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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Qoph

Pyrola

Review by Gary Hill

What a difference a few years make. When I first reviewed this group's 1999 disc, Kalejkoskopiska-aktiviteter, I found it to be solid music that showcased a lot of potent progressive rock instrumental virtuosity. The thing is, I don't think I ever listened to the disc again. It didn't really capture my imagination or heart. Well, this one does that in spades. The music still has all the potent prog rock workmanship that you can expect, but it really has a groove and an emotional appeal that that other CD lacked. The result is a very strong release and one that should be in virtually any prog rock fan's collection.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Woodrose
A cool rocking groove starts this and the band quickly begin working through variants on the theme to create an effective prog jam that feels a little like Zappa. They launch out of there into a killer fast paced prog excursion that calls to mind both Dream Theater and the Flower Kings. They drop this back to a mellower more stripped down arrangement, then move this into the next more sedate progression. They fire back out into prog fury after this. A cool guitar segment is played loud, then soft twice, then the band shifts this around into a bouncy sort of movement to take the cut forward. The vocals that come in over top here, along with the somewhat playful guitar texture again calls to mind Frank Zappa just a bit. Then they launch into a killer frantic jam that at times feels both like Emerson Lake and Palmer and King Crimson. This segment ends the track.
Half of Everything
This one feels like a prog rock take on a bluesy Zep with Belew like textures and vocals. The song drops to weird ambience at times. This explodes out into a killer prog rock groove that feels a bit like Starless and Bible Black King Crimson. Then a full on blues segment, complete with harmonica, takes it. This is a killer cut bridging more basic blues-rock with KC like prog. It really feels a lot like the Belew era of that band. This drops to a weirder ambient segment that's still in that vein, then a new fast paced hard rocking groove takes it forward from there. The band turn that into another smoking instrumental journey.
Korea
A playful sort of vocal arrangement starts this, then it drops to a mellow groove that feels part traditional Asian part country and part Belew era King Crimson. They jump it up to a somewhat chaotic hard rocking Beatles like section, then jump into a short progressive rock jam. Then a reprise of the opening vocal section takes it back to the verse. The stomp out quit hard after that in a killer neo-prog arrangement. This shifts to an old school jam, then the band move into an expressive instrumental that gets more and more frantic as it carries on. This is a killer rocker that is still quite true to its prog rock roots. After another verse, this one in a heavier mode, they fire off into another instrumental break. This one is both furious and spacey, even possessing mild Eastern tones. This eventually turns a bit strange at times, but it's still quite a cool jam. At times this feels like King Crimson, but at other times it feels like Relayer era Yes and at still other points, like neither of the above. It has a powerhouse ending.
Travel Candy
This starts with space rock like sounds building slowly in a Pink Floyd like mode. This has a cool jam band like groove as it carries on. This changes very gradually, but is an exceptionally satisfying piece taking on spacey sounds like a sci-fi movie soundtrack, until a full on very powerful guitar solo dominated jam takes it. This one even gets a little funky at points. This instrumental doesn't wander far in terms of song structure, but it is so tasty. I always have to give props to any band who uses a theremin, too. This is my favorite cut ever from the group.
Stand My Ground
They turn it bluesy here with this stomper. It's a fairly straightforward blues groove overall, but enough prog changes and virtuosity are worked into it to create a sufficient amount of complexity to please prog heads. They turn this into a killer rather off kilter Crimson like jam with bluesy modes intact. As the non-lyrical vocals come over top in scat like form it takes on a Pentwater-like texture. A keyboard solo segment later calls to mind Emerson Lake and Palmer once again. This instrumental segment is an awesome prog excursion. They turn it back to something that feels like "ProzaKC Blues" from King Crimson. Then a chaotic sort of resolution ends it.
Moontripper
This is a fast paced hard edged prog rock romp. It is another that has definite KC-like tendencies, but the cool vocal arrangement pulls in other textures. This is an incredibly potent and innovative soundscape.
Fractions
This starts with an acoustic based modal textures that feels like Eastern Indian music. The first vocal segment comes over this format, but they eventually shift to a faster paced more traditional prog texture that feels a bit like Flower Kings meets Yes and Spock's Beard. It drops back after a while to a more energized take on the opening section. The cut alternates between these styles as it moves forward. A cool bouncy prog groove late is a great touch. Then it turns a bit like the more melodic Red era King Crimson before the ground launch into a new hard edged instrumental prog movement that calls to mind A Farewell To Kings era Rush. This leads to a false ending then they begin a new acoustic based section that weaves slowly changing lines of sound. Percussion gradually enters bringing a psychedelic sort of texture which fits nicely with the motif, sitar finishing out his image. This builds very slowly in instrumental fashion. It really makes you feel like you should be sitting at the Woodstock concert (the first - the real - one). This eventually fades down to end the cut and the CD with style.
 
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