This month, I have some words for three different albums that I have been musing over for some time. They are quite different from each other, entirely different genres, even. But they all share one thing in common: I just don’t have much to say about them, but they deserve some attention.
I have to apologize to bands like Canvas. I’ve lost interest in their brand of progressive alternative rock, much like The Mariana Hollow from earlier this year. I don’t know how long my brain is going to feel this way, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with what they are doing. Their new album “Portrait”, released on May 17th, and it has all the distortion and emotion you could want.
The band comes to us from Costa Rica, which you will notice in the vocals. The band includes Adriana Muñoz on vocals, Andres Corrales on keys, Estefanía Badilla on bass, Felipe Cartín on drums, J.C. Zuniga on guitars and backing vocals, and Oscar Lopez on lead guitar.
As expected, the music is pretty straightforward with some quirky bits and some nice keyboard atmospheres. I think the keys are my favorite part of the whole experience. It’s honestly nothing I haven’t heard a hundred times already, but it is played well and there are moments that really grab your attention, such as the driving second half of “The Gift”.
And that’s about all I have to say about it. If you like alternative rock with some progressive tendencies, then you know what this sounds like, and you will like this album, too. The Latin tone is definitely something that separates them, but it does not really make its way into the melodies all that much. Still, check them out.
Exit North is probably the more interesting band of these three. In fact, I rather like their new album, called “Book of Romance and Dust”, which released on April 12th. I’m afraid, though, that this style of music just doesn’t inspire many words for me, which isn’t surprising since it is so minimalist in presentation in the first place.
The band comes from London and Gothenburg, and you can hear influences from both cities. The band includes Ulf Jansson on piano and keys; Charles Storm on synth, guitars, bass, and voices; Steve Jansen on keys, drums, percussion, sound design (important here), and backing vocals; and Thomas Feiner on lead vocals, trumpet, piano, guitar, and harmonium.
Exit North makes music that moves at a snail’s pace, but is also poetic and lovely in stark fashion. Thomas’ vocals are quite deep in tone, and his annunciation is detailed and purposeful. The music that surrounds him is what I would call “post-prog”, being rather unorthodox, and using guitars and horns in unusual ways. It almost comes across as ambient at times, and sometimes it feels a bit like dirty jazz. Thomas’ voice, though, is the center of everything here.
The album is overall quite unnerving in how close and real it sounds, so the sound design is excellent. You will feel enveloped by this dark poetry, so much so that you might not want to listen to the album very often. It is definitely not the kind of music to blare in your car, though a nice evening with an exquisite wine and a vinyl copy spinning on my turntable does sound like a great way to spend my time. Those are the main feelings I come back with after hearing this album: I love it, but probably would not want to hear it very often, not unless I were in the right mood and no one was going to bother me for an hour. I have not decided if that is a compliment or not. Knowing me, that’s probably high praise.
I love Polish prog, I really do. I love the dark melancholy, the emotion, and even the accent. Some bands, though, end up just being a clone of other Polish bands that will go unnamed here, but the songs themselves just don’t impress with their actual composition. Pale Mannequin, unfortunately, is one of those bands. Their album “Patterns in Parallel” released back in March, and I just haven’t been able to fall in love with it.
The band here includes Tomasz Izdebski and Grzegorz Mazur on vocals and guitars, Dariusz Goc on bass, and Jakub Łukowski on drums. Notice, if you will, that there are two singers, but neither of them really have any presence, and so this band almost feels somewhat “frontless”, if you get my meaning. I think having a dynamic frontman could change things for them.
Yes, you will hear emotional guitar soloing, dark atmospheres, and bass-heavy grooves.; but most of it feels uninspired, and none of the songs really grab me. The vocals seem to be barely holding onto existence, lacking any sort of oomph or memorability. The players seem to be working together well, though, and that hints at potential for the future. Right now, they are just in the shadow of a dozen other Polish bands who they are obviously trying to emulate.
So, if you just cannot get enough Polish prog and you just absolutely love that sound, you may dig what Pale Mannequin is offering here. They do have all the standard elements. Unfortunately, I personally cannot really sit through the whole album any more.
Find Canvas online:
Find Exit North online:
Find Pale Mannequin online:
Thank you for the reviews. I was particularly interested in the Exit North musings as I have always been interested in Steve Jansen’s work over the years; and this does not disappoint. He is always seeming to explore, and with his new associates has discovered yet new sonic landscapes