Tag Archives: Progstravaganza

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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.

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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

DIALETO: Based On Improvisation

The fact this Brazilian instrumental power trio, led by guitarist Nelson Coelho, signed for NYC label MoonJune Records to release this year’s “The Last Tribe” speaks enough. Being in a superleague with other great players such Allan Holdsworth, Chad Wackerman, The Wrong Object and other MoonJune artists, Dialeto had a tough task to accomplish and they did it in a heartbeat with “The Last Tribe”.

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Your new, third album „The Last Tribe“ is also your first on MoonJune Records. How are you satisfied with the release?

Very satisfied, if it wasn’t for Leonardo Pavkovic there will be no album at all, because there is very little interest in this kind of music here in Brazil and Moonjune is making a terrific work promoting us worldwide, we’re getting great reviews in the Prog niche in places we couldn’t imagine otherwise, like Poland, Greece, Croatia, Holland, Korea…

You play instrumental progressive rock with guitar leading the way. How much of your work is based on improvisation, and how much space you set aside for planning the song structures?

Everything is created from some sort of improvisation even the Themes and the Riffs. I start playing and when I find something that I like I separate it and become to elaborate more and more. In terms of song structure I like the simple Jazz approach of “Theme-Improvisation-Theme” and I use it a lot, but there are some songs that asks for something else , Chromaterius and Vintitreis , for instance, then some other parts emerge naturally .

With „The Last Tribe“ you go completely instrumental comparing with your previous work „Chromatic Freedom“. Did you come into a stage where you think that your instruments can tell the story rather than singing about something?

Well, to be honest, I’m much more attracted to the guitar playing than to singing and I think that this is clear in our previous works, the voice plays a small role in the compositions. It just happens that in this new album I didn’t feel the need of this 4th instrument even because I’m using a loop pedal or because Pescara’s touchguitar is filling the space pretty nicely.

Nelson CoelhoWhat can you tell about your guitar technique? It’s obvious that you pay more attention to melody through your soulful solos rather than shredding.

That’s right. I’m not a very technical guitarist, I do have some skills but just enough to express myself and sometimes I may do some very dirty licks that I think it’s much more expressive than if it was perfect and clear. And yes, my main focus when improvising is to create a nice melody with strong emotion attached, so I pay a lot of attention in the articulation of the notes, bends up and down, vibratos, pickings, legatos, slide and pick, pick and slide, whamy bar, all mixed up to work as if the guitar was a character speaking in a language that you may not understand but you can feel the intention and the emotion very well.

There is King Crimson in traces in the sound of „The Last Tribe“, referencing „The Power to Believe“ album. Which artists influenced your work on this album? What are some of your all-time favorite albums?

King Crimson was always a great influence for us, but there are lots of other influences as well and I couldn’t tell if there are some specific influences on this album. The influences are always unconscious and mixed up in these so many years of music listening. As my personal influences I’ll say: Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, KC, Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Mahavishnu, Santana, Jeff Beck, Allan Holdsworth, UK, Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, Mike Oldfield, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Bela Bártok, Stravinsky, Bach, Ligetti and many others.

Some of my all-time favorite albums would be: King Crimson – Red, Larks Tongues in Aspic and Starless and Bible Black; Frank Zappa – Shut up and Play Your Guitar, Zoot Allures, Grand Wazoo, Joe’s Garage; Jimi Hendrix – Are you Experienced, Band of Gypsys, Electric Ladyland; Fripp & Eno – No Pussyfooting (this is a masterpiece); Brian Eno – Another Green World, Before and After Science, Music for Films; Pink Floyd – Ummagumma, Wish You Were Here; Mahavishnu – Birds of Fire; Santana and John Mclaughlin – Love Devotion and Surrender; Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells, Ommadawn, Hergest Ridge; Jeff Beck & Jan Hammer Group Live; Led Zeppelin – everything except “In Through the Out Door”; Deep Purple – Machine Head, Deep Purple in Rock, and this is really important, Captain Beyond’s 1st album.

Well… There is a lot of albums, hehehe, sorry.

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Prog rock and progressive music in general are the subject of many debates. How do you see the evolution of the genre? Does it need to change? Do you think that a lot of today’s progressive music is about musical virtousity and not about actual bringing something new?

