I cannot understand if “Manifesto of an Alchemist” is a Roine Stolt solo album or just a strange variation of The Flower Kings. It is credited to Roine Stolt’s The Flower King. I know this shouldn’t drive me nuts but it does. Regardless, this sounds like the Flower Kings, which works just fine for me. What makes it different is the use of musicians not from any TFK lineups: Marco Minnemann, Max Lorentz, Zach Kamins, Rob Townsend & Nad Sylvan. But it also includes TFK members (past and present): Jones Reingold, Hans Froberg & Michael Stolt.
Musically it does sound like Stolt but he also incorporates some other styles that maybe TFK wouldn’t explore. The straight up rock riff in the middle of “Lost America” is a good example. Stolt also is the main vocalist on “Manifesto of an Alchemist” which makes it seem more like a solo album.
But for me, it’s the instrumentals that make this album worth buying. He always surrounds himself with great players so it’s nice to hear them having room to stretch out on tracks like “Rio Grande” (my favorite track), “Six Thirty Wake Up” and the mostly instrumental “The Alchemist.” Nothing against the vocals but it’s really awesome to hear all of these musicians weaving their magic together.
Is this vastly different from The Flower Kings, no but it is different enough. It has music that dates back before the first TFK album too! All in all, I found this album on par with The Sea Within (Roine’s side project from earlier in 2018) and honestly better than the last few TFK albums! It’s a top notch effort by a super talented man and his friends.
Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 23 November 2018
The Church was one of those bands I had meant to check out for a lot of years and didn’t actually do it until their album “Untitled #23.” I liked it and yet forgot to persue them more. Luckily I made time to dive into their vast back catalog and found out that I do really like them. So now it turns out frontman Steve Kilbey has a solo career that I haven’t explored. It starts now with his latest album, “Sydney Rococo.”
So one down and 20 more to go? Well lets look at this album. With a voice as distinct as Kilbey, it’s very hard not to hear this album as one by The Church. The main difference is that it’s less experimental and more about beautifully orchestrated tracks. It start off with the lovely title track which for me wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic Church album. But it has a more timeless sound to it. Acoustic guitars sitting along side powerful strings and Kilbey’s unique voice.
The album is what I call very listenable. Many of the albums that I listen to, I have to be in a specific mood for them. “Sydney Rococo” is one of those “go-to” albums where when you don’t know what to listen to, it’s one you can easily pick and enjoy. Atmospheric tracks like “Distant Voices,” the straight ahead rocker “When I Love Her She Sings,” or the ballad “The Wrong One” give the listener so much variety. That’s what makes an album great and “Sydney Rococo” is indeed a great album by the legendary Steve Kilbey.
Label: Golden Robot Records
Release Date: 23 November 2018
Scotland’s North Atlantic Oscillation’s fourth album is called “Grind Show” and while I wouldn’t call it their best album, it is definitely a really good outing. I am partial to “Fog Electric.” I think most of that comes down to that it was the first thing I heard from the band. Style wise I have always compared them to Kevin Moore’s Chroma Key jamming with Brian Wilson and Mogwai.
NAO is now up to their fourth full length album and “Grind Show” has all the hallmarks of past albums. Pulsing synths, Sam Healy’s Moore-like vocals and sweet hook laden choruses. What always makes me love albums by NAO is the atomsphere. There’s a weird dichotomy between claustrophobic verses and frequently vast, open choruses. It’s not just the music. The vocals open up the same way. I love dynamics.
Favorite tracks include the opener “Low Earth Orbit” which really sums up what NAO are all about, while “Fruitful Little Moons” has a very quirky vibe to it that I like eventhough I have no idea why. “Spinning Top” is another one of those typical NAO songs that defies explanation. It goes from a dance funeral dirge to weird ass samples. I love it. Then there’s “Sirens” which is as rocking as NAO gets…assuming you like weird samples in your rock. I like it, but it’s a complete headfuck.
What makes North Atlantic Oscillation a favorite of mine is that are able to take elements of modern prog, post rock and a genre I don’t like in electronica and mash them into this…THING that I love. It’s rare and unique. That’s all I can ask of an album like “Grind Show.” More people need North Atlantic Oscillation in their lives.
Label: Vineland Music
Release Date: 16 November 2018