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Vienna Circle


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5 stars I'm very surprised this band hasn't garnered more attention on PA - it would seem to be the perfect sort of band the site should love - a nod to the past but quite radically different from bands of the 70s and 80s. They seem to have ended up in "neo" quite by accident - really symphonic or eclectic would seem to be a better fit. Anyway....

Silhouette Moon caught my interest off the basis of a "Prog" magazine cover disc. The album seems to be a concept piece based on dreams - presumably a rather restless night's sleep. Nearly all the instruments are played by the two brothers who are the only members of the band., with some classic organ/keyboard sounds mixed with very modern guitar which makes for an unusual but very pleasant juxtaposition. Elements of Post-rock, Heavy prog and even Jazz-rock can be heard amidst the mainly symphonic sound.

If I'd reviewed this a couple of weeks ago it would have got a very worthy four stars as a pleasant album. The thing is it just demands yet another spin each day and grows with every one, until I've become convinced that this is the finest release I've heard this year, (well maybe 2nd to Big Big Train, but that's a hell of a high standard). The outstanding 20 minute central suite (tracks 3 to 5) and the beautiful "Ballad of Night" just drip with melody and invention. The vocals are mainly restrained but perhaps Paul Davis should let himself go a bit more - when he cuts loose they contain real punch and fire.

Based on this album I really hope the Davis brothers try to put a full band together and do some live gigs - I'd be there in a heartbeat. The surprise of the year so far - and possibly the album of the year too.

Report this review (#958522)
Posted Sunday, May 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
5 stars Well, this a wonderful album! This is straight-forward neo-prog, so nothing new is really heard here. However, Vienna Circle has really crafted an elegant, tasteful album in "Silhouette Moon". The melodies are beautiful, and the lyrics are well-written. That's definitely a good start!

I can't say I'm a huge fan of the vocalist, as his voice is rather high-pitched, but not in a good way. However, it grows on you, and he really proves himself with some rather great harmonizations. Besides, this album is probably 75% instrumental, and that helps. This album features some downright awesome instrumental passages (lots of synth!) that are masterfully crafted and progressively better and better through the album. Be that as it may, I still think my favorite track is "Dreams Presage", as it has some of the finest moments on the album. The last few tracks are also very good, as they sort of go together and progress the overall mood.

If you like neo-prog, do yourself a favor and give this album a listen. It isn't anything new and exciting, but it is masterfully presented and written, and I can't help but enjoy myself. 4 stars well earned! EDIT: This doesn't happen often, but I must upgrade this rating to 5 stars. The lyrical content, ever present melodies, and awesome atmospheres have grabbed hold of me. This album is truly amazing: I regret what I said, there is nothing ordinary or pedestrian about it. Yes, it doesn't revolutionize, but it does take prog rock to some of the furthest limits I've ever seen.

Report this review (#959121)
Posted Tuesday, May 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Vienna Circle's second release "Silhouette Moon" opens with a lovely sentimental piano melody and accompanying vocals, and it's immediately apparent that this is a beautifully crafted album with great production values.

I'll make special mention early of the gorgeous, dreamlike lead guitar that drifts across the album. As a guitarist I'm not only envious of the tone that's been created, but deeply appreciative of the phrasing and melodies as well.

It's also evident that this album abounds with fantastic vocal harmonies. When combined with the acoustic guitar and piano, there's an amazing texture created throughout the 49 minute duration.

Brothers Jack and Paul Davis give us a nice mixture of shorter tracks and longer pieces on "Silhouette Moon". Of the latter variety, "Dreams Presage" is the epic of the album. The tempo lifts and there's a great sense of tension brought to bear by the combination of electric guitar and synth. There's an almost cinematic quality to it. This is a beautifully paced song that features an array of instruments across it's lengthy duration, including saxophone, flute and others. But with all that happening, nothing sounds out of place. It's all beautifully composed and seamlessly integrated into one musical piece. And that gorgeous lead guitar floats above it all at just the right moments.

Lyrically, there's a lot to take in here. Underneath is a concept album which, in the bands' words "explores mortality and existentialism; reality and dream".

This is a highly recommended album from a couple of great talents in the Davis brothers. I'm sure it's not the last we'll be hearing of them.


Report this review (#970697)
Posted Tuesday, June 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Vienna Circle's exquisite debut has a new release to further their claim to fame, providing more stunning melodies and daring to go beyond. I anointed 'White Clouds", their opening studio foray with deserved adulation, as I was taken by both their ultra-melodic style and the topic of the atrocity of war, a 'going on 40 year' old personal study. The epic disc runs the gamut of emotions, both the positive and the negative, taking the human condition's musical analysis one step further.

This sumptuously packaged sophomore recording having both a DVD and the CD wrapped in suave cover art and booklet. A very sweet and typically English melody "Strangers"starts off the effort, the voice up front and center with piano and orchestrations, something in the water I guess and just a brief intro for the equally short "Envy", owner of a melody carved out of heaven, fluttery 'aaah' choir and the oblique axe solo are simply jaw-dropping, loaded with unrestrained emotion and passion.

This leads to the next step, the 4 part "Dreams Presage" which alternates a baroque opener, a surly instrumental part that has the guitar fulminating furiously and a serene sax blows its misericord, interspaced by an eerily Phideaux-like main rhyme straight out of his recent "Doomsday Afternoon", a slow piano-led build up all, flourishing bass and jangly guitar all leading to an expected apotheosis which first arrives in the form of a clarinet-driven melody united with another guitar refrain and another Xavier line, finally succumbing to one of the most melancholic orgasm choruses one can ever hope for. The "? Waiting for a love song?" repetition will drop you to your knees in abject submission! The shift is seamless and relentless, recounting the existentialist crisis eloquently described in their anti-war debut album. This piece alone warrants a purchase, a terrific 13 minute+ opus of impeccable construction and sublime delivery. The bluesy "Scarlet Dance" just serves as a culmination of the preceding extravaganza, a bolder and wah-wah guitar drenched upgrade on the preceding melody, just expressed with more bite and resentment. The singing, the wobbly synth and the overall mood are just crushingly amazing. What a quartet of tunes, phew!

Unfortunately, "Broken Wings" does not seem to excite quite like as much, Paul Davis has a pleasant enough voice but here it's just a little wimpy and flat on this song for my tastes and though Jess Shute's colored flute pies a few pipers, the track just plods along somehow unhinged. I tried multiple revisits but outside of the solid instrumental section that rages appropriately, I can only concur with my initial reaction to the song. The strings blasts adds depth but its shallow water anyway. This could have been so much better if it would have spent a bit more time in the oven. Then you have a stellar "Ballad of Night" which again tours the entire periphery of styles, from spacey, to ultra-romantic and then even a psychedelic explosion. Paul Davis has, once you get used to his peculiar high-pitched voice nearing James Warren of the Korgis territory, a quite expressive vehicle to express his angst, and a bit like Steve Wilson, he can also play a cool guitar. Brother Jack Davis tortures the bass strings and the whole piece just beckons the listener into some kaleidoscope world. There is an overt Beatles/Blackfield/Squeeze feel that is uncanny and attractive. Paul really howls, proving that he needs to push the 'lungular' envelope to be credible. The sax and the synth exchange some slippery notes and the guitar solo is fiery and incandescent. A terrific song again.

"Sea" is a dreamier reflection of deep melancholia, a short and fluctuating that sounds close to Like Wendy, a Dutch band that vanished in 2005. Moody and introspective, it has a cool guitar sortie as well. "Eternity" is quite brief as well under 3 minutes and is fueled by massive orchestrations above anything else, all instrumental with a slight country guitar twang feel amid the huge symphonic swirls. It conveys the title rather well. Things get quite Elizabethan on the Beatlesque "Together" with its McCartney piano and Harrison guitar twang and you can hear the hippy-trippy flowery chorus "Soon as it rains?" refresh the piece as if morning dew droplets wash away the night dust. More syrupy orchestra adorns the arrangement, as if George Martin was sitting at the board. Very English pomp rock, wot!

"Departure" finalizes the disc on a lofty note, a brooding goodbye to a most pleasant voyage, dreams still intact, perhaps even more vibrant than ever, the orchestra really taking over now , as the curtain slowly drops to the stage floor and the lights slowly return to their full glow.

Still hooked on the more conceptual "White Clouds" though, a few more spins throughs and Silhouette Moon will perhaps catch up. Melodic, poignant prog this is!

4 Shadow planets

Report this review (#990690)
Posted Monday, July 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A band of serious songwriters who manage to pull together quite a little gathering of eclectic sounds (and influences?). The use of orchestra is well done, the simple-yet-intricate song structures and instrument use and play is all highly commendable. I've been quite enjoying this album for a little while and think the album's sole "epic," "Dreams Presage" belongs in the pantheon of classic prog epics.

1. "Strangers" (1:43) is an innocuous little intro dittie. (7/10)

2. "Envy" (2:22) is a very cool, deceptively complex little dittie. Female b vox, strumming acoustic guitars and arppeggiating piano accompany a very melodic vocal, until el. Gtr screams out a wicked solo between the first B and second A section. (10/10)

3. "Dreams Presage" (13:20) begins with about half a minute of flute to introduce the main melody before the full band joins in. At 1:19 a heavy prog with orchestra enters adding some drama and tension. Things quiet down with muted guitar arppeggios before a sax solo takes us through some light and heavy background themes. Then at 3:14 a new synth-led, flute- backed section recapitulates the original theme. At 3:50 all sound and themes drop away to leave a piano, seagulls, and some echoed guitar notes to set up the vocalist. A very pretty section. This song has a very nice, maturely complex feel to it. At 6:25 bass and synth "bees" lead the song to a shift to a more Wild West folk melody behind the simplified flute melody. A return at 7:20 to the vocal section, this time with a little more instrumentation to give it a little more power--to which the vocalist responds in kind. Nice use of orchestra to back the heavier sections. A slightly divergent vocal section begins at the nine minute mark, morphing into a simple song structure with some nice vocals harmonies working totally in sync. Kind of a lull--extended a bit too long for my tastes---in this otherwise exceptional song. AT 12:05 the song returns to full power though with an interesting dichotomy of acoustic/orchestra-like instruments playing along with and in equal power to that of the heavier electrified rock instruments. Odd sudden ending--which seems to bleed into the next song. (9/10)

4. "Scarlet Dance" (3:14) uses the same chord progression from the previous song in a blues-rock format--with a talk-tube modified lead guitar playing its blues riffs throughout the song. Nice portamento synth solo from 1:45 to 2:32. Pretty good song that, again, bleeds into the next song. (8/10)

5. "Woven Wings" (6:26) is a very different song from the previous in that it feels more acoustic and folk oriented--kind of reminds me of the Swedish band, RITUAL. Light, positive, and hummable. It definitely gets into your brain and stays there for a while. AT 2:18 acoustic guitar riffs are doubled up by electric guitars and the song shifts into heavier mode. Flute and picked acoustic guitar join in the mix giving it a very JETHRO TULL feel. Very melodic and almost poppy--though filled with plenty of quirks, subtleties and structural shifts--all of which makes it downright proggy. (9/10)

6. "Ballad of Night" (6:33) begins with a very familiar pop sounding piano chord progression (BONNIE RAIT?) before taking a MOON SAFARI-like turn with full band and sax. The second time it launches into the heavier, orchestra-supported full-band chorus section it sounds very much like the GOO GOO DOLLS' classic hit, "Iris" (which is pseudo-prog, right?) The delicate instrumental part in the fifth minute is quite nice, using space and single notes and hits to great effect. Then the "Iris" section returns and plays out as an instrumental to the end. (8/10)

7. "Sea" (3:36) is a soft, spacious psychedilia song in the vein of LED ZEPPELIN's "The Ocean" from Houses of The Holy. Nothing very special here. (7/10)

8. Eternity" (2:43) is another brief song--an instrumental---that packs a lot into a short time. Beautiful use of orchestra to accompany a kind of U2 "With or Without You" beat and sound-- at least until the electric guitar begins its solo. (7/10)

9. "Together" (5:46) begins with voice and piano performing the melody line simultaneously. A kind of BEATLES "Eleanor Rigby" feel creeps in until the blues-rock electric guitar lead enters (around 1:30). Synth flute in the background is a bit incongruous. Then at 2:47 a drum flurry introduces a kind of folk rock section quite similar to the early AMERICA sound (though the guitar play isn't nearly as intricate or layered as that amazing band was known to do). The song kind of shifts and plays out very much like a GEORGE HARRISON song. Nicely done, if you like that sort of thing. (8/10)

10. "Departure" (3:23) ends the album with an instrumental worthy of a Donnie Darko or Titanic-like soundtrack: piano, distant female voice, full orchestral participation (love the lower register brass!) and, RADIOHEAD/DOVES-like guitars. (10/10)

A wonderful effort from these masters of delicate intricacies and lilting melodies. 4.5 stars rated down for feeling a bit more crossover/prog-related than neo/symphonic.

Report this review (#1005184)
Posted Thursday, July 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Next album I was very curious to hear was Vienna Circle's "Silouette Moon" from this year. I hadn't heard anything of them or about them but understood they'd got good reviews. I'm very interested in finding new great prog bands that could interest me as much as the older ones.

The first I noticed was that the singer has a very good voice which unfortunately I don't think can show its full capacity here. "Strangers" is a nice and good starter with wonderful vocals and a great flow in the instrumental parts. The records best song is "Sea" which I though felt interesting in soundscape and voice. I heard voice harmonies and guitar work is greta here. That was the only song I can give 8/10 points. "Strangers" and two other songs got 7/10: "Woven wings" where the vocal parts has a very English feeling and the lengthy "Dreams Presage" with more sweeping symphonic like structures, though quite dull vocals. I don't find the other songs very interesting, just partially. What's good with Vienna Circle is that the sound is clear and sweat. Because they are so distinct it's easy to hear the different instruments for example. I also enjoy Paul Davis voice on many places.

What alas bores me is the piano and the vocals structures which have a feeling of Indie music or Post rock. This music is nice but unvaried so the brothers Jack (bass, piano) and Paul Davis (guitar, piano, vocals) won't get my full love today. Three stars!

Report this review (#1025382)
Posted Thursday, August 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Imagine playful neo-prog crossed with the trippy, serene neo-psychedelia of acts like Mercury Rev and you've got something close to Vienna Circle's sound on Silhouette Moon - a deft updating of the classic neo-prog sound with enough modern influences to save Vienna Circle from being a clone of any particular previous neo outfit. With soaring compositions which explore a range of moods, Vienna Circle explore each and every phase of their Silhouette Moon over the album's running time, but equally show enough restraint to restrict the album to 50 minutes of strong material and resist the temptation to pad the proceedings out with filler. The Davis brothers and their guests have established themselves as a neo-prog force to be reckoned with here.
Report this review (#1062510)
Posted Friday, October 18, 2013 | Review Permalink

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