Sunday, 22 November 2020

Log #217 - Splashdown (Into the Ocean from the Stratosfear)

Eddy Bamyasi

After the success of Lateralus last week I doubled down with TOOL's most recent album Fear Inoculum.

Invincible sounds very much like Rush with the picked guitar and latter period Geddy Lee like vocals.

7empest is epic and the opener is very powerful.

The drumming is obviously very busy and front of mix in this style of full on nu-metal and the guitars are generally of the chugging variety - not an awful lot of soloing even in such lengthy songs.

Could it be a bit samey after a while? Not so far, plenty to enjoy here, and I think I even prefer this album to Lateralus. These boys should go far.

Tool - Lateralus
Tool
 - Fear Inoculum
Tangerine Dream - Stratosfear
The Enid - Aerie Faerie Nonsense
Eloy - Ocean
Van Morrison - Into The Music

I was slightly disappointed with Stratosfear though coming as it did (1976) slap bang in the middle of TANGERINE DREAM's "heyday". It doesn't seem to develop their sound much and gives me the impression of treading water with "random" synth melodies over trademark pulses. 

The title track which kicks off the album is one of the band's most commercial pieces with a predictable melody and one of those Edgar Froese guitar solos which sound a bit random to me without adding anything to a track.

I respect their synthesizer textures in theory, but these guys should leave the accessibility to Kraftwerk. When they program in received semiclassical melodies and set the automatic drummer on 'bouncy swing,' the result is the soundtrack for a space travelogue you don't want to see.

Robert Christgau 

Stratosfear points the way towards the more developed rock sound TD would master on Force Majeure 3 years later.

Years ago I had an album by English classical prog group THE ENID called Six Pieces (1980). I can't remember much about it apart from it didn't really grab me (by definition presumably). 

Aerie Faerie Nonsense was the group's second album released in 1977. It's an oddity. It actually sounds like symphonic classical pop music (the emphasis on pop meaning the music is awash with upbeat melodies). I can't even tell if they actually recorded with an orchestra (there doesn't seem to be a mention of this in the sleeve notes but it certainly sounds like it). Other than that the music centres around founder keyboardist Robert John Godfrey, with some rock guitar and drums, but it's mostly orchestral and entirely instrumental (the slimmed down parts consisting of just a conventional rock band appeal to me more than the overblown orchestral flourishes). 

There are moments that remind me of some of Camel's instrumental work, especially The Snow Goose. Perhaps this was the sort of music the naff instrumental "supergroup" Sky were striving for?

Apparently some of their albums did have vocals and I'll source one of them before filing the group away in the "tried that once" drawer.

The ELOY album is more to my liking. This German prog rock band is, surprisingly, new to me. Of course I've heard the name but this is the first time I've ever heard any of their music... and it's pretty good. 

It isn't massively new or different - many comparisons to Nektar and Pink Floyd can be made (and Grobschnitt too but I'm undecided if that is just because of the vocals), but nevertheless Ocean (their 6th album, also from 1977) is excellent at what it does and can take its place proudly among the offerings of those 2 (or 3) contemporary prog bands.

Both Eloy and The Enid are still going in various forms. Two bands I'd mixed up together in my mind's eye (most likely just because of the similar names, as the actual music is quite different).

VAN MORRISON is currently my second favourite artist (as judged by frequency of plays in my CD player!). However I am yet to hear all of his albums and at my age time may be running out (I should at least commit to hearing everything up to the end of the '80s). I came to Into The Music (his 1979 offering) after reading an album ranking that, surprisingly, put this at No.1.

There is no doubt that Van, as always, has a crack band behind him as they race through these jaunty tunes - both of the string (Astral Weeks template) and brass (Moondance template) variety, often employed together in these tracks.  

I prefer Astral Weeks to Moondance and generally therefore like his stringy folky albums (like Veedon Fleece) more than his souley brassy ones (more prevalent in the '80s and beyond). In fact the strings on this album remind me of the raw fiddle playing of Scarlet Rivera from Bob Dylan's superb Desire album especially on one of my Van favourites the life affirming And The Healing Has Begun, albeit they do dip into The Chieftains territory on one or two of the lighter weight songs..

He's in fine voice too, a little more age and gravel, supplemented by abundant choir.

Into The Music is a good "later period" more commercial Van album, but certainly not his best.


About The Author

Eddy Bamyasi

Eddy is a music writer from Brighton, England, named after a Can record. Each Sunday he logs and reviews the albums that happen to be in his vintage Pioneer 6-CD magazine changer, amongst other things.

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