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WOJCIECH BATOR: Something Unusual

A songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Wroclaw in Poland, Wojciech Bator is en route of becoming the next sensation among the guitarists extraordinaire. His debut solo release is the single “The Nightingale,” a project that is just a scratch on the surface of what this youngster is capable of creating in the future. Following his presence on the recent Progotronics compilation, we caught up with Bator to answer our questionnaire.

Define the mission of your project.

The mission is to share the music that fuels my life with the most people I can reach. This music plays deep within and I can’t really stop it. Some time ago it became obvious that I should start releasing things so I started with The Nightingale. I believe that it is valuable for the listeners and the music can bring them joy as it does for me. I also believe that if there’s just an inch of talent in someone, it flourishes when shared with the others.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recent single “The Nightingale.”

Many of my relatives got sick during a covid pandemic, a few of them died. I think this was the main trigger to kick off the song. I was already thinking of starting a solo career for some time but there were always more important projects on the horizon and I also felt unprepared for doing it all by myself. The current situation motivated me to finally start. In Poland, we have a very naysayer approach. Just a quick introduction to our news – deaths everywhere, someone got killed, disasters, cataclysms. I got fed up and decided that I’ll shed some light to the people and do a positive song about the bird that heralds the day. A sign of change for better.

Something unusual in our Polish reality :) And it worked pretty damn well!

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

The main idea should always go first. I think about it, visualize, catch the new melodies and play with them. In this case, I realized that this is gonna be something. I connected to my Axe FX III and started recording parts to the DAW to not miss the little touches. First impressions are really important and sometimes things that You’ll judge as mistakes taste the best. So I crafted the flow, rearranged a couple of times and realized that I have a structure ready. It sounded positive, themes were repeating nicely and I liked it. I’ve connected the dots and it was initially done.

Is the dynamic flow of the piece carefully architected?

Architected, yeah, but not without joy. The main themes came to me in a single afternoon. I believe I’ve had them all very quickly, it was the bridges that were needed to finish the song. Fortunately, I’ve got good vibes and finished composing the piece after a couple of cups of tea. Production was the hard part here :)  Generally speaking, I love composing stuff, doesn’t matter if I play on guitar, keyboards or just hum to myself. It’s a fantastic feeling to bring the piece together from puzzles and for sure my favorite part in the whole piece creation process.

Describe the approach to recording the single.

I recorded the single at home. A draft on guitars first, then I started programming the drums. Fortunately, my friend drummer Paweł Kardis was interested in the piece and offered help with drums. His friend Axel Ostrowski recorded him and mixed the drums. So we’ve worked remotely. In the meantime, I registered keyboards, polished the guitar parts, composed the bass synths and tweaked the tone over and over. I’ve done mixing and mastering myself, besides drums – Axel already provided me with good material and I’ve only tweaked them here and there. A good tip for someone who wants to record his own music is to define which instrument takes a lead in which moment and how it should sound. My intention was to create warm sounding, positive guitars on top, so the piece flows gently. All in all, I’m happy with the result, but I realized that there’s a huge amount of knowledge to digest when it comes to recording, mixing and mastering.

Wojciech Bator

How long “The Nightingale” was in the making?

It started in late November and it took two months. The composition was initially done on the guitar and that was the quick part. The mixing, mastering, tweaking, leveling and tone adjusting took a lot of hours but I don’t regret a second, neither a single take that I had to delete. This was a great learning time, I’ve realized a lot of things and even though it looks like a lot of work (it is, indeed), it was worth it. The experience I’ve gained is priceless and the next piece I’ll do will be much easier. I always aim high so expect interesting things ;)

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the song?

Plini, I think. During the song creation, I ordered the new guitar. I thought I’ll name it Singularity, paint the galaxy on the body and make it headless, fanfret, seven string monster, very Strandberg-esque (I didn’t know the company back then). The luthier said something like: “So you want to be like Plini?” just to see my blank face, because I didn’t hear of him either (sic!). “Never heard of him? You must check him out”. So I’ve done this and was struck by the sheer elegance of Plini’s playing and the full, warm tone. Even though I’ve already had the piece composed, I truly believe that listening to Selenium Forest or Handmade Cities influenced me a lot during the work. Thanks Plini!

What is your view on technology in music?

Technology in music is a double edged sword for me. On the one hand, it takes out the obstacles that would tire the musician and speeds up things, so essentially one can focus on the creative part. On the other hand, it allows for easy crap creation. All in all, how we use the technology is what matters. If you feel that you are musically gifted and you really have something to offer, then go for it. Technology will help you. If you do not have any musical sense or feeling and just try to do it, “because it’s cool”, then stop it, there are a lot of cool things out there and everyone will find the right place after a little search :) Technology helps, but we should use it reasonably. Music should start within you and the gear, software and plugins should only help you make it out live, not create it.

Wojciech Bator

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

I would be glad if my music moves people deeper than just listening to the first few notes and then just either be like “meh” or “I like it”. We listen to music because it raises emotions, but it does this only when people connect to it. So, the goal is to make it addictive and attractive, to invoke emotions or just take people on to a journey. I believe that’s a dream not only for me, but also for most of the musicians.

What are your plans for the future?

I’ll release more music this year as a solo artist, but I’m also a member of Artyfiction and KD & Mr R bands, with whom I’ll release music this year too. When it comes to my solo project, I focus on the next song which will be splitted into two parts and it will really be an epic! We will travel to more exotic places in the universe, I believe it’s worth waiting. There’s one more single scheduled later this year. Even though there’s not much opportunity of playing live, I’ll try to get the team for further shows. One thing I know – I’ll continue to deliver the music, so be ready for it!

Wojciech Bator’s debut single ‘The Nightingale’ is out now; get it from Bandcamp here. Follow him on Facebook.

The post WOJCIECH BATOR: Something Unusual appeared first on Prog Sphere.

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METRO EXPO: Leaving Doors Open

Songwriter Fred Marcoty of progressive rock project Metro Expo speaks for Prog Sphere about the band’s latest album, the mission, songwriting, and more.

Define the mission of Metro Expo.

I’d call it a suicide mission. Metro Expo is a one-man band that records only concept albums with ten songs. The exact complete name is “Metro Expo Decalogy” or “Decalogies”, I’d love to make 10 albums of 10 songs each, but I think I won’t be able to make it since I’m already 47… so “Decalogies” is also OK, and I can quit whenever I want.

I’m trying to make albums that can’t be cherrypicked, bring people back to this way of listening to music; and sort a push them to make the effort and maybe like it. I leave many doors open in my albums so everyone can jump in, I don’t care if they start to listen track 4 before the rest, if they feel more comfortable with this and it helps them understand the global idea. Maybe next time, they’ll listen to it in the correct order and get the whole point.

Also, I try to put some humor in it, so not taking the “concept album” nominecence too seriously.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recent album “Metro Expo 2” and the themes it captures.

The intensive creative period was actually quite short. I started to write stuff in 2015, a few months after the release of Metro Expo 1, but I felt something was wrong with the material I had. I was going absolutely nowhere. I didn’t mind too much at the time, and started to get occupied elsewhere.

I decided to completely reshape my overall sound and spirit from the start, because I felt I already did everything I could do with it with the first album. And to do so, I changed my composition mode, grabbed an acoustic guitar and wrote stuff with it as the base. While the first album has been thinked directly for a 5 piece band.

As soon as I was okay with my ideas, in February 2020, I picked up a notebook and wrote/compiled all my ideas. Two weeks later, I was ready to rehearse and track.

I immediately felt that I could write a full story with it, while Metro Expo 1 was more based on inner discussions. The flashing images I had while composing fit well together to form a journey with one character. I had my story in the main lines, and just had to complete my lyrics while I was recoding the vocals.

What is the message you are trying to give with “Metro Expo 2”?

I don’t really have a message to pass. I just made constatations of our ways of living, and compiled them in a science-fiction story. If you pay attention, I never mention that the story of ME2 is happening on Earth, and I never talk about humans.

I don’t like to do morale… And, to be honest, my lyrics go sometimes way beyond me. I strongly believe that my subconscient is way much clever than “I” really am.

I develop some observations about subjects like consumerism, mass hysteria, enslavement and war, all this through the lens of an alien dude that absolutely has no clue of what he’s experiencing, and cherry on the cake, this guy is always drunk but doesn’t know it, as he gets drunk with pills that, at the beginning, are supposed to help him.

The character is trying to find something on this planet that can’t exist without its opposite. He is charged to seek only for good emotions or feelings, but he can’t know good if he doesn’t know what bad is. He doesn’t have a single clue of what he’s really looking for.

I leave everybody have their own conclusions and understandings. But don’t go too far, you can also listen to it as if you were watching a pop-corn movie.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I have a notebook where I write all my ideas, lyrics, chord progressions, riffs, rythmic breaks and cesures. I retrancribe everything afterwards, in a cleaner manner, using my computer. I use music sheet too for my horn section, because it’s so much easier this way, also because a friend of mine played all the saxophones from his home, so I guessed he couldn’t read in my mind…

All these are just little helpers, I already have everything ready in my head, including which amp and which pedal I’ll use to re-amp “this particular” guitar.

I always track my instrumentals even if my lyrics are not 100% ready yet. Sometimes, I start to record vocals while I haven’t written a single words line.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Absolutely. It can’t be done without a serious approach on this aspect. And it’s maybe, in my opinion, the most important thing for a concept album. That’s something I do really easely, I have my own criterias (songs key, tempo, style) and since my albums are “decalogies”, and not simple songs assembled together, I can develop my themes (lyrically or with musical leitmotivs) on 2 or 3 songs if I get stuck somewhere.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

I record and mix in my little home studio in my basement. As this album has been composed mainly on acoustic guitar, I started my recording sessions with it.

I recorded all my strumming, with 2 different 6 string guitars (one normal tuning, and one with Nashville tuning). Then I recorded the Bass, some electric guitar, then only the drums with a comfortable backing track in the headphones.

I am very disciplined in the studio. I don’t have the choice, since I work alone in a quite small room, I plan my recording sessions so I have to move almost nothing. I go step by step, and I know exactly what I have to do.

There’s not much room for randomness in this project, in the writing, in the recording, and in the production.

How long “Metro Expo 2” was in the making?

From the moment I decided to go for it, filled my notebook and wrote “Metro Expo 2″ on the cover, and the very last step of mastering : 11 months. Including one month lost because of a computer breakdown, and 3 weeks when I had to go back to my job in a normal way. I work in an Opera house, and our theatre has been closed because of Covid, so I kinda worked part time dayjob, while usually I also work on evenings and week-ends.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

Specifically on ME2, I used the album “The Color of Spring” by Talk Talk as a reference for my overall sound and my mix. For the rest, and as I always do with Metro Expo, I chose some style I’m not very familiar with, and make a rendition from my own perspective. I don’t hesitate to explore styles that I don’t even really love… People often quote Tom Waits, but, to be honest, I don’t know much of what Tom Waits did, so I honestly can’t take him as an influence.

I will maybe sound a bit pretentious if what I’m about to say is misunderstood, I think that I freed myself from my “natural” and old influences on this record.

I don’t feel any Pink Floyd, or Genesis in there for example… and not much Puccini or Wagner either. Maybe I am evolving?

What is your view on technology in music?

When I started to compose and record all by myself (beginning of the 90′s), I used cassettes decks, not even a 4 track machine! I couldn’t afford it, those were quite expensive at the time. I recorded my drums on a cassette, then played this cassette while recording bass to be recorded on a second cassette, and so on…

I had no choice but to record the whole song on each instrument everytime, I couldn’t make punch-ins and cuts. At the end, my “”mixes”” sounded like I was recording by the seaside, but at least I had something.

Now that you know that, how could I be against technology ? For a DYI man like me, it’s a total blessing! A cool aspect is that it’s now cheaper to get decent audio gear; therefore have a home studio.

And if your question was about Auto-Tune… meh. I don’t care. We live in an era of “perfection”… It’s just another tool. If you need to cut a branch off a tree, will you use a spoon? Of course, not. So why not using some pitch correction, if the rest of the take (emotion, diction…) is absolutely perfect or if you feel you won’t do a better take? I use Melodyne, it’s more versatile than Auto-Tune. Pitch is always relative, and with this tool, you still need to use your ears to tune something relating to another. And not just type “100% accuracy”. See, even with that, you’ll need some musical skills.

Still, I kinda overused all these stuff in the past (if you knew where I come from, it’s quite understandable) but I stepped back from it a bit, and I don’t over-fix my performances anymore. I vertical align when absolutely needed, and same with pitch correction. That’s maybe the main bad side of today’s technology, the performance, capturing “the moment” has a bit lost its magic. But I don’t really blame it on technology, I blame it on our “perfection” era.

I can also say that, with internet, it’s easier to write lyrics, with sites like Rhymezone, and all the online dictionnaries. Plus all the free tutorials you can find… It’s a gold mine if you know how to use it. Also, uploading your music yourself to an audience, that wouldn’t be possible without internet. It seems so natural for us today, it’s kinda part of us, but read again the first paragraph of this answer… that wasn’t available those days.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

Not really a purpose, but I’d like to leave to my grand-children, and maybe the generations after them, something else than just a picture in a frame that will turn yellow.

And on the way, if I can bring back some people to the “art” of conceptual albums, that would be cool.

What are your plans for the future?

I already started the writing of ME3. So far, I have just done snakes biting their own tail, 16 bars chord progression. This time I use piano as the main composition instrument. I haven’t composed with a piano since the early 90′s… I don’t know what will come out of this, maybe I’m taking (again) a wrong direction, and will use another instrument, I don’t know yet.

Maybe I’ll just record a real-fake Live of Metro Expo 2, the same way I did for ME1 if my creative process appears to be wrong. This live would be a huge challenge since the instrumentation is quite big on this one!

Follow Metro Expo on Facebook.

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THE GHOST OF LEMORA: Music That Doesn’t Date

UK alternative rock act The Ghost of Lemora are gearing up to launch their new full-length album entitled ‘Love Can Be Murder,’ out on February 12th. About this new ambitious project, guitarist Paul Swift speaks for Prog Sphere. The band was a part of the January 2021 edition of the Progotronics compilation series.

Define the mission of The Ghost of Lemora.

The mission of Lemora is to take the listener on a journey, to make music that is bold, ambitious and rises above the ocean of mediocrity. We want to make albums that don’t date, that edify and enlighten but above all entertain. We also want to sell as many albums as possible and to record our next record in space.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your upcoming album “Love Can Be Murder” and the themes it captures.

I realised rather early in the writing process that the common themes were manipulation, obsession, jealousy, complacency, loss, danger, agony, ecstasy, all the elements of a tender relationship. All very human as most of us have experienced some of the above. Or have been up to their neck in it.

What is the message you are trying to give with “Love Can Be Murder”?

Not really a message, more of a warning. Love can be murder but it’s worth it. Is it not?

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

We demo stuff up on Logic. Lyrics are on the computer/ phone but often on a fag packet or beer mat. I miss beer mats.

Love Can Be Murder

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Yes we are particularly fastidious, one has to be if one is creating a masterpiece. You have to put the work in if you want to appeal to the discerning listener and get the money out of their wallets. Of course Peter (Prog Pioneer with Cressida) will want to do various takes with several variations of texture, multi harmonies and inversions. Other times he will do a take that’s so mental it’s a “one off”. You need a top notch product these days and no mistake. This album is definitely it.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

When you develop an idea you have to be ruthless, if you have any doubts then sling it. I’m very impatient, I want the sounds in my head instantly but that’s offset by the idea constantly mutating and a desire to take it beyond its limits. We recorded the drums with Andy Ramsey of Stereolab. He’s Stereolab’s drummer so you could say he’s a bit of an expert. Andy is also a great arranger and is forthright in his direction and production. We mixed with Paul Tipler who has worked with Placebo, Julian Cope, Moby and lord knows who else. Like Andy, Tipler will be frank during the process. If something is less than magnificent, he’ll look at you and say “that’s shite”.

How long “Love Can Be Murder” was in the making?

Too bloody long.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

Our influences are all over the place. We have common ground on The Stranglers, Bowie, Muse and Black Sabbath.

What is your view on technology in music?

Technology has increased at lighting speed in recording music. But no matter how much technology you’ve got, you still need a good idea. As for the industry, years ago teenagers would be in their bedrooms listening to 45s they’d spent their pocket money on. Now they’re listening to songs they haven’t paid for on an iphone that’s cost an arm and a leg.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music

The purpose of our music is down to the consumer of it. If they want to dance to it, use it to seduce someone or annoy their neighbours.

What are your plans for the future?

When this dystopian nightmare is over, a European tour.

Love Can Be Murder is available for pre-order here.

The post THE GHOST OF LEMORA: Music That Doesn’t Date appeared first on Prog Sphere.

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KILL CITY: No Limits

Ecuador-based rockers Kill City have recently launched their full-length debut album entitled ‘Last Man Standing.’ About their mission, the creative process behind the album and more, the group tells us in the interview below.

Define the mission of Kill City.

We all love music, for us it is a pleasure to compose, produce and perform music and we try to express that passion through our songs. No strings attached , no limits, no preconceptions… We do what makes us happy. Hopefully people and fans will enjoy and make the whole experience even more fun for us.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recent album “Last Man Standing” and the themes it captures.

Well we actually call it the “Killcitation”. One of the members will always bring some idea to the band, we try it out, dissect it, rebuild it from the ground up and out goes a song. It’s chaotic sometimes, but fun and very satisfying. The lyrics usually go at the end, thus the album doesn’t have an specific theme to it.

What is the message you are trying to give with “Last Man Standing”?

The song “Last Man Standing”, as well as most of our songs, can be interpreted in several ways. For us, it is about an individual fighting for his ideals and for what he loves, even though the world might be working against him.

Kill city - Last man standing

The cover of the album it’s actually a hand painted artwork by one of the best local artist, called Jose Luis Choez. It was his interpretation of our idea.

That’s why he painted this Samurai… Samurais followed a code. He is standing there, after the battle, injured and the city is burning in the background. Maybe he won, maybe he lost, but he fought and in the end he is the last man standing for his ideals.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

We usually come with a basic idea, retouch it, and every time we do a live recording, very rough one mike mono recording, until we define the final structure of the song.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Yes. We listen to each version carefully and always pay attention to the “flow” of the song. Does it fella energetic enough ? Is it slowing down at some point ? Sometimes it is too energetic, it needs a pause. Is it getting boring at anytime ? We always ask ourselves all this questions with each and every song, and try to find solutions.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

After the structure and the flow of the song is approved , we pay a lot of attention to the tempo. So at some point we start playing the song live, with a click. So many bands dont pay much attention to the tempo, but it is something very very critical, it adds so much to a song and it is not hard to do. You just have to find the right tempo, the one that feels great through out the whole song. 2 beats up or down can make a song feel slow or rushed.

How long “Last Man Standing” was in the making?

The composition process took about 6 months. The recording was done in 3 sessions, 3 to 4 songs each session, and each one lasted about 3 weeks.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

We all have our different influences, generally speaking it’s always some form of metal and even some latin music too. I’d say a lot of 80s rock, Def Leppard, Journey, Stryper, Judas, Accept.

What is your view on technology in music?

It gives freedom to the artists. The kind of recording you can do now, was unthinkable 20 years ago, unless you had a record label willing to pay for an expensive studio.

On the other hand, we do miss the album experience… In which you had to pay for a physical CD or Cassete or Vynil and you listened to the album as whole. That’s gone. Maybe it was better in the old times, maybe not.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

I think music is a form of art and art’s purpose in general is to provoke some kind of emotional response in the person exposed to that art… Happiness, anger, sadness, melancholy…

What are your plans for the future?

We are planning to release a second album this 2021. Further than that is hard to plan anything, but hopefully we will soon be able to tour and play our music live.

Follow Kill City on Facebook.

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NOVA INCEPTA: Breaking Down Boundaries

International progressive rock project Nova Incepta has been around for a few years, and the group’s latest effort entitled ‘Visions of Arcadia‘ was released on December 5th. They were featured on the Progotronics 28 compilation back in October, and here is what they have to say about their work, the new album, and more.

Define the mission of Nova Incepta.

Anyone that has ever been to a concert has felt the magic that takes place between the human beings that are in attendance. It’s not about the band members, it’s not about any specific people in the space and it’s not about the space itself. It is about the collective spirit shared between all of those in attendance. It is about the breaking down of boundaries of separation and uniting. This is what people don’t realise they are really searching for. It is about opening up, sharing and feeling the love and energy radiate from person to person.

It’s like there is a mirror held up between the band and the audience as energy bounces from one to the other. It is not unusual for people, in this heightened state of emotional and spiritual bliss, to scream out, burst into tears and hold each other lovingly. It is as if people are in a place or worship, all experiencing a common highly emotional event. A concert is therefore a spiritual event, as the individuals of the room give way and merge into one united supernatural force.
It has long been the role of the musician to bring people together and open their hearts. Music breaks down the boundaries that have developed between people and allows them to focus on unity and shared love. Imagine if a group of musicians could consistently generate a sense of overwhelming unifying connectedness, then instead of basking in the glory for themselves, rather, they redirect that focus towards the most noble causes that will aid the Planet on a massive scale. That is the dream of Nova Incepta.

Ultimately we should be wielding our technology for the betterment of our host planet, rather than egoically destroying it and therefore destroying ourselves. The realisation of humanity as a super organism living on a host planet called earth will cause a shift from a cancerous mindset of infinite growth to a symbiotic mindset of sustainability.

Nova Incepta - Visions of Arcadia

Tell me about the creative process that informed your upcoming album “Visions of Arcadia” and the themes it captures.

The creative process for this album began with (Composer) Greisy sitting in his cave. This is where he drafted out rough skeletons for songs and sometimes more developed pieces. The next step is for Greisy to bring in (Guitarist) Jesse, who usually provides melody as well as harmonic suggestions and layering of any kind. Once dummy guitars are laid down, we send everything over to Gareth (Drummer), for him to get cracking learning the programmed Midi parts and adapting them to the Drum Kit. This is usually where he will make multiple rhythmic changes and start to really bring the song to life. After Drums are recorded, Jesse re-records all of this Guitars and re-writes anything that isn’t up to scratch with (Bassist) Brad. At this point Jesse and Brad are usually re-adjusting to all the rhythmic detail that may have been altered. After everything has been done to the best of their abilities, Jesse, Brad and Gareth turn their evolution of Greisy’s skeleton back towards him to allow for any revisions. What we’re left with is space for small touch ups and if there are any disagreements, we go with a majority rules vote.

With regards to the thematic nature of Visions of Arcadia, both conceptually and musically, everything relates to one concept. That being the potential for vast collective growth and what it may bring. We do also bring back certain themes throughout the album to imply a direct connection between song themes. However, our next album will certainly be more conceptual than this one.

What is the message you are trying to give with “Visions of Arcadia”?

“VIsions of Arcadia” is trying to incite the listener to think deeper about certain universal concepts and their relationship towards them. For example, in our track titled, “The Universe”, Alan Watts tells the listener:

Don’t differentiate yourself and stand up against this and say “I am a living organism, in a world full of a lot of dead junk, with rocks and stuff”. It all goes together. Those rocks are just as much you, as your finger is. You need rocks. What are you going to stand on?

This phrase majorly inspired us and helped us evolve the way we perceive and interact with The Universe. Each track has it’s own unique message. In a nut shell, “Arise” means to elevate or ascend. “Polarity” is about understanding the necessity for opposites to exist and appreciating everyone and everything as they are, seeing it all as two sides of the same coin. Anonymous Oracle is about the mysterious connection to something other-worldy that is constantly feeding us creativity and guidance. Lastly, “A Glimpse of Clarity” is about those profound life changing moments where you can suddenly see your life situation so clearly. Sometimes these moments inspire positive change, or sometimes they leave you with profound appreciation. Either way, those “Glimpses of Clarity” are the little signposts in our lives that remind us that we are on the right path.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

Digital Audio Workstations! Thankfully, we all are proficient with DAW’s. Composer Greisy being adept with both Logic and Cubase, Drummer/Composer Gareth being most comfortable on Cubase and Brad & Jesse highly favouring Pro Tools. We would each record into our own recording set ups and then we would share audio stems with the band after any significant piece of progress was made. This would allow for feedback from the other members as well as give each of us the feel of being able to play along with each other in every practice/recording session.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Absolutely. All dynamic flow and song structure is predetermined and composed by Greisy. Gareth outlines this dynamic flow and at times, exaggerates or alters it when adding his Drums into the music. Then once the Drums have been recorded, Jesse, Brad and Greisy adapt and highlight various elements of what has been altered. These carefully architected changes that occur in the Pre-Production and Production stages of our creation are some of the most enjoyable and exciting parts for each of us instrumentalists in the band.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

As we mentioned above, the Pre-Production for this album began with (Composer) Greisy sitting in his cave, drafting out musical ideas and sometimes fully developed pieces. The next step is for (Guitarist) Jesse, to get involved. He usually provides melody as well as harmonic suggestions and layering of any kind. Jesse then takes the music over to his own studio and lays down dummy Guitars. Once dummy Guitars are recorded, we send everything over to Gareth (Drummer), where he then begins learning the programmed Midi parts and adapting them to the Drum Kit. This is usually where he will make multiple rhythmic changes and start to really bring the song to life. After Drums are recorded, Jesse re-records all of his Guitars and re-writes anything that isn’t up to scratch with (Bassist) Brad. After everything has been done to the best of their abilities, Jesse, Brad and Gareth turn their evolution of Greisy’s skeleton back towards him to allow for any revisions. What we’re left with is space for small touch ups and if there are any disagreements, we go with a majority rules vote. Afterwards, we sent the album in for Mixing (to Paul Frost and Mohalk Pigeon Productions) and then back to composer Greisy for Mastering.

How long “Visions of Arcadia” was in the making?

Believe it or not, it was actually about 4 years in the making. During which time certain members moved states and countries. The closer we got to finishing the album, the more we were physically distant from each other. So as you can imagine, on many occasions the progress was slow or even non-existent. Though when we did come together, ideas would fly left right and centre. Believe it or not, to this day, our Bassist Brad and Drummer Gareth have never been in the same room.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

Dream Theater. They are the one band that we all grew up on. This band had a huge impact on our musical natures and are even the sole reason why some of us decided to pursue music in the realm of Progressive Rock. There are many many notable bands that certainly influence us to differing degrees, some honourable mentions are: Haken, Pain of Salvation, Symphony X, Genesis, Yanni, Intervals, Periphery, Monuments,

What is your view on technology in music?

We absolutely LOVE it! The improvement of technology over the last 20-30 years has been astonishing from every angle. To us it’s the natural evolution of everything on Earth, including music. However, we believe it is easy to get carried away with it and for us personally, we prefer an organic sound backed by the beauty of technology. We use technology to embellish who we already are as musicians, rather than having the technology create the music for us. Ultimately, we truly see technology as an incredible tool that can make our art better if utilised correctly.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

We genuinely do. Our greater purpose is to unite people. We want people from all over the world to feel the vast potential for emotional, physical, mental and spiritual growth. We want to inspire people to think and live more harmoniously for themselves and everyone around them. Ultimately, we want to be the soundtrack for positive shifts on Earth and we want people to discover their own potential through whatever inspires them (the way music does for us).

What are your plans for the future?

For the future, we would genuinely love to be touring after each album release, as well as writing, recording and releasing new music as often as possible. That’s all we ever want to do.

Visions of Arcadia is out now; check it out on Bandcamp

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ESTHESIS: Notion of Identity

One of the bands on the Progotronics 29 compilation is a French progressive rock band Esthesis, formed by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Aurelien Goude. Back in November Esthesis launched its debut album entitled “The Awakening,” and in the interview below Goude speaks about it.

Define the mission of Esthesis.

Well, I’m not sure we can say that Esthesis has a mission, but we want to move people through our songs, and be an important part of the alternative and progressive music scene. This is a very exciting thing for us to make music.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recent album “The Awakening” and the themes it captures.

Our new record “The Awakening” deals with the notion of identity (awakening, quest and lost of identity). These are universal issues and it was important for me to write about it. We wanted each song to be like a movie, with very different ambiences and emotion.

What is the message you are trying to give with “The Awakening”?

As I said, the notion of identity is essential in the record. We live in a society with increasing identity issues. In a love relationship for instance, we can sometimes wonder if we are really ourselves. This is also the case at work or on social networks. The record invites people to ask questions about themselves and their own vision of society.

Esthesis - The Awakening

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I’ve learnt music by myself and I always « feel » the music. Sometimes, when I write music on piano or guitar, I already hear all the instruments in my head. I’ve always worked like this.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

“The Awakening” contains six new songs. The beginning and the end of our album are linked, like an infinite loop. Each song has its own place in the album, and we paid particular attention to the transitions between tracks.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

It was important for us to record “The Awakening” in a great studio. “Raising Hands” was made at home for many parts, and the sound on the new record is much better. We finished the writing process during the pandemic period.

How long “The Awakening” was in the making?

The writing process was quite short. “The Awakening” was released only a year and a half after our EP “Raising Hands.”

Aurelien Goude

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

Many bands influenced us, even if we hope to have our own identity. Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree of course, but also many artists like Kate Bush (Aerial and 50 Words for Snow), minimalist and movie music composers like Philip Glass, Ludovico Einaudi, Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith, Angelo Badalamenti. Goldfrapp influenced me a lot.

What is your view on technology in music?

Technology can be very useful and we have now great tools to write music. But it is essential not to be too dependent on it.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

As an artist, we always hope to have some influence on subjects that are not just about music. More broadly, we hope our music will continue to bring some light and happiness to people in these difficult times. That’s a good beginning.

What are your plans for the future?

We want to tour a lot with our debut album. We are currently working hard on finding dates, and also on our light show, which will be an important part of the future concerts. If music is essential for me, light show is equally important during a concert and I want the audience to be immerged by it, especially during powerful moments or, at the opposite, ambient and atmospheric moments. I also started to work on albums 2 and 3.

The Awakening is out now and is available on Bandcamp. For more about Esthesis visit, and follow the band on Facebook and Instagram.

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JEROME KHATTAR: Imagining Visual Scenes

Back in November Paris-based guitarist and songwriter Jerome Khattar launched his debut EP ‘Resurrection,’ and recently we had the title song off of the EP featured on the Progotronics 29 compilation. Jerome answered our questionnaire. Read more below.

Define the mission of your project.

This EP was an experiment I wanted to try to blend film music with progressive rock/metal to target the video game and Japanese anime markets. I want to find a good middle ground between being a performing artist and a visual media composer.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your debut EP “Resurrection.”

During my last semester at Berklee College of Music at the end of 2016, I had an injury in the ulnar nerve of my left arm due to over-playing guitar, which resulted having to stop playing for about 8 months. This was a really difficult time for me, but it inspired me to write the early sketches of “Resurrection”.

Concerning the process itself, my motivation to write comes from an idea, an image, a feeling and not necessarily from music. Then I usually find myself writing a melody, a motif that I will build the song around.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

Well, I have written and tabbed all the guitars and bass music which I intend to make available soon. Concerning the orchestral arrangements, I must look through my notes and my Cubase sessions, I usually use the music sheet only when I need to look at certain voicings or such… Right now, I do not see myself releasing the sheet for the full score, but it could be possible if there is interest.

Jerome Khattar - Resurrection

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

I wrote the music whilst imagining a visual scene. I believe the music will have a greater impact when backed by a visual media.

Describe the approach to recording the EP.

I recorded all guitars in my room with my Mesa Boogie Mark V. The drums played by my friend Matthieu Danesin were recorded at The Black Pearl Studio in Toulouse, France.

How long “Resurrection” was in the making?

This EP was made sporadically, I started it during my last semester at Berklee college of music at the end of 2016. I travelled a lot and was focusing on other projects since, and when I moved to Paris in 2019, I decided to have it mixed and mastered.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

I would say bands such as Dream Theater, Haken, or Tool amongst others. Film/TV composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer, Shunsuke Kikuchi (Dragon Ball Z), lastly, I must emphasize on the classical Arabic music composer such as Baligh Hamdi (Oum Kalthoum).

What is your view on technology in music?

Technology is always evolving and some of the software and plugins out there are really tools that feed your creativity as a composer. I am always on the lookout for new cool plugins, and always learning!

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

At this point I just hope that my music will resonate with some people and bring them an emotion whatever it might be. Eventually it would be a dream to collaborate with video game companies such as Ubisoft, Activision-Blizzard or anime companies such as Toei Animation amongst others of course.

What are your plans for the future?

Well as soon as this pandemic is over  I would like to book some shows in France and Europe if possible. In the meantime, I am writing some new material probably for a new EP. I will keep everyone posted on my website when the time comes!

Resurrection is out now; order it from Bandcamp. Follow Jerome Khattar on Facebook and Instagram.

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AVYAKTA: Devoid of Form

New Jersey’s experimental one-man band Avyakta is a brainchild of songwriter Jesse Agins, who back in April launched the debut album entitled ‘Somnium Chorus.’ Avyakta was recently part of the Progotronics 29 compilation, and Agins answered our questionnaire about his work, the album, and more.

Define the mission of Avyakta.

The word Avyakta is of Sanskrit origin that roughly translates to “devoid of form,” in other words something without limits. I’ve been in numerous bands that wanted to “sound like this band or be this genre” and I didn’t want to do that again. I wanted to have a band (even though it’s just me) that is willing to write whatever sounds right for the song and doesn’t fit a mold of any particular genre or band. I suppose the mission is to constantly change and to try to not be write the same song over and over.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your debut album “Somnium Chorus.”

The songs on “Somnium Chorus” began when I was attending university for my undergraduate degree — part of which was studying music theory and composition. I knew that I wanted to explore a larger scale work so all of the songs ended up being in a variation of C minor (jazz minor, harmonic minor, etc.) or Eb Major in order to flow into the next song (or movement if you will). This was the first work where I’d written, played, recorded, edited, mixed, and mastered everything on my own so I got to do whatever I wanted. I knew what I wanted to hear, so I wrote out the scores and then during the demoing stage of recording I tried to let the songs breathe more, which, I feel, translates quite well in songs like “Dancing on the Waves.” It has an almost experimental vibe to it right in the middle. In the end, I put out the album that I wanted to hear and not what I thought would land me a record deal.

Although it’s an instrumental release, is there a certain message you are trying to give with “Somnium Chorus”?

Well, the title “Somnium Chorus” translates to something like “dream dance.” I had always dreamt of being able to put out an album I wasn’t just a part of, but was part of me, so when it came to naming it I could only describe it as “dancing with a dream” and the name stuck. Originally, I did intend to have singing on it, but I wasn’t comfortable enough with my voice to attempt it. That said though I found it had a poetry on its own without lyrics or singing; so I guess the message is “don’t ever compromise what you want to do for popularity points. Play the music you hear in your head and you’ll never be disappointed.”

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I wrote all of the songs out in scores/sheet music on Guitar Pro. I find the program’s functionality to be superior to others like Notion or Sibelius.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

As a matter of fact, it is. I envisioned the album to be one long piece separated into movements (or songs). It’s all written in variations of C minor with occasional modulations to other keys (except “The Fortune Teller” which is C Locrian). Each movement has its peaks and valleys with the overall aspiration of evolving into the next song.

Somnium Chorus

Describe the approach to recording the album.

It was a rather long and tedious process. Mapping all of the time signature changes and tempo changes, finding the right tone for each instrument, balancing them in the mix — these things take time that some people don’t get to experience because they’re not doing the whole album by themselves. It’s nice to get to know your craft on an intimate level though. I’m not much of a music engineer, but I knew what I wanted to hear so I spent a few hours each day obsessing over small details through each process until I was content. I’m not ashamed to admit that Axe Fx II made my life drastically easier when it came to developing tones. I think that was probably the trickiest part, but because I spent so long playing and rehearsing the songs before actually recording them I knew them inside and out. Additionally, I think one of the more fun aspects was really experimenting with the space I left myself to improvise (i.e., the Sax solo in “An Ominous Oracle”).

How long “Somnium Chorus” was in the making?

I spent about three years writing and then it took me another year to save up to buy my “studio” equipment, by which I mean a Mac desktop, Axe fx II, studio monitors, Logic Pro, and a nice 5-string bass. Once I had everything in place to record it took me another three months to set up and record everything. When everything was finally recorded it took me another three months — give or take — to edit, mix, and master everything. It’s hard when you’re working full-time and going to university full-time, but it was really worth it and I’m not sure, given the chance, I would have had it any other way.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

It’s funny, because I can tell you what I was listening to when writing it, but I wouldn’t compare the record (or my “sound”) to any of those bands/musicians. At least I don’t think it sounds like them — but leave that for the listeners, right? Some of my favorite groups are King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Yes, Between the Buried and Me, Cardiacs, Opeth, Cynic, Porcupine Tree, The Mars Volta, The Human Abstract (but only Nocturne-era), Univers Zéro, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, Bela Bartok, The Aristocrats, Miles Davis, Dead Kennedys, Paco de Lucia, Converge, The Gift of Gab. I like a little bit of everything.

