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Retired Admin
4 stars Pseudo/Sentai are an American duo of multi-instrumentalists who craft dizzyingly complex, convoluted concept pieces comprised of short tracks full of riddle-like lyrics and multi-tracked vocals out the wazoo. As far as I can tell, TAAFP is their third long-form album, 22 songs totaling 44 minutes, and it shows the Sentai seemingly turning a corner in their creative lives. Not just for the Sentai, but for experimental rock of all stripes in the past year (I'm thinking of Kayo Dot and the Swans here, just for example), bands seem to be reaching a creative zenith in which years of experimenting have produced some good hard data as to what works, and such groups are now synthesizing their best ideas into a unique vision and albums unlike any heard before. That's the impression I get from Scott Baker and Greg Murphy of Pseudo/Sentai on this album.

On past albums and EPs, the Sentai have never failed to impress us with their mathematical complexity and the sheer strangeness of their sound -- think of Mr. Bungle on helium covering a Styx album at 45 RPM -- but if anything was lacking on prior releases, it was a sense of pacing and drama. That element is made abundantly clear on this album, with loud fast moments offset by somber piano interludes, acoustic guitar segments, and the strategic use of repetition of lyrics and musical themes to give the listener something solid to hold on to. The lyrics are as mysterious and imagistic as ever, never overtly revealing the plot, but rather giving clues as to what it is; in that sense, the Sentai remain somewhat inaccessible to the casual listener but those taken in by the music will have fun trying to dissect what's going on (the lyrics are helpfully reproduced on their Bandcamp page).

The album opens with a melancholy piano instrumental ("Briefing at Moniker Manor") before erupting into the title track, which has an immediately likable hook but still has room for myriad twists and turns in just over two minutes' time. The narrator then appears to take flight, perhaps into a dream sequence ("Shrubbreeze"), leading into the longest track, the dramatic and frightening "Naught Shore", which has imagery of being thrown overboard from a ship. A couple more short tunes and acoustic interludes later, the action then appears to take place inside the memory of a computer (or perhaps a computer game), with a series of songs depicting a surreal series of battles and adventures, somewhat oddly ending with a "skit" which brings the band members out from behind their colorful production to display a bit of lighthearted goofing off. "Heaven is a Medicine" is a cool instrumental that introduces the final stretch of the album with an industrial grind (with a really interesting water-drip-like beat) that reminds me of some of Throbbing Gristle's work. "Pyro Cyclone Dances the Weathervane Waltz" is another of the few extended tracks here (4 minutes really is a long time for these guys, ideas-per-minute-wise), and a strange evil circus atmosphere prevails here. The album ends somewhat quizzically, with four short tracks that don't have a lot of lyrics, and the final track (ostensibly a reprise of the title track) ends fairly abruptly after about a minute and a half of some pretty sinister sounds.

Overall, this was a very satisfying album, and had plenty of "wow" moments due to the wider array of instrumental sounds and textures, and some really abrupt musical changes within many of these songs. It is a lot to take in, and even with the lyrics nearby I was still a bit lost even on my fourth listen. But in addition to the complexity, I sense a new maturity in their approach that keeps ideas unfolding at a more deliberate pace that aids the emotional impact of the music. Very impressive.

Report this review (#1013178)
Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars After so long waiting for it, There's Always A F*cking Problem is out. This Pseudo/Sentai was released by Greg Murphy and Scott Baker, with a very unique vibe, hard to describe. Actually, they are a progressive & alternative "video game soundtrack" rock band, and being highly influenced by very detailed musicians, like Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, it couldn't be bad at all. The album features vintage game effects, acoustic and symphonic rock passages, and modern rock vocals. This album has 22 tracks (total of 45 minutes), including some conceptual suites. The video game suite is the best part of the album. 8 tracks of pure nostalgic, detailed and creative music. I think this album is very elaborated, and a great effort into general modern music. I haven't heard anything good as TAAFP from recent prog or related bands. It's innovative and have no "bad times".

