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PICTURES

Island

Eclectic Prog


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5 stars By far the best album I discovered this year. I can't understand why this album is still an obscured one in the scene. Fans of Van der Graaf and Gentle Giant will be pleasantly surprised. Great keyboard player, and also a great sax/flute player.With both, the band doesn't need a guitar player nor a bass player.A must!

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Send comments to kag1 (BETA) | Report this review (#3905)
Posted Sunday, December 21, 2003 | Review Permalink
Steve Hegede
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Dark, disturbing, percussive, and theatrical are words that come to mind when listening to this unique album from the mid 70's. Influences include early Peter GABRIEL, GENTLE GIANT, IL BALLETTO DI BRONZO, ELP, and even John Cage. "Empty Bottles", the 23-minute bonus track, is almost worth the price of the CD. It is quite different from the first 5 tracks, and emphasizes complex jamming (improvised?). A couple of the last tracks from the original album tend to drag a bit due to slow tempos. But, after the complex sections in the first 4 tracks, the slower tempos at the end of the album are more than a welcome relief.

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Send comments to Steve Hegede (BETA) | Report this review (#3906)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A mix between VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR and EMERSON LAKE & PALMER, such powerful music coming from Switzerland with some interesting dissonances. Along with CIRCUS "Movin' On" it is one of the most interesting and remarkable works, regarding such an excellent Swiss progressive scene of late seventies, even though honestly the production is not perfect. For this reason I can rate this album "4 stars" at most!

Recommended!!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#3907)
Posted Friday, April 02, 2004 | Review Permalink
Proghead
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars One-shot album by this Swiss band. The band was lead by Benjamin Jäger, who was previously with a band called TOAD (which featured ex-Brainticket members). This is a totally fascinating album! The band consisted of vocals, Hammond organ, Mini Moog, Moog Taurus bass pedals, sax, drums, and percussion. But the band didn't use guitar or even a bassist! That means the keyboards and the wind instruments shine! For the most diehard prog fans out there who want the most over-the-top complex prog out there, this album will satisfy! The music sounds like a combination of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, GENTLE GIANT, and RIO (such as UNIVERS ZERO). The atmosphere, for the most part, is quite sinister, as is the cover artwork, done by their countryman H.R. Giger (same guy responsible for ELP's "Brain Salad Surgery" and helped design the creatures for the 1979 movie Alien, in fact the artwork to "Pictures" looks very much like the creatures from Alien). The music is very long, with the exception of a short intro and a 7 minute instrumental, nothing on this album is under 12 minutes long (there are five songs total).

The album has its detractors, because the unbelievable complexity (they make GENTLE GIANT seem like the MOODY BLUES, as far as complexity is concerned - I might be overexaggerating there). Definately not an easy album to get in to, but if you like GENTLE GIANT and VdGG, you're sure to enjoy this.

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Send comments to Proghead (BETA) | Report this review (#3908)
Posted Sunday, May 02, 2004 | Review Permalink
diddy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars "One of the most enthusing albums in general", "Unbelievable how this masterpiece could have been forgotten over the years" or "I'm truly happy to know this album" are the first thoughts coming to my mind thinking about "Pictures" by ISLAND. Well, I remember my first thoughts as I heard that the band is from Switzerland: Switzerland? I don't know a single (prog) band from there. Nevertheless, the cover attracted me in an instant and I gave them a chance (fortunately). Everybody can imagine who painted the cover...indeed, it was H.R. Giger, who also did the famous "Brain Salad Surgery" cover for ELP. The Style is not easy to explain, at least it's not easy to imagine how it could sound like. Therefore you have the possibility to download a song from this album, and I advice that you do so, immediately! The style.just imagine a blend of Gentle Giant, Van der Graaf Generator and even some Brand X and Free Jazz influences. Dominating part of their music are weird Saxophone and quite insane percussion work. The overall picture provides a totally unique sound which can be described as mind-blowing, yes certainly. This album moved me like not many albums did before.