What is your view on technology in music?

I mean, all music is technology, isn’t it? Short of hearing it in person music is digital if you’re listening to it on your phone, or computer. Personally, I find that the more technology advances the more interesting results can be achieved. On a more personal level, I find that as a fan of “progressive” music the only way to keep music progressive is to do as the definition of the word indicates and keep moving forward. Don’t do what someone else has done — that’s not progressive. Take what someone else has done, let it influence you, and play what you hear. It will yield more interesting outcomes. There are two tracks in particular on the album that are what I would consider “soundscaping” (“That Which Lies Beyond” and “Petrichor”) where I don’t play guitar, bass, or drums and only utilize different synth sounds — although I mess with the settings a great deal. Getting lost in the technology is a great way to find something previously unused.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

Well, much like any other craft I think that it speaks to the observer in its own way. Everyone experiences reality subjectively and as a result it’s likely that people with different experiences and backgrounds may perceive things in different ways than others. Personally I’d love to hear what others thought — especially of the artwork — but I’m always open to discussion. I hopewhat people take away from Avyakta is that music (or one’s craft in general) is a door and that door can take you wherever you want to go if you follow it and let it move you. Defy convention; play freely; create what you want to experience in life.

What are your plans for the future?

For starters, the next Avyakta record is completely recorded. I just have to go back and fix some things, followed by the grueling process of editing, mixing, and subsequently mastering. I’m also in grad school right now getting my master’s degree in Information and Library Science. When I’m not working, in school, or writing music I enjoy reading (mostly analytical or comparative literature, but I’m also a fan of fiction — I’ve read Lord of the Rings eleven times and Salem’s Lot five times), playing board games (especially RPGS), learning new things (lectures and podcasts are favorites of mine), and cooking new and delicious vegan meals! So hopefully plenty of all that in the future. Cheers!

Somnium Chorus is available from Bandcamp. Follow Avyakta on Facebook and Instagram.

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REFRAME: Positive Outlook

Memphis, TN-based progressive rock band ReFrame recently re-released their 2019 album “Reaching Revery” via Italian label Luminol Records. Following the feature on Progotronics 28 compilation, the band members answered our questionnaire about their work, the album, and more. 

Define the mission of ReFrame.

Phil Berger (guitar): As a group of musicians we all come from different musical influences and stylistic backgrounds with some common ties. The mission/goal was to find a way to bring those influences together in a unique way. A freedom that existed in the 70′s with all the original Progressive rock and fusion bands. While still writing a song that hopefully is accessible to all listeners. It’s a fine line of what works to please the musical ego, what appeals to common listeners and what stays true to the overall band aesthetic.

Ed Johnson (bass): To write music that we genuinely enjoy and to share it with anyone who wants to listen!

Drew McFarlane (keyboards): Personally, I don’t like to think that we need to have a mission to do what we do. With this group especially, we are not actively going out to deliver some type of message or convert anybody to some sort of theme. We come together to create something special to us that carries a piece of ourselves in it. If that speaks to people on an introspective level, then I can definitely say that I am proud of that, but that comes more from the fact that people have connected to something personal that we have built here instead of thinking of it as a task that we have accomplished. I really think that we’re just some dudes playing music, and that is my favorite part of this family.

David L.J. George (vocals):  As I see it, our common mission seems to be the creation of music that we enjoy, expressing ourselves through our music. As an artist, I personally, want to  touch people with my art and elicit some sort of response. Art is meant to touch you, and how it touches you is up to you, the individual.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your new album “Reaching Revery” and the themes it captures.

Phil Berger: Some of these songs at least in a bare bones sense have been around for a long time…the intro riff to And The Light Shall Lie has been kicking around for a long, long time, Fearless Pt. 1. has been around for a few years as well in a very different arrangement, Some of the riffs in Head In My Sand and I Want To Be More, came around in the very early writing for this album but then some things such as most of F.E.A.R., April Showers, Invisible Gardener and The Unbegun that came around once we were heavily into the writing stages.

April Showers, Drew McFarlane our Keyboardist wrote mostly on his own including the lyrics.

Musically a lot of the other ideas came about from writing sessions I had and would then present to the guys everyone would get their ideas together and we would track from there.

Musically, The intro to F.E.A.R. was written and gifted to us by John Clancy (The Cigarettes) and Philo Cramer(Fear) which Joe Murphy wrote lyrics for.

As far as the lyrical themes, Joe Murphy started writing lyrics based on some thematic discussions we had spoken about after the first batch of songs were written. As the songs started fully forming we started talking about making it a concept album and we started finding the thematic threads to do that. F.E.A.R. was originally supposed to end the whole thing and it ended up becoming the intro and the Focal point of the first chapter of our characters story…the idea of a character suffering from multiple personality disorders and the delusions and disappointments a character who loses everything before the second half of the story starting with The Unbegun, where he begins building his life back up. All the way till the end of Invisible Gardener where the character is running through the streets rejoicing regardless of the losses he has endured or the pain he has felt.

ReFrame - I Want to Be More_HI

Ed Johnson: The general song structures and storyline were already established by Phil prior to my joining, but he gave me free reign when it came to my parts.  And on several occasions, parts were moved or outright changed.  There were multiple times where we went back to the studio to redo some things.  In terms of my bass lines, I kept a strong focus on dynamics and keeping the emotions of the song in the forefront.  In places where there was more sonic space, I tried to push myself to fill that space with equal emphasis on technicality and musicianship.  Tapping is cool and all, but not when there’s fifteen other things going on.

Drew McFarlane: The creative process behind “Reaching Revery” is almost in its entirety an experiment. It was our first project as a cohesive group, and it really captures that idea to me. The songs on the album are each incredibly unique, and that comes from us all wanting to try a lot of new ideas and see what worked and what didn’t. We finally found a group that we could bounce ideas off of and try new things with. On top of that, we were all across the world, so most of our communication and idea sharing was done over various forms of media, giving us each the freedom to sit and put a good amount of thought into how we wanted to put our own personal touch on the songs.

David L.J. George:  I came into the band after the first version of the album had been finished. The album we just released is very different from the original recordings I came in knowing. The entire process was an evolution for the sound. Things were recorded then emailed back and forth between band members.

What is the message you are trying to give with “Reaching Revery”?   

Phil Berger: Reaching Revery as a concept album was designed to show how a person, no matter how fractured, how bruised can develop a positive outlook. Everyone has endured loss, whether it’s a family member, a close friend, a pet, and we have all been faced with how we feel we should deal with that loss, whether in the moment or in the long term. So we were hoping to be able to appeal to the idea that we all share this sense of loss and how we as human beings, have the power to pull ourselves out of that, we have the power to let people know, that we are all walking this road together, take my hand we can make it through together. It might be a fairly hippie-like belief but I think that it’s very valid today with everything we’ve been going through in the world.

Ed Johnson: There is an overarching storyline that follows the tracks, and my takeaway from the story is that redemption is always possible, no matter how hopeless the situation.

Drew McFarlane: It is difficult to pinpoint one exact message in the overarching story of the album, but I think my biggest takeaway from it is the idea of personal redemption. The character in the story goes through A LOT of taxing experiences, but the big message in the outro is one of liberation and freedom in one’s own self.

Reframe Image 4

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

Phil Berger: Well some of the riffs have been around a long time. I have always recorded new ideas on my phone or before that an old tape recorder. I have a music memo app on my phone that has several dozen ideas…and when the right piece comes along i’ll pull one of those out. Sometimes I have riff ideas that I write out musically so everyone can be on the same page for a really challenging part. There’s a few riffs and song structures that were meant for the Reaching Revery album that were never finished for various reasons. But for the most part we’re starting fresh this time!!.

