Archive for July 21, 2014

Arnold Mathes – “The Celestial Department Store” (self-released 2014, AM65, CD)

The Celestial Department Store is the follow up to last year’s Etidorhpa, by Brooklyn based electronic musician Arnold Mathes. By pure coincidence this is the second album I’ve reviewed this week by an artist who did time with Alien Planetscapes (John Likides is the other).

Whereas Etidorhpa consisted of classic 70s space electronica along the lines of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze plus elements of cosmic Progressive Rock, The Celestial Department Store is largely song focused, blending Space Rock, Prog and Pop. Songs like Rip In Time feature a non-Motorik brand of Neu! Space-Pop with a Symphonic edge. Off The Beaten Track is a spacey mix of Neu! and 80s Electro-Pop. The Toymaker is a quirkily fun Kraftwerk meets Neu! alien dittie, with OD and Malfunction being similar whimsical. Don’t Knock The Annanakh features spacey symphonic Prog-Pop. The high octane electro space rocking How To Drive A UFO could be the theme to a sci-fi TV show. There’s one example of pure floating space electronics in the form of the appropriately titled Conscious Of Consciousness, which is a cinematic Space-Prog excursion that gently sweeps the listener through the cosmos. And Interociter goes in a different direction, being a sound exploratory blend of minimalism, drones, and a variety of spacey effects. Overall I found this to be a fun set, the spacey melodic and quirky tunes being my favorites.

For more information email Arnold Mathes at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Chvad SB – “Crickets Were The Compass” (Silber Records 2014, CD/Download)

Though new to me, Chvad SB has been in action for over 20 years as a recording artist, scoring films, and a member of Controlled Bleeding.

Chvad SB has a flair for bringing together experimental and pleasantly accessible sound elements to create hauntingly minimal yet strangely melodic, image inducing soundtracks for the mind. The opening piece, It Haunts Her, is all about sound, with its laser beam waves accompanied by sparse guitar notes. The sound waves rise and fall, phasing slowly in my brain as the guitar licks provide a drugged, trippy, melodic counterpoint to the minimal electronics. The ominous rumbling and electronic static on A Hair Before Sundown might as well be a horde of insects, though offset by the contrasting child’s xylophone and smatterings of percussion.

The scorer of films is at work on tracks like The Dust Cloud Permeates. Haunting, cavernous atmospherics, freaky electronic effects and light guitar conjure up a multitude of possible scenes, the most prominent in my mind being a spacecraft cruising over the surface of a cold, seemingly barren alien planet (it’s always the sci-fi with me). The feeling is detached yet tense and suspenseful, painting a spaced out and often eerie panorama of cinematic sound. The spacey soundscapes on People Keep Asking And I Say You’re Well conjure up images of a busy urban street. Traffic is rushing back and forth, yet somehow I feel I’m like I’m sitting in the middle of it like some spectrally detached observer. A ghostly orchestral aura surrounds the everyday sounds of the city, punctuated by plinking sounds and sporadic guitar licks. Simultaneously haunting and surreal, this is one of my favorite tracks of the set. I like the combination of robotic patterns and melodic chamber ensemble on There Isn’t A Day That Goes By. And Crickets Were The Compass And The World Goes ‘Round feels like the soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic tale, with its minimal, slowly grinding crawl and darkly orchestral thrum. Listen to this when you’re feeling contemplative. Play it again and you’re guaranteed to hear something you missed the first time.

For more information visit the Silber Records web site at:

Mark & The Clouds – “Blue Skies Opening” (Mega Dodo 2014, CD/LP)

Mega Dodo has been putting out some great music so that alone got my attention when I received this promo. But I perked up even more when I read that London based Mark & The Clouds evolved out of the band Instant Flight, whose 2004 released Colours & Lights I have long been a fan of. Colours & Lights was a well crafted set of Pop-Psych songs with a Prog infused flavor, often amping up the energy level with heavy organ, guitars and orchestration.