The four guys from Switzerland really offer prog rock at it's very best. The "Introduction" causes an atmosphere which is slightly reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick's 2001. It's made of percussion-breakouts, gongs, and weird saxophone, one of the best prologues I know, hilarious and attention-grabbing. With "Zero" follows a tune which finally gets you into this album (yes so early). It's an instrumental which reminds me of Gentle Giant and Brand X at the same time. Again, the percussion is the dominating element. I also want to mention the tremendous so called walking-bass in the middle section. ISLAND's music has a jazzy approach which is caused mainly by the Saxophone, flute and clarinet. "Zero" is a really terrific instrumental and alone worth buying the album. "Pictures" is the masterpiece of the album. Gentle Giant like vocals, melody lines like the early Genesis but because of the free jazz approach totally different and unique. It's also important to mention the nice clarinet solo in the middle of the song as well as the perfect rhythm section. The fragile vocals of Benjamin Meier append a mysterious coloration to the general sound, lovely. "Herold and King", the song you can download, also has the right to be called masterpiece. A marvellous piano introduction introduces the song which is in general much queerer than all other songs of this album. Percussion attacks and backwards sung lyrics really grab hold of you. "Here and now" is the last song of the original LP. I really like the vocals and the long instrumental parts which are again a blend of Gentle Giant and some Fusion.every time the Saxophone appears you also can hear some VdGG.but I said it before, due to the free jazz approach the whole sound is totally new and can't really be compared to any of the named bands. "Empty Bottles" is a bonus track of the CD-Reissue. It's a mammoth track recorded some time in the studio. According to the sound maybe during a jam session.

For me "Pictures" is one of the most enthusing prog releases. I'd like to think that everybody who doesn't know this album really missed something. Every proghead should have heard this one. It provides a sound I never heard before and which can't be compared to any other prog band because it's a blend of so many different influences and genres and styles. So if there's an album I would recommend without concern to EVERY prog fan, with no importance of his favourite style, this would be the one. If you have the chance to get a copy, don't wait, it's far from being wasted money. More than Highly recommended.

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Send comments to diddy (BETA) | Report this review (#3910)
Posted Wednesday, August 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!!

One of the best things to come out of Switzerland (musically speaking, no offence to Chocolates and Cheeses), along with the fantastic CIRCUS, with which it shares a few points: they both are Alemanic, have no electric guitar, where winds instruments play a vital role and they were recorded around 76/77. The group's line-up is basically a keyboard-sax-percussion fronted by a singer that sometimes sounds like Blasquiz. Recorded in Northern Italy over the summer of 77, the album's is noteworthy in prog circles for sporting a HR Giger artwork (of ELP's BSS fame), and Laser's Edge made a superb reissue in the late 90's. In fact, it's still probably their catalogue's highlight, along with Secret Oyster's first two albums.

I was intrigued by some reviews, not only on this site but also Guts Of Darkness site, which were quite dithyrambic about the music on this sole album. From reading them again, before writing this review after four weeks of spinning in my deck, I can tell you that most of the review are fairly accurate ( the ratings, however, are ...... somewhat over-rated) but there is one very obvious influence that has not been mentioned before or elsewhere. Before mentioning the group, I would like to say that there are much ZHEUL leanings on this record. Zheul, you said? You mean MAGMA? Well certainly as far as the bass is concerned, but the overall style of the music on this album, this all yells out Zheul. Right from the semi-cosmic & atmospheric Introduction and leading into the 6-mins Zero track, the moods are definitely oscillating between ELP and Magma's type of JR/F. However with the title track, we're close to Gentle Giant, and Jager's vocals sounds a bit like Circus's Roland Frei at first, but Blasquiz-like chants return quickly to the fore. On the flipside, Herold is more disjointed, dissonant and challenging. The following and closing Here And Now is very much in the same vein as Herold, and even more challenging and there is few comparison possible to describe Island's rather unique and almost Gothic musical realm, sometimes not far from RIO's dogma.

I often found the singing perfectible, the KB a tad too Emersonic for my taste, but the Magma, VDGG and GG influences just finely crafted and nothing too hard to comprehend and like and while this is not-overly complex music, it is an acquired taste, unless you're a dedicated proghead. While their original album was interesting enough but am I ever glad that they added that Empty Bottles bonus track "of unknown origin" and of "non-studio quality ", which is more in the line of the album's A-side, still quite correct soundwise and it might arguably just be the apex of the CD reissue. Twenty-six minutes of sheer insane Zeuhl, impeccably played shows the best side of this group.