Ed Johnson: We all kept scratch recordings, physical notes, and digital tabs/staff notation during the initial learning process.  During the modifications and “post-hoc” writing, it was much more freeform.  Somebody would try something new, and if we liked it, we would change as needed, and there wasn’t much in the way of documentation.  It was just how we played the song after that.

Drew McFarlane: Not very well, I’ll admit. When we started the process, I was still very green in the music world, so I was not as well practiced in the art of “write down what you do.” I joke a lot about never playing the same thing twice, but it was regrettably true for quite some time. Most of my “documentation” was hastily scribbled notes in whatever notebook I could find. However, over the years of making this album, I started to learn from those around me and began making much more of an effort to document all of the ideas and parts I was working on. The big difference was when I was able to put together a much better studio space, complete with a recording device with better sound quality than my cell phone. After that point, the writing and creating process became much more organized.

David L.J. George: Music was documented by recording after writing lyrics and chord charts.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?  

Phil Berger: Yes very much so. We spent a lot of time making sure there were transition and musical ideas that would help these songs make cohesive sense. Stronger Than Death to April Showers and back to Stronger Than Death with the newscast and the sound of the car crash was an experiment in the studio that we’ve definitely put a lot of thought into. Strauss to Head In My Sand with the really spacey interlude was definitely an idea that we borrowed from Hans Zimmer and Pink Floyd of course. Fearless to I Want To Be More was always planned to flow into each other. Although if you listen to All Yours and Invisible Gardener and Fearless Pt. 3: Coda, they borrow themes and riffs from Fearless and I Want To Be More. F.E.A.R. is full of thematic and dynamic pieces to flow together to make a 32  minute song hopefully enjoyable on multiple listens

Ed Johnson: I’d say it very much is.  For the most part, all of us tend to rise and fall in unison, with the exception being during certain softer solos where one of us will take the dynamic lead and the others drop nearly out.  But as a whole, definitely.  This is one of the first bands I’ve played with where the final recording doesn’t look like a straight up rectangle.  Real waveforms have curves!

Drew McFarlane: Definitely. We spent countless hours talking about where specific songs and parts of the album should go and working them to fit together, not unlike a big puzzle. We wanted a nice flow between the softer moments and the heavier ones on the album in order to play with the tension and overall emotional tug. We also put a lot of thought into the idea of the cadence of each song leading smoothly into the beginning of the next one, in terms of both time and key signatures. If a song ended in E Major, we wanted it to transition smoothly to a key that made sense out of that one. On top of that, we interweaved songs together to carry the bigger picture.

David L.J. George: There’s a specific story that goes with this concept album. So the dynamic flow is quite carefully architected.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

Phil Berger: Well after a false start at one studio, we met Jason Gillespie of Exothermic Productions, who has worked with Maynard James Keenan of Puscifer, and Saving Abel as well as been nominated for a grammy. Musically, We started preproduction with him and spent the majority of 2018 refining the songs that originally made up Reaching Revery(minus F.E.A.R.) passing recordings back and forth to Australia for the lyrics and vocals to be worked on by Joe Murphy, In mid 2019 we recorded the album as you hear it now. We began working on F.E.A.R. in hopes to get it on the album. But we were definitely hitting a roadblock lyrically we felt this song needed to be on the album to complete the story that we wanted to tell. So Jason and myself started brainstorming on what the story of the song would be and between Jason and David L.J. George(ReFrame’s current vocalist) we were able to put together a solid story and hopefully a cohesive song.

Ed Johnson: In short, I’m just the bass player.  In long, Jason and Phil kind of took the lead there.  There was tons of creativity on display from an engineering perspective.  From layered tracks, to simultaneous stereo tracking with different amps, there was plenty to experience.  Jason Gillespie really knocked it out of the park.

Drew McFarlane: It was very interesting for me. The main process of it was that one of us would come up with an idea and find some way to record it. We would then send it to the group, and it would be built upon by each of us individually until we had a whole song. Until recently, some of the tracks had never been played by the entire group at the same time. They started as a simple skeleton of a song, and we would each individually build on it and build on it until we had a complete, cohesive track that we were proud of.

David L.J. George: As I was added to the band in Late summer of 2019, the majority of the recording was completed.

How long “Reaching Revery” was in the making?

Phil Berger: I believe this album for the most part can be dated to 2016 when Drew McFarlane(Keys), Joe Murphy(Lyricist/Vocals) Ed Johnson(Bass) and myself really started working on getting these songs together. Some ideas may date further back but that’s when things really strated to come together.
Ed Johnson: YEARS.  Exactly how many, I’m not quite sure. I believe we’re coming up on five?

Drew McFarlane: A very, very long time. We have had many different versions of the tracks over the years, and each one was completely different from the last. Some of the riffs and ideas have even been over ten years in the making, just sitting on the tips of our fingers, waiting for the right group to come along that we felt could turn that riff into the song that we wanted it to be.

David L.J. George: The entire project is the brainchild of our guitar player. He came up with the concept years before we met.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

Phil Berger: I mentioned two earlier, Hans Zimmer, and Pink Floyd, but for me there are so many I Will keep it down to the primary influences on my songwriting and guitar playing. Alex, Geddy and Neil from RUSH will always be HUGE influences on my overall approach to music, as well as TOOL, Songwriting wise and production wise, Peter Gabriel’s solo work is a huge thing for me, I would always bug Jason to use the Peter Gabriel Delay not just on Vocals but on overall production as well. Queen is a huge part of my songwriting and guitar playing as is John Petrucci and Dream Theater. Neal Morse and his solo band especially(Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Bill Hubauer and Eric Gillette) But it could be any of Neal’s projects he;s just such an incredibly talented musician and a very gifted songwriter, no matter my mood, hearing Neal sing puts a smile on my face. Same goes for Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree is again an insanely talented songwriter. Kevin Gilbert of Toy Matinee, a true talent that was taken from us WAY too soon,  KIng Crimson, Gentle Giant, Styx, Genesis, YES. and  I could go on, John Williams, Metallica, Tori Amos, Haken, etc…etc..

Ed Johnson: Personally, I always tend to draw from Primus, Tool, Victor Wooten, among others.  As a group, Rush and Dream Theater are certainly major influences.

Drew McFarlane: I had many influences on the album, and it seemed like each song had a different touch of influence in it. From Dream Theater and Haken in FEAR, Nightwish and Andrew Lloyd Webber in the Unbegun, Journey and Elton John in All Yours, John Clancy and Yes in I Want To Be More, and so many more.

Matt Sweatt: I take heavy inspiration from Vinnie Colaiuta, Mitch Mitchell, and some Tony Williams. Those guys are my drum heroes, and each one is so unique you could study them for years and still be craving more knowledge.

David L.J. George: I have been influenced by many artists and bands. Quite literally from the classical genre to jazz, country, blues, rock. David Bowie, James Taylor, Eric Johnson, Malford Milligan, Jussi Bjorling, Stxy, Rush, Genesis, Boston, Radney Foster, Monte Montgomery. My taste is extremely eclectic. I feel that good music is just that, Good Music.

What is your view on technology in music?

Phil Berger: I think it has a very important place in music, but it’s a very fine edge of what’s technology enhancing music and what’s technology taking over and replacing the human element that is so important to make music a visceral and powerful thing. So much music these days is recorded and edited and not being released the way the musician intended it. Beat detective, Auto Tune etc…all great tools to enhance but easily abused.

