Who doesn’t like waking up to a proggy cup of synths in the morning? Here’s a few albums to enjoy that remind us that keys come in all shapes and sizes, but we love them nonetheless. From full the full out banquet of Norlander to the atmospheric vibes of Mothlite and jaw dropping solos of Moon Safari, I think there’ll be a little something here to please everyone. Enjoy!
Erik Norlander – The Gallactive Collective: Definitive Edition
I have on only one thing to say. If you like synthesizers and instrumental prog, Erik Norlander’s release “The Galactive Collective: Definitive Edition” is a multicourse feast. On this stunning record, full of some of the most lifelike synth sounds you’ll ever hear, Norlander and friends reimagine tracks from his career with Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane, and even his solo albums. This record has everything, from Neurosaur’s extreme lark openings later turned into a groovy rocker drenched with analog goodnest, to an onslaught of the finest synth trumpets you’ll ever hear in tracks like the upbeat “Fanfare for Absent Friends” and metalically tinged “Garden of the Moon.” Heavy tracks like “Astrology Prelude” and “Dark Water” offer us so much more than distorted guitars; be ready for thick analog arpeggiator and spacey moog solos that will blow your mind. What adds to all of these amazing tracks is the in the studio shot DVD performance of the album. The camera work is gorgeous and top notch and you will sure soil yourself at least several times when you get a view of the mountains of vintage gear, including a monstruous modular synthesizer. This is no joke, Erik Norlander is the real deal. He’s shown us this throughout his career, but this release really tops it off.
Mothlite: Dark Age
Those of us who have recently watched the Zeitgeist media’s DVD, About Rock in Opposition, may recognize the name Daniel O’Sullivan from the RIO associated band Guapo that was featured on the documentary. O’Sullivan’s Mothlite offers us something very distinct from the avant-rock heaviness of Guapo, but equally pleasing. “Dark Ages” is a transcent dive into thick, atmospheric gothic-pop, a shadowy heaven where bleak synthesizer textures meet airy vocal arrangements. I didn’t need to look past “Wounded Lions” to be sold on this album, being utterly impressed by its uncanny melding of sinister atmosphere with a warmth that defies its melancholy. While the next couple of tracks weren’t quite as strong, the record really picks up with “The Undrneath” and its slow, powerful beats and minimal instrumentation that delivers a captivating trance-like quality. The second half of the record is extremely convincing, offering a variety of songs, from the rich contrast of syncopation to calm vocals on “Milk” to the closer, “Red Rook” and its piano-laden and jazz inspired chord changes augmented by phenomenal bell-like textures that are smooth and ethereal in unbelievable ways. I’m not going to lie, I usually find bands like Mothlite boring. But, O’Sullivan has me sold. “Dark Age” is a pop album of epic proportions and would fit right in with any progger’s collection.
Moon Safari – Lover’s End Pt. III: Skelleftea Serenade
Moon Safari’s back, this time with a one song EP of epic proportions with a very accessible sound, calling to mind a sort of cross between Journey and Dream Theater’s 6 Degrees (disc 2) with the feel of some of the epic main themes of Transatlantic’s The Whirlwind, all interspersed with lots of great synth keyboard solos and fusion guitar playing . “Lover’s End 3” presents this dicotomy of poppy/catchy vocal with ambitious instrumental sections in ways that most fans should really latch on to. The bottom line is that while I didn’t really care for the vocals too much, they were really well done, and the brilliant doses of brilliant solos, like the keyboard one around 11:30 with a lead tone that will make you instantly drool all over yourself, easily make up for my lesser level of engagement with the singing. In all honesty, some of the keyboard solos on this album are probably the best I’ve heard on any release this year. To top it off, the guitar solo towards the end of the piece is a perfect mix of fantastic shredding shifting into emotional, melodic playing of heart wrenching melodies. All in all, Lover’s End PT. III is a solid effort by a cast of fantastic musicians that will leave fans looking forward to more of this in the future.
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