Various - ProgDay 2001 (pre-event sampler)

Year of Release: 2001
Label: released by the ProgDay Festival
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:14:00

Why review the ProgDay 2001 preview CD nearly 2 years later you may ask? None of the bands on it are on this year's bill, so far as we know at this point -- the CD features 7 of the 8 bands on the original bill, plus three bands that played the pre-show and one additional track. Not to be assumed that I have any inside info - I don't - but any one of those latter four could be candidates. Anyway, the "why" is that there is some great stuff to be found on this CD that I must talk about.

However, before I get to that, I need to also mention that this is not the recently released 2CD set, featuring live performances from 6 of the bands -- Yeti, Sigmund Snopek III, The Muffins, Polydactyl, Azigza and Ars Nova (the latter of whom replaced Hands on the bill). Limited to 1000 copies, there's no telling how many are left now, but you can hop on over to the ProgDay site and order one - and see what's on tap for 2003. Of course, come back here when you're done.

Now, with that said and confusion adverted: While I'll mention only that The Flower Kings and Pain Of Salvation are included here, it is those bands that don't have the same coverage that I want to mention, beginning with Yeti. Can a band be spacey and heavy at the same time? You'd think so by the sound of Yeti's "Two Fingers" (from Things To Come). It is spacey in terms of atmospheric, sustained notes; heavy as in solid, lumbering drumming. A note of gothic horror also is present in this piece, as an organ shrieks eerily - courtesy of the late Doug Ferguson, who died last year. Yes, I could easily hear this being used for a faux-classic horror film - that is, modern setting with classic devices. A B picture, of course, with deliberately campy special effects. And yet, musically this isn't as corny as that sounds - in fact, there's nary a kernel of the yellow stuff to be found. It takes itself deadly serious. Meandering guitar phrases (Eric Harris) weave through the churning grind of throbbing bass lines (Tommy Atkins) and sparse drumming (Jon Teague). Keyboards add in what might be called "sci-fi" effects, making this not only evocative of a 50's B-horror flick, but a 50's B-horror/sci-fi flick. It's avant-garde to be sure. Instruments play off of as well as with each other; I especially like the dark and fat bass lines.

Polydactyl is what formed from the remains of Ozone Quartet. "Days Of Yore" is, as the title suggests, a thoughtful, reflective piece of progressive rock, lead by a sweet and at times wistful guitar solo. Um, well, at least to begin with, as we realize it is a wild and active "yore" that's being reflected upon. The heat picks up with tremendous drum and percussion work, while guitar trades statements with the keyboard. It's progressive rock fusion of the very finest. There's not yet a CD of material from this band, just this, and the three tracks at their site (which appear also on the above mentioned ProgDay 2001 live set). The band are currently working on three new demos, so something soon may be forthcoming. Other than original members Wayne Leechford on stick and Jim Crew on keyboards, I'm not sure who played what; whether current drummer Brian Donohoe and current guitarist Kenny Thompson are who I hear here or the other original members Francis Dyer and Jeremy Shaw, respectively. Nevertheless, this is terrific stuff.

Progressive world music comes in the form of Azigza, here in a piece that features the vocals of Cyoakha Grace (who left the band just before their ProgWest 2002 appearance). "Zaman" is taken from the band's self-titled debut. Just as attractive as the lilting vocals of (the aptly named) Grace, is the complex interplay between the band's musicians, including Aryeh Frankfurter on a mean violin and Kevin Evans on a very liquid guitar. Drums and percussion comes from a variety of sources - Stephan Junca, Raja, and Pedra Rivera. This trio's mix of instruments includes djembe, doumbek, guiro, bongos, tabla, kanjeera, zils, conga, shakers and assorted percussion. Rounding out the line up is Pierce McDowell on bass, sitar and tamboura. This is a potent mix of elements, this track having a middle-eastern flavour. Warmth is a key element hear, as each instrument plays in earthtone colours. If their live performance last November hadn't already spurred me into action, this alone would have had me seeking out their music.

A lightly trilling flute opens Hands' "Triangle Of New Flight," soon joined by guitar and violin. While at the beginning you might be tempted to think of Italian prog - there is that same sense of classicism - when piece really gets moving, you'll think of Jethro Tull a bit. But even that comparison doesn't provide a true guide. This band from Texas play a complex mix that only hints at some of their influences - the band, in their first incarnation, was compared to not only Tull, but Gentle Giant. I heard a bit of Yes in there, too; nothing I can pin down to song and section, but some of the guitar work reminded me of Steve Howe, at least sonically. Hands' debut CD (as Hands) was recorded in 1997 and released by Shroom in 1996. Last year, the band reformed and released Twenty-Five Winters.

Sigmund Snopek III's "Flight Of The Frees" is the selected track, a piece from the Trinty Seas Seize Sees 2-CD set that mixes in the symphonic arrangements of Yes with the folk aspect of Jethro Tull with a bit of the gothic - this latter in the chorus of male voices "ah ah ah"-ing in the background. Keys and flute are the instruments in the lead, with drums and percussion providing support. The "flight" in question, across what I envision as a medieval England landscape, is somewhat drunken, and maybe a little self-important. This latter element puts it just on this side of quirky.

I have to admit I didn't really care for Man On Fire's "Where Is The Light" though there were elements that, taken separately, I'd like. The fat, dark, molten bass lines; the mellow arrangement; but, it seems too much of a melting pot for there to be anything to latch on to. It's a little too drowsy and drunken?

This is followed by the at first slightly psychedelic "Neural Pulse" from Smokin' Granny, which begins with a happy keyboard phrase, soon joined by more keyboard sounds that swirl and undulate in joyful ribbons of sound, accompanied by gleeful drums. How can drums be gleeful? Snappy, crisp, upbeat? Guitar can so be heard sharing happy little tootling blasts. This is an example of various elements that seem sometimes to be following their own muse, but also seem to intersect in some way that is felt rather than seen? or heard. I imagine, too, that if Echolyn were an artier band (incorporating more avant-garde and fusion elements into their music), this is what they'd sound like. I think this especially in the way each note is punctuated? Later in this 9-minute plus track, it incorporates some jazzy elements including sax and the throb of a musing bass. A giggle of keys - apparently Todd Barbee also plays, in addition to sax a "WX7 midi wind controller." Guitarist David Oskardmay also contributes effects - at least on their debut album Sirius Matter from whence this track comes. The rest of the Grannies are Brian Preston on bass and Jeffery Damon Lindsey on drums and percussion. More cool stuff for your ears.

Uncle Gut on "Without Color" are heavy and brutal? oh, there's color here. It's black, brown, and purple like a bruise; the color of your bludgeoned head that lies in a pulpy mass inside your headphones. Hanging in the air, but a single word from you "cool!" Um, pretty graphic, I suppose. It's like being inside someone's rage, like a bull scraping at the ground preparing to charge and skewer his helpless victim. Grinding. Pounding. Snarling. All without the distraction of "cookie monster" vocals or truly lyrics of any kind. IT is what King Crimson might sound like if Fripp and co. were verily and truly pissed (as in angry, not drunk). Nay, more than pissed. Out for blood. All done without the distraction of "cookie monster" vocals and "tough" lyrics. It needs no reinforcement - get in line or be crushed.

Finishing off the CD is "Homegrown" from Discipline. This track is an edited version from that which appeared on the ProgDay '95 CD. This is mostly an intimate vocal, piano, bass and percussion piece that reminds of me 70s blues-inflected soft rock a la early James Taylor, Carole King (no, Parmenter doesn't sound King), early Kenny Loggins (specifically of "Celebrate Me Home") though as it builds there a bit more bite, and some screaming guitar work. Parmenter's delivery is quite heartfelt, felt even more so being a live recording.

Though the CD itself isn't available, I can sure recommend checking out the music of all these artists? even though, as I said, the Man On Fire piece didn't work for me. Pain Of Salvations's "Ashes" appears on their The Perfect Element Part I album, and The Flower King's "I Am The Sun (Part 1)" appears in its full form (this version is a special version edited by ProgDay founder Peter Renfro) on Space Revolver

I Am The Sun (Part 1) (The Flower Kings; special edit by Peter Renfro) (7:04) / Flight Of The Frees (Sigmund Snopek III) (5:21) / Two Fingers (Yeti) (8:59) / Zaman (Azigza) (6:11) / Triangle Of New Flight (Hands) (6:47) / Ashes (Pain Of Salvation) (4:27) / Days Of Yore (Polydactyl) (8:03) / Where Is The Light (Man On Fire) (4:58) / Neural Pulse (Smokin' Granny) (9:25) / Without Color (Uncle Gut) (4:46) / Homegrown (Discipline) (7:13)



Genre: Various Genres

Origin VA

Added: April 20th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow

Artist website:
Hits: 771
Language: english


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