Ed Johnson: Well that’s an awfully deep question, and I’m not sure if I brought my lifevest!  But let’s see, in terms of listening?  I think streaming services have more Pros than Cons against them.  Money paid to artists from listens has undoubtedly dropped, but exposure to people who would have never heard them has skyrocketed.  I think the accessibility of music nowadays should not go unappreciated.  In terms of creating?  Technology can enable solo acts to create much more fuller experiences than they ever could without it.  Whether this is good or bad is a point of contention.  Personally, I’m of the mind that if you can’t play it live, don’t put it on the album, but I’m not going to tell others what to do, or what is good, or what is bad.  Art is art.  In terms of recording?  Again, kind of a grey area.  Engineers can spend 1/10th the money they would have on plugins as opposed to the original equipment and get a similar sound.  Is it the same?  Maybe not.  But here I’m going to say that enabling the masses to create and record quality music should never be a bad thing.

In short, it depends on the context, who is making it, who they are making it for, and why.

Drew McFarlane: It is very much a double-edged blade. As a keyboard player who lives three hours away from his closest bandmate, I love what technology has allowed me to do. I would not be able to do what I do without the technology that I am lucky enough to have. But, some people abuse the power that has been handed to them and overuse it in music-making to a detrimental level.

Matt Sweatt: I welcome technology in music: as long as we don’t become overly reliant on technology, which I think we as musicians are beginning to become. I think there’s an element of excessive perfectionism in music now, which ironically reduces the artistic value of music in my opinion.

David L.J. George: I’m really enjoying the evolution of musical technology. In many ways, the increase of technology in music has spurred some real creativity and I admire that a great deal. There are however, still some techniques from years gone by, that prove to be quite effective.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

Phil Berger: I hope someone listening to a ReFrame song somewhere feels some greater connection to one of our songs, like I do to songs that I love. That’s what music to me is for. To inspire those moments when the hair all over your body stands up, the tears well up in your eyes, you are singing along at the top of your lungs, I hope someone can find that in a ReFrame song like I have in so many others.

Ed Johnson: I would hope so, but I won’t be able to say what that is.  Music is very subjective, and if a listener can create meaning on top of what is there that helps them, then I am all for it!  I hope the purpose we as a band provide, is to give listeners a lush escape from the craziness of the world.

Drew McFarlane: Yes, it has connected me to so many new people whom I never would have met if I have not followed the path that I did. The bonds that I make with the people in my life are some of the most important influences on me, and I have met so many wonderful and inspiring people through my musical career. This music has connected me to them, and I could not be happier about that.

Matt Sweatt: Our music is a tool, just like every other piece of music. People use music for all sorts of things, whether it be emotional, spiritual, so on and so forth. So I see our music serving whatever purpose people want or need it to.

David L.J. George: I am honestly hoping that our music has a positive effect on people. Music is supposed to stir some sort of emotion in you. I think our music is there do just that.

What are your plans for the future?

Phil Berger: Well some of those plans right now are being dictated in what the future is with this pandemic, we definitely all want to be able to get out and support this album by playing shows and sharing these songs with people in a live setting. We have a few surprises we’re working up. Some new things, some covers for fun, maybe something for the holidays. We’re trying to get some really cool musical embers flaring up.

Ed Johnson: Well, I certainly plan to keep breathing, playing, cooking, and sleeping!  If I can quit my day job, that’s great.  If not, then that’s great, too.  Because at the end of the day, I’ve already won by creating something I love with people I love even more.

Drew McFarlane: To rock on, my dude.

Matt Sweatt: Music all the way.

David L.J. George: Once the World opens back up and it is safe to have concerts once again, we are hoping to go out on the road and continue to create music together as long as we can.

Follow ReFrame on Facebook and Instagram.

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Italian neo-progressive rock act Notturno Concertante has been active for over 35 years, with their debut album “The Hiding Place” released by Musea in 1989. The group’s newest release is this year’s “Let Them Say” out via Luminol Records. The group recently took part on our Progotronics 28 compilation, and about the new release keyboardist and songwriter Lucio Lazzaruolo speaks for Prog Sphere.

Define the mission of Notturno Concertante.

Playing to have fun, to grow musically, hoping to find people who are mentally open, not anchored to more or less outdated patterns.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your new album “Let Them Say” and the themes it captures.

Often the pieces are born from an individual idea, which is then enriched by the contribution of the other composers. Most of the time we have a rough idea of how the piece could evolve, but not infrequently the pieces can change direction during the recording phase, so that within the same song you can listen to various musical references (rock, jazz , world, etc.), depending on how taste dictates, trying to assemble everything with balance.

What is the message you are trying to give with “Let Them Say”?

If you are referring to the title it is a sort of invitation, also addressed to ourselves, to continue on your way, without being too influenced by what others say. In this regard, a phrase of an Italian writer often comes to mind: “Don’t give me advice, I can make mistakes on my own”. The phrase Let them say, in short, refers both to music and to the life of each of us.

Notturno Concertante - Let Them Say - HI

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

There is generally a starting idea, which can be a sequence of chords, a melodic idea around which the piece is built, in a very empirical way. There are additions or subtractions of parts. Not infrequently we play the pieces live and then gradually introduce corrections or new parts. I think it all happens flexibly. In the end we let ourselves be guided a lot by our musical instinct, if we can define it that way.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

I guess so. All our music focuses on a careful balancing of the structures and the single parts that compose it. Obviously, the work of replaying and reworking is fundamental and no less important is the mixing of the tracks, to ensure that all the components emerge clearly, without suffocating the others.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

Many songs were born on the classical guitar, then loops, samples, parts played with acoustic instruments were added. As I said, during the recording phase, significant changes were sometimes made compared to the original drafts or to what we initially had in mind. Furthermore, we have been able to count on the contribution of very good soloists who have provided added value to our compositions.

How long “Let Them Say” was in the making?

It took some time, especially since we can’t devote ourselves full time to music. In Italy with a certain type of musical proposal, moreover instrumental, it is difficult to have a great response and therefore to be able to live from one’s music. Let’s say that very calmly, in five to six years we have completed the album. The final part was carried out, obviously at a distance, during the lockdown period.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

There is not only one influence, but quite a lot, I would say. At the beginning certain influences on our music were quite clear, we really liked English progressive rock (mostly the Genesis of the Gabriel era and King Crimson), just to understand. In reality we still like that music now, but for some time we have been trying to propose a more personal discourse, which takes into account various influences and re-elaborates them in a personal way. I listen to a little bit of everything, classical music (which I also sometimes play), jazz, rock, world, etc.

What is your view on technology in music?

Is critical. It has allowed us to do a work that I think sounds pretty good, at an affordable price. I think technology has brought about a kind of democratization for musicians: today it is much cheaper to make products of a certain quality. We have our own small studio where we record a bit of everything. However, the other phases of the album creation (mixing and mastering) were carried out in professional studios.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

We would love to, but I think the time for messages in music is over. The only message is to try to capture people’s attention with what we do, because sometimes music needs to be listened more carefully.

What are your plans for the future?

I collaborate with Giovanna Iorio, an Italian writer based in London. For her I made various soundtracks of some installations in various parts of the world.
As Notturno Concertante we are at a fair point with the realization of another instrumental disc, which will be very different from Let them say. It will be based on two classical guitars and drums. We are already presenting these new pieces in some concerts. Maybe this time in a couple of years there could be a new cd of the Notturno Concertante. Fingers crossed…

Let Them Say is out now via Luminol Records.

The post NOTTURNO CONCERTANTE: Musical Growth appeared first on Prog Sphere.

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