The first couple months of 2020 there has been an absolute deluge of new releases, and there is no way I can give full reviews to all of them. So, this month, I came across three albums that are fairly similar in approach, so I thought it might be a good idea to put them together. If you like the spacier side of instrumental prog, you will be right at home here.
Whenever I come across a new band from Poland, I get excited. Phosphere consists of a duo, Barbara Prążyńska on bass and Sylwia Urban on guitar, glockenspiel, and vocals (this is mostly an instrumental affair, though). From what I can tell, this duo has tons of potential.
“Blue Butterfly” is officially an EP with 4 songs. The music is bass-heavy and quite groovy, with ponderous moments and a lush sound. You will hear vocals on “Collapse” only. I would call what they offer “progressive rock”, yes, but acoustic guitars are more important than electric here. It can come across as a little “noodly” at times, but the atmosphere and the bluesy vibe really amount to something attractive.
Overall, this is a nice EP. It flies by quickly at only about 19 minutes in length, but it sounds pleasant and soothing. I think the band could work on more climactic or colorful compositions for their first full album, and time will tell if they can handle that or not. That would be my major complaint: a lack of truly arresting compositions, despite the fact the music is absolutely enjoyable and even beautiful. I think Phosphere has some tricks up their sleeve, though, and I think this EP gives us a glimpse of that budding talent.
Feather is a musical project from Anthony Stinson of France. “Convalescence” is a really mature and spacious work that reveals Anthony as an up-and-coming writer in the prog community. His music combines contemporary progressive rock (think Plini) with cinematic soundscapes (think Hans Zimmer). In fact, I would say that Feather really leans into the cinematic experience wholeheartedly, and so you will hear grand vistas of keys and evocation, albeit with lush and deliberate guitar licks.
I think “Welcome Everywhere”, the opening track, is a good example of this. This song muses and wanders among the cinematic stars, and the guitars are tasteful and simple. It really is an inviting track, one that makes you want to continue with the album.
But then “Borealis” speeds things up a bit, falling into the djent realm to some extent. Still, melody is always the flavor of the day, and soul is the driving factor in the performances. Much of the album plays like this with quiet fervor and soaring ideals. “Dream in Void” would be another example of this, as it perfectly combines weighty moments of texture and burgeoning potential energy with kinetic guitar fire and driving rhythms.
“Convalescence” is an amazing debut for Anthony. The album offers truly towering beacons of power mixed with a quietly brilliant atmosphere. If he is capable of such a strong balance now, I cannot wait to see what he can produce in the future.
Joel Kent is a guitarist from Boston, MA. Much like Feather, his music leans into the more modern progressive rock/metal side of things, bordering on djent at times. “Ghost Ship” also offers some of that cinematic flair I crave, but it is found more in introspective piano compositions here. In fact, the piano is fantastic, and Joel combines it with hanging keys, and I could listen to that all day. “Harbour” is the opening track, and it really digs into that piano and keys style, almost like an eerie invitation to embark.
Joel’s style really reminds me of Plini, with is a compliment in my book. He is able to produce some really interesting guitar licks that feel passionate and meticulously crafted. Mixing that Plini sound with piano, then, only enhances the melody and atmosphere. “Downpour” is a great example of this, combining a hazy background with beautiful piano and guitars that even get a little gritty. Honestly, that song is, for lack of a better term, awesome.
“Ghost Ship” is an EP with only five songs, though it does last around 30 minutes. Joel visits various ideas and sounds in that short time, probably the most interesting being the quirky “Flower Hat”. Along the way, we are treated to several emotional guitar solos and plenty of pulsating muscle. Joel has his head on straight, and I think we will see a strong debut album from him in the future.
Find Phosphere online:
Find Feather online:
Find Joel Kent online: