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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Skyron Orchestra

Situations

Review by Gary Hill

Well, to anyone who says that these guys don't belong in the progressive rock section, part of me agrees. I'm pretty evenly divided on where to put this one, but in the end I chose the prog side for a couple reasons. The first is that Transubstans, the label that issued this release, releases a lot of prog, probably more than they do of any other genre. Secondly, this group's retro sort of sound has a lot in common with bands like Iron Butterfly and Vanilla Fudge who (depending on who you ask) were either the earliest progressive rock or at least severely influenced prog. So that said, what can you expect to find here? Well, as already mentioned this has a lot more in common with the music of the late 1960's than it does with modern sounds. The vocals remind me a lot of Bjork, though. There are heavy amounts of retro keyboard sounds. In addition to the aforementioned bands I also here at various points King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Black Sabbath and others. Fans of psychedelia should really enjoy this, but those who enjoy the really old school of prog should also find something here to latch onto.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Can't Control
This one comes in with noisy keyboard textures that call to mind both King Crimson and ELP. As different keys enter they bring with them a bit of an Iron Butterfly sound. This eventually kicks into a fast paced psychedelically laced, spacey prog jam. Somewhat distorted vocals are a nice touch of nostalgia as is the whole arrangement. This one is loud and proud and moves off into a smoking fast paced rocking segment later. This instrumental section includes some tasty guitar soloing. A 1960's styled crescendo gives way to an odd bit of noise and organ. Then it moves off into a smoking reprise of the song's themes. This doesn't last long, though, instead ending the cut.
Sacred Atmosphere
A more modern sound starts this one off. Then it moves into the verse with a progressive rock laden take on '60's psychedelic pop ala Jefferson Airplane. After a chorus they launch into a very tasty instrumental segment.
Out of My Mind
Bass guitar leads this one off. As the keys enter (along with the rest of the band) those Iron Butterfly elements (along with progressive rock sounds) come with them. This one is based on the same sort of themes as the first couple tracks, but the arrangement is different enough to keep it from feeling monolithic. The instrumental segment that serves as the outro to this one is particularly tasty. It manages to pull together a lot of prog rock elements with the band's psychedelia laden sound.

Situation
Bouncy and a lot of fun, this one is a highlight of the disc. It's got a very retro sound right down to the surf styled guitar solo. In many ways this one is the least prog cut on show here, but it's also very cool. The instrumental bridge here, though, has a good amount of progressive rock textures while still maintaining the overall sound of the number.
Looking For A Trace
This one thunders in with a Black Sabbath like crunch. It shifts quickly, though to more dramatic psychedelically based music. The bridge on this one is very effective. The track includes a smoking guitar solo.
My World Salvation
The slightly off kilter main riff on this one is sweet. The vocals though are based on top of just the echo from this as the early segments of this track are very sparsely arranged. As it moves out into the chorus, though, the texture combines sounds of progressive rock, jazz and (of course) psychedelia into a very effective motif. After running through like this for a time (alternating these sounds) they drop it back then launch out into a very Iron Butterfly like jam that also has a lot of early progressive rock tendencies. An organ solo serves to drive this on. Later this one powers out into one of the coolest segments of the whole album. This instrumental mode has a very tasty central riff and seems to combine early metal with proto-prog into a tasty sort of jam. Of course it has its share of psychedelic leanings too, and feels rather like Vanilla Fudge. This eventually turns out toward space to end.

Desire
A definite contrast to the way the last cut ended; a swirling sort of tentative guitar part leads this one off. Eventually the band work this out into an intriguing arrangement. As the keys and other instruments coalesce into the main song structure it's an exceptionally meaty progressive rock feel with lots of retro elements. I'd have to say that this is one of my favorite cuts on the disc as it's packed with emotion and power. The group's sound seems to gel better here than at other points. The guitar based break is another nice touch. This one has a lot of changes while still maintaining a consistent nature.
Living In A Void
A funky processed guitar sound along with drums starts this. As the vocals enter they turn this into another fun retro jam. I'd kind of look at it like Booker T. And the M.G.'s with vocals. The chorus is catchy psychedelia. They move this out into a killer jam later and the wacka wacka guitar returns. I hear a little bit of an early B-52's texture on the vocal arrangement of the closing segment here.
Call Their Names
This one comes in dramatic and powerful with a cool retro riff. More of the Vanilla Fudge sounds surface here. This rocker is another highlight of the disc and includes a little bit of that Black Sabbath flavor, too. The guitar solo on this one is especially meaty.

It Can't Be Me
A nice bass line starts this one off. As the rest of the instruments join they launch out into another tasty retro textured journey. That bass drives the bridge on this one. It also shines heavily on the extended instrumental outro.
Cut It Out
A retro keyboard ballad type of sound opens this and the group begin to gradually build on this basis. This has a bit of a dark texture, but is very cool. This is another of my favorites. I actually hear a bit of very early Alice Cooper in the mix here - think "Halo of Flies."
Smiling Surface
Starting with a cheesy organ sound this one is a bit rough on the first segments. Only a Bjork like vocal line accompanies that organ for the first verse. When they move it out from there it takes on a very classic psychedelic texture that is quite cool. The bridge on this one has some of the most prog-oriented material on show here. Still, this one is just a little hard to take. It is by far the throwaway piece of the CD.
Life Cycle
A killer bluesy guitar riff starts this one off in fine style. This is one of the most uncharacteristic tracks you'll find here. It has an almost metal approach, but yet psychedelia is still all over this. I even hear some of the more crunchy King Crimson in the mix along with a healthy dosage of garage rock. There are some retro prog leanings here, too. The female vocals are counter pointed by a man's voice. This one may be really odd, but it is also very cool.
Star
This one starts very tentatively with a processed guitar sound running along with just a bit of rhythm section behind it for a while. Then a keyboard solo with a very nice flavor enters to play its melody. The vocals eventually come over this fairly laid back but oh so tasty jam. It gets pretty intense and includes some of the most impressive guitar sounds of the whole disc. The overall texture is just plain awesome, too. It eventually works out into a space rock styled extended instrumental jam. This is another of the highlights of the album and a great choice to close it.
 
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