After Briefing at Moniker Manor, a classical intro piece, we have the so called There's Always a F-cking Problem track. And this track is really amazing. The keys/MIDI/wathever fx fused with the guitar riffs and vocals, fits perfect. Shrubbreeze (Delightful Flight) is another highlight. The rhythmic keys and synth effects plus vocals are very catchy. The song changes at the last minute. Naught Shore is very progressive. The track starts slow, but at the middle of the song, it suddenly changes to an aggressive and phantasmagoric part. The end of the track has some kind of heroic Pseudo/Sentai traditional feeling because of the guitar riffage. After the acoustic interlude Lashing Splashes, we have the two tracks song House of Harbors. Pretty elaborated again. I think I had to listen to it a few times to really get everything that was goin on. No Midas Touching is a short atmospheric prelude to the video game suite. Well, I love this kind of vintage technologic sounding, and make a prog suite with video game music and plot was brilliant! AP0: Cartridge Entry (The Light that Comes at Night) is the first track of the suite. Maybe my least favorite. Well, this suite is made by short tracks altogether forming a plotline. AP1: American Psydescroller (Title Screen) was the first track that I heard from this album, and it kick asses! It's a great title screen theme! AP2: Birds Dropping En Masse (Poultry in Motion) has fine effects but it's too short. The next track, Meanwhile... (The Vanishing Act) is one of my favorite parts of the album. It reminds me of some italian prog folk passage. The following track, AP3: Return of the Curse of the Creature's Ghost (Or is it the Curse of the Creature? Or the Curse of the Ghost? Or Did the Creature Put a Curse on the Ghost?), it's strange and haunting. It has some crazy effects, laughter, vocal shifts and funny drum fills. So, the apex of the game, the Boss Battle!!! AP4: Ghostman (Boss Battle) is the darker track. If you close your eyes listening to this you can pretty imagine and live this boss battle. The end of the track changes to a heavy mood, reaching the happy and cool victory theme, AP5: Victory Over Ghostman (Mass Exodusorcism). AP6: Game Over (Cartridge Exit) is the final track of the suite, and it is very similar to the title screen theme.

Heaven is Medicine is an almost electro industrial track based on a linear heart beating. It's fine. Pyro Cyclone Dances the Weathervane Waltz is a great track, a mix of alternative metal with symphonic prog and super nintendo. The dark piano track Crossing The Rube Icon could be used as an horror movie soundtrack. It's dark and deep. The twentieth track, Sensory Overlord, is still a little bit dark, and very futuristic. Just fifty seconds though. The Loracle's Mend is a piano instrumental. Nice track, but not so memorable (I don't remember the piano melody right now writing the review, but it's cool). There Will Always be a F-cking Problem is the last track. It is dark, symphonic doom rock. Maybe better than the TAAFP title track, but I can't compare it because is actually two totally different tracks. I'm looking for flaws everytime I listen to TAAFP, because TAAFP.

Report this review (#1013194)
Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars 22 songs, total length less than 45 minutes, and an album title that is strong to say the least, this sounds far more like an extreme metal outfit than something that is deemed 'Crossover Prog'. But, that is what we have here and the Americans have come up with a collection of songs that are diverse, sometimes commercial, sometimes challenging, instrumental, poppy and so on. I have been racking my brains to come up with an accurate comparison and the closest I can come up with is the mighty Cardiacs, but even that isn't quite right. Some progressive bands take a whole load of ideas and then find a linking theme to combine them into epics, whereas these guys take a far more direct approach and if they want to have a song that is under a minute in length then that is absolutely fine by them.

Some of the songs are very staccato in nature, very abrupt and 'pronk' (hence the Cardiacs reference), but others are far more dreamy, so much so that at times it feels that there could well be different bands involved. There is always a real alternative lo-fi feel to what is going on, so much so that one could imagine this being delivered out of a bedroom in the early Eighties and then being devoured by fans on one of the many independent labels that were around at the time. This would never have been mainstream prog, but it may well have found friends in that underground subculture when the music scene was just exploding with new ideas and styles. Fast forward to 2013 and although the independent label is now Bandcamp, in many ways this is very true to that period, even down to some of the keyboard sounds being used (just play "AP4: Ghostman (Boss Battle)" to see what I mean). There are times when the vocals are almost throwaway, when at others we have harmonies, always with passion and angst.

This album is always going to appeal more to those who enjoy their music to be a little less refined, and want to be constantly challenged and this is an album that definitely does all of that. This is a band that keeps coming up with new ideas, and the result is an album that in many ways is all over the place which means that if you don't like the particular style or song don't worry about it as another will be along in a minute literally. Easily the best of their work that I have heard so far.

Report this review (#1035243)
Posted Saturday, September 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
3 stars Baking new buns

My first reaction when I heard this was something like: "Sweet ford! This is like a collaboration between Dredg and a modern version of Gentle Giant!" Then I took my pills and went back to hear the exact same thing only with much more nuance and depth to the already existing generalisation...

