Published on 3rd September 2021
A Different Aspect #64
In this ADA Album & EP update we feature:
• Alan Dweck – Entangled Moments
• Raphael Weinroth-Browne – Worlds Within Live
• Head With Wings – Comfort In Illusion [EP]
• Plant My Bones – Stage 1.0 [EP]
• healthyliving – until/below [EP]
• Fancy – The Complete Recordings
London-based songwriter and musician Alan Dweck, whilst fully embracing the progressive aspect of prog rock, is also a man who appreciates the old-school methods of composing. With Entangled Moments, Dweck set out to construct a digital replica of a vinyl album, even going so far as to add in markers for ‘Side One’ and ‘Side Two’. This feels appropriate for a musician who could rightly be classed as a veteran of the scene. In the early-’90s, with the band 299, Dweck was one of the first to venture into the newly-opened Eastern Europe. Since then, he’s lived and travelled the world over, absorbing local music but never losing his love for prog.
Opening number Welcome Rise does just that – building up swiftly from a simple xylophone melody to incorporate synth sounds, hand-percussion and some frankly lovely, Eastern-tinged electric guitar. Just as you’re settling into the groove, the track morphs into Before, mid-tempo and propelled by jagged bass and keyboards. There’s something of Peter Gabriel in Dweck’s impassioned vocals, and more than a touch of Pink Floyd in his sonic landscapes. He is also a fine songwriter and composer, segueing elements with finesse so that the ever-shifting backdrop hooks the ear. Lyrically, Dweck is also never less than interesting: “Before I climb the mountain, before I swim the sea, before I try to change the world, I’ve got to find a place for me.”
On the piano-led Statues In Paris, Dweck conjures a homage to the great ’70s act, marrying thoughtful words and beautiful melodies with a delivery full of pathos. The shimmering Be’Elzebub’s Dancing is a particular highlight, a bluesy funky number full of synth pulses and more of Dweck’s highly enjoyable guitar. “The angels are weeping, their tears of goodbye…”, sings Dweck over a shuffling beat. So Many Moments closes the show with a grand and theatrical aura that early King Crimson would have been proud of.
Indeed, throughout Entangled Moments, you will hear echoes of prog legends, but this is not to suggest that Dweck sounds at any point derivative. He has a clear artistic vision of his own, and more than enough talent to realise it. This is classy music which will reward repeated listens.
Chris Wheatley recently spoke to Alan Dweck and you can read the full interview HERE on TPA
I recently reviewed Inheritance, the third album from Canadian trio Musk Ox, concluding it to be “a wonderfully enigmatic, totally captivating album…”. So taken was I with the album that I felt compelled to not only check out their back catalogue, but also releases by the individual members.
Although unfamiliar with Musk Ox prior to Inheritance, cellist and multi-instrumentalist Raphael Weinroth-Browne was familiar, but from where eluded me. Finally the penny dropped – as a guest musician on the last two Leprous albums. With that conundrum out of the way, over to Bandcamp, which revealed several releases. But where to start? Eventually I opted for his most recent album, Worlds Within Live, which, as the album title suggests, is a live recording, however not one performed in front of an audience. Like the rest of the planet’s musicians, Raphael was unable to take his music out on the road. Undaunted he went about releasing a series of intimate YouTube videos featuring live ‘variations’ of pieces from the 2020 Worlds Within studio album. These would go on to form the basis of the live album.
Using multi-effects/looper pedals Raphael evolves an intricate mélange of absorbing textures and rhythms. Constantly moving, sometimes full cathartic melancholy, whilst others bounce with percussive, urgent tension. Throughout Worlds Within Live, Raphael explores, exploits and extemporises the full sonic range of the cello. The end result is a truly absorbing listen, full of passion and emotion and all superbly captured in Unending I – From Within, the album’s enthralling opener, which seamlessly combines two tracks from the original album. Equally enthralling is the more up tempo Tumult I-II-III, and my only quandary – which version to listen to? In the end BOTH seemed the most obvious and simplest choice. Follow this LINK to the official video for the studio version of Tumult
There’s a wealth of fascinating releases to explore on Raphael Weinroth-Browne’s Bandcamp site. Worlds Within Live is an absolute must, as is the earlier studio version Worlds Within.
Comfort in Illusion is the impressive new concept-themed EP by modern US progressive rock ensemble Head With Wings. Their 2018 debut album From Worry to Shame was critically-acclaimed, but it has taken three years to continue their journey with this 3-track release. The disruption of the pandemic and both the global changes and personal struggles framed by it all are evident in the thematic narrative of the songs, which link them to the debut release, whilst being collectively self-contained on the EP.
Musically, the band play a bright, modern style of progressive rock with alternative/post-rock influences, the songs wandering freely, both lyrically and instrumentally. The result is music which is both accessible and complex with Josh Corum’s clear, resonant vocals beautifully complemented by the ensemble playing of Brandon Cousino and Mike Short on guitars, with Steve Hill on bass and Andrew Tesla on drums (making an impressive farewell appearance) supplying both a solid, yet expressive foundation.
Of Uncertainty has an underlying hypnotic sway and yearning vocals, lifted by stabs of intricate guitar work, with sudden changes in tempo and dynamics. The guitars intertwine and provide light and shade over the muscular bursts of drums. The song has a brisk pace and weaves here and there over its 7-minute duration.
Contemplating the Loop starts with delicate acoustic guitar and initially has a more soothing and mellow feel, even when the song ebbs and flows in intensity. Bass and drums combine effectively, and electric guitar runs complement Josh’s vocal excursions of self-doubt and anxiety.
In a House Without Clocks starts atmospherically with a background of voices before soaring into life with urgent drumming and soaring guitars as Josh plaintively asks, “Would you consider a life without a path… or would you fear it would all just fall apart – the plan that never started, the waters left uncharted”. The instrumentation is busy and powerful one minute, contemplative and dreamy the next, before a driving conclusion with the powerful vocals and dexterous guitars with pulsating math rock chords.
The brittle themes of self-actualisation, dreams, anxiety and doubt within an increasingly unfamiliar world are contemporary, despite the songs being initially conceived several years before the rise of COVID. The trio of songs integrate well with each other and the flowing, almost ‘stream of consciousness’ approach to the musical and lyrical composition is both progressive and alternative – yet recognisably post-rock in style. In my view, the Connecticut collective have grown and developed since the debut album and the future looks promising.
For progressive rock fans the ‘Expanded Edition’ is even better. Instrumental versions of the three tracks really emphasise the marvellous interplay behind Josh’s distinctive vocals. However, you also have reimagined remixed versions of all the tracks by talented American keyboardist Vikram Shankar (guest keyboardist on many recent prog releases, including those of John Holden) with delicate, evocative piano interpretations of the themes, with subtle keyboard arrangements providing a beautiful contrast to the originals. Overall, a new diverse release from Head With Wings well worth exploring further. Check them out on Bandcamp.
Before I heard a note, I was intrigued by the name of this EP. While it is perhaps the first stage of the band calling itself Plant My Bones, I was under the impression that Plant My Bones was merely a new name for the Finnish band Wagtails – who, I admit, I had not been greatly impressed by. The music of Wagtails can still be found (as with most things on the internet), if you choose to search for it, but my advice is to not bother. It’s not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but none of it compares to Stage 1.0 by Plant My Bones. With the loss of Wagtails bassist Paavo Vuoteenaho, vocalist Jenna Kosunen has taken on the role, and this proves to be one of the greatest changes in sound between Wagtails and Plant My Bones.
Stage 1.0 takes everything that I felt was missing from the music of Wagtails and adds it, with extra oomph. There is more power, more passion, and more prog. Plant My Bones definitely deserve the title of power trio, delivering so much more than their previous incarnation. And Jenna’s bass playing is absolutely a major part of this. No offence to Paavo, but Jenna’s playing is punchy and contrapuntal in a manner Paavo’s never was. Given Jenna plays the bass, keys and sings, I find it difficult not to make comparisons with Geddy Lee, and her vocal style only heightens the similarities. Even the new band name makes me think of Rush (and Roll the Bones), and that was my first thought when I saw it, as the music of Wagtails was clearly inspired by ’70s heavy prog sounds from bands such as Led Zep and Rush. I’ve never liked Led Zep, and there’s more Rush that I don’t like than do – but I can’t get enough of Plant My Bones.
The drumming of Konsta Ruuska is massive, and with Jenna gives the band a twin powerhouse driving things along with unusual forcefulness. Usually bass and drums are interdependent, but because of the way Jenna plays bass, the rhythm section is almost independent. The interplay between Jenna, Konsta and guitarist Elias Russka is amazing as they take turns to play with or against each other as the music requires. Plant My Bones have progressed and perfected the sound they were playing with as Wagtails, and made it their own. It never seemed quite genuine as Wagtails, but there is no denying how real the sound of Stage 1.0 is. Given just how great a step the music of Plant My Bones is from Wagtails, and how great a debut EP Stage 1.0 is, who knows where the band will go from here. Plant My Bones is a band to keep tabs on, for sure, and Stage 1.0 is absolutely a release that should be checked out.
This debut release from healthyliving is one I’ve been looking forward to ever since learning about the band, comprising Amaya López-Carromero (vocals), Scott McLean (guitar & bass), and Stefan Pötzsch (drums). While Pötszsch was an unknown name to me, I love Amaya’s work as Maud the Moth, and Scott’s as Falloch, neither of which sound particularly like the other, and was intrigued to hear what they would sound like together. Needless to say, the music of healthyliving is different again, but just as engaging and enthralling. Regardless of the quality of the instrumental backing, there is no getting away from just how much power and presence of Amaya’s vocals provides.
That the release is so short – just two songs, one aggressive and one introspective – was initially a little disappointing, and some might be surprised that such a short release is even getting coverage on this page. But the two songs, even though short, linger long after they’ve ended, packing quite a punch despite their length (or lack thereof). until blasts into being quite explosively, with Amaya’s sweet vocals providing a beautiful contrast to the crunchy and chunky backing that insistently propels the song forward. The vocals sound almost slow motion in comparison to the driving rhythm. It’s compelling and captivating, and healthyliving couldn’t have chosen a better song to introduce themselves.
It’s tempting to call below the polar opposite of until, and that might even seem to be the first impression, but pay attention and there are far more similarities than differences between the two. Both are constructed in a manner similar to post-rock (even if they don’t necessarily sound like most bands tagged with that moniker), with more attention paid to structure over form. It may be only my interpretation, and may not be intended, but lyrically and musically until and below seem to be two sides of the same story: drifting, raging, drowning, rolling. Stefan’s drumming is striking or spacious as required, and Scott’s guitar textures are full and fluid. As Stefan and Scott’s parts are interwoven in a manner that feels symbiotic, Amaya’s vocals float over the top.
The music of healthyliving, whether hard and fast or deep and slow, is a web of atmospheres and moods. Themes and motifs surface and submerge, as the music flows to its logical conclusion. There may not be the overt pattern of crescendo and climax that much post rock goes for, but for me there’s the same sense of being swept along by an undulating current, as the music washes over me. Beautiful and beguiling, the short length of until/below only leaves me wanting to hear more from healthyliving. The promise and potential shown in these two songs sets a very high bar, but I have no doubt they will surpass it.
Cherry Red Records’ The Complete Recordings triple CD set brings together both of Fancy’s studio recordings, B-sides and previously unheard live recordings from Ronnie Scott’s, assorted interviews and a couple of new tracks. Producer Mike Hurst brought together session musicians Ray Fenwick, Mo Foster and Les Binks with vocalist Helen Caunt, later Annie Kavanagh, to form ’70s popsters Fancy. Back in the seventies, short songs, challenging styles, but basically a tarted-up sixties carry on was the order of the day. The band’s first U.S. hit Wild Thing is an amiable cover of the Troggs’ song, though more the circus than the wilds of the jungle.
Across Disc One: Love for Sale and Move On are passable tunes, but much of this output could be found as the soundtrack to a sitcom. I Don’t Need Your Love is okay, but not sure I can forgive the bluesy One Night With You. Touch Me – ’nuff said, bit saucy but not a bad piece of rock funk. The lady can sing, and belt out a good tune. Between The Devil and Me is good old-fashioned rock’n’roll seventies style. Foot-tapping but formulaic; these are the songs, but you’ve heard a hit that sounds like it.
Something To Remember is a better album – the producer was listening. Brass is introduced in an attempt to update the sound – it’s blues funk rock! The voice is respected and not drowned out, though the instruments are still a little in your face. Prog credentials? The intros are very long, there is still a selection of covers here, but the production does justice to the band and potentially what they could have been.
Disc Three is a mish-mash: historical, rough live recordings which might be of interest to the early/alternative days of Messrs Fenwick, Foster & Binks. The trials and tribulations of Fancy are rather well and amusingly spelt out in the accompanying booklet.