THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 5.

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 5.

Led Zeppelin-The Complete BBC Sessions.

Last year, the Led Zeppelin reissue campaign continued when Atlantic Records released The Complete BBC Sessions as a three CD set. This is essentially an expanded version BBC Sessions which was released in 1997 as a double album that featured twenty-four songs. However, nine songs were added and The Complete BBC Sessions was born. It was produced and remeasured by Jimmy Page and is a welcome, if belated addition to Led Zeppelin’s back-catalogue.

The Complete BBC Sessions was recorded between 1969 and 1971, and documented Led Zeppelin’s journey from rock debutantes to superstars. Sadly, by 1971 Led Zeppelin’s relationship with the BBC had become strained. No further sessions were recorded. However, The Complete BBC Sessions is an important musical document. It’s a reminder how Led Zeppelin never played the same song two nights running. Instead, they reinvented the song, taking it in new and unexpected directions. That’s the case on The Complete BBC Sessions where some songs feature two or three times. This allows listeners to compare and contrast songs, as Led Zeppelin improvise and reinvent familiar songs. It’s something Led Zeppelin continued to do throughout their career.

Especially between 1969 and 1971, which is documented on The Complete BBC Sessions. It documents the rise and rise of  Led Zeppelin, as they became one of the biggest bands on planet rock

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Lee Hazelwood-Cowboy In Sweden.

By 1970, Lee Hazelwood’s career had stalled. To make matters worse, his record company LHI Records was verging on insolvency. One of the last albums LHI Records released was Cowboy In Sweden, the soundtrack to a film that Lee Hazelwood ‘starred’ in.

Upon the release of Cowboy In Sweden, the film flopped. It found a small audience in Sweden, mainly due to the popularity of Lee Hazlewood. The few reviews of Cowboy In Sweden that were published weren’t exactly complimentary. Words like surreal and trippy were used. Critics accused Cowboy In Sweden of lacking cohesion and narrative. Lee Hazlewood’s latest venture into film hadn’t been a success. Nor was the soundtrack to Cowboy In Sweden.  It failed commercially. This was no surprise as LHI Records hadn’t the budget to promote the album. That was a great shame.

Lee Hazelwood showcased his talents as a singer, songwriter and producer on Cowboy In Sweden. Sometimes, he duets, but mostly it’s just Lee Hazelwood who takes centre-stage. His worldweary voice proved perfect for singing country. Especially the melancholy string-drenched ballads. That’s where Lee Hazelwood came into his own on what’s  a truly underrated, hidden gem of an album, Cowboy In Sweden. It was reissued by Light In The Attic during 2016. Cowboy In Sweden, which was recorded in four countries on two different continents during a two year period, is a reminder of Lee Hazelwood who for a year, was a Cowboy In Sweden. 

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Lightdreams-Islands In Space.

In 1981, the British Columbian band LightDreams, released their debut album, Islands In Space. It was a captivating, psychedelic sci-fi odyssey where LightDreams explored cosmic ideology. This had fascinated the band’s leader Paul Marcano ever since he first encountered the work and theories of author, physicist and space activist, Gerard K. O’Neill. So much so, that Paul decided to explore the subject on LightDreams’ debut album, Islands In Space. It was reissued by Got Kinda Lost Records, an imprint of Guerssen Records.

Islands In Space takes as its starting point psychedelia. They add elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, folk pop, Krautrock, progressive rock and rock can be heard throughout Islands In Spac. It’s a musical melting pot, where instruments and influences melt into one, as LightDreams sculpt a captivating psychedelic sci-fi odyssey. It begins LightDreams exploration of cosmic ideology that continued on their sophomore album 10,001 Dreams.

Both albums are true cult classics, that showcase the considerable talents of LightDreams. Especially founder member Paul Marcano. He had been working towards releasing an album based on cosmic ideology for several years. This only happened when he met the likeminded musicians that joined him in LightDreams in 1981. Later in 1981, Islands In Space was released.  It’s the first, in a two part musical voyage of discovery, that features LightDreams’ unique, imaginative and innovative brand of cerebral and thought-provoking music on their captivating psychedelic, sci-fi odyssey, Islands In Space.

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Lonnie Mack-The Wham Of That Memphis Man.

In 1963, twenty-two year old Lonnie Mack was already an experienced musician. He had been making a living as a musician since he was thirteen. That was when Lonnie Mack quit school, after getting involved in an argument with a teacher. For most thirteen year olds, this would’ve spelt disaster. This wasn’t the case for Lonnie Mack. He knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life…make a career out of music. That’s what Lonnie Mack went on to do, and in 1963 released his debut album The Wham Of That Memphis Man. It features a musical pioneer who changed the future direction of music.

Suddenly, the electric guitar could play a starring role in track. It was no longer just playing a supporting role. Nobody had tried this before Lonnie Mack. He transformed the musical landscape. 

Many musical historian credit Lonnie for laying the foundations for Southern Rock. Lonnie Mack was also a pioneer of blues rock, but was equally comfortable playing rock ’n’ roll, rockabilly and singing soul. Indeed, Lonnie Mack is regarded as one of the greatest blue eyed soul singers in musical history. He shows his considerable skills as a vocalist and guitarist on The Wham Of That Memphis Man which Ace Records reissues. Sadly, on April 21st 2016 Lonnie Mack passed away aged just seventy-five. That day, music lost a musical pioneer who transformed music on The Wham Of That Memphis Man .

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MacArthur-MacArthur.

Two years after Ben MacArthur first began making music with Bill Heffelfinger, the band was a quartet and had just recorded their eponymous debut album MacArthur. They had 200 copies of the album pressed, and by 1980 every copy was sold. Since then, MacArthur has garnered a cult following. Record collectors speak almost reverentially in hushed tones about MacArthur. Alas, original copies were almost impossible to find.  Even when one became available, the price was prohibitive to most record collectors. Fortunately, Out-Sider Music, an imprint of Guerssen Records reissued MacArthur.

The reissue of MacArthur is a welcome one, and means that this progressive, psychedelic concept album can be heard by a much wider audience. It features music that’s ambitious, cerebral, innovative and timeless. MacArthur is also one of the great lost concept albums. Quite simply, the album oozes quality. That was no surprise.

Each member of the MacArthur was a gifted musician. It seems the stars were aligned the day that Ben MacArthur, Bill Heffelfinger, Scott Stockford and Jeff Bauer recorded their eponymous debit album. It’s a tantalising taste of a band who could and should’ve reached greater heights. Sadly, MacArthur’s only released the one album,  MacArthur, which is a reminder of what this truly talented group were capable of.

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Manic Street Preachers-Everything Must Go-Vinyl.

As part of their Vinyl Week initiative, HMV released Music On Vinyl’s reissue of Manic Street Preachers’ fourth album Everything Must Go. It was released in 1996 and was the Manic Street Preachers’ first album since the disappearance of lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards. Ironically, Everything Must Go became the Manic Street Preachers’ most successful album.

Everything Must Go was released to critical acclaim and sold over two million copies. This was the start of the rise and rise of the Manic Street Preachers. They showcase a new sound on Everything Must. Gone were the introspective and autobiographical lyrics.  The Manic Street Preachers turned their back on the stark, dark, disturbing and minimalist sound of their previous album The Holy Bible.  It was as if the Manic Street Preachers had reinvented themselves in the wake of the disappearance of Richey Edwards.

For Everything Must Go, the lyrics were inspired by history and politics. The music was much more melodic and album which features rock anthems. Even  the instruments deployed were different Strings and synths are to the fore on Everything Must Go, which has a much more commercial and accessible sound. Critics welcome the Manic Street Preachers’ new sound on Everything Must Go. They hailed they album a genre classic. Nowadays, Everything Must Go regarded as one of the best British albums of the nineties, and the album that transformed the Manic Street Preachers fortunes.

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Manuel Göttsching-E2-E4.

Despite spending much of 1981 playing live, Manuel Göttsching decided to play one more concert. This time, he would play to an audience of one…himself. Manuel Göttsching made his way to his home studio, Studio Roma where  had kept his vast collection of cutting edge equipment.  It was switched on night and day, just in case he felt inspired to make music. That was the case on the 12th of December 1981.  Just before he began playing, Manuel reached over and pressed record.  

For the next hour, Manuel Göttsching was lost in the music. He played with fluidity, the music flowing through him as he used just two chords.  Everything seemed to fall into place. That was the case when Manuel Göttsching switched between instruments. There wasn’t a note out of place. This was a once in a lifetime experience, that most musicians could only dream of. However, it only became apparent later when Manuel listened back to the tape and heard a flawless performance. It was released in 1983 as E2-E4.

This was a stylistic departure from musical chameleon Manuel Göttsching. It influenced several the several generations of house and techno producers. Alas, none of these producers have followed in Manuel Göttsching’s footsteps and produced a timeless, genre classic. E2-E4 was reissued by MiG in 2016 to celebrate the thirty-fifth anniversary of the night that Manuel Göttsching played to an audience of one and produced a timeless, genre classic.

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Manuel Göttsching-Inventions For Electric Guitar. 

When Manuel Göttsching released Inventions For Electric Guitar in 1975, it was regarded as a new chapter in his career. It was meant to be his debut solo album. Despite this, the album cover the words Ash Ra Tempel VI in small print. This muddied the waters somewhat and about whether it was a solo album of Ash Ra Tempel’s swan-song. 

However, nowadays, Inventions For Electric Guitar is regarded as Manuel Göttsching’s debut album. It’s no ordinary debut album. It was an album that was way ahead of its time, and nowadays, is regarded as a timeless, genre-melting classic. Manuel Göttsching combined elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, Krautrock, psychedelia and rock on Inventions For Electric Guitar. The result was an inventive and innovative album. Inventions For Electric Guitar features music that’s variously beautiful, ethereal, hypnotic, lysergic melancholy, mesmeric and rocky. What’s remarkable about Inventions For Electric Guitar, is that it was recorded by just one man, Manuel Göttsching.

He became a one man band, deploying his guitars and a myriad of effects to record multilayered soundscapes. They sounded as if they had been recorded by a number of musicians and instruments. That wasn’t the case. Instead, it was the work of Manuel Göttsching, one of the most inventive and innovative musicians of his generation. Inventions For Electric Guitar which was rereleased by iIG, is a timeless classic from the virtuoso guitarist and musical magician, Manuel Göttsching.

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Maria Muldaur-Sweet Harmony, Southern Winds and Open Your Eyes. 

For many people Maria Muldaur is synonymous with one song single Midnight At The Oasis. Granted it was her breakthrough single and her biggest hit. However, that’s merely part of the Maria Muldaur story. She released forty albums, including her third album Sweet Harmony. It was joined by Southern Winds and Open Your Eyes on BGO Records’ reissue. They showcase the different sides of Maria Muldaur.

She’s equally comfortable single AOR, blues, folk, gospel, pop and rock. Similarly Maria Muldaur is equally at home singing ballads and uptempo songs on Sweet Harmony, Southern Winds and Open Your Eyes. They’re a reminder of a versatile and talented singer. Sadly, these three albums failed to match the commercial success of Maria Muldaur’s first two albums, 1973s Maria Muldaur and 1974s Waitress In A Donut Shop. Even changing producer twice couldn’t change Maria Muldaur’s fortunes. 

Producers Joe Boyd and Lenny Waronker were replaced by Chris Bond. He was brought in to produce Southern Winds, but departed after one album. Replacing him were Patrick Henderson and David Nichtern. Alas, they couldn’t arrest the decline in Maria Muldaur’s fortunes. She left Reprise after Open Your Eyes, and never recorded an album for a major label again. That’s despite Maria Muldaur recording forty solo albums. However, three of her finest albums of her long career are Sweet Harmony, Southern Winds and Open Your Eyes, which are the perfect introduction to Maria Muldaur.

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Mary Afi Usuah-African Woman.

When Mary Afi Usuah released her sophomore album African Woman in 1978, very few people outside of Nigeria heard the album. 

That’s despite Mary spending thirteen years touring Europe and playing in front of huge crowds. Mary Afi Usuah had opened for musical luminaries like Deep Purple, Duke Ellington and Led Zeppelin. Sometimes, Mary Afi Usuah took to the stage with Led Zeppelin, and matched Robert Plant every step of the way. This allowed Mary Afi Usuah to showcase her considerable talents and versatility. 

Despite Mary Afi Usuah’s undoubtable talent, her recording career was all too brief. It amounted to just a couple of singles and two solo albums. This includes African Woman which passed record buyers by upon its release in 1978.  This resulted in Mary Afi Usuah turning her back on music.

Sadly, Mary Afi Usuah passed away in 2013. By then, there was a resurgence of interest in her music. The only problem was original copies of African Woman were almost impossible to find. So, for anyone with a passing interest in African music, then Pmg’s reissue of Mary Afi Usuah’s African Woman should be a cause for celebration.  African Woman is an opportunity to discover one of the greatest female vocalists in the history of African music, Mary Afi Usuah, on this long lost hidden gem of Nigerian music.

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THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 6.

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 6. 

Melissa Manchester-Home To Myself, Bright Eyes, Melissa and Help Is On The Way.

It was almost inevitable that Melissa Manchester would end up embarking upon a musical career. The Manchester family were a highly creative family, with music playing an important part in everyday life. So it was no surprise that Melissa Manchester signed to Bell Records in 1973. She released her debut album Home To Myself later that year. It was joined by Bright Eyes, Melissa and Help Is On The Way on a two-CD set released by BGO Records. They’re four of the five albums Melissa Manchester released between 1973 and 1976.

This three year period was a roller coaster ride for Melissa Manchester. An important factor in the rise of Melissa Manchester was her successful songwriting partnership with Carole Bayer Sager. It helped launch Melissa’s career in 1973 when Melissa released Home To Myself. That audience were here to stay when Bright Eyes was released in 1974. However, Melissa’s fortunes changed in 1975 when her third album Melissa sold 500,000 copies. The success continued when Better Days and Happy Endings was released in 1976. Sadly, Help Is On The Way failed to fulfil its potential and failed to match the success of Melissa’s two previous albums.

Nowadays, Help Is On The Way is one of the most underrated albums Melissa Manchester releasedThis quartet of albums are the perfect introduction to one of the most versatile and talented  singer-songwriters of her generation, Melissa Manchester.

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Michael Chapman-Savage Amusement-Vinyl.

For Record Store Day 2016,  Secret Records reissued Michael Chapman’s Savage Amusement. This was fitting as Savage Amusement was released forty years previously in 1976.  It was a stylistic departure for Michael Chapman.  He fused blues, country, folk, folk rock, gospel, rock and soul. Michael Chapman also drew inspiration from Bob Dylan’s 1975 classic album Blood On The Tracks and Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel’s 1975 album The Best Years of Our Lives. Sadly, Savage Amusement never enjoyed the same success as Blood On The Tracks nor The Best Years of Our Lives.

Michael Chapman’s fans were divided by Savage Amusement. Some welcomed the change of sound, and realised that Savage Amusement was a lost classic. Others were shocked at Savage Amusement’s stylistic departure. They took some appeasing when touring Savage Amusement. Since then, Savage Amusement has continued to divide Michael Chapman’s loyal fans. 

For newcomers to Michael Chapman, Savage Amusement is a very accessible album. Although quite different from some of Michael’s previous albums, Savage Amusement oozes quality. From the opening bars of Shuffleboat River Farewell, right through to the closing notes of Devastation Hotel, Savage Amusement is a captivating and oft-overlooked minor classic from  one of British music’s best kept secrets, Michael Chapman.

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Mike Harrison-Mike Harrison, Smokestack Lightning and Rainbow Rider.

Not many people enjoy a career that’s spanned six decades. However, Mike Harrison has. Most people remember him as the lead singer of Spooky Tooth. He also released a trio of solo albums for Island Records between 1971 and 1973. Mike’s debut album was Mike Harrison which was released in 1971. Smokestack Lightning followed in 1972, with Rainbow Rider completing the Island Records trilogy in 1973. They were reissued as a double album by BGO Records.

Mike Harrison’s Island Records’ trilogy is a reminder of a talented and versatile singer-songwriter. His albums were a mixture of original compositions and cover versions. Ballads and uptempo songs sit side-by-side. They feature elements of blues, folk, gospel, rock and soul. Each shine through on Mike Harrison, Smokestack Lightning and Rainbow Rider which represent Mike Harrison’s all too brief solo career. Sadly, Mike Harrison never quite enjoyed the commercial success his music deserved. That’s a great shame.

These three albums Mike Harrison released for Island Records showcase a talented singer, songwriter, musician and producer.  Sadly, his music never found a wider audience. Instead, Mike Harrison, like Michael Chapman and to some extent John Martyn, is another  artist who is another of music’s best kept secrets.

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Milt Jackson-Sunflower and Goodbye.

By the time Milt Jackson signed to Creed Taylor’s CTi Records, he was a musical veteran who had recorded thirty-six albums. He would record three more at CTi Records. This included Sunflower and Goodbye, which were reissued by BGO Records on one disc. On both  albums, Milt Jackson is joined by  an all-star band.

They helped reinvent Milt Jackson by combining elements of post bop, hard bop, funk and soul. This results in music that swings, and is melodic, harmonic and full of subtleties, surprises and nuances. Sunflower was released in 1973, reaching number five in the US Jazz charts. At a stroke, Milt Jackson’s fortunes had been transformed. Goodbye was released to critical acclaim  1974. It was an accomplished and polished album where Milt Jackson was joined by a band that featured seasoned jazzers. Sadly, Goodbye failed to replicate the commercial success of Sunflower. It’s a hidden gem where Milt Jackson blossoms musically.

Milt Jackson enjoyed an Indian Summer at CTi Records. On Sunflower and Goodbye, he’s buoyed by the all-star band, and delivers a series virtuoso performances on his trusty vibes. Then on other tracks, he’s content to let other remembers of the band shine on Sunflower and Goodbye.. They’re a welcome reminder of Milt Jackson, who was one of the greatest vibes players in jazz history.

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Nicolette Larson-Nicolette Larson, In The Nick Of Time and Radioland.

Tired of the drudgery of the working 9 to 5, Nicolette Larson decided to pursue a career in music. This had always been her dream. She was determined to make this dream come true, and in 1978 Nicolette Larson released her debut album Nicolette on Warner Bros. This was followed by 1979s In The Nick Of Time and 1980s Radioland. These three album were reissued by BGO Records as a double album, where Nicolette showcases her versatility.

Whether it was A.O.R, country, folk, pop or rock, Nicolette Larson was equally comfortable. She wasn’t averse to delivering dance tracks. It seemed that Nicolette Larson was a truly versatile singer. Despite this, only her debut album Nicolette found a wider audience. Maybe Nicolette Larson would’ve enjoyed prolonged success if those who were advising her hadn’t encouraged her to change tack? It seems In The Nick Of Time, with its excursions into dance music alienated her audience. When this happens, it was difficult to win her former fans back. 

And so it proved. Although Nicolette Larson released another four albums, she never reached the heights of her debut album Nicolette. In wasn’t just the most successful album of Nicolette Larson’s career, but the best album of her seven album and ten year recording career. Indeed, the best albums of Nicolette Larson’s career are Nicolette, In The Nick Of Time and Radioland. They’re proof that dreams can come true.

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Paul Marcano and LightDreams-10,001 Dreams.

In 1981, British Columbian band LightDreams released their debut album Islands In Space. It was a captivating psychedelic sci-fi odyssey where LightDreams explored cosmic ideology. Normally, an album like Islands In Space would’ve found favour with fans of psychedelia and progressive rockers who embraced cerebral, innovative and epic albums. That wasn’t the case and Islands In Space, failed commercially. Sadly, history repeated itself a year later.

LightDreams who were now billed as Paul Marcano and LightDreams, released their sophomore album 10,001 Dreams in 1982. It picked up where Islands In Space left off, and went as far as exploring what was described as “utopian outer space colonisation.” This had fascinated Paul Marcano since he first encountered the work and theories of author, physicist and space activist, Gerard K. O’Neill. His work and theories influenced Paul Marcano  and the groundbreaking, genre-melting music on 10,001 Dreams, which was rereleased by Got Kinda Los Records, an imprint of Guerssen Records. 

Elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, folk pop, Krautrock, progressive rock and rock can be heard throughout 10,001 Dreams. It’s a musical potpourri, where instruments and influences melt into one as Paul Marcano and LightDreams sculpt another captivating psychedelic sci-fi odyssey. Just like Islands In Space, 10,001 Dreams finds  Paul Marcano and LightDreams continuing to explore cosmic ideology. The result was an ambitious, innovative and cerebral Magnus Opus, that’s truly timeless, and deserves to find its way into any self-respecting sonic explorer’s record collection.

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Phil Collins-Face Value.

Originally, Phil Collins was Genesis’ drummer. However, after the departure of Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins reluctantly became the lead singer of Genesis. It was a role he grew into and eventually, seemed to embrace and enjoy. So it was no surprise that he eventually decided to embark upon a solo career. Phil Collins released his debut album Face Value in 1981.

Critics didn’t know what to expect when they received Face Value. What they discovered was an album that switches between pop and rock to jazz and progressive rock. There’s even elements of blues, funk and African music on Face Value.  It’s a mixture of uptempo rocker and heart-wrenching ballads. They’re among the highlights of Face Value, as Phil Collins lays bare his soul after the breakup of a longterm relationship. For Phil Collins, there was a cathartic quality to Face Value, which launched his solo career.

Most critics were won over by Face Value, with some hailing the album a future classic. Meanwhile, over eleven million copies of Face Value were sold worldwide. Ironically, Face Value and indeed Phil Collins later fell out of favour. However, the reissue of Face Value is a reminder a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician’s finest album.

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Simple New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84)-Deluxe Edition. 

When New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84) was released in 1982, it transformed the fortunes of Simple Minds. They were on their way to becoming one of the biggest Scottish bands of the eighties.  Simple  Minds were reborn as stadium rockers after the release of (81–82–83–84), which was released  as a Deluxe Edition by Universal. It’s a reminder of one of Simple Minds’ finest hours. 

After struggling for four albums, Simple Minds came of age musically on New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). It feature anthems like Promised You A Miracle, Glittering Prize and Someone Somewhere In Summertime that helped transform Simple Minds from also rans to superstars. 

Now, Simple Minds were well on their way to superstardom. There was no stopping them as they strutted and swaggered their ways through million selling albums of stadium rock. At last, Simple Minds were fulfilling their potential. They would enjoyed many a Glittering Prize, but one of the best was New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84) in 1982.  It stood head and shoulders above the rest; and transformed Simple Minds’ career. They became stadium rockers and fully fledged colossi of planet rock.

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Stoneground-Family Album.

By 1971, the San Francisco music scene was still vibrant. One of the newest names were Stoneground, who had quickly built up loyal following. Soon, Stoneground had signed to Warner Bros. and released their debut album in 1971. Then in late 1971, Stoneground released their sophomore album Family Album, which was reissued by BGO Records.

Family Album was very different to most albums. It was a double album, with three sides recorded live at in front on an invited audience at KSAN radio station in San Francisco. Eventually, three sides of the album were given over to Stoneground as they fused elements of Americana to blues rock, country, folk, gospel rock and rock ’n’ roll. The fourth sides was recorded at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, and allowed the ten piece band to showcase their considerable skills. 

When Family Album was released, critics hailed it a truly eclectic and captivating album. It found Stoneground switching between genres and playing with freedom, fluidity and spontaneity.  Some critics called the album Stoneground’s finest hour. Later, Family Album was regarded by some critics as the band’s best recording. It showed two very different sides to one of San Francisco’s great forgotten groups. 

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Sun Ra-Jazz-In Some Far Place: Roma ’77-Vinyl.

For anyone interested in Sun Ra’s music, Record Store Day 2016 was a veritable musical feast. A trio of Sun Ra albums were released that day. This includes In Some Far Place: Roma ’77 which was released by Strut Records. It’s available in various formats, including two LPs and two CDs. They feature Sun Ra at his groundbreaking best.

When Sun Ra arrived in Rome in 1977, the lineup of his band was very different to the fifties and sixties. Now Sun Ra lead five piece band. Despite their reduced numbers, Sun Ra and his band were still able to unleash a breathtaking performance. That was the case that night in Rome. 

Accompanied by a talented and versatile band, Sun Ra worked his way through an eighteen track set. During that set, they combine Egyptian history, space-age cosmic philosophy and free jazz with avant-garde and space-age jazz. The music was ambitious, challenging, inventive, lysergic, melodic, spacious and full of subtleties, surprises and nuances. It seemed that the original version of a track was merely the starting point, as Sun Ra thew curveballs and headed in unexpected directions. In Some Far Place: Roma ’77 features a captivating performance from Sun Ra who forty years ago, was at his creative zenith.

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THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 7.

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 7.

Sun Ra-Jazz By Sun Ra Volume 1.

During a career that spanned six decades, it’s estimated that Sun Ra released around 125 albums. This includes Jazz By Sun Ra Volume 1 which was released by Poppydisc for Record Store Day 2016. It was one of three Sun Ra albums released for Record Store Day 2016. 

Jazz By Sun Ra Volume 1 is quite different from the other two albums. It’s a studio album that was recorded at Universal Recording, Chicago, on July 12th 1956. Back then, the enigmatic bandleader was leading a multitalented and versatile eleven-piece band. They showcased Sun Ra’s musical philosophy which took shape after a life-changing experience in 1937. Sun Ra claimed he had been transported to Saturn, where he spoke to the Angel Race. They warned him the world was heading for chaos and Sun Ra could make a difference with his music. 

That is what Sun Ra decided to do. His music became a fusion of Egyptian history, space-age cosmic philosophy and free jazz. To this, Sun Ra added post bop on  Jazz By Sun Ra Volume 1. This ensured that Sun Ra’s music stayed relevant. That was always the case.  Sun Ra was always one step ahead of other musicians, who musically,  he left trailing in his wake.  An example of this is Jazz By Sun Ra Volume 1, which is album of ambitious, inventive and innovative music from a man who would become a giant of jazz, Sun Ra.

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Sun Ra-Spaceways-Vinyl.

The third of the trio of Sun Ra albums released for Record Store Day 2016 was Spaceways. It was released by Org Music on blue vinyl as a limited edition of 2,500.  Originally, though, Spaceways could be found on disc two of Calling Planet Earth, a three CD box set released in 1998. The five tracks on disc two became Spaceways.

It features recordings of by Sun Ra and His Arkestra from 1966 and 1968. During each performance featured on Spaceways, Sun Ra is accompanied by over twelve members of his multitalented Arkestra. They join Sun Ra as he seamlessly combines Egyptian history and space-age cosmic philosophy with freeform jazz.

For Sun Ra, the original version of the five tracks on Spaceways were merely the starting point. What they became, was anyone’s guess? Sun Ra and His Orchestra took the listener on a voyage of discovery, where they were determined to innovate, and reinvent each track. This meant his music headed in the most unexpected directions. Sometimes, it’s a roller coaster ride, and a case of expect the unexpected. After all, all Sun Ra was one of music’s mavericks who was determined to do things his way. The music becomes spacey and sometimes lysergic as Sun Ra and His Arkestra seamlessly combine Egyptian history and space-age cosmic philosophy with freeform jazz on Spaceways. It’s a potent and heady brew, that’s a memorable reminder of a musical pioneer, Sun Ra.

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Sunburst-Ave Africa.

Last year, Strut Records reissued Sunburst’s Ave Africa as a two CD set. The original album features on disc one, while disc two features singles Sunburst released between 1973 and 1976, plus unreleased radio sessions. This makes Ave Africa the most comprehensive reissue of Sunburst’s music.

Sunburst were formed in war torn Tanzania in 1970. They started life playing cover versions, soul and funk at weekly boogies. These were weekly soul events which proved popular. Gradually Sunburst’s music evolved and this lead to Sunburst pioneering the Kitoto Sound, which reflected the different backgrounds of the band. Then in 1973, Sunburst released their first single. Three years later, a different lineup of Sunburst, which featured musicians from six different countries recorded their one and only album Ave Africa in Zambia.

Ave Africa featured songs full of social comment that spoke to, criticised and provided a voice for the ordinary people. Meanwhile, Sunburst’s music’s was a mixture of Afrobeat, folk, funk, soul and rock. Especially with horns and strings accompanying the rhythm section, percussion and vocals. This was a potent and heady brew. And one that looked as if it transform the fortunes of Sunburst. Alas, in 1977, the band split-up and it was the end of the road for Sunburst. There was no comeback for this once popular group. However, the memory of their music lived on. Nearly forty years later, Ave Africa was reissued as a double album and documents Sunburst’s entire recording career.

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Sven Grünberg-Hingus.

When Sven Grünberg released Hingus in 1981, Eastern Europe was a musical hotbed. Each country had an equally eclectic and vibrant music scene. Much of it was underground, given the supposed anti-establishment nature of some of the music. This had been the case with Sven’s previous group Mess. However, after Mess disbanded, Sven reinvented himself as a composer for films, television and theatre. Then Sven’s decided to release debut solo album Hingus which was reissued by Bureau B.

It was a fusion of ambient, avant grade, electronic, progressive rock and cinematic sounds, Hingus was a groundbreaking album. Sven Grünberg took the music from his past and present, and created music that could’ve been created in the future. Flower Of Light sounds like a lost track from The Orb or Underworld. It’s not. It was created by Sven thirty-six years ago and is a truly timeless and innovative track. That’s the case throughout Hingus.

Throughout Hingus, Sven Grünberg pushes musical boundaries to their limits. In doing so, he creates music that’s variously cerebral, elegiac, ethereal, futuristic, hopeful, melodic and otherworldly. Other times, the music on Hingus is ambitious, bold and dramatic. Always, the music on Hingus is captivating and enthralling. That’s why Sven Grünberg’s debut Hingus  deserves to be heard by a much wider audience who will appreciated the music of a true musical pioneer.

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Ted Coleman Band-Taking Care Of Business-Vinyl.

By 1979, Ted Coleman was living in New Jersey, and had founded his own band, the Ted Coleman Band. They had already established a reputation locally, and were regarded as one of the rising stars of what was a thriving and eclectic local music scene. The next step for the Ted Coleman Band was to record their debut album, Taking Care Of Business, which was released by BBE. It was recorded back in 1979.

It featured a talented band who combined funk, jazz, Latin and soul. There’s even the occasional rocky guitar lick thrown in for good measure on Taking Care Of Business. Mostly, though, the music on Taking Care Of Business is funky, jazz-tinged and soulful. It’s also dance-floor friendly. This is in part to the irresistible Latin rhythms and funky rhythm section. They’re part of the multitalented Ted Coleman Band that featured on Taking Care Of Business.

Alas, when Taking Care Of Business was released in 1980, the album never found the audience it deserved. JSR  was a relatively new company, and neither had the resources nor marketing expertise to promote the album. Neither did the Ted Coleman Band. As a result, the album disappeared without trace. Nowadays, this hidden gem of an album Taking Care Of Business has acquired a cult following and is belatedly finding the audience it deserves. It’s a case of better late than never

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Teenage Fanclub-Bandwagaonesque-Vinyl.

During 2016, HMV released Music On Vinyl’s  limited edition of  Teenage Fanclub’s third album Bandwagaonesque as part of its Vinyl Week initiative. Bandwagaonesque was released on pink vinyl twenty-five years after years after its initial release in November 1991.

Critical acclaim accompanied Bandwagonesque’s released. It was the first album to feature Teenage Fanclub’s melodic, hook-laden brand of power pop. With their Byrdsian jangling guitars and tight harmonies, Bandwagonesque stood head shoulders above A Catholic Education and The King. Granted, Teenage Fanclub could still rock out, and enjoyed the odd excursion into grunge, however, Bandwagonesque was Teenage Fanclub’s finest moment…by far. Record sales backed this up.

Bandwagonesque charted on both sides of the Atlantic and introducing the Teenage Fanclub’s music to a much wider and appreciative audience. After this, the Teenage Fanclub embarked upon the most successful period of their career. Their unique fusion of indie rock and melodic, hook-laden power pop proved popular in America, Europe and Australia. Teenage Fanclub were one of the most popular British indie bands of that era, with their music influencing a generation of new bands.  However, the Teenage Fanclub’s finest hour was Bandwagonesque, which nowadays, is quite rightly regarded as a genre classic.

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Terry Allen-Juarez.

Terry Allen isn’t just a country singer, he’s a conceptual artist, sculptor and painter. By 1974 he also was associate professor at  California State University. Despite juggling disparate careers, Terry Allen signed a recording contract in 1974, and in 1975, released his debut album Juarez .

It’s an album of alt-country, where Terry Allens tells of “The Characters” motivations and desires. The characters are believable and three-dimensional, with a hard bitten, life is cheap attitude. Other characters have a seen it all, worldweary outlook.  There’s a cynicism on Border Palace, while other characters are dysfunctional. A couple even become murderous, on The Run South. where Terry uses his Texan drawl to narrate the story of a drinking spree that ends up in murder, and a chase through the South Californian desert. Just like so many of the songs on Juarez, there’s a grittiness to songs that look at the dark underbelly of life on the wrong side of town. That’s the case throughout Terry Allen’s  much anticipated debut album, Juarez which was reissued by Paradise Of Bachelors.

Alas, commercial success eluded Juarez passed most critics by. The few critics who reviewed the album, were won over by this tale of life on the wrong side of the tracks in small-town America. It was one of the earliest alt-country albums, and would inspire and influence other artists. Despite commercial success and widespread  critical elude Juarez, it belatedly found a new and appreciative audience.

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Terry Allen-Lubbock (On Everything).

Tree years after the release of Juarez, Terry Allen returned to the studio to record his sophomore album. By then, Terry was still living in California, and was now a professor at California State University, Fresno. Terry’s art career was blossoming, and his reputation was growing. He had also been writing a new album of songs Lubbock (On Everything).

They were based around the Texan town where Terry and his wife Jo Harvey grew up. All these years of observing and people watching had given Terry a wealth of material for his sophomore album. He had written twenty-one songs about the people of Lubbock. They would become Lubbock (On Everything), an insightful album into human nature in small town America. They were recorded this time around, by a full band.

