Transit Express – Couleurs Naturelles. 1977 France


Transit Express – Couleurs Naturelles. 1977 RCA

CD reissue: 2001 Piano Bass Music; 2009 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

Packaging details: The Piano Bass CD is a straight reissue with no bonus tracks or liner notes, but features really GREAT sound. I hadn't heard this album until the CD came out. And it appears it's quite rare now. The Japanese CD fills the void in the marketplace, but I have no intention of swapping out the PBM version.

Notes: This is the 3rd and last album from Transit Express. On "Couleurs Naturelles" they are basically a tight fusion group with David Rose's violin in the lead role. But it's not quite that simple - and Transit Express can hardly be accused of being just another late 70s fusion band. No - this is some seriously thought out material, with quite a bit of original arrangements. And there's no denying the Zeuhl undertone here, especially apparent in the grinding bass lines and heavy drum work. Acoustic guitar and violin provide the unique melodic structure. And one shouldn't ignore the blazing electric lead guitar from Christian Leroux either. Highlights include the dramatic "Visite du Manoir" (7:14) and the hauntingly beautiful piano and violin driven "Au Dela du Mirior" (5:54). The album finishes in strong fashion with a variety of very short tracks in the 2 to 3 minute range - all clearly influenced by the Zeuhl fusion school.

D.F.A. - Duty Free Area. 1999 Italy

D.F.A. - Duty Free Area. 1999 Mellow (CD)

CD reissue: 2007 Moonjune (as Kaleidoscope with Lavori in Corso) (USA)

DFA play what I'd call counterpoint fusion with a space rock edge. They should trademark their sound, as I can't think of anyone who sounds quite like them. A little bit like Deus Ex Machina maybe, in their most intensive instrumental sections. The often jagged rhythms seem to create a sense of urgency, when it is really a facade. But it's a great trick, and keeps me completely immersed into the music. Top that off with some vicious solos right out of the space rock school, perhaps even with a modern bent ala Ozric Tentacles. It seemed the band called it a day right after this album, and a live NearFest concert. But fortunately the band arose again in 2008 with another great album in their instantly recognizable style.

This re-post is dedicated to keyboardist Alberto Bonomi, who tragically died in a car crash this past weekend. My prayers go out to the family and friends of Mr. Bonomi.

You - Laserscape. 1986 Germany


You - Laserscape. 1986 Racket

CD reissues: 1996 Cue; 2013 Bureau B

LP reissue: 2013 Bureau B

Very recently I announced on the CDRWL that the first two You albums - Electric City and Time Code were being reissued by Bureau B. This literally happened within a month after I purchased the long out of print 5 CD set from Cue called Era. I was only familiar with these first 2 albums, and had Bureau B come along a little sooner, I would have been content to only pick up these CDs, and maybe check out the other discs if and when I had the opportunity. Well, anyway, it was too late so I eventually dived into the third disc Wonders from the Genetic Factory (1984). It seemed my worst fears were surfacing. Bouncy beats are the order of the day and I figured that Le Parc and Optical Race era Tangerine Dream is what I was in store for. I know a lot of electronic music fans love that style, I just don't happen to be one of them. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool old schooler who wants him some Rubycon!

About a month later, it was time to tackle the 4th disc Laserscape and get it over with. I mean, really, Laserscape? I can already hear the computer generated beats. And the dull picture of a modern Germany city - isn't that exciting? And, perhaps worst of all, the 80's style IBM created computer font that was utilized on the front cover. Oh boy, this is going to suck bad isn't it?

WRONG!!

You's 4th effort is quite possibly one of the best 1980's era electronic albums I've heard. Not saying that's a high bar to hurdle, especially when compared to the great EM albums of the 70s and 90s - but this one is a true shocker. OK, it's not Tangerine Dream's Logos, but it competes at the top with just about everything else from the decade in this musical genre. For the most part, the computer drum kit was stored in the virtual closet (turned off), and the mellotrons and sequencers are in full force. And two of the tracks feature classical acoustic guitar, which is exactly the kind of variety most EM acts of the 80s didn't strive for. The dark ambient moods recall late 70's Klaus Schulze. This is a very thoughtful work, with many ideas and changes embedded throughout.

So now I'm very glad to own the 5 CD set. Not surprisingly I revisited the formerly shunned third You album with a new perspective, and predictably I now have a different viewpoint of it as well.

The Cue CD is part of a 5 CD set called Era.

Last update: December 25, 2016

Gösta Berlings Saga - Glue Works. 2011 Sweden

Gösta Berlings Saga - Glue Works. 2011 Diskret Forlag

CD issue: 2011 Cuneiform (USA) 

As mentioned on the Detta har Hänt review, Gösta Berlings Saga seemed to be moving away from their Swedish folk roots and more towards modern post rock. And now they've jumped off the cliff and thrown their lot in with this latter movement. A wall of sound approach, with mid 70's King Crimson and late 90's Anekdoten references everywhere. I'm sure the intensity of playing this music can be quite inspiring, if not emotionally exhausting - but as a listener it can stray towards the mundane after a few minutes of the same pattern.

All of which sounds like I'm low on this album. I'm not. But it's a full Gnosis point, and a half RYM star down from their second album. And as much as I hate to say it, Gösta Berlings Saga are no longer an auto-buy for me. If they keep going down this route, I'll probably put it in the "if I can find it cheap" category. And that's a shame given the immense promise the debut demonstrated.

Gösta Berlings Saga - Detta har Hänt. 2009 Sweden

Gösta Berlings Saga - Detta har Hänt. 2009 Transubstans (CD)

CD reissue: 2011 Transubstans

LP reissue: 2014 Icosahedron

Two albums in now, and I can honestly say Gösta Berlings Saga has never written a song that has blown me away. Nor have they played anything I didn't like at all. Strange. A new guitarist is in, but mostly the music has stayed the same from the debut. I'd say the "Swedish-ness" has been removed and that's a step backwards for me. And perhaps the post rock tag could be applied in various places (yawn). There's a certain driving monotony to it all. But again, we're in familiar progressive rock territory for most of the album. Gösta Berlings Saga is a true A-list group for me, but I think they can do better honestly. It seems they're on the cusp of releasing one of the best albums of the last 10 years.

'Sorterargatan 3' has a nice repetitive groove to build upon, the kind that made some of those classic 70s albums so good (think Magma). Or a modern band like DFA. 'Bergslagen' is closest to the debut with mellotron and a hint of Swedish deep-in-the-forests type melodies and atmospheres. Best track on the album. 'Västerbron "05:30"' features some aggressive guitar soloing that I found refreshing. There also seems to be more of an Anekdoten influence (first 2 albums) than prior.

Gosta Berlings Saga - Tid Är Ljud. 2006 Sweden

Gösta Berlings Saga - Tid Är Ljud. 2006 Transubstans (CD)

CD reissue: 2011 Transubstans

Gösta Berlings Saga could be considered the perfect modern Swedish progressive rock band. They look inward towards their own country for melodic inspiration, rather than the UK/US style of groups like The Flower Kings. Second album Kebnekaise is about where they land on the Swedish scale, but Gösta Berlings Saga are far more symphonic than that may imply. They use plenty of vintage instrumentation (as expected, primarily in the keyboard department with mellotron, Rhodes and various Moogs), yet the production and overall sound has a modern sensibility. Gösta Berlings Saga are one of the few groups of our era that do not belong to a current sub-genre, such as post rock, prog metal, neo, avant, retro / proto, jazz/fusion etc... They are, in fact, a straight ahead progressive rock group. They have respect for the 1970s, but aren't stuck in it. This might all seem like we're smack dab in the middle of our interest area, and thus might be a little boring or uninspired. And yet it's not at all that way, proving that the old recipes are generally better than the new concoctions. A pretty new room in an old house.

It's near impossible to pick highlights. All of the tracks are remarkably consistent, though by no means samey sounding. I will also allow that there's no drop dead killer tracks either. 'Helgamarktz' & 'Syrenernas Sång' lay the foundation of what Tid Är Ljud is about and if you like these two, it's highly likely you'll love the rest. 'Aniarasviten' has a stunning melody as its centerpiece, to an overall excellent moody composition. 'Ljud Från Stan' is more of a psychedelic jam rock piece, with fine guitar and Rhodes soloing. Gösta Berlings Saga shines in this setting and are able to maintain the intensity necessary. 'Tog du Med dig Naturen?' & 'Knölsvanen' seem to blow by, without having much impact. They're both fine tracks, and perhaps it's their placement that keeps them from standing out, even on multiple successive listens. 'Svarta Hål och Elljusspår' adds flute to great effect, providing the right soft focus lead instrument Gösta Berlings Saga definitely needs to get to the next level. All in all, a highly recommended album.

Arabesque - Tales of Power. 1976-1979 USA


Arabesque - Tales of Power. 2002 Shroom. 1976-1979 Archival recordings.

An amazing find from the music archivists at Shroom. It's unfortunate I didn't discover this until now - though I did manage to recently score a CD from an Amazon reseller.

Arabesque were a Pittsburgh area progressive rock band, and these recordings date from 1976-1979. All you have to do is look at the track titles like "An Epic: Krall Mountain" (11:53), "Cobbler's Knob" (11:42), "Arcanum of Atlantis" (10:37) and the associated timings, to know these guys fit squarely within the 1970s over-the-top ultra complex Midwest US progressive aesthetic. Pentwater's "Out of the Abyss" would be a good benchmark, though the recordings here aren't quite ready for prime time. One can only imagine how amazing this would have been with the proper studio time. In fact, in overall sound, complexity and mindset, I was mostly reminded of Skryvania from France. If all this sounds good to you, then Arabesque is a must pick up. I usually have little tolerance for less-than-ideal recording standards, but this one is an easy exception.

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'...