Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The New Percussion Group of Amsterdam (with Bill Bruford) - Go Between (1987 Nederland) [ProgRock] @320

Those who think of Bill Bruford only as art rock drummer for groups including Yes and King Crimson, fusion drummer with his late-1970s group Bruford, or even (finally, after all these years) a jazz drummer with his ongoing Earthworks projects and improvisation-heavy duets with Dutch pianist Michiel Borstlap, still don't know the whole story. Those familiar with his work in the collective World Drummers Ensemble know that this iconic British percussionist has a pervasive and encyclopedic interest in anything that can be hit with a stick, something made crystal clear on this reissue of The New Percussion Group of Amsterdam's 1986 release, Go Between.

Bruford only plays on one track, the fourteen-minute title composition by Group member Rudd Wiener that, alongside Bruford's acoustic kit and percussion, features xylophone, vibraphone, marimba and bass marimba. It's a complex and episodic piece that shifts from a rhythm-heavy art rock intro to a gentler, minimalist-informed middle section, propelled forward with multiple repetitive patterns that gradually shift, Steve Reich-like, giving the piece an evocative sense of forward motion. Bolstered occasionally by Bruford's more powerful tom-toms and tympani, the two concepts come together as the tuned percussion builds into a harmonic foundation for Bruford's mathematically precise kit work, only to drop into quiet once again before the piece's conclusion—a polyrhythmic and contrapuntal tour-de-force from everyone involved.

01. Go Between (14:26)
02. Redbone (6.39)
03. Marimba Spiritual (14.03)
04. Maenaden (13.41)

Bill Bruford: acoustic drums and percussion (1)
Rudd Weiner: xylophone (1), vibraphone (1), marimba (1), bass marimba (1), percussion (3)
Peter Prommel: xylophone (1), vibraphone (1), marimba (1, 4), bass marimba (1), log drum (2), peacock gongs (2), o-daiko (3), percussion (3)
Herman Rieken: xylophone (1), vibraphone (1), marimba (1), bass marimba (1, 4), log drum (2), peacock gongs (2), shimi-daiko (3), percussion (3, 4)
Steef van Oosterhout: log drum (2), percussion (2, 4), marimba (4)
Johan Faber: log drum (2), peacock gongs (2), percussion (4)
Toon Oomen: log drum (2), percussion (2)
Keiko Abe: marimba (3)
Jan Pustjens: conductor (3)

Eskalation - Different Music for Bassoon, Wind Synthesizer and Sampled Percussion (Germany 2001) [AvantProg] @320

"...outstanding music that will definitely appeal to those who love RIO, neo-classical chamber prog, Zeuhl, the likes of Univers Zero, Art Zoyd and Zappa and even straight-ahead progressive rock. Excellent."
PROGRESSION (USA), Spring 2002

"...full of inventive twists, unexpected arrangements and outstanding playing."
EXPOSÉ (USA), April 2002

"Definitely original. If you are able to imagine Happy the Man's Kit Watkins and Univers Zero's Daniel Denis to compose music together with Lars Hollmer and with Michel Berckmans on bassoon, I am pretty sure it would sound something like Stephan Koehr's Eskalation. This is an album deserving a large audience."
TARKUS (Norway), Summer 2002

"...intelligent rock music...terrific percussion programming...a miracle."
KEYBOARDS magazine (Germany) issue 11/01; CD of the month“

"...beautiful and lively (...) and above all, authentic and personal."
TRAVERSES (France), Jan. 2002

"...a must for Univers Zero fans...speedy instrumental pieces...superb."
EURO ROCK PRESS (Japan) No.14, 2002

ESKALATION is Stephan Koehr's solo CD project of experimental rock music. In the 1970's and 80's Stephan has been playing woodwinds and keyboards in several avantgarde and jazz fusion bands, until he was appointed as a bassoon and contrabassoon player in a renowned german opera and symphony orchestra. His romance with wind controlled live electronics started 1979, when he played a pitch-following analog guitar synth module via a contact mike on the bassoon reed!
The CD contains ten distinct compositions, each with its own unique instrumentation, advanced harmonies and complex shifting rhythms and signatures, mixing avantgarde prog rock and world fusion. ESKALATION was composed and recorded using bassoons, keyboard and wind controlled synthesizers and samples, with guest performances on violin and trumpet. If you like alternative progressive music (e.g. National Health, Happy the Man, Univers Zero, Wendy Carlos, etc.).

01 - Prelude
02 - Mumien (Sonderpreis)
03 - Prozession (For Absent Friends)
04 - Böse Heiden
05 - A Crack In The Universe
06 - Sille Tanzt (Ostinato Con Variazioni I-Iv)
07 - Zwölf Uhr Fünf
08 - Folksong I
09 - Totes Mehr
10 - Vier Stufen

Stephan Koehr: bassoons, keyboard and wind controlled synthesizers and samples
Sibylle Szymanski-Köhr: Violin (track 2,4,5)
Thomas Forstner: Trumpet (track 5)

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Oaksenham - Conquest of the Pacific (Armenia 2006) [ProgRock] @320

Seems like a long time since we reviewed this Armenian band’s previous debut live release Woden’s Eve Live; in fact it was 2002, and since then
the band has been diligently working on this, their ambitious studio follow-up. Again, the six-piece of acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums, violin, keyboards and flute go the instrumental route, augmenting their already rich sound with guest players on string harp, english horn, bassoon, oboe, clarinet, cello, french horn, bagpipes and orchestral percussion, all track depending. These compositions stand strong as instrumentals, rich in melody and counterpoint, blazing with guitar, keyboard and violin solos, with plenty of twists, turns and complexities to keep them interesting from beginning to end. The warmth and range of emotions encompassed within the scope of their music is nothing short of stunning, and these are all exceptional players. Make no mistake though, even with all those orchestral instruments at work, these folks can and do rock with the best of them. Their spirited instrumental arrangements of two Gentle Giant classics back-to-back (“Talybont” and “On Reflection”) give away one of their apparent influences, though this writer is more often reminded of Red Queen era Gryphon in Oaksenham’s overall approach and instrumentation. The 26-minute five-part title suite closes the disc nicely, summarizing everything this band is about.
of GG, Gryphon, Snow Goose era Camel, Mike Oldfield, and other ambitious progressive rock works will definitely find this disc to their liking.
-Peter Thelen-

01. Anthem: The Unseen Land
02. Water Spark
03. Elfy
04. The Way Back Home
05. Talybont
06. On Reflection
07. Time-Out
08. Jester’s Pipe
09. Merlin’s Jig
10. Across the Atlantic
11. Ocean ’s Web
12. Golden Hind

Vahagn Papayan: bass
Anna Adamyan: keyboards
Valery Tolstov: flute
Bobikyan: violin
Vardan Gasparyan: guitar
Ashot Korganyan: drums

Ratings by outbrain