Mark & The Clouds recalls Instant Flight in the form of singer/songwriter Marco Magnani. There’s far less organ and Prog-Psych heaviness here. We’ve got 13 tunes, mostly in the 3-4 minute range. Among the highlights is In The Storm, a hip shaking Pop rocker with a touch of 60s jangle. You Call Me Brother alternates between soulful Psychedelic Dylan-esque Folk-Rock and later period Beatles. I dig the combination of dirty Psychedelic Blues and horn section on the grooving and swaggering songs Music Disease and I Run Like Crazy. Darkened River and Spirits In The Wind both sound like contenders for Spaghetti Western theme songs, though the later includes an Eastern flavor. Goddess Of Desire pulls out the organ and wah guitar for some hard hitting Power Rock and heavy driving 60s Psychedelic Soul. London Fire features orchestrated Power-Pop-Psych with 60s West Coast Psych guitar. And Are You Taking Time is a dreamy but rocking song with the trippiest guitar and effects of the set.

In summary, there’s definitely a 60s flavor to Mark & The Clouds, though it’s not full blown Psychedelic and by no means retro. There are plenty of 70s influences as well. But at the end of the day, these are just outstanding songs that are so catchy that on the first listen you’ll feel like you’ve known them for years.

Note that the CD and download comes with 13 songs, while the limited edition blue vinyl (250 copies) comes with 9 songs (the first 100 copies will include a 4-song CDEP).

For more information visit the Mega Dodo web site at:
Stream, download and order at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

John Likides – “Paradigm Shifts” / “Seven Virtues” (self-released 2013, Download)

As a historical note, and to get your attention, I’ll mention that New York City based musician and author John Likides was briefly a member of Alien Planetscapes in the 1980s. For background on John’s work as both a musician and author, CLICK HERE to read the 2004 interview Jeff Fitzgerald conducted with John in Aural Innovations.

John has lots of albums available to stream and download at his Bandcamp site, and he recently shared two of his latest.

John Likides – “Paradigm Shifts”

The theme of Paradigm Shifts is described as charting humanity’s accomplishments, from cave-dwelling to space-walking. Going by the track titles, John starts with building block achievements – Making Fire, Telling Stories, Making Art, Organizing Activities – then moves on to higher level foundational triumphs – Inventing Democracy, Inventing Philosophy – and finishes with one of the granddaddies that we have struggled with from the Industrial Revolution through the current Information Age – Synergizing Wisdom & Technology.

Making Fire sets the tone for the set with a combination of Berlin school space electronics, Progressive Rock and New Age. The combination of syncopated synth patterns, lightly symphonic keys and melodic guitar leads is simultaneously cosmic rocking and meditational. The minimal rhythms chug along continuously, propelling the angelic keys that wash over you in gentle waves, along with beautiful electronic flute, and the guitar provides the Rock element. I’m imagining mid-70s Tangerine Dream joining forces with Eloy. Telling Stories is similar, but more dreamily ethereal and communicates an aquatic sensation. Making Art raises the intensity level, the keys sounding like a cosmic Keith Emerson, and alternating with the guitar they both play to a hauntingly ardent and somewhat frantic rhythmic pulse. This is a beautiful and passionately lyrical piece. Organizing Activities shoots for the heavens with what sounds like a syncopated acoustic guitar, a repeat of an earlier melodic theme, plus space symphonics and electronic effects that conjure up images of an angelic alien world. The feel is both pastoral and extra-terrestrial, like traipsing through a grassy meadow in the cosmos. The recurring melodic theme continues on Inventing Democracy, along with the cosmic meditative symphonics and soundscapes. But the percussion goes in a different direction, with energetic grooving tablas adding an interesting and contrasting Eastern flavor. The guitar is present but a second, sitar-like stringed instrument solos along with it, making for an overall spaced out, ethnic flavored experience. Inventing Philosophy is a pleasantly floating meditational journey. And Synergizing Wisdom & Technology takes the same guitar melody and vibe but shifts the cosmic keys and effects into freakier mode and adds more cool grooving percussion. Imagine if Windham Hill had been a Space-Prog label you might get something like Paradigm Shifts.

John Likides – “Seven Virtues”

The theme of Seven Virtues, released just one month after Paradigm Shifts, is a celebration of seven timeless human values that enabled us to transform ourselves from prehistoric cave-dwellers to post-modern space-walkers – Diligence, Patience, Resourcefulness, Compassion, Exuberance, Sagacity, Loyalty.