Definitely worth your time and money, and despite not reaching their countrymen Circus' apex of Movin' On, you might first want to break open your Swiss piggybank to fork out the dough for an original vinyl. I still don't get what this album is doing in any other genre than Zeuhl on PA's database.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#3911)
Posted Wednesday, September 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A rare late 70s gem from Europe. If you like Mr. Peter Hammil and VDGG than this is a great discovery. It is very dark and I have to admit, kind of scary if you listen to it late at night by yourself. Island blends prog rock and jazz (this isn't fusion) very well with saxs and clarinets.

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Send comments to Carl floyd fan (BETA) | Report this review (#3912)
Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Basically, this album is part of history, it is one of those things i call "missing pieces" of prog rock. One band not many people know about, releases only one album, and that's enough to put it onto a legend level (other bands in this category: Älgarnas Trädgård, Mongol, etc.). This album is really dark, really atmospheric, with soothing melodies and with comnplex rhythmic progressions. It can sound related to Gentle Giant or VdGG, but Island accomplishes something bigger, they have done a masterpiece, a Switzerland Prog-rock definitive gem!

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Send comments to Minstrel X (BETA) | Report this review (#3913)
Posted Wednesday, September 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars For Prog Explorer Only! --- What is your intention in listening to prog music ? To find something different than music norms but still maintaining great melody and structure? If that is the case, forget about this CD and do not read this review - it's a waste of time!! But, if your intention is to explore wide variety of styles offered by prog music regardless any boundary of existing well defined genre / sub-genre (art rock, neo prog, folk prog rock, symphonic prog rock, canterbury, etc. etc.) - what is offered by this album is probably for you. But, wait a second, you must agree with one condition that I must offer you upfront: forget about any boundary of music - sit down and relax, enjoy whatever "sound" (not even music, mate!) produced by these guys and try to associate them with your own feeling. If you are not comfortable with the CD at first spin, don't worry you have another time to listen it again. This applied to me the first time I spin the CD, I could not bear it actually. I put aside the CD and later on - couple weeks later - I spin again and made myself prepared for the worst, prepared for being "tortured" by many anomalies and "weird" sounds the CD would produce. Uhm . finally I could accept the sounds of this album after 3 spins - what a lucky guy I am - typical music buffs would give up at first spin, I think!

So why? Is it the music that bad? Nope! Not at all . it's just strange and very uncommon to our normal listening pleasure, I would think. It's very unpredictable - a lot of surprises, unstructured melody (it looks like at first spin), frequent tempo changes, intensely complex (at least for my ears). Well, for those of you who love neo progressive style, you would not enjoy this CD, for sure.

Does it mean that the band is immune from any influence? Not really. I have observed some influences of predecessors: King Crimson, Van der Graaf Generator, ELP, Gentle Giant, Soft Machine, England, Hatfield and the North, Return to Forever, Devil Doll and avant-garde music. So, it's not original - it's derivative but the band has taken into a direction that creates a unique music that you can hardly identify the main influence of previous band(s).

On Composition

It's a complex music (especially for me) and very dark, composed in a meticulous detail by the band. At first glance, there are a lot of passages that have no connection whatsoever with preceding and/or succeeding passages. The band has crafted their music on the basis of segment by segment writings and tie them together into one chapter to form a complete song. This is a valid approach as in life (reality) we have found many non connected items that when we construct into one whole may (or may not) form a meaningful philosophy (lessons of life), I would say. With all of these caveats, what we - as listener - can enjoy this kind of music at its best? Well, there is no one single answer on this. It depends on individual preferences and musical backgrounds. As for me personally, to enjoy this music I just enjoy sound by sound produced by the album regardless the structure. Structure? It's a hard to define here as you can hardly find where is the head" or "tail" of each song. Just enjoy the sound each second during the time passage of CD spin. And .. let your mind decide - is there any enjoyment with this music? Can I understand it? Can I comprehend it? Should I proceed listening to this unstructured composition? [I had positive responses on all of these questions; so I enjoy it as far as the condition of listening is fulfilled: alone and in the middle of the night, play it loud!].

On Musicianship and Performance

Well, it's pretty easy to judge musicianship for a complex music like this, isn't it? Either it's a top notch or the guys do not know how to play their instruments, right? A good measure is to ask the band to do a gig for us. If the can play exactly like the studio version, yeah .. you got it right . they are impeccable musicians! But, I have another measure on this. The way observe is to find the most complex segment and try to analyze the complexity of chords they play especially in harmonizing with other instruments. For this, the guys have passed the test! I even admire their musicianship!

I would not go into track by track review. Overall, having listened to this album more than 6 times in its entirety, I would dare to give a rating of "an excellent addition to any prog collection" (four stars rating) based on the above descriptions. This rating applies to any of you who wants to dive into the ocean of prog music and explore a multitude of styles and sub genres offered by the musicians / composers. But for overall music prog music buffs, I would tend to give two ratings. Prog music is very personal, so I leave it up to you to rate and I don't want to give any recommendation to you whether or not to purchase this album by Laser's Edge. Be your own judge! And .. Keep on progging!

Progressively Yours, GW - Indonesia

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#3914)
Posted Monday, January 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
mhiraldo@hotm
4 stars WOW! This guys sure can play, and compose! Listen to the sample offered here in Progarchives and tell me if it's not surprising! I hear references of Happy the Man (or was it the other way around? this band came out almost at the same time as Happy the Man but in diferent continents!) and a bit of Zeuhl and VDGG influence. But the scariest thing is the singer...he sounds just like the singer in HTM. Apart from these similarities the compositions are darker and stranger than HTM . Quite a good if not excellent listen. Also there is a 23 minutes bonus track which is great too. Get it if you like dynamic and complex compositions with top notch 70's styled musicianship. Recommended to fans of HTM, Gentle Giant and VDGG.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#35862)
Posted Thursday, June 09, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Swirzerland is not exactly known as a hotbed of musical excellence in any genre let alone progressive rock. Island's album consequently is not well known by some of the most diehard of progheads.

That's a pity as this is one of the most rewarding albums within the prog genre. Released during the late 70's (the autumnal years of the classic era) it is a hard edged and at times difficult record. Mixing elements of VDGG, Yes and jazz rock it takes several hearings to fully appreciate and may not be to everyone's taste.

The title track I find to be amongst the best pieces ever within the progressive genre and worthy of getting this album on it's own. The remainder are all nearly as strong making this an important release and one that should be included in any serious prog collectors collection.

The extra track on the Laser's Edge reissue is of slightly poorer sound quality but still enjoyable and I'm pleased it was rescued from the archives

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Send comments to Dave Preston (BETA) | Report this review (#40040)
Posted Saturday, July 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is definately a masterpiece of experimental progrock! It is almost impossible to describe how dark and sinister atmosphere this album has. To put it this way: It is the perfect music to go with the H.R.Geiger coverart, and that says quite a lot I think.

The individual members are really amazing at their instruments, and the compositions are all top notch all the way. The best track is in my opinion the 16 minute title track, which is nothing other than a masterpiece. Words are really not enough to describe this music, it really has to be experienced. Trust me ! A lot of people can hear a lot of Van Der Graaf Generator here. Although I'm sure it has been a great influence to them, this music is a lot more sinister and complex than VDGG ever was. IMO, also a lot better (and I really like VDGG).

The CD release has a bonus track, which is quite different from the rest. It is a lot more "straigh t forward" jazz fusion if you can say that, but that doesn't mean it is a bad track. It is actually one of the best fusion pieces I've ever heard, and the fact that it is 24 minutes long doesn't make it any worse! The drummer is amazing (as the rest of the band), and remind me quite a bit of Phil Collins, especially on the bonus track.

In a nutshell: An extraordinary, one of a kind, truly creepy and dark, yet MAGNIFICENT album which really has to be experienced to be understood ! Do yourself a favour and get this album immediately (if you can find it that is).

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Send comments to erlenst (BETA) | Report this review (#63164)
Posted Wednesday, January 04, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Unbelieveable ! It took a lot of listens just to be able to start to comprehend what I was listening to. This is really complex music and I was reminded of the genre of RIO at times. I was also reminded of GENTLE GIANT and VDGG. There are no guitars so the sax, flute and drums lead the way, although percussion really takes on a prominant role on this release, provided by both the drummer and vocalist. By the way the vocals are in English and are well done.This truly is mind blowing music that took me totally by surprise.

The album starts off with the spooky "Introduction" that could be a track on a horror movie. A lot of people describe this album as dark and scary, and suggest the album cover is descriptive of what's inside. But really the only music like that is in this short 1:28 song, and the start of "Herold And King (dloreh)". The rest is just amazing music. "Zero" is a complex instrumental that opens with the keys swirling around with intricate, odd-metered drumming and sax. There is a change of pace after 2 minutes as song builds slowly from almost a standstill to the previous melody. "Pictures" opens with percussion, light keys and vocals. What follows are some cool vocal arrangements ala GG, as the song then slows down to a calm like in the previous song. We then get a flute and vocal melody and more complex instrumental work after 5 minutes. We get an extended sax melody and later a vocal melody.

"Herold And King (Dloreh)" opens with some dark piano melodies, and before 3 minutes we again get some silence as things get experimental and scary. There are some strange vocal sounds and more odd-metered drumming and sax melodies. Some good percussion and what sounds like an array of horns. "Here And Now" boasts some impressive playing for 3 minutes, it's just not that melodic. There is silence again, then the organ builds. Lots of flute later in the song as it becomes more melodic. "Empty Bottles" is the bonus track at over 23 minutes and is quite the ride ! Opening with flute and light drums the drums get louder and it all sounds so good. Sax and vocals come in although drums start to dominate. The songs stops and returns as a jazzy tune with light drums and clarinet. The song continues with flute, keys, sax and loud drums and it all sounds incredible !

This is not for the faint of heart, but more for those who are looking for something that is more challenging and different.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#111941)
Posted Monday, February 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 3.5 rounded to 4 stars.

Take VDGG circa 75-76. Throw away Banton and Hammil and replace them with Emerson and Gabriel. Make these guys play RIO-related music with lots of tricks from their original bands (theatrical vocals, gloomy and sinister atmosphere, head-crushing complexity and outstanding level of musicianship). All mentioned elements may fright you away from it, but believe me - it's a worthy one! Opener "Intro/Zero" shows everything you may expect here (except for vocals), and if you disliked it, turn it off. The further music goes the lesser bombastic it becomes - closing "Empty Bottles" can be characterized as "mellow", "jazzy" and even "Canterbury-related".

Excellent and terribly overlooked band. They've mixed almost everything Prog is proud of and made it a sound of their own - I won't dare to call them "a clone" of any of mentioned bands. Highly recommended as necessary addition to almost every progger's collection!