Sadly, when Lubbock (On Everything) was released as a double album in 1978, it was a familiar story for Terry Allen. The album failed to make any impression on the charts. Again, a few critics went into bat for Lubbock (On Everything). They regarded it as be a carefully crafted and accomplished album of insightful, cinematic and cerebral songs. These songs introduced the listener to three dimensional characters. However, the only problem was that when Lubbock (On Everything) was released, it was the height of disco bubble. Neither albums of alt-country nor country music were what record buyers were looking for. Not even ones as good as Lubbock (On Everything), which nowadays, is a cult classic which was reissued by Paradise Of Bachelors during 2016.

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Terry Reid-The Other Side Of The River.  

For many people, Terry Reid is music’s nearly man. He could’ve been the lead vocalist of two of the biggest rock bands in musical history. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Tnstead, Terry Reid decided to concentrate on his solo career which began in 1968. 

Five years later, Terry Reid released River in 1973. Since then, it’s been rumoured other tracks were recorded during the River sessions. That proved to be the case. Last yea,r Light In The Attic Records as The Other Side Of The River. It’s a reminder of one of British music’s most underrated singer, songwriter and musicians, Terry Reid, whose affectionately known as superlungs

Among the highlights, are the instrumental Sabyla and beautiful, understated ballads like Listen With Eyes and Anyway. A couple of songs  are work in progress, and it would’ve been interesting to see what they might have become if Terry Reid had developed them further. They’ve bags of potential. Then on Let’s Go Down and Avenue (F# Boogie), Terry plays with his trademark looseness and spontaneityTerry takes his band on a magical mystery tour, as they improvise, switching between and combining disparate musical genres. That’s what Terry does on Country Brazilian Funk, where he and his band showcase their considerable talents. They continue to do this throughout The Other Side Of The River, which is the perfect companion to Terry Reid’s 1973 album. The Other Side Of The River.

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The Associates-The Affectionate Punch.

After enjoying a top ten single in the UK with a cover David Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging in 1979, The Associates signed to Fiction Records. A year later, The Associates were due to release their debut album The Affectionate Punch on 1st of August 1980. This should’ve been the start of new chapter in The Associates’ career. Especially since The Affectionate Punch had been well received by critics. However, behind the scenes all wasn’t well.

By the time The Affectionate Punch was released Michael Dempsey and John Murphy had left The Associates. This left just Billy McKenzie and Alan Rankine who would mastermind the rise of The Associates. That was still to come.

When The Affectionate Punch was released, it failed commercially. The Associates mixture of new wave, pop and post punk seemed to pass record buyers by. Nowadays, though, The Affectionate Punch is regarded as a hidden gem within The Associates’ back-catalogue that was a taste of what was to come from Dundee band.

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 8.

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 8.

The Charlatans-The Limit Of The Marvellous-Vinyl.

Between 1964 and 1969, The Charlatans’ star shawn bright. They were larger than life mavericks who looked like a cross between 19th Century, wild west outlaws and Victorian dandies. This carefully cultivated image soon began to prove popular with the audience at their gigs. Soon, they arrived dressed in similar attire. Meanwhile,The Charlatans were embracing the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. LSD and pot were part of The Charlatans’ diet. It fuelled The Charlatans as they took San Francisco by storm. Commercial success and critical acclaim looked a formality. It wasn’t to be.

By 1969, The Charlatans were no more. They were just the latest band that should’ve enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. However, for whatever reason, commercial success passes these bands by. That was the case with The Charlatans whose music wa celebrated on The Limit Of The Marvellous. It was recently reissued by Big Beat Records, an imprint of Ace Records on red vinyl. It’s a fitting reminder of The Charlatans’ finest songs.

Their musical legacy amounted to one album and two singles. It features on The Limit Of The Marvellous. It’s the perfect introduction to musical mavericks The Charlatans, who having taken San Francisco by storm, should’ve found fame and fortune. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. After several breakups, makeups and changes in lineup, The Charlatans, called time on a career that promised much, but ultimately, through bad luck and misfortune, came to little.

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The Damned-The Black Album-Vinyl.

 Having just released the most successful album of their career, and one that was hailed a classic, The Damned got to work on their fifth album. Most bands would’ve have decided to pickup where they left on Machine Gun Etiquette. However,The Damned weren’t most bands. Instead, they were about to head off on a musical journey through disparate genres.

The Black Album find The Damned moving towards goth rock, which they went on to embrace throughout the eighties. There’s also a psychedelic influence to The Black Album, as The Damned begin to move away from their punk roots. They didn’t cut the ties entirely, for fear of alienating their older fans, who had been around since The Damned released  their debut album in 1976. A lot had happened since 1976. 

Forty years later, and incredibly, The Damned are still going strong.They’ve had their ups and downs, but still keep making music and have released over thirty albums since The Black Album. However, The Black Album and its predecessor Machine Gun Etiquette are both reminders of The Damned in their prime, when they swaggered their way through albums, displaying a devil may care, rebellious attitude. This resulted in some of the most memorable music of their forty year career. Thos included the classic album Machine Gun Etiquette, and the album where The Damned came of age musically, The Black Album which featured a much more sophisticated and eclectic style.

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The Idle Race-The Limit Of The Marvellous-Vinyl.

For many musical connoisseurs, one of the highlights of  Record Store Day 2016, was Parlophone’s reissue of The Idle Race’s sophomore album The Limit Of The Marvellous. It was the followup to The Birthday Party, and found The Idle Race continue to combine pop, rock and psychedelia. They were lead by one of the most successful musicians of the seventies, Jeff Lynne.

He wrote seven of the eleven songs on The Limit Of The Marvellous. That wasn’t his only role with The Idle Race. Jeff Lynne arranged and produced The Limit Of The Marvellous. It was heavily influenced by The Beatles.  They would continue to influence Jeff Lynne when he lead the Electric Light Orchestra. Sadly, The Limit Of The Marvellous never enjoyed anything like the success of Electric Light Orchestra. 

Indeed, none of The Idle Race’s albums were particularly successful. However, The Limit Of The Marvellous is a cohesive and accomplished album which is long on hooks. It finds Jeff Lynne maturing as a songwriter and producer, on The Limit Of The Marvellous which nowadays, is regarded as The Idle Race’s finest album.

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The Velvet Underground-Loaded-Vinyl.

During 2016 limited edition vinyl pressings were all the rage. One of the albums rereleased by HMV as a limited edition was The Velvet Underground’s fourth album Loaded. This classic album that was meant to be “loaded with hits.” Instead, it proved to be The Velvet Underground’s swan-song. However, it was no ordinary swan-song.

Most critics were won over by Loaded. It followed in the footsteps of The Velvet Underground, which showcased a much more populist, commercial sound. Among  Loaded’s highlights were the hook-laden, Sweet Jane and Rock and Roll. When Loaded was released, it failed commercially. Alas, the album wasn’t: “loaded with hits.” However, Loaded  deserved to fare better. Especially as The Velvet Underground had sacrificed and suppressed their true sound to deliver an “album loaded with hits.” 

While Loaded wan’t an “album loaded with hits,” it had everything going for it. It benefited from a much more commercial sound, and plethora of hooks. This meant that Loaded was The Velvet Underground’s most accessible album. It was also their swan-song. However, The Velvet Underground left behind a rich legacy. That’s despite only recording four studio albums. Each is a classic. From The Velvet Underground and Nico to Loaded, each album features shamanistic performances from those musical shape shifters and high priests of music, The Velvet Underground.

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Three Man Army-Three Man Army and Three Man Army Two.

All too often, a truly talented group fails to find the audience their music deserves. As a result, the band only releases a few albums, which are cherished by discerning record buyers. That was the case with Three Man Army, who were founded by brothers Adrian and Paul Gurvitz in 1971 . Later in 1971, Three Man Army released their debut album, A Third Af A Lifetime in 1971. It was followed by 1973s Three Man Army iand 1974s Three Man Army Two. Sadly, this proved to be Three Man Army’s swan-song. A fourth Three Man Army was planned but was never recorded.

Drummer Tony Newman got the chance to join David Bowie’s band, this was too good an opportunity to turn down. For Three Man Army, it was the end of the road  Forty-two years after Three Man Army released their final album, BGO Records reissued Three Man Army and Three Man Army Two on one CD. These two albums are a reminder of one of the most underrated British rock groups of the seventies. Their fusion of blues, psychedelia and rock passed record buyers by. 

Nowadays, Three Man Army now have a cult following, whohave discoveredThree Man Army’s three albums. They’re  regarded as cult classics and Three Man Army  as one of British rock music’s best kept secrets, Three Man Army, who could’ve, and should’ve, become one of the giants of seventies rock. 

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Tim Maia-1970.

Between 1970 and 1973, Tim Maia released four albums. Each of these albums he named Tim Maia. This proved confusing, so nowadays, they’re entitled 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1973.  They were rereleased by Oficial Arquivoknown and include some of the best music of Tim Maia’s long and illustrious career.

When Tim Maia released his debut album 1970, he was almost twenty-eight. 1970 was hailed a groundbreaking, genre-melting classic by critics. The album was a successful and seamless marriage disparate genres. Soul and funk rubbed shoulders with samba and Baião. There’s even hints of easy listening and soul jazz on Tim Maia 1970 on an album that featured a trio of Tim Maia classics, induing   Coroné Antonio Bento. So it was no surprise that 1970 spent twenty-four weeks in the upper reaches of the Brazilian charts. For Tim Maia, it had been a long, hard struggle, but belatedly he had made a commercial breakthrough. 

Tim Maia was a  hugely talented, charismatic and larger life singer, who lived life on the edge, and was determined to do things his way,His music was memorable, melodic, magical, eclectic and truly timeless. That’s a apparent on 1970, which was Tim Maia’s first classic album. It went on to influence and inspired further generations of singers. However, 1970 launched the career of Tim Maia 1970, a charismatic singer-songwriter career, who was touched by genius and fundamentally flawed.

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Tim Maia-1971.

A year after releasing his debut album 1970, Tim Maia returned with the followup 1971. Just like its predecessor, 1971 was hailed as another groundbreaking album. Elements of soul and funk were combined with samba and Baião. There were even hints of jazz, psychedelia and rock, during what was an ambitious and innovative album of genre-melting music. That was the case throughout 1971. 

From the opening bars of A Festa Do Santo Reis, Tim Maia picks up where he left off on 1970. He’s equally comfortable delivering tender ballads as he is kicking loose, and strutting his way through uptempo tracks. Whichever type of track it is, Tim breathes meaning and emotion into the lyrics. Helping him all the way, are his multitalented band. They ensure that Tim hits the ground running. This resulted in the second classic album of Tim Maia’s career, 1971 which was rereleased by Oficial Arquivoknown.

1971 is a tantalising taste of the charismatic Tim Maia, who was well on his way to becoming one of Brazil’s most successful singer-songwriters. However, after the success of 1971, Tim Maia headed to London where he discovered LSD. Tim Maia became an advocate of its supposed mind opening qualities. He took 200 tabs of LSD home to Brazil, giving it to friends and people at his record label. Little did Tim know, that this was like pressing the self-destruct button. After 1971, Tim Maia would only reach the same height once more.

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Tim Maia-1972.

After returning from London, where he discovered LSD, Tim Maia began work on his third solo album, 1972. By then, he was surviving on a daily diet of drink and drug. Despite this, Tim Maia was able to function normally and even recorded the third classic album of his career, 1972.

It was another mixture of tender ballads and uptempo tracks. Harmonies, strings and Latin percussion accompany Tim Maia and his band during this genre-melting album. Elements of funk, jazz, Latin, rock and soul were combined with samba and Baião. It was heady musical brew that won over critics and record buyers. Having been released to critical acclaim, 1972 reached the upper reaches of the Brazilian album charts. The rise and rise of Tim Maia continued.

1972 became the third classic album of Tim Maia’s career. It was also his final classic album. Tim Maia’s music changed direction on 1973. Good as it was, 1973 can’t be called a classic. However, 1972, with its groundbreaking and genre-melting sound, where ballads rub shoulders with uptempo tracks,  was another classic album from musical maverick Tim Maia.

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Tyll-Sexphonie.

Tyll weren’t a traditional band. They were formed to record a Krautrock album. This was the brainchild of  Fred Kersten, who owner Kerston Records. He approached Teflon Fonfara  to ask if he would be interested in recording a Krautrock album. For Teflon Fonfara this was interesting proposition, given his previous group Eulenspygel had been put on hold. Soon, he had agreed and put together Tyll which recorded Sexphonie in 1975.

Later in 1975, Sexphonie was released but  wasn’t the commercial success that everybody had hoped. Those who bought a copy of Sexphonie discovered an album were Tyll fused acid-rock with hard-psych, polit-rock, progressive rock. There were even the occasional excursion into avant-garde, folk, funk and polit-rock. Sometimes,  Eastern influences shawn through on Sexphonie a hidden Kraurtrock gem. It was a captivating album of groundbreaking music, where no two tracks were the same. Tyll were musical chameleons, whose music was variously beautiful, cinematic, dramatic, lysergic and melancholy. Other times, the music on Sexphonie was progressive, rocky, melodic and mesmeric. 

Despite being a truly talented and versatile band, Tyll were together less than a year. They left behind a memorable musical legacy. That’s their groundbreaking debut album Sexphonie. If finds Tyll switching seamlessly between musical genres, as they create what’s nowadays regarded as a hidden gem and a lost Krautrock cult classic, Sexphonie which was rereleased by the Mental Experience label, an imprint of Guerssen Records

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White Light-White Light.

Glasgow based White Light were no ordinary rock band. To the casual observer their fusion of rock, heavy metal, psychedelia and blues sounded no different to many other bands who played in Glasgow. However, when the audience listened more closely to White Light’s lyrics on songs like Prodigal and Pretty Big God, the picture became much more clear. White Light were a Christian rock band, who rather than play in churches, played in pub and clubs the length of Scotland. That had been the case since the early seventies.

By 1974, White Light made it to the final of the Melody Maker magazine’s competition, where they showcased their rock opera Parable. Buoyed by this success White Light recorded their debut album. When it was released later in 1974, Parable sported a lysergic cover. It was quite unlike what most people would’ve expected a Christian rock album to look like. If ever there was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it was Parable. Its cover should’ve drawn attention to the album. Despite some critically acclaimed reviews, sadly, that wasn’t the case.

Recently, and somewhat belatedly, there’s been a resurgence in interest in Parable. It’s is now a collectors item, with copies selling for over $1,000. That is beyond the budget of most collectors. However, last year,  Parable was released by Sommor Records. This means that White Light’s sheep in wolf’s clothing, Parable is once again, available for music fans to rediscover.

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Every year, it seems, more albums are reissued. 2016 was no different. Each week hundreds of albums were reissued. This ranged from classic albums to hidden gems and cult classics that had been rediscovered. These albums were reissued by labels in Britain, Europe and America. Some of the albums that found their way onto what’s the definitive list of the best reissues of 2016. It’s no ordinary list though. Instead, it’s an eight-part list that features the eighty best reissues of 2016.

THE BEST BOX SETS OF 2016-PART 1.

THE BEST BOX SETS OF 2016-PART 1.

Having looked at the best of the new albums released during 2016, it’s now time to look at the best box sets released during the last twelve months. These box sets range from lovingly curated, luxurious, limited editions to budget box sets. There’s something for everyone and every budget. Similarly, just about every genre is represented in the list of best box sets of 2015. Everything from classic rock, Nordic Wave, pop progressive rock to Berlin School, jazz, Krautrock and space rock can be found on the list. It features the best box sets of 2016.

Ashra-Complete Correlations.

In 1979, Manuel Göttsching reinvented Ashra as a trio for the recording of Correlations. This was a new chapter in the career of Manuel Göttsching, as Ashra’s music moved towards a much more rock oriented sound. Forever the musical chameleon, Manuel Göttsching continued to reinvent his music, to ensure that it stayed relevant His determination to reinvent his music paid off, and the result was another innovative, genre-melting classic album, Correlations.

With his new band, Ashra created a genre-melting album where they married elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, funk, jazz, Krautrock, post rock, progressive rock and rock. The resultant album, Correlations became a classic album, and introduced Ashra to a much wider audience and was later hailed a classic album.

Thirty-seven years after the release Correlations, MIG reissued the album as a five disc box set. Correlations Complete features Correlations on disc one. Then on disc two, there’s the original version of Phantasus which was rejected by Virgin Records. Discs three to five are entitled The Making Of, and trace the birth of Correlations. There are early versions of the songs and lengthy jams which were recorded during the rehearsals and recording of Correlations. It’s the most comprehensive reissue of Correlations and will be a welcome addition to any collection. Especially for connoisseurs of the Berlin School and Krautrock. For them, Correlations Complete is everything you wanted to know about Correlations, but were too afraid to ask.

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Budgie-MCA Albums 1973-1975.

By 1973, Budgie were one of the rising stars of British rock. They had been formed in Cardiff six years earlier in 1967. Since then, they had released two albums Budgie in 1971 and Squawk in 1972. They were on their way to becoming one of the most influential British heavy rock bands. The subsequent rise and rise of Budgie is documented on MCA Albums 1973-1975 which was released by Universal Music Group.  

There’s a trio of albums in the MCA Albums 1973-1975 box set. This starts with 1973s Never Turn Your Back On A Friend, 1974s In For The Kill followed in 1974 and Bandolier  which was released  in 1975. These albums were the most successful of Budgie’s career and feature the best music they recorded at MCA. This makes MCA Albums 1973-1975 the perfect introduction to Budgie, an oft-overlooked and influential band.

Many critics thought that Budgie would go on to match the success of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Sadly, that wasn’t to be, and widespread commercial success eluded Budgie. However, Budgie would go on to influence a new generation rock bands, including many of the new wave of British heavy metal bands. Sadly, Budgie never enjoyed the same success as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden or Def Leppard. Nowadays, Budgie are remembered as musical pioneers, that influenced several generations of rock bands with the music on MCA Albums 1973-1975.

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Cluster 1971-1981.

During a career that spanned five decades, Cluster were one of the most important, influential, and innovative bands of the Krautrock era. So it’s fitting that during 2016, Hamburg based Bureau B Records released the 1971-1981 box set is a lavish and lovingly curated box set. It features the eight albums Cluster recorded between 1971 and 1981. The ninth album features previously unreleased live recordings of Cluster. Quite simply, 1971-1981 is the definitive musical document of the first ten years of Cluster’s career.

Cluster rose like a phoenix from the ashes of Kluster, the band Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius had formed with Conrad Schnitzler. Just like Cluster, Kluster was a pioneering group who released ambitious and groundbreaking music. However, after releasing two albums as Kluster, the band Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius left to form Cluster.

Little did they realise that they had just formed a band that would release a series of groundbreaking album. This included albums like Cluster, Cluster II, Zuckerzeit and After The Heat. Nowadays, these albums are considered genre classics. They’re also among the nine discs with the 1971-1981 box set. It’s a fitting celebration of musical pioneers Cluster, who released ambitious, groundbreaking and timeless music throughout their long and illustrious career.

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Cream-Classic Album Selection.

Nowadays, Cream are regarded as the first British supergroup. Cream were formed in July 1966 and were together for just over two years. During that period, Cream released a quartet of albums, Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears, Wheels Of Fire and Goodbye. These albums influenced everyone from Jimi Hendrix and The Jeff Beck Band to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Even today, many musicians cite Cream as an influence. So it’s fitting that fifty years after they were formed that Commercial Marketing released the Classic Album box set. It documents Cream’s short, but illustrious successful career.

Each of Cream’s albums were released to critical acclaim and went on to sell in vast quantities. Cream’s four albums were certified gold and platinum on three continents and sold over fifteen million copies of Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears and Wheels Of Fire and Goodbye. That’s why Cream are nowadays, regarded as rock royalty. 

They were also the first British supergroup. Other followed in Cream’s wake. However, Cream achieved more than most in just under three years. Each of their albums found Cream’s music evolving as they continued to create groundbreaking music. This ranged from blues rock to hard rock and psychedelia during Cream’s short, but illustrious successful career. The quartet of albums Cream’s released between December 1966 and March 1969 can be found in the Classic Album Selection box set. It’s the perfect introduction to the first, and many say best British supergroup, Cream.

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Electric Light Orchestra-The Studio Albums 1973-1977.

After the Electric Light Orchestra’s two album deal with Harvest ran out, they signed to Warner Bros. This was the start of a new chapter in the Electric Light Orchestra story. Part of this story is documented on the Electric Light Orchestra The Studio Albums 1973-1977 box set. It was released by Sony Music Group and features five albums, including On the Third Day, Eldorado, Face The Music, A New World Record and Out Of The Blue. They feature the rise and rise of the Electric Light Orchestra,

From Face The Music through A New World Record to Out Of The Blue, Electric Light Orchestra’s classic sound emerged. It was slick, polished, melodic and hook-laden. This was quite different to their first two albums that Electric Light Orchestra released, Electric Light Orchestra and ELO 2. After this, the Electric Light Orchestra continued to evolve musically between 1973 and 1977. 

During this period, the Electric Light Orchestra sold the best part of twenty million albums. This includes some of the best music of Electric Light Orchestra’s career. There’s the concept album Eldorado and the five million selling A New World Record. It features a slick, polished, melodic and hook-laden sound. This continues on the Electric Light Orchestra’s Magnus Opus, Out Of The Blue. Nothing else came close to the Electric Light Orchestra’s classic album.

For many people, the Electric Light Orchestra released their finest music between 1973 and 1977. That’s the period that the Electric Light Orchestra The Studio Albums 1973-1977 covers. It’s the perfection introduction, or reminder to, one of the greatest British bands of the seventies, Electric Light Orchestra at their creative zenith. 

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Impulse!-1961-1974.

For anyone interested in jazz, and especially the music released by the Impulse! label, then the Impulse 1961-1974 box set was a must have. It featured twenty-five CDs including Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Charles Mingus, McCoy Tyner, Chico Hamilton Quintet, Earl Hines, Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane Quartet, Shelly Manne, Charlie Haden and Tom Scott. There’s everything from big bands to trios, quartets and soloists. Similarly, a variety of sub-genres of jazz are represented on the Impulse 1961-1974 box set. It was released by Decca and celebrates the first thirteen years of the Impulse! story.  

There’s everything from avant-garde to bop to the cool school, free jazz, fusion, hard bop, Latin and post bop makes an appearance on the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set. That’s no surprise. Many of the giants of jazz spent time signed to Impulse! They seem to have been afforded creative freedom. There was nobody trying to tell artists what direction their music should head in. While this may not have resulted in music that was hugely successful commercially, but it was innovative, inventive and influential. Especially during the period Bob Thiele was at the helm of Impulse!

Nowadays, Bob Thiele’s name is synonymous with Impulse! He was at at the helm between 1961 and 1969. That was when Impulse! released some of its most important and influential music. After Bob Thiele’s departure, still, Impulse! continued to release important, innovative, inventive and influential music. However, not as regularly as it once had. Some of the albums were hit or miss affairs. Impulse! continued to release albums regularly, but no longer was the label consistently releasing classic albums. They were in short supply. 

Still, though, many of the artists signed to Impulse! after Bob Thiele’s departure were pioneers. They continued to released ambitious and groundbreaking music. Some of that music features in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set. It’s a tantalising taste of one of the jazz’s legendary labels, and some which was home to many of the giants and pioneers of jazz.

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Jethro Tull-Aqualung-40th Anniversary Adapted Edition

In 1971, Jethro Tull released what would become their first classic album, Aqualung. It was Jethro Tull’s most ambitious and cerebral album, Aqualung. It was a concept album that examined ”the distinction between religion and God.” This seemed an unlikely subject for an album, even a seventies concept album. 

It found Jethro Tull combined progressive rock with folk, blues, hard rock and even psychedelia. The music features Jethro Tull at their most cerebral, and became the band’s most successful album. In America alone, Aqualung sold three million copies, and seven million copies worldwide. Suddenly, Jethro Tull were one of the biggest selling bands in the world. 

Forty-five years later, and PLG reissued Aqualung. This was the 40th Anniversary Adapted Edition which was a two CD and two DVD set. Again, Steven Wilson appears to have taken great care with the remastering. It’s certainly not over loud and has a punchiness.  The remix seems slightly larger and wider. There’s also a slightly more open sound. This remix also benefits from a greater degree of separation, while some of the instruments much clearer. However, this remix won’t suit everyone. That’s why the 40th Anniversary Adapted Edition should be seen as something to compliment, not  replace for the original album. Having said that, it’s a worthwhile addition to a collection and would make the perfect companion to the original version of Aqulung. 

Disc two, which features sixteen “associated recordings” from 1970 and 1971. This includes earlier versions of certain songs. It’s interesting to compare them to what they eventually became. Some of the songs never found their way onto Aqualung, This will make them an interesting musical document for fans of Jethro Tull. So will the two DVDs. 

DVD one features the Steven Wilson 5.1 surround and stereo mixes of the Aqualung, and associated recordings 1970-1971. Then on DVD two, there’s flat transfer of the original album and EP, plus stereo and quadrophonic mixes. Both the flat transfer of the album and the quadraphonic mixes are interesting musical artefacts from a  musical point of view. They’re a fascinating insight into Aqualung, the album that transformed Jethro Tull. 

They were now one of the biggest rock bands in the world after the success of Aqualung. That’s where they remained for much of seventies. For a while, it seemed that everything Jethro Tull touched to silver, gold or platinum. However, Aqualung was one of Jethro Tull’s finest hours, and set the bar high for future albums.

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Jethro Tull-Stand Up-The Elevated Edition.

When Jethro Tull released their sophomore album Stand Up in September 1969, the album was a game-changer. It was a much more eclectic album. Whilst there was still a blues rock sound on Stand Up, Jethro Tull were expanding their musical palette. They combined elements of Celtic, classical, folk and rock. This new and more eclectic sound struck a nerve with critics and record buyers.

Stand Up was well received and sold well on both sides of The Atlantic. Little did Jethro Tull realise that this was the beginning of a golden period in their career. So it was fitting that The Elevated Edition-Remixed and Remastered Edition of Stand Up was rereleased by PLG as a two CD and DVD box set.

 Disc one features the original album remixed and remastered by Steven Wilson. He has remastered several Jethro Tull albums, and as usual, has done a good job. Stand Up certainly has’t become a victim of the loudness wars. Meanwhile, the remix is larger, wider and has a more open sound the than the original album. There’s a greater degree of separation, while some instruments sounding much clearer. However, remixing an entire album always results in much debate. Maybe the way to view The Elevated Edition isn’t as a replacement to an original copy, but something to complement it. 

Complimenting the remastered and remixed version of Stand Up on disc ore are six bonus tracks. Then disc two features Jethro Tull in concert at the Stockholm Konserthurst, 9th January 1969. Other tracks include mono single versions of Living in the Past and Driving Song. The DVD features 5.1 surround mix, a flat transfer of the original stereo album, film footage and Jethro Tull live at the Stockholm Konserthurst,on 9th January 1969.  For fans of Jethro Tull this is a reminder of what was the start of a golden period for Jethro Tull.

During this golden period, it seemed that Jethro Tull could do no wrong. Their albums were released to critical acclaim and sold by the million. Jethro Tull became one of the most successful British rock bands of the seventies. The album that transformed the fortune of Jethro Tull was their sophomore album, Stand Up.

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John Miles-The Decca Albums.

Forty years ago in 1976, John Miles released his most successful single Music. Since then, every time John Miles’ name comes up in conversation, Music is mentioned. That must be frustrating for the English singer-songwriter. After all, John Miles released ten albums between 1976 and 1999. This includes the four albums he released on  Decca Records. They can be found on the five disc John Miles box set, The Decca Albums. It was released by Decca Records and also includes a BBC Live In Concert recording from March 1978. The Decca Albums box set is a reminder that there’s much more to John Miles than one single. 

The Decca Years were also the most productive period of John Miles’ career. During The Decca Years, John Miles averaged an album a year. These albums featured songs by the John Miles and Bob Marshall songwriting partnership. They were responsible for some of the best music of John Miles’ four decade recording career. This included the four studio albums that John Miles released for Decca.

John Miles  most successful album was his debut album Rebel. It was produced by Alan Parsons, and was released in 1976. Rebel  enjoyed commercial success not just in Britain in Europe, but also in America. The success continued with the release of Stranger In The City in 1977. Audiences were won over by John Miles’ music which ranged from pop to blue eyed soul, funk, rock and soul. However, after two successful album John Miles deeded to change direction on Zaragon.

John Miles decided to moved towards rock epics. This attempt to reinvent his music to ensure it stayed relevant backfired. Zaragon failed to chart in America, and failed to replicate the success of John’s two previous albums. To try and kickstart John Miles career, Alan Parsons returned to produce MMPH-More Miles Per Hour. The result was a much more cohesive and focused album that was sweetened by orchestral arrangements. Despite this, the album failed to chart in America, but was slightly more successful in Britain and Europe. That wasn’t good enough for Decca Records.

After More Miles Per Hour, John Miles parted company with Decca Records. After just four years and four albums, The Decca Years were over. They feature on the recently released five disc box set, The Decca Years. It was released by Decca Records, and includes the four albums John Miles released for Decca Records. The fifth disc features the BBC Live In Concert recording from March 1978. It’s a tantalising taste of John Miles and his tight, talented band at their best. The live disc is a welcome addition, to The Decca Years. So are the bonus tracks that feature on each disc. That’s why The Decca Years is without doubt, a truly comprehensive retrospective of the early part John Miles’ four decade recording career.

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John Wetton-The Official Bootleg Collection Volume 1

Last year, John Wetton released The Official Bootleg Archive Volume 1, a six CD box set. It’s a collection of three of John Wetton’s previously released Official Bootlegs, which have been out of print for the best part of ten years. These three concerts were recorded  between 1996 and 1999. The first is Live In Argentina 1996 which features on discs one and two. Live In Osaka 1997 features on discs three and four. On discs five and six, is Live At The Sun Plaza Tokyo 1998. With his tongue firmly in his cheek, John Wetton decided to call this box set The Official Bootleg-Archive Volume 1. This was a very welcome reissue.

After all, these three Official Bootlegs have been out of print for over ten years. This meant newcomers to John Wetton’s music were unable to discover Live In Argentina, Live In Osaka 1997 and Live At The Sun Plaza Tokyo 1999. John Wetton knew it made sense to reissue this trio of live albums. He decided that the time had come to rectify this. Each of the three concerts were remastered and are reissued as part of The Official Bootleg-Archive Volume 1. It’s a six CD box set that has recently been released by the Primary Purpose label. 

The Official Bootleg-Archive Volume 1 box set is a reissue that will appeal to many music fans. This includes fans of Mogul Thrash, Family, King Crimson, Uriah Heep, UK and Asia. Then there’s John Wetton’s loyal fans, who have followed his solo career closely over the past four decades. Especially during the nineties, when the three concerts on The Official Bootleg-Archive Volume 1 were recorded. They’re sure to bring back memories of John Wetton live, in the late nineties, which was one of the most fruitful periods of his solo career.

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THE BEST BOX SETS OF 2016-PART 2.

THE BEST BOX SETS OF 2016-PART 2.

Klaus Schulze-Dark Side Of The Moog Volumes 1-4.

When Klaus Schulze agreed to collaborate with Pete Namlook, little did he realise that this was the start of a partnership that lasted fourteen years. The first volume in the Dark Side Of The Moog series was released in 1994. Fourteen years later, the eleventh and final volume was released in 2008. Last year, the Dark Side Of The Moog series were recently reissued by MIG as three box sets.

The first box set featured The Dark Side Of The Moog Volumes 1-4. This included Part 1-Wish You Were There, which was released in 1994, which was a fusion of ambient, avant-garde, electronica and techno. This was a starting point for future volumes 

For Klaus Schulze, this was a stylistic departure and introduced his music to a much wider audience. This was the start of a long running and successful series.  A year later, Part 2-A Saucerful Of Ambience was released in 1995. Just like the first instalment in the series, this limited edition release soon sold out. It was a similar case when Part 3-Atom Heart Brother Part I-VI was released later in 1995. The Dark Side Of The Moog had become a successful series.

For the fourth instalment in the series, Klaus Schulze and Pete Namlook were joined by American musician, composer and producer Bill Laswell. He featured on the next three instalments. This included Part 4-Three Pipers At The Gates Of Dawn. Just like previous volumes, the mixture of fusion of ambient, electronica, modern classical and techno proved popular with fans old and new. That was no surprise.

Throughout his career, Klaus Schulze who continued to reinvent his music and release music that was innovative and relevant. That was the case when he began collaborating with Pete Namlook, on The Dark Side Of The Moog. A reminder of that is the Dark Side Of The Moog Volumes 1-4 box set, which features timeless music made my two and then three musical innovators.

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Klaus Schulze-Dark Side Of The Moog 2 Volumes 5-8.

As part of the ongoing Klaus Schulze reissue program, MIG released the eleven volumes of Dark Side Of The Moog in three box sets during 2016. Each came with a bonus disc of previously unreleased material. For fans of Klaus Schulze this was a veritable musical feast.This was the perfect way to celebrate Klaus Schulze’s fourteen year collaboration with Pete Namlook. It began in 1994 and continued until 2008.

Dark Side Of The Moog 2 Volumes 5-8 covers the period between 1996 and 1999. The first of the four volumes in the box set is Part 5-Psychedelic Brunch. Again, Klaus Schulze and Pete Namlook were again joined by Bill Laswell. He played an important part in another eclectic album. Everything from ambient, abstract and avant-garde rubbed shoulders with elements of the Berlin School, electronica, modern classical. It was another captivating combination, that resulted in another successful album.

It was a similar case with Part 6-The Final DAT when it was released in 1997. This time, abstract ambient and avant-garde were combined Berlin School, electronica and trance to create a successful cinematic and  genre-melting album. However, when Part 7-Obscured By Klaus was released late in 1998, it became apparent that Bill Laswell had less of an influence on the album. As a result, the album’s amy, ethereal and ruminative and understated was much more similar to the first three volumes in the Dark Side Of The Moog series.

When Part 8-Careful With The AKS, Peter was released in 1999, three had become two. Klaus Schulze and Pete Namlook had recorded Careful With The AKS live, and in the process, fused ambient with electronica and experimental with dub and drum ’n’ bass. Later, Pete Namlook edited the album prior to its release. When Part 8-Careful With The AKS was released later in 1998, the Dark Side Of The Moog success story continued.

Partly, this was because of their determination to reinvent the music that found its way onto the volumes of Dark Side Of The Moog. Never did Klaus Schulze and Pete Namlook remake the same album. Instead, they contented to reinvent their music to ensure it stayed relevant and proved successful. This they continued to do, as Side Of The Moog 2 Volumes 5-8 proves.

