Guesting on this week’s edition of Bite-size Prog is Progulator staff member Kyler Stoneman. A man described as ” Jesus’ doppleganger, mountain man, artist, finder of strange things, knower of strange things,” Kyler is indeed a renaissance man who knows enough about just about anything to surprise just about anyone with his strong potential for intellectual conversation. Seeing as how you don’t have the luxury of conversing with him, you can at least read his thoughts on Aranis’ release (made in Belgium), while yours truly rounds it out with Walrus and Wallpaper Poets. Enjoy!
Aranis – Made Belgium – by Kyler Stoneman
From the time I clicked “play” to the final note of the last song, Aranis’s Made in Belgium filled me with prog-gasms of joy! My great love of prog is RIO and this album betrays pleasant hints of fellow Belgians Univers Zero and Present. However, Made in Belgium lacks the percussion, electric bass, and other rock elements of those two bands, relying entirely upon acoustic instrumentation (violin, viola, double bass, piano, accordion, guitar, flute, and a smidgen of vocals). Given this lack of rock elements, comparisons could more appropriately be made to twentieth century chamber music, ranging from the beautiful dissonance of Stravinsky, to the emotive violins of Shostakovich, to the the organized chaos of Schonberg, to the evocative, repetitive minimalism of Philip Glass. The track Bulgarian Flying Spirit Dances 2 even throws some folk elements into the mix. In short, if you like RIO stuff like Univers Zero and Present and/or twentieth century chamber music, or if you just want something really interesting to listen to, check out Aranis on Progstreaming while it is still there.
Walrus – Walrus – by Matt Di Giordano
There’s some albums that take me a bit to get into but once I’m there I’m really sucked in. Walrus did just that for me. The album opens up with “Tromso III”, a track that is simply full of rock. It’s an upbeat bit of what I’d call a match between old school psychedelic and modern indie sensibilities; a bit long in my opinion, considering how repetitive it is, but definitely a fun piece. Next up is “Signals”, a song played in a slow 3 pattern that delivers some nice atmosphere through the use of organ and a variety of atmospheric sounds; I wouldn’t surprised if they got out the wine glasses, bow and saw, and other bits of weird things to create this atmosphere. At any rate, the texturing and building on this piece is very lovely. It even gets a bit strange towards the end with some non-conventional synthesizer use before it wraps it up nice and peaceful like.
Then there’s “Spitsbergen,” what I would consider Walrus’ finest acheivement on the album. There’s just something about that slow moving bass and high vocal like effect that reminded me of my play-through of Final Fantasy VIII (I think I just revealed myself a bit too much). You also gotta love that dirty bass that pops up about four minutes in. Somehow this is the piece that really reveals to me that Roth Handle Studio and Mattias Olsson had a hand in the album; you can sort of feel it in the production, little nuances, the Mellotron towards the end, and of course, the creative drumming and well used percussion (although I understand that Mattias wasn’t the only drummer on this record; in other words, might not have been him, my bet is that it is though). To close it off Walrus leaves us with “Static, a wonderful short piece that reminded me a bit of the soundtrack that Nicklas Barker did for El Ultimo Fin de Semana. Consisting of a slow moving bass line, tasteful drumming, and a very sad feel which is augmented by decrepit solo strings and piano, “Static” is a fantastic way to end off a solid album that should catch your attention even if you don’t usually gravitate towards this style.
Wallpaper Poets – The Other Side of Maybe – by Matt Di Giordano
When listening to the first couple of tracks of Wallpaper Poets’ The Other Side of Maybe I was very excited to hear what seemed to be an excessively unique and diverse album. Unfortunately, as the album progressed it was precisely this diversity (and a bit of cheese) that in my opinion seemed to go overboard. What started off as a bit of old school piano and vocal sliding into a really cool blend of classical, electronic, and jazz on the second track, “A Blueprint of Eden.” What continued from there, however, dissappointed a bit. “The Blind God” was a little much for me to stomach with its funky lounge music with poetry read over the top approach, while “The Other Side of Maybe” (late on in the album) just didn’t hit the mark with its sub-par rapping. In between there seemed to be a bit too much genre hopping, not to say there weren’t some nice moments though.
With “When the City Sleeps” we get some new age flamenco (good) and loads of smooth jazz sax solos (not good). “Morning Prayer” dips into an interesting mix of traditional Chinese music (my wife excitedly shouts from the other room, “My mom knows that song!”) with jazz, new age, and a little prog, while “Elegy for a Dream, Tabula Rassa” turned out to be quite the delightful piece, launching us off with eerie piano and moving on to great beats with mounds of arpeggiator and soloing. “On the Eve of a Brand New Day” gets pretty weird and creative, there’s even moments that make me think of Van der Graff Generator a bit. In the end, all I can say is that the Wallpaper poets have some good ideas, but on future albums I’m hoping to see a little more consistency.