With an endless track list, the songs seem to come from out of nowhere and then stop at the flick of the switch - or indeed seep right into the next one. The modern sounding Gentle Giant thingy is probably down to the, at times, hilarious usage of "Robin Hood" vocals as well as an uncanny approach to shifts and turns that zooms in and out of familiar places where poppy rock songs seamlessly flow together with electronic experiments, pensive piano sampling, acoustic laid-back guitar strummings and all out weird sonic behaviour.

Sometimes I get a sailor vibe in the vocal department - other times it feels like I'm visiting a small obscure Indie club downtown New York - and occasionally these two outer extremes are featured in the same piece and you effectively feel like you're cruising the streets of the city with a great big pipe in your mouth and a couple of emo chicks fishing from the side of your boat. It's futuresque in nature, oddly melodic and incredibly dense. I mean, this baby changes course ALL the time! Oh yeah, come sailing with two Stevie Wonders - who knows where we're going - and who the feck cares?!?!?!

There are no epics on this album - no long moog solos, nor will you find extravagant timpani playing, Hammond organs, Mellotron or bagpipes. What you get instead is a big bag of joy - a tremendously uplifting musical journey that snakes its way through a wide variety of styles that all seem to compliment each other. The melodic singing that sound so American in that Dredg like manner on a canvas of wall to wall guitar riffs, edgy rambling electronics and other such buzzing qualities, - and that is undeniably what makes this album stand out. Had the vocals not been backed up by these unorthodox measures, they would've sounded like a lot of things - not Pseudo Sentai. When you get right down to the heart of it: there are so many artists out there who produce similar sounding music - similar sounding productions and so on, but it's only when you hear the stuff you think you know, yet in a completely other lighting - Dolly Parton backed up by bassoons and Gregorian chants - it's right there you experience something new and audacious. This is indeed also what you encounter on this album - a will to mix already existing musical patterns into the batter in order to bake new buns.

I love the small instrumental breaks - the acoustic guitar pieces accompanied by the rain or the breath of the ocean. I also really dig the way these two guys have pumped this baby full of electronic titbits - stuff that goes 'BZZZZZZRRRRRRRWRW' and 'DUIOOOHUIIP' inside a time frame of a millisecond and in the back of a multi-track vocal harmony and some frisky spelunking guitar figurines.

This is music you put on, when you're eating bagels in the shower. It's the stuff that goes wonderfully well with beer and capers - bad red wine and herring pop corn. It makes me smile like a prairie dog - as a matter of fact, right now I am wagging my tale and screwing the furnace awkwardly. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1065150)
Posted Wednesday, October 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Always!

Some months ago I saw on the net the name of Pseudo/Sentai, later I knew they were a band whose music has some kind of relationship with progressive rock, so I got interested just for it (yes, the name made me want to listen to them) and since then I've been a regular listener of their releases, which by the way, can be found at their bandcamp page. This project was started by two crazy guys Scott Baker and Greg Murphy back in 2007, their music is pretty experimental, with keyboards everywhere, lead and harmony vocals very often, noisy moments, zeulh-esque feeling and even some poppy tunes, of course, with a touch of Japanese culture (Sentai).

Their songs are normally short, like a brief storm or a lightning of sounds that last two or three minutes and then a new story is shared. In this album, entitled "There's Always a Fucking Problem" the band included 22 songs that together make a total length of 45 minutes, with only one over the 5-minute mark, so go figure, you will enjoy short but powerful and original 1-3 minute songs. The album was released in this 2013, being their third full length effort. Feel free to listen to it, I assure you will have a good time, if not, listen to them again haha.

Fasten your seatbelts, this flight is about to begin. It starts with "Briefing at Moniker Manor", which has a soft and even beautiful piano sound, but wait, don't judge by this start, later the music will surprise you. This instrumental intro leads to "There's Always a Fucking Problem" and here since the first seconds the tension is present, later vocals appear along with the omnipresent keyboard sound as background creating different nuances. What I love of this band, is their capacity of creating several inner changes in short songs, I mean it is lie a 2-minute rollercoaster that makes you feel loony and dizzy, but with a final satisfaction. "Shrubbreeze (Delightful Flight)" is again soft, with acoustic guitar, further voices and nice synth sounds making the rhythm. Little by little the band introduces new sounds keyboard lead passages and various vocal textures, great.