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Klaus Schulze-Dark Side Of The Moog 3 Volumes 9-11.

Hard on the heels of the Dark Side Of The Moog 2, MIG released Dark Side Of The Moog 3 as part of the Klaus Schulze reissue program. Just like the two previous box sets, Dark Side Of The Moog 3 came with a bonus disc of previously unreleased material. This veritable musical feast continued. 

Despite the continued success of Dark Side Of The Moog series, three years passed before Klaus Schulze and Pete Namlook returned in 2002, with Part 9-Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Mother. It was a six part suite of genre-melting music where elements of ambient music and avant-garde were combined with electronica and experimental music. Again, the music was understated, dreamy, ethereal and melancholy. Just like previous albums, Part 9-Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Mother had a a truly timeless sound. Despite three years away, The Dark Side Of The Moog’s music was still relevant.

It was another three years before The Dark Side Of The Moog X, which featured Astro Know Me Domina, a six part suite was released in 2005. As usual, ambient music was the starting point, and elements of Berlin School and electronica are added to an album of atmospheric soundscapes. They’re variously dark, dreamy, elegiac, melancholy moody and ruminative. Mostly though, the music is ambient on The Dark Side Of The Moog X. It marked the welcome return of what this long running collaboration. Sadly, it was almost at an end.

Another three years passed before The Dark Side Of The Moog XI was released. It featured a seven part musical suite, The Heart Of Our Nearest Star which was released as a double album, featuring stereo and surround sound versions of the album. Both versions feature in The Dark Side Of The Moog Volumes 9-11 box set. It’s another genre-melting album where elements of abstract and ambient combine with avant-garde, Berlin School and electronica as The Dark Side Of The Moog take the listener on their final journey. 

For part of the journey, the music is hypnotic. Meanwhile, the music veers between atmospheric to futuristic and dark and mesmeric. Later a glistening ambient sound begins to unfold. It’s variously dreamy, elegiac, thoughtful and wistful as the arrangement glides along; Later, the earlier sound returns before The Dark Side Of The Moog take their bow.

The Dark Side Of The Moog XI proved to be the final instalment in what had been a long-running and successful series. Four years later Pete Namlook passed away four years on 8th November 2012. That day, German music lost a true pioneer who played his part in a groundbreaking series, The Dark Side Of The Moog.

Over a fourteen year period, Klaus Schulze and Pete Namlook continually reinvented their music. While ambient music was usually the starting point, different ingredients were used throughout the series. This ranged from abstract and avant-garde to Berlin, electronica and experimental music. Other times, elements of drum ’n’ bass, psychedelia, rock and techno were added and combined by Klaus Schulze and Pete Namlook as they continued to push musical boundaries. That was the case throughout the series, and on the Dark Side Of The Moog 3 Volumes 9-11 box set. It features music that’s not only innovative, but influential and truly timeless.

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Motorpsycho-Angels and Daemons At Play.

During a career that’s spanned twenty-seven years, Motorpsycho have won an Edvardprisen and four Spellemannprisen Awards. This included a Spellemannprisen awards for their 1997 double album Angels and Daemons At Play. It was a landmark album for Motorpsycho, and marked their coming of age musically. This makes Angels and Daemons At Play one of the most important albums in Motorpsycho’s back-catalogue. That’s why it recently became the fourth instalment in Rune Grammofon’s luxury box set reissue program.    

Angels and Daemons was a groundbreaking, genre-melting, album, where Motorpsycho combined elements of alt rock, avant-garde, electronica and experimental music with Krautrock, post rock, psychedelia, space rock and stoner rock. All these genres can be heard on Angels and Daemons. Some are only glimpsed briefly, while others play a larger part in the sound and success of Angels and Daemons. It transformed Motorpsycho into one of Norway’s most successful bands.

Especially after Angels and Daemons reached number two in the Norwegian charts, and became the most successful album of Motorpsycho’s career. It also went on to win a Spellemannprisen awards in the hard rock category later in 1997. This was the third Spellemannprisen awards of Motorpsycho’s career so far. So it’s fitting that it was released as a lavish, luxurious and lovingly curated six CD box set. It’s a fitting way to celebrate Angels and Daemons which was Motorpsycho’s coming of age musically and nowadays, is regarded as one of their classic albums.

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Paul McCartney-Pure McCartney-Deluxe Box Set.

Pure McCartney is a celebration of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles career. It features sixty-six songs from Paul McCartney’s solo career and his time with Wings. They’re an eclectic selection of songs that were released between 1970 and 2014. That’s a lot of music to choose from. So choosing just sixty-six songs can’t have been easy. Especially since Paul McCartney has released thirty-three albums since leaving The Beatles.  Quite simply, he was spoiled for choice. However,  after much contemplation, and has come up with an interesting and eclectic selection of songs. They’re  the perfect introduction to Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles’ career. 

Both his solo career and his time with Wings. They’re well represented on Pure McCartney. Songs like Band On The Run, Jet, Let ‘Em In, Live and Let Die, Silly Love Songs and With A Little Luck are a reminder of just how good a band Wings were on their day. Sadly, in Britain, Wings neither received the credit nor recognition their music deserved. Partly, that was because of the inevitable comparison with The Beatles. This must have been hugely frustrating for Paul McCartney. Especially when you realise just how good some of Wings’ contributions are.

It’s a similar case with Paul McCartney’s solo albums. He digs deep into his back-catalogues and chooses several songs from Ram, the only album credited to Paul and Linda  McCartney. This 1971 album is oft-overlooked, and well worth rediscovering. After hearing the tracks on Pure McCartney, many record buyers will be seeking out a copy of Ram. That is sure to be the case with many of  albums that Paul McCartney has chosen tracks from.

Most of the time, Paul McCartney has chosen well on Pure McCartney. Obviously, there’s a few debatable choices. This includes the dreadful We All Stand Together. It’s the lowest point of Paul McCartney’s solo career. Two other tracks that most people could live without are excruciating  collaborations. The first is Ebony and Ivory where Stevie Wonder joins Paul McCartney. Then he’s joined on Say, Say, Say by Michael Jackson. Neither track are worthy of inclusion. There’s many more tracks worthy of inclusion.

So much so, that Pure McCartney could easily have been a five, six or eight disc box set. After all, he had thirty-three albums to choose from. Narrowing this down to sixty-six songs meant that Paul McCartney must have  some difficult decisions to make.  However, there was nobody better qualified to make these decisions than the man who wrote, recorded and produced most of the music, Paul McCartney.  He began searching through his back-catalogue, and after much contemplation, eventually, he had compiled what’s without doubt, the definitive compilation of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles carer, Pure McCartney. This lovingly complied sixty-song box set is what Paul McCartney believes represents the crème de la crème of his post-Beatles carer. 

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Rick Wakeman-5 Classic Albums

For anyone looking to discover the early years of Rick Wakeman’s solo career, Spectrum Music’s The 5 Classic Album Series is the perfect starting place. It begins with The Six Wives Of Henry VIII and continues through Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, The Myths and Legends Of King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table, No Earthly Connection and White Rock. These albums represent what were Rick Wakeman’s glory years, when he enjoyed commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic.

That had been the case since Rick Wakeman released his sophomore album, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, The commercial success continued from Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, through The Myths and Legends Of King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table, No Earthly Connection and White Rock. These five albums feature on the Rick Wakeman 5 Classic Albums box set. It’s the perfect introduction to one of the pioneers of British progressive rock, Rick Wakeman.

While the box set is billed as 5 Classic Albums, only The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth and The Myths and Legends Of King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table deserved to be called classic albums. No Earthly Connection was a return to form from Rick Wakeman, and featured some innovative music. Especially the five part, twenty-eight minute epic Music Reincarnate. However, No Earthly Connection stops short of reaching classic status, but is still one of the highlights of Rick’s career. White Rock by comparison, is a disappointing album that’s best described as good, but not great. Having said that, the Rick Wakeman 5 Classic Albums box set is a reminder of Rick Wakeman in his seventies heyday.

Constantly, Rick Wakeman spent much of the seventies searching for perfection. For most musicians, that is unattainable. However, Rick Wakeman wasn’t most musicians. Just like so many musicians of the progressive rock era, he was a musical pioneer, who created cerebral, groundbreaking and innovative music. To do this, Rick Wakeman pushed musical boundaries in his pursuit of perfection. He came closest on The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth and The Myths and Legends Of King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table. These albums deserve to be called classics, and are a reminder of Rick Wakeman during his relentless pursuit of perfection. It’s documented on the Rick Wakeman 5 Classic Albums box set, which covers the period between 1972 and 1977. During this period, Rick Wakeman was at his creative zenith, and creating some of the best music of his long and illustrious career.

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Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveller’s Guide.

Over the last few years, there’s been a huge resurgence in popularity in space rock. This has fuelled by the formation of new generation of space rock bands. Groups like Sons Of Hippies, Electric Orange, Yuri Gagarin, The Spacelords, Aqua Nebula Oscillator, Magic Wands, Vibration Eater and Nexatras have introduced space rock to a new generation of music fans. After hearing these bands, many music fans have decided to investigate the origins of space rock.

What would’ve made this voyage of discovery much easier, was if newcomers to space rock could buy a box set featuring some of the genre’s finest exponents. Now they can. Cleopatra Records released six disc box set Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide. This is the perfect starting place for newcomers to space rock. It allows newcomers to space rock to discover the delights  of some of the most popular space rock groups. This includes Hawkwind, Gong, Nik Turner, Ozric Tentacles and Omega. They’re joined by Gilli Smith, Daevid Allen Weird Quartet and even William Shatner and Alice Cooper. The new generation of space rockers are also well represented, with Aqua Nebula Oscillator, Electric Orange, Magic Wands, Nexatras, Sons Of Hippies, The Spacelords, Vibration Eater and Yuri Gagarin all making a welcome appearance. So do a number of  groups whose space rock credentials are sure to be challenged.

Among the bands on Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide are a number of Krautrock groups. This is a is regarded by some as a catch-all category where a wide variety of groups are brought under the one musical umbrella. Some of these bands aren’t Krautrock bands in the true sense of the word. However, Can, Tangerine Dream, Faust, Popol Vuh, Guru Guru, Amon Düül II and  Nektar have all been previously categorised as Krautrock bands. Other music fans may well disagree, and define their music differently, including space rock. 

Similarly, some of the music on Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide may be perceived as progressive rock. Others can be defined as avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, experimental or psychedelia. That may well be the case. Despite that, there’s an element of space rock on each of the seventy-three tracks on Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide. 

Many of the bands in the box set combine several different genres. This includes everything from avant-garde, Berlin School, doom metal, electronica, experimental, free jazz, Krautrock, progressive rock,  psychedelia and of course space rock. With several musical genres being combined by bands on the one song, many music fans will struggle to define the musical genre that they’re listening to. Some may even disagree with the use of words space rock on some of the tracks. However, on nearly every track, there’s at least a hint of space rock. That’s the case throughout Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide.

For newcomers to space rock, then Cleopatra Records’ six CD box set, Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide is good starting point. It might result in a voyage of discovery through the history of space rock. Similiarly, Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide could be the start of lifelong love affair with space rock. Espeically, for those yet to discover the delights of space rock. For them, Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide box set is everything you wanted to know about space rock, but were too afraid to ask.

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The Krautrock and Progressive Box Set

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, the late-sixties was the start of a golden age for music. It continued right through the seventies. During this period, some of the most important music ever recorded was released. This included countless classic albums. These classic albums ranged from classic rock, psychedelia, heavy rock, pop and even soul. That’s not forgetting two often misunderstood genres, progressive rock and Krautrock. 

Despite being somewhat misunderstood, progressive rock was one of the most popular genres from the late-sixties through to the end of the seventies. That was the case in North America, Europe and especially in Britain. No wonder. Many of the best  and most successful progressive rock bands were British. This included some of the giants of British progressive rock, Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Emerson Lake and Palmer. Meanwhile, in Germany another misunderstood musical movement was blossoming, Krautrock.

Across Germany, this new musical movement was producing some of the most inventive and innovative music of the seventies. Despite this, much of this music failed to find an audience. This wasn’t helped by many within the music press failing to understand never mind cover the music properly. As a result,  groups like Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Amon Düül II, Cluster and Harmonia was largely unknown outside of a small coterie of discerning record buyers.

It was only much later, that Krautrock began to find the audience it so richly deserves. Since then, it’s grown in popularity. Still, though, most people know very little about Krautrock, and can only name a few bands. It’s a similar case with progressive rock, with many people able to name some of the genre’s giants. After that, they start to struggle. What they need is an introduction to progressive rock and Krautrock. That’s what the Music Brokers label released last year. The Krautrock and Progressive Rock Box Set was  a mammoth six CD set that features fifty-nine tracks. This includes  many well known names. However, don’t expect to find the aforementioned giants of Krautrock or progressive rock.

Instead, progressive rock are represented by Steve Hackett, Atomic Rooster, GTR, Gong, Van Der Graaf Generator, Third Ear Band, Anthony Philips, Blonde On Blonde and Hawkwind. Krautrock is represented by Annexus Quam, Birth Control, Cosmic Jokers Hölderlin, Embryo, Mythos and Sergius Golowin. They were part of the burgeoning Krautrock movement, and far too often, their music is often overlooked. That wasn’t the case on The Krautrock and Progressive Rock Box Set.

It show a very different side to the Krautrock of Can, Cluster, Harmonia, Kraftwerk and Neu! These are the groups that most people are familiar with. That’s no surprise, as they’re Krautrock royalty. This is just the tip of the Krautrock iceberg. There’s much more to discover. It’s a similar case with progressive rock. Most music fans know Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Emerson Lake and Palmer. However, they may not have heard of many of the bands on The Krautrock and Progressive Rock Box Set. They’ve been missing out on a huge amount of groundbreaking music. Now is the perfect opportunity to discover or rediscover this music. Especially for newcomers who want an introduction to Krautrock and progressive. The perfect place to start is  The Krautrock and Progressive Rock Box Set.

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Yes-Tales From Topographic Oceans.

Little did Jon Anderson realise when he started reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography Of A Yogi that it would inspire Yes’ next album. That was until he came across  a lengthy footnote that described four bodies of Hindu texts, which collectively, were known as shastras. Soon, Jon Anderson was fascinated by these compressive treatises. They dealt with all aspect of religious and social life, plus subjects like law, medicine, architecture and art.  Having read about the four shastras, Jon Anderson began to contemplate a four part album based on the four shastras. This became Topographic Oceans,  Yes’ sixth album. It was released on December 7th 1973. Just over forty-three years later, Tales From Topographic Oceans was reissued by Panegyric as two CD and two DVD set. 

Steven Wilson remixed Tales From Topographic Oceans on the two CDs. The DVDs are mixed in 5.1 Lossless Surround with extra track mixed from original multi-track sources. There’s also the new 2016 Album mix and a flat transfer of the original version of Tales From Topographic Oceans. Both mixes are in high resolution stereo. As an added bonus, there’s alternate version of Tales From Topographic Oceans, single edits and exclusive audio extras. Quite simply, this is one of the most comprehensive releases of Tales From Topographic Oceans.

The reissue of Tales From Topographic Oceans is a reminder of a true classic album.Tales From Topographic Oceans was a groundbreaking album that was way of ahead of its time. It was only later that people began to understand and cherish what was a ambitious, complex and innovative album. Yes took as their starting point progressive rock, but added elements of avant-garde, folk-rock, jazz and psychedelia. This was the start of what was a captivating musical adventure. 

It comprises four lengthy suites that are complex and multilayered. Genres melt into one during these musical soundscapes. They feature a myriad of  Eastern themes and sounds. The music is cerebral, ruminative and sometimes, atmospheric, beautiful and dramatic as the arrangements ebb and flow. Seamlessly, there’s changes in time signature as the one part of the suite gives way to the next. Constantly, nuances, subtitles and surprises unfold as the rich musical landscape changes, and a classic album unfolds. It’s testament to the vision and imagination of Jon Anderson and also Steve Howe. 

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That’s the story of the best box sets of 2016.  These box sets range from lovingly curated, luxurious, limited editions to budget box sets. There’s something for everyone and every budget. Similarly, just about every genre is represented in the list of best box sets of 2016 list. Everything from classic rock, Nordic Wave, pop progressive rock to Berlin School, jazz, Krautrock and space rock can be found on the list. They’re an eclectic selection of box sets.

Sone of the box sets on the list are hidden gems, and have been overlooked. Especially Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide and The Krautrock and Progressive Rock Box Set. Both are crammed full of groundbreaking music, and would be a welcome addition to any music collection. The same can be said about every box set on the list. The features many a musical pioneer who pushed musical boundaries to their limited, and in the process, wrote their way into musical history. Their music deserves to finds its way onto the list of the best box sets of 2016.

THE WENGER BROTHERS-LIFE AFTER JODI, THE IODI YEARS.

THE WENGER BROTHERS-LIFE AFTER JODI, THE IODI YEARS.

Many years ago, a friend bought a copy of Henri Charriere’s Magnus Opus Papillon in a thrift store. Straight away, was hooked by this story of injustice. For the next week, he sat engrossed. Gradually, he neared the end of this hefty tomb. With thirty pages to go, he announced that tonight,  he would finish Papillon. The next day he arrived bleary eyed and frustrated. As he had turned over to the final pages, he discovered that they were missing. Suddenly, he was faced with not knowing how the story ended. Sometimes, record buyers find themselves in a similar situation, and never know how a story ended.

There’s nothing more frustrating. Especially, when one comes across an album of ambitious, groundbreaking and genre-melting music. That was the case recently, when I reviewed Out-Sider Music’s reissue of Jodi’s debut album Pops de Vanguardia. It was a long lost, genre classic that incredibly, had been recorded by two teenage brothers, Joern and Dirk Wenger. 

Having researched the story of Jodi, and their debut album, Pops de Vanguardia, I realised that this was only part of the story. Having dug deeper into the story, it became apparent that Jodi had changed their name to Iodi and released two further albums. Apart from that, information was thin on the ground. It looked like that the trail had gone cold.

Then a few days after the review of Pops de Vanguardia was published, Joern Wenger the cofounder of Jodi got in touch. He kindly agreed to an interview and to tell not just the story of The Rabbits, Jodi and Iodi, but life after music. It’s a fascinating story, and one that begins in Asunción, in Paraguay.

That was where brother Joern and Dirk Wenger were born and brought up. Their family were industrialists who owned the Dux factory in Asunción, which made paint related products. Away from the factory, Joern and Dirk’s father and grandfather both shared a love of music.

This they would pass on the next generation in Wenger family, Dirk and Joern. He remembers: “My grandfather, who played all kinds of music instruments, introduced me to music. My father as well, but he mostly helped us out with the photography and film making in 16mm… He was also our music mentor; always giving advice in our song creation.” That would come later.

Before that Dirk and Joern’s father and grandfather brought a variety of musical instruments into the family home. Unlike in some homes, these instruments were to be played. Dirk and Joern’s father and grandfather taught them how to play some of these instruments. Both brothers were keen and talented students who had a passion for music. Soon, they were receiving formal music lessons. 

In Joern’s case, it was the piano he learnt to play. He spent five years learning to play the piano. This he remembers clearly: “I remember my first piano teacher telling me, after five years of boring exercises: ‘It’s enough. Let your imagination fly. Play what you hear inside of you.” This proved to be the start of a musical adventure for the Wenger brothers. 

By then, music was a passion for the Wenger brothers. The brothers immersed themselves in all types of music: “We had always a lot of influence. There were the old 78 LPs from my father, like Elvis Presley and The Platters. After that came The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, of course. My father was a huge fan of Led Zeppelin when they first started. We analysed their songs one on one to hear the effects… the little music hints! I learned that a complex song is not always a good song. Let it be simple!”  This was advice the Wenger brothers would heed when they formed their very first band.

Both brothers were already talented multi-instrumentalists. Joern, the eldest brother, could play piano, guitar, violin, bandoneon and solfege. He was also already writing songs by the age of fifteen. Like teenagers the world over, music began to play an important part in the Wenger brothers’ lives.  

So much so, that they spent their time jamming, honing their skills and experimenting musically. With some basic equipment, “we were experimented, all the time. After school we would enter our little room and spend hours catching sounds. Sometimes our songs were no longer than forty-five seconds, but this was enough for us. It was just so much fun!” This offered an escape from the reality of growing up in Paraguay.  

Following a coup d’état on the 4th of May 1954, Paraguay was ruled by dictator Alfredo Stroessner. That was the case until 1989. During this period, Paraguay expanded economically and underwent a degree of modernisation. However, the Stroessner regime was an oppressive one. Human rights abuse was commonplace and those that opposed the Stroessner regime did so at their peril. As a result, Paraguay wasn’t the ideal place for the Wenger brothers to embark upon a musical career.

Just like in other countries ruled by dictators, artists, writers and musicians were viewed with a degree of suspicion by the authorities. They were often seen as subversives. However, Joern and Dirk just wanted to make music. That was what they wanted to pour their youthful energy and enthusiasm into. However, they too had a dream. 

The Wenger brothers’ dream was to eventually make a living out of music. That was what they eventually hoped to in the future. Meanwhile, Dirk and Joern were students at the Goethe School, in Ascuncion. Eventually,  Joern Wenger decided to form his first band.

The Rabbits.

“I was probably fifteen years old when I started the band “The Rabbits” together with some friends” and his younger brother Dirk. Joern was joined by  Gilberto González, Naldo Nardi, Rodrigo Campos and Willy Schubeius in the new band, which they named The Rabbits.

Joern who was three years older than his brother Dirk, became The Rabbits de facto leader. He played organ while his brother Dirk played one of the two sets of drums. Gradually, the nascent garage band’s music began to take shape. While Joern and Dirk had spent months honing their sound in the studio, the rest of the band had some catching up to do. 

Having spent time practising and honing their sound, The Rabbits were ready to play live. While the Wenger brothers were dedicated their lives to music, the: “music made by The Rabbits was more for fun, for school parties mostly. That’s why we took our own path after a short time.” However, initially; “The Rabbits was a band of friends who mostly played covers. There wasn’t a lot of creativity involved.” Despite that, The Rabbits got as far as recording an EP.

For The Rabbits’ Lo Más Nuevo EP, they decided to record Never Funny, Buscándote, Gloria and Todos Los Instantes. On these tracks, The Rabbits combined elements of psychedelia a and garage rock. Once the recording was complete, The Rabbits took the EP to the Guarania label.   

When the Guarania label was formed on August 13th 1955, it became Paraguay’s very first record label. Just under fourteen years later, and it would release copies of The Rabbits’ debut EP. Only 300 copies of the Lo Más Nuevo EP were pressed and released later in 1969.  

“After we released the EP some radios played our songs, but Dirk and I decided to leave the band and start doing something that we were passionate about.” This was the end of the first chapter in the Wenger brothers’ career. 

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Jodi.

Having left The Rabbits, the Wenger brothers knew the type of music they wanted to make. It was very different to the type of music that The Rabbits played and recorded. The Wenger brothers decided to form a new band. This time, there were only two members, Joern and Dirk. So, they took the first two letters of their christian names and Jodi was born.

The two members of Jodi envisaged making much more experimental music. This would be very different to the music most bands were recording in Paraguay in 1969. All the Wenger brothers needed was was somewhere to record their music. Fortunately, the Wenger brothers knew the perfect place.

This  was a disused part of the family’s Dux factory. It would the perfect place to build a basic studio. With that part of the factory not being used, the two brothers were given permission to turn their dream into reality in 1969. The two brothers got to work, and soon, the studio began to take shape. “Our first studio consisted of two one-track tape recorders and a little mixer. For example, for music effects, we would sing into an iron drum . Distortion for guitars were made by overdriving the sound, and so on. Our microphones back then were so primitive and noisy though.”  Despite this, it was a dream come true for the Wenger brothers, who decided to christened their new studio.   

Once the studio was complete, it was christened the Jodi Experimental Studio. Again, the brothers took the first two letters of each of their christian names (Joern and Dirk) and combined this to create the Jodi name. Joern was sixteen, and Dirk who was nineteen, set about experimenting musically and creating what they called spontaneous pop. 

The Jodi Experimental Studio became a musical laboratory, where the two brothers were able to experiment with a myriad of different musical instruments. They were also able to experiment with the latest music recording techniques. There was only one problem.

Paraguay didn’t have a music industry as such. This meant that Joern and Dirk didn’t have access to much of the equipment musicians elsewhere took for granted. Especially effects units. This meant that the brothers had to work out a way to replicate reverb or echo. To do this, Joern and Dirk often laboured long into the night seeking a solution. Usually, they managed to do so as their creativity blossomed.  

This continued during as the weeks and months passed. The two brothers immersed  themselves in an eclectic selection of music seeking inspiration. Two albums made a big impression on them, The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Sometimes, the Wenger brothers listened to the Bee Gees and James Brown, other times to Little Richard, Louis Armstrong or Oscar Peterson. For the Wenger brothers this was part of their musical education.

Meanwhile in the Jodi Experimental Studio, continued to record the tracks that what would eventually become their debut album Pops de Vanguardia. Gradually an eclectic album began to take shape.  Joern remembers: “the rudimental sound was made with two tape recorders. That was all that we had back then. For each song I had to make a plan: record the first part and then play back from recorder to recorder. Then add the instruments and finally the voices. One song took a lot of time to finish. Sometimes, after a few days of working on a song I would not like the result and would start all over again. I always tried to do easy sounds and try to avoid complex surrounds.” These songs that took shape were very different to what other groups were recording.

Jodi were combining flitting between and combining elements of blues, garage rock, indie rock, proto-punk, psychedelia and rock. Sometimes, there were even elements of avant-garde and experimental musical. It was a truly ambitious and eclectic album that Jodi were carefully crafting. 

That was Jodi’s plan along. They set out to record an eclectic album. “That was exactly the point. We wanted to show a big variety of sounds and styles. We wanted to show that we could experiment with music.“ The music on Pops de Vanguardia was also: “to some extend it was a reflection of the music that was influencing me.  “Poor Man, Rich Man” (a bonus track on Pops de Vanguardia), was an influence from John Lennon. His songs used to be in the back of my mind during the creating process.”  All this was influencing Joern Wenger as Jodi recorded what would eventually become their debut album. However, they weren’t ready to release it in 1969.

Instead, the Wenger brothers travelled from Ascuncio in Paraguay to Germany. Their destination was the Folkwang University of the Arts, in Essen.  That was where the brothers studied arts. Their music teacher was none other than  composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. He was already regarded as a musical pioneer and one of the most innovative and influential composers of his generation. Studying under Karlheinz Stockhausen was the perfect way to complete the Wenger brothers’ musical education.

“We travelled to Germany. I made a short visit of three months to the Folkwang University in Essen, where I met Karlheinz Stockhausen. I was so impressed by him and his class that I needed to get in touch with him. Of course, myself being from Paraguay raised his attention as well. He showed me his studio in the West German Radio (WDR), where I had the chance to participate in some sessions. That certainly blew my mind! He had these experimental tools I could only dream about having one day. I remember him telling me: ‘Use your imagination. If you make music, people will not always like it, but for some reason you made it!.” This was good advice from one of great innovators of German music, which during the Wenger brothers stay, was thriving.

While the Wenger brothers were studying in West Germany, the underground music scene was thriving. Groups like Amon Düül II, Can, Kluster and Tangerine Dream were well on their way to making musical history.  This would go on to influence Jodi: “ I have a lot of music influence from Germany from that time. It was a bubbling scene and this experience we took back to Paraguay.”

On their return home, Jodi’s thoughts turned to the release of their debut album. “We had already recorded all the songs for  Pops de Vanguardia even though we did not have in mind to release a LP just yet. After we got back from our trip we finally released it.”

Before that, critics were sent copies of Pops De Vanguardia. A rueful Joern remembers: “the critics were horrendous. They said ‘The LP is like a mixed salad… too much inside but no flavour’. It was also hard for the radios to play our stuff. It was very disappointing for us. We also tried to promote Pops De Vanguardia in Buenos Aires with no success. People could not believe that we made the LP in our rudimental studio.” 

Looking back, it seems that the critics failed to understand an ambitious album of groundbreaking and genre-melting music. Jodi had drawn inspiration from a wide variety of musical and genres and influences and recorded an album that would only receive the recognition it deserved much later.

To make matters worse, when Pops De Vanguardia was released later in 1971, the album failed commercially. Just like the critics, record buyers never understood the album. The problem was, that the music was way ahead of its time. Maybe if Pops De Vanguardia had been released later, it would’ve found the audience it deserved?. Alas, Jodi’s unique brand of spontaneous pop passed record buyers by. That’s despite Jodi showcasing Jodi’s a new and groundbreaking sound on Pops De Vanguardia.

Given the critical and commercial failure of Pops De Vanguardia, the future must have looked bleak for Jodi. However, it wasn’t. Jodi signed: “a a record deal with EMI-Argentina for six years.” This was enabled Jodi to build a better studio. There was a catch though.

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IODI.

“Jodi was changed to Iodi, when we began working with EMI. Jodi in Spanish sounds a bit like the “F Word”. That was the only reason for the change, so people wouldn’t make fun of us.” However, it wasn’t just the groups name that changed.

“IODI was a new concept. EMI needed Spanish songs, with romantic and sweet lyrics. They needed songs that would sell. That’s when Yo Pienso En Ti and Sueño De Tus Ojos were born.”  These songs would find their way onto Iodi’s eponymous debut album.

Unlike Jodi’s debut album, Pops De Vanguardia, EMI didn’t want Iodi to record at the Jodi Experimental Studio. Instead: “EMI wanted us to record in Buenos Aires, and we did try to do so but with rather little success. It was impossible for us to have the studio for ourselves only for a few hours. We were used to record track by track with no hurry. At the end, we made four to five versions of one same song and EMI would choose which one they liked better. This involved a lot of work for us. “ However, it paid off.

“The album was very successful. We climbed up to place number two with Yo Pienso En Ti and stayed there for weeks. We sold a lot of records and EMI was happy.” For Iodi this was the perfect start to their career with EMI-Argentina.

It was also the start of a fruitful period for Iodi. “In those six years with EMI, we were in the hit parade very often and the best position was in Miami’s Billboard number five, with Brothers the English version.” This was a long way from when Paraguayan critics slated Pops De Vanguardia. The Wenger brothers were enjoying critical acclaim and commercial success. However, here was a problem.

“Our EMI musical director always pushed us to make similar songs but I refused. We tried not to sound the same from song to song.”  This is admirable. Many musicians were content to remake the same song time after time. That was the case at labels like Motown, Philadelphia International Records and Salsoul. However, Joern  and Dirk Wenger were different. They were pioneers, who constantly sought to reinvent their music. This paid off.

For six years, Iodi were popular not just in Argentina, but across parts of South America. Again, their music was a potpourri of influences and genres. Elements of pop and rock rubbed shoulders with funk, Latin and soul. This was a heady and tantalising musical brew. It had proven successful, but by 1976 Joern and Dirk Wenger were looking towards the future.

“We had the best time with EMI, but as time went by we needed to think about our future, and if we could actually make a living out of music. That’s when we both decided to start studying Chemistry to later join the family company. We played music until 1976, which was the time when we left the music scene.” For the Wenger brothers it was the end of an era.

It looked like the Wenger brothers had turned their back on music. Both brothers had studied chemistry with a view to joining the family company, Dux. Eventually, Joern Wenger completed his PhD and became Dr. Joern Wenger. Following his studies, the world of business beckoned. However, nine years after turning their back on music, Iodi decided to make a comeback.

“We did try to have a revival in 1985. EMI wanted a new look and sound from IODI. We released a LP but unfortunately it was a failure.” As a result, Iodi’s comeback was short-lived. The Wenger brothers returned to their jobs at Dux.

This proved to be the end of the road for Iodi. “After 1985 I quit music. The studio runs until today though. It’s called Iodi Media and is managed by a musician called Quique Calabrese. Apart from recordings he also does coproduction for film music.” Thirty-two years after Joern Wenger turned his back on music, the studio he built with brother Dirk lives on. It’s essentially part of his musical legacy, and where they developed the concept of spontaneous pop as a member of Jodi.

That Joern Wenger thought was part of the past. Nowadays; “I’m a chemist working in my own company, Dux who was founded by my grandfather sixty-eight years ago. My new passion lies in the research of recycling waste plastics and used tires. It’s not only a problem that affects us here in Paraguay, but worldwide it is a problem.” It’s a problem that Joern has been determined to solve for many years. 

“I presented my project “Pyrolysis of Plastic Waste” for the first time in Sweden at the WorldbioEnergy 2014 and in 2015 I was awarded a gold medal in Geneva, Switzerland at the Salon International Des Inventions.  I’m currently working on a pilot plant in Paraguay to reduce used tires into useful gasoline.” Hopefully, Joern will succeed in doing so, and solve a problem that affects people the world over. This research is a far cry from his days with Jodi.

That was part of Joern Wenger’s past. However, music still plays an important part in his life. “Music continues to be my best friend until today. I keep in touch with old friends from the music scene and I find it so flattering that people contact me until today asking me about my musical past.” What he wasn’t expecting, was a revival interest in Jodi and their groundbreaking, lost genre classic Pops de Vanguardi.

That was until: “Pops de Vanguardi was revived thanks to a good friend from Argentina, Eduardo Pietruczyk, who presented this LP to Guerssen Records in Spain”.  Joern “signed a contract Guerssen Records in Spain.” This was a big surprise for me and I was so honoured to have a revival for my experimental music, denied forty-six years ago.

Out-Sider Records, an imprint of Guerssen Records recently reissued Pops de Vanguardi. It’s a lovingly curated reissue that comes complete with bonus tracks. They’re a reminder of just how eclectic the music Jodi recorded.

Jodi combined elements of blues, garage rock, indie rock, proto-punk, psychedelia and rock on Pops de Vanguardi. There were even elements of avant-garde and experimental musical on Pops de Vanguardia. It was a truly ambitious and innovative album thatdeserved to find a much wider audience upon its release in 1971. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

Instead, neither critics nor record buyers understood Pops de Vanguardi. It was an album that was way ahead of the curve musically.  So much so, that very few people understood or “got” what Jodi were doing. It was only much later that Pops de Vanguardi found the audience it so richly deserved. 