Musically this is very similar to Paradigm Shifts. Diligence consists of floating meditational electronic space music with tasty soloing guitar. There’s a spiritually uplifting New Age element, though there’s more going on musically and rhythmically than the fluff that the New Age term typically conjures up. Likides combines multiple elements that weave in and out of each other so seamlessly that it feels like a gently drifting whole. Patience is darkly theatrical, feeling like the cosmic orchestral Overture to a stage production. Resourcefulness combines space ambience and soundscapes with grooving percussion, melodic rocking guitar, and a succession of experience enhancing effects. Compassion features the same cosmic keys and guitar, but adds a quirky Kraftwerk Autobahn element, giving it a different flavor than the other tracks. Ditto for Exuberance. The principle melodic theme reminds me of a segment from a Yes song I can’t put my finger on. Likides quickly brings in additional contrasting themes, including alien dancey electronic patterns that Quarkspace fans will recognize, and a spacey marimba like sound that adds to the stew. This is an uplifting blend of spacey Prog, freaky electronics and ethnic influences, with lots of really interesting variety. Sagacity features peaceful spacey ambience and lightly colored cosmic effects, propelled by steadily strolling percussion. And Loyalty is a beautifully spirited finale. If you like deep space Prog inspired instrumental excursions you’ll enjoy John Likides’ music.

To stream and download these any many other John Likides album visit his Bandcamp page at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Pretty Monsters – self-titled (Public Eyesore 2014, PE120 CD)

Pretty Monsters is the New York City based quartet of Katherine Young on bassoon and electronics, Owen Stewart-Robertson on guitar and electronics, Mike Pride on drums and percussion, and Erica Dicker on violin. Together they play an interesting and varied brand of chamber ensemble gone avant-rock.

Relief opens the 7 track CD and feels like a pleasant conversation between the bassoon, violin and guitar. The instruments chat lightly via a series of brief melodies and short bursts of bassoon drones, soundscapes, and passionate violin solos, augmented by sparse, light percussion. Things get more aggressive with Patricia Highsmith, which has a chamber ensemble meets James Blood Ulmer feel. The guitar continually alternates between bursts of rocking out and passionately restrained passages, as the bassoon and violin free jazz jam. The drums rock out steadily, and as a whole it’s an intensely plodding succession of energetic bursts and restraint. In fact, after I’d heard this a few times it occurred to me there’s a Blues element to the music, and by the last couples minutes Stewart-Robertson is kicking out some killer solos. Feldspar is a short rocker where the drums lay down a fiery rhythmic pulse which the guitar, bassoon and violin jam along to. All three are soloing wildly and near the end the guitar gets densely metallic, making the whole sound like Henry Cow gone heavy metal. Crushed starts off sounding like a screechy scratchy take on Philip Glass. In fact, this sounded so familiar I checked the credits which say all compositions are by Katherine Young. The core melody has that minimalist Glass sound. But the music gets really interesting later as the violin is screeching madly while the guitar plays a dissonant but pleasant ambient melody, eventually taming the violin into melodic submission. But all does not remain warm and fuzzy as the piece transitions to full blown dense noise electronic mode, before settling into a sound collage finale. Lots of interesting variety on this one. For Autonauts, For Travelers is an avant-chamber ensemble stroll, including adventures into percussion and sound. The 12 minute Deuterium starts slowly and includes some of the most beautifully melodic music of the set. The guitar plays chords that are a dissonant contrast to the heartstring tugging violin, the bassoon provides low end support, and the drums are laid back but feel like they’re going to break out rocking at any moment. This never happens, though in the last few minutes the music briefly switches gears to a more free-wheeling avant-jazz jam, returning to the opening theme for the finale. Finally, Entropy has an intensely theatrical feel, combining chamber ensemble, spaced out atmospherics and effects, powerhouse drum blasts, and freaky avant-Rock.

What really grabbed about this album is the configuration of instruments, particularly the use of bassoon and violin in a rock context. I could easily see this being of interest to a variety of audiences but it certainly appealed to the avant-Proghead in me.

For more information visit the Public Eyesore web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz