Light Tile

Jun. 29th, 2015 06:02 pm
progbear: Major-General Progbear (My handlebar)
Self-portrait from Santa Cruz city streets, reminding me that I’m overdue for another photo taken at the oceanside:

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Work on Confirmed Bachelors is continuing apace. I already have the first draft of the first acts of two episodes complete. Cross your fingers that this project isn’t another that I’ll leave partially finished before abandoning and having nothing come of it. When it’s at a later state of development, I’ll start thinking about crowdfunding options. And if/when I find a suitable actor who’s game, I want to film a table-read to help drum up interest. More as it develops...

I was bummed by the passing of Chris Squire over the weekend. Yes were one of my favourite bands, a serious highlight of my discography that I never get bored with. Fragile and Close to the Edge are still in heavy rotation at Casa de Progbear lo these many years later. The bass is an instrument I rarely pay much attention to, but I certainly did when Mr. Squire was playing. Just check out “Heart of the Sunrise,” he defies being ignored.

Park-housing-mate A___ is currently on vacation in the Sierras. I feel like such a slovenly housekeeper compared to him; I returned to the park this week to find the stovetop, toilet and bathroom/kitchen sinks spotlessly clean! I ought to be ashamed of myself!
progbear: Major-General Progbear (My handlebar)
Nocturnal self-portrait from the streets of Berserkeley:

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An extremely sad week...

Francesco di Giacomo, lead singer of the Italian band Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, died on Friday in a car accident. He was 66. He remains one of my favourite singers of all time. I remember buying the 1975 Manticore release back in 1991 (one of my first purchases from the then-new Amoeba Records), which I admit to buying for its cover, and absolutely falling in love with the album’s contents. I never, ever thought I’d see them live, but in 2000 I did indeed see them in concert in L.A. When Francesco took the stage to sing the climactic part in “Metamorfosi,” I was actually moved to tears.

Then, this morning, I discovered this...

Video behind the cut )

It seems Bernd “Nossi” Noske, lead singer and drummer of the German hard rock/progressive band Birth Control also passed away. They were another band I have long been a fan of, and I think Nossi was one of the more underrated hard rock singers out there, so his is another great loss.

On to less depressing news: [ profile] albadger and I finally got round to trying out Saturn Café, a sort of vegetarian comfort-food place made to look like a 50s diner. It was good!
progbear: Weenies from Spongebob (weenies)
I know, I promised you my Prog 2013 rundown, but never delivered.

Well, here, this may tide you over. An excerpt from You Have a Chance from the Rome-based folk-progressive band Camelias Garden. Not the best of 2013, but almost certainly the most underrated. Gentle, pastoral acoustic music like this is all too rare these days:

progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)

Naturally, stuff falls through the cracks. That’s what this post is for; all the stuff I never got to hear in its entirety in 2010 but which I felt needed a mention anyway just for the sake of completeness:

The stuff I pretty much missed out on in 2010 )
progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)
Friendship Arch, Kiev, Ukraine

Today we look at artists from the rest of the world, specifically Cuba, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

Reviews of Anima Mundi, and Karfagen )
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San Francisco Bay Bridge

Today we look at artists from the United States and Canada.

Reviews of Ephemeral Sun, Mars Hollow and Mystery )
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A sadly woefully incomplete view of the Scandinavian scene of 2010.

Reviews of Khatsaturjan and The Windmill )
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Bayreuth Hofgarten

Today we look at artists from Germany and the Netherlands.

Reviews of Argos, Frequency Drift and Sky Architect )
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Yeah, I ran out of Italian records to review, so I threw one from another Mediterranean country in here. So sue me!

Reviews of Alma sideris, Ciccada and Three Monks )
progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)

I’d initially intended to begin my 2010 recap with a look back on the releases of 2009 and how my opinion changed on those albums...or not. I just decided I’d dive right in. The hot spot for prog of 2010 is definitely Italy as you can tell by the big honkin’ Italian flag at the top of this page. So much of a hot spot, that I’m forced to split my Italian overview into three (well, two-and-two-thirds, really):

Reviews of Areknamés, Conqueror and Eris Pluvia )
progbear: Weenies from Spongebob (weenies)
Here’s a recent performance by the vintage Italian progressive rock band Locanda delle Fate, now reunited with their original singer Leonardo Sasso:

I was surprised that he was in great voice here. (Doesn’t look bad, either!) I do hope they can reel these guys in for one of the U.S. prog festivals in 2011!
progbear: Weenies from Spongebob (weenies)
Thanks to [ profile] ivan_byelyj for a fun day of music and adventure. I managed to find the strip of free, legal parking near HP Pavilion San José Arena, which was of course near an area overgrown with weeds and cluttered with litter, next to a downed fence. Collected John at the Caltrain station and proceeded to the arena.

Genesis were actually quite good. Yes, they’re getting up there in age, but Phil can still drum with the best of ’em. He hasn’t quite got the vocal range he did, but he’s still spry for his age, still doing the “tambourine dance” during “I Know What I Like.” Those naysayers who go, “oh, nobody will ‘get’ the old stuff” (“It won’t play in Peoria!”) are all full of it, the “classic”-era material was greeted with open arms and shrieks of delight. In fact, it was funny, everyone went crazy for the “Cage” medley, but the hall practically emptied out for “Hold On My Heart” (the ultimate pee-break song?).

I did feel the later albums (Invisible Touch/We Can’t Dance) were over-represented. I think “Domino” could easily have been dropped in favour of one of their older/better/less half-assed “epic” tracks (hell, even “Fading Lights” would have been preferable!). Weirdly, nothing at all from Abacab. Couldn’t they at least have wedged “Keep It Dark” in there somewhere?

Amazing, very elaborate staging, with a wall of video-screens through which light also shone through at points. I get the feeling that the stoned patrons (you can’t fool me, I know that smell!) were enjoying the concert on another level.
progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)

This is the first track off the first album by the Italian progressive/avant-garde rock band Area. Fronted by the late Demetrio Stratos (who was, in many ways, the male equivalent of Yma Sumac), the band crossed from jazz to rock to “new music” with ease, and always with distinctive Italian, Middle Eastern and Greek (Stratos was Greek) touches. The song is a plea for peace following the “Black September” terrorist attacks in Munich in 1972, and features a woman reciting in Arabic at the beginning of the song. Its title means “July, August, (Black) September.”

If this is all too old-fashioned for you, then you may prefer the cover version by the latter-day Japanese noise-rock band Zeni Geva.
progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)
Die sixtinische Madonna

OK, it’s 1980, East Germany. The Berlin Wall is still firmly in place. Your government is receiving a lot of flack from Catholics because a lot of religious art treasures—including Raphael’s beloved Sistine Madonna—languish away in a museum in a Communist country. What do you do?

Well, if you’re controversial self-styled poet and lyricist (and, apparently, tool of the East German censor board) Kurt Demmler, you write a mini-epic poem about how the Sistine Madonna is not only a symbol for Christianity, but for Communism as well. And you get popular Saxon rock band Electra to compose music to go with the lyrics, and premiere the piece at a prominent youth festival.

This review (German) sort of takes potshots at the album, largely at Demmler’s lyrics. The song is famous for its refrain, “Ah, ah herrliche Frau, es ist auch unsere Frau” (Wonderful woman, she is our woman too), and infamous for the line, “on the sixth day, Man himself created God.” The style is compared to Rick Wakeman and I can kind of hear it, what with the choirs and massed synthesizers, but it’s more obvious on the original recording than on this stripped-down later version. Ironic that it should sound so much like liturgical music, it sort of becomes a Mass for Marxism.

The above clip shows that the band still perform the piece (albeit in abbreviated form) to this day (where Electra play alongside fellow regional acts Lift and Stern Meissen under the umbrella name Sachsendreier). The original version featured singer Manuel von Senden, who I believe has a nicer voice. This clip features original vocalist Stefan Trepte, who at the time had his own band called Reform, but returned to Electra in 1989.