Just over twenty years later, and the world had been transformed by the internet. Suddenly, the world was a much smaller place for record buyers. They discovered, listened to and bought music from countries on the other side of the world. This includes a much more eclectic selection of albums than previous generations. A few lucky record buyers discovered copies of Jodi’s debut album Pops de Vanguardia. Quickly, word spread about Pops de Vanguardia and record buyers went in search of the album. Alas, it was to no avail. Pops de Vanguardia is now an incredibly rare album, and very few original copies exist. Those that do exist, are prized possessions among record collectors. It’s a similar case with Iodi’s albums.

Nowadays, record collectors will search high and low for copies of Iodi’s singles and albums. Alas, it’s a similar story, with very few are copies for sale. Those that own copies cherish them. They’re a reminder of a truly talented group, Iodi who for six years, enjoyed critical acclaim and commercial success in Argentina and across much of South America. Sadly, Iodi was the final chapter in the Wenger brothers musical career.  It’s being retold by Guerssen Records starting with Jodi’s debut album Pops de Vanguardia.

There’s no better way to start documenting the Wenger brothers’ musical career than with Jodi’s debut album Pops de Vanguardia. It’s an ambitious, accomplished and innovative album of eclectic and genre-melting music. So much so, that Pops de Vanguardia sounds as if it was recorded by veteran musicians, rather than two teenagers. However, Joern and Dirk Wenger were no ordinary teenagers. They were talented multi-instrumentalists who had dedicated themselves to music, and dared to dream. Their dream was to make a career out of music. This they managed to do, first as Jodi and then as Iodi. However, it was as Jodi that these two musical pioneers released a genre classic, Pops de Vanguardia, which nowadays, is belatedly finding the audience it deserved, and has reignited interest the multitalented Wenger brothers.

THE WENGER BROTHERS-LIFE AFTER JODI, THE IODI YEARS.

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GANDALF-JOURNEY TO AN IMAGINARY LAND.

GANDALF-JOURNEY TO AN IMAGINARY LAND.

Prior to embarking upon a musical career, and becoming  one of Austria’s most accomplished, innovative and successful musicians, Gandalf travelled extensively. That’s why the talented multi-instrumentalist never released his debut album Journey To An Imaginary Land until 1980. By then he was twenty-nine. However, soon, Gandalf would make up for lost time. He would release over thirty albums between 1980 and 2016. These albums would be heavily influenced by Gandalf’s life before music, when  he travelled extensively.

Gandalf’s travels took him all over the world, including to India. The constant travelling certainly broadened the mind of Gandalf. He also realised that music was a universal language. It was something that people in different countries and continents shared a love of. Gandalf experienced this firsthand.

As he traversed the globe, Gandalf made a living making music. He was the twenty-first Century equivalent of a travelling minstrel. It was during his travels that Gandalf realised that he wanted to make a living as a musician.

This came as no surprise to many that knew Gandalf. He had grownup in the small town of Pressbaum, in Lower Austria. That was where Heinz Strobl was born on the 4th of  December 1952. It would be much later when Heinz adopted the Gandalf moniker. Before that, Heinz proved to be a gifted and natural musician as he grew up.

That was despite having no formal musical education. Heinz could pickup an instrument and soon, was playing along to a song on the radio or a record that was playing. Soon, he could play the piano and guitar. By the time he headed off on his travels, Heinz had mastered a number of different instruments.

On his return from what was the modern equivalent of a Grand Tour, Heinz had mastered a myriad of instruments that he had discovered on his travels. This included a sitar, saz, charango, bouzuki and balaphon. They would play an important part in Heinz’s future musical career.

Initially, Heinz began playing with various rock bands during the seventies. During the seventies, progressive rock was at the peak of its popularity. Heinz was a member of a couple of progressive rock bands. This however, was all part of his musical apprenticeship. 

As the seventies gave way to the eighties, Heinz decided to reinvent himself, and adopted the moniker Gandalf. This stemmed from Heinz’s love of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. Little did he realise that his new moniker would feature on over thirty albums. This included Gandalf’s debut album Journey To An Imaginary Land. It was released by WEA  and recently was rereleased by Esoteric Recordings. Journey To An Imaginary Land showcased Gandalf’s unique and inimitable style.

It began to take shape on Gandalf’s debut album Journey To An Imaginary Land. It was released by WEA in Austria during 198o. This marked the debut of Gandalf, who later described himself as a “painter of musical landscapes.”

This is quite fitting, Having written the six tracks that became Journey To An Imaginary Land, Gandalf began painting these “musical landscapes” using his has extensive musical palette. It included everything from acoustic and electric instruments to the traditional, ethnic instruments that Gandalf had discovered and collected on his travels. Included in Gandalf’s palette, were various synths and samplers. They would play an important part in not just Journey To An Imaginary Land, but Gandalf’s future albums.

With his impressive array of instruments, Gandalf began recording Journey To An Imaginary Land at Beginning Soundstudio in August 1980. He arranged, recorded and produced the album. Gandalf played each and every instrument, including the synths that play such an important part in Journey To An Imaginary Land. Once the album was recorded, Gandalf mixed his debut album. It was completed in October 1980 and then delivered to WEA, who Gandalf was signed to.

WEA scheduled the release of Journey To An Imaginary Land for late in 1980. Before that, critics received a copy of Gandalf’s debut album. 

Journey To An Imaginary Land was well received by critics, who were won over by what was hailed an innovative and progressive album. It was a fusion of eclectic musical instruments, influences and genres. When they’re combined by Gandalf, the result is a groundbreaking and genre-melting album, Journey To An Imaginary Land. It features elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica and folk. When they are combined, they become part of what’s a captivating, mythical and symphonic musical journey that gradually unfolds over forty-five minutes. It’s an ambitious and accomplished album. Especially considering it was Gandalf’s debut album.

Buoyed by the reviews of Journey To An Imaginary Land, Gandalf eagerly awaited the release of his debut album. When Journey To An Imaginary Land was released later in 1980, the album failed to find an audience. Suddenly, Gandalf’s dream of making a living as a professional musician were dashed. However, after the initial disappointment, Gandalf was determined that his sophomore album would be his breakthrough album.

Departure opens Journey To An Imaginary Land. Synths replicate the sound of a rocket taking off, as it heads for a distant galaxy. It soars above the earth below, en route to its eventual destination. Banks of synths are to the fore. They buzz, shimmer and add glacial and ethereal sounds. Meanwhile, drums, bass and guitar augment the synths as the arrangement builds.Together, they add to the cinematic sound as Gandalf takes the listener on a captivating Journey To An Imaginary Land.

Just a a glacial synth and lone acoustic guitar opens Foreign Landscape. So are a prowling bass and searing guitar. It cuts through the arrangement as swell of synths envelop the arrangement. Soon, a buzzing bass synth adds an element of drama as the arrangement builds, before becoming understated. All that remains are washes of synths and that ominous beat. They’re joined by a futuristic synth as elegiac and dramatic sounds arise from the arrangement. Still, the drama continues to grow. Soon, the music veers between dramatic to understated. It became ambient, atmospheric, futuristic, otherworldly and later, dramatic. Seamlessly, sonic explorer Gandalf takes the listener on a musical journey to a  Foreign Landscape during this nine minute epic.

As The Peaceful Village unfolds, Gandalf gently strums his guitar, before washes of synths sweep in. Together, they create an ethereal, elegiac and dreamy sound. Gradually though, the arrangement begins to grow and build. Gandalf digs deep into his sonic palette and adds a bass and further layers of synths. They fill out the understated arrangement, and the tempo rises. Already Gandalf is fusing elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, rock and world music. Soon, there’s  a return to the spartan, elegiac sound. This is just a curveball. The arrangement is transformed as drums pound and join a fleet fingered futuristic synth solo. Still, the washes of ethereal synths remain as the drama builds. It seems that Gandalf has left behind The Peaceful Village and he’s about to embark upon the next part in his genre-melting cinematic Journey To An Imaginary Land.

Gusts of wind blow, as Gandalf embarks upon a March Across The Endless Plain. Already the arrangement is atmospheric, dramatic and understated. Swirling, buzzing, synths are joined by ominous drums and an acoustic guitar. It takes centre-stage. That’s until a  searing electric guitar replaces it. Still, there’s an ominous backdrop as Gandalf continues his journey. Then an almost otherworldly synth is added, before the guitar returns. Later, the arrangement is stripped bare, and all that remains are swells of elegiac synths. Gradually, the arrangement rebuilds, with the drums, guitar and synths returning. They conjure up images of sonic adventurer as he embarks upon what’s a lonely journey into the unknown, a March Across The Endless Plain.

As The Fruitful Gardens reveals its delights, an acoustic guitar and  glacial synths combine. They’re soon joined by a slow, deliberate elegiac synth. They combine to create a meandering arrangement. Later, a bass synth is added as the arrangement builds and the drama increases. It’s a well trodden path, and one used throughout the album. What differs is the addition of an urgently strummed guitar, that’s soon joined by gliding, glacial synths. They then take centre-stage as the guitar drops out. This adds to an ambient sound. Later, when the bass synth returns, it a futuristic sound to this cinematic soundscape.

Closing Journey To An Imaginary Garden is Sunset At The Crystal Lake. A droning elegiac synths takes centre-stage, before chiming sounds can be heard. Soon, the elegiac synths quivers and shivers, before a bass synth is aded. Again, there’s an ambient and cinematic sound to the arrangement. The addition of the bass synths adds a sci-fi sound, and conjures up images of a spaceship en route to Sunset At The Crystal Lake. That is no surprise. Despite the  understated arrangements, they’re rich in imagery. Later, as Gandalf nears his destination, the arrangement grows. The bass synth plays a leading role. So does a crystalline synth as the Journey To An Imaginary Garden ends Sunset At The Crystal Lake.

Inspired by his travels and musical past, Gandalf spent three months recording Journey To An Imaginary Garden. The album was completed in October 1980, and rereleased to critical acclaim in Austria in late1980. Sadly, Journey To An Imaginary Garden failed to ind the audience it deserved. This was just a minor blip.

Critical acclaim and commercial success were omnipresent from To Another Horizon onwards. Gandalf went on to release over thirty further albums between 1981 and 2016. Nowadays, Gandalf is regarded as one of Austria’s most accomplished, innovative and successful musicians. Gandalf who is a talented multi-instrumentalist, is also one of Austria’s most prolific artists. 

That came as no surprise to those who discovered the delights of Journey To An Imaginary Garden upon its release. Here was an album where Gandalf takes the listener on a musical journey. The music is variously atmospheric, dramatic, elegiac, ethereal, futuristic, moody and otherworldly. Alway, there’s a cinematic sound, as sonic explorer and innovator Gandalf, takes the lister on a captivating Journey To An Imaginary Garden.

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JIMMY SCOTT-I GO BACK HOME-A STORY ABOUT HOPE AND DREAMING.

JIMMY SCOTT-I GO BACK HOME-A STORY ABOUT HOPE AND DREAMING. 

Prior to his death on June the 12th 2014, Jimmy Scott was one of the last links to what’s considered by many as the golden age of jazz. Jimmy Scott was a friend of Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday.  She was also a huge admirer of Jimmy Scott’s music and his high, countertenor voice. So were Dinah Washington, Frankie Vali and Ray Charles. Sadly, despite the patronage of some of the biggest names in music, commercial success continued to elude him.

So much so, that when Jimmy Scott’s career stalled in the late sixties, he returned to civvvy street. He worked a hospital orderly, shipping clerk, and elevator operator until 1991. That was when a resurgence in interest in Jimmy Scott’s music.

This came about when Jimmy Scott was asked to sing at his old friend Doc Pomus’ funeral. After the service, Lou Reed approached Jimmy Scott and asked him if would sing backing vocals on Power and Glory a track on the 1992 album Magic Loss? This was the start of Jmmy Scott’s comeback.

The comeback continued when Jimmy Scott was asked to appear in the finale of Twin Peaks. He he sang Sycamore Trees and later, was featured on the soundtrack to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. However, Jimmy Scott’s big break came when Seymour Stein him to Sire Records. 

Between 1992 and 1996, Jimmy Scott released a trio of albums on Sire Records. The first of this trio was All the Way, which was released in 1992 and featured an all-star cast. All the Way, was later nominated for a Grammy Award, and kickstarted Jimmy Scott’s career.

Over the next twelve years, there was a flurry of releases bearing Jimmy Scott’s name. The resurgence of interested allowed Jimmy Scott and his wife to buy a house in Las Vegas. 

That was where producer and composer Ralf Kemper discovered Jimmy Scott in 2009. By then, Jimmy Scott was back living in obscurity. The resurgence of interest in his music was over. That was the least of Jimmy Scott’s worries.

He was in poor health and confined to a wheelchair. Jimmy Scott who was totally reliant on his wife, was once again jazz music’s forgotten man. When Ralf Kemper saw Jimmy Scott he was totally distraught. Here was a singer who in his heyday, had the talent to be starring in the casinos in Las Vegas. Instead, Jimmy Scot was living in poor health relative obscurity in the suburbs. Ralf Kemper’s dream was over.

Prior to rediscovering Jimmy Scott, Ralf Kemper had grown disillusioned by music. So he set off on a road trip to find Jimmy Scott and record an album with the veteran jazz singer. Ralf Kemper had managed to find Jimmy Scott. However, given Jimmy Scott’s failing health recording an album seemed unlikely.

When Jimmy Scott heard of Ralf Kemper’s plan, the eighty-four year singer was interested in the recording the album. That was despite being confined to a wheelchair and reliant on his wife. Jimmy Scott liked the idea of recording one more album. Ralf Kemper was determined to do Jimmy Scott proud.

He enlisted the help of the great and good of jazz. The band that accompanied Jimmy Scott featured some of the top jazz musicians. Similarly,  Ralf Kemper enlisted Dee Dee Bridgewater, Renee Olstead, Kenny Barron, Till Brönner, Monica Mancini and Arturo Sandoval. They accompany Jimmy Scott on the twelve tracks that were recorded. These tracks became I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming which was recently released by Eden River Records. 

I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming is also the name of the film that documents the rediscovery of Jimmy Scott and the making of his comeback album. Both the album and film have just been released Sadly, Jimmy Scott didn’t live long enough to hear or see the album or film. He passed away on June 12th 2014, aged eighty-eight. Jimmy Scott was a remarkable man who continually triumphed over adversity. That was the case from an early age.

Jimmy Scott was born in Cleveland, Ohio on July 17th 1925. He was the third child in a family of ten. Early on in life, Jimmy Scott discovered music. Often he would stand at his mother’s side and sing while she played the piano. Later, Jimmy Scott joined the church choir where his love of music continued to blossom. However, when Jimmy Scott was thirteen, tragedy entered his life for the first time.

He was orphaned when his mother killed by a drunk driver in 1938. She left behind a family of ten children. Sadly, this wasn’t the last time tragedy would affect Jimmy Scott. 

Indeed, tragedy had already affected Jimmy Scott. He wasn’t aware that he was suffering from Kallmann syndrome, which is an extremely rare genetic disorder. That was why Jimmy Scott reminaed four feet eleven inches until the age of thirty-seven. Kallmann syndrome prevented Jimmy Scott from reaching puberty, and resulted in his high countertenor voice. However, it would only be much later that Jimmy Scott was diagnosed as suffering from Kallmann syndrome.

By then, Jimmy Scott had a breakthrough with the Lionel Hampton band. Indeed, it was Lionel Hampton that came up with the affectionate nickname Little Jimmy Scott. This stuck throughout much of his career. It It was also with the Lionel Hampton Band that Jimmy Scott enjoyed his first hit. 

When the Lionel Hampton Band recorded Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool in December 1949, Jimmy Scott was the featured vocalist. However, when the single was released in 1950 and became a R&B hit, Jimmy Scott received no credit. Instead, Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool was credited to Lionel Hampton and Vocalists. For Jimmy Scott this was a huge disappointment.

This wasn’t the only time Jimmy Scott failed to receive credit for a vocal. He had recorded the vocal for Embraceable You which featured on Charlie Parker’s One Night In Birdland album. Sadly, Jimmy Scott never received credit for the vocal, which was instead, credited to Chubby Newsom. For the second time, Jimmy Scott hadn’t received the credit he deserved. This was proving frustrating and indeed expensive. It was costing Jimmy Scott much needed royalties. What he needed was someone to guide his career.

In 1963, Jimmy Scott’s girlfriend was Mary Ann Fisher, who sang with Ray Charles band. She was helping Jimmy Scott to sign with Ray Charles’ Tangerine Records. Once the contract was signed, Jimmy Scott entered the studio and recorded Falling in Love Is Wonderful. With the album recorded, Jimmy Scott headed off on a  well earned holiday.

Whilst he was on holiday, Tangerine Records were forced to withdrawn Jimmy Scott’s forthcoming album Falling in Love Is Wonderful.It transpired that Jimmy Scott had signed a contract with Herman Lubinsky, the founder of Savoy Records. However, Herman Lubinsky lent Jimmy Scott to Syd Nathan who owned King Records. He took Jimmy Scott into the studio and recorded several singles. They were released on King Records. However, Jimmy Scott hadn’t, as yet, discharged his contactual responsibilities with Herman Lubinsky. So Falling in Love Is Wonderful lay unreleased until 2003. Alas, lightning struck twice for Jimmy Scott later in the sixties.

By the late sixties, Jimmy Scott’s career had stalled. He was struggling to earn a living out of music. Things had gotten so bad, that Jimmy Scott was contemplating turning his back on music. Then in 1969, Jimmy Scott caught a break, when he got the chance to record an album for Atlantic Records. Jimmy Scott recorded The Source, which was meant to be released in 1970. However, at the last minute the album was withdrawn. For Jimmy Scott this was the last straw.

After struggling to make a breakthrough for nearly quartet a century, Jimmy Scott still hadn’t made a breakthrough. So he returned to his native Cleveland, and began work in civvy street. Over the next twenty years, Jimmy Scott worked as an elevator operator, hospital orderly and shipping clerk. Things only changed in 1991.

By then, Jimmy Scott was sixty-six. His  old friend Doc Pomus had passed away band Jimmy Scott was asked to sing at the funeral. Little did Jimmy Scott know as he stood up to sing, that Lou Reed and Seymour Stein were among the mourners.

After the service, Lou Reed approached Jimmy Scott and asked him if would sing backing vocals on Power and Glory a track on the 1992 album Magic Loss? This was the start of Jmmy Scott’s comeback.

The comeback continued when Jimmy Scott was asked to appear in the finale of Twin Peaks. He he sang Sycamore Trees and later, was featured on the soundtrack to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. However, Jimmy Scott’s big break came when Seymour Stein him to Sire Records. 

He was one of the mourners at Doc Pomus’ funeral. When he heard Jimmy Scott sing, he was so impressed by his performance, that he got in touch with the veteran jazz singer. Seymour Stein came bearing gifts for Jimmy Scott. This was a recording a contract and the chance for Jimmy Scott’s music to be heard by a much wider audience.

Accompanied by an all-star band, including Jimmy Scott recorded his Sire Records’ debut All the Way. It was released in 1992 and was nominated for a Grammy Award. Two years later, Jimmy Scott returned with Dream in 1994, and then the jazz-gospel album Heaven in 1996. This brought to an end Jimmy Scott’s Sire Records years.

Next stop for Jimmy Scott was the Artists Only label. Jimmy Scott released Holding Back The Years in October 1998. When the album was released, it reached number fourteen in the US Billboard Jazz charts. Somewhat belatedly, seventy-three year old Jimmy Scott was enjoying a degree of success.

Meanwhile, a box set of the material Jimmy Scott had recorded much earlier in his career was released in 1999 as The Savoy Years and More. While that represented Jimmy Scott’s musical past, the future was looking bright. He signed a four album contract with Milestone Records.

Between 2000 and 2003, Jimmy Scott released a quartet of albums for Milestone Records. This began with Mood Indigo in 2000 and Over The Rainbow in 2001. But Beautiful followed in 2002 with Moonglow looking like being Jimmy Scott’s final studio album.

Then six years later producer and composer Ralf Kemper discovered Jimmy Scott in 2010. He had embarked upon a road trip to discover Jimmy Scott and record an album with him. By then, Jimmy Scott was back living in relative obscurity. 

The resurgence of interest in his music was over. However, it had allowed Jimmy Scott to buy a home in Las Vegas. That was where Ralf Kemper discovered Jimmy Scott. He was in poor health and confined to a wheelchair. Jimmy Scott who was reliant on his wife was once again jazz music’s forgotten man. When Ralf Kemper saw Jimmy Scott he was totally distraught. 

Here was a singer who in his heyday, had the talent to be starring in the casinos in Las Vegas. Instead, Jimmy Scot was living in poor health relative obscurity in the suburbs. Ralf Kemper thought his dream of recording  an album with Jimmy Scott was over. However, Jimmy Scott was a survivor and had been throughout his life.

When Jimmy Scott heard of Ralf Kemper’s plan, the eighty-four year singer was interested in the recording the album. Ralf Kemper was determined to do Jimmy Scott proud. S he went in search of the great and good of jazz. 

Eventually, the band featured a rhythm section of drummers Hans Dekker and Peter Erskine; bassists Martin Gjakonovski and Michael Valerio and guitarists John Pisano and Oscar Castro-Neves. They were joined by pianist Kenny Barron, organist Joey DeFrancesco and harmonica player Gregoire Maret. The horn section featured Arturo Sandoval on flugelhorn; saxophonist Arturo Sandoval; tenor saxophonist Bob Mintzer and trumpeter Till Brönner. Ralf Kemper even brought onboard the HBR Studio Symphony Orchestra. They would accompany 

Jimmy Scott. He was joined by vocalists Renee Olstead and Joe Pesci. That’s not forgetting a cast of guest vocalists that includes Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gregori Maret, Monica Mancini and Arturo Sandoval. Taking charge of production was Ralf Kemper, as the sessions began in 2009.

Unlike most sessions, there was no sense of urgency as the sessions took place Westake Studios in LA and Odds On Studios in Las Vegas. Each day, Jimmy Scott was wheeled into the studio. Despite his advancing years and the pain he was having to endure, he was the consummate professional and never gave less than 100%. This he had been doing for over sixty years. Indeed, many of the musicians that were working on the album weren’t even alive when Jimmy Scott’s career began.

As Ralf Kemper took charge of production, his attitude was that recording the album would take as long as it took. Similarly, it would cost what it cost. This wasn’t about profit or glory. Far from it. Ralf Kemper was determined to introduce Jimmy Scott’s music to a much wider audience and would do whatever it took to do so. 

Eventually, the twelve tracks that became I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming were recorded. Documenting the making of the album were a film crew who were recording Ralf Kemper’s dream and Jimmy Scott’s comeback.Sadly, there was to be no happy ending.

Despite the album being completed during 2009, work didn’t begin on mixing the album until 2013. By then, tragedy had struck. Jimmy Scott died on June the 12th 2014, aged eighty-eight. He neither got to hear his all-star comeback album, nor see the film that documented the making of I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming.

Nearly a year after  the death of Jimmy Scott, Ralf Kemper, Lawrence Manchester and Veith Semrau began mixing I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming in 2013. Over the next two years, they continued to mix and then master the album. Eventually, it  was completed in 2015. However, nearly two more years passed before I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming was released.

The film of I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming was premiered in late January 2017. It would be premiered at various venues and film festivals. Meanwhile, Jimmy Scott I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming was released posthumously to coincide with the premiere of the film. Both the film and the album, I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming should introduce Jimmy Scott’s music to a much wider audience.

Opening I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming  is poignant cover of  Motherless Child, which features organist Joey De Francesco. Strings sweep in as Jimmy Scott delivers a brief soliloquy. Soon, a thoughtful piano combines with the strings. They tug at the heartstrings. So does Jimmy’s soul-baring, hurt-filled vocal. It’s augmented by Joey’s Hammond organ, the understated rhythm section and the strings. Later, Joey’s fleet fingered Hammond organ adds an element of drama, as the emotion builds. Meanwhile, Jimmy lays bare his soul as the song reaches a crescendo. All that remains are the strings, during this  during this beautiful and poignant ballad.

Strings sweep as The Nearness Of You unfolds. They give way to a piano and Jimmy’s vocal. Soon, he’s joined by the rhythm section which features a standup bass and drums played with brushes. Sharing the lead vocal, is actor turned vocalist Joe Pesci. They’re accompanied by a slinky, jazz-tinged piano and orchestra. Suddenly, the listener is transported back in time to how jazz sounded as Jimmy Scott’s career began. 

The unmistakable sound of a Hammond organ combines with the rhythm section and guitar on Love Letters. They’re augmented by the lushest of strings. They provide the perfect backdrop for Jimmy’s heartfelt vocal.Soon, the baton passes to Oscar Castro Neves, who delivers an emotive and soulful vocal. It’s very different to Jimmy’s vocal, but works really well. Then when the vocal drops out, a blues harmonica takes centre-stage. That’s until Jimmy and Oscar share the lead vocal. Their vocals work well together, as they reinvent a familiar ballad. It takes on new meaning as elements of jazz, Latin, blues and soul are combine by Jimmy, Oscar and the all-star band.

Joey De Francesco returns on Easy Living. His Hammond organ augments the string drenched arrangement. Meanwhile, the rhythm section provide the heartbeat as Jimmy delivers a heartfelt and joyous vocal. Midway through the song, he allows Joey to showcase his considerable skills, as he adds a soul-jazz influence. All the time, strings sweep. They continue to do so as Jimmy’s vocal returns, on this heartfelt paean.

After a melancholy soliloquy, Rene Olstead takes charge of the lead vocal on Someone To Watch Over You. She’s accompanied by a piano, understated rhythm section and lush strings. They take care not to overpower Rene’s beautiful, tender and emotive vocal. When it drops out, Kenny Barron delivers his finest solo on the album. His fingers flit across the keyboard before Rene returns. She steals the show on what’s one of the highlights of the album.

Pianist Kenny Barron sets the scene for Jimmy lovelorn vocal on How Deep Is The Ocean. Meanwhile, swells of strings, an acoustic guitar and the rhythm section join the piano. It plays a leading role as Jimmy delivers a vocal that oozes emotion. Then when it drops out, Kenny enjoys the opportunity to shine. This time, his fingers dance across the keyboard as he plays with a degree of flamboyance. Then when Jimmy returns, he allows him to take centre-stage as the arrangement shuffles along. Jimmy continues to live the lyrics during this heartfelt cover of this Irving Berlin composition.

If I Ever Lost You finds trumpeter Till Brönner join Jimmy Scott. Wistful describes the introduction as the orchestra provide the backdrop for Jimmy. They’re soon joined by the band, whose rhythm section and piano provide a smokey, late night sound. Meanwhile, Jimmy sings of his fear: “If I Ever Lost You.” He lays bare his fear for everyone to hear. Then when Jimmy’s vocal drops out, strings sweep and  Till Brönner’s  subtle, quivering trumpet fills the void. This proves the perfect replacement and adds to the late-night, jazzy sound. When Jimmy returns, the band and lush strings accompany him as he delvers another heart-wrenching vocal.

Dee Dee Bridgewater joins Jimmy on the piano lead cover of For Once In My Life. It has a slow and understated arrangement, with the piano ushering in lush strings and Dee Dee’s vocal. She’s joined by a tenor saxophone, before duelling with Jimmy. When their joyous and hopeful vocals drop out, a sultry saxophone and lush strings combine. They set the scene for Dee and then Jimmy as she gives thanks. Their vocals prove the perfect foil for each other, and this results in a beautiful cover of a familiar songs.

The guest artists on I Remember You are vocalist Monica Mancini and Arturo Sandoval on flugelhorn. Both play an important part in the spound and success of the vocal. Monica’s vocal is tender, dreamy and joyous. When it drops out, Arturo’s flugelhorn takes centre-stage. It’s joined by swathes of lush strings, acoustic guitar and the rhythm section. They create a shuffling backdrop as Latin and jazz combine to create a summery backdrop for Monica’s vocal. It’s tender, heartfelt and one of the finest on I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming.

Saxophonist James Moody joins Jimmy on Everybody Is Somebodies Fool. Strings dance before the tempo drops and Jimmy’s rueful vocal enters. A walking bass joins washes of Hammond organ and swathes of lush strings. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s vocal is wistful as if memories are flooding back. He breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Adding the finishing touch is James Moody’s saxophone solo. It drops out when Jimmy’s vocal returns and he continues bring new meaning into what’s an oft-covered standard.

Joe Pesci returns on Folks Who Live On The Hill. Before that, dark strings sweep and a woodwind flutters above the arrangement. It’s joined by a quivering horn. Then having set the scene, Jimmy’s vocal enters. It’s strong and heartfelt, before Joe’s vocal enters. He shares the lead vocal with Jimmy, as a wistful horn punctuates the arrangement. Mostly, it’s the rhythm section and piano. They’re augmented by swathes of strings and subtle horns. Together they frame the vocals perfectly, as Jimmy and Joe deliver what’s a moving and poignant cover of Folks Who Live On The Hill.

Although Jimmy Smith, his all-star band and cast of guest artists completed recording I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming in 2009, the album hadn’t been been released June the 12th 2014. Sadly, that night, Jimmy Smith passed away in sleep aged eighty-eight. Jimmy Smith neither heard the album, nor saw the film I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming. 

The album had still to mixed and mastered when Jimmy Smith passed away. It was mixed and mastered between 2013 and 2015. However, both the album and film had to be released simultaneously. This meant that there was a further delay in the release of I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming. Eventually though, the film was completed and ready for release.

The world premiere of I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming took place  at the South By Southwest on 14th March 2016. After that, the European premiere took place at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland on 10th July 2016. Many of the biggest names in jazz were attendance. Some were familiar with Jimmy Smith’s music, while others were won over by the film and his music. It’s just a shame that Jimmy Smith wasn’t alive to savour the delights of the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Since then, I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming has enjoyed premieres across Europe and America. Suddenly, Jimmy Smith’s music has been discovered by a much wider and appreciative audience. All that remained was for I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming to be released. It was recently released by Eden River Records on CD and as double LP. This will allow music fans worldwide to discover or rediscover Jimmy Scott. I Go Back Home-A Story About Hoping and Dreaming features the second coming of Jimmy Scott, who was once described as the greatest jazz vocalist that you’ve never heard.

JIMMY SCOTT-I GO BACK HOME-A STORY ABOUT HOPE AND DREAMING. 

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LAURENCE CRANE/ASAMISIMASA-SOUND OF HORSE.

LAURENCE CRANE/ASAMISIMASA-SOUND OF HORSE.

It was eight years ago, at the 2008 Ultima festival in Oslo, that Norwegian group Asamisimasa premiered White In Berlin, which had been written by Oxford born composer Laurence Crane.  Neither party realised that this would prove to be the start of a fruitful musical partnership.

Since then, Asamisimasa have travelled the world playing live, and often, have performed White In Berlin. It quickly became a live favourite, and in the process, introduced Laurence Crane’s music to a much wider audience.

Six years later, in 2014, and Asamisimasa’s percussionist Håkon Stene was about to release his debut album Lush Laments For Lazy Mammal. One of the tracks Håkon Stene had recorded was the Laurence Crane composition Riis. It was hailed as one of the highlights of a critically acclaimed, groundbreaking album. 

Two years later, and Asamisimasa decided to record Riis for their new  album Sound Of Horse. It features seven Laurence Crane compositions, including White In Berlin. This was fitting, given it was the track that started what has become a long-running  and successful partnership between Laurence Crane and and Asamisimasa. They received equal billing when Sound Of Horse was released. 

That seemed fair. After all, Laurence Crane wrote the thirteen compositions over a space of several years. By the time Sound Of Horse was released, Oxford born Laurence Crane was fifty-five. He was an internationally renowned composer whose compositions had won the respect of not just critics, but his contemporaries and all the musicians who had worked with him.

This includes English composer and pianist Michael Finnissy. He had played and recorded Laurence Crane compositions between 1985 and 1999. Eventually, twenty of these compositions found their way onto the  Michael Finnissy compilation 20th Century Music-Solo Piano Pieces 1985-1999. It was released to widespread critical  acclaim in 2008.   

The same year, Laurence Crane’s partnership with Asamisimasa began. They premiered White In Berlin at the 2008 Ultima festival in Oslo. By then, Asamisimasa had been together since 2002, and were regarded as one of the rising stars of Norwegian music.

In 2009, Asamisimasa self-released their debut album This was  Asamisimasa Plays The Music Of Øyvind Torvund-Neon Forest Space.  It was a limited edition release, and one that showcased a talented and innovative band. Six years later, Asamisimasa Plays The Music Of Øyvind Torvund-Neon Forest Space was reissued by Aurora in. By then, Asamisimasa had released another album.

This was Pretty Sound-Solo And Chamber Music.  It was an album of compositions by Simon Steen-Andersen. Pretty Sound-Solo And Chamber Music was released, Simon Steen-Andersen and Asamisimasa received equal billing on an album that received rave reviews. The rise and rise of Asamisimasa continued.

Meanwhile,  a compilation of piano music British! was released during 2011. It celebrated five leading composers of piano music. This included Laurence Crane. Two of his compositions Chorale For Howard Skempton. Fragile and Birthday Piece For Michael Finnissy were chosen. Both were a reminder of a truly talented and inventive  composer. 

So was the compilation Chamber Works 1992–2009. It was released in 2014 and was a comprehensive overview of some of Laurence Crane’s best compositions. This included Riis and John White In Berlin. One of these tracks had just been recorded by a member of Asamisimasa.

This was percussionist Håkon Stene, He was just about to release his critically acclaimed debut album Lush Laments For Lazy Mammal. One of the tracks Håkon Stene had recorded was Riis. In doing so, Håkon Stene introduced Laurence Crane’s music to a new and much wider audience. Two years later, and Asamisimasa decided to rerecord Riis.

This was as part of Sound Of Horse. It was an album of thirteen compositions by Laurence Crane. These compositions had been written over a period of years.  Unlike most compositions, which are extremely detailed Laurence Crane’s cinematic compositions have a skeletal quality. This is deliberate, and encourages artists to flesh out the compositions. Having said that,  Laurence Crane adds detailed notes to his compositions. This includes what instruments he envisaged being used on a composition. However,  Laurence Crane’s less is more approach works and works well on Sound Of Horse.