Well, frankly, I don’t care that much about the genre discussion, it’s not that I wanted to do. Prog music or fusion or whatever, it just happens that the music that I like to play is usually catalogued under this genre and sometimes, in Dialeto’s case is Heavy Prog or Fusion or Art-rock or Hard Prog. But, thinking about the original meaning of progressive music I think it should really bring something new, something that you have never listened before, something that you probably will not understand at first listening and will be very curious about what’s happening. That’s what I felt when I first listened to Larks Tongues in Aspic back in the 70’s and more intensively with Fripp & Eno’s “No Pussyfooting”, this one took me many listening to fully understand and appreciate but then it really opened a new door of perception for me. In that vision it’ll be very hard to find some real progressive music these days. There are bands that try to emulate Yes, Genesis, Floyd, ELP, KC , which I think is a really bad idea, there are bands that focus on virtuosity as you said, which is legitimate and sometimes cool but often boring and soulless as well, and there are bands like Dialeto that just deal with musical concepts traditionally associated with Prog, such as odd time signature, dissonances, exotic scales, moods and textures, which is not usual in the mainstream but not necessarily innovative by itself. In “The Last Tribe” the only song that I think may be considered progressive in these terms is “Chromaterius” , you’ll need to listen to it many times to fix the chromatic melodies in your memory. Another Dialeto’s song in that same page would be “Divided by Zero” from “ Chromatic Freedom” it takes some time to understand the main riff and its form. I love that feeling of strangeness.

„Windmaster“ opens your new album and also this is a song you chose for the Progstravaganza sampler. It kicks off with a very nice melody and keeps the pace steady all the time during its almost six and half minutes. What does this song mean to you as a composer/performer? Does it give you any special feeling when you are playing/listening to it?

As a composer I’m very happy with the main theme which constitutes a long melody that has many well articulated parts that brings a nice sense of movement and seems to tell a little story. Then, as a performer, there is the improvised solo that evolves in different parts and then grows and grows..and then grows a little more. I like that adventurous intensity very much.

What does the art cover for „The Last Tribe“ mean?

I’m also a 3D artist so, this image (which some critics hated so much) was created as part of an animated short movie for the song “The Last Tribe”. The characters are members of a hypothetical tribe that are facing its own extinction. In this very dark ambient that they are living they find this very curious and luminous bird that came from the moon. The bird will lead them to a place where they will see their future. The movie is in production but…well…it will take some time to finish.

Last five albums you listened to:

Espectro – Violeta de Outono
Copo D’Água – Rainer Tankred Pappon
Conjure – Herd of Instinct
Burden of Proof – Soft Machine Legacy
Heritage – Opeth

and, of course, all Moonjune Sampler and Moonjune Recommends digital albuns.

What the future holds for Dialeto?

Maybe we should also follow the luminous bird to see our future. But the plan for now is to play live everywhere, some Prog Festivals would be really nice.

Thank you very much Nick and Prog Sphere team for the questions.

Cheers,
Nelson

Dialeto online:

http://www.dialeto.org/

http://dialeto.bandcamp.com/

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!

copertina invettiva

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

ARABS IN ASPIC And On Progstravaganza

With a naughty band title, and an even naughtier album covers, Norwegian group Arabs In Aspic deliver a deliciously indulgent yet light-hearted music which is sure to win over the hearts of prog fans everywhere. The band has been active over 15 years, changing its name from Arabs to Aspic to Arabs to Aspic II and again to Arabs in Aspic. These Arabs from Norway open our newest Progstravaganza compilation and it was a right moment to talk with the Northerners about their music.

 arabs_group_2013_photo_by_J.E.Bjoroy

How did the story with forming Arabs in Aspic go?

ARABS IN ASPIC II emerged in 1997 from Norway led by guitarist and vocalist Jostein Smeby and rythm guitarist & Theremin player, Tommy Ingebrigtsen. Since they met through their common love for 1970s heavy rock music, especially Black Sabbath, they’ve been playing together with different personnel, each playing different kinds of heavy music until ARABS IN ASPIC surged.

They said goodbye to playing covers and the band was ready with Hammond organ player Magnar Krutvik, drummer Eskil Nyhus and his brother, bass player Terje Nyhus. The quartet was later joined by Stig Arve Jorgenson on backing vocals and Hammond organ, as Magnar changed to playing acoustic guitar and synth. After a few years and two releases (Progeria, EP and Far Out in Aradabia, CD) the band was put on hold due to various reasons.

In 2006 Jostein, Eskil and Stig hooked up with bass player Erik Paulsen and formed what was briefly known as Arabs in Aspic II. The new spirit and musicianship led to some serious song writing, and numerous demos were recorded during the following years.

I have to say that the whole thing about the name of the band is a bit confusing for me. You have your latest album on iTunes listed under the name Arabs in Aspic.  So, what’s the deal with the name?

When Arabs in Aspic resurrected after a few years on ice, the lineup changed and we called ourselves Arabs in Aspic 2, since this was the second lineup. However, when we decided to change it back to just Arabs in Aspic, our facebook page had too many likes and we weren’t allowed to change the name of our page. It’s as simple as that :D

One of the first impressions I got when I listened 2010’s „Strange Frame of Mind“ was if Black Sabbath would go prog, they would sound like you do. Could you tell us something more about your influences?

Strange+Frame+Of+Mind+coverFor Jostein, Sabbath has been the main inspiration to study music. His vinyl collection contains mostly music made between 1969-1973, that probably colors our music. He’s listened to a lot of classic heavy as you might hear, but also a lot of Krautrock. Jostein’s living room is filled with strange music… However, we all get inspiration from all kinds of music, artwork, facts or even news. Stig and Erik have a more “technical” prog backround with Genesis, King Crimson, Zappa, Yes, PFM, Weather Report, DT and more, which blends very well with the more heavy style of Jostein and Eskil.

You have three full-length albums released so far and one EP released in 2003. When you look now on your opus would you dare to say you made a drastic change in your sound (in terms of music, not production) since your first offering „Far Out in Aradabia“ (2004)?

Without a doubt. We sound different, cause we are a different band. Our current lineup has only two original members left, me and the drummer Eskil. We also have 3 singers instead of one, and much more keys by Stig of course.

Your latest release is this year’s „Pictures in a Dream“ and though you maintained to keep the heaviness in your music, the album sounds a lot proggier than previous albums. Do you agree? Is that a natural progress or you decided to force that prog side during the recording process?

That depends on your definition of prog. In some reviews of “Pictures in a Dream”, we don’t play prog at all. Some call it classic heavy or classic hard rock. I agree with you and with the opposite opinion actually. I think the album has a lot of classic heavy, but it also contains all sorts of music and temper-/tempo changes. I call that prog. We don’t care to much what we put together as long as we like it. For the reviewers who only listen to Neo Prog, Arabs in Aspic isn’t progressive rock. People can call it what they want. Our opinion is that there are only two kinds of music, good and bad music :) We like to define ourselves as Heavy prog. It’s a natural process that we get proggier, since our newer members Erik and Stig are prognerds, but we actually tried to prog this album down a bit, and focus more on classic elements and vocal harmonies. On our next album you will need a calculator to get it :)

Pictures in a Dream

„Pictures in a Dream“ is personally one of my favorite albums released in 2013 and I am interested to hear what albums did you guys listen to during the recording process of the album? How much what you listen while writing music influences the final product, in your opinion?

 Jostein: Oh, thanx! That’s nice to hear:) When I get in the process of recording an album, I don’t listen to similar music at all. I feel sorry for my friends who come and visit in this process. I play only raw tapes of Arabs in Aspic:) The writing process is something that happens all the time. We have enough music almost ready for two or three  more albums, but when it comes to recording, we have to puzzle our pieces right to get an album, not just a bunch of music or a bunch of songs. Our coverart designer is also important in this process. I often re-write all the lyrics after the recordings are done, to make it fit the temper of the music, and the artwork. My vinyl collection is in my backbone, so I guess that colours our music. But as I said earlier, I can get inspiration to write music about anything. A punchline in a movie, a picture or a painting can give me enough to come up with a riff or a melody line. I record every idea at once. If I don’t have a guitar I sing it.

How much were you active in playing live in the past? What’s the response of audience on your music?

Then years ago we played a lot, but only in Norway. We did about 30 gigs a year. We had a faithful audience, who appreciated a wall of sound. People buy improbable amounts of beer when we play:) I don’t know if that is cause they are happy or if it’s to kill the pain :)

We haven’t been too active with the new line up yet, but we will. Last summer we had a gig in Quebec and a couple in Norway, and we have been asked to play some places in Europe. Our adience seems to get in a good mood and like our energy. We have gotten great feedback from all kinds of people from 12-70 years, male and female. Jostein’s wife, Helena, will participate in the Winter Olympics this winter, so that is our main priority now. But after that, there will be lots of live music… :)

Arabs in Aspic, Live in Quebec 2012 (Photo: Rejean Lafortune)

Arabs in Aspic, Live in Quebec 2012 (Photo: Rejean Lafortune)

Your song „You Are Blind“ opens our latest Progstravaganza compilation. What can you say about the song in particular?

