Tag Archives: Kyros

In The DropBox: Kyros, Simon COllins, and Grumblewood

This week’s DropBox has couple of big wins, and a near-win. It’s also a diverse collection of music, but it wouldn’t be prog if it wasn’t diverse, right?

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First up is Kyros’ Celexa Dreams. Kyros hails from the UK, and they are led by vocalist/keyboardist Adam Warne. Their previous album, the two-disc Vox Humana, was a highlight of 2016, and Celexa Dreams is even better. If you miss the synth-heavy pop/rock of Thomas Dolby, Human League, and Tears For Fears, then you will love this album. Warne, along with guitarist Joey Frevola, percussionist Robin Johnson, and bassist Peter Episcopo have crafted a perfect combination of majestic ’80s anthems and 2020s production. Leadoff track “In Motion” sets the tone with an infectious synth riff and propulsive beat. “Rumour” is another upbeat earworm that wouldn’t be out of place on a Miami Vice episode.

Lest you think the album is all synthesizer confection, the 14-minute “In Vantablack” is a real prog workout that holds the listener’s interest every second. I wish Haken had gone more in the direction of this track instead of pursuing their metal side. “Technology Killed The Kids III” harks back to Vox Humana and Warne’s first iteration of Kyros, Synaethesia.

There seems to be a bit of a reappraisal of ’80s New Wave and New Romantics music happening, what with Steven Wilson’s To The Bone and other respectful homages to that era of music. Celexa Dreams is a wonderful collection of songs that take the best of synthpop and marry it to a prog sensibility. I highly recommend you check this one out.

Simon Collins

Next up is Simon Collins’ solo album, Becoming Human. Simon is Phil’s son, and there is definitely a vocal resemblance, in the same way Julian Lennon’s vocals recall his father, John. Simon was the vocalist for the prog group Sound Of Contact, which also included the marvelously talented Dave Kerzner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Sound Of Contact are getting together any time soon, so we’ll have to be happy with Kerzner’s In Continuum project and Collins’ solo work.

Judging by the quality of Becoming Human, we listeners are the winners, because instead of one excellent group, we get two to enjoy. I’m not sure if Becoming Human is a concept album, but it seems to have a sci-fi theme going on with titles like “Man Made Man”, “The Universe Inside of Me”, and “Thoughts Become Matter”. The aforementioned “Man Made Man” is a steamroller of a track that really pleases. Like Kyros, Becoming Human is very keyboard driven, in a good way. Stylistically, it includes spacey interludes, dance pop (“The Universe Inside of Me), straight ahead rock (“Man Made Man”), and epic balladry (“Dead Ends”). This is another album I have no hesitation giving a strong recommendation for. If you liked Sound of Contact, then you certainly need to give Becoming Human a close listen.

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Finally, there is Stories of Strangers from Wellington, New Zealand. The name of the band is Grumblewood, and they obviously worship at the altar of late-60s, early-70s Jethro Tull, with lots of fuzzy Martin Barre-sounding guitar, warm baritone vocals à la Ian Anderson, and, of course, flute all over the place. This is their debut album, and it is on Robin Armstrong’s (Cosmograf) label, Gravity Dreams. It’s a lot of fun to listen to, with its English folk/blues feel. Gav Bromfield (Vocals, Flute, Guitar, Piano) , Salvatore Richichi (Guitars, Mandolin, Mandola, Banjo), Morgan Jones (Bass, Bouzouki, Harspichord), and Phil Aldridge (Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals) definitely have the chops, as well as songwriting talent. My only quibble is the production; the drums sound like they were recorded under a blanket. However, that may be deliberate. According to their website, the album “has been recorded, mixed, and mastered using only analogue equipment and production techniques for that authentic vintage sound.” So there.

When they learn to go easy on the Tull influence and start forging their own identity, they will be formidable. Meanwhile, if you’re a Tull addict, and you need a fix, Stories of Strangers will do nicely.

Three albums, two outstanding and one very good. The DropBox had a pretty good batting average this week! I’ll leave you with Kyros’ “Rumour”:

Those Awkward Teenage Years – The 2010’s, pt. 7: 2016

Welcome to Spirit of Cecilia’s retrospective of this decade’s musical highlights! This is the seventh chapter, which covers the best of 2016, and Hoo Boy! we had a bumper crop of great music that year. Here are 20(!) of the best prog and rock albums from 2016, in alphabetical order.

Big Big Train: Folklore

Big Big Train continued its decade-long conquest of progworld with Folklore. A big part of their appeal (aside from their wonderful musicianship and beautiful melodies) is their knack for finding forgotten heroes and paying musical tribute to them. In Folklore, we are treated to the fascinating story of the messenger pigeon, Winkie. “The Transit Of Venus Across The Sun” is another indispensable BBT track.

Blueneck: The Outpost

Blueneck hails from Britol, UK, and The Outpost was one of the standout albums of 2016. Shimmering, slow-building, atmospheric, and majestic music made this a compulsive listen for me. “From Beyond” is a tremendous track.

David Bowie: Black Star

David Bowie had this album released posthumously. As always, he resists easy categorization. The nearly ten minute title track is full of skittery rhythms, disembodied jazz sax, and disturbing lyrics. A fitting final statement from one of the most talented and creative souls in music.

 

Cyril: Paralyzed

I did not hear about this group until recently, but I am glad I discovered them. Cyril is from Germany, and Marek Arnold and Manuel Schmid are members. Paralyzed is a fantastic prog album – one of the best of the last ten years. There are hints of classic Genesis in their sound, and I can’t recommend this album enough.

Devin Townsend Project: Transcendence

It looks like this is the final offering from the Devin Townsend Project, and what a way to finish! They revisit a DTP classic (“Truth”), and cover a Ween song (“Transdermal Celebration”). In between are some of the strongest songs Townsend has ever written. His vocals can make my hair stand on end, they are so, well, transcendent.

Evership

Evership is from my own city of Nashville, TN, but I would add this to our list regardless of their location. These guys write lyrical epics that are performed flawlessly. “Ultima Thule” is a near-perfect song, building slowly and quietly to a roaring conclusion. I can’t wait to hear more from this group.

Frost: Falling Satellites

How about a little fun? Jem Godfrey’s project Frost* released a terrific pop/prog collection in 2016 that I still listen to often. “Closer To The Sun” is one of the most enjoyable and reassuring seven and a half minutes in music.

Glass Hammer: Valkyrie

Glass Hammer embraced their inner Rush and put together a challenging concept album based on the trauma suffered by a WWI veteran. Suzie Bogdanowicz never sounded better, the band rehearsed all the songs before recording, and it shows. They really fire on all cylinders.

Haken: Affinity

Haken took a time machine back 30-odd years ago for Affinity. There all kinds of vintage synth sounds and nods to ’80s hair bands that make Affinity a hugely enjoyable record. Of course, they still have their 21st century wall of sound on great songs like “1985” and “The Architect”. This is one of Haken’s best albums, and it is scary how good they are.

Headspace: All That You Fear Is Gone

The second album from Adam Wakeman’s and Damien Wilson’s project was a stunning set of songs. There are rough blues (“Polluted Alcohol”), straight ahead metal (“Kill You With Kindness”), and complex prog (“The Science Within Us”). “Secular Soul” is the kind of song that forces you to stop what you’re doing and just listen.

iamthemorning: Lighthouse

A beautiful and sensitive portrayal of a young woman’s battle with mental illness, Lighthouse was iamthemorning’s second album. In my original review, I noted, “Imagine, if you will, a world where Aerial-era Kate Bush, Dumbarton Oaks-era Igor Stravinsky, and Sketches of Spain-era Miles Davis got together to compose a song cycle.”

Kansas: The Prelude Implicit

One of the biggest surprises of 2016 was the triumphant return of Kansas. This was no cashing in on nostalgia – this was a truly excellent album that successfully compares to their classics from the ’70s and ’80s. Welcome back, boys!

Kyros: Vox Humana

These guys started out as Synaesthesia, and morphed into Kyros. Whatever they call themselves, Adam Warne and Co. are some of the most talented songwriters and musicians working today. Vox Humana was a 2-disc concept album about a scientist who creates an artificial human, and the problems that ensue. Highly recommended.

Neal Morse Band: Similitude Of A Dream

The Similitude Of A Dream was the Neal Morse Band’s second album, and it was a monster. Over 2 hours long, it told the story of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Upon its release, it was immediately hailed as a prog classic.

Opeth: Sorceress

Opeth’s Sorderess topped a lot of critics’ Best of 2016 lists. With this album, Opeth laid to rest any remains of their death metal past, and jumped headlong into prog.

Pineapple Thief: Your Wilderness

In 2016, Pineapple Thief released what I consider to be their finest album to date, Your Wilderness. Bruce Soord came up with a diverse and satisfying set of songs that really rocked (“Tear You Up”). Gavin Harrison plays drums, and he kicks them into high gear.

Radiohead: A Moon-Shaped Pool

Radiohead rediscovered melody on A Moon Shaped Pool and came up with a beautiful album. String quartets, gentle synth washes, and massed voices combine for one of their finest hours.

Southern Empire

Australia’s Sean Timms (keyboards) and Danny Lopresto (vocals, guitar) lead this marvelous new prog band. Their debut was one of the best albums of 2016, with “The Bridge That Binds” the standout track.

Syd Arthur: Apricity

I listened to this album by Syd Arthur more than practically anything else in 2016. It is a funky, catchy set of songs that remind me a bit of Talking Heads. I dare you to sit still while listening to “No Peace”.

Vangelis: Rosetta

And finally, an offering from an old veteran: Vangelis. He can veer dangerously close to cheesy romanticism, but Rosetta is one of his best set of songs in his long career. He composed them to accompany the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft that successfully landed on a comet. It is appropriately spacey and atmospheric.

Whew! I hope this long post convinced you that 2016 was one of the best for great music. Let us know in the comments below what you enjoyed back then.