The longest song comes next with "Naught Shore", the first moments are almost quiet, then it begins its building and structure with inherent electronic tendencies, it is evident they like to offer this kind of electronic-rock mixture, which is very nice. The low profile is kept in the first three minutes, but later the song explodes, anger and energy are totally spread here, the voices are louder, the guitars begin to introduce its rage while keyboards keep the great rhythm. The last minute is much more symphonic. Lovely track that shows us their compositional skills, shows us they are a truly original project.

A cool and calm instrumental interlude comes with "Lashing Splashes", an acoustic guitar based track with some natural sounds as background, it is like taking a deep breath. Later "House of Harbors" appears offering a new sound that blends heavy rock with experimental touches; in moments the music cannot be truly perceived because the vocals sound too loud, but at the same time, the vocals cannot be truly perceived because the music is too loud, hope you get me. "House of Harbors: The Finish Games" is a short but crazy track, it is like a soundtrack of Need for Speed or even of King of Fighters, I imagine that vertigo of running, but here I am not running, I am just listening.

"No Midas Touching" is a soft but somber short track in which far voices can be heard while acoustic guitar is playing some strings. "AP0: Cartridge Entry (The Light that comes at Night)" has an addictive rhythm, repetitive voices saying the name of the song over and over, while keyboards and electronics make some kind of dark nuances. "AP1: American Psydeschroller (Title Screen)" reminds me again of some NES video games, honestly some of the tracks here might perfectly work for videogame stages, this is one of them. "AP2: Birds Dropping En Masse (Poultry in Motion) is a really short track with a nervous atmosphere, plagued by Pseudo/Sentai's vocals.

"Meanwhile?The Vanishing Act" surprises us with a short instrumental passage, very soft and delicious led by acoustic guitar. But "AP3: Return of the Curse of the Creature's Ghost (Or is it the curse of the creature? Or the curse of the Ghost? Or did the creature put a curse in the Ghost?) Well, the title says it all. After several 1 minute tracks here the band offers a 3- minute track, which means several changes, nuances, textures and atmospheres can be found here. The vocals are always energetic; keyboards put its humoristic but at the same time creepy sound, while programmed drums are a highlight here. "AP4: Ghostman (Boss Battle) has a sympathetic touch created by keyboards, but a minute later the battle really begins, the music becomes heavier and powerful, cool. "AP5: Victory Over Ghostman (Mass Exodusocrism)" Has the same style as its predecessor, at least in the first seconds, later it changes, vocals are ideal to sing, so if you know the lyrics, just do it. "AP6: Game Over (Cartridge Exit)" is like "stage cleared/you saved the princess/ you finished with the scary monsters and super creeps" a nice way to finish this series of AP tracks.

"Heaven is a Medicine" is a very cool 2-minute electronic track, instrumental and very interesting actually. It leads to "Pyro Cyclone Dances the Weathervane Waltz" is the second longest track here, passing the 4 minute mark. Here the explosive side of Pseudo/Sentai returns, the music has different nuances, it changes in mood and tempo, creating diverse figures and stories in one's mind. The voices are full of rage and energy, though the music has its gentle side after all. Here the guitar leads more than other tracks, which makes the music heavier, rockier.

The last bunch has 4 short songs. "Crossing the Rube Icon" has piano on it, a much more classical track with a somber touch. "Sensory Overlord" is an electronic-oriented track with some far voices. "The Loracle's Mend" produces a drastic change once again, here the sound is soft, with mother nature sounds and even a lullaby-like mood. The last song is "There will always be a [%*!#]ing problem" which ends the album in a chaotic way, summing up what Pseudo/Sentai's music is about.

I am happy with this band, and though they are not that typical progressive rock band, I am sure some of you will find their music interesting, so I invite you to dig them and have a good time. My final grade will be 4 stars due to its original sound and creativity.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#1076358)
Posted Wednesday, November 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Bleep yeah I like this! It's so bleeping different than anything else i've ever bleeping heard. This album title arises from unfortunate situations. This band is basically two guys: Greg Murphy and Scott Baker. I can't explain the situation better than they themselves:

The Ghosts of Problems Past return to haunt the Sentai after an interdimensional jewel thief by the name of "The Vanishing Act" leaves P/SHQ in utter disarray. With many of their mission reports gone, the Loracle (their Zordon-esque lady-type computer... lady in a tube) is left with scattered memories that are now compensating for the freeing of space in her mainframe. All of these memories contained problematic specters with incomplete stories due to the Sentai's Hydra-like lack of focus. With time to fester and grow angry, the Ghosts are ready to end the Sentai's story altogether. To keep the Loracle immortal, the memories of the spirits must be allowed to manifest into their original state, to recreate the memories that once trapped them in the Lorbrynth.

(But really, our laptops were stolen from our apartment and had to part ways with a large portion of our material. We salvaged what we could from the wreckage and used mp3s for fully mixed songs that just needed vocals. We combined that with music we made for the short film "Skazka" and the animation "Zakiya" to create the 24)

That explains the bleeping title! Not sure how to describe this. Named after the Japanese TV show "Super Sentai" but nothing here reminds me of anything Japanese at all! We have an interesting list of influences here. I'm still not sure I can pinpoint them all but I hear everything from Depeche Mode style vocals, Pink Floyd acoustic guitar, bombastic proggy keyboards and symphonic elements. There's also metal power cords, indie pop with Koyaanisqaatsi type keyboards and even some black metal grim scream vocals appear briefly. A whole bunch of old video game effects are strewn about as well. After racking my brain the vocalist reminds me of an obscure electronica DJ named Q*ball. Most of the time i'm struggling to figure out who it reminds me of but never quite grasping the muddled insinuations popping in and out of my mind.

I guess overall this kinda sounds like an indie rock band like Neutral Milk Hotel, The Flaming Lips or even Muse (but not sounding like any of them in particular) collaborated with a prog band and then took a whole bunch of added elements from the past and incorporated them into unusal short musical pieces. The tracks are almost always melodic and a lot of the strangeness actually comes from the production itself. Strange synthesized sounds color the somewhat poppy sounding songs, but strange unorthodox song structures do occur.

PSEUDO/SENTAI are obviously into having a lot of fun making this stuff. Definately like nothing i've heard before! An interesting listen that leaves me wanting to hear where this band takes things next. I sure hope their bleeping problems subside so they can get to an even better follow-up! Very creative and fun.

Report this review (#1085335)
Posted Tuesday, December 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars The fact that this album was recreated from bits and pieces of tracks P/S had after their laptops were stolen from them is? perhaps even demoralizing to the reader at first. It was pretty shocking to me that P/S manage to serve not only a good album considering the circumstances, but a great album which surprises with its consistency. Greg Murphy and Scott Baker's remarkable songwriting skills along with their noteworthy mastery of "amateurish" programs such as Garageband only help to show what ridiculous amounts of potential this band has.

I've known P/S for a couple of years now. I discovered them on the forums following Greg's advertisements of the band. I became an instant fan and me and Greg and I have voiced my fanboyism to Greg straightaway, which has led to a most beautiful virtual relationship which is worthy of its own romantic novel. Since that first contact P/S has managed to release another excellent EP and a few tracks but this album manages to bring a very satisfying punch quantity and quality wise. 22 mostly short tracks that jump schizophrenically from pretty semi-acoustic moments to full blown 8-bit mathy proggy pop rock. Yeah I really don't know what that even means. It's a wholly special sound which is lifted to incredible heights with Greg's composition skills. The tracks are usually terrifyingly complex and ridiculously catchy. There are tunes here that float all over the place- on the walls, under the carpet, and straight in your face, sticking to the side of your brain for weeks on end and accompanying even my stupidest everyday tasks. It is P/S's radically different sound and melodic touch which make me excited to hear anything new they have to offer.

What we have here is an impressive achievement. The sonic spectrum on this album is endlessly interesting to listen to. There is no drummer here but they manage to re-create a drummer fantastically using basic programming. The synths and weird effects are floating around here many times sounding like a bizarre horrifying 8-bit video game, the acoustic guitars have an almost indie rock flavor to them, while the electric guitars and Scott's dramatic vocals bring a whiff of metal. You can hear it from the pretty pianos in the beginning to the absolute joy of the seven "AP tracks" which capture an adventure in a video- game world and are so absolutely delightful and just plain fun- it's really just an entertaining album with a lot of depth to it. If anything, please listen to AP3- the melody has been stuck in my head for weeks and the layers of 8-bit synths is just freaking cool. Also "Pyro Cyclone Dancing the Weathervane Waltz" is a jaw dropper- the breath-taking crescendo is probably the awesomest moment on the album.

I have heard few bands who have managed to differentiate themselves from today's alternative underground dirty crazy old music scene of these days and still have such a grip on whatever pushes the emotions button in my brain. This album by any means shouldn't be good considering the really bummer consequences that lead to the way it was made, but it just is.

Give it a damn shot, it's on their bandcamp, eh?

P.S.: Look out, this album does probably contain the pun of the century. You'll know it when you hear it.

Report this review (#1100903)
Posted Friday, December 27, 2013 | Review Permalink

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