintorigo), shock critics and audience who consider it one of the best productions of 2011 (the album is available as a free download on http://lemascherediclara.bandcamp.com).

In September 2012Le Maschere di Clara win the contest “Modena 29 Settembre: Via Mei di Faenza” with the best cover of the beat song “29 Settembre” written by Battisti and Mogol in 1966. They open the concert in Piazza Grande, Modena, and perform at TEK Faenza for MEI – Meeting of Independent Labels.

After months and months of touring around the peninsula and great hard work, finally they enter the studio to record the new album “L’Alveare”, released in April 2013, only vinyl and digital format.

L’Alveare marks the evolution of a rock full of distortion and melody, focusing on the human being as a whole, with its emotions and its history. Very strong messages and themes permeate the fabric: evil, war, racism, disillusionment and reflection on pain and constructive power of love.

The album is refined, complicated and pays homage to the authors of Italian literature in the titles of the nine tracks. First single video is “A SE STESSO” homage to the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi.

L’Alveare Summer Tour 2013 brought Le Maschere di Clara to perform around Italy and abroad to Burg Herzberg Festival, historical festival active since 1968, which takes place in Germany, near Alsfeld.

http://www.lemascherediclara.com/

http://lemascherediclara.bandcamp.com/

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Samuel Hällkvist

The brainchild of Swedish guitarist/composer Samuel Hällkvist, Variety of Loud is a truly international band with a solid musical reputation. Samuel has established himself as one of the most creative and fearless guitar-ists to ever come out of Sweden.

With a contemporary progressive outlook on guitar playing and a healthy sense of lack of respect, Samuel’s flexibility and openness has made him an in-demand musician and award winning bandleader. Among the musicians Samuel has performed with are Tony Levin, Trey Gunn, Morgan Ågren, Jakko Jakszyk and Swedish chamber rock band Isildurs Bane.

Among the members of the band, we find legendary King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto, certainly one of the foremost keepers of the true progressive drumming flame with his unique and imaginative approach to mix acoustic drums with electronics.

Not to be left behind, the other members of Variety of Loud are top musicians from the fields of contemporary jazz, avant-garde rock and performance art.

What you hear on the self-titled album is music without compromises but a given for anybody who has a record collection that comprises Béla Bartók, Steve Coleman, King Crimson, Mr Bungle and Ennio Morricone. This is contemporary music. Distinct and uncompromising yet emotional with an athletic beauty.

Samuel Hällkvist: “When I composed the mu-sic for the album, the guiding words for me were ‘asymmetrical dance music’. I wanted to lose control and trust what the other musicians could bring to the table. The result was some-thing I didn’t expect.”

http://www.samuelhallkvist.com/

https://myspace.com/samuelhallkvist

http://www.last.fm/music/Samuel+Hallkvist

https://www.facebook.com/samuel.hallkvist

https://soundcloud.com/samuel-h-llkvist

Ysma

YSMA: Forward-Going Tone Of Progressive Rock

Since I introduced myself to the Munster, Germany based instrumental progressive act Ysma 2 months ago, my enthusiasm for this band kept advancing precipitously. Their debut „Vagrant“ has been on my playlist for quite a while now and having them on Progstravaganza 13 initiated this interview with the band’s guitarist Daniel Kluger.

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Introduce yourselves!

Of course! We are four guys between 24 and 34 from Münster and Götingen (Germany) forming Ysma, an instrumental prog band: Fabian and Daniel are playing electric and acoustic guitars, there is Torge on bass and Jens on drums. We have been playing together for four years now and just released our debut record called “Vagrant“ in April.

Outside of the band, we are finishing our psychology studies (Torge, Daniel) or working as a healthcare support worker (Jens) and addiction counselor (Fabian), respectively.

And how would you describe your sound?

The sound on “Vagrant“ is a blend of different styles and genres. We equally like the aggressive, forward-going tone of progressive rock and -metal as well as the more quiet, ambience-focussed moments with a lot of room for each note. Listening to the record, you will find purely acoustic pieces next to loud, dynamic prog songs or the occasional jazz reference. Overall it is not necessarily a modern sound, as our drummer has a jazz background, for example. We also did the whole process of recording, mixing and mastering on our own. Taken together, we combine our ideas of instrumental songwriting with frequently changing dynamics throughout the songs, making sure that progressive elements will not be forced into the tracks at the expense of the atmosphere or the vibe we try to transport.

Where did your name come from? I tried googling it, but all I found was this band from Munster in Germany.

I’ll take that as a good sign ;) The name in fact has no meaning – in accordance with our instrumental approach, we wanted our band name to be a blank projection screen which would not nail us down on a certain theme. Thus, quite pragmatically, we were looking for something distinctive and decided to make up a word whose sound we liked, keeping in mind that it should be fitting to make a nice-looking logo out of it. That is how we came up with the name “Ysma“. However, there seems to be a cartoon character with a slightly different spelling that has no connection to the band at all.

You employ many different genres in your sound, how do you usually label what you do?

We usually go by “(instrumental) progressive rock“. Outside the prog community, even this label is hard to explain to someone listening to our music for the first time, so any further distinction would just make it more difficult.
The different genres that you mention show the various facets of prog or prog-related music that continue to inspire us and that we like a lot, so we kind of instinctively integrate these influences into our own music, as well. That is how there might be jazz-ish elements side by side with hints of progressive metal or fuzzy rock parts. Labelling all of this “progressive rock“ is a good way of being able to do whatever we have in mind without stepping on the toes of people who care about labels a lot more than we do ourselves.

Any bands that influenced you in particular? Is King Crimson one of them?

As in any other band, I guess, there certainly are artists or bands whose styles we particularly like. We have different musical backgrounds, but we all share our admiration for Opeth’s songwriting, for example. Tool, Porcupine Tree, Riverside and Pain of Salvation are other bands that have influenced us in our musical approach, just to name a few. When it comes to the early, classic prog bands, King Crimson would indeed be one the most influential ones to name. I’m pretty sure that if you go back one step and see who has been an example or an influence on the bands that you look up to nowadays, you might come across King Crimson on a regular basis. The fact that their music is still up to date shows you how much there is to extract from the ideas that the early prog bands brought up thirty, forty years ago.

Vagrant

„Vagrant“ is in an instrumental album and I am afraid to ask you what is its story, because the stories are usually told. But anyway, due to many dynamic changes and experimentation, it’s clearly that you want and do say a lot. So, what is that? What are you trying to show with the album?

It is true that stories are usually transported and expressed through the lyrics. In our music, the titles of the songs themselves are thought to suggest a direction of associations or imagery that we think fits in with the atmospheric nature of the respective song. The album does not have one specific concept or theme that is followed throughout, you would much rather find several different ideas expressed from song to song.

For example, the thought behind “Primetime Dreaming“, the shortest track on the record, is the futuristic idea of certain images being implemented in your dreams, so that dreaming becomes tailor-made to the extent that it is fully controllable, hereby losing its very fascination (to us, at least). Accordingly, the atmosphere of the song is dreamful and open in a way, but with a cold undertone. So the titles are not meant to explain everything, but to give you a basic idea of what was behind the music for us. What happens in your imagination while listening to the music is up to you and should not be predetermined by anyone, that’s the beauty of it.

One other thing we especially care about is to leave space within the music. Of course, there are faster and more densely packed tracks, but the dynamic changes – both within and between songs – are an important means of coming to rest, of “breathing“ in some musical manner.

Do you agree that being an instrumental band leaves a more freedom for you to explore, create your own ideas and feelings to the music?

Undoubtedly so. Not only does it free things up for the musicians, but for the listeners, as well. That is exactly what I meant moments ago: without the lyrics, the only thing you have is the music and the title of the track. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation and association, which is great! It enables you (as the listener) to make up your mind about what you personally take from the music.

Another aspect is that instrumental music is such a niche that the people who decide to listen to it usually have a mindset that supports this kind of listening, being susceptible to mental images and connotations. We do like to explore our musical horizons and the feelings that go along with that, which is why it is great to talk to somebody who then tells you that he has been interpreting the theme of a song totally different from your own way of thinking. There is no right or wrong, and this freedom comes from letting the music speak for itself.

Are you working on the Vagrant’s follow-up already? Do you have a clear vision on the next album’s direction or your joker is improvisation?

Yes, we are working on the second record right now, even though it is still in its early stages. There were songs that originally belonged on the first album, but just did not fit due to the length of the record. Additionally, there is a lot of new, unheard material we finished and we are excited to start recording and arranging again.

I would not say we have a clear vision for the sophomore record other than further exploring our style of playing and coming up with new ideas, some of which we have been planning on realising for quite a while now. What has changed in my opinion is that while in the past we used to write separate songs for, say, a heavy and an acoustic or purely melodic idea, we now challenge ourselves to integrate these pieces into a more coherent piece of music that – as a result – is an interplay of different atmospheric ideas. We started this approach a while back, ending up with longer songs that in the end left us much more content from the songwriting perspective. A good example might be “Alan Smithee’s Suicide Note“ featuring a diverse atmospheric spectrum from very laid-back to metal-edged breakouts to melodic soloing.

Ysma

On Progstravaganza 13 you are with the song „The Wanderer“. It’s fuzzy, heavy and melodic in the same time. What can you say about the song?

“The Wanderer“ is the opener and somewhat the title track of our debut record. The artwork shows a man wandering around (“vagrant“) having all kinds of bizarre encounters, e.g. with giant flying jellyfish. “The Wanderer“ can be seen as depicting episodes of his journey, which is why the song lacks a leitmotif (to use a German word): at times this journey may be weird or troubling, another time it may as well be calm, opening up many possible ways to go for us musically. In a sense, this song gives you an idea of what is following up on the album as “The Wanderer“ contains many of the elements that constitute our music: as you say, it is heavy, it is jazzy, it is melodic and somehow comes to an odd conclusion that hopefully makes the listener curious as to what else there is to be heard afterwards.

What’s next for Ysma?

We are currently preparing for our first ever unplugged concert, which is going to take place in an Irani greengrocery’s shop in our home town. Arranging the songs for this occasion gives us the chance to look at the music from a completely different angle, trying new things and just having fun with some of the tunes. Those who already know the songs hopefully will enjoy some of the newer versions we would like to try for the acoustic gig. Changing the instrumentation and bringing in guest musicians is going to highlight new aspects of the material we are very much looking forward to discovering.

The acoustic gig will be in late October. Around the end of the year, we are going to play some concerts promoting “Vagrant“ a little farther from home in front of an audience listening to the music live for the very first time, which will be exciting. Other than that, our focus lies on finishing the songwriting process for album #2 as well as rehearsing, recording and mixing the new pieces – we cannot wait to play the new material on stage for the first time.

Thank you so much for having us on Progstravaganza 13!

Ysma on the web:

http://ysma.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/YsmaBand

Gekko Projekt

GEKKO PROJEKT: From the City of Orange to the Prog Universe

Coming from the city of Orange, California, Gekko Projekt brings progressive rock spiced with the Californian desert flair. Their soulful, often laid-back sound shows that progressive rock is not only about virtuosity, although the members of the band are real connoisseurs of the genre. With experience on their side, Gekko Projekt is determined in giving prog a different meaning.

Gekko Projekt

All of you guys are experienced in music and all of you have worked in different projects prior forming Gekko Projekt. What made you come together and pursue a career in progressive rock?

Vance: All of us were, well, bordering on being rabid prog fans as teenagers, and all of us played prog back then.  For all of us, prog was our musical first love.  The situation was a little different in Britain, where Peter grew up, in that there was actually a prog scene still happening there with Marillion, Quasar and other bands, so people have actually heard of his early bands, Janysium and Mach One.  America, where the rest of us were, had moved on from prog to punk and metal, so there was less opportunity for prog bands.  The instrumental State of Siege on the first Gekko Projekt album was originally performed and recorded by Pax, a band I was in in Los Angeles in the 1980s.  We used to play clubs around LA like the Troubadour, but the audiences at the time were looking for something more along the lines of the Clash or Black Flag.

Tell us more about your beginnings with Gekko Projekt.

Vance: Rick Meadows should be credited as the founder of Gekko Projekt.  Rick and I played in a blues-rock band at the time, and sometimes at rehearsal we would start playing a bit of a prog tune together.  The rest of the guys were not as prog-oriented, so it didn’t really go anywhere.  We also would go to jam sessions, and Peter came to some of those.  The three of us found common ground and wanted to get together, but Peter was committed to Evolve at the time.  Finally, Rick said to me, “Let’s just do it,” and he and I and Alan began playing together, auditioning guitarists.  I didn’t know Alan at the time, but he and Rick had played together since their early teens.  We were playing some material off of King Crimson’s Red and the first UK album, just to get the band started.  A few months later the demands of Evolve tapered off, and Peter was able to join the band.

GekkoProjekt_ElectricForest_Musician_Keyboards_VanceGloster_3000x1996

So far, you released one full-length album called Electric Forest released in 2012. How would you describe it to someone who didn’t hear it?

Vance: Some have been calling it melodic prog, and I like that.  Most of the songs are instrumental, and we try to create an atmosphere, an audio world in each song.  We don’t have the rapid-fire unison lines that you find on some prog albums—which there’s nothing wrong with—but we wanted to do something a little different.  We put energy into creating interesting and evocative harmonic structures, but, at least on our first outing, we’ve kept many of the song structures simpler.  Our goal was to create music that people could listen to over and over and still find it takes them on a journey.

I find your sound calming and soulful, it’s indeed relaxing. Is it the way of reflecting your personalities on music? Or is it just made on purpose?  

 Vance: We are not aggressive personalities, so there may be something in what you say.  But I think the sound is mainly a reflection of the kinds of music we enjoy listening to and playing.  We figure that if we like it, there’s probably someone out there who will also like it!

The song „Avatar Jones“ is on Progstravaganza, it’s personally one of my favorites off the sampler and off the album. It pretty much summarizes what I meant by telling of your soulful sound. Is there any special meaning of this particular song? Anything that separates it from other songs off Electric Forest?

Vance: Avatar Jones incorporates a lot of what I think makes a satisfying—for me, anyway—prog song.  It fuses lots of styles.  It starts with jazz piano, goes into a mildly hip-hop feel, then aggressive rock, and that’s just the first 30 seconds.  But it has a story and a theme that welds it all together.  The story is about a would-be messiah who finds that the real wisdom is to walk away from being “the wise one”.

The structure of the song is more linear (a sequence of sections) rather than having repeated verses and choruses.  Some of the other songs on the album are more verse-chorus.  I go back and forth on the question of structure.  This kind of structure is often more satisfying to hard-core prog fans, but it can make it hard for others to find their way into the music.

GekkoProjekt_ElectricForest_FrontCover_1500

I heard about the song that Rick and you started together called Escape from the Mines of Titan. Was it originally assigned for the second GP album?

Vance: We are in the process of recording it at the moment, provisionally for the second album.  We wrote this one a bit differently from some of the other tunes.  It started with Rick recording some bass sections, and I rearranged them a bit and put together a demo with drum machine, keyboards and a scratch guitar added, and presented that to the band.  There will be other songs on the second album that are also related to Titan (the moon of Saturn).

Rick and you were together in a progressive blues rock bands WZMG and the Coot? I have to admit that it sounds pretty interesting „on paper“. Can you tell something more about these bands? How much of that heritage you applied to the Gekko Projekt music?

Vance: It was a fun band to be in, and I enjoyed recording the album Blues Transmission, released in 1999.  There was lots of skill in that band.  Damien Meadows (Rick’s son) is a great rock/funk drummer.  Greg Watmore is a stellar blues guitarist.  Ted Zahn is a great singer and songwriter, and he sings on Peter’s solo album.  They always did a great job with my songs, and we got to do a greater variety of styles than the “blues rock” label would make you think of.  But I think both Rick and I longed to play music that was more challenging musically.

You were active playing live in the US. Any chance to see you in Europe?

Vance: I would LOVE to do a European tour, and so would Peter, but it’s a big and expensive undertaking.  Spock’s Beard had a very successful Kickstarter project for their latest CD, and that allowed them to fund a European tour.  I would love for us to do something similar, but being realistic, a European tour will not happen until next year at the earliest.

What do you guys listen to when you all come up together for a recording session? Do you have time to listen to any other music or are you striclty focused on working?

Vance: I’ve known Alan Morse for many years, and I’ve always been knocked out by what he does with Spock’s Beard.  I’m also a big fan of The Tangent, and all of us in the band continue to enjoy classic prog music.  But in getting ready to create something for Gekko Projekt, I try to listen to music that has not been incorporated into prog often, if at all.  That seems like more fertile ground for contributing something new to prog.  I’ve recently been thinking of adding a bit of my Tibetan throat singing to a song the next album.

What are your future plans?

