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

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