Some of their titles on Sound Of Horse are intriguing, including John White In Berlin and Old Life Was Rubbish. Sometimes, the titles seem to have a surreal quality. Especially, throughout the ten part Events’ suite. That comes as no surprise. Laurence Crane picked the titles from a 1997 edition of the Guardian, a British broadsheet newspaper. That’s why there’s references to famous people’s birthdays, foreign exchange rates and a record of British weather.  This is a somewhat unusual  approach to naming compositions.

Some may see this as a rather eccentric approach to naming a composition. So what? Britain has a long and  rich history of eccentric behaviour going back hundreds of years. Maybe Laurence Crane is ensuring that this tradition continues in the somewhat staid world of composition. However, Laurence Crane’s compositions have a wonderful cinematic quality. Especially when interpreted by Asamisimasa.

Recording of Sound Horse took place at Norges Musikkhøgsko. This is the prestigious Norwegian Academy of Music. That was where the five members of Asamisimasa reunited to record what would  be their first album in five years. One thing hadn’t changed though. That was the lineup of  Asamisimasa.

It still featured clarinetist Kristine Tjøgersen; cellist Ellen Ugelvik; guitarist Anders Forisdal; percussionist Håkon Steno and pianist and keyboardist Tanja Orning. They were joined by guest artist,  soprano vocalist Ditte Maria Bræin. Co-producing Sound Of Horse were Håkon Sten and Christian Blom. Once the album was complete it featured cinematic and illusory music that was truly captivating.

John White In Berlin opens Sound Of Horse. It’s a near fourteen minute epic. At the heart of the arrangement unfolds is a prolonged drone. It comes courtesy of an organ drones. This adds an element darkness and drama. So do what sounds like gusts of wind and the eerie sound of a cello. Slowly and gradually the arrangement unfolds. Repeated stabs of piano are added. They add to the cinematic sound as drone shimmers. When the piano drops out, the arrangement rumbles and a clarinet plays. As it drops out, a deliberate and eerie piano plays as and joins the drone and clarinet. Later it adds what sounds like a foghorn and adds to the cinematic sound. So do the gusts of wind, slow, deliberate and dark piano and drones. Together, they create an unsettling, dark, dramatic and cinematic soundscape to a film that’s yet to be made.

Old Life Was Rubbish is a track where Laurence Crane hadn’t specified which instruments to use. So Asamisimasa use just a piano, bass clarinet and guitar. The piano is to the fore, as it’s played deliberately and firmly. It’s as if  pianist Tanja Orning is venting her frustration at her Old Life. She stabs out the two chords. Meanwhile, the bass clarinet drones  and with the guitar plays a supporting role. Only two chords are used throughout the soundscape. This adds a mesmeric quality, as a sense of frustration and hopelessness become apparent.

A burst of clarinet gives way to a droning organ on Riis. It’s not an unpleasant backdrop, and soon, the listener is luxuriating in its soothing sound. Especially as the clarinet and cello adds the harmonics. This adds a contrast, as Tanja Ornin shifts between big, bold, chords. Later she moves down the register, and the chords take on a comforting, dreamy quality. It’s reminiscent of an old church organ, as its played slowly and produces a captivating dreamy and lysergic sound. 

For three part Events suite, Laurence Crane found inspiration in the Guardian newspaper dated 7th February 1997. That was where  he found the lists of people celebrating their birthday; foreign exchange rates and what the weather would be like in certain parts of Britain. During these three parts of the Events suite, Asamisimasa enlist soprano vocalist Ditte Maria Bræin.

She makes her debut on Events I-Various People Celebrating Their Birthday On 7 February 1997. Against an slow, spartan backdrop of three clarinets, Ditte Maria Bræin sings the name of various writers, sport’s people, philosophers and broadcasters.  Sometimes, vibes augment the clarinets. Mostly, though, it’s the clarinets and vocal that take centre-stage on what’s an slow, spartan, spacious and ethereal sounding track.

On Events II-Selected Foreign Exchange Rates On 7 February 1997, Ditte Maria Bræin is accompanied by the three clarinets and  vibes. Slowly the vibes accompany Ditte Maria Bræin as she sings the various exchange rates. The clarinet then  responds to her call, and pickup the baton. From there, Ditte Maria Bræin sings the next exchange rate, before the clarinet returns. Just like the first part in the Events’ suite, it’s a truly innovative piece of music where Asamisimasa and Ditte Maria Bræin manage to make the exchange rate from 1997 captivating and elegiac.

A clarinet drones on Events III-Some Places In Britain With Weather At 12.00 On 7 February 1997. It gives way to the vibes. They’re played carefully and are part of what’s another spartan backdrop. Soon, the clarinet and then vibes return. Only then does Ditte Maria Bræin’s soprano vocal enter. However, it’s slow and tender as she takes the listener on a journey from Aberdeen to Exeter, stopping at everywhere from Carlisle to Glasgow. Just like two previous parts in the Events suite, Asamisimasa and Ditte Maria Bræin somehow make the mundane seem melodic and mysterious.

The remainder of Sound Of Horse is taken up by the seven part Sound Of Horse suite. This begins with Straightforward, where a droning clarinet is joined by a gently strummed acoustic guitar. Later, space is left within the arrangement. After this pregnant pause, a rasping bass clarinet takes centre-stage. It adds a contrast to the acoustic guitar, as if light gives way to Dark on this seven part suite.

Dark is the second part in the suite. A strummed guitar is part of a what’s a Dark, understated and spacious soundscape. A drone sits deep in the mix, as myriad of atmospheric sounds flit in and out. This includes the clarinet and cello. They play supporting roles, to the almost omnipresent guitar. They play their part in what’s an atmospheric, cinematic and ruminative soundscape.

What sounds like vibes are joined by the cello on Warm. It produces a thoughtful sound, as the vibes add an almost mesmeric backdrop. Later, the wistful sound of a clarinet is added. This replaces the cello and adds another contrast. Then as the listener are revelling in the melodic nature of soundscape, Asamisimasa throw a curveball. A cello adds an element of drama, and briefly, it looks as if Asamisimasa are heading in the direction of free jazz. They don’t. Instead, it’s a reminder to expect the unexpected. From there, there’s a return the previous melodic sound.

Straight away, there’s a rocky hue to Loud and Rough. This is very different to the classical inspired Warm. A bass clarinet combines with stabs of piano, before a drum pounds and a cello sweeps. It’s soon joined by a second clarinet. Instruments flit in and out, as it looks like Asamisimasa are about to stretch their legs musically. They don’t. Instead, they play within themselves in what’s a restrained and understated performance. Just like on Warm, it’s a case of expect the unexpected from Asamisimasa.

Thoughtful and ruminative describes Very Plain as the cello and rasping bass clarinet play. Soon, just the plaintive cry of  a lone clarinet remains. Before long, it’s augmented by melancholy cello and braying clarinet. Together, they create a quite beautiful but wistful backdrop. Just as the listener begins to wallow in it, out of nowhere a firmly strummed guitar makes a brief appearance. Before long, it disappears, leaving the melancholy backdrop. Deep down, one knows it will reappear. That proves to be the case, as Asamisimasa spring another surprise at 3.51. This time, the scrabbled Spanish guitar overthrows the rest of Asamisimasa during what’s a akin to coup d’état. For the rest of the track, the guitar takes centre-stage adding urgency and a contrast musically and stylistically. In doing so,  Very Plain is transformed as Asamisimasa spring an other surprise.

Slowly Luminous and Serene begins to reveal its subtleties and beauty. A a glacial sound takes centre-stage and is joined by a droning organ and cello. Together, they produce glorious washes of sound. They ebb and flow, before the clarinet is added. It takes centre-stage, as washes of sound rise and fall. They produce the perfect counterpoint for the clarinet, in what’s a  truly beautiful, ruminative soundscape. It’s one of the highlights of Sound Of Horse.

Closing Sound Of Horse is Solemn and Formal. It’s the perfect description of this cinematic track. The melancholy sound of a cello is joined by the piano, rasping clarinet is joined by the ominous sound of a drum. Together, they sound as if they’re providing the soundtrack to a battle within a period drama. Especially the drums and droning clarinet, which at one point, sounds like a plane engine stalling. When this happens, an ominous beat is played on the back of a cello or guitar. Suddenly, the arrangement dissipates and leaves the listener wondering what happened next? This is testament to Laurence Crane and Asamisimasa’s ability to make poignant, moving cinematic music. It’s truly captivating. 

That is the case throughout Sound Of Horse. The music is variously dark, dramatic and eerie, to elegiac and ethereal. Other times, it’s melancholy and wistful, and before becoming, ruminative and thoughtful. Always, it paints pictures in the mind’s eye and takes the listener on musical journey. 

During this magical musical mystery tour, Sonic explorers Asamisimasa use clarinets, vibes,  piano, organ, guitars, percussion and a cello. To this, they add various effects  to transform the dry sound.  Asamisimasa  then take the listeners to places that other groups can only dream of. Meanwhile, listeners who let their imagination run riot, will be richly rewarded. 

On Sound Of Horse, Asamisimasa create music that’s variously ambitious, challenging, cinematic, dramatic,  inventive, innovative minimalist and urgent. It also continually captivates and sometimes, surprises the listener. Especially, when Asamisimasa through a curveball and change direction musically. That is why Sound Of Horse is a magical musical mystery tour.

Throughout Sound Of Horse, Asamisimasa combine elements of ambient, avant-garde, classical, experimental, free jazz, post rock, psychedelia and rock. Sometimes, there’s only the briefest glimpses of these genres. However, they play their part in the sound and success of Sound Of Horse, where Asamisimasa continue to spring surprises. This ensures that the licenser continues  to think about Laurence Crane’s captivating and cerebral music. 

He spent many years composing the thirteen compositions on Sound Of Horse. They’re a reminder of why Laurence Crane is regarded as one of the greatest composers of his generation. His music is beginning to find a much wider audience.Especially since Laurence Crane first began working with Asamisimasa in 2008.

Since then, Asamisimasa have been interpreting Laurence Crane’s music. However, never before have Asamisimasa recorded an album of Laurence Crane’s music. That’s until the release of  Sound Of Horse by Hubro Music. It includes the Events and Sound Of Horse suites.  They’re part of a what’s an ambitious, cinematic and career defining album from musical mavericks Asamisimasa, who continue in their mission to  introduce Laurence Crane’s music to a much wider audience.

LAURENCE CRANE/ASAMISIMASA-SOUND OF HORSE.

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BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 1.

BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 1.

Adam Holmes and The Embers-Better Still.

Just two years after releasing his debut Heirs and Graces, Edinburgh based singer-songwriter returned with his much-anticipated sophomore album Better Still. This time around though, his backing band  The Embers receive equal billing. They play an important in the sound and success of Better Still. 

The Embers accompany Adam Holmes throughout the nine songs on Brighter Still. Each  song oozes quality. It doesn’t matter whether Adam Holmes and The Embers are singing ballads, or Cutting Loose on the more uptempo tracks, they’re equally at home. These carefully crafted songs  showcase Adam Holmes and The Embers considerable skills and their unique and irresistible take on Americana. Brighter Still is a potent, heady and irresistible musical brew to drink deep and savour.

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Arbeit Schickert Schneide-A.S.S.

Berlin has produced many truly innovative musicians.  Among them, are three talented, versatile and inventive guitarists, Günter Schickert, Jochen Arbeit and Dirk Dresselhaus. The three guitarists represent and celebrate three generations of making experimental music in Berlin.  They collaborated on a new album. A.S.S., which was released by Bureau B,  

Arbeit Schickert Schneider used an interesting and eclectic selection of instruments. They combined traditional instruments with electronic instruments and a myriad of effects. They’re  put to good use on the multilayered soundscapes. They’ve been influenced not just by Arbeit Schickert Schneider’s musical past, but a variety of musical genres.

Elements of disparate musical genres shine through on A.S.S. Everything from  avant-garde, Berlin School, experimental, free jazz, funk, industrial, nu-electronica, psychedelia and rock can be heard. So can Eastern sounds, Ash Ra, Kraftwerk and Cluster. The result is music that veers between dark and dramatic, to atmospheric and ethereal, to  exotic, to cinematic, moody  and mysterious. Sometimes, the music can be melodic and occasionally joyous. Often, there’s a  hypnotic quality to some of the soundscapes. Always, the soundscapes are captivating, inventive and innovative, as three generations of master musicians pool over 100 years of experience on A.S.S., and create a groundbreaking, genre-melting album that celebrates Berlin’s rich musical past.

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Black Moon Circle-Sea Of Clouds.

April 2016 saw Norwegian space rock pioneers Black Moon Circle make their debut at the prestigious  Roadburn Festival. This was prefect timing. That day, Black Moon Circle released their fourth album Sea Of Clouds via Crispin Glover Records. It was a much anticipated release, that also featured bassist Øyvin Engman vocal debut. The result was a album of melodic and anthemic songs. They were also hard rocking.   

This is what we’ve come to expect from Black Moon Circle. They revisit their hard rocking brand of psychedelic, space rock on Sea Of Clouds. It’s a fusion of heavy metal, Krautrock, avant-garde, free jazz and post rock. Black Moon Circle have also drawn inspiration from everyone from Black Sabbath, Can and Deep Purple to Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind and Motorpsycho. These disparate musical genres and influences were fused to create Sea Of Clouds.  

It features music that’s dramatic, futuristic, moody, otherworldly and gloriously rocky. Sometimes, Sea Of Clouds features Black Moon Circle at their hard rocking best. Sea Of Clouds is also “intense.” There’s always been an intensity to Black Moon Circle’s music. It’s as much a part of Black Moon Circle’s music as the layers of fuzzy guitars, spacey, lysergic synths and futuristic sci-fi sounds. That’s the case throughout Sea Of Clouds, which shows another side to space rock pioneers Black Moon Circle. It’s their most accessible album and is a glorious assault on the sensory system from  genre-melting innovators Black Moon Circle,

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Black Moon Circle-The Studio Jams Volume 2.

In mid-November,  Black Moon Circle released The Studio Jams Volume 2 via Crispin Glover Records. It’s the second in a  trilogy of Studio Jams and Black Moon Circle’s second album of 2016. Just like the Trondheim based psychedelic space rock pioneers’ previous albums, they fuse musical genres as they push musical boundaries.  

The basis for Black Moon Circle’s music is the classic rock of the sixties and seventies, psychedelia and space rock. To this, Black Moon Circle add elements of avant-garde, electronica, experimental,  free jazz, Krautrock and post rock. Seamlessly, these disparate musical genres and influences merge into something new and innovative. It’s cinematic, dramatic, futuristic, moody, rocky and as Øyvin Engan says, “intense.” This intensity is deliberate. It comes courtesy of the four members of Black Moon Circle. They deploy layers of fuzzy guitars, spacey, lysergic, futuristic, sci-fi synths and a mesmeric rhythm section. They create two “lengthy jams” which features  “heavy riffage and the extensive use of effects.” They’re used extensively and put to good use by Black Moon Circle. 

They’re one of the most exciting, talented and innovative Norwegian groups. They remind me of their fellow countrymen, Motorpsycho and Moster! However, Elements of Can, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind, early Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing shine through on The Studio Jams Volume 2 . This hard rocking opus, finds the Trondheim-based psychedelic space rockers Black Moon Circle, reaching new heights on The Studio Jams Volume 2.

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Black Roots-Son Of Man.

Thirty-seven years after Black Roots were formed in 1979, the elder statesmen of the British reggae scene, returned with a new album Son Of Man. It was released on Soulbeat Records and features powerful music full of social comment.

Black Roots highlight injustice, while speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves. They’re the people who have been let down and betrayed by successive governments. This includes the old and infirm, the disabled, unemployed and poor. None of these people have a voice. They’ve been forced to sit back whilst one government almost ruined Britain financially forever. However, the guilty parties don’t pay a price. Instead, its an voiceless underclass who can’t fight back. They don’t have a voice. On Son Of Man, Black Roots provide a voice for them on One Thing. Then on other tracks, they turn their attention to other matters. 

This includes the refugees fleeing persecution in the Middle East and North Africa. Black Roots go to bat for them, and provide a  voice for them. However, this is no surprise. Black Roots have been providing a voice for the poor, disenfranchised and dispossessed since they released their eponymous debut album in 1979. Thirty-seven years later, and nothing has changed. Still, Black Roots are highlighting injustice and speaking up for the poor, disenfranchised and dispossessed on Son Of Man, where they mix social comment with a health supply of hooks and melodies.

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Brian Eno-The Ship.

Brian Eno released his debut album Here Come The Warm Jets in 1974. Forty-two years later he released The Ship on Warp Records.  It finds Brian Eno continue to make music that’s still innovative, imaginative and relevant. Proof of that is The Ship

During The Ship, Brian Eno takes the listener on a journey. For four tracks lasting forty-seven minutes, he paints pictures in your mind’s. Sometimes he takes you places you neither expected nor wanted to go. This includes the battlefield, where people are hardened to the needless loss of life. However, The Ship is captivating piece, which the listener should embrace and let wash over them.  As they do, it’s a case of letting their imagination run riot. if they do, they’ll be richly rewarded. 

No wonder; The Ship is a musical journey that’s variously melancholy, wistful, challenging, beautiful, elegant and always, innovative. While many of Brian Eno’s counterparts cease to be relevant musically, Brian Eno is forever the innovator, and forever inventive, creative and open to experimentation musically. That’s been the case throughout a solo career that’s lasted forty-two years and over twenty albums. Brian Eno’s latest album, The Ship which is available as a collector’s edition and comes complete with a cloth bound cover and art cards. The Ship is a welcome addition to Brian Eno’s discography and is an album that’s a truly innovative, captivating, cinematic and cerebral album.

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Building Instrument-Kem Som Kan Å Leve.

Just over two years have passed since Norwegian trio Building Instrument released their eponymous debut album in March 2014. The album was released to widespread critical acclaim, and great things were forecast for Building Instrument. Since then, Building Instrument have been working on their much  anticipated sophomore album, Kem Som Kan Å Leve. After nearly two years,  was released by Hubro Music, on the 2nd of September 2016. Kem Som Kan Å Leve marks a welcome return from the Nordic sonic explorers, Building Instrument.  

They continue create inventive and innovate music, that’s ambitious and adventurous. That music is also beautiful, dreamy, ethereal, hypnotic and melodic. Partly, that is because of Mari Kvien Brunvoll’s vocal. She switches between the Molde dialect, and an invented language that only she can understand. That doesn’t matter. It plays an important part in On Kem Som Kan Å Leve, where Building Instrument followed in the footsteps of Kurt Schwitter. 

Building Instrument: “go further in the direction of expanding or erasing the meaning of language, just as Schwitters did with his sound poetry.” This was an ambitious project, but the results are fascinating and captivating. They can be heard on Kem Som Kan Å Leve, which finds Norwegian sonic explorers at their inventive and innovative best. Kem Som Kan Å Leve is Building Instrument’s musical Magnus Opus, which features six soundscapes that are ambitious and adventurous, but also beautiful, dreamy, ethereal, hypnotic and melodic.

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Bushman’s Revenge- Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen.

After spending twelve years touring and recording,  Bushman’s Revenge decided to take a much needed break. After enjoying some downtime, Bushmen’s Revenge were raring to go. By then, they had decided to change direction musically. They felt that for the time being, they had taken their fusion of “jazz, progressive and rock as far as they can.”  This opened up all sorts of new and exciting possibilities.  Eventually, Bushmnan’s Revenge decided to record their “first proper jazz album,” Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen, which was released by Rune Grammofon.

It shows different sides to Bushman’s Revenge. Lola is a  languid and wistful slice of late summer Scandinavian jazz.  The listener is transported back in time to the sixties as Bushman’s Revenge became a jazz trio. Seamlessly, they adopt to the change of style, before the album heads in the direction of electric blues. Just like Jimi Hendrix, this is starting point for 0500, Bo Marius and Gamle Plata Til Arne. They heads in new and unexpected directions, combining electric blues with rock, psychedelia and jazz. There’s even diversions into avant-garde, blues rock and free jazz.  

Mostly, electric blues, jazz and rock are to the fore as Bushman’s Revenge fuse disparate musical genres. They create ambitious, inventive and innovative music on Fritt Etter Hukommelsen, which isBushman’s Revenge’s “first proper jazz album.”  Maybe this will be the start of a new chapter in the career of musical pioneers Bushman’s Revenge? Only time will tell.

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Camera-Phantom Of Liberty.

Nowadays,, Camera are regarded as one of the leading lights of the Neu-Krautrock scene. Camera’s 2012 debut album Radiate was released to critical acclaim. So too was their 2014 sophomore album Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide. It set the bar high for Camera’s third album Phantom Of Liberty on which was released pn Bureau B .

Camera  take as their starting point Krautrock on Phantom Of Liberty, and add to that, elements of avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, improv, progressive rock,  psychedelia and rock. Seamlessly, Camera switch between, and fuse musical genres within the one track. Mostly, though, the hypnotic, relentless drums power the arrangement along. They’re reminiscent of Can, Neu and La Düsseldorf. Often, the drums sound as if they’ve been inspired by Klaus Dinger and occasionally, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Sometimes, the guitars are reminiscent of Michael Rother or Jimi Hendrix. Meanwhile, some of the keyboard sounds wouldn’t sound out of place on seventies progressive rock albums.  They play an important part in the success and sound of Phantom Of Liberty.  

The keyboards are part of Camera’s sonic pallet. It’s put to good use throughout the album. Often, the keyboards  produce futuristic, space-age sounds. Other times, they produce ghostly, ethereal and elegiac sounds. This variety of sounds are part of Camera’s carefully constructed musical tapestry, Phantom Of Liberty which is a career-defining album.

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Caus Sui-Return To Sky.

Since forming Caus Sui in Odense, in Southern Denmark in 2005, the band has released eleven albums. Their latest was Return To Sky which was released on El Paraiso Records.  Return To Sky references four decades of music. Elements of classic rock, Krautrock, psychedelia, progressive rock, stoner rock and space rock. Ambient and avant-garde have also influenced Causa Sui. So have Can, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Michael Rother and Pink Floyd. The result is a heady brew and musical genres and influences, Return To Sky.

It’s an album that veers between dark and dramatic and hard rocking to lysergic, dreamy and wistful to  mesmeric and melodic. Return To Sky is all these things and more. It also features four hugely talented musicians as they reinvent their music yet again. This is a constant process that ensures that Causa Sui are one step ahead of the musical crowd. 

Causa Sui are always one step ahead of the listener. They’ve always got a surprise in-store for the unwary listener. At any given moment, Causa Sui could throw a curveball that transforms the track. Suddenly, hard rock becomes lysergic and wistful. It’s a case of expect the unexpected throughout Return To Sky, where musical chameleons Causa Sui keep the listener on their toes during what’s a career defining album.

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BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 2.

BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 2.

Ches Smith-The Bell.

Up until the New York Winter Jazzfest in 2014, Ches Smith had always been a sideman. That night, he led his own trio. Two years later, Ches Smith’s move from sideman to bandleader was complete when he released The Bell on ECM.  

He assumes the role and responsibility with aplomb. Everything he’s done so far in his career, seems to have been leading up to this. Ches Smith and his handpicked trio create what’s an ambitious, captivating and innovative album, where chamber music combines with avant-garde, classical music and free jazz. This might seem like an unlikely combination, but it’s one that works. With the help of producer Manfred Eicher, seamlessly, Ches Smith, Craig Taborn and Mat Maneri combine musical genres on a captivating musical adventure.

It’s the result of three master musicians in perfect harmony. While Ches Smith is the bandleader, he’s not afraid to let Craig Taborn and Mat Maneri showcase their considerable skills. When this happens, Chess Smith is content to play a supporting role. He knows that they’re playing their part in a rich, multi-textured album, The Bell. It features music that’s variously cinematic, dramatic, elegiac, ethereal, rousing and stirring. Other times, it’s melancholy and wistful. Always, though, The Bell captivates. This makes the long wait for the release of Ches Smith’s debut album, The Bell well worthwhile. 

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Conrad Schnitzler and Schneider TM-Con-Struct.

Between May and July 2016 Schneider TM worked on the fourth instalment of the Con-Struct series. It was released by Bureau B with Conrad Schnitzler and Schneider TM receiving equal billing. The musical archive that Conrad Schnitzler had curated for four decades had inspired a new album of music five years after his death. Even in death, Conrad Schnitzler was capable of playing his part in ambitious and innovative music.

Each of the seven soundscapes on Con-Struct have a cinematic sound that’s sure to set the listener’s imagination racing. Sometimes, the music is minimalist and understated, while other times, it’s elegiac and ethereal or eerie and chilling. Then the next track can be futuristic with a myriad of otherworldly, sci-fi sounds. Just like the other Conrad Schnitzler that Bureau B released during 2016, Con-Struct sounds as it’s Musik For Films. 

The sounds that Conrad Schnitzler collected and curated in his musical archive have been put to good use during the Con-Struct series. Especially, in the latest instalment in the Con-struct series, where Schneider TM dips into Conrad Schnitzler archives in search of sounds and inspiration. He found plenty of both. These sounds Conrad Schnitzler collected and curated over four decades. Schneider TM puts them to good use, in his collaboration with Conrad Schnitzler, as they construct the fourth and best instalment of the Con-Struct series,

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Dalindèo-Slavic Souls

When composer and guitarist Valtteri Laurell Pöyhönen, decided to found Dalindèo in 2003, he decided to recruit some of Finland’s top jazz musicians. Since then, Dalindèo have released their four albums. Their latest album Slavic Souls was released by BBE. Slavic Souls was no ordinary album. Instead, it was described as a: “surf jazz Tango extravaganza.” 

To create their: “surf jazz Tango extravaganza,” Dalindèo combined contemporary jazz is with traditional Finnish Tango music and even northern schlanger. There’s also a psychedelic sound to Slavic Souls. Sometimes, the darkness descends and music becomes moody, broody and gloomy. Other times, the music is atmospheric. Occasionally, there’s a sense of melancholia during Slavic Souls. However,  Dalindèo’s cinematic sound shines through. It’s been part a key part of Dalindèo’s sound since 2003, and plays an important part in Slavic Souls. It’s an album that somehow, manages to be all things to all people. That however, isn’t surprising. 

Dalindèo feature six of Finland’s top jazz musicians. They were joined by a trio of talented guest artists. Finland’s premier coloratura-soprano singer Anna-Kristiina Kaappola joined trombonist Heikki Tuhkanen and pedal steel player Olli Haavisto. They play their part in the sound and success of Slavic Souls, which is the best album of their twelve year career. Indeed, Slavic Souls, ’s “surf-jazz Tango extravaganza,” is a veritable musical feast,  that’s fit for a King or Queen.

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Dan Whitehouse-That’s Where I Belong.

Having released Introducing earlier in 2016, Dan Whitehouse released That’s Where I Belong on Reveal Records later in 2016. This was the much-anticipated sophomore album by the talented, Birmingham based singer-songwriter. He’s proves a talented storyteller That’s Where I Belong. 

It features nine cinematic songs. Some of these stories aren’t Dan’s own. Instead, he provides a voice for those who have none. This includes on Close Up, where Dan tells the story of refugees, displaced from their homeland. Then on CCC and Little Left Unsaid, Dan deals with subjects like anxiety and mental health. Other times, Dan Whitehouse’s songs are reflective and poignant. He sings about subjects like family and love, and loss and compassion on That’s Where I Belong.  

It features ballads and hook-laden anthems. The ballads include Close Up, The Places We Have Been and You Brought The Sunshine. Hook-laden anthems include Work, That’s Where I Belong, Nothing’s Gonna Change It. They’re songs that listeners will never tire of hearing. Dan Whitehouse it seems has come of age as a singer and songwriter. He’s been working towards this since 2007, when he embarked upon his solo career. Now Dan Whitehouse is in touching distance of commercial success and critical acclaim. One listen to That’s Where I Belong and you’ll realise why. With its mixture of beautiful ballads and hook-laden anthems, That’s Where I Belong is the perfect introduction to the newest troubadour in town, Dan Whitehorse

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Die Krupps-Stahlwerkrequiem

Thirty-five years after  Die Krupps releasing their genre classic Stahlwerksinfonie, Jürgen Engler decided to rerecord the album with an all-star band. The resultant album Stahlwerkrequiem, was released on Bureau B.

The result was Stahlwerkrequiem, a truly  groundbreaking album of genre-melting music. It was recorded by  Die Krupps who combine elements of avant-garde, experimental, free jazz, industrial Krautrock, post rock, psychedelia and space rock on Stahlwerkrequiem. It’s a truly captivating and inspirational album, where musical and genres and influences melt into one.  Die Kupps take the listener on a journey though musical genres and influences. The music veers between dark and dramatic, to elegiac and melodic, to futuristic and otherworldly. Other times, the music is hypnotic and mesmeric. Sometimes, the metallic and industrial sounds take a strangely melodic sound as they ring out. Always, the industrial and rocky sounds that are omnipresent play a leading role in the album’s sound and success.

Stahlwerkrequiem was released thirty-five years after Die Krupps released their genre classic Stahlwerksinfonie. This was the album that many felt Die Krupps would never surpass.  However, Die Krupps managed to do so. They recorded a truly groundbreaking , genre-melting Magnus Opus . It features Die Krupps doing what they’ve spent a lifetime doing,  pushing musical boundaries to their limits and beyond.

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Edwin Sanz-Overflow.

One of the most eagerly awaited Latin albums of 2016, was Edwin Sanz’s sophomore album. Overflow. It was released on Alex Wilson Records and features nine slices of glorious salsa. They feature Edwin Sanz and his multitalented, international band reinventing old songs and introducing the audience to new ones. To do that,  they combine elements of Afro-Venezuelan, funk, gospel, hip hop, jazz, Latin, rock and soul. However, Edwin Sanz’s speciality is salsa, and Overflow is a modern salsa album. It’s salsa for the twenty-first century.    

From the opening bars of We’re Blessed, right through to the closing notes of Yo Vengo De Venezuela,  Overflow is an album that oozes quality. The music is variously beautiful, captivating, joyous and melodic. Edwin Sanz also creates music that’s dance-floor friendly and truly irresistible. Quite simply, it’s a magical musical mystery tour through genres and influences, with Edwin Sanz as the tour guide. 

He’s one of the finest percussionists of his generation, and one of the rising stars of music. That’s apparent throughout Overflow, where We’re Blessed to hear Edwin Sanz’s beautiful, joyous and uplifting, genre-melting music. It’s guaranteed to get any party started, where everybody dances with Edwin Sanz. So take my advice, and grab a copy of Overflow, and let Edwin Sanz put a spell on you.

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Electro Hafiz-Electro Hafiz.

After nineteen years with Fairuz Derin Bulut, Elektro Hafiz released his eponymous album on Pharaway Sounds. It found Elektro Hafiz experimenting and innovating. As a starting point, Elektro Hafiz used Anatolian psychedelia. To this he and his band added elements of dub, funk, jazz, reggae and rock. The result was an album new, progressive, genre-melting music full of subtleties, surprises and contrasts.

These contrasts come from the instruments used on Elektro Hafiz. He experimented with a myriad of traditional Eastern and Western instruments and scales. When Elektro Hafiz was laying down the rock guitar parts, he stayed true to his Anatolian roots, and used the Anatolian scale. This transformed the rock guitar. Each of these instruments added contrasting sounds, and became part of the bigger musical picture that became Elektro Hafiz. It’s the equivalent to a magical mystery tour.

During this magical mystery tour, Elektro Hafiz combines musical instruments, genres and influences. The result are nine tracks that are variously anthemic, beautiful, joyous and melodic. Other times, the music is dramatic, mesmeric and moody. Occasionally, Elektro Hafiz is tinged with humour. Sometimes, the music on Elektro Hafiz is cinematic and paints pictures. Always, though, the music on Elektro Hafiz is captivating, inventive and innovative, as Elektro Hafiz continues to pushed musical boundaries, and experiment.. It features Anatolian psychedelic pioneer Elektro Hafiz, as he embarks upon what’s a new and exciting musical adventure.

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Emma Pollock-In Search Of Harperfield.

Back in late January, Emma Pollock released her long-awaited third solo album In Search Of Harperfield. It was released on the Chemikal Underground label, and was the followup to 2010s In Search Of Large Numbers. In Search Of Harperfield was also an early contender for best Scottish album of 2016.

No wonder. In Search Of Harperfield was an album of carefully crafted songs that show the different sides to Emma Pollock. In Search Of Harperfield was Emma’s most eclectic album, but was also a very personal, soul-baring and autobiographical album. Many of the songs are beautiful, moving and poignant. Especially Intermission and Old Ghosts, which is one of the most moving, emotive and beautiful songs I’ve heard in a long time. They’re two of the reasons why In Search Of Harperfield is one of my best Scottish albums of 2016.

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Erlend Apneseth Trio-Det Andre Rommet.

It was in 2013 that the members of the  Erlend Apneseth Trio first met. Drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde and guitarist Stephan Meidell played on Sommarflukt, the final track on Erlend Apneset’s album Blikkspor. The three men hit it off, and decided to form Erlend Apneseth Trio, who released their debut album Det Andre Rommet on Hubro Music during 2016.

On Det Andre Rommet, the Erlend Apneseth Trio use folk as a starting point. From there, they add elements  of avant-garde, improv, jazz, musique concrète and even rock. The result is music that veers between beautiful to cinematic, to dramatic and eerie. Other times, the music is elegiac, ethereal, elegiac, melancholy and melodic.  Sometimes, the music is full of sadness and is heart-wrenching. Always, though, the music on Det Andre Rommet has the capacity to captivate and spring surprises, as the Erlend Apneseth Trio take the listener in a new and unexpected direction.

Every member of the Erlend Apneseth Trio plays their part in this musical magical mystery tour. Sometimes, it’s Erllend’s fiddle that takes the listener on this emotional roller coaster. It plays an important part on Det Andre Rommet, and in Erlend’s hands, proves a versatile instrument. One minute, he’s playing the fiddle in the same way as countless generations before him; the next, the maverick musician rewrites the rules, by unleashing a Hendrix-esque performance. In doing, he plays a part in what’s a groundbreaking, innovative album Det Andre Rommet.

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Fanfare Ciocarlia-Onwards To Mars!

2016 found Fanfare Ciocarlia celebrating their twentieth anniversary. What better way for the world’s premier gypsy brass band to celebrate such an important anniversary, than with their first new album since 2013? Fanfare released Onwards to Mars! on Asphalt Tango Records. It was crammed full of Fanfare Ciocarlia’s trademark Balkan party sounds. Blues and Latin influenced tracks, are given a big band makeover by Fanfare Ciocarlia on Onwards To Mars!

This was Fanfare Ciocarlia’s first albums since Devil’s Tale in 2013. What better way for Fanfare Ciocarlia to celebrate their twentieth anniversary, that with a new album Onwards To Mars!? It’s a reminder of why Fanfare Ciocarlia are regarded as the world’s premier gypsy brass band. They’re a truly talented band who seamlessly combine, and flit between Balkan blues and cumbia to jazz and Latin on Onwards To Mars! It was without doubt the finest album of Fanfare Ciocarlia’s career.

No wonder. The music on Onwards To Mars! veers between melancholy, mournful and wistful to dramatic and theatrical to celebratory and joyous. It’s also beautiful and heart-wrenching. Other times, the music is dance-floor friendly and truly irresistible.  This makes Onwards To Mars! the perfect introduction to newcomers to Fanfare Ciocarlia’s music. Quite simply, Onwards To Mars! is an emotional roller coaster, where Fanfare Ciocarlia takes the listener on a musical journey that they’ll never forget. 

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BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 3.

BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 3.

Fire!-She Sleeps, She Sleeps.

Back in Fenruary, Fire! released their fifth studio album She Sleeps, She Sleeps on Rune Grammofon. Just like previous albums by Fire! and the Fire! Orchestra the music on She Sleeps, She Sleeps was groundbreaking, influential and innovative. It was also captivating, progressive, genre-melting music.

The music on She Sleeps, She Sleeps veers between moody and broody, to dark and dramatic, through to hypnotic and mesmeric. Other times, the music is akin to a soul-baring confessional, where pain, hurt and heartache pours out of Mats Gustafson’s saxophone. Then his playing is akin to a musical equivalent of Primal Scream Therapy. Once he’s seemingly exercised of demons, it’s all change, and often, the music becomes beautiful and melodic. Always, though, Fire!’s potent and powerful musical cocktail continues to captivate, and proves to be just as progressive and innovative on their latest album She Sleeps, She Sleeps.

Key to the success of She Sleeps, She Sleeps is Fire!’s ability to seamlessly combine elements of avant-garde, experimental, free jazz, noise and psychedelic rock. Fire! are like a musical shaman, combining an eclectic and disparate selection of musical genres and influences. Playing a leading role in their potent musical potion, are mesomorphic rock rhythms and a braying free jazz saxophone. They compliment each other perfectly on She Sleeps, She Sleeps, which is Fire!’s finest hour.

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Fire! Orchestra-Ritual.

For their fourth album Ritual, which was released by Rune Grammofon,  the Fire! Orchestra “slimmed” their lineup down to just twenty-one members. The newly slimmed down  lineup of the Fire! Orchestra . Still, The Fire! Orchestra features some of the most talented musicians Sweden, Norway, Denmark and France has to offer. This pan European supergroup recorded Ritual in just two days. 

The result was an album that sounds as if everything the Fire! Orchestra has been leading up to Ritual, It Ritual features the five part Ritual suite. It’s a captivating album where the Fire! Orchestra combine avant-garde, experimental, free jazz, funk, jazz and rock. The music veers between restrained and understated to urgent and dramatic. Other times, the music is mesmeric and hypnotic, before becoming melodic and soulful. Occasionally, the music becomes moody, wistful and cinematic. Always, the music is ambitious, experimental and progressive.

Just like previous albums, Ritual is imaginative, inventive and innovative. It’s also joyous and uplifting, with the Fire! Orchestra playing with freedom and spontaneity, as they examine mysteries and rituals, not just in life, but in music. This five suite exploration is a  musical tour de force from the Fire! Orchestra, Ritual which proves that when it comes to lineups, size isn’t everything.

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Forastero-El Submarinista En El Tejad.

For the last few years, Forastero have been familiar faces on Madrid’s underground jazz scene. It offers alternative venues to the ones that are regularly frequented by the city’s more conservative jazz fans. They may have changed their mind after hearing Forastero’s debut album, El Submarinista En El Tejad. It’s a captivating musical adventure.

During El Submarinista En El Tejad, Forastero take the listener on a the musical equivalent of a magical mystery tour. Forastero fuse elements of avant-garde, dub, electronica, free jazz, funk, rock, sixties soul, ska, soul jazz and surf rock. To this, Forastero add a variety of musical influences, including The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Sonic Youth. So does Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Westerns and the music of Brandt Brauer Frick. They play their part in El Submarinista En El Tejado’s cinematic sound. All this influenced Forastero album El Submarinista En El Tejado which was released on Lovemonk Records.

It’s an accomplished, cinematic and genre-hopping album. No wonder. Forastero have spent the last few years honing and perfecting their sound. This has paid off.  They’ve recorded a truly eclectic album, El Submarinista En El Tejado. It features the many sides of Forastero. El Submarinista En El Tejado and has the potential to introduce Forastero to a much wider audience,  and in the process, launch the career of the Madrid based musical adventurers, Forastero.

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Frightened Rabbit-Painting Of A Panic Attack.

Three years after they released their previous album Pedestrian Verse, Glasgow based Frightened Rabbit returned recently with their fifth album Painting Of A Panic Attack. It was released on Atlantic Records, is a mixture of anthems and ballads. Mostly, though, anthems are to the fore on Painting Of A Panic Attack. 

Just like the ballads on Painting Of A Panic Attack, they feature lyrics that are variously cerebral, cinematic, dark, insightful and wistful. Lead singer and songwriter Chris Hutchison, brings these lyrics to life. He’s a storyteller who breathes emotion and meaning into the lyrics. That’s the case whether it’s on the ballads or anthems. There’s hooks aplenty on the anthems, which will be favourites when Frightened Rabbit play live. 

They’ve been doing a lot of that recently. That will continue to be the case. Frightened Rabbit are also well on their way to becoming one of the most successful current Scottish bands. They’ve also released one of the best albums of their thirteen year career. That album is Painting Of A Panic Attack, which is an assured and accomplished album from Frightened Rabbit who are equally comfortable delivering ballads as they are hook-laden anthems.

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Hedvig Mollestad Trio-Black Stabat Mater

During July, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio released two albums on Rune Grammofon. This included their much anticipated fourth album Black Stabat Mater. It’s a glorious reminder of the golden age of rock. Indeed, it’s possible to imagine the Hedvig Mollestad Trio playing at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles or Fillmore East in New York. However, the similarities between some of the legends of music and the Hedvig Mollestad Trio is no coincidence.  

Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen who founded the Hedvig Mollestad Trio in 2009, grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix. Their influence can be heard throughout Black Stabat Mater. So can the influence of early Hawkwind, Cream, Santana and West, Bruce and Laing. Closer to home, maybe Moster! and Motorpsycho have influenced the Hedvig Mollestad Trio? These bands have a similar genre-melting sound to the Hedvig Mollestad Trio. 

To create this genre-melting sound, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio fuse elements of rock, psychedelia and space rock with avant-garde, improv and jazz. Sometimes, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio seamlessly switch between musical genres mid track. Other times, these disparate genres melt into one on Black Stabat Mater. Occasionally, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio spring a series of surprises, and take the listener on a magical mystery tour. Mostly, though, Black Stabat Mater is an album of über hard rocking music which is finest album of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s career. They reach new heights on Black Stabat Mater.

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Hedvig Mollestad Trio-Evil In Oslo.

In July 2016, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio released two albums. This includes the live album Evil In Oslo. It was released by Rune Grammofon and is the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s first ever live album. Evil In Oslo is a tantalising taste of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio live.

Evil In Oslo was recorded in two Oslo clubs, John Dee and Buckley’s. Playing in front of a hometown audience seemed to bring out the best in the Hedvig Mollestad Trio, They prove to be confident and assured performers on  Evil In Oslo. The Hedvig Mollestad Trio fuse elements of classic rock, psychedelia, progressive rock and space rock with avant-garde, blues, funk, improv and jazz. Sometimes, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio seamlessly switch between musical genres mid track. Other times, these disparate genres melt into one on the same track. However, for much of the time, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio showcase their hard rocking sound. 

Lead by virtuoso guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio are one of the new breed of hard rocking groups that have sprung up across Europe.  However, Norwegian trailblazers the Hedvig Mollestad Trio, are without doubt one of the best of the new generation of hard rockling bands. Proof of that is Evil On Oslo, which is a tantalising taste of the hard rocking Hedvig Mollestad Trio at their very best.

 

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I Have A Tribe-Beneath A Yellow Moon.

Patrick O’Laoghaire  had been working I Have A Tribe’s much anticipated debut album since 2015. It was recorded at Chem 19 studio, in Blantyre, Scotland with ex-Delgado Paul Savage. The resultant album Beneath A Yellow Moon was released on Grönland Records as summer dawned. 

Beneath A Yellow Moon featured captivating songs that are beautiful, cerebral, cinematic, melancholy, poignant, thoughtful and touching. They’re framed by arrangements that are understated. They don’t get in the way of the vocal. Instead, the vocal is allowed to breath and becomes the focus of your attention. That’s as it should be.  Patrick O’Laoghaire’s vocal veers between heartfelt, emotive and melancholy, to needy and hopeful. Other times, hurt and heartbreak shine through on Beneath A Yellow Moon. The result was an album that not only lives up people’s expectations, but surpasses them.

That’s no surprise. Patrick O’Laoghaire, the man behind I Have A Tribe is a talented singer, songwriter and musician, who doesn’t so much deliver songs, but lives and experiences them. That is the case throughout Beneath A Yellow Moon, but is especially the case on After We Meet, Kamala. and Casablanca. These tracks just might be “the beginning of a beautiful friendship” with Have A Tribe and their debut album Beneath A Yellow Moon.

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Jenny Hval-Blood Bitch.

Autumn 2016 saw Jenny Hval released  her new album, Blood Bitch, via Sacred Bones. It was the followup to Apocalypse Girl. However, Blood Bitch was a very different album and one of the most experimental and focused album’s of Jenny Hval’s six album career.

Before its release, Jenny Hval described Blood Bitch as: “an investigation of… blood that is shed naturally…the purest and most powerful, yet most trivial, and most terrifying blood.” Blood Bitch found Jenny Hval drawing inspiration  from everything from art and pop to vampire movies and artwork made of menstrual blood. 

Jenny Hval also incorporated  elements of poetry,  prose and absurdist dialogue into Blood Bitch. She also deployed a myriad of instruments, effects, noise, samples and added vocals that convey a variety of emotions.

They’re framed by arrangements that are understated. They tinkle, shimmer, glisten and quiver. Other times, they’re atmospheric, fuzzy and spacious. Sometimes, they bristle and crackle. Occasionally, the arrangements are elegiac ooze ethereal beauty. Never do they overpower Jenny Hval’s vocal which is the focus of the listener’s attention. Meanwhile, elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental and pop combine on Blood Bitch. It’s variously  atmospheric, beautiful, challenging, cinematic, eerie, elegiac and ethereal.  There’s also an intensity to Blood Bitch, which is a ruminative and thought-provoking album. However, one thing Blood Bitch drives home and remind listeners is that blood isn’t something is a life force, a reminder of creation and  where men and women begin.

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Jessica Sligter-A Sense Of Growth.

Although Jessica Sligter was born in Holland, Oslo is where she calls home. Despite that, her third album A Sense Of Growth, which was released by Hubro Music, was recorded in Seattle. It was the most ambitious and abstract album of her career. A Sense Of Growth was an album of abstract, genre-melting soundscapes which found Jessica: “deconstructing the format of song based music.”

Having done so, Jessica wrote captivating songs. She dawns the role of a storyteller, as she combines paeans, confessionals, and social comment with songs filled with hurt and pain. This includes the heart-wrenching title-track. Just like so many of the songs on A Sense Of Growth, it has a cinematic quality. Jessica dawns the role of director, and uses instruments and harmonies to help her tell these stories. This is hugely effective, and results in a truly compelling and innovative, genre-hopping album.

Everything from  avant-garde, country, folk, pop, psych-folk and rock feature and are fused on A Sense Of Growth. Similarly, Jessica uses combinations of instruments that seem unlikely bedfellows. They work well and play their part in songs that are beautiful, cinematic, dramatic, emotive and moving. Other songs veer between elegiac and ethereal; to emotive and melancholy and sometimes, poignant and wistful. Every song is guaranteed to stir an emotion and make the listener think. That’s why A Sense Of Growth is a career defining album from sonic innovator and explorer Jessica Sligter.

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Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies-Let It Be You.

Let It Be You was the much-anticipated collaboration between Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies.  It was released by Reveal Records and found Joan and Benjamin fusing elements of electronica, indie pop and indie rock are combined with ambient, avant-garde and experimental music. Then there’s the influence of African music. That’s no surprise.

Both Joan and Benjamin journeyed to Africa to study traditional music. When they returned, and happened to meet that they realised they both shared an interest in African music. This lead to them record the genre-melting Let It Be You. There’s an African influence throughout  the album. Especially othe staccato bit-crushed guitar line that plays throughout Broke Me In Two. That sound reappears elsewhere on the album. However, care is taken not to overuse it. It’s a similar case with the various effects that are deployed.

Effects are used throughout to  sculpt carefully craft Let It Be You. It lasts just thirty-seven minutes, but it’s thirty-seven memorable and melodic minutes. The music on Let It Be You is variously beautiful, dreamy, elegiac and ethereal, but also dark and dramatic. Other times, the music is hypnotic and mesmeric, before becoming catchy and truly irresistible. It’s a case of don’t spare the hooks, as  Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies weave their musical magic and continually captivate on  Let It Be You.

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BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 4.

BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 4.

Jóhann Jóhannsson-Ophee

On Orphée, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s turned his attention to the beauty and the process of creation. Orphée features Jóhann Jóhannsson tracing a path from darkness into light. Inspiration for Orphée comes from the opéra bouffe Orphée aux enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld). It was written by Ludovic Halévy, and later, revised by Hector-Jonathan Crémieux. The score was written by Jacques Offenbach and became the first full length operetta. Its first performance came in 1858. Since then, this ancient and famous tale has been retold countess times.   

Orphéem which  an almost flawless album, finds Jóhann Jóhannsson fusing elements of classical and electronic music with ambient, avant-garde, Baroque and minimalism. Other influences includes the music of Bernard Hermann, Ennio Morricone and Michael Nyman. Then there’s the music of classical composers like  Shostakovich and Prokofiev. All these influences can be heard throughout Orphée. 

The music on Orphée ranges from melodic and mesmeric, to atmospheric, beautiful, ethereal and elegiac. Other times, there’s a degree of darkness and drama. Sometimes, there’s a sense of melancholia and sadness on Orphée. It’s an emotional roller coaster to cherish and treasure. That’s even for people with no interest in classical music. Orphée is a genre-melting album and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s debut on Deutsche Grammophon. It’s also the finest album of his fourteen year solo career.  Indeed, Orphée is a career defining album from Jóhann Jóhannsson and features ambitious, inventive and innovative music.

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John Illsley-Long Shadows.

Eighteen months after the release of Testing The Water, John Illsley returned with Close To The Edge. It was released on Blue Barge Records and was one of his finest solo albums. The master storyteller works his way through eight songs that ebb and flow beautifully, as the listener is taken on a journey by John Illsley. 

From the beautiful, melancholy Morning, the songs on Long Shadows are variously atmospheric, beautiful, cerebral, cinematic and melancholy. They’re also captivating and full of mystery, intrigue and social comment. John also introduces the listener to a cast of characters and tells their story. Other songs are full of social comment. However, two of the finest songs are the paeans, There’s Something About You and Lay Me Down. John it seems is capable of switching between styles and tempo.

That’s the case throughout Long Shadows. John Illsley showcases John’s versatility. Seamlessly, John combines elements of Americana, blues, boogie, country, folk and rock on Long Shadows. Sometimes, John and band sound not unlike Dire Straits. Then on Lay Me Down, John seems to draw inspiration from J.J. Cale. These musical genres and influences combine to create Long Shadows which is without doubt, one of the best albums of John Illsley’s solo career. Long Shadows is also proof that, the old ones are the best. That there is no doubt about.

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Jon Balke-Warpe

When Norwegian pianist Jon Balke released Warp on ECM, it was his first album since 2009.  However, it was well worth the wait. Warp features a series of carefully sculpted soundscapes. They veer between to beautiful dreamy and ethereal, to dark and dramatic, to moody and broody. Other times, the music is melancholy and wistful. Often, space is left within the arrangements, allowing listeners to reflect. Always though, the music on Warp has a minimalist, cinematic sound. 

There’s a cinematic sound throughout Warp. The listener will find themselves inventing scenarios to each of the soundscapes. It’s almost unavoidable. Especially on tracks where Jon Balke has left space. However, Warp is also an album that listeners can wallow in. The music washes over the listener, enveloping and embracing them. Sometimes, it’s lysergic, while other times it soothes their weary soul. Other times, Warp’s slow, spacious and cinematic sound is perfect to reflect and ruminate to. Warp it seems, is all things to everyone.

That’s not surprising. Jon Balke has drawn inspiration from a variety of sources for Warp. Although he’s primarily a jazz musician, he combines  elements of ambient, avant-garde, classical, free jazz and Krautrock can be heard. This genre-hopping album is without doubt, the finest album of Jon Balke’s finest solo career. Warp is a minimalist cinematic epic, where drama, melancholia and beauty are omnipresent during Jon Balke’s long-awaited comeback album.

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King Creosote-Astronaut Meets Appleman.

During his twenty-one year carer, King Creosote has been a one man music making machine. Despite that, each new album from Fife based singer-songwriter eagerly awaited. Especially an album as eclectic as Astronaut Meets Appleman. 

It’s one of the most eclectic albums of King Creosote’s long and illustrious career. They combine elements of folk, indie rock, perfect pop and psychedelia on Astronaut Meets Appleman. It features balladry, paeans, rockers and hook-laden anthems. King Creosote are equally happy delivering ballads, as they’re heading into anthem territory. That’s no surprise. Kenny Anderson’s worldweary voice is perfect for the ballads on Astronaut Meets Appleman. 

The result is an album that’s a fitting followup to From Scotland To Love, which was King Creosote’s previous release on Domino Records. It’s a welcome addition to King Creosote’s burgeoning back-catalogue. Astronaut Meets Appleman is also a tantalising taste of the inimitable King Creosote, who after twenty-one years and over forty albums, are belatedly receiving the critical acclaim and recognition that their music so richly deserves

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Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer, Samuel Rohrer-Amiira.

Over the years, Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer, Samuel Rohrer’s paths had crossed and they became friends. They had much in common. Especially when it came to music. However, Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer, Samuel Rohrer didn’t release an album until Amiira was released as part of Arjunamusic’s acoustic series last year.

Amiira features improvised soundscapes. They’re variously moving, elegiac and ethereal, to melodic, mesmeric, poignant and ruminative. Other times, the music is a plaintive cry, and a lament for lost love. Sometimes, the music is otherworldly, futuristic and robotic. Then on Fulminate, Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer and Samuel Rohrer kick out the jams, and unite in a three man protest. In doing so, the listener hears a very different side to the pan European triumvirate of musical innovators.

This talented triumvirate of innovative musicians created cerebral and cinematic music. Amiira is proof of this. Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer and Samuel Rohrer invite the listener to let their imagination run riot and lose themselves in this cinematic opus. It’s impossible not to accept their invitation to embrace what is a wonderfully cinematic and cerebral album, Amiira.

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Konono Nº1 Meets Batida.

Konono Nº1 Meets Batida was the first album to be released since the death of founder member Mingiedi Mawangu. His son Augustin now leads Konono Nº1, and has done so, for several years. While he has a lot to live up to, Augustin played his part in what’s a captivating and memorable collaboration, Konono Nº1 Meets Batida which was released on Crammed Discs.

Describing Konono Nº1 Meets Batida in just a couple of words is impossible. The music veers between joyous and irresistible, to melodic, memorable and mesmeric as musical genres melt into one. Traditional Congolese and Angolan music is combined with electronic beats and elements of dub, gospel and soul. At the heart of Konono Nº1 Meets Batida’s success is an exotic array of percussive delights and vocals that are impassioned, heartfelt and joyful. The final piece of the jigsaw was a trio of truly talented guest artists.  

This was the recipe for a successful and intoxicating musical collaboration…Konono Nº1 Meets Batida. It’s a fitting way to celebrate the memory of the man Mingiedi Mawangu, who founded  Konono Nº1 fifty years ago, in 1966.

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Kris Drever-If Wishes Were Horses.

Six years after releasing his critically acclaimed sophomore albium Mark The Hard Earth in 2010, Kris Drever returned with long-awaited solo album. The reason for the delay was the rise and rise of progressive folk band, Lau. This meant that Kris Drever had to put his solo career on hold. However, when Lau had some downtime, Kris Drever wrote and recorded If Wishes Were Horses which was released by Reveal Records.

With its understated, and sometimes sparse arrangements, Kris Drever’s vocal takes centre-stage. Other times, the understated arrangements showcase catchy, melodic and memorable tracks where hooks haven’t been rationed. Always, though, the arrangements allow the listener to concentrate on the lyrics. Kris tackles a variety of subjects, from education and social migration to politics, self-employment and Shetland where Kris Drever now lives. There’s also songs about love and sex. No subject is off-limits, on what’s a semi-autobiographical album from Kris Drever. He’s matured as singer and songwriter since his sophomore album Mark The Hard Earth.

That’s not surprising, as it’s six years since Mark The Hard Earth was released. However,  If Wishes Were Horses has been well worth the wait.  If Wishes Were Horses is a cerebral, career defining album from Orkney born troubadour Kris Drever. He ponders and philosophises on a variety of subjects on If Wishes Were Horses,  and in the process, breathes life and meaning into his cerebral, insightful lyrics.

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Krokofant-Krokofant II. 

As 2016 dawned, Krokofant released their much anticipated much anticipated sophomore album Krokofant II on Hubro Music. It was a marriage of the Joycean progressive rock odysseys of King Crimson and Henry Cow and Peter Brötzmann’s free jazz ensembles. Add to that, the influence jazz-rock pioneers like The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Terje Rypdal and Ray Russell. The result was a unique and captivating fusion of musical genres and influences.

Seamlessly Korokofant flit between, and fuse disparate and eclectic musical genres.They combined everything from avant rock, free jazz, fusion and rock, to avant garde, progressive rock and post rock. There’s even hints of experimental and psychedelia as Krokofant weave their unique musical tapestry on  a genre-melting musical journey. 

As they do, each track on Krokofant II proves unique. They’re full of subtleties and nuances. Constantly, Krokofant  throw curveballs and seamlessly change direction. Suddenly, the reveal another side to their music. That’s what you expect from musical pioneers, Krokofant who come of age musically on Krokofant II. 

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Laniakea-A Pot Of Powdered Nettles.

Ian Johnstone was happy to share his home with others. This included many people he had never met Ian Johnstone before. They had arrived in London, with hopes and dreams. Often these hopes and dreams hadn’t just been dashed, but left in tatters. For these people Ian Johnstone’s became a sanctuary. Sadly, he passed away in spring 2015. To celebrate Ian Johnstone’s life, his friends Daniel O’Sullivan and Massimo Pupillo recorded four cosmic hymns that became Laniakea’s debut album A Pot Of Powdered Nettles. It was released by the House Of Mythology label.      

A Pot Of Powdered Nettles  features cerebral, cinematic, dramatic, ethereal, melodic and mesmeric music. It’s a fusion of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, experimental, Krautrock and psychedelia. Similarly, Alice Coltrane, Godflesh, Kraftwerk, Pink Floyd and Hildegard von Bingen have all influenced Pot Of Powdered Nettles. It wasn’t an easy album to record.

Laniakea set out to create, evoke and replicate the sense of an eternal vibration that signifies the living spirit in perpetuity. They’ve managed to do so. This is the thread that runs through the album. Then as Calcite closes A Pot Of Powdered Nettles, the arrangement becomes understated. All that remains are what may sound like a series of disparate sounds. They’re not though. Instead, they signify death and rebirth, and the sprit continuing to live on. This is how A Pot Of Powdered Nettles, closes. It’s a truly innovative, powerful and thought-provoking album.

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Maja S. K. Ratkje-Crepuscular Hour,

Crepuscular Hour which was released by Rune Grammofon, was one of the most ambitious projects that Maja S. K. Ratkje has been involved with.  It was inspired by the phenomena of crepuscular rays, where rays of sunlight stream through gaps in clouds or any number of other obstacles. Having discovered and investigated  the phenomena of crepuscular rays, Maja S. K. Ratkje set about writing Crepuscular Hour, which would be performed by a rather unorthodox lineup of three choirs, three pairs of noise musicians and a church organ.  

They produce a soundtrack that veers between impressive, dramatic and intense to ruminative, mesmeric and hypnotic. The listener is drawn in, and soon, is spellbound by music that’s dramatic and intense. Sometimes, the music is ethereal and elegiac. Other times it takes on a spiritual quality. That’s no surprise. The texts used in the recording of Crepuscular Hour, were discovered in Egypt in 1945, and  proved hugely important, resulting in scholars reexamining early Christian history. Sixty-nine  years later, these texts played an important part in Crepuscular Hour.

As the performance of Crepuscular Hour unfolds, the listener reflects on music that’s thoughtful, cerebral and occasionally, challenging. Mostly, Crepuscular Hour has an inherent beauty. There’s a serenity to music that’s ethereal, elegiac and has a spiritual quality. Always though,  Crepuscular Hour is captivating,  ambitious and innovative as the choirs combine with the noise musicians who push musical boundaries. The result is a sonic and visual feast.

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BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 5.

BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 5.

Martin Green-Flit

Last year, when  Lau enjoying some downtime, accordionist and electronics guru Martin Green decided to release his sophomore album, Flit on Reveal Records. It was the followup to Crow’s Bones which was released in 2014 and found Martin accompanied by an-star cast of musicians.

They play their part in the sound and success of Flit. This included Karine Polwart who cowrote four songs and vocalist Betty Unthanks. She and Adam feature on most of the songs. They breath life, meaning, emotion and poignancy  on songs that document “human movement around the world.” Some of the songs on Flit are tinged with sadness, despair and disappointment. Others document suffering and tragedy. Adam Holmes and Betty Unthanks. bring these songs to life. Sometimes, they sound as if they’ve lived and survived the lyrics. Other times, it’s as if Adam and Betty are determined to highlight other people’s plight and suffering. These vocals play an important part in the sound and success of Flit, a genre-melting album.

During Flit, Martin Green and his friends combine elements of traditional folk, with folk rock, electronica and rock. To this, elements of avant-garde, post rock and psychedelia. Sometimes, one genre is to the fore. Mostly, though, several genres melt into one  musical genres on Flit, Martin Green’s much-anticipated sophomore album.

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Meta Meta-MM3.

Although Metá Metá have been together since 2008, and have released two previous albums, MM3 is the best album of their career. Metá Metá and their musical friends have created what is without doubt, the best and most eclectic album of their career. They combine everything from Afrobeat and avant-garde, to folk, free jazz and funk through to jazz, Latin and rock. Seamlessly, Metá Metá switch between musical genres, and sometimes, even combine several different genres on the one track. The result is MM3, a potent and heady brew from one of the leading light’s of Sao Paulo’s new, vibrant and exciting music scene, Metá Metá.

That is no surprise, as Metá Metá feature three truly talented and versatile musicians.   They’ve spent the last eight years making music together, and nowadays, are popular throughout America, Britain, Europe and South America. However, MM3 which was recently on the Jazz Village label is the album which should introduce Metá Metá to a new and wider audience. 

No wonder. MM3 is a career defining album from Metá Metá. They come of age musically on MM3, an album of genre-melting music with an important social message. It finds the Três Amigos, Metá Metá reach new and untold musical heights on their latest and greatest album, MM3.

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Miracle Glass Company-MG 1. 

Edinburgh based power rock trio have been around for several years. They  first came to prominence in May 2016, when they released their single Higher Than High. Straight away, it was obvious that Miracle Glass Company were a cut above the competition. They were a much tighter and more accomplished band who were capable of creating melodic psychedelic rock. Proof of this is their debut album MG 1. 

During MG 1, Miracle Glass Company showcase their considerable talents. Seamlessly they switch between rocky anthems and ballads. Similarly, Miracle Glass Company flit effortlessly between disparate musical genres. Sometimes, they combine several genres within the same track. This proves a potent and heady brew. Especially as Miracle Glass Company power pop, psychedelia, rock and the West Coast sound. They also draw inspiration from a variety of musical influences.

The Doors, Big Star, The Beatles, The Who and Teenage Fanclub have all influenced Miracle Glass Company. This is apparent on their debut album MG1, which was released on VoxBox Records.  MG 1 showcases a truly talented and versatile band. They’re rising stars of Scottish music whose star is in the ascendancy. 2017 promises to be a big year for Miracle Glass Company. MG 1 is just the first step in what’s a long and potentially perilous journey. However, Miracle Glass Company have the potential and talent. Proof of that is MG 1, which features a tantalising taste of the new kid in town, Miracle Glass Company.

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Mogwai-Atomic

When filmmaker Mark Cousins decided to make the documentary Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise, post rock pioneers Mogwai  were commissioned to write the soundtrack. It was the perfect backdrop to Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise, which was a personal and poignant cinematic memoir. However, after the documentary was aired in the summer of 2015, Mogwai decided to rerecord the whole of the Atomic soundtrack. This might have seemed like a strange decision. However, when the rerecorded version of Atomic was released by Rock Action Records in April 2016, Mogwai’s decision to rerecord the album was vindicated.

Atomic was a mesmeric fusion that captivates and compels. The listener is taken on a musical journey, one that veers between dramatic and dreamy, to surreal and trippy, to beautiful, pensive and understated to melancholy and melodic. Other times the music is dramatic, moody and broody. One thing the music never is, is boring. Not at all. Certainly not with Mogwai providing the soundtrack to Atomic. 

Subtleties and surprises are constantly sprung. Mogwai certainly aren’t afraid of changing direction. Using the musical equivalent of a handbrake turn, the Mogwai Young Team perform a volte face. That’s what makes Atomic such a captivating and groundbreaking soundtrack from Glasgow’s famous five…Mogwai.

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Mop Mop-Lunar Love.

Three years have passed since Mop Mop released their fourth album Isle Of Magic. However, Mop Moop returned in 2016 with their long-awaited fifth album Lunar Love. It was released by Agogo Records. Mop Mop were joined by a cast of ten guest artists and an eclectic array of instruments. They’re responsible for Lunar Love’s genre-melting sound on Lunar Love.

Everything from dub, electronica and funk, to avant-garde, jazz and progressive rock rubs shoulders with Afro-beat, Caribbean, Latin, Lounge and soul on Lunar Love. Over the four parts of Lunar Love, Mop Mop take the listener on a musical journey. It’s variously beautiful, dark, dramatic, elegiac, hypnotic, melodic, mesmeric, moody and wistful. However, for much of Lunar Love the music is cinematic. Especially on the instrumentals, where the listener can let their imagination run riot. Other times, there’s an element of drama and theatre to the music on Lunar Love. The vocalists add to this drama and theatre. That’s no surprise.

Mop Mop were joined by a multitalented cast of guest artists. They add an exotic array of instruments to Lunar Love. From the myriad of percussion, to the  vibes, marimba, glockenspiel balafo, steel drums and kalimba. This potpourri of disparate and eclectic instruments play their part in Lunar Love, which is  without doubt the most accomplished and cohesive album of Mop Mop’s five album career.

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Moskus-Ulv Ulv. 

Last year, Moskus released their much anticipated third album Ulv Ulv on Hubro Music. Ulv Ulv features the Norwegian jazz pioneers at their innovative best, as they play with a freedom, inventiveness and intuitiveness that most groups can only dream of. The result is music that’s inventive, innovative, ambitious, bold and challenging. This is what we’ve come to expect from Moskus.   

Just like on their two previous albums, Moskus create music that continue to challenges musical norms on Ulv Ulv. Moskus continue to push musical boundaries to there limits, and beyond on Ulv Ulv. To do this, they combine elements of avant-garde, experimental, free jazz, improv and industrial. There’s also the influence of Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Albert Ayler and Sun Ra on Ulv Ulv. The result is an album that’s variously atmospheric,  beautiful, cinematic, dark, dramatic, elegiac, ethereal, haunting, hypnotic, melodic, mesmeric, otherworldly and ruminative. The result was Ulv Ulv, the finest album of Moskus’ career.

Incredibly, it took Moskus just three days to record Ulv Ulv. They eschewed a traditional recording studio, and recorded Ulv Ulv at the Haugesund Billedgalleri. With just three days to record Ulv Ulv, Moskus worked quickly and efficiently, and recorded what is a captivating, career defining album. Ulv Ulv finds Moskus one step closer to the musical Utopia that bands spent their career in search of.

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Mull Historical Society-Satellite.

Ever since 2000, Mull Historical Society has been the musical vehicle of Scottish singer, song-writer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Colin MacIntyre. He released his seventh album Satellite on Xtramile Recordings during 2016. It was the second Mull Historical Society produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Dom Morley. This time, it’s resulted in a  career-defining album.

Satellite was without doubt, the best album of Mull Historical Society’s career. It’s an almost flawless album that many commentators knew Mull Historical Society were capable of making.

By that, I mean an album of slick, polished perfect pop, with diversions into folk and rock. Hooks certainly haven’t been rationed on Satellite. It’s an album long on clever poppy hooks and anthems. Other songs are cinematic, and rich in imagery. So much so, that’s it’s possible to imagine the scenes unfolding before your eyes. Meanwhile, other songs on Satellite are variously moving, poignant, beautiful and uplifting; while others are irresistible and joyous. Satellite is the best album of Mull Historical Society’s career. It seems Mull Historical Society went in search of perfection on Satellite, and very nearly discovered it on what’s a career defining album. 

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Nicklas Sørensen-Solo. 

Ever since 2010, Copenhagen based instrumental rock trio Papir’s star has been in the ascendancy. One of the men behind Papir’s success was guitarist Nicklas Sørensen, who released his debut album Solo on El Paraiso Records. He set out to experiment on Solo. However, on other tracks, Nicklas Sørensen reminds the listener’s Papir’s trademark sound. For the listener, they enjoy the best of both worlds. 

With a little help from his friends,  Nicklas Sørensen takes the listener on a genre-melting journey. This includes the three genres that have influenced Papir, Krautrock, psychedelia and space rock. These influences can be heard on Solo.  Krautrock has been a big influence on Nicklas Sørensen. Especially Can, Neu!, Cluster and Harmonia and Michael Rother. Sometimes,  Nicklas Sørensen sounds uncannily like Michael Rother, during this genre-melting journey. 

Nicklas Sørensen also combines elements of ambient, avant-garde, dub and rock. The result is Solo, an album that’s guaranteed to toy with the listener’s emotions. Solo veers between blissful, euphoric and joyous, to moody and broody, through to  lysergic and dramatic. For much of Solo, the music is hypnotic and mesmeric. That’s down to Krautrock influence. Other times, the music is cinematic. Often, though, the Solos are beautiful and dreamy, as trails of glistening, shimmering music captivate, and makes the world seem a much better place. Sadly, all too soon, Solo is over. All that’s left are the memories of Nicklas Sørensen’s genre-melting, sonic adventure, Solo.

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Pascal Pinon-Sundur.

After three years away, Pascal Pinon return with Sundur, which is a career defining album. Sundur is without doubt, the best album of Pascal Pinon’s career. It’s certainly their  most eclectic album. Sometimes, Pascal Pinon sound as if they’ve been inspired by Astrid Williamson’s early albums, John Martyn and Kate Bush. There’s even a nod to Sandy Denny, on what’s a thoroughly modern album of folk music.

Sundur finds Pascal Pinon combining disparate genres. There’s elements of ambient and avant-garde, plus electronica and experimental, right though to folk, Neofolk and pop. Sometimes, several genres melt into one on the one multilayered song. Other times, the songs are minimalistic, with sparse, spartan arrangements. They often feature just guitars or a piano, which proves the perfect accompaniment to the vocal. There, less is more. Then on the two soundscapes,  Pascal Pinon let their imagination run riot, and create captivating instrumentals. However, captivating is a word that perfectly describes Sundur, which was released Morr Music.

The music on Sundur can also be described as beautiful, cinematic, emotive and ethereal, but also dark, ruminative and wistful. Always though, the music on Sundur is captivating on what is without doubt, a career-defining album where Pascal Pinon come of age musically. 

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Phall Fatale-Moonlit Bang Bang.

Some things are well worth waiting for. Moonlit Bang Bang was one of these things. Music fans have waited three years for the followup to Charcoal From Fire. Their patience was rewarded when  Moonlit Bang Bang was released on Slowfoot Records in mid-January 2016. It’s an album that shows how Phall Fatale had grown and matured as a band.

Phall Fatale never let their standards slip on Moonlit Bang Bang. It’s a captivating musical journey through what’s a disparate selection of genres. There’s everything from avant-garde, ambient and avant-pop to Caribbean and classical through to electronica and experimental via free jazz, industrial, musique concrète and rock. That’s not forgetting a hint of funk, reggae and soul, plus plenty of post punk stylings. Moonlit Bang Bang is a truly eclectic album; and one that takes the listener on a roller coaster ride through the music of the past fifty years

As a result, musical mavericks Phall Fatale, have produced an album that’s variously eclectic, inventive, melodic and sometimes, beautiful and poignan. Other times, the music has a fragility, and bristles with emotion. Then just as quickly, Phall Fatale kick out the jams and unleash a post punk powerhouse. That’s why, musically, Phall Fatale are something of an enigma, who are always capable of springing a surprise, and taking the listener in the most unexpected direction, on what’s a truly captivating musical adventure, Moonlit Bang Bang.

 

BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 6.

BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 6.

Qluster-Echtzei.

Forty-seven years after he first co-founded Kluster, Hans-Joachim Roedelius keeps the memory of Kluster and Cluster alive with Qluster.  They released their sixth album Echtzeit on  Bureau B during 2016.   

Echtzeit marks a stylistic departure from Qluster. It’s much more ambient sounding album.  Qluster combine elements of ambient, avant-garde and Berlin School with electronica and experimental music. The result is music that’s mostly understated, subtle and minimalist. It’s case of less is more. Occasionally, the music becomes dark, dramatic and briefly, menacing. This adds to the cinematic sound of Echtzeit. Mostly, the music on Echtzeit veers between beautiful, dreamy, ethereal and lysergic; to hypnotic and mesmeric and sometimes, melancholy, reflective, ruminative, thoughtful and wistful. Always though, Echtzeit is compelling, captivating and cinematic. Echtzeit is also melodic and harmonious, and is a fitting addition to the Kluster, Cluster and Qluster illustrious discography.  

Echtzeit is also the most accessible album of Qluster’s career. It’s the perfect introduction to Qluster, and an album that should introduce Qluster to a new and much wider audience. Veterans of Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia will enjoy and embrace Qluster’s new album Echtzeit. It finds the grand old man of German music, Hans-Joachim Roedelius continuing the legacy of Kluster and Cluster with Qluster on Echtzeit.

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RM Hubbert-Telling The Trees.

For Telling The Trees, RM Hubbert joined by a stellar cast of guest artists. This includes Karine Palwart, Kathryn Williams, Martha Ffion and Anneliese Mackintosh. These multitalented songwriters, musicians and vocalists join RM Hubbert in creating another album of collaborations. Hubby’s first album of collaborations, Thirteen Lost and Found, won Hubby the Scottish Album Of The Year Award. Telling The Trees had a lot to live up to.   

It’s a captivating album of genre-melting music. Telling The Trees. features everything from folk, country, flamenco, indie pop and America. It features music that’s atmospheric, beautiful, cinematic,  ethereal, hook-laden, melancholy, pensive, poignant and ruminative. The result is an enthralling album that hopefully, marks the start in a new chapter in RM Hubbert’s career.

Telling The Trees is the first album of the post-Ampersand years. The threads that ran through the Ampersand quartet were Hubby contending with the loss of both his parents and a five year battle with depression. Hopefully, Hubby is coming to terms with the loss of his parents, and has won his brave battle with depression. If he has, then Telling The Trees will be the start of a new chapter in his career. That would be fitting. Twenty-five years ago, in 1991, RM Hubbert took his first tentative steps into Glasgow’s vibrant musical scene. Nowadays, RM Hubbert is regarded as a veteran of the Scottish music scene, whose fifth album Telling The Trees was released  to critically acclaim.

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Rick Redbeard-Awake Unto. 

Three years after the release of No Selfish Heart, Rick Redbeard released his sophomore album Awake Unto on Chemikal Underground Records. It’s  an album where Rick Redbeard has come of age musically as a solo artist.

No wonder. Rick Redbeard spent three years carefully crafting the ten songs on Awake Unto. It was recorded  with help of a few musical friends. The result was Awake Unto, which is  a much stronger and more cohesive album than No Selfish Heart. Awake Unto also an album that oozes quality. 

Many of the songs on Awake Unto have much in common. Not only are they beautiful, but they’ve a cinematic quality. Rick Redbeard paints pictures with his lyrics, and with his unique and unmistakable vocal, takes the listener on a musical adventure. They discover songs that are beautiful and cinematic. Others are poignant, atmospheric, and tinged with drama, melancholy, mystery and mysticism. Some are  melodic and memorable, while The Golden Age is an anthem-in-waiting. Wild Young Country and Field Years are both heartfelt paeans from the pen of Rick Redbeard. He’s a talented songwriter, who has the ability to breath life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics. Proof of this is Awake Unto, where Rick Redbeard comes of age musically.

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Skadedyr-Culturen.

Supergroup. That describes Skadedyr. Their lineup features twelve of the most inventive, innovative and influential musicians in Norway. Skadedyr are no ordinary supergroup. Instead, they describe themselves as an anarchist-democratic band. This makes Skadedyr standout from the crowd. So does the unique and eclectic selection of instruments that Skadedyr play. They put them to good use on  Culturen which was released by Hubro Music. It marks the return of one of the most exciting bands in the Norwegian music scene, Skadedyr.

They don’t disappoint on Culturen. It’s captivating album where Skadedyr create a dazzling musical tapestry. They fuse a disparate selection of musical influences. Everything from avant-garde, electronica, experimental, folk, free jazz and post rock shine through. So does brass band, industrial, jazz, and musique concrète. These musical genres become Skadedyr’s musical palette, and are applied upon on Culturen’s six canvases.

These canvases veer between atmospheric, dark, dramatic and eerie, to ethereal, joyous and melodic. Other times, they’re minimalist and understated, but can quickly, become urgent, futuristic and otherworldly. Sometimes, the music becomes melancholy and wistful,  but has an inherent beauty. Always, though, Skadedyr captivate with their unique brand of genre-melting music. It’s often cinematic, and allows the listener to paint pictures as they immerse themselves in the music on Culturen. It’s a career-defining album and tantalising introducing to one of most exciting and dynamic bands in Norwegian music, Skadedyr whose sophomore album Culture is their most accessible.

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Sølyst-The Steam Age. 

Five years after releasing their eponymous debut album, Sølyst released their third album  The Steam Age on Bureau B.  It’s an ambitious album where Sølyst turns his attention to the Industrial Revolution.

The Steam Age sounds like the soundtrack. Sølyst even manages to replicate the sound of a factory at work. It veers between dramatic, alluring and melodic, to mesmeric, reassuringly rhythmic and hypnotic.  Sølyst’s factory at work provides a captivating soundtrack. Especially when the machines seem to dance with delight. Sølyst it seems , is providing the soundtrack of a factory at play. This conjures up visions of machines coming to life, like an industrial version of Toy Story. 

Maybe, Sølyst has inadvertently provided the soundtrack to Disney Pixar’s next blockbuster? He certainly has created a cinematic epic. When listening to The Steam Age, it’s best to let your imagination run riot. As you listen to the music, scenarios will unfold before your eyes. Suddenly, the dark satanic mills seem very real. Especially their sounds and dangers, as sounds assail one’s senses. For forty-nine minutes, The Steam Age proves an enthralling and captivating listen. It’s the closest thing to time travel you’ll experience with without Doctor Who’s Tardis.

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Splashgirl-Hibernation.

When doom jazz pioneers Splashgirl were formed, they decided to combine traditional instruments and technology. This was new, exciting and innovative. The members of Splashgirl were one part musician, to one part musical alchemist as they experimented with their arsenal of musical instruments and technology. They put that to good use over the years, including on their fifth album Hibernation which was released by Hubro Music. It found Splashgirl changing direction.   

This was a huge risk. Splashgirl had found and honed their sound over four critically acclaimed albums. However, Splashgirl aren’t the type of group who could or would rerecord the same album. That’s for lesser bands, not musical mavericks and pioneers like Splashgirl. So when they made their way to Hljodriti Studio in Hafnarfjördur in September 2015, the decision was made. Splashgirl would make more use of synths, electronics and processing. They play a more important part in Hibernation, which features Splashgirl at their most inventive and innovative.

As Splashgirl innovate, the combine disparate musical genres. Elements of avant-garde, classical, drone, free jazz, post rock jazz and rock. All these genres play their part in Hibernation. It veers between cinematic, dramatic, melancholy and wistful, and sometimes, beautiful, elegiac and ethereal. Hibernation is an album to embrace and cherish, where musical alchemists Splashgirl create a cinematic Magnus Opus.

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Starless-Starless.

One of the most anticipated Scottish albums of 2016 was Starless, a project that Paul McGeechan conceived over seven years ago. It was an ambitious project, and one that would take time, patience and persistence to realise. However, this he realised, was the time to make the Starless project reality. So having compassed music of the music on Starless, Paul enlisted a few friends. 

Soon, Paul had a cast of some of the most talented singers in Scotland. This included The Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan, Capercaillie’s Karen Matheson, Marie Clare Lee, Julie Fowlis and Andrew White. Pop and rock vocalists joined traditional singers in Starless. Joining them, were the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. They provided an emotive backdrop throughout Starless. Not only did they sweep the arrangements along, but framed the vocals. What was unusual was that the strings dominated the arrangements on Starless. However, Starless was no ordinary album, and Starless were ordinary group. 

Instead, Starless is more like a musical collective, where there is room for the lineup to evolve. However, on Starless ethereal beauty and troubled troubadours with worldweary vocals join lush strings in producing an almost flawless album. That album is Starless, which features stars aplenty.They shine bright and made Paul McGeechan’s Starless project a reality, and a resounding success.

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Stein Urheim-Strandebarm.

After a two year absence, Bergen based, multi-instrumentalist Stein Urheim, returned with another album of ambitious and innovative music, Strandebarm. It was released on Hubro Music. Inspiration for Strandebarm, was French music of the early 1900s; American ragtime and standards of the twenties and thirties. They were a tonal departure point for Stein Urheim on Strandebarm. These he combines with both acoustic instruments and electronic elements. They’re both part of Stein Urheim’s musical arsendal, which he deploys to good effect as he recorded Strandebarm.

Stein Urheim put his musical arsenal to good use.  Strandebarm is aheady brew. It’s best described as atmospheric, beautiful, ethereal, haunting, melancholy, mesmeric and wistful. Other times, the music is cinematic and dramatic. However, for much of Strandebarm, the music is ruminative and thoughtful. It allows time to reflect and consider, without being subdued or sombre. Far from it.

Instead, Strandebarm is another captivating album from one of the leading lights of Norway’s vibrant music scene, Stein Urheim. The Bergen based musical pioneer continues to innovate and take his music in new and unheralded directions. Other times, Stein Urheim springs a surprise, as he takes the listener on a musical adventure. By then, Stein Urheim is playing the role of a swashbuckling musical pioneer. Helped along by his collection of eclectic and exotic stringed instruments from the four corners of the world, Stein Urheim has created some of the most ambitious, exciting and innovative music of his career on Strandebarm.

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Stian Westerhus-Amputation.

Nowadays, Stian Westerhus is one of the most accomplished and innovative abstract guitar players. Constantly, he’s busy working as a session player and collaborating with the great and good of Norwegian music. When he has time, he works on his solo albums. 2016 saw  Stian Westerhus release his fourth solo alnbum,  Amputation on the House Of Mythology label. It’s the most ambitious album of his career.

Amputation features music that’s cerebral, challenging and thought-provoking. Stian wants the listener to think; sometimes about subjects that will make will them uncomfortable. That’s the case on Amputation and Amputation Part II. Stian replicates the sounds heard in an operating theatre when an amputation is taking place. It’s a traumatic and life-changing event. Most musicians would shy away from even broaching such a controversial subject. Not Stian Westerhus. He brings the subject into the open, and faces the reality head on. For that he should be congratulated. However, the Amputation suite is just part of Amputation.

The music on Amputation is also beautiful, cinematic, ethereal and melodic. Other times, it’s dark, haunting and mournful. Sometimes, Stian lays bare his soul, delivering vocals that are akin to an outpouring of emotion. When this happens, there’s a cathartic quality to the vocals, as if Stian is cleansing his soul. He breathes life and meaning into the lyrics on Sinking Ships, How Long and Infectious Decay. Always, the music on Amputation is compelling and innovative on what’s Stian Westerhus’ finest hour.

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Sula Bassana-Shipwrecked.

When Sula Bassana released Shipwrecked on Sulatron-Records, it was the twentieth album they had released since 2002. Shipwrecked is best described as an album of electronic Krautrock, albeit with a few detours. 

On Shipwrecked, Dave Schmidt combines elements of avant-garde, Berlin School, experimental and psychedelia with electronic Krautrock. In doing so, Sula Bassana draws inspiration from, and pay homage to Can, Cluster, Kraftwerk, Michael Hoenig, Neu! and Rodion G.A. When this heady brew of musical genres and influences is combined, the result is Sula Bassana’s twentieth album, Shipwrecked.

It features music that veers between dramatic to broody and moody, to hypnotic and mesmeric right through to melancholy and wistful. Other times, the music on Shipwrecked ranges from lysergic to futuristic and even beautiful. Always though, Sula Bassana’s music on Shipwrecked is innovative, captivating and cinematic. Shipwrecked sounds like the soundtrack to a film that’s yet to made, but if it ever is, is sure to be a blockbuster. 

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BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 7.

BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 7.

Sunanna-Triangle.

Triangle is Susanna’s eleventh album and first for four years. It was released on Susanna’s own SusannaSonata label, and is no ordinary album. Not by a long chalk. Instead, Triangle is a twenty-two song cerebral epic, where Susanna muses and meditates on mortality and religion.  It’s a powerful album, that invites reflection and introspection.

Triangle features understated, spartan arrangements. They come courtesy of Susanna’s arsenal of electronics, effects, samples and instruments. When they’re combined, they help hone the stark, understated and beautiful backdrops. Often, they’re a mixture of different musical genres and influences. This includes elements of ambient, avant-garde, chamber folk, drone, electronica, experimental, gospel and indie pop. The result is music that’s cerebral as Susanna muses and meditates on mortality and religion. 

As she does, the music on Triangle is variously beautiful, cinematic, emotive, expressive, heartfelt and hopeful. Especially as Susanna’s vocals take centre-stage. She breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics on Triangle. Susanna is at her best on the ballads as she delivers a series of vocal masterclasses. Other times, the music on Triangle changes, becoming dark, melancholy and wistful. This is part of what’s a captivating and cerebral album, Triangle. Its ruminative and invites reflection and introspection on Susanna musings on mortality and religion. The result of Susanna’s musings can be found on Triangle, and are what she describes as: “music for lost souls,” where “nothing is holy, nothing is sacred.” 

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Teenage Fanclub-Here.

After a six year absence, Glasgow’s very own Kings of jangle pop, Teenage Fanclub returned with their much anticipated tenth album, Here. It was the long awaited followup to 2010s Shadows. Since then, the members of Teenage Fanclub have been spending much of their time working on various side projects. Eventually, the call came, and everyone returned to the mothership, Teenage Fanclub. That has been home to the Bellshill boys since 1989. This homecoming was going to be special.

From the opening bars of I’m In Love, right through to the closing notes of Connected To Life, Teenage Fanclub never put a foot wrong. The songs are anthemic, beautiful, joyous, melodic and sometimes, even have a melancholy quality. Other times, the songs are dreamy, rocky and ruminative. Always, though, the songs on Here are memorable as Teenage Fanclub roll back the years. 

So good is the music on Here, that it’s akin to a return to Teenage Fanclub’s golden years between 1991 and 1997. Back then, Teenage Fanclub could do no wrong. That’s the case on Here, which was released on Teenage Fanclub’s own PeMa label. It’s a welcome return to form, from Teenage Fanclub who are enjoying an Indian Summer in their twenty-seven year career. Here finds Teenage Fanclub combining balladry, perfect pop and jangle pop with rock and even a hint of country. It’s a flawless fusion where Teenage Fanclub back the years on what’s their best album in nearly twenty years, Here.

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The Cosmic Dead-Rainbowhead.

Having formed in 2010, The Cosmic Dead didn’t waste time in recording and releasing their eponymous debut album. It was released in 2011, and was a fusion of space rock, Krautrock and psychedelia. The Cosmic Dead showcased a group who channelled the spirit of Hawkwind and Ash Ra Tempel. This won the approval of the record buying public. So have the other albums The Cosmic Dead have released. This includes Rainbowhead.  

Every album that The Cosmic Dead have released, has been leading to Rainbowhead. It’s a fusion of heavy rock, Krautrock, psychedelia and space rock. This is the sound that The Cosmic Dead have been honing for the past six years on their five previous albums. However, Rainbowhead trumps everything that The Cosmic Dead have released and should introduce their music to a wider audience.  

Rainbowhead features Glaswegian groove-meisters The Cosmic Dead at their hard rocking best. They kick loose from the opening bars of  Human Sausage, and never let go until the closing notes of Rainbowhead. In between you’re treated a glorious assault on the sensory system that unleashes endorphins aplenty. This comes courtesy of those genre-melting innovators The Cosmic Dead, and their latest critically acclaimed album Rainbowhead. It’s a career defining album from The Cosmic Dead, and shows that they’re destined to join the elite of Scottish music.

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The Magnetic North-Prospect Of Skelmersdale.

Prospect Of Skelmersdale released their sophomore album Prospect Of Skelmersdale on Full Time Hobby last year. It wasn’t an easy album to write. After a false start, The Magnetic North retired to Eskdale, where Simon Tong had holidayed as a child. That was the start of a search for musical inspiration. The Magnetic North left no stone unturned. They studied old news stories; the town’s modern history; relied upon distant memories and even drew inspiration from road signs and graffiti. Gradually, Prospect Of Skelmersdale took shape. Its songs told the stories of the hope that imbued the new town’s arrivals, and the desperation of those who wanted to leave. That’s the case with Skelmerdale, and all of the other new towns that were created in 1961. 

In a way, Prospect Of Skelmersdale tells their story too.  It’s a powerful musical document, and one that The Magnetic North realise, will become a sonic time-capsule. It documents a time and place in a town’s history. This musical document, Prospect Of Skelmersdale was created by musicians turned historians, The Magnetic North. 

They have created another carefully crafted album that’s variously beautiful, elegiac and ethereal and cerebral, cinematic and melodic. For those yet to discover the delights of The Magnetic North, then Prospect Of Skelmersdale  is the  perfect starting place and is a tantalising taste of what the talented trio are capable of.

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The Pictish Trail-Future Echoes.

Four years after the release Secret Soundz Volume 2, in 2012, The Pictish Trail returned with the much-anticipated followup, Future Echoes. It was released on The Pictish Trail’s Lost Map Records, and is the first album The Pictish Trail has released since the demise of Fence Records.  However, The Pictish Trail picks up where he left off on Secret Soundz Volume 2.

Future Echoes finds The Pictish Trail combining elements of disparate genres, and weaving them into a musical tapestry. To do this, The Pictish Trail fuses folk, indie pop, dance music and electronica. Other ingredients include indie rock and even psychedelia. They become Future Echoes, an album where ballads and uptempo songs side by side. Together, they create a potent and heady musical brew. It’s akin to a journey on an emotional roller coaster.

During that journey, the songs on Future Echoes are beautiful, catchy, joyous melodic and memorable. Others are cinematic, dark, dramatic and melancholy. Very occasionally the darkness descends, and on Far Gone (Don’t Leave) the lyrics make for uneasy listening. Sometimes, The Pictish Trail heads into anthem territory, and his hook-laden songs prove irresistible. Other times, he showcases his versatility on Future Echoes’ ballads. Transformed into a balladeer, The Pictish Trail breaths meaning and emotion into the lyrics. They’re a reminder that The Pictish Trail, whose one of Scottish music’s best kept secrets, is a versatile and talented singer who seems to mature with age. 

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The Pyramids-We All Be Africans.

In 2011, The Pyramids reunited. Some of the original members of The Pyramids were augmented by new names. This mixture of the old and new, recorded and released The Pyramids’ album Otherworldly. It was released in 2011, to critical acclaim. Since then, The Pyramids have embarked on seven tours, but have yet to release a new album. That was until The Pyramids  released We Be All Africans  on Strut Records 

From the opening bars of We All Be Africans, which is a truly irresistible and joyous track, Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids have the listener spellbound. Over the next six tracks, they combine elements of Afrobeat, avant-garde, free jazz, funk, fusion, jazz and soul. This genre-melting album features music that’s celebratory, melancholy, mesmeric, reflective and uplifting. Other times, the music is beautiful, cinematic, heart-wrenching and sombre. Always, the music on  We All Be Africans provokes an emotion, and is guaranteed to makes the listener think. Not many albums do that.

We All Be Africans is unlike most albums, and is reminder of the comeback kings Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids. They’ve spent the last five years constantly touring, but still, have found the time to record a new album, We All Be Africans. Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids’ much-anticipated and long awaited fifth album, We All Be Africans marks a welcome return to form from one of the hardest working bands in music.

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The Temperance Movement-White Bear.

Recording the followup to a successful album can be difficult. Many bands have suffered from second album syndrome. Not The Temperance Movement. Their sophomore album White Bear, which was released by Earache Records. It features The Temperance Movement at the peak of their powers. 

They literally strut and swagger their way through White Bear, creating music that’s anthemic, hook-laden, melodic and nine times out of ten, always rocky and memorable. The Temperance Movement don’t ration hooks, as they follow in the footsteps of The Faces, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones and Black Crowes on what’s a career changing album, White Bear.

White Bear reached number one on the UK rock charts. It seems that The Temperance Movement are the real, deal and the future of rock ’n’ roll. The Temperance Movement’s sophomore album White Bear showcases an old fashioned rock ’n’ roll band at their swaggering best. Seamlessly, The Temperance Movement fused blistering, old-school rock ‘n’ roll with blues and country on White Bear. This is a heady and potent brew from a truly versatile group, The Temperance Movement.

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The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Kim Myhr and Jenny Hval-In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper.

The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Kim Myhr and Jenny Hval premiered  In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper was premiered at the 2012 Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival. Four years later,  In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper was released by Hubro Music. It’s been well worth the wait.

The music is beautiful, ethereal, melodic and mesmeric, but also captivating, dramatic, melancholy and otherworldly. Always, the music is innovative, with surprises in store for the listener. Almost seamlessly, avant-garde, Feldmanian music, folk, free jazz, improvisational music and even elements of pop shine through.The Feldmanian, folk and pop influences come courtesy of one of Norway’s finest vocalists, Jenny Hval. Her voice is variously beautiful, despairing, elegiac, emotive, heartfelt and wistful. Sometimes, her vocal is transformed into what’s akin to a musical instrument. When this happens, Jenny joins The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and Kim Myhr in creating a truly captivating album. 

It’s also an album that’s full of subtleties, surprises and nuances. That’s why it’s an album that one will never tire of. Another is the music is innovative. The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Kim Myhr and Jenny Hval push musical boundaries to their limits, and continually combine musical genres in the pursuit of musical excellence throughout  In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper. They certainly succeed in doing so.

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Trashcan Sinatra-Wild Pendulum.

Not many bands are still together after thirty years. Most bands  split-up long before then. Not Irvine’s finest indie rockers, the Trashcan Sinatras. They’re survivors, who have lived through the bad times and survived to tell the tale. Trashcan Sinatras also released a new album during 2016, Wild Pendulum on Red River Entertainment.

Wild Pendulum features the reinvention of the Trashcan Sinatras. tweaked their sound, and given it a moderne makeover. Sonic scenery, samples, loops, horns and found sounds have been combined on Wild Pendulum. There’s even a dance-track on Wild Pendulum. That was a first. It sits side-by-side with anthems, beautiful ballads and perfect pop. Still, the Trashcan Sinatras were one of the finest purveyors of perfect pop extraordinaire. This the Trashcan Sinatras have been doing since 1986.

Thirty years later, and stll, the wider record buying public have yet to discover the delights of the Trashcan Sinatras,  and their sixth album Wild Pendulum.  It  features Irvine’s finest purveyors of jangle pop at their pioneering best, as they reinvent themselves.. The result is Wild Pendulum, the Trashcan Sinatras finest album since their 1990 debut Cake, Sadly, Wild Pendulum has been overlooked by record buyers, who have missed out on an almost flawless  album of jangle pop from one of Scotland’s most talented bands, the inimitable Trashcan Sinatras.

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William Fitzsimmons-Charleroi: Pittsburgh Volume 2. 

William Fitzsimmons heeded Mark Twain’s advice tp: “write about what you know” on Charleroi: Pittsburgh Volume 2, which was released by Gronland Records. It tells a truly poignant and moving story of  how William’s grandmother took her son to the hospital, suffering from whooping cough. Although the baby recovered, his mother never returned and after seven months was adopted by a doctor in the hospital.

The story unfolds during six carefully crafted songs. They feature mostly subtle, sparse and understated arrangements. These arrangements frame William’s vocal, which quite rightly, takes centre-stage. William’s vocals are heartfelt, and full of emotion, sadness, regret and melancholy. So are his lyrics. They range from between  beautiful, melancholy and poignant, to thoughtful and moving. It’s impossible not to be moved by the lyrics  which have a cinematic quality.

So much so, that it’s almost possible to imagine the story unfolding before your eyes. The seventeen year old giving up her baby, and spending the rest of her life wondering what became of it? Similarly, one can image William’s father constantly wondering what happened to his mother? Eventually, it emerged that William’s grandmother died alone in a motel room just a few years before. Neither William, nor his father met Thelma.  However, William decided to tell Thelma’s story on Charleroi: Pittsburgh Volume 2. It’s a personal, poignant and moving album from William Fitzsimmons, where he tells the story of the grandmother he never knew on Charleroi: Pittsburgh Volume 2.

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Yuri Gagarin-At The Center Of All Infinity.

Swedish space rockers Yuri Gagarin were formed n Gothenburg, in early 2012. For the first few months of their career, the five members of Yuri Gagarin concentrated on honing their sound. By 2013, Yuri Gagarin  were ready to release The Center Of All Infinity. Now three years later, they released their long-awaited sophomore album,  At The Center Of All Infinity on Sulatron-Records. It marks a the welcome return of Yuri Gagarin. 

From the opening bars of The New Order, to the closing notes of Oblivion, it’s an almost flawless performance from Yuri Gagarin. They combine elements of classic rock, heavy metal and psychedelia with Yuri Gagarin’s unique brand of space rock. It’s fast, frenetic and melodic, as five hugely talented musicians showcase their considerable skills and versatility. Stealing the show are Yuri Gagarin’s guitarists, Crille and Jon. They both play starring roles. However, it’s lead guitarist Crille who gets more opportunities to shine. When he does, he grabs them with both hands, and unleashes a series of blistering, scorching, searing solos. They play an important part in the sound and success of Yuri Gagarin’s career defining album, At The Center Of All Infinity.

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BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 1

BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 1

For years, I’ve been writing about the Nordic Wave scene, which is, without doubt, one of the most eclectic and vibrant in Europe. During that period, I’ve witnessed the rise and rise of the Nordic Wave. There’s no sign of the bubble bursting. Quite the opposite.

This latest wave of groundbreaking musicians continue to  create ambitious, innovative and influential music in Norway, Sweden,  Denmark, Finland and Iceland. This music ranges from ambient and avant-garde to folk, improv and jazz to psychedelia, progressive rock and space rock. The only problem was what to call the music made by this new wave  of Nordic musicians?

What made this especially problematic was the sheer eclecticism of the music.  There were musicians all types of music. Then one day when someone asked what I called this new musical movement, I came up with the name Nordic Wave. It was simplicity in itself. Here was music being made my a new wave of Nordic musicians. What better name than Nordic Wave? Since then, when I’ve complied my year end best of lists, there’s always been a best Nordic Wave albums. 
Each year, that list has grown, more and more of  this new wave of Nordic musicians create ambitious, groundbreaking, innovative and influential music. The following are the best Nordic Wave albums of 2016.

Black Moon Circle-Sea Of Clouds.

April 2016 saw Norwegian space rock pioneers Black Moon Circle make their debut at the prestigious  Roadburn Festival. This was prefect timing. That day, Black Moon Circle released their fourth album Sea Of Clouds via Crispin Glover Records. It was a much anticipated release, that also featured bassist Øyvin Engman vocal debut. The result was a album of melodic and anthemic songs. They were also hard rocking.   

This is what we’ve come to expect from Black Moon Circle. They revisit their hard rocking brand of psychedelic, space rock on Sea Of Clouds. It’s a fusion of heavy metal, Krautrock, avant-garde, free jazz and post rock. Black Moon Circle have also drawn inspiration from everyone from Black Sabbath, Can and Deep Purple to Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind and Motorpsycho. These disparate musical genres and influences were fused to create Sea Of Clouds.  

It features music that’s dramatic, futuristic, moody, otherworldly and gloriously rocky. Sometimes, Sea Of Clouds features Black Moon Circle at their hard rocking best. Sea Of Clouds is also “intense.” There’s always been an intensity to Black Moon Circle’s music. It’s as much a part of Black Moon Circle’s music as the layers of fuzzy guitars, spacey, lysergic synths and futuristic sci-fi sounds. That’s the case throughout Sea Of Clouds, which shows another side to space rock pioneers Black Moon Circle. It’s their most accessible album and is a glorious assault on the sensory system from  genre-melting innovators Black Moon Circle,

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Black Moon Circle-The Studio Jams Volume 2.

In mid-November,  Black Moon Circle released The Studio Jams Volume 2 via Crispin Glover Records. It’s the second in a  trilogy of Studio Jams and Black Moon Circle’s second album of 2016. Just like the Trondheim based psychedelic space rock pioneers’ previous albums, they fuse musical genres as they push musical boundaries.  

The basis for Black Moon Circle’s music is the classic rock of the sixties and seventies, psychedelia and space rock. To this, Black Moon Circle add elements of avant-garde, electronica, experimental,  free jazz, Krautrock and post rock. Seamlessly, these disparate musical genres and influences merge into something new and innovative. It’s cinematic, dramatic, futuristic, moody, rocky and as Øyvin Engan says, “intense.” This intensity is deliberate. It comes courtesy of the four members of Black Moon Circle. They deploy layers of fuzzy guitars, spacey, lysergic, futuristic, sci-fi synths and a mesmeric rhythm section. They create two “lengthy jams” which features  “heavy riffage and the extensive use of effects.” They’re used extensively and put to good use by Black Moon Circle. 

They’re one of the most exciting, talented and innovative Norwegian groups. They remind me of their fellow countrymen, Motorpsycho and Moster! However, Elements of Can, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind, early Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing shine through on The Studio Jams Volume 2 . This hard rocking opus, finds the Trondheim-based psychedelic space rockers Black Moon Circle, reaching new heights on The Studio Jams Volume 2.

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Building Instrument-Kem Som Kan Å Leve.

Just over two years have passed since Norwegian trio Building Instrument released their eponymous debut album in March 2014. The album was released to widespread critical acclaim, and great things were forecast for Building Instrument. Since then, Building Instrument have been working on their much  anticipated sophomore album, Kem Som Kan Å Leve. After nearly two years,  was released 

by Hubro Music, on the 2nd of September 2016. Kem Som Kan Å Leve marks a welcome return from the Nordic sonic explorers, Building Instrument.  

They continue create inventive and innovate music, that’s ambitious and adventurous. That music is also beautiful, dreamy, ethereal, hypnotic and melodic. Partly, that is because of Mari Kvien Brunvoll’s vocal. She switches between the Molde dialect, and an invented language that only she can understand. That doesn’t matter. It plays an important part in On Kem Som Kan Å Leve, where Building Instrument followed in the footsteps of Kurt Schwitter. 