Vance: We are currently in the middle of recording the second Gekko Projekt album.  We have basic tracks down for more than half the album, and we’re working on recording overdubs for them.  At the moment, I’m spending a lot of time getting everything dialed in.  This album will have more vocals, and we believe it will show an evolution musically.  We are looking forward to getting it out!

Gekko Projekt is:

Peter Matuchniak – guitars
Vance Gloster – keyboards, vocals
Rick Meadows – bass
Alan Smith – drums, vocals

Links:

http://www.gekkoprojekt.com/

https://www.facebook.com/GekkoProjekt

Aaron Clift And His Experiment

Drawing their influences from the classic of progressive rock and putting them in a blender together with their classical music influences, The Aaron Clift Experiment is exploring the vast and unknown. We got in touch with the band behind this band, Aaron Clift himself, and discussed about the band’s vision, influences and their appearance on our new Progstravaganza sampler.

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Progstravaganza: What can you tell us about your beginnings in music?

Aaron Clift: I come from a very musical family – my dad, aunt, and uncle all played piano, and my dad also played French Horn, sang in choirs, and performed in musical theater.  My mom used to play a lot of records for me when I was a baby, so I was exposed to lots of music when I was young.  At age 12, I took up the viola in my school orchestra, and I later learned how to play piano and guitar and sing.

It was also around this time that I first started listening to rock music.  Initially, I was just listening to bands that were popular in the early 90’s, such as Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana, but I soon started listening to a lot of the bands my parents grew up with such as Black Sabbath, Queen, and Led Zeppelin.  In my freshman year of high school, one of my friends introduced me to Pink Floyd’s album, “Dark Side of the Moon.”  For me, it was my first exposure to progressive rock.  Up until that time, the only way I had heard classical music and popular music combined was in songs like “Night on Disco Mountain” and “A Fifth of Beethoven” (my parents had the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack and used to play it for me sometimes).  What amazed me about DSOTM was how the songs seamlessly combined the sound of rock music with the formal structure and thematic organization of classical music.  I was hungry for more of this style of music, so I did some research online (quite an ambitious thing to do in 1995!) and got some recommendations on Dream Theater and Genesis.  I ended up buying “Images and Words” and “Selling England by the Pound” all in one day, and that began my still-going love affair with progressive rock!

Progstravaganza: How did The Aaron Clift Experiment originate?

Aaron Clift: I studied music formally at Tufts University.  It was during my college years that I wrote my first rock songs with my band, Attack Plan R.  I also go heavily into classical composing and performance.  Ever since my college experience, I had always dreamed of a way to combine my love of both classical and rock music.

In late 2007, I finally decided to make the dream a reality and started writing some of the songs that appeared on The Aaron Clift Experiment’s debut album, “Lonely Hills.”  Back then, I didn’t even have a band.  All I knew is that I wanted to write classical songs in a rock style.  From 2008 – 2009, my classical pianist friend, Julianne, was helping me out on keyboards, and in 2009, I met future The Aaron Clift Experiment drummer, Joe Resnick, through a producer we both knew.  That fall, the three of us recorded demo versions of “Seven,” “Lonely Hills,” and “My Andalusian Love.”  After listening back to the demos, I realized that there was a hole in the sound that needed to be filled by guitar and bass and that I wanted to record a full album of songs with a real band (rather than continue as a solo artist).  From 2010 – 2011, I wrote the remaining songs that wound up on “Lonely Hills.”  I also bought my Open Labs Neko LX5 keyboard in early 2010 and decided to take over the keyboard duties for the nascent band.  In late 2011, Joe Green joined on bass and Jim Ragland joined on guitar.  With me on keys and vocals and Joe Resnick rejoining on drums, The Aaron Clift Experiment was born.  In early 2012, we rehearsed for about a month, and in February 2012, we went to the studio and recorded “Lonely Hills.”

Progstravaganza: Your music is influenced at large by the leaders of progressive rock genre such Genesis, Pink Floyd, Rush, but there are traces of classical composing of Schubert and Beethoven. Do you think that these two musical directions are in harmony with each other or totally diverse? How does that harmony work in your case?

Aaron Clift: All the members of The Aaron Clift Experiment have extensive training in popular and classical music, so it’s hard for me to imagine us not combining the two genres in our music.  Because I studied classical composition for so many years, I tend to approach songwriting in much the same way an orchestral composer might write a classical work.  I don’t know if this approach is necessarily innovative, but I’d like to think that approaching popular songwriting from a classical angle gives The Aaron Clift Experiment’s music a unique edge that you don’t hear in a lot of rock music.

Lonely Hills

Progstravaganza: Your only album to date is 2012’s, “Lonely Hills,” an exploration within the already mentioned classical and progressive rock genres based around the topics of love and loss. What can you tell us about the creating process of the record?

Aaron Clift: A lot of bands have been playing together for many years before they go and record their debut album.  “Lonely Hills” was kind of the reverse of the typical rock and roll story in that the songs on the album predated the existence of the band that played them.  Our story is more like The Foo Fighters’ – where it started as a solo project that later turned into an actual band.

Because I had already written the guitar, keyboard and vocal parts on the album before the band was formed, putting together the music as a group was mostly a matter of learning the songs from sheet music (if you watch our documentary, “The Making of Lonely Hills,” you’ll see everyone reading from sheet music when we were recording in the studio).  Our producer, Matt Noveskey, was instrumental in helping shape the sound of the album.  We couldn’t have done it without him!

Progstravaganza: “Lonely Hills” features five songs in total, from which the closing, “The Castaway Saga,” is an epic divided in four parts. I am interested to hear the story behind this piece.

