Please try not to notice that I’ve been reviewing more RIO/avant-prog albums than anything else lately. If you have, I assure you that this will be remedied in the future, but somehow these albums tend to grab my attention. The cool thing about these three albums is that they’re all so different from each other, ranging from the really folky with more melodic convention to emphasis which focuses more on sounds and textures than singability. I truly hope you enjoy this latest offering; I think there might just be something for everyone here. If not, well, there’s always my review of the latest Anglagard as well as the conclusion of the Mellotron interview series to check out ;)
Alamaailman Vasarat – Valta
Known for their eclectic brand of avant-prog, a fascinating blend of Persian, jazz, cabaret, gypsy, and even metal, all presented within a consistent framework of acoustic instruments (sax, clarinet, trombone, tuba, cello, etc.), Finnish RIO group Alamaailman Vasarat does not disappoint with their latest release, Valta. For me, this album resulted in both surprisingly good and surprisingly less crazy than I had imagined. This isn’t your typical mind-bending atonal polyrhythmic avant-prog release. These Finns present a very enjoyable collection of tunes that instantly recall gypsies and circuses with just a little something that’s hard to put your finger on. Perhaps it’s the occasional punk rock beat followed by a catchy riff in seven, as in the case of Hajakas, or the doomy riffing of the closing track, “Hirmuhallinto” that redefine how we look at folk, rock, and even prog. Valta is truly a fun album that fits well in just about any application. It’s interesting enough to sit down and focus on 100% but it’s conventional enough to where it won’t distract if you’re working on a task. It’s even bouncy enough to where you could put some tracks on at a dance party. The genius of Valta is that it strikes the perfect balance between melody and insanity, making it an album that is instantly understandable yet deep enough to hold your attention over the years.
Stabat Akish – Nebulos
What do you get when you cross an elephant with a red backdrop? A French avant-prog album cover… ok, yeah, terrible joke. Nebulos, the follow up to Stabat Akish’s 2009 debut, proves itself to be a ridiculously fun album. Nebulos itself to be an album that grooves well and gives you just the right blend of cool with weird. From really jazzy marimba and vibraphone sections to walking bass lines, strange noises, and little analog blips, there’s a little bit here to keep everyone entertained. These guys aren’t afraid to be humorous either, with the circus like moments towards the end of “La Serrure” or the little bee buzzing in your ear on “Un Peuplier Un Peu Plié” (beware if you are wearing headphones, but at least try it out, it’s cool!). If I have one complaint about the album, it’s what I consider the overuse of speech on the album. Perhaps if I knew French this would be remedied, but at least as far as creating an overall soundscape it seemed like there were a few moments where the music took more of a back seat than I had hoped. Not to worry, this is only on maybe three or so tracks, which you can always advance if you have a short attention span.
Light Coorporation – Aliens from Planet Earth
Aliens From Planet Earth, an aptly choosen title, in my humble opinion; Light Coorporation opens up the album with all kinds of strange sounds and percussion, painting a landscape unlike the earth that we know. This is the kind of album you should listen to with a nice surround system or at least a pair of high quality studio monitors, as the way the sounds swell, morph, and pan is half the entertainment of the album. As Light Coorporation’s overall art includes combining sound with images, I would imagine that this mix of avant-garde and free-form jazz would be quite the spectacle in its intended environment. For those of you who are familiar with their previous work (which is also currently on Progstreaming), you will remember that it is not the easiest to digest; Aliens From Planet Earth requires even more that you either pay full attention or that you don’t mind walking around the house with lots of weird sounds spinning around you as you go about your daily chores. Strap yourself in and sit tight, because Aliens From Planet Earth is not for the weak in heart, even for those accustomed to RIO.