Music Reviews

Artist: Der Klinke (@)
Title: The Gathering of Hopes
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Der Klinke is a Belgian band active since 2009. 'The Gathering of Hopes' is their third album. They're an electronic outfit as you might expect. They refer on their one-sheet and also their website to "coldwave", a genre name I haven't heard used in quite a while. To me, it's basically EBM/Dark Electro with some elaboration. Of course, you'll hear nods to Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, Signal Aout 42, Neon Judgement, Portion Control, and a slew of other bands in that mode. Vocalist Chesko sings in that typical cold style when he isn't trying to be overly emotive, and when he out!! Hey, at least he sings in English and doesn't use distorted effects on his voice, a plus as far as I'm concerned. The synth work and percussion/drums are competent but not particularly innovative. Most songs are fairly standard geared for the dancefloor numbers with nothing in particular standing out. Decent club fodder. There are some exceptions though, both good and bad. First is "The Doll", likely the outstanding track on the album; great beat, nice groove, simple and straight-forward, good lyrics, an excellent dark dance number. Then there is title track "The Gathering of Hopes". The album cover ties into the theme of children being the future, and thus, "the gathering of hopes". Ches's overwrought and melodramatic vocals on this lumbering track are sure to be a target for the cynical, but I won't go there. "Follow Me" is a rather simple but effective low key (mostly) instrumental tune that has a bit of tension to it. I could see it used in some espionage themed TV show. Another instrumental, "A Tale From the Crypt" uses syncopated xylophone to conjure an image of dancing skeletons. Reminded me of Kraftwerk. Final track "Feeling Sad (R.I.P.)" is an all-purpose piano-based funeral dirge and eulogy - "I'm feeling, a great soul has passed away...nothing will ever be the same." Allrightee then. Conclusion- some of Der Klinke's work on this album is good for dark dance clubs, but if they ever want to make it out of their local niche, the band needs to up their game and songwriting considerably.
Artist: Tri-Cornered Tent Show (@)
Title: Welcome to Psychoville, Population 4
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Edgetone Records (@)
Rated: *****
Tri-Cornered Tent Show is Philip Everett - electric lapharp, clarinet; Ray Schaeffer - electric basses; Anthony Flores - drums; and most recent member - Valentina O. (O. for Osinski) -vocals and FX. On this album they call themselves "Daliesque Cabaret involving Appalachian-style Murder Ballads filtered thru and reflecting on the many levels and degrees of Musical Improvisation in the 20th Century." Well, here it is well into the 21st century, Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech is long gone, and some groups are still doing what Captain Beefheart was doing (sort of) 45 years ago. Not that
there's anything wrong with that. So what is this really, anyway? Yes, the content (lyrically) is somewhat based on Appalachian murder ballads, but there is plenty of idiosyncratic embellishment courtesy of Miss O., so this isn't at all like hillbillies singin' on the tragedy of the ter-bull thing that happened to pur Daisy Mae. This is grade A bona-fide avant-garde with a cap'tal A, mon frere, and as such may not be wholley appealin' to the general masses. Lots of improvisational free jazz (is there any other kind?), as well as blues-oriented psychedelic weirdness. To some degree, this is reminiscent of the less accessible works of Carla Bley and Annette Peacock, Cathy Berberian and Diamanda Galas, but even further out. Beefheart fer sure, and others of their kind, but much more. Without Valentina this might just be another
(likely ignored) avant-garde outfit, but she brings plenty to the table with her versatile, multifaceted and powerful vocals. Then again, since she's also performed coast to coast in both San Francisco and New York City Opera companies, I suppose she should. The 8 tracks on this album are a carnival of madness, a freak show phantasmagoria, a circus of controlled chaos, an electro-acoustic alien funhouse. It's not easy to take in one sitting, but it managed to maintain my interest. There are
places where it's almost accessible, just slightly left of normal, but eventually will always veer off into strangeland. The ensemble works well together to achieve their off-kilter vision with nice interplay between all participants. Still, you have to be prepared for their bizarro intensity. Zappa would have dug it if he was still around. I do too, albeit in small doses.
Artist: Accolade (@)
Title: Legends
Format: 12"
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Accolade is an independent formerly San Francisco, now Seattle-based band founded by classical singer Stefanie Reneé and multi-instumentalist Aaron Goldstein. They are joined on 'Legends' by Cade Burkhammer - drums and percussion. 'Legends' is their second full-length album. The idea behind 'Legends' was inspired by the group's visit to the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England, a place rich in Arthurian legend and pagan traditions. At the top of the one-sheet which accompanied the album, under the band name it says GOTHIC ~ ETHEREAL ~ PROGRESSIVE ROCK. Some of that 3-word description is fairly accurate, although I'm not so sure about gothic, and Accolade aren't exactly your typical prog-rockers, although I don't think there are too many bands releasing albums with a single lengthy song comprising the B-side these days.

The first thing you will notice on 'Legends' is Stephanie's stellar soprano voice; it swoops, flutters and glides soaring like a bird over the music. She also plays recorder, tambourine, and tom drum in places. The accompaniment is also very good; Aaron multitasking on acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, bass, and keyboards (sometimes with samples of period instruments such as ocarina and zither) and Cade playing both period appropriate percussion and modern drumkit when called for. You may recall Trevor Jones' "Gelfling Song" from The Dark Crystal movie, a brief,light, atmospheric tune highlighted by a wordless soprano voice. It's the opening of 'Legends' and a nice intro to the magical world of Accolade. "Elf King" shows what the band is capable of in its folk-rock ouevre, and I'm reminded of Mike Oldfield circa his 'Ommadawn'/'Incantations' period. "Hymn to the Moon Goddess" is the oldest known song in the world, dating back to 1400 B.C., found on tablets that contained cuneiform signs in the hurrian language in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit. Here, Stephanie's voice flies even higher than previously embellishing the original simple melody, and it is some feat the band managed to bring this relic to life. It is sounds not nearly as primitive as you might think!