Aaron Clift: In early 2010, I re-watched the Tom Hanks movie, “Castaway.”  I hadn’t seen the film since it was in theaters and was still just as impressed with the movie’s storm scene as I was when I saw it for the first time.  I thought it would be interesting to write a song that was inspired by that scene and put a twist on the story by setting the action in the protagonist’s mind and using the storm as a metaphor for the protagonist’s existentialist crisis (kind of also borrowing some influence from Pink Floyd’s, “The Wall”).  When I finished writing “Shipwrecked,” I realized that I wanted to know more about what happens to the song’s protagonist after the storm, so I wrote several other songs that continued the story, and before long, “The Castaway Saga” was born.  Kate Bush’s song suite, “The Ninth Wave,” off of “Hounds of Love” (one of my favorite albums of all time) was also a big inspiration for the story and feel of “The Castaway Saga.”

Progstravaganza: “Arsonist Games” is on our latest Progstravaganza sampler. Besides being included on it, the song is also being featured in a soon-to-be-released horror movie called “Squatch! Curse of the Tree Guardian.” Let us know something more about this. To put it simply, what is the deal with the song?

Aaron Clift: “Arsonist Games” is the only full-band song on “Lonely Hills” that I wrote on guitar first before later adding keys, resulting in a much heavier song than I usually wrote up to that point in time.  The main guitar riffs for the song were influenced a lot by Black Sabbath (you can hear traces of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” in the song), which is probably fitting for a song that deals with themes of manipulation and betrayal.

I met Carlos Samudio, director of “Squatch! Curse of the Tree Guardian,” at a networking event in early 2012.  He told me he was looking for a hard rock song for a horror movie about the legend of Bigfoot that he would be directing.  So, I sent him a copy of “Arsonist Games,” and he liked it so much that he decided to include it in the film.  You can check out snippets of the song in the movie trailer, and I’m being told that the song will appear in a climactic part of the film.

Progstravaganza: Besides holding the vocal duties in the band, you also play keyboards. Who is your favorite keyboard player? I am asking you this because you did pretty decent job covering Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter.” This song is one of my favorites – a piece showing that John Paul Jones is out of this planet.

Aaron Clift: Thanks.  “No Quarter” is one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs as well.  Playing the song live is a blast and often becomes a centerpiece of ACE’s live show.

My favorite keyboard players is Tony Banks (Genesis).  His solo on “The Cinema Show” was what encouraged me to pick up a keyboard in a rock band.  I also love  Jon Lord (Deep Purple), Ray Manzarek (The Doors), McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans, and Thelonius Monk.

Aaron Clift

Progstravaganza: Name a few albums you keep in a constant loop these days?

Aaron Clift: Lately, I’ve been listening a lot to “Meridian I” and “Meridian II” by Los Angeles-based progressive metal band, Phavian.  ACE did a show with them in July, and I was very impressed by their virtuosic musicianship and detailed compositions.  I’ve also been enjoying some albums by some excellent Austin bands, including “Are You Getting On?” by Blue Cartoon, “Post Future” by Paraguay, and “Super Metal: Edition Z” by Immortal Guardian.  On Pandora Radio, I’ve got James Brown and Isley Brothers  stations for some classic soul music and a Tech N9ne station for some underground hip hop (Tech N9ne’s “All 6’s and 7’s” album always inspires me when I’m feeling like I’m in a lyrical rut).

Progstravaganza: What is the reaction of audience on your music? How much have you been active playing live since the band’s inception?

Aaron Clift: I’m very appreciative of the overwhelmingly positive feedback that The Aaron Clift Experiment has gotten from fans and the media alike.  It’s very exciting to be getting recognition from so many progressive rock fans.  I’ve read Prog Magazine for many years, so being featured in the March 2013 issue of the magazine was a dream come true.

We’re a relatively new band, so up until now, we’ve only played local shows.  However, next year we plan to play our first shows out of Austin, and then hopefully do some touring in support of our second album when that comes out.

Progstravaganza: What the future holds for The Aaron Clift Experiment? Are you already working on new songs?

Aaron Clift: We are indeed working on new songs.  Now that we’ve been together as a band for some time, the new songs are rocking much harder than our older material and are a much more full-fledged band effort.  We expect to premier some of the new songs this fall and hopefully record a second album next year for release in early 2015.  The future is looking very good for the band!

The Aaron Clift Experiment on the web:

http://aaronclift.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AaronCliftMusic

https://twitter.com/aaroncliftmusic

http://www.youtube.com/aaroncliftmusic

https://soundcloud.com/aaroncliftmusic

Eva Morelli

Interview With Eva Morelli Of Ornithos

Italian heavy prog band Ornithos was formed in 1999, but due to the employment with other projects and bands they released their first album in 2012. Unlike many other bands cominng from Italy, with „La Trasfigurazione“ Ornithos brough different approach to a genre emerged in their home country during 70’s, employing heavy factor in their music. This year brings another release, single called „Invettiva al Potere“, from which we featured a song on our new Progstravaganza sampler. That was a reason to talk with the band’s flutist/saxophonist Eva Morelli.

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Your music is largely based on heavy groove with tons of other elements coming from different genres. Heavy (even thrash) metal crossed with progressive rock, I would say it’s pretty inventive. How do you maintain cohesion on these diverse music styles?

We have a very eclectic musical character, and in the compositions we tried to merge the different kinds of music mainly based on the content and what we wanted to tell.

The cohesion comes from the mixture of the sounds of each of us that engage in the compositions of Diego Petrini, the union between the seventies prog, soul and jazz, metal and funk and the new sound of modern rock is our main goal!

It’s interesting that Ornithos predates Il Bacio Della Medusa, but your first album „La Trasfigurazione“ appeared in 2012. Why did you wait that long with the release of your debut, knowing that the band was formed in 1999?

The band is the brainchild of Ornithos Diego Petrini and Federico Caprai, with the desire to create music based on improvisation and experimental sound.

