Il Ballo delle Castagne - Kalachakra. 2011 Italy

Il Ballo delle Castagne - Kalachakra. 2011 Hau Ruck S.P.Q.R. (CD)

I'm always on the lookout for modern bands who incorporate psychedelic influences into their progressive rock, and it was clear by the few reviews I saw, plus my sampling of their first album on MySpace a few months ago, that Ballo delle Castagne are one such band. One only has to look at their label name to pick out a distinct Krautrock predilection. To date, I've only heard their new release "Kalachakra", which is distributed by the respected Black Widow label of Italy.

Given the sitar, echoed acid guitar and overall trippy effects, perhaps it's surprising that Ballo delle Castagne also possess an early 80s maudlin New Wave sound, especially evident in the vocal styling presented. In some ways, I'm hearing that most misunderstood debut album by the Italian group Runaway Totem - "Trimegisto". Ballo delle Castagne's second album, for me at least, improves significantly as it progresses on - losing some of the 80's song narrative, while bringing forth their 1970s Krautrock influences. The moody and atmospheric "La Foresta dei Suicidi" is probably the best track. I do have some problems with the production here, a bit hollow and thin sounding. Music like this needs a full woody sound to be effective. I feel that Ballo delle Castagne are on the cusp of something great, and I hope they persevere further, while adding stronger instrumental heft to their compositions. Still, I'm recommending Kalacakra wholeheartedly.

Highlights: 2. Tutte le Anime Saranno Pesate (4:43); 5. La Terra Trema (6:55); 6. La Foresta dei Suicidi (6:00); 7. Omega (5:55); 8. Ballo delle Castagne (3:54)

Architrave Indipendente - Azetium A Otto Piste. 2009 Italy

Architrave Indipendente - Azetium A Otto Piste. 2009 Retroguardie

Architrave Indipendente's sole album is the closest I've heard yet of a band sounding like the original 1973 Italian progressive rock movement. There are many groups today that emulate the sound, especially from a compositional standpoint, but they still sound like they're a modern troupe (vintage equipment not withstanding). For example, groups such as La Maschera di Cera, Il Tempio delle Clessidre, and La Torre dell'Alchimista all are clearly retro focused, but still are very much of our own era (and that's also a good thing). Architrave Indipendente are hardcore, right down to the recording techniques and LP only release (though a year later some handmade CD-R's were made to meet digital demand). It's as if they immersed themselves directly into the Italian culture of 1972. That's not an easy thing to accomplish. Great album that is closer to the romantic sounds of Celeste, Errata Corrige, and second album Quella Vecchia Locanda rather than the harder edged bands like Il Balletto di Bronzo, Biglietto per L'Inferno, or Museo Rosenbach.

To date, this is an LP only release. However, there is a CD-R version out there that Greg Walker / Syn-Phonic carries (and maybe a few others). The band did this to meet demand, but it's clear their heart isn't into CD issues. Best to get the beautiful gatefold LP.

Mysteries of the Revolution - s/t. 2007 England

Mysteries of the Revolution - s/t. 2007 Blue Serene Focus (CD)

Their website says "MYSTERIES OF THE REVOLUTION features BB Davis of the legendary Red Orchidstra and virtuoso French virtuoso keyboardist Dan Biro. Influences range from Miles, Hancock, Zawinul, George Duke, Roland Kirk, Corea, Coltrane, Mahavishnu, Lifetime to Hendrix, Zappa, Led Zep, Doors, Steely Dan to neo-classicism and psychedelica all dished up in a sweaty, heady brew of heavily jazzified, passionate, funked up, blissed-out, head-on grooves with a whole dash a' finesse n' panache - yeah, really."

Yea, really. And no kidding. Damn. Here's a band that not only is current, but is already completely obscure. C'mon, this isn't fair! I think part of the problem here is it appears the band is being marketed to a jazz audience. And while that's not entirely wrong to do, I think the progressive rock buying public would perhaps be more interested in Mysteries of the Revolution.

Mysteries of the Revolution combine instrumental retro Hammond and flute driven rock with a modern jazz approach. On this latter point, despite the analog instrumentation, one can hear the crystal clear production and modern percussion ever so slightly calling out St. Germain for example. But by no means is this a techno jazz album. Just listen to The Crunch and you'll swear it's from a 1971 English proto-prog album. And they use a regular drum-kit. About the only group I can think of in this space is the Norwegian band Elephant9, but Mysteries of the Revolution are more varied and not quite as much in "Hammond overdrive" as Elephant9 are. Let's hope this isn't all we're going to hear from these guys, as they've shown tremendous potential here.

Highlights: 2. The Crunch (10:16); 3. Storius Sensorius (5:58); 7. Secret Fire (5:34)

Amoeba Split - Dance of the Goodbyes. 2010 Spain

Amoeba Split - Dance of the Goodbyes. 2010 Creative Commons (CD) (mini-LP)

LP issue: private (2 LP)

CD reissue: 2014 Azafran (Mexico mini-LP)

Amoeba Split are one of two current Spanish bands (that I'm aware of anyway) playing in the Canterbury styled jazz rock space. The other is the more known Planeta Imaginario. Of the two, I'd say Amoeba Split are the more purest when referring to the classic bands of Soft Machine and National Health. The instrumentation is right out of the 70's: Hammond organ,piano, Mellotron, Mini-Moog, flute, sax, guitar, bass and drums. The major differentiator here is the female vocals, which are admittedly a bit shrill. Her slightly accented delivery is a bit odd, but I have a feeling that will add to the charm on repeated listens. She's really not that far from some of the early 70's shrieks of Sandrose and Joy Unlimited. But it is unusual in this setting, where we're used to the soft affected tones of The Northettes. 'Dedicated to Us, But We Weren't Listening' and 'Turbulent Matrix'. Amoeba Split score well on both of the style's major attributes - melody and complexity. A no-brainer pickup for fans of the 1970's UK Canterbury scene.

Porcelain Moon - ...As it Were. Here and There. 2009 Finland

Porcelain Moon - ...As it Were. Here and There. 2009 private (CD)

CD reissue: 2011 Musea (France)

Debut album from very promising new band from Finland. Porcelain Moon are midway between the classic post-Jefferson Airplane European female vocal lead progressive rock groups of the early 1970s (Sandrose, Julian's Treatment, Circus 2000, Goliath, etc...) and the modern airy symphonic folk groups like Magenta, Iona, Mostly Autumn, etc... What I like most from Porcelain Moon is the analog instrumentation and psychedelic predilection (organ, Moog, fuzz, and wah-wah guitars) - and it's clear to me early Pink Floyd is an influence too. Personally I'd like to see the band focus entirely on this latter aspect, as there has never really been a specific retro movement on what was once a thriving scene throughout Europe as noted by my Post psychedelic, proto progressive with female vocals list. The final two tracks are the winners, with the mysterious 'Markens Grode' and especially the stunning 'Vinden'. This band has enormous potential, but nothing new has emerged from them since (as I update this entry in Aug, 2016).

The original private press, under the band name Porcelain was extremely difficult to find. Fortunately Musea picked them up and is easily one of the best new albums on the imprint. During this process, a name change occurred resulting in Porcelain Moon. A good idea I think, especially if one considers Google searches.

The Word of Life - Dust. 1995 Sweden

The Word of Life return with their sophomore, and ultimately last effort, Dust which is somewhat different from the predecessor. There'...