It’s always an occasion when my boss, Tyson Nordgren gets to write some reivews on Bite-size and instill this article series with some humor that is disproportionately gargantuan in comparison with mine. In this week’s edition of Bite-size Prog, he brings some heat behind the throne with none other than Marco Minnemann, who seems to be keeping himself more than busy nowadays with The Aristrocrats and Steven Wilson. He’s not the only drummer to tickle our fancy this week, as I was quite impressed by the maddening melding of drum styles found on Neodyme’s latest. Wrap up the package with some majestic prog from The Enid and we’ve got a solid batch of albums for you to enjoy. Let us know what you think!
The Pitts Minnemann Project – 2L82B Normal (Review by Nordgren)
Anytime you see an artist called the ____ project, you can usually expect some pretentious self-indulgent music that pushes boundaries in several genres at the same time, and the Pitts Minnemann project doesn’t disappoint. It features (surprise) the namesakes Jimmy Pitts and Marco Minnemann. Jimmy Pitts is an extremely accomplished keyboard player that I’d never heard of, which shouldn’t come as a shock, since my knowledge of keyboard players is about as prolific as bizarro Bob Dylan. Marco Minnemann, on the other hand, I have heard of, and I may or may not have a giant manly drum-crush on him. The album features (as it rightly should, being a self-indulgent wank-fest) many virtuosic guest musicians on a plethora of instruments. The album is overflowing with technical skill. They waste no time with a full out assault of crazy rhythms, atonal melodies and strange chord progressions. Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot for this style of musical wankery. I eat it up. I also tend to not be able to listen to a complete album in one sitting because, just like butter, ingesting this stuff straight can get tiresome after half an hour.
I wish I had more to say about it musically, but I had a hard time focusing on anything but the drumming. I remember several very interesting keyboard solos, some very cool guitar work, and some of the guest soloists did incredibly cool things. But for me, this album is all about the drumming. In my mind, this is what drummer solo albums should be like, but they’re always a letdown. Marco just goes nuts. Each time I was about to have an interesting and cohesive thought or reaction to something musical, I was rudely interrupted because of some awesome drumming. The album is split into 27 short tracks some of which blend together rather nicely (though the gap between songs when you stream it ruins the effect a little bit). Each track is pretty different stylistically, which lets them explore quite a bit of musical space.
Honestly, the only letdown is that they didn’t go with The MinnePitts as their name.
Neodyme – Le Guetteur (Review by Di Giordano)
When I first saw Le Guetteur by Neodyme, I asked myself, “Is that a dinosaur on the cover?” Well, I’m still not sure, but what I heard on the first play through the record was absolutely delightful, and on multiple listens I continued to enjoy and pick up new bits and pieces on each song. There are several things that overwhelmingly grabbed my attention. Perhaps first and foremost would be the rhythm section, which grooves just about as good as anyone I’ve heard, mixing jazz, latin, swing, funk, and rock styles all over the place in extremely natural ways. The next thing that was immediately apparent was the highly melodic approach of an instrumental album which very easily might have gone overboard on the technicality but decided to reign it in at most moments in favor of combining nice melodies with masterful instrumentation.
The opening track, “Le Guetteur” shows that the band isn’t afraid to use metal guitar tone to add heaviness without making the music sound metal at all; a very tricky feat indeed, as the band combines riffing with jazzy organ and groovy beats. “M. Fraunky” and “Sous Prescription” show a strong funk element in the band’s composition, combining it with prog, metal, and even some silly/fun sections, ending up being great examples of the diverse musical nature of the album. “Sous Prescription” and “L’Ouverture De La Breche” thrilled me with super enjoyable drumming and an eclectic combination of sounds. Then, of course, there’s the album closer, “L’Evasion,” which brings out all the big guns; it’s a track which will surely confuse some but delight all with its combination of canterbury, electronic, reggae, jazz, and a plethora of rock styles; it’s likely to confuse you, even make you scratch your head several times as you continue to exclaim, “Wow! Cool!” I’d hate to finish off without mentioning one of my favorite tracks, “Tourbillon Hongrois” which touched my nerdy heart with its nice combination of brass and tuned percussion; best of all, the songwriting reminded me of a mysterious RPG scene. It doesn’t hurt that have nice little Gentle Giant-esque vocal section to wrap it up.
Perhaps what grabbed my attention more than anything was that Neodyme is a band that sounds like themselves. While there are many influences here, the way they combine them seems to be wholly their own. And better still, the songs are enjoyable, and even more, they can be dark, but they’re always fun.
The Enid – Shining (review by Di Giordano)
Mid 2012 saw the release of The Enid’s Shining, in which the classic British symphonic band treats fans with reworkings of older tracks which show off the current band while introducing the new singer, the marvelous Joe Payne. By and large, I would say that if you loved these songs already, you’ll love them more here, as the new versions breathe not only fresh life into these tracks, but also imbue them with the arrangements, vocal performance, and recording quality they always deserved. On my end, subjectively speaking, despite the strong compositional elements, powerful arrangements, and jaw dropping vocal performances on these pieces, there are a number of songs that simply never did it for me because they felt just a bit sappy for my taste (“Salome” and “Summer” particularly). However, there are some very, very grand and exciting moments here that knocked my socks off. “Gate Way” delivers muscular organ and power chords before launching into majestic orchestration, “Raindown” delights with its trippy, surrealistic, and headspinning vocals flanked by loads of strange sounds and neat brass, while “Tripping the Light Fantastic banks on mesmerizing melodies and little squeals from the guitars and bursts from the orchestra that expand the sonic palette. Then there’s “Autumn,” which truly came as a gift with its almost religious feel as slow moving strings weave and the orchestra grows and builds a dynamic and powerful mood throughout. Joe Payne really shines on this one, pulling the piece along dramatically and demonstrating to me that he is the finest vocalist this band has known. While I don’t think that Shining is necessarily an album that will please everyone, I’m confident that it wet many Enid fans’ taste buds as they waited anxiously for Invicta.