After several collaborations from 1999 to 2002, the project was temporarily shelved for the birth of the band Il Bacio della Medusa, which unlike Ornithos did not have an improvisational character, but united rock, prog songwriting and compositions typically Italian.

In 2007, the project was finally taken Ornithos with the entrance on the staff of me on flute and sax. Following a number of auditions come to work in the project Simone Morelli (guitar), Maria Giulia Carnevalini (vocals) and A. De Caesar (lead guitar on La Trasfigurazione).

The band brings us to the recording of the album La Trasfigurazione (2012) and the single CD Invettiva al Potere (2013).

Ornithos-La-Trasfigurazione

How much of RPI heritage you implement in your music? It seems unavoidable for a band coming from Italy not to include elements of this genre that emerged back in 70’s. What is your take on it?

The musical legacy of the great experimenters of Italian progressive rock was accepted and absorbed into our musical DNA.

Area, as well as Arti&Mestieri, Dedalus, Allusa Fallax, Goblin and Pholas Dactylus have contaminated our musical taste; however, a large swath of influences comes from listening to the great American music (from the blues and jazz roots up to the big Zappa) and of course the English Prog of Camel, Affinity, Colosseum, King Crimson… and the whole school of Canterbury!

The Ornithos logo includes the ibis, which symbolizes Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge, music and time. How does this reference to your music?

Knowledge, Music and Time are the pillars that support our music will inspire and most of our lyrics and compositions.

In particular, the search for inner awareness was the first theme of La Trasfigurazione, and continues to be of great importance for us. Music and Time then are our lifeblood!

Would you introduce us to the concept story of La Trasfigurazione“? The interesting fact about this concept story is, to paraphrase my colleague Raffaella Berry,unlike many albums that share similar features, the concept is mainly conveyed through music rather than singing. Why did you decide to abandon this conventional way of telling the story and change it for a soundscape attitude?

Since our main interest of musicians has always been to tell images in music we preferred to create a musical texture that accompany the listener, guiding on our journey through the development of of instrumental compositions.

In it you embed the gems of lyrics that enhance all of the musical path, without removing the possibility of imagining to the listener…

More and more bands are searching for the ways to consolidate traditional music styles with modern, but there are not many of them that actually succeed in it. However, Ornithos proves opposite. What is your secret?

Secret? We have no secret! We only want to play our music with energy and above all expressing our style!

It’s very difficult today to think about creating something totally new, so the only way forward is to create its own sound and a personal… And we believe we have succeeded!

2013 brings a new music in the shape of “Invettiva al Potere“, single comprised of three songs in total, with title track in two versions (short and long) and acoustic version of “This is What We’ve Got – The Flute Song“ extracted from “La Trasfigurazione“. Where do you think this new music is taking you, in terms of the band’s evolution?

The sound of „Invettiva al Potere“ was, in our opinion, the perfect way to express our outrage at the degeneration of Institutions and Society.

In the first part, “La Caduta dei Giganti” the music is bloody and tight, while in the second part of “Meritocrazia” the sound changes dramatically, becomes more progressive and experimental with quick changes of time until you get to the climax, where flute and guitar cry a willingness to change!

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Anything you could tell us about “Invettiva al Potere“ song which is the part of our new Progstravaganza sampler? What are you talking about in its lyrics?

The lyric of “Invettiva al Potere” says primarily the desire to destroy the current system headed by the “Giants” (symbol of the established power and untouchability of those who continue to move the Economy and Wars for centuries).

Emerge from the mud the Death squads
The death of the masterminds behind the Wise revealed
It ergon masters and false political…”

The second part of the text is a message of hope: remove the old political order with a new global reality, incorruptible, meritocratic, that encourages artistic expression and that does not stifle the individual taking it or to isolate themselves or to comply with the mass …

Giants fall from their residences
It restores the artist and with him his dignity …”

I can’t not mention Il Bacio Della Medusa, with whom you released “Deus Lo Vult“ last year after 7 year break. How are you satisfied with the album’s reception?

In our opinion Deus Lo Vult is, without detracting from the previous ones, the best record of the BDM, as it captures the spirit of the rock band.

Lyrics and music are perfectly balanced and there is no voltage drop across the concept! In response to some criticism made ​​to us on the duration of the album that we believe are often used in the field of musical wanderings prog unnecessary, often harmful to the ultimate success of the work, which aim only to increase the playing time but not the content. Quality, not quantity!

Eva Morelli

Recommend us some new progressive rock artists from Italy that we should check out.

Well, I don’t know, really… The problem is that many groups emulate those who have preceded us in the Golden Age of Music. Most often stifle the personal character of the bands of today.

What are your future plans with Ornithos?

We are laying new compositions for the next album, but the main goal is to present our songs around the various festivals and live music club! Even in the context of progressive rock has exploded the phenomenon of tribute bands that clog the market live and do not contribute to creating musical innovation and new perspectives of cultural growth. The ones who manage the live music events should think a lot about all this.

Is there anything you would love to add that I didn’t cover in my questions?

I just want to underline the great value that we have always given to the artwork of our album: Federico Caprai care pictorially the execution of each cover, as I have always worked on the graphics, both in Ornithos that in BDM.

For printing of the CD Invettiva al Potere my brother and guitarist Simone Morelli and I have collaborated on the layout, while the artwork (fusion between painting and photography) is the work of Federico!

Thank you very much for taking the part on our compilation. Keep up the great work!

Thanks to you all and enjoy our music!

Ornithos online:

http://www.ornithos.it/

https://www.facebook.com/ornithosfreeformusic

Ornithos – La Trasfigurazione

Ornithos-La-Trasfigurazione

Hailing from the beautiful central Italian region of Umbria, Ornithos (Greek for “bird”) features three members of Il Bacio della Medusa, one of the most interesting Italian progressive rock bands of  the past few years. However, Ornithos predates Il Bacio della Medusa by a few years, and was originally created by multi-instrumentalist Diego Petrini and bassist Federico Caprai in 1999. The two musicians were joined by Eva Morelli in 2007, and subsequently by the three remaining members, vocalist Maria Giulia Carnevalini and guitarists Antonello De Cesare and Simone Morelli La Trasfigurazione, their debut album, was completed in 2011 but released in the early months of 2012. The cover artwork by Federico Caprai features the band’s symbol, the ibis, which is a reference not only to their name, but also to Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge, music and time.

For a debut album, La Trasfigurazione is a very ambitious endeavour, bearing witness to the many years of work and dedication behind it. With 13 relatively short tracks arranged in three chapters, it is a concept that hinges on a man’s spiritual journey through the past, the present and the future. True to the Italian progressive tradition, it is also boasts dramatic flair, gorgeous yet occasionally intense melodies, and plenty of variety to keep the listener on their toes. However, unlike many albums that share similar features, the concept is mainly conveyed through music rather than singing. Indeed, the majority of the tracks are instrumental, showcasing the amazing technical skill of the individual members, as well as very tight band dynamics and a remarkable ability in developing a narration without the use of too many words.

Eclecticism is the name of the game on La Trasfigurazione, an album that honours the golden age of Italian prog while at the same time searching for new avenues of expression. The lush  symphonic apparatus of mellotron and other keyboards is beefed up by a twin-guitar approach more typical of classic rock than prog, and the prominent role of Eva Morelli’s saxes lends a sleek, jazzy allure to the sound. While the synergy between flute and guitar, hovering between gentleness and aggression, inevitably evokes Jethro Tull (a big influence on many RPI bands, both old and new), Ornithos’ sound rests on a tightly woven web that relies on the contribution of each instrument, finely detailed yet part of a whole. The vocals, on the other hand, almost take a back seat, although the contrast between Diego Petrini’s low-pitched, almost gloomy delivery (sharply different from the quasi-operatic style favoured by many Italian prog singers) and Maria Giulia Carnevalini’s soaring, blues-tinged tones deserves to be further exploited in the band’s future outings.

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The sounds of tolling bells and a ticking clock lead into “L’Orologio”, whose brisk, dance-like pace introduces the album, illustrating the band’s modus operandi. The strong hard rock component of Ornithos’ sound emerges at the end, with a driving guitar solo propelled by high-energy drumming and supported by sax and organ. Petrini’s distinctive vocals make their entrance in the low-key “La Persistenza della Memoria”, and lend a somewhat ominous flavour to the first half of “Somatizzando l’Altare di Fuoco”, a cinematic number that blends echoes of Morricone’s iconic spaghetti-western soundtracks with a vintage hard-rock vibe and an unexpected, laid-back jazzy ending. The nostalgic tango of “L’Ipostasi” wraps up the first chapter.

Introduced by the upbeat “Al Torneo”, the second chapter develops in eclectic fashion with the blaring sax – almost in free-jazz mode – of “L’Arrivo dell’Orco – Fuga”; then it takes a more mellow turn in the Canterbury-tinged “Nuvole e Luce”, which introduces Maria Giulia Carnevalini’s soulful voice paralleled by melodic flute – before plunging deep into hard rock territory with the raging Hammond organ of “Ritorno al… (Reprise)”. “Salamandra: Regina di Psiche e di Saggezza”, probably the album’s climactic point, begins in subdued, almost mournful fashion, then soon unfolds into a dramatic, riff-laden jazz-meets-hard-rock workout that brings to mind the likes of Colosseum, Banco and even The Doors. The third chapter opens with the blues-rock suggestions of “Nel Crepuscolo”, while “La Notte” ’s slow-paced, riff-laden heaviness conjures echoes of Black Sabbath, compounded by a wild, distorted guitar solo and aggressive, almost harsh flute. Then the serene textures of “L’Alba del Nuovo Giorno”, with a lovely sax solo that made me think of the airy, jazz-tinged elegance of Delirium’s magnificent comeback album Il Nome del Vento, bring the main body of the album to a close. In fact, while the jazzy “This Is What We Got: The Flute Song” is undoubtedly a beautiful piece of music – showcasing Antonello De Cesare’s guitar skills in a great solo backed by organ and sax – it feels like an afterthought of sorts, especially on account of the English-language lyrics, which detract from the uniquely Italian character of the rest of the album.

As is the case with most Italian progressive rock, La Trasfigurazione can be somewhat of an acquired taste, and definitely not for those who favour a minimalistic approach. Musically speaking, even if the album might command the controversial “retro” tag, there is also a sense of modernity in the band’s omnivorous approach which pushes Ornithos’sound into the 21st century. True, the album occasionally comes across as a tad overambitious when it wants to cram too many ideas into a limited running time of 56 minutes. However, this is a band that possesses talent in spades, and La Trasfigurazione will make a strong impression on lovers of everything RPI – as well as providing a fine complement to Il Bacio della Medusa’s newly released third album, Deus Lo Vult.

