Posts Tagged ‘Lonely Robot’

THE BEST SO FAR OF 2015 (i.e. My “Faves”)

July 5, 2015

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for several weeks now. I was jostled out of my vegetative state by a couple of recent posts on the premier web site for all things prog: PROGARCHY: Pointing toward Proghalla (the only site you REALLY need to be following! http://progarchy.com/ ) I am constructing this list without the benefit of reading PROGARCHY’s own “The Best So Far” list for 2015 (even though it’s a list for primarily prog metal).

By way of embarrassed admission I must plead lack of funds for not yet owning the new Neal Morse album, Grand Experiment, and the new Steven Wilson album, Hand. Cannot. Erase. Although I have heard most of Wilson’s magnum opus one time from YouTube and other on-line sources, out of fairness to these discs I’m not going to rate them yet…I need proper and extended time with music before making “best of” lists.

sparkAETHER

As it now stands the two runaway albums for me are THE TANGENT: A Spark In The Aether (the genius work of Andy Tillison), and LONELY ROBOT: Please Come Home (the genius work of John Mitchell).   These two albums are almost sure to be in a neck and neck horse race photo-finish as December 31st looms closer and closer. Look for these to be in the 1 and 2 top spots.

Lonely Robot 2

And now, in no particular order, and without any real reviewing comments, I would add the following:

BIG BIG TRAIN: Wassail (sure it’s an EP, but I don’t care…it’s just that darn spectacular and it IS BIG BIG TRAIN…nuff said)

GLASS HAMMER: The Breaking Of The World

THE GENTLE STORM: Diary (the stunning collaboration between Lucassen and van Giersbergen will be near the top 5 I’m betting)

ARGOS: A Seasonal Affair

BEARDFISH: +4636 Comfortzone

ARENA: The Unquiet Sky (great music but also a great weird story inspiration)

JOHN CARPENTER: Lost Themes (I’m a sucker for Carpenter’s stuff but this disc probably will fade out of the top ten and maybe even out of the top 15 or 20; and it’s not really prog is it?)

KARNATAKA: Secrets of Angels

SANGUINE HUM: Now We Have A Light (a sleeper; darkhorse)

MAGIC PIE: King For A Day

My Top-Ten list for 2015 will no doubt have some, or most, of these wonderful slabs of sonic bliss. I can’t wait for the next 6 months of new releases. I can’t wait for the money to actually buy them.

Mellotron set to 11

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FROST* Milliontown (A “throw-back” review)

March 2, 2015

This album might well have slipped between the cracks and never have been heard were it not for John Mitchell’s blindingly good new CD, Please Come Home just released from his latest project LONELY ROBOT. Yes, of course I’ve probably heard a track or two from his other projects over the years (no doubt on the Dividing Line Broadcast website) or seen an ad for one of them in the pages of Uncut or Mojo, or one of the other glossies before the advent of PROG magazine, but those brief encounters just didn’t stick in my memory bank. So, thanks now to Wikipedia and YouTube I am aware, familiar, and in love with Mitchell’s other two stellar projects KINO (R.I.P.) and FROST*

With no further adieu, a “throw-back” review.

 FROSTMilliontown_cover

Milliontown is a well crafted and crisply produced affair. The mixing is clean and upfront with superb musicianship from some of England’s best Prog players. John Mitchell is truly an underrated guitarist while drummer Andy Edwards turns in a blistering performance, especially on the final track. But at its heart, this is a keyboard and synth driven opus that lays at the creative and compositional feet of wizard of the ivories, Jem Godfrey!

From the first few seconds of tinkling piano (I call the sound ‘ambient owlwind’) on the opening track Hyperventilate to the final piano coda of track 6, the listener is marinated in a wash of melodies and buoyant themes of cautious but optimistic striving and rebirth. Godfrey and company do an admirable job of mixing and matching (and mashing) the louder and more raucous hard-rock elements with the delicate and intricate interplays between guitar and keys. No Me No You has a real SPOCK’S BEARD/Neal Morse vibe but with a twist of electronica and processed background voices. Snowman has such an infectious and gossamery—like opening, that this ‘dreamprog’ has one forming mental images of a sonic snowman and making beautiful comparisons to even Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!

Even my least favorite track (but still a solid “B/B+”) The Other Me has a great give and take between heavier metal rock with industrial discordant stabs of rhythm and some delicious quiet vocal passages.

Track 5, The Black Light Machine, which clocks in at 10:06 is worth the price of the whole album. The harmonies between Godfrey and Mitchell give this a TRANSATLANTIC (there’s that Morse again ;)) feel. Mitchell just “kills” this track with his finest axe shredding. The album closes out with a mammoth 26 minute colossus titled Milliontown. This is a song of great melodies, beautiful vocal harmonies (again), triumphant soaring themes, and a flower-like resilience of stubborn perseverance and growth after a long thunder storm.

FROST* is bracing and exhilarating and never numbing. With Milliontown, these musicians thaw the spirit and freeze out boredom and mainstream sameness.

This album should in the collection of anyone who appreciates PROG music.

The album can be listened to in its entirety at bandcamp: http://frost.bandcamp.com/album/milliontown

But should be purchased then immediately: http://www.amazon.com/Milliontown-FROST/dp/B000G04UYG/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1425324615&sr=1-1&keywords=frost

Mellotron On!

ALBUM REVIEW: LONELY ROBOT (John Mitchell), Please Come Home

February 28, 2015

Lonely Robot 2

“Lonely Robot is a gloriously ambitious sonic adventure, produced and performed to perfection.” – – Steven Wilson

When one of Prog’s reigning demi-gods writes the above about an album there’s not much more to be added—but I will because the Prog muse is constraining me to yell from the rooftops BUY THIS ALBUM…IT IS A MASTERPIECE!

I would not have known of this album this early (it’s set for an American release on March 10th) were it not for the ‘first-look’ shout-out it received from Progarchy reviewer “Nick” in his “First Impressions” blog post of 25 February (http://progarchy.com/2015/02/25/february-first-impressions/)   But the web-site PROGSTREAMING, which allowed me hear the complete album, sealed the deal. Steven Wilson was telling the truth: PERFECTION indeed!

With more “hooks” than a Bass Master tackle box, incredible musicianship, glorious melodies everywhere, and some of the most intelligent and sensitive lyrics to ever grace a song-set, John Mitchell has released an impressionistic, tone-poem, themed song cycle, of absolutely epic proportion. This is a concept album for the ages.  I do not exaggerate. Mitchell has penned and recorded his own Hamlet or Macbeth; he need write nothing further to be enshrined in Prog’s Valhalla, or upon its Mount Rushmore (Olympus) alongside Close to the Edge, Dark Side of the Moon, and Selling England by the Pound.

The themes of alienation, origin, loss, identity, and transitoriness, are woven together in an exquisite tapestry of existentialist aural magic.  And not to be dismissed is the very clever and apropos cover art to the album featuring a photo which includes the iconic Robby the Robot from the (also austere and existentialist) 1956 classic movie Forbidden Planet (which had its own groundbreaking Prog score—the totally electronic gem by Bebe and Louis Barron).

This album is so entrancing the passage of time stops and one is left wanting to re-listen to every track and then wondering ‘what happened to my afternoon?’ when the disc is over.

Every track receives my highest “A+” rating and I would have gladly purchased the album after having listened to only track 1 Airlock!  A detailed song by song analysis would be enjoyable for me but tedious for a reader—this has to be a blog post and not a thesis or novella.

The composite experience is so united and cohesive I even have a difficult time choosing my favorite song or two. Oubliette just melts your brain with beauty and the title track, Lonely Robot is simply the best pop-Prog tune I’ve heard; in a truly just and decent world this song would be a Top Ten constant radio play Platinum seller! But to try and pick favorite songs on this sonorous cornucopia would be like trying to choose your favorite children in a family of eleven saints.

TRACK LISTING:

  1. Airlock 3:51
  2. God vs. Man 5:41
  3. The Boy in The Radio 4:51
  4. Why Do We Stay 5:15
  5. Lonely Robot 8:09
  6. A Godless Sea 5:28
  7. Oubliette 5:20
  8. Construct/Obstruct 5:46
  9. Are We Copies 6:18
  10. Human Being 5:34
  11. The Red Balloon 2:04

Special accolades to Heather Findlay who sings an ethereal and transcendent duet with Mitchell on track 4, Why Do We Stay—sublime!  In fact, musician, vocalist, songwriter, and producer John Mitchell (performing now under the moniker LONELY ROBOT) has himself a simple, clear, earnest, and captivating voice. Kudos also to Mitchell’s entire backing cast: Kim Seviour (another soprano song-bird), guitarist Nik Kershaw, Jem Godfrey on keys, and the rhythm section of Nick Beggs (bass) & Craig Blundell (drums).

I kept thinking as listening “how good can this get…it just keeps getting better!”  The album’s ends last track, The Red Balloon, ends with the haunting theme of bittersweet departure shrouded in the hope to meet again some day.   This is now my request to John Mitchell, that he returns to the studio at the earliest possible time.

A soaring, moving, musical experience like this does not come often. This is a “Desert Island” album and I officially declare it to be my FAVORITE ALBUM of 2015 (that means SOMETHING as I type these words on 28 February).

An A+++ rating, wherein A+ is the highest there is.

Mellotron On!

jww

Sites worth checking:

INSIDEOUT Music http://insideoutmusic.com/newsdetailed.aspx?IdNews=15288&IdCompany=8

PROGSTREAMING:

http://www.progstreaming.com/_wb/pages/play-album.php?activeAlbum=01098 – Lonely Robot – Please Come Home

SEA OF TRANQUILITY interview with John Mitchell:

http://www.seaoftranquility.org/article.php?sid=2978

John Mitchell’s cool FACEBOOK page:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/johnchristianmitchell

ALBUM REVIEW: PROG magazine’s The Start Of Something Beautiful

February 27, 2015

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Prog Sampler 31: THE START OF SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL

Track Listing:

  1. IF THESE TREES COULD TALK/ They Speak With Knives
  2. GOLDRAY/ Outloud
  3. THE NEAL MORSE BAND/ Agenda
  4. LONELY ROBOT/ Construct/Obstruct
  5. KARNATAKA/ Road to Cairo
  6. BRAINTICKET/ Singularity
  7. MIKE KERSHAW/ Farewell
  8. WARMRAIN/ Fading Star
  9. ENSLAVED/ Thurisaz Dreaming (edit)
  10. SUBVERSION/ Novation
  11. JU AND KJETIL MOSTER/ Hassassin

From the plastic alien figurine inside the 1960s cereal box to the cheap whistle in a box of Cracker Jack, who doesn’t enjoy getting an added bonus freebie? One reason to purchase each issue of PROG magazine is the marvelous CD enclosed each—usually running close to a solid 60 minutes. Okay, it’s not really free but is included in the price of the magazine, but still…   🙂

Prog Sampler 31: THE START OF SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL is a real keeper due to a powerful middle section of tunes. This is the disc which is included in the Steven Wilson cover issue (# 53, February 2015).

A review of a collection is by necessity a review of each song as a stand-alone. So:

  1. The opening track They Speak With Knives by the band IF THESE TREES COULD TALK is a great lead off song. It starts off with a tight, well produced, rhythmic, and driving beat instrumental opening which leads into several nice tempo changes. This is a very nice post-rock sounding piece but with very clean guitar and no distortion. Rather than the sturm und drang of a band like EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY, this tune stays melodic for the full 5:39 and surges along even keeled rather than that normal shoe-gaze build-up and crash model. I give it an “A” and would gladly hear the album.
  2. GOLDRAY is next up with their song Outloud. The song starts off stoner/sludge-like with some heavy riffs but is soon joined by the vocals of Leah Rasmussen. The backing heaving groove and the vocals swirl the listener around into classic psychedelic rock. There’s a nice fuzz-distorted middle section before Leah’s vocals come back in at 6:05. Just when the listener thinks this sweet tune is over there’s a final coda of 50 seconds or so of tinkling and droning synths that leave a real “Eastern” tinged vibe. A sold “B-/B” effort.
  3. This short 3:43 track makes the entire disc a must keep! THE NEAL MORSE BAND with Agenda scores an “A+” and definitely means I’ll be buying his new album. Portnoy’s crisp and snappy drumming, Morse’s lyricism and always convincing voice, an overall catchy foot-stomping melody, coupled with a beautiful chorus makes the listener want to just hit repeat and forget about the next 8 tracks.
  4. LONELY ROBOT, the new project from John Mitchell, brings in the fourth track, Construct/Obstruct with a quick syncopated and sustained synth theme that has the listener at first thinking “1980s”…but in a pretty good way. The shift at around 3:20 and the melding of great lead guitar with the otherwise heavy drums & keys driven song, completes this highly rated “A” song. I will be exploring this album further.
  5. KARNATAKA follows with Road to Cairo and also scores my high rating of “A.” A nice serious 30 second orchestral synth opening is joined in by singer Rachel Jones and this orchestra/symphonic prog tune begins to soar. Jones has a nice set of pipes and the song reminds one somewhat of Annie Haslam and Renaissance. Jones’ vocals literally jump out at around the 3:30 mark due to mixing them right up front and dropping away the otherwise too heavy wall-of-sound mix. The overall muddy sonic feel lowers what might have been an “A+” down to a still superlative “A.”
  6. BRAINTICKET delivers a nice Hawkwind-lite sounding Sci-fi themed song, Singularity. This is a mostly instrumental track with a smattering of female vocalise that is a jazzy wash of synths and rhythms. The electronic bloops and bleeps and the brief science-fiction dialog make it an addictive 5:00 of solid “B+”
  7. Along with Neal Morse, this track, Farewell, by MIKE KERSHAW is the other standout on the disc. I will be henceforth buying Mr. Kershaw’s new album. Within the first 14 seconds of the song a smile appears on ones face and stays for the entire 4 minutes plus. The fetching melody, the warm likeability of Kershaw’s voice, and the catchy toe-tapping folk/rock Prog (cum Celtic) is pure infectious joy! Even without that beautiful instrumental middle section the song would still garner an “A+” A must buy!
  8. WARMRAIN follows with their selection Fading Star. Clocking in at 8:17 this would be the “epic” of the disc. And it is, in quality as much as quantity. This song actually reminds me of Robin Armstrong and his Capacitor album; a higher compliment I cannot give. What starts off as a lonely and somber instrumental piece goes through numerous changes to include emotive vocals, a background radio sample, tightly harmonic guitars, drums, and synths, and a beautiful sitar-sounding string conclusion. Another “A+” and another resolution to search out WARMRAIN’s album.
  9. If you’re not prepared for track 9, I wasn’t, the opening few seconds will knock you off your chair as you yell “what the deuce?” I have no excuse since I know how to read and do actually own an album by ENSLAVED. Nonetheless the orc-like growls of this Black Metal institution do take the listener out of the beautiful prog-mojo-cloud trance from the previous 8 tracks J I was about to thunder “THIS AIN’T PROG” until I actually gave the song a chance. Sure, I don’t like the guttural gargoyle growling but the tune actually morphs into a very cool jazz-rock, and proggy, head—nodding affair. Some very clean and normal vocals at the 1:30 mark mix in well with the melodic galloping theme. And though the rough vocals do reappear, the overall heavy and ominous under beat sustains the song with swirling and pulsing tones. This kind of reminds me of earlier Opeth. That’s a good thing.   I would listen to the album. I give this track a surprising “A” rating.
  10. The band SUBVERSION brings the disc way down. I rate their contribution, Novation, a lowly “C-” What starts off as merely annoying mediocre prog-metal, quickly turns into what I call emo-screamo non-melodic music. To be fair, these guys are accomplished musicians and there’s nothing technically wrong with their presentation. A nice theme for about 45 seconds, at the 1:20 mark, gave me a glimmer of hope, but no, it concludes as simply a generic euro-death metalish tune with no gravitas.
  11. And then sadly, the disc ends with another low rated “C” selection, Hassassin, by a group known as JU AND KJETIL MOSTER. Your mileage may vary on this one. I find it to be dry and distant jazz-fusion prog rock…and not the good kind. This is 8:41 of drum, drone, and distant screeching saxophone (or synth sax). Only in the last 20 seconds is there an interesting snippet of an intelligent theme. I’d rather go and listen to Miles.

Tracks 1, but especially 3 through 9 (most especially Neal Morse and Mike Kershaw) make this a delightful compilation disc and one that will be returning to my CD changer many more times.

Overall rating: “B+/A-

But you know, for what it costs to buy a copy of PROG magazine and get these nifty bonus discs…one could just buy the new NEAL MORSE BAND album.

Yeah.

Mellotron On!


The (n)EVERLAND of PROG

Searching For Lost Chords

Stormfields

Christian Humanism in a Post-Modern World

Progarchy

Pointing toward Proghalla