Building Instrument: “go further in the direction of expanding or erasing the meaning of language, just as Schwitters did with his sound poetry.” This was an ambitious project, but the results are fascinating and captivating. They can be heard on Kem Som Kan Å Leve, which finds Norwegian sonic explorers at their inventive and innovative best. Kem Som Kan Å Leve is Building Instrument’s musical Magnus Opus, which features six soundscapes that are ambitious and adventurous, but also beautiful, dreamy, ethereal, hypnotic and melodic.

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Bushman’s Revenge- Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen.

After spending twelve years touring and recording,  Bushman’s Revenge decided to take a much needed break. After enjoying some downtime, Bushmen’s Revenge were raring to go. By then, they had decided to change direction musically. They felt that for the time being, they had taken their fusion of “jazz, progressive and rock as far as they can.”  This opened up all sorts of new and exciting possibilities.  Eventually, Bushmnan’s Revenge decided to record their “first proper jazz album,” Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen, which was released by Rune Grammofon.

It shows different sides to Bushman’s Revenge. Lola is a  languid and wistful slice of late summer Scandinavian jazz.  The listener is transported back in time to the sixties as Bushman’s Revenge became a jazz trio. Seamlessly, they adopt to the change of style, before the album heads in the direction of electric blues. Just like Jimi Hendrix, this is starting point for 0500, Bo Marius and Gamle Plata Til Arne. They heads in new and unexpected directions, combining electric blues with rock, psychedelia and jazz. There’s even diversions into avant-garde, blues rock and free jazz.  

Mostly, electric blues, jazz and rock are to the fore as Bushman’s Revenge fuse disparate musical genres. They create ambitious, inventive and innovative music on Fritt Etter Hukommelsen, which isBushman’s Revenge’s “first proper jazz album.”  Maybe this will be the start of a new chapter in the career of musical pioneers Bushman’s Revenge? Only time will tell.

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Caus Sui-Return To Sky.

Since forming Caus Sui in Odense, in Southern Denmark in 2005, the band has released eleven albums. Their latest was Return To Sky which was released on El Paraiso Records.  Return To Sky references four decades of music. Elements of classic rock, Krautrock, psychedelia, progressive rock, stoner rock and space rock. Ambient and avant-garde have also influenced Causa Sui. So have Can, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Michael Rother and Pink Floyd. The result is a heady brew and musical genres and influences, Return To Sky.

It’s an album that veers between dark and dramatic and hard rocking to lysergic, dreamy and wistful to  mesmeric and melodic. Return To Sky is all these things and more. It also features four hugely talented musicians as they reinvent their music yet again. This is a constant process that ensures that Causa Sui are one step ahead of the musical crowd. 

Causa Sui are always one step ahead of the listener. They’ve always got a surprise in-store for the unwary listener. At any given moment, Causa Sui could throw a curveball that transforms the track. Suddenly, hard rock becomes lysergic and wistful. It’s a case of expect the unexpected throughout Return To Sky, where musical chameleons Causa Sui keep the listener on their toes during what’s a career defining album.

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Dalindèo-Slavic Souls

When composer and guitarist Valtteri Laurell Pöyhönen, decided to found Dalindèo in 2003, he decided to recruit some of Finland’s top jazz musicians. Since then, Dalindèo have released their four albums. Their latest album Slavic Souls was released by BBE. Slavic Souls was no ordinary album. Instead, it was described as a: “surf jazz Tango extravaganza.” 

To create their: “surf jazz Tango extravaganza,” Dalindèo combined contemporary jazz is with traditional Finnish Tango music and even northern schlanger. There’s also a psychedelic sound to Slavic Souls. Sometimes, the darkness descends and music becomes moody, broody and gloomy. Other times, the music is atmospheric. Occasionally, there’s a sense of melancholia during Slavic Souls. However,  Dalindèo’s cinematic sound shines through. It’s been part a key part of Dalindèo’s sound since 2003, and plays an important part in Slavic Souls. It’s an album that somehow, manages to be all things to all people. That however, isn’t surprising. 

Dalindèo feature six of Finland’s top jazz musicians. They were joined by a trio of talented guest artists. Finland’s premier coloratura-soprano singer Anna-Kristiina Kaappola joined trombonist Heikki Tuhkanen and pedal steel player Olli Haavisto. They play their part in the sound and success of Slavic Souls, which is the best album of their twelve year career. Indeed, Slavic Souls, ’s “surf-jazz Tango extravaganza,” is a veritable musical feast,  that’s fit for a King or Queen.

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Erlend Apneseth Trio-Det Andre Rommet.

It was in 2013 that the members of the  Erlend Apneseth Trio first met. Drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde and guitarist Stephan Meidell played on Sommarflukt, the final track on Erlend Apneset’s album Blikkspor. The three men hit it off, and decided to form Erlend Apneseth Trio, who released their debut album Det Andre Rommet on Hubro Music during 2016.

On Det Andre Rommet, the Erlend Apneseth Trio use folk as a starting point. From there, they add elements  of avant-garde, improv, jazz, musique concrète and even rock. The result is music that veers between beautiful to cinematic, to dramatic and eerie. Other times, the music is elegiac, ethereal, elegiac, melancholy and melodic.  Sometimes, the music is full of sadness and is heart-wrenching. Always, though, the music on Det Andre Rommet has the capacity to captivate and spring surprises, as the Erlend Apneseth Trio take the listener in a new and unexpected direction.

Every member of the Erlend Apneseth Trio plays their part in this musical magical mystery tour. Sometimes, it’s Erllend’s fiddle that takes the listener on this emotional roller coaster. It plays an important part on Det Andre Rommet, and in Erlend’s hands, proves a versatile instrument. One minute, he’s playing the fiddle in the same way as countless generations before him; the next, the maverick musician rewrites the rules, by unleashing a Hendrix-esque performance. In doing, he plays a part in what’s a groundbreaking, innovative album Det Andre Rommet.

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Fire!-She Sleeps, She Sleeps.

Back in Fenruary, Fire! released their fifth studio album She Sleeps, She Sleeps on Rune Grammofon. Just like previous albums by Fire! and the Fire! Orchestra the music on She Sleeps, She Sleeps was groundbreaking, influential and innovative. It was also captivating, progressive, genre-melting music.

The music on She Sleeps, She Sleeps veers between moody and broody, to dark and dramatic, through to hypnotic and mesmeric. Other times, the music is akin to a soul-baring confessional, where pain, hurt and heartache pours out of Mats Gustafson’s saxophone. Then his playing is akin to a musical equivalent of Primal Scream Therapy. Once he’s seemingly exercised of demons, it’s all change, and often, the music becomes beautiful and melodic. Always, though, Fire!’s potent and powerful musical cocktail continues to captivate, and proves to be just as progressive and innovative on their latest album She Sleeps, She Sleeps.

Key to the success of She Sleeps, She Sleeps is Fire!’s ability to seamlessly combine elements of avant-garde, experimental, free jazz, noise and psychedelic rock. Fire! are like a musical shaman, combining an eclectic and disparate selection of musical genres and influences. Playing a leading role in their potent musical potion, are mesomorphic rock rhythms and a braying free jazz saxophone. They compliment each other perfectly on She Sleeps, She Sleeps, which is Fire!’s finest hour.

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Fire! Orchestra-Ritual.

For their fourth album Ritual, which was released by Rune Grammofon,  the Fire! Orchestra “slimmed” their lineup down to just twenty-one members. The newly slimmed down  lineup of the Fire! Orchestra . Still, The Fire! Orchestra features some of the most talented musicians Sweden, Norway, Denmark and France has to offer. This pan European supergroup recorded Ritual in just two days. 

The result was an album that sounds as if everything the Fire! Orchestra has been leading up to Ritual, It Ritual features the five part Ritual suite. It’s a captivating album where the Fire! Orchestra combine avant-garde, experimental, free jazz, funk, jazz and rock. The music veers between restrained and understated to urgent and dramatic. Other times, the music is mesmeric and hypnotic, before becoming melodic and soulful. Occasionally, the music becomes moody, wistful and cinematic. Always, the music is ambitious, experimental and progressive.

Just like previous albums, Ritual is imaginative, inventive and innovative. It’s also joyous and uplifting, with the Fire! Orchestra playing with freedom and spontaneity, as they examine mysteries and rituals, not just in life, but in music. This five suite exploration is a  musical tour de force from the Fire! Orchestra, Ritual which proves that when it comes to lineups, size isn’t everything.

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Hedvig Mollestad Trio-Black Stabat Mater

During July, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio released two albums on Rune Grammofon. This included their much anticipated fourth album Black Stabat Mater. It’s a glorious reminder of the golden age of rock. Indeed, it’s possible to imagine the Hedvig Mollestad Trio playing at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles or Fillmore East in New York. However, the similarities between some of the legends of music and the Hedvig Mollestad Trio is no coincidence.  

Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen who founded the Hedvig Mollestad Trio in 2009, grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix. Their influence can be heard throughout Black Stabat Mater. So can the influence of early Hawkwind, Cream, Santana and West, Bruce and Laing. Closer to home, maybe Moster! and Motorpsycho have influenced the Hedvig Mollestad Trio? These bands have a similar genre-melting sound to the Hedvig Mollestad Trio. 

To create this genre-melting sound, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio fuse elements of rock, psychedelia and space rock with avant-garde, improv and jazz. Sometimes, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio seamlessly switch between musical genres mid track. Other times, these disparate genres melt into one on Black Stabat Mater. Occasionally, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio spring a series of surprises, and take the listener on a magical mystery tour. Mostly, though, Black Stabat Mater is an album of über hard rocking music which is finest album of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s career. They reach new heights on Black Stabat Mater.

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BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 2.

BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 2.

Hedvig Mollestad Trio-Evil In Oslo.

In July 2016, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio released two albums. This includes the live album Evil In Oslo. It was released by Rune Grammofon and is the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s first ever live album. Evil In Oslo is a tantalising taste of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio live.

Evil In Oslo was recorded in two Oslo clubs, John Dee and Buckley’s. Playing in front of a hometown audience seemed to bring out the best in the Hedvig Mollestad Trio, They prove to be confident and assured performers on  Evil In Oslo. The Hedvig Mollestad Trio fuse elements of classic rock, psychedelia, progressive rock and space rock with avant-garde, blues, funk, improv and jazz. Sometimes, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio seamlessly switch between musical genres mid track. Other times, these disparate genres melt into one on the same track. However, for much of the time, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio showcase their hard rocking sound. 

Lead by virtuoso guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio are one of the new breed of hard rocking groups that have sprung up across Europe.  However, Norwegian trailblazers the Hedvig Mollestad Trio, are without doubt one of the best of the new generation of hard rockling bands. Proof of that is Evil On Oslo, which is a tantalising taste of the hard rocking Hedvig Mollestad Trio at their very best.

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Jenny Hval-Blood Bitch.

Autumn 2016 saw Jenny Hval released  her new album, Blood Bitch, via Sacred Bones. It was the followup to Apocalypse Girl. However, Blood Bitch was a very different album and one of the most experimental and focused album’s of Jenny Hval’s six album career.

Before its release, Jenny Hval described Blood Bitch as: “an investigation of… blood that is shed naturally…the purest and most powerful, yet most trivial, and most terrifying blood.” Blood Bitch found Jenny Hval drawing inspiration  from everything from art and pop to vampire movies and artwork made of menstrual blood. 

Jenny Hval also incorporated  elements of poetry,  prose and absurdist dialogue into Blood Bitch. She also deployed a myriad of instruments, effects, noise, samples and added vocals that convey a variety of emotions.

They’re framed by arrangements that are understated. They tinkle, shimmer, glisten and quiver. Other times, they’re atmospheric, fuzzy and spacious. Sometimes, they bristle and crackle. Occasionally, the arrangements are elegiac ooze ethereal beauty. Never do they overpower Jenny Hval’s vocal which is the focus of the listener’s attention. Meanwhile, elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental and pop combine on Blood Bitch. It’s variously  atmospheric, beautiful, challenging, cinematic, eerie, elegiac and ethereal.  There’s also an intensity to Blood Bitch, which is a ruminative and thought-provoking album. However, one thing Blood Bitch drives home and remind listeners is that blood isn’t something is a life force, a reminder of creation and  where men and women begin.

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Jessica Sligter-A Sense Of Growth.

Although Jessica Sligter was born in Holland, Oslo is where she calls home. Despite that, her third album A Sense Of Growth, which was released by Hubro Music, was recorded in Seattle. It was the most ambitious and abstract album of her career. A Sense Of Growth was an album of abstract, genre-melting soundscapes which found Jessica: “deconstructing the format of song based music.”

Having done so, Jessica wrote captivating songs. She dawns the role of a storyteller, as she combines paeans, confessionals, and social comment with songs filled with hurt and pain. This includes the heart-wrenching title-track. Just like so many of the songs on A Sense Of Growth, it has a cinematic quality. Jessica dawns the role of director, and uses instruments and harmonies to help her tell these stories. This is hugely effective, and results in a truly compelling and innovative, genre-hopping album.

Everything from  avant-garde, country, folk, pop, psych-folk and rock feature and are fused on A Sense Of Growth. Similarly, Jessica uses combinations of instruments that seem unlikely bedfellows. They work well and play their part in songs that are beautiful, cinematic, dramatic, emotive and moving. Other songs veer between elegiac and ethereal; to emotive and melancholy and sometimes, poignant and wistful. Every song is guaranteed to stir an emotion and make the listener think. That’s why A Sense Of Growth is a career defining album from sonic innovator and explorer Jessica Sligter.

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Jóhann Jóhannsson-Ophee

On Orphée, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s turned his attention to the beauty and the process of creation. Orphée features Jóhann Jóhannsson tracing a path from darkness into light. Inspiration for Orphée comes from the opéra bouffe Orphée aux enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld). It was written by Ludovic Halévy, and later, revised by Hector-Jonathan Crémieux. The score was written by Jacques Offenbach and became the first full length operetta. Its first performance came in 1858. Since then, this ancient and famous tale has been retold countess times.   

Orphéem which  an almost flawless album, finds Jóhann Jóhannsson fusing elements of classical and electronic music with ambient, avant-garde, Baroque and minimalism. Other influences includes the music of Bernard Hermann, Ennio Morricone and Michael Nyman. Then there’s the music of classical composers like  Shostakovich and Prokofiev. All these influences can be heard throughout Orphée. 

The music on Orphée ranges from melodic and mesmeric, to atmospheric, beautiful, ethereal and elegiac. Other times, there’s a degree of darkness and drama. Sometimes, there’s a sense of melancholia and sadness on Orphée. It’s an emotional roller coaster to cherish and treasure. That’s even for people with no interest in classical music. Orphée is a genre-melting album and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s debut on Deutsche Grammophon. It’s also the finest album of his fourteen year solo career.  Indeed, Orphée is a career defining album from Jóhann Jóhannsson and features ambitious, inventive and innovative music.

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Jon Balke-Warpe

When Norwegian pianist Jon Balke released Warp on ECM, it was his first album since 2009.  However, it was well worth the wait. Warp features a series of carefully sculpted soundscapes. They veer between to beautiful dreamy and ethereal, to dark and dramatic, to moody and broody. Other times, the music is melancholy and wistful. Often, space is left within the arrangements, allowing listeners to reflect. Always though, the music on Warp has a minimalist, cinematic sound. 

There’s a cinematic sound throughout Warp. The listener will find themselves inventing scenarios to each of the soundscapes. It’s almost unavoidable. Especially on tracks where Jon Balke has left space. However, Warp is also an album that listeners can wallow in. The music washes over the listener, enveloping and embracing them. Sometimes, it’s lysergic, while other times it soothes their weary soul. Other times, Warp’s slow, spacious and cinematic sound is perfect to reflect and ruminate to. Warp it seems, is all things to everyone.

That’s not surprising. Jon Balke has drawn inspiration from a variety of sources for Warp. Although he’s primarily a jazz musician, he combines  elements of ambient, avant-garde, classical, free jazz and Krautrock can be heard. This genre-hopping album is without doubt, the finest album of Jon Balke’s finest solo career. Warp is a minimalist cinematic epic, where drama, melancholia and beauty are omnipresent during Jon Balke’s long-awaited comeback album.

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Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer, Samuel Rohrer-Amiira.

Over the years, Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer, Samuel Rohrer’s paths had crossed and they became friends. They had much in common. Especially when it came to music. However, Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer, Samuel Rohrer didn’t release an album until Amiira was released as part of Arjunamusic’s acoustic series last year.

Amiira features improvised soundscapes. They’re variously moving, elegiac and ethereal, to melodic, mesmeric, poignant and ruminative. Other times, the music is a plaintive cry, and a lament for lost love. Sometimes, the music is otherworldly, futuristic and robotic. Then on Fulminate, Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer and Samuel Rohrer kick out the jams, and unite in a three man protest. In doing so, the listener hears a very different side to the pan European triumvirate of musical innovators.

This talented triumvirate of innovative musicians created cerebral and cinematic music. Amiira is proof of this. Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer and Samuel Rohrer invite the listener to let their imagination run riot and lose themselves in this cinematic opus. It’s impossible not to accept their invitation to embrace what is a wonderfully cinematic and cerebral album, Amiira.

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Krokofant-Krokofant II. 

As 2016 dawned, Krokofant released their much anticipated much anticipated sophomore album Krokofant II on Hubro Music. It was a marriage of the Joycean progressive rock odysseys of King Crimson and Henry Cow and Peter Brötzmann’s free jazz ensembles. Add to that, the influence jazz-rock pioneers like The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Terje Rypdal and Ray Russell. The result was a unique and captivating fusion of musical genres and influences.

Seamlessly Korokofant flit between, and fuse disparate and eclectic musical genres.They combined everything from avant rock, free jazz, fusion and rock, to avant garde, progressive rock and post rock. There’s even hints of experimental and psychedelia as Krokofant weave their unique musical tapestry on  a genre-melting musical journey. 

As they do, each track on Krokofant II proves unique. They’re full of subtleties and nuances. Constantly, Krokofant  throw curveballs and seamlessly change direction. Suddenly, the reveal another side to their music. That’s what you expect from musical pioneers, Krokofant who come of age musically on Krokofant II. 

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Maja S. K. Ratkje-Crepuscular Hour,

Crepuscular Hour which was released by Rune Grammofon, was one of the most ambitious projects that Maja S. K. Ratkje has been involved with.  It was inspired by the phenomena of crepuscular rays, where rays of sunlight stream through gaps in clouds or any number of other obstacles. Having discovered and investigated  the phenomena of crepuscular rays, Maja S. K. Ratkje set about writing Crepuscular Hour, which would be performed by a rather unorthodox lineup of three choirs, three pairs of noise musicians and a church organ.  

They produce a soundtrack that veers between impressive, dramatic and intense to ruminative, mesmeric and hypnotic. The listener is drawn in, and soon, is spellbound by music that’s dramatic and intense. Sometimes, the music is ethereal and elegiac. Other times it takes on a spiritual quality. That’s no surprise. The texts used in the recording of Crepuscular Hour, were discovered in Egypt in 1945, and  proved hugely important, resulting in scholars reexamining early Christian history. Sixty-nine  years later, these texts played an important part in Crepuscular Hour.

As the performance of Crepuscular Hour unfolds, the listener reflects on music that’s thoughtful, cerebral and occasionally, challenging. Mostly, Crepuscular Hour has an inherent beauty. There’s a serenity to music that’s ethereal, elegiac and has a spiritual quality. Always though,  Crepuscular Hour is captivating,  ambitious and innovative as the choirs combine with the noise musicians who push musical boundaries. The result is a sonic and visual feast.

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Moskus-Ulv Ulv. 

Last year, Moskus released their much anticipated third album Ulv Ulv on Hubro Music. Ulv Ulv features the Norwegian jazz pioneers at their innovative best, as they play with a freedom, inventiveness and intuitiveness that most groups can only dream of. The result is music that’s inventive, innovative, ambitious, bold and challenging. This is what we’ve come to expect from Moskus.   

Just like on their two previous albums, Moskus create music that continue to challenges musical norms on Ulv Ulv. Moskus continue to push musical boundaries to there limits, and beyond on Ulv Ulv. To do this, they combine elements of avant-garde, experimental, free jazz, improv and industrial. There’s also the influence of Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Albert Ayler and Sun Ra on Ulv Ulv. The result is an album that’s variously atmospheric,  beautiful, cinematic, dark, dramatic, elegiac, ethereal, haunting, hypnotic, melodic, mesmeric, otherworldly and ruminative. The result was Ulv Ulv, the finest album of Moskus’ career.

Incredibly, it took Moskus just three days to record Ulv Ulv. They eschewed a traditional recording studio, and recorded Ulv Ulv at the Haugesund Billedgalleri. With just three days to record Ulv Ulv, Moskus worked quickly and efficiently, and recorded what is a captivating, career defining album. Ulv Ulv finds Moskus one step closer to the musical Utopia that bands spent their career in search of.

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Motorpsycho-Angels and Daemons At Play.

During a career that’s spanned twenty-seven years, Motorpsycho have won an Edvardprisen and four Spellemannprisen Awards. This included a Spellemannprisen awards for their 1997 double album Angels and Daemons At Play. It was a landmark album for Motorpsycho, and marked their coming of age musically. This makes Angels and Daemons At Play one of the most important albums in Motorpsycho’s back-catalogue. That’s why it recently became the fourth instalment in Rune Grammofon’s luxury box set reissue program.    

Angels and Daemons was a groundbreaking, genre-melting, album, where Motorpsycho combined elements of alt rock, avant-garde, electronica and experimental music with Krautrock, post rock, psychedelia, space rock and stoner rock. All these genres can be heard on Angels and Daemons. Some are only glimpsed briefly, while others play a larger part in the sound and success of Angels and Daemons. It transformed Motorpsycho into one of Norway’s most successful bands.

Especially after Angels and Daemons reached number two in the Norwegian charts, and became the most successful album of Motorpsycho’s career. It also went on to win a Spellemannprisen awards in the hard rock category later in 1997. This was the third Spellemannprisen awards of Motorpsycho’s career so far. So it’s fitting that it was released as a lavish, luxurious and lovingly curated six CD box set. It’s a fitting way to celebrate Angels and Daemons which was Motorpsycho’s coming of age musically and nowadays, is regarded as one of their classic albums.

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BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 3.

BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 3.

Nicklas Sørensen-Solo. 

Ever since 2010, Copenhagen based instrumental rock trio Papir’s star has been in the ascendancy. One of the men behind Papir’s success was guitarist Nicklas Sørensen, who released his debut album Solo on El Paraiso Records. He set out to experiment on Solo. However, on other tracks, Nicklas Sørensen reminds the listener’s Papir’s trademark sound. For the listener, they enjoy the best of both worlds. 

With a little help from his friends,  Nicklas Sørensen takes the listener on a genre-melting journey. This includes the three genres that have influenced Papir, Krautrock, psychedelia and space rock. These influences can be heard on Solo.  Krautrock has been a big influence on Nicklas Sørensen. Especially Can, Neu!, Cluster and Harmonia and Michael Rother. Sometimes,  Nicklas Sørensen sounds uncannily like Michael Rother, during this genre-melting journey. 

Nicklas Sørensen also combines elements of ambient, avant-garde, dub and rock. The result is Solo, an album that’s guaranteed to toy with the listener’s emotions. Solo veers between blissful, euphoric and joyous, to moody and broody, through to  lysergic and dramatic. For much of Solo, the music is hypnotic and mesmeric. That’s down to Krautrock influence. Other times, the music is cinematic. Often, though, the Solos are beautiful and dreamy, as trails of glistening, shimmering music captivate, and makes the world seem a much better place. Sadly, all too soon, Solo is over. All that’s left are the memories of Nicklas Sørensen’s genre-melting, sonic adventure, Solo.

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Pascal Pinon-Sundur.

After three years away, Pascal Pinon return with Sundur, which is a career defining album. Sundur is without doubt, the best album of Pascal Pinon’s career. It’s certainly their  most eclectic album. Sometimes, Pascal Pinon sound as if they’ve been inspired by Astrid Williamson’s early albums, John Martyn and Kate Bush. There’s even a nod to Sandy Denny, on what’s a thoroughly modern album of folk music.

Sundur finds Pascal Pinon combining disparate genres. There’s elements of ambient and avant-garde, plus electronica and experimental, right though to folk, Neofolk and pop. Sometimes, several genres melt into one on the one multilayered song. Other times, the songs are minimalistic, with sparse, spartan arrangements. They often feature just guitars or a piano, which proves the perfect accompaniment to the vocal. There, less is more. Then on the two soundscapes,  Pascal Pinon let their imagination run riot, and create captivating instrumentals. However, captivating is a word that perfectly describes Sundur, which was released Morr Music.

The music on Sundur can also be described as beautiful, cinematic, emotive and ethereal, but also dark, ruminative and wistful. Always though, the music on Sundur is captivating on what is without doubt, a career-defining album where Pascal Pinon come of age musically. 

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Skadedyr-Culturen.

Supergroup. That describes Skadedyr. Their lineup features twelve of the most inventive, innovative and influential musicians in Norway. Skadedyr are no ordinary supergroup. Instead, they describe themselves as an anarchist-democratic band. This makes Skadedyr standout from the crowd. So does the unique and eclectic selection of instruments that Skadedyr play. They put them to good use on  Culturen which was released by Hubro Music. It marks the return of one of the most exciting bands in the Norwegian music scene, Skadedyr.

They don’t disappoint on Culturen. It’s captivating album where Skadedyr create a dazzling musical tapestry. They fuse a disparate selection of musical influences. Everything from avant-garde, electronica, experimental, folk, free jazz and post rock shine through. So does brass band, industrial, jazz, and musique concrète. These musical genres become Skadedyr’s musical palette, and are applied upon on Culturen’s six canvases.

These canvases veer between atmospheric, dark, dramatic and eerie, to ethereal, joyous and melodic. Other times, they’re minimalist and understated, but can quickly, become urgent, futuristic and otherworldly. Sometimes, the music becomes melancholy and wistful,  but has an inherent beauty. Always, though, Skadedyr captivate with their unique brand of genre-melting music. It’s often cinematic, and allows the listener to paint pictures as they immerse themselves in the music on Culturen. It’s a career-defining album and tantalising introducing to one of most exciting and dynamic bands in Norwegian music, Skadedyr whose sophomore album Culture is their most accessible.

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Splashgirl-Hibernation.

When doom jazz pioneers Splashgirl were formed, they decided to combine traditional instruments and technology. This was new, exciting and innovative. The members of Splashgirl were one part musician, to one part musical alchemist as they experimented with their arsenal of musical instruments and technology. They put that to good use over the years, including on their fifth album Hibernation which was released by Hubro Music. It found Splashgirl changing direction.   

This was a huge risk. Splashgirl had found and honed their sound over four critically acclaimed albums. However, Splashgirl aren’t the type of group who could or would rerecord the same album. That’s for lesser bands, not musical mavericks and pioneers like Splashgirl. So when they made their way to Hljodriti Studio in Hafnarfjördur in September 2015, the decision was made. Splashgirl would make more use of synths, electronics and processing. They play a more important part in Hibernation, which features Splashgirl at their most inventive and innovative.

As Splashgirl innovate, the combine disparate musical genres. Elements of avant-garde, classical, drone, free jazz, post rock jazz and rock. All these genres play their part in Hibernation. It veers between cinematic, dramatic, melancholy and wistful, and sometimes, beautiful, elegiac and ethereal. Hibernation is an album to embrace and cherish, where musical alchemists Splashgirl create a cinematic Magnus Opus.

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Stein Urheim-Strandebarm.

After a two year absence, Bergen based, multi-instrumentalist Stein Urheim, returned with another album of ambitious and innovative music, Strandebarm. It was released on Hubro Music. Inspiration for Strandebarm, was French music of the early 1900s; American ragtime and standards of the twenties and thirties. They were a tonal departure point for Stein Urheim on Strandebarm. These he combines with both acoustic instruments and electronic elements. They’re both part of Stein Urheim’s musical arsendal, which he deploys to good effect as he recorded Strandebarm.

Stein Urheim put his musical arsenal to good use.  Strandebarm is aheady brew. It’s best described as atmospheric, beautiful, ethereal, haunting, melancholy, mesmeric and wistful. Other times, the music is cinematic and dramatic. However, for much of Strandebarm, the music is ruminative and thoughtful. It allows time to reflect and consider, without being subdued or sombre. Far from it.

Instead, Strandebarm is another captivating album from one of the leading lights of Norway’s vibrant music scene, Stein Urheim. The Bergen based musical pioneer continues to innovate and take his music in new and unheralded directions. Other times, Stein Urheim springs a surprise, as he takes the listener on a musical adventure. By then, Stein Urheim is playing the role of a swashbuckling musical pioneer. Helped along by his collection of eclectic and exotic stringed instruments from the four corners of the world, Stein Urheim has created some of the most ambitious, exciting and innovative music of his career on Strandebarm.

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Stian Westerhus-Amputation.

Nowadays, Stian Westerhus is one of the most accomplished and innovative abstract guitar players. Constantly, he’s busy working as a session player and collaborating with the great and good of Norwegian music. When he has time, he works on his solo albums. 2016 saw  Stian Westerhus release his fourth solo alnbum,  Amputation on the House Of Mythology label. It’s the most ambitious album of his career.

Amputation features music that’s cerebral, challenging and thought-provoking. Stian wants the listener to think; sometimes about subjects that will make will them uncomfortable. That’s the case on Amputation and Amputation Part II. Stian replicates the sounds heard in an operating theatre when an amputation is taking place. It’s a traumatic and life-changing event. Most musicians would shy away from even broaching such a controversial subject. Not Stian Westerhus. He brings the subject into the open, and faces the reality head on. For that he should be congratulated. However, the Amputation suite is just part of Amputation.

The music on Amputation is also beautiful, cinematic, ethereal and melodic. Other times, it’s dark, haunting and mournful. Sometimes, Stian lays bare his soul, delivering vocals that are akin to an outpouring of emotion. When this happens, there’s a cathartic quality to the vocals, as if Stian is cleansing his soul. He breathes life and meaning into the lyrics on Sinking Ships, How Long and Infectious Decay. Always, the music on Amputation is compelling and innovative on what’s Stian Westerhus’ finest hour.

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Sunanna-Triangle.

Triangle is Susanna’s eleventh album and first for four years. It was released on Susanna’s own SusannaSonata label, and is no ordinary album. Not by a long chalk. Instead, Triangle is a twenty-two song cerebral epic, where Susanna muses and meditates on mortality and religion.  It’s a powerful album, that invites reflection and introspection.

Triangle features understated, spartan arrangements. They come courtesy of Susanna’s arsenal of electronics, effects, samples and instruments. When they’re combined, they help hone the stark, understated and beautiful backdrops. Often, they’re a mixture of different musical genres and influences. This includes elements of ambient, avant-garde, chamber folk, drone, electronica, experimental, gospel and indie pop. The result is music that’s cerebral as Susanna muses and meditates on mortality and religion. 

As she does, the music on Triangle is variously beautiful, cinematic, emotive, expressive, heartfelt and hopeful. Especially as Susanna’s vocals take centre-stage. She breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics on Triangle. Susanna is at her best on the ballads as she delivers a series of vocal masterclasses. Other times, the music on Triangle changes, becoming dark, melancholy and wistful. This is part of what’s a captivating and cerebral album, Triangle. Its ruminative and invites reflection and introspection on Susanna musings on mortality and religion. The result of Susanna’s musings can be found on Triangle, and are what she describes as: “music for lost souls,” where “nothing is holy, nothing is sacred.” 

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The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Kim Myhr and Jenny Hval-In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper.

The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Kim Myhr and Jenny Hval premiered  In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper was premiered at the 2012 Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival. Four years later,  In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper was released by Hubro Music. It’s been well worth the wait.

The music is beautiful, ethereal, melodic and mesmeric, but also captivating, dramatic, melancholy and otherworldly. Always, the music is innovative, with surprises in store for the listener. Almost seamlessly, avant-garde, Feldmanian music, folk, free jazz, improvisational music and even elements of pop shine through.The Feldmanian, folk and pop influences come courtesy of one of Norway’s finest vocalists, Jenny Hval. Her voice is variously beautiful, despairing, elegiac, emotive, heartfelt and wistful. Sometimes, her vocal is transformed into what’s akin to a musical instrument. When this happens, Jenny joins The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and Kim Myhr in creating a truly captivating album. 

It’s also an album that’s full of subtleties, surprises and nuances. That’s why it’s an album that one will never tire of. Another is the music is innovative. The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Kim Myhr and Jenny Hval push musical boundaries to their limits, and continually combine musical genres in the pursuit of musical excellence throughout  In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper. They certainly succeed in doing so.

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Yuri Gagarin-At The Center Of All Infinity.

Swedish space rockers Yuri Gagarin were formed n Gothenburg, in early 2012. For the first few months of their career, the five members of Yuri Gagarin concentrated on honing their sound. By 2013, Yuri Gagarin  were ready to release The Center Of All Infinity. Now three years later, they released their long-awaited sophomore album,  At The Center Of All Infinity on Sulatron-Records. It marks a the welcome return of Yuri Gagarin. 

From the opening bars of The New Order, to the closing notes of Oblivion, it’s an almost flawless performance from Yuri Gagarin. They combine elements of classic rock, heavy metal and psychedelia with Yuri Gagarin’s unique brand of space rock. It’s fast, frenetic and melodic, as five hugely talented musicians showcase their considerable skills and versatility. Stealing the show are Yuri Gagarin’s guitarists, Crille and Jon. They both play starring roles. However, it’s lead guitarist Crille who gets more opportunities to shine. When he does, he grabs them with both hands, and unleashes a series of blistering, scorching, searing solos. They play an important part in the sound and success of Yuri Gagarin’s career defining album, At The Center Of All Infinity.

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That’s what I consider to be the best Nordic Wave albums of 2016. These albums were produced by groundbreaking musicians who continue to  create ambitious, innovative and influential music in Norway, Sweden,  Denmark, Finland and Iceland. This music ranges from ambient and avant-garde to folk, improv and jazz to psychedelia, progressive rock and space rock. Just like previous years, he list has grown, and there are many musicians creating ambitious, groundbreaking, innovative and influential music. However, 2016 has been the best year since I’ve been writing about Nordic Wave. Hopefully, through, 2017 will surpass it. Let’s hopes so.

BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 3.

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