It’s funny; initially Bite-size Prog was supposed to be a bunch of uber-short reviews, general impressions on semi-recent prog releases. At some point I began writing more and more and they began to be, well, not quite so Bite-size, I suppose. At any rate, I’ve finally decided to go back and attempt something closer to what I envisioned at first in the form of short reviews of a few albums at a time. While I’m not quite sure if I was successful or not, it’s definitely moving towards a shorter format, which hopefully will give you a brief glimpse at an album without all the verbosity which I can be guilty of from time to time. And so I present once again, Bite-size Prog:
Anima Mundi – The Lamplighter
If you’ve got an itch for something that’ll transport you back to the days of neo-prog, Anima Mundi’s latest release, The Lamplighter, may be your ticket. These guys do a surprisingly good job at nailing a sort of Marillion vibe with some moments that even take you back to Gabriel-ish era Genesis, such as on “The Dream Child Behind the Mask.” The structure of songs becomes a bit predictable overall, with a general focus on vocals and a sort of verse/chorus format, but this format seems slightly obscured (in a good way) by the dense atmosphere of synths (particularly the synth brass on songs like the quirky “The Call and Farewell Song” and “Endless Star,” both of which additionally feature some piano work that feels very tone-poem-esque in nature. Additionally, Anima Mundi seems to have a knack for the haunting and ominous, as in the tron flutes opener to “On Earth Beneath the Stars,” as well as the aforementioned “Endless Star.” Some of these elements do get a bit overused, however, as is clear by the time we reach “The Human House.” Luckily there are still some great moments on the record, such as the lovely folk/classical blend guitar motifs of “The Return Part 1” and the variations on these by way of vocals in part two. Despite the fact that I’m not a huge fan of neoprog, I still enjoyed The Lamplighter due to the sort of serious feel of the album as a whole and perhaps the very dark moments which were very intriguing.
Il Cerchio d’Oro – Dedalo e Icaro
Il Cerchio d’Oro is truly an interesting case of a band formed more or less in the heyday of prog in Italy (’74) but never managed to get out a proper release at the time. Fastforward til 2006 and they finally are beginning to get their material properly out there in terms of a collected release of rehearsal session recordings from back in the day, but a real debut isn’t released til 2008 in the form of Il viaggio di Colombo. Now, in 2013, we have perhaps what could be considered their sophomore album: Dedalo e Icaro.
Il Cerchio d’Oro presents an overall sound that harkens back to very early 70’s Italian, so much in fact that you might approach this album and wonder if the songs were composed at that time. Overall there is a sort of melding of symphonic elements and blues/hard prog that reminds me just a tad of De De Lind, although at times it can be a bit bluesy for my tastes, such as the arrangements behind the vocal sections in the opener, “Il mio nome e’ Dedalo.” On the other hand, there’s almost always a tendency to alternate this sort of feel with great melodies, such as the melancholic vocal/piano duet on L’Arma Vicente that eventually leads into some folk guitar interspersed with synth leads which somehow makes me think ‘Le Orme’ (whether I should or not). Despite the fact that this album has some very serious competition with the fantastic Italian records coming out this year, there are some great moments, such as the fantastic flute soloing and delicate melodic sections on the instrumental “Laberinto,” as well as the tranquil acoustic guitar, piano, and Mellotron strings that do a fantastic job supporting the vocals on “Oggi volero.’ Overall, for progheads that are ultra into the discovery of bands suddenly appearing out of the classic era, Il Cerchio d’Oro could be a nice treat.
Morild – Aves
While not the most groundbreaking album I’ve ever heard, the Norway based Morild presents a decent listen in the form of their latest record, Aves. Overall, I would say that the vocals are in the front seat driving Aves, consistently supported by the organ. On a certain level, the vocals give the record a bit of a narrative feel while the frequent bits of folkiness (particularly in the flute) add a sort of medieval vibe from time to time, even a hint of Jethro Tull I would say; very light, but it can be heard in parts of tracks like “Wildflower” in the way flute and clean guitar are presented as well as in the first sung-section of “Labour Day.” Other highlights include the uplifting vocal and subsequent keyboard section in the second half of “Labour Day,” as well as the gorgeously subdued organ/flute section at the beginning of the epic “Waitinf for the Ferry,” recalling a bit of the Scandanavian/woodsy sound ala Anglagard. If there’s something I would like to hear a bit more of from this band, however, it would be a little more variety in the tempos, as most sections of most songs tend to be at a solid and unmoving sort of mid-pace. Overall, Aves is an album that I think will certainly appeal to certain proggers but may lack a certain spark that would reach fans of the genre at large.