EDIT: Funny what a little research will turn up! As it turns out, Manuel von Senden quit Electra to pursue a career as an operatic tenor! It looks like he’s living in Austria these days.
progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)
Peter Panka, drummer of the legendary Hannover, Germany-based rock group Jane, passed on this past week, due to complications from cancer. Here’s him performing “Out In The Rain,” one of his showpieces as a singer:

progbear: Weenies from Spongebob (weenies)
For the past few months, I’ve been going through my collection of old records and tapes and burning them to CD-R. At last, I got to El Patio, the debut album by Spain’s beloved Triana. 60’s pop fans will recognize keyboardist, lead singer and main songwriter Jesús de la Rosa from his participation in the rock band Los Bravos, of “Black Is Black” fame.

I had forgotten just how good this album is! It’s really an amazing piece of work, and I was surprised in retrospect, remembering all those years ago when first hearing it being disappointed and not liking it much! It’s a quite subtle album, based as it is around piano and acoustic guitars. I’ve come to accept that at least two tracks off of this—“En el lago” (On the lake) and album-opener “Abre la puerta” (Open the door)—are real classics, with a Flamenco passion melded to prog-rock majesty.

De la Rosa’s emotive voice and rich keyboard work had already impressed on me, but what really floored me on this most recent listening was the acoustic fingerstyle guitar courtesy of Eduardo Rodriguez. There’s almost no electric guitar on the album (what little there is is played by a guest musician), but believe me, with playing this fine you don’t miss it! There’s real soul of Andalucia in his playing.

It’s albums like this that make me regret that the record industry and modern rock seems to be mainstreaming world music, making albums like this with distinct local flavouring a thing of the past. Oddly enough it’s none other than Jello Biafra (of Dead Kennedy’s fame/infamy) who can be heard lamenting this tendency in the book Incredibly Strange Music: Vol. II: “Country by country, the other great dumbing down of world culture is caused by (besides television) rock & roll—particularly hardcore and metal. From Hungary to Colombia to Malaysia to South Africa to Huntington Beach, you can find hardcore and thrash metal bands that sound exactly alike.”

Don’t much care for his music, but as a person, I find Jello Biafra absolutely amazing. I love his interview in ISM Vol. II; he’s such an enthusiastic record collector geek, I imagine we’d have fun nerding it up for hours about music if we ever met.

Back on the subject of Triana, definitely listen to the streamable tracks and watch the videos at the Progarchives page linked above. The streamable “Abre la puerta” and video for “En el lago” are particularly fine. It’s a grave sadness that Jesús died in a fatal car crash in 1983, effectively squelching any possibility of further Triana music.
progbear: Major-General Progbear (That’s My Purse!)
With the lack of Song of the Week, this seems to have turned into Mike Bitches About Music Corner. Though this isn’t about music per se, more about the people who listen to it.

I was fingering through some LP’s at Berkeley’s Amoeba, when I came across a vinyl reissue copy of Tangerine Dream’s Electronic Meditation album. On the outer bag, there was a big red sticker with a blurb allegedly describing the music inside. The first sentence of the blurb read, “The first electronic punk album!”

Um...pardon me, but no. Trust me, I’ve heard the album. This is pure Euro-space rock, very heavily influenced by Pink Floyd with elements of avant-garde composers like Stockhausen, plus influence from good old hallucinogenic drugs. I guarantee you there’s nothing “punk” about it! In fact, title notwithstanding, it barely qualifies as “electronic,” pre-dating as it does the group’s acquisition of a synthesizer. You can name-drop the Velvet Underground and the Stooges until someone smacks you upside the head with an Echoplex, it won’t make such influences suddenly materialize.

Now, I have nothing against punk fans co-opting progressive rock albums. In fact, I’m all for it. But for crap’s sake, if you’re going to listen to them, at least have the balls to admit that what you’re listening to is prog! Leave that Lester Bangs “I’m too hip to listen to prog!” bullshit back in the 80’s where it belongs!
progbear: Weenies from Spongebob (weenies)
For anyone curious about what I actually listen to on a day to day basis:

You need to have a account to actually listen (free). It’s worth the effort. I’m surprised at some of the obscure stuff that they have in their streamable tracks. Mezquita*?!?!!

Still, with the RIAA being assholes and cracking down on internet radio, it’s nice to know that London-based is kinda out of their jurisdiction. Here’s to a long and healthy life for them. As it is now, my playlist is 87 tracks and still growing.

*the song title is wrong, though. It should be “Ara Buza (Dáme un beso)”.

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