Thursday, June 30, 2011

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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

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?


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

Saturday, June 25, 2011

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.