This is the heaviest part of our new album. It’s made to hear in context with the previous and the next song. The previous song is a real heavy piece of music, but this one starts even heavier, on the last beat of the previous song. The next one is a instrumental floater, to tighten up our sholders :) “You are blind” is a tribute to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Beatles if you listen close. And that is not a secret. It’s composed this way to make you smile if you hear the codes. The lyrics are a settlement with system vs individuals. The strange mid part is a funny story. Only Jostein knew what it would contain when we recorded it. He asked Eskil to keep the beat on his signal. Afterwards, Erik got one attempt to do a far out bass solo. The space echo guitar is also done in only one take, but reversed and fucked up with fx. This part is most likely inspired by the time Jostein studied modern classic music, with composers like Edgar Varese, Arne Nordheim and Igor Stravinskij. Most likely, many of his compositions are inspired by this era.

What would be your choice to share a stage with, if you had that chance to pick a band?

That would be bands that are in some way related to our music. This would give the audience a good evening. And if the audience have a great time, I’m sure we will enjoy it also. It’s no primary goal for us to support a famous band, playing on a large stadium. When we do gigs we hope that the audience is there to check out our music. None of us like the thought of an audience just waiting for us to be finished. But we must admit, that if Tony Iommi had asked us to do a support job, we would have said yes:)

What comes next for Arabs in Aspic?

Holy Moses, we have plans! This August we will do 3 gigs in France. Later this year we will do at least 2 gigs in Norway and maybe 2 gigs in Stockholm. But priority number one is more recordings. We have started a pre production of what is ment to be a triple vinyl, with the working title; Heavy Progressive Rock. This is planned to be a heavy record, a very progressive record, and a record in between, the way we do things now. Most of the music is written already, so stay tuned for more madness from Norway!

And don’t forget to find us on http://www.facebook.com/arabsinaspic, Spotify, iTunes and your random record store.

Arabs in Aspic is:

Jostein Smeby – guitars + vocals
Stig Jørgensen – organs + vocals
Erik Paulsen – bass + vocals
Eskil Nyhus – drums + cymbals

Progstravaganza 13

PROGSTRAVAGANZA 13 Artwork Revealed

Progstravaganza 13

Prog Sphere have revealed the cover art for Progstravaganza 13 compilation, to be released in the coming week. 

The artwork was designed by Chris van der Linden of Linden Artwork (also mastermind of Fourteen Twentysix and Bow), who will be designing full PDF booklet of the sampler, as well. Asked about artwork itself, Chris comments:

I talked with Nick about his ideas for the new release. After fiddling with the idea of “13″ and all related horror stuff we decided to not go down that route, and I then pitched some ideas that I think would be awesome for “prog” fans. One of them was a robot like creature on long Dali-inspired legs walking through a landscape. I started the artwork on paper, with a pencil sketch to quickly block the anatomy and shape of the creature and painted it with some acrylic paint, then in Photoshop I started adding the photographic material like engine parts, tubes, wires. I chose a sort of sc-fi steampunk font and colors to finish everything off.

Progstravaganza 13 includes 76 tracks in total from artists coming all around the world and will be available as free download from Prog Sphere’s Bandcamp page. 

Methexis - The Fall of Bliss

Methexis – The Fall of Bliss

Methexis - The Fall of Bliss

I am always tremendously impressed by albums which are by and large the work of a single person. It is often unfathomable to me that one person can be talented enough to not only write a complete progressive rock album but also perform the entire thing.

Well, add Nikitas Kissonas the list of those who have pulled it off, and maybe make a new list for those who have pulled it off with such flying colors. The Fall of Bliss is an absolute stunner of an album, finding common ground with many other progressive rock bands while simultaneously finding its own niche and excelling there.

I think that, in an alternate universe, Storm Corrosion could have come out sounding a lot like this album, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment. From the very first twanging notes of “Eradicated Will,” I can hear a lot of both Steven Wilson and Mikael Akerfeldt’s softer moments in this music, and, quite frankly, you can’t do much better than to be compared to those two.

I certainly don’t mean to suggest that this is anything other than extremely fresh, original music, though. The Fall of Bliss is one of those albums that seems at the same time familiar and completely unique, and it’s never content to sit for too long in the same place. Even within the first track the music goes from lilting, off-kilter vocal harmonies to epic guitar solos to climactically heavy motifs and back again, and never once does it feel forced or disjointed.

With such a satisfying opener there might be some worry that the album is bound to go downhill, but fortunately it doesn’t. “Poetic Mirrors Wound Heroes” makes perfect use of gorgeous vocal harmonies to create music that is simultaneously epic and extremely relaxing. “Those Howling Wolves” drops into a darker, more sinister vein, and yet, like magic, it still manages to keep the album’s chilled-out, atmospheric, almost breezy feel going. It’s simply stunning.

“Lines on a Bust” comes next, and I think it would have fit very well on Pain of Salvation’s Be. Gorgeous piano and high vocals create an incredibly emotional atmosphere that bring the listener into a very relaxed place before metaphorically smacking them over the head with the relative heaviness of “Track the Saviours.” “The Aftermath” reminds me very strongly of Opeth’s quieter moments circa Watershed, with beautifully, slightly atonal guitars and a very effective symphonic interlude, complete with simulated vinyl cracks and pops.

And then, of course, we have the wonderful four-part title track to close out the album. From the delicately beautiful intro, replete with sampled birdsong to the noisy, crashing conclusion, the track(s) is (are?) a trip for the duration of their combined run time of more than 20 minutes. A multitude of atmospheric sonic textures and wonderful instrumental interplay take the track from the relaxing motifs that have dominated the album to more intense and climactic themes, the latter figuring especially prominently in Part 2. The Interlude, too, I feel deserves special praise, featuring some of the most beautiful music on the album and of course transitioning very well between the more relaxed Part 1 and the more intense Part 2.

Overall, The Fall of Bliss is one of the most impressive albums I’ve heard this year, especially considering that it essentially a solo project. Fans of Storm Corrosion should find a whole lot to like hear, as will anyone who’s ever listened to a progressive metal album and thought that the softer, more atmospheric bits were the best parts. A killer album overall and one that has one of the most impressive ambiences I’ve heard in a long while.

Tracklist:

1. Eradicated Will (8:57)
2. Poetic Mirrors Wound Heroes (4:52)
3. Those Howling Wolves (8:07)
4. Lines on a Bust (3:42)
5. Track the Saviours (4:14)
6. The Aftermath (4:13)
7. The Fall Of Bliss (Intro) (1:41)
8. The Fall Of Bliss (Part I) (8:20)
9. The Fall Of Bliss (Interlude) (4:22)
10. The Fall Of Bliss (Part II) (6:38)

Line-up:

* Nikitas Kissonas – vocals, guitars, bass, mandolin, keys, programming
* Nikos Miras – drums
* Jargon – piano (4)

Links:

http://methexis.bandcamp.com/

GekkoProjekt_ElectricForest_FrontCover_1500

Gekko Projekt – Electric Forest

GekkoProjekt_ElectricForest_FrontCover_1500

Long before the time Gekko Projeckt and their debut “Electric Forest” rolled around, each of the musicians that comprise this quartet were experienced performers, and this maturity translates well into their poppy melange of prog rock. At forty minutes and ten tracks, they have created an album that even the most delicate rock listener could appreciate. Their talent is evident throughout, although this relatively unambitious take on prog leaves me in want for excitement.

The sounds of King Crimson, Rush, and Camel all find a place in Gekko Projekt. Above all, “Electric Forest” may be seen as an instrumental rock guitar album with a smattering of ‘vocal’ songs. Instrumentally, Gekko Projeckt find a familiar nook for themselves, drawing in the exploratory nature of fusion jazz with the classic style of symphonic prog. “Electric Forest” is then filtered through a sheath of poppy melodies and accessible song structures. For the most part, this works pretty well, thanks in large part to guitarist Peter Matuchniak’s elaborate performance. With particular regards to the beautiful instrumental “Cognitive Dissonance”, Peter is skilled with melodic lead playing as much as he is with finding the perfect guitar tone for the mood.

GP

Though fairly few in number, Gekko Projekt throw some vocals our way. Of these, “Black Hole” is the most memorable, a warm and catchy track with some vocals I might expect to find in a folk rock album. The voices- performed on the album by Vance Gloster and Alan Smith- are not excellent from a technical perspective, but warmth and feeling is there. Instrumentally, the music is rarely complex, and, with the exception of Peter’s guitar work, the musicianship does not really stand out, although I have a feeling that this is more a result of the fairly straightforward song structures rather than the talent of the musicians themselves.

In short, “Electric Forest” is a pretty enjoyable album to listen to; a fine piece of music to put on while relaxing. It delivers the warmth and sound of prog, however exchanging the genre’s typically challenging song structures for accessible compositionship. Fans of Camel will enjoy what Gekko Projekt have to offer.

Tracklist:

1. Particle Dance (3:42)
2. Black Hole (4:54)
3. Cognitive Dissonance (4:44)
4. London Vibe (2:21)
5. Avatar Jones (6:03)
6. Erdinger (5:00)
7. Martian Sunrise (5:25)
8. State of Siege (2:32)
9. October Skies (5:48)
10. Particle Coda (1:12)

Line-up:

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