Tracklist:

Il Trittico del Tempo Che Fu:
1. L’Orologio (5:43)
2. La Persistenza della Memoria (3:11)
3. Somatizzando l’Altare Di Fuoco (7:46)
4. L’Ipostasi (3:19)
Presa di Coscienza del Presente:
5. Al Torneo (3:32)
6. L’Arrivo dell’Orco – Fuga (4:34)
7. Nuvole e Luce (2:23)
8. Ritorno al… (Reprise) (1:47)
9. Salamandra: Regina di Psiche e di Saggezza (7:40)
Quiete e Redenzione del Domani:
10. Nel Crepuscolo (3:49)
11. La Notte (4:05)
12. L’Alba del Nuovo Giorno (6:01)
13. This Is What We Got: The Flute Song (7:31)

Line-up:

* Diego Petrini – drums, organ, piano, mellotron, percussion, vocals
* Eva Morelli – flute, alto, soprano and tenor sax
* Federico Caprai – bass guitar, vocals
* Antonello De Cesare – lead guitar, backing vocals
* Simone Morelli – rhythm guitar
* Maria Giulia Carnevalini – lead and backing vocals

Links:

http://www.ornithos.it/

http://www.myspace.com/ornithos

https://www.facebook.com/ornithosfreeformusic

Dialeto – The Last Tribe

Dialeto - The Last Tribe

In the past few years, Leonardo Pavkovic’s Moonjune Records has become a go-to resource for fans of guitarists that eschew the tired antics of traditional “guitar heroes” to focus on creative, envelope-pushing playing put at the service of the  music. In the past few years, outstanding players from far-flung locales such as Indonesia have become part of  the Moonjune roster – with noteworthy releases such as Tohpati Bertiga’s Riot, Ligro’s Dictionary 2 andDewa Budjana’s Dawai in Paradise. Brazilian power trio Dialeto  are the latest addition to the New York label, getting their first international release with their third album, The Last Tribe.

In the two years following the release of Chromatic Freedom, the São Paulo outfit, founded in the late Eighties and led by guitarist and composer Nelson Coelho, have replaced original bassist Andrei Ivanovic with touch guitarist Jorge Pescara – a change that has influenced their sound in a rather interesting way. While Chromatic Freedom featured a few songs with vocals, on The Last TribeDialeto have taken a completely instrumental direction, concentrating on compositions that blend King Crimson-style angular, asymmetrical patterns with heady Latin suggestions and fiery blues licks, occasionally with a keen metal-like edge. Though some reviewers have labeled them as jazz-fusion, the latter genre is only one of the ingredients of Dialeto’s heady brew. While technical virtuosity is definitely emphasized,  Dialeto’s musical offer exudes a surprising warmth and a pronounced sense of melody – which is not always the case with all-instrumental albums.

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The introduction of touch guitars is the key to the subtle yet noticeable change in Dialeto’s sound on The Last Tribe, adding a sense of fullness and softening the rougher edges displayed on Chromatic Freedom. The versatility of the instrument – capable of producing dry, low-down bass lines as well as reverberating, keyboard-like sound waves – complements Coelho’s scintillating guitar exertions and Miguel Angel’s all-over-the-place drumming. Though not as heavy on the ambient component as Herd of Instinct (a band with a similar configuration and approach), Dialeto’s 2013 incarnation benefits from the synergy of touch and traditional guitar, which lends an intriguingly mysterious quality to its sound.

As already noticed on Chromatic Freedom, Coelho’s compositional style hinges on subtle yet recognizable variations on a theme, repeated with an almost hypnotic effect, creating a strong cohesion between The Last Tribe’s 10 tracks.  Running times are kept relatively short, packing a lot of content in those few minutes without putting too much strain on the listener’s attention span. The album as a whole runs at a very restrained 47 minutes, proving once again that, in the progressive rock realm, quality does not depend on quantity.

Opener “The Windmaster”sets the tone, with its clear-voiced guitar touched with a hint of Brazilian saudade; melody remains at the forefront even when the guitar turns a bit harsher and the  intensity increases. Similar in conception, “Dorian Grey” also introduces a haunting atmospheric note. The album hovers between low-key, mid-paced pieces such as the ballad-like “Lydia in the Playground” and the laid-back, Spanish-tinged “Tarde Demais”, spiced up by sudden flares of electricity in the shape of dense riffing and assertive drumming, and spiky, energy-laden ones )mostly concentrated in the album’s second half), descending directly from King Crimson circa Thrak and The Power to Believe.

The almost 8-minute, Brazilian-flavoured “Unimpossible”, which best illustrates the band’s modus operandi of building variations on a theme, and the exhilarating “Vintitreis” blend the soft and the hard side of Dialeto’s sound, Coelho’s guitar tone shifting from bright and sunny to razor-sharp, supported by Miguel Angel’s drum acrobatics; while “Whereisit”, “Sand Horses” and especially closing track “Chromaterius” kick the mood into high gear, with plenty of riffs and forceful drumming, the three main instruments interacting seamlessly in angular patterns only occasionally relieved by quieter moments. Finally, the steady drumbeat and brisk, dance-like pace of the short title-track convey the “tribal” element in the title.

Accompanied by amusingly weird cover artwork, The Last Tribe (mixed and mastered by fellow paulista Fabio Golfetti of Violeta de Outono, who has recently joined Gong) will not fail to appeal to lovers of instrumental progressive rock, especially those who set a great store by technically proficient yet soulful guitar playing rather than lightning-fast shredding. The album, which finally sees Nelson Coelho take his rightful place among other distinguished six-stringers on the Moonjune roster, such as Barry Cleveland, Dennis Rea and Michel Delville, is also warmly recommended to fans of King Crimson and its “trio” offshoots.

Tracklist:

1. Windmaster (6:26)
2. Dorian Grey (4:27)
3. The Last Tribe (1:56)
4. Lydia in the Playground (5:20)
5. Unimpossible (7:47)
6. Tarde Demais (3:40)
7. Vintitreis (4:19)
8. Whereisit (5:11)
9. Sand Horses (4:07)
10. Chromaterius (3:42)

Line-up:

* Nelson Coelho – guitar
* Jorge Pescara – touch guitars
* Miguel Angel – drums

Links:

http://www.dialeto.org

http://www.moonjune.com/mjr_web_2013/catalog_mjr/054_DIALETO_The-Last-Tribe_MJR054/