Prog Edition- Gong, MJ12, Armonite
Rejoice! I'm Dead!
In light of the fact that Gong founding member and leader Daevid Allen died last year, some might find it surprising that not only is Gong carrying on without him, but also that they have a new album that likewise carries a title that could shock some. Allen though, wherever he is out in the ether, is no doubt amused by the new record's title and surely he's pleased with the music within. The current Gong line-up features singer Kavus Torabi, guitarist Fabio Golfetti, bass man Dave Sturt, sax and flute player Ian East and drummer Cheb Nettles, and here they begin the set with "The Thing That Should Be," a sunny, '60s-leaning bit of psychedelic prog loaded with Beatles-like harmonies. The instrumentation of "Rejoice" makes the song sound like a mash-up of Yes and XTC while "Beatrix" is slightly chilling as it features Allen speaking in French (the Australian was a resident of France for some time) over a bluesy sax and piano arrangement. Allen also has a speaking part on the intro to "Model Village," a dreamy cut that is perhaps the album's best example of how Gong manage to seamlessly meld folk, psych and pop into a delightful prog stew. All the Gong hallmarks are here (alums Steve Hillage, Didier Malherbe and Graham Clark appear too) and longtime fans and new alike will love that, despite the album title, Gong is very much alive. Releasing Sept. 16
Fans of the late lamented jazz fusion/prog band Brand X can rejoice at MJ12, the latest project from Brand X bass man Percy Jones. Here Jones is joined by guitarist David Phelps, sax player Chris Bacas and drummer Stephen Moses for a set of fusion with proggy twists that should satisfy Brand X fans; Bacas' fluttering sax riffs in the midsection of opening cut "Call 911" are a perfect example of how the music here goes beyond the anticipated. "Talk Time" features Jones playing probing bass riffs over a music bed that recalls a signal from space; not too surprising since the band takes their name from Majestic 12, the government-sponsored group that supposedly investigated UFO sightings in the late '40s. Space-related or not, everything here is instrumental, so the listener can choose whatever path is desired when listening to the jazz jam "Magic Mist," the funk-infused groove "Guns and Pussy" or the sublime "Bad American Dream Pt. 2."
The Sun is New Each Day
Italian band Armonite has roots that go way back to 1996 when composer and keys man Paolo Fosso, then a college kid, formed the band with his pal Jacopo Bigi, an electric violin player. The guys went their separate ways after a few years but now, 15-years later, they have resurrected Armonite and prog fans will be glad they did. With bass man Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree and drummer Jasper Barendregt rounding out the group, here they present a set of nine proggy jazz fusion instrumentals that will appeal especially to fans of artists like Jean-Luc Ponty. Fasso's piano work is also a highlight, and while most of the album is up tempo, he and Bigi sound sublime working without the rhythm section on the slow and exceptionally tender "Le Temps Qui Fait Ta Rose."
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