Unfortunately, "The Journey" shows some chinks in the group's Arthurian armor. It begins well enough in its moody folk vein, but when this nearly 12 minute piece cranks up the prog-rock element, the sweet began to turn sour. It is the clichéd chordal progression that works against it. Too bad, as I was beginning to like every aspect of this band. I can't fault the vocal or the lyrics, but my sensibilities (yeah, I'm an old prog-rocker at heart) had me scratching my head wondering why they'd taken that tack. The (mercifully short) bass and drum solos didn't help either.

Fortunately, all was vindicated on the B side of the record, a 21 minute epic (and I do mean EPIC) - "The Lady of Shalott",
based on Tennyson's poem of the same title. This is an incredible feat- coming up with melodies enchanting and intricate enough to hold the listener's attention throughout this span of time, the drama and changes of the music in all the right places, and work in the progressive rock element so that it seemed something new, different and vital. Truth be told, there are passages in this work that recall the band Renaissance, but this is more in the medieval-renaissance vein than the classical-tinged prog-pop Renaissance is known for. "The Lady of Shalott" is more than the icing on the cake; it is the whole darn bakery!

Some thoughts in conclusion- There will inevitably be comparisons of Accolade to Renaissance, especially in Annie Haslam and her five octave vocal range, and Stephanie's ultra soprano, which seems like it can even go higher. Most of Stephanie's vocals are in the upper register on 'Legends' and one might get the impression that her voice is a bit airy-faery. Not so. If you have any doubts, check out their cover of the Renaissance song "Black Flame" (from their previous album, 'Festivalia'), one of that band's more powerful numbers. Accolade nailed it and made it their own. If you enjoy artists such as Estampie, Qntal, Loreena McKennitt, Medieval Baebes, Blackmore's Night, Steeleye Span, the Incredible String Band, Pentangle, and of course, Renaissance, you need to add Accolade to your playlist. There are few new bands these days with this much potential- too much to ignore.
Artist: Death Shanties (@)
Title: Crabs
Format: 12"
Label: Bomb Shop
Rated: *****
I remember Alex Neilson's name as well as his "encroaching" sticks on "Camber Sands Sunday", one of the countless live record by Stelring Richard Smith's Jandek, while I've never heard before the names of Sybren Renema (alto and baritone sax) and Lucy Stein, whose painted projections play an important role during live sessions and embellishes the cover artwork of the debut album by Death Shanties by means of food residues, images whose immediacy could surmise cave painting, and her own hair. Some people who saw them playing on live stage report really incendiary free-jazz sessions and besides this aspect, this debut dazzles in its originality for a bizarre melting pot of free-jazz and 6oies psychedelic fire music with references to sea shanties (songs like "The Life Of A Wave" could render a pirate ship in the middle of sea-storm), legendary standards (it's almost heart-rending the reversed tribute to legendary New Orleans drummer Baby Dodds on "Baby Dodds Is Dead" where Neilson seems to emulate some of his unforgettable drum improvisations), Medieval folk music, field hollers and work songs ("Come Sunday", "Stumps") that reaches their acme on the lovely final "O! Where Is Saint George". Crabs manage to catch listeners in their pincer by a vibrant nd somehow original (in the field of free-jazz) style that they wisely described as "mixed media balls-to-the-wall free-jazz" which deserves some attention.
Artist: Parzival (@)
Title: Casta
Format: CD
Label: Mighty Music/Target Group (@)
Rated: *****
Holy crap! Why have I never heard, nor heard of these guys before? Parzival has been kicking around since 1992, first under the name Stiff Miners for a couple of releases in 1994 and 1997, then (fortunately) changed their name to Parzival, based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's 13th-century German poem by the same name. Since then Parzival has had a slew of releases over the years, this being the seventh under their current moniker. The core of the band is vocalist Dimitrij Bablevskij, originally from Russia, and the rest of the guys are Danish - Oleg Namov - drums, percussion; Michael Hedelain - drums, percussion; Tim Ellgaard - bass; Jens Hansen - keyboards. On this album they are bolstered by several Indian sikh folk musicians on sarangi, taus, shehnai, sitar, tabla, sarod, tanpura, flute, cellos, viola, shepherds horn, violin, and valdhorns, plus three female operatic vocalists. With that in mind, can you picture where the music is heading?

Yes, of course it's martial, neoclassical, industrial, in an Einstürzende Neubauten sort of way, but so much more. From the opening bars of "Kalachakra" with it's pounding percussion, smashing gongs, and wailing shehnai riding over the top of a sonorous vocal drone, you've been transported to another place in another era, my friend. Bombastic and cinematic, this would be the perfect soundtrack to a Viking invasion of the Holy Land, a crusade for Odin, if you will. Dimitrij's operatic basso profundo vocals are as deep as the sea this crew is sailing on.

What is truly amazing is how well this all works together. The more often present than not Indian instruments lends an air of the exotic to what otherwise might be an exercise in sturm und drang. Of course, it's all sung in German, and has such an operatic quality that even Wagner might be impressed, were he still around to hear it. I checked out some of Parzival's music prior to 'Casta' and it was pretty good, but this album is absolutely amazing from start to finish. It's dark, complex and melancholy, yet strangely uplifting, never lacking in drama and pathos. Parzival has been compared to Laibach by some, but I always considered Laibach somewhat "tongue in cheek" never taking themselves too seriously. They can have their "lite beer"; this goes better with Nordic grog.

The album is available on (limited) gatefold double vinyl (preferred) or CD, and likely digital download as well. Whichever format, just get it. You won't be sorry you did.

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