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Send comments to Prog-jester (BETA) | Report this review (#114991)
Posted Tuesday, March 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Hailing from Switzerland, Island a band that brought out an important effort to the prog genre from the obscurity that typically signals "cult bands" or "collector's item" bands. Island is one of the most lauded Swiss bands in prog circles, and quite rightly so - their "Pictures" album is a beautiful example of how well can complexity, density and extravagant humor be combined when a genuine musical intelligence is in command. The chaotic solemnity of the intro piece, precisely entitled 'Introduction', states an exercise on Dadaistic dementia abruptly giving way to 'Zero', the instrumental that properly opens up the album's overall mood. This piece is highly dynamic, with Scherer's keyboards and Meier's drums stating a peculiar combination of Wigwam and "Volume 2"-era Soft Machine, while Fisch's playful sax lines sound like something out of a Hatfield album. When the transition to a slower, denser interlude occurs, the band delivers a sort of closeness to VdGG and "Lizard"-era King Crimson. Such a pity that this interlude is so short, but of course, the return of the initial motif has to be welcomed, too. At this point, even when lead singer Benjamin Jäger hasn't gotten the chance to go beyond additional percussion duties, the receptive listener can only but feel captivated by the way in which the band creates real rocking energy through the intricate explorations comprised in their compositions. The title track, which lasts almost 17 minutes, is the first sung number in the album. The track's ambiences and melodic grooves easily bring to mind references to VdGG, Matching Mole and Wigwam. There are moments that might as well remind us of the Canterbury-friendly seminal age of Henry Cow as well as Zappa, with a weirdness that is quite effective in both appeal and mystery. The long instrumental interlude delivers a very rich set of melodic developments and textures that bring Magma, Hatfield and Gentle Giant to mind: the instrumentalists clearly have a deep knowledge of the genre's most defying purveyors, as well as the sort of sound that their ambitious projections aim at. The last section starts with a fusion-related mellow passage that ultimately leads to a reprise of the opening section's main body: the final motif is quite catchy, bearing a cleverly constrained (albeit obvious) energy. This band's compositional approach is really uncompromising. The album's second half begins with 'Herold and King / Dloreh'. The opening section is a soft, dissonantly driven piano solo. Once it is over, a psychedelic crescendo builds a set of spacey moods that serve as a bridge to the extravagant main body. Variations go on and on, including bizarre vocalizations that mix the jazz-meets-Baroque syncopations of GG and the humoresque vibe of Zappa. The most recognizable instrumental intersections recurrently bear the influences from VdGG, Hatfield and Wigwam (by now, the usual suspects), only Island provides the whole sonic framework a Gothic tonality that enhances the sinister potentiality already present in the compositional structure. 'Here and Now', as well as the preceding track, lasts 12+ minutes. Its overall mood is more extroverted in comparison, yet the dark vibe and extravagant attitude remain solid and unchanging. Some organ layers sound creepy, almost like those on the 'Carnival of Souls' movie. There is also a lyrical passage that evidently reveals a clear melodic structure, but the general arrangement of it is gloomy enough as to make sense within the song's general development: this is something that Fripp had learn to perfect in that KC underrated masterpiece called "Lizard". Island's approach, in comparison, has a rougher edge and lesser leanings to orchestral schemes. Near the end, things spice up quite nicely in a Canterbury sort of way: the climax proves effective, stating a more extroverted approach than the one that closured the title track. The CD edition includes a bonus track that dates back from an earlier time. 'Empty Bottles' lasts 23 ½ minutes and it is, indeed, the most jazz-driven piece in this item. Its structure is heavily based on the way that the ongoing jamming emerges from the interactions among the musicians. Being less aggressive than any of the tracks in the official album, it sounds less like Wigwam or VdGG and more like classic Supersister. The layout of various motifs in a fluid sequence receives a large amount of strength from the presence of a real bass guitar player at this point of Island's history. Of course, the listener who has been very impressed, while capable of appreciating the good musicianship displayed in 'Empty Bottles', will miss the special intricacy that Island managed to recreate from an original treatment of varied influences. All in all, "Pictures" is an absolute gem of the prog genre and a must for all collectors who love their prog very enriched with psychedelic grooves, jazzy cadences and an unabashed gusto for complexity. Island has

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#184757)
Posted Sunday, October 05, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars No doubt that this album is a serious candidate to the "most complex prog-rock album ever" competition, and could successfully deal with any other complex album of the genre. I don't intend to say that I've heard every highly complex prog album; however this is my personal impression. Actually I struggle with this album for quite a long time, and things are still vague for me. You may relate to this review as an intermediate document, that won't be complete in the foreseen future.

In my opinion, there is couple of reasons for this "vagueness". Some of these may be: Free, unclear structures, a vague tonality, and sometimes a few real dissonant, atonal melodies. From a classical point of view it reminds me the end of the 19 century era, when music where very unclear, before Schoenberg came in and fixed things up with his atonal methods. By the way, according to this, I would classify this album in the RIO/Avant section, rather than any other sub genre.

Add to this, the quite low and whispery vocals from vocalist Benjamin Jäger, and uncompressed vocals in the mix, and you get something not easy to follow.

That isn't to say that the music is bad or unsatisfied. On the contrary, the music is emotional, atmospheric and haunting. This is not the 'complexity for its own sake' case, or 'too technical, unemotional music'. The opposite may be true.

