Album Review Saturdays 2023 Episode 37

Lots to choose from, and on this Album Review Saturdays 2023 Episode 37 we hit a blistering hard rock blues album that doesn’t mind delivering longer old-school spaceaous tracks with harsh and familiar solos to drive you bluesy bananas!  Our Canadian inclusion, which I hinted at on Episode 7 of Albums from “the Leaf,” shares the same love of rock, but their 30 plus years of experience have led them to two amazing recordings that carefully balance their signature sound with new variety, vigor, and technical progression.  And then – a very sharp turn away from rock – into the solo piano works of a talented French pianist this channel has talked about already this year!  In fact, a band she’s involved in could make the Best 23 Albums of 2023!  So, we couldn’t deny her latest solo project, as we knew there would be no way it would be disappointing!  So, you’re ready for another Album Review Saturdays 2023, right?!  There’s not many left (although considering the over 800 releases, we could keep doing them into the year 2025)!

 

YouTube Album Review Saturdays 2023 Episode 37
[Complete with additional panelist review and thee (3) additional albums]

 

Ritual KingThe Infinite Mirror

When I saw the cover, and I had not partaken of their 2020 self-titled debut (oh yeah, it’s in my spreadsheet from that year, but completely blank…filling that in now), I had this space rock thought with probably some fantastic doom-like riffing that probably went a little hard at it.  Well, I wasn’t totally wrong, but by the end of the album, I’ve forsake all of that cover art and fallen in love with this hard doomy blues tapestry created by The Infinite Mirror.  Let’s start off with the fact that these boys might be the best hard rock stoner blues band this year!  Incredible competency in understanding the space required to structure and deliver a beast of this proportion.  Why am I saying this?  They are incorporating the riff of stoner rock, but they’re actually performing magical old-school guitar solos that have miles on them, carefully constructing 45 minutes meeting all kinds of standards and paces that make this album a magical flowing work of hard blues stoner rock with a progressive doom attitude — but careful not to take it, too far.

The title even reflects this.  It’s like they’re careful to see their own reaction to their playing, knowing when to bring it back to simple riff, slide, grooves or bluesy lick, which is so important and brilliant to the song, “Tethered” and it’s eleven minute technique-romp and doomish slow-roll.  They see the tempo and embrace it, but they realize it needs to breath some, as they know further into the mirror’s reflection there’s a crescendo coming that will be infinitely memorable if it has the chance to surface, surprise and engulf.  The lyrics and vocal are subtle statements, well thought out, and positioned to not take away from the musicianship that is slaughtering every minute of this 45’er!  The final crescendo lets the vocals reach and drive home the title track, and while I’m ear-motionally spent from the air-guitaring and rhythmic head droppin’ — I’m at it again!  Sonnovabitch let’s do that again!

Fuckin’ a to Ripple Music, who have taken 2023 and set it ablaze with consistently cool, engaging, and professional recordings!  Ritual King‘s The Infinite Mirror is a knock-out.  This album gets better as it moves forward, too, which isn’t usual in the music multiverse.  The guitar playing gets tighter, self-aware — better.  The vocals rise and reach — better.  The drumming intrigues and grooves — better.  The only knock I can see to this — is the genre and what it does to a band (in my novice opinion), it’s hard to develop a “signature sound,” but the more I’m listening to it, I’m certain the Manchester men know what they’re after!  And, if you could skip across the pond, and visit Rochester, NY and play with King Buffalo, we’d pay a King’s ransom to be tethered to a venue nearest there!

The Band

  • Jordan Leppitt – vocals, guitars
  • Dan Godwin – bass
  • Gareth Hodges – drums, vocals

The Infinite Mirror Tracklisting

  1. Flow State
  2. Words Divide
  3. Landmass
  4. Tethered
  5. The Infinite Mirror

 

 

Big Wreck – Pages (with forward by the album, 7.3)

I’m not a sucker for EP(s) that often.  Don’t get me wrong, if the band is assuring me that they’re not going to have these songs show up on their latest album, then I’m totally in, but if not… (I’m a collector and you’re costing me duplication, and I don’t appreciate it).  Of course, to be fair, EP(s) used to be shorter.  In the case of the latest album/EP(s) from Big Wreck this year, they’re sprawling compared to what an EP is traditionally!  Not only that, they’re sprawling in sound, creativity, and as always — in clear signatured delivery!  This is just to give you some context when I talk about 7.3, which is actually the third set of EP(s) to make one giant robot (sorry, strayed there for a minute), their seventh studio album, 7.  The last of the seven (I know you’re expecting a western reference, I’ll pass).  What 7.3 is, is five songs and 28 minutes, and it was released this year back in March, and there are (again) 5 strong alternative rock and even progressive rock songs which start with their signature tweaked opening riff and Ian Thornley’s commanding vocal, transporting us instantly to the feel of the In Loving Memory and Pleasure and the Greed.  But, as we know from these EP years of the band (COVID and recording industry induced I’m sure) they’re exploring things like slower alt-doom, ‘Fall Over,’ as well as loop and pop sensibilities within vocal and lyrical creativity.  Truly Sting and Gabriel-ish if you’re listening careful, eliminating the pulsing alternative sound in a refreshing breath or two, which we have heard in the past, and we all know how well that carries with that vocal.  I encourage anyone to seek out the entire set to complete, and that leads us to part two of this review — Pages.

Technically we’re just over the EP time here at 33 minutes, so I’m slightly thinking they’ve gone Weezer on me.  No.  When I see six songs, I realize were in the same wheelhouse of time and song construct, but what I didn’t know — they’re moving to some proggy elements here that quite possibly have been spawned in the aftermath of what was happening through the sevens (oh jeez, another potential western movie thing there – ha).  The gigantic ‘In Fair Light’ just hit me so hard with Tom Cochrane and Red Rider vibes that it had my attention from clever bridges, bass and echoing.  This was definitely miles above where they’ve been, but still hedging the power of Thornley’s vocal, but allowing more breath and instrumentalism — actually some dynamic, smart solos.  I’m grinning ear to ear, as I love it when bands step off a ledge and embrace something a little different.  And, they keep up that, pulling in a shift to a heavier alt position on ‘Bail Out’ maintaining his vocal signature, but stretching it to a rap/throaty approach while the guitars press.  Cool!  Further on we get a glammy pop-rock liner, ‘Summerlong’ (no not a cover of Emm Gryner – although you never know what Ian might do during live song breaks), we get a slower-groove, ‘Weightless’ and hip drum drops and harmony grooving Soundgarden-ian style, ‘White Lies’ that comes complete with some great lyrics.  We finish with what you think might be a Van Halen meets Huey Lewis & the News, but turns itself inside out into a ballad called ‘Bird of Paradise’ which finds that progressive side again, epically rocking it up back with the synths and his vocal, wrapping it up — for now.  What?!  Yep, this is another set of EP(s).

Okay, so — definitely worth the 33 minutes, and whatever’s to come is going to be just as worth it and probably then some!  However, boys — Mr. Thornley — we’re never going to be able to get you in the top albums of the year — if you keep doing albums this way!  Hello?  Mr Thornley?  He doesn’t care.  And they shouldn’t.  As a huge fan of what they’ve done throughout their career(s) for this band name, they’re currently at the top of their game with a killer catalog.  And, if they chose to add to it every year or nine to ten months — I’m so freakin’ cool with that!  BUT — I’m not buying the final product until it’s completed.  Sound fair?!  Mr. Thornley, “Yes, Mark, that sounds very fair.  We’ll even send you a signed copy.”   Cool! Wait!  Mr. Thornley?  Damnit!  I wanted to ask him what the hell they’re going to call the forthcoming albums if this was Pages.  (My marketing mind at work — ‘More Pages’  — ‘Additional Pages’ — ‘Pages II’ — ‘Pages III’ — ‘Jimmy Pages’ — ‘Ellen Pages’ — ‘Steven Pages’ — wait I see the “1” now — oh man is that a little light or what — ya got me there).

The Band

  • Ian Thornley – vocals, guitars, keyboards
  • Dave McMillan – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Chris Caddell – guitar, backing vocals
  • Sekou Lumumba – drums, percussion

Pages Tracklisting

  1. In Fair Light
  2. Bail Out
  3. Summerlong
  4. Weightless
  5. White Lies
  6. Bird of Paradise

 

Christine Ott – Eclats (Piano Works)

A mistress of the keys, French composer, violinist, ondist and pianist (along with violin as well), Christine Ott, is captain of her ship, seated comfortably behind the grande instrument that has ruled the world in intimate, passionate, and evocative sound since it’s conception.  And the minute Eclats begins, you are aware of all of that audio finger movement beauty.  You know not where it comes from, but she does.  Eclats by definition is with brilliant display or effect.  Well, nail – head on all twelve strictly piano driven works that seem to intertwine pieces of past (both in homage to scoreful, visual compositions of soundtrack nature, but also within her own material).  These connections give us familiarity that bridges us from technical aspect to more of a journey on full hopeful and empathetic display.

Eclats‘ offering comes at the skillful dexterity and weighted brilliance of the maestro’s compression and decompression touch.  When you have the tones of ‘Veritgo’ and ‘Rachel’ tickling, dancing in thrilling composition, but then move to the heavy and demanding ‘Die Jagd Nach dem Glück’ one is very aware of the controlled passion surging effortlessly from Ott’s visual mind to the digits positions and muscle contractions soundfully portraying it all.  As has been said in many a blog, regarding this album, it’s absolutely gorgeous from start to finish without a solitary note spared across the ivories or the time table represented.  Ms. Ott continues to wow at the helm in any kind of audio sea, electronic or acoustic, trouble or calm, mind and fingers at the ready — all ahead full.

Please also check out her band and album, The Cry, too as it is another stunning achievement his year in music!  You can check out our “What’s In Your Ear – Episode 6” where I talk about it.

The band

  • Christine Ott – Composer, Piano(s)

Eclats (Piano Works) Tracklisting

  1. Pluie d’arbres
  2. Etreintes
  3. Lunes Orientales
  4. Golden Valley
  5. Vertigo
  6. Rachel
  7. Die Jagd Nach dem Glück
  8. Vulcano
  9. Beautiful Sadness
  10. Melancolia
  11. Clouds of Dreams
  12. Amours étoilés
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