The musicianship is very high: excellent drumming, Jazzy and punchy, from Güge Jürg Meier, soft, airy Saxes and woodwinds from René Fisch, and simultaneously exquisite and dramatic vocals from Benjamin Jäger. And above all is Peter Scherer, the main composer, keyboardist, and also responsible for the bass lines which provide by pedal-bass and maybe some other equipments, and done in a very peculiar, 'keyboardist' way. (Think of the Doors bass lines, but much more elaborate). As noted in other reviews, no guitars and bass here, which just add originality to this album, and characterize a unique, airy sound.

I'll try to do a brief pass on the album tracks, in order to clear things up (at least, for me):

1 - 'Introduction': an intro which presents unique sounds and vocals, in claustrophobic atmosphere, which soon comes to...

2 - An upbeat motif that opens 'Zero', an instrumental, jazzy track. The light motif soon converts with darker, long, very complex, and beautiful motif. It's hard to classify this section, maybe it relate to free jazz, but I'm far from being a jazz expert, so its just an assumption. Anyway, do not expect ordinary jazz here. After this section, the track goes back to a lighter mood, which ends with reprise to the first theme.

3 - 'Pictures', which contain the most songy, beautiful melody. It sounds medieval - renaissance, accompanied by harpsichord - like sounds, that emphasize the medieval atmosphere. But the 'comfortable' song structure is not remaining for too long: Soon this evolves into the first very vague environment in this album. As in the previous track, this is not exactly jazz improvisation on an attend theme. In fact, there is a relation to a theme, but it takes numerous listens to get it. After this section, come a sung part and a reprise to the first song.

This is probably the end of side one of the vinyl version, (I got the CD addition, not the original vinyl), so better take a break or a deep breath towards the next track.

4 - 'Herold and King (Dloreh)' is a highly complex track, featuring vocals that comes and goes, some atonal melodies, vague structure, and long and complicate passages. If you give up on catch some melodies and try to concentrate in the atmosphere - well there is a lot. Wonderful moods between quite and agitated, in overall darkness. The climax IMO is the place where the vocalists sing or yell dramatically, in reversed English (Which comes along with the 'real' English sentences). This is very unique.

5 - And then comes the last track - 'Here and now'. I must confess: after dealing with 'Dloreh' that comes after not-so-easy tracks I have not enough patience to deal with this one. I've tried to listen to it separately, but it didn't work much better for me. As in the previous tracks, this track features complicate jazzy elements, difficult melodies, and free and vague structures. The atmosphere is a little bit more light and optimistic than before.

In all, this album is recommended for those who are willing to check their own boundaries, in terms of complexity and elaboration. Again, the complexity does not come before the music, which is kept beautiful and emotional. A special record that will require your full attention.

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Send comments to ShW1 (BETA) | Report this review (#222918)
Posted Wednesday, June 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The only studio album of obscure Swiss prog band is very competent and complex work for your head.CD version contains of 6 compositions, four of them are longer than 12 minutes.

Musically band plays complex symphonic/contemporary classical music influenced prog with some symphonic fusion elements and dark, almost zeuhlish atmosphere. Compositions all are of complex structure, with rhythm breaks, some avant elements and really requires repeated listening. In moments similar to some Van Der Graaf Generator of Gentle Giant works, this album is great release in its quality, but has same result on me - this is music for head but hardly for the heart.

Fans of complex and technical symphonic prog should really enjoy this release. For others it could be interesting, but not too enjoyable one.

My rating is 3,5, rounded to 4.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#372471)
Posted Tuesday, January 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Few bands deserve the "eclectic" descriptor more than Island. Pictures presents extended compositions that are generally based on symphonic conventions, but include heavy doses of fusion (often of a Canterbury nature), theatrical lyrics influenced by Peter Gabriel and Peter Hammill in equal portions, avant-garde Gentle Giant-like moments, and the occasional hypnotic rhythm reminiscent of Zeuhl. The highly complex and technical material is let a little by the fuzzy sound quality (at least on my copy), and whilst the band undeniably possess fearsome chops, the album does rather meander, with the epics dragging out some musical ideas well past the point where they stop being interesting. A good album, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it essential by any stretch of the imagination.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#555513)
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars Island's "Pictures" is a vicious jazz attack and quite unsettling at times but never less than creative. The band are an inventive jazz RIO and may be described as Gentle Giant meets Van der Graaf Generator. It is strange and compelling and slightly sinister. The instrumental 'Zero' is one of the most virtuoso in terms of musicianship and experimentation. Scherer is a wizard on keyboards and the drumming of Meier is phenomental competing with one another yet oddly amalgamating together. The time sig changes are wondrous, really making the music more dynamic than it already is. It is bold and daring and challenging.

Fisch is an incredible sax player and shines on the lengthy 'Pictures' with Jager's vocals and massive dollops of avant jazz hyper strangeness. It is almost Zappa meets Hatfield and the North, a weird combination of psychotic jazz and Canterbury. The sigs are all over the place and chaos reigns supreme. 'Herold And King' is a disturbing track with drones and jolts of sax and silence, and it does sound as though the musicians are just tuning up but they are actually playing dissonant jazz. The piano on this is spine tingling and really is not one I would play at night.

'Here and Now' is a dark piece with VDGG sax squeals and Tull like flute. It is rather scary but the vocals are warm and inviting. The music is incredible and off the scale as far as time sigs, the meter changes and the percussion is always maintaining an odd pattern. It ends the album on a highlight. But there is a bonus on the Cd and it is a huge jam session called 'Empty Bottles'. It is really a manic jazz feast, with dissonant sax, drums and other instruments basting up a storm.

A word about the cover. It is an HR Giger artwork 2 years before he became famous for "Alien" and yet it looks very much like the Alien in Ridley Scott's classic. It certainly drew me to the album. Giger of course provided the artwork for many albums such as ELP's "BSS" and Debbie Harry's solo album "Koo Koo", even being involved with the clip to her 'Backfired' and appearing in 'Now I Know You Know'.

Overall Islands' "Pictures" is a bold inventive album that is really going to challenge listeners and for those of us who want to hear odd time meters, jazz weirdness and Canterbury all in one package, look no further!

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#620971)
Posted Friday, January 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Dark, sinister and closer to avantgarde progressive rock than any other variation of the genre, I've been aware of this gem for quite some time now but haven't got a chance to listen to the whole album until recently. This is an unique, complex and very adventurous album and while the music is constantly interesting (at least for a weirdo like myself) the best thing about it is the absolutely eerie, almost chilling atmosphere that just get tenser as the album progresses. The music is strangely melodic and elegant but simultaneously uneasy that usually relief itself into some really deranged or spooky sections. The best thing is that it's all very effective, at least if you can appreciate this kind of dark music cause it is not easy listening. Musicianship is absolutely stunning and right on time even in the most bizarre and demanding sections, these guys really know how to play and peform and I was mindblown by their unique approach to their instruments. As you probably figured out the songs are dangerously complex so it requires a good ear and slight insanity from the listener to fully grab it all. The lyrics are odd and the vocalist might be an acquired taste for some but the rest is brilliant all the way. I'll leave it to the excellent cover art explaining the rest for you..

If you like Gnidrolog, Gentle Giant, Van der Graaf Generator, King Crimson and have a taste for zeuhl and avantprog then check it out, but be open minded. You either get it or get run over by it, so take your time.

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Send comments to Bj-1 (BETA) | Report this review (#751426)
Posted Thursday, May 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A very, very, very strange slice of avant-garde-cum-canterbury-style progressive rock from the rather obscure Swiss four-piece Island, this 1977 release, right down to the techno-biological artwork of renowned Swiss artist H. R. Giger(him of 'Alien' fame) really is an 'acquired' taste. Practically impossible to get hold of(certainly at the time of writing) this is one of those exceptionally singular albums that both confounds and delights in equal measure, though after initial listens one does wish that the group had simply focused more on developing the album's various quirky melodies instead of just being deliberately weird. Featuring five tracks - the final three of which each break the ten-minute mark - 'Pictures' kicks off with strange moanings, hushed whispers and crashing gongs on the aptly-titled mini-prologue 'Introduction' before a cacophony of sonic squalls lead into the impressively jazz-flecked follow-up 'Zero'. It's on 'Zero' that the group's canny ear for delightfully intricate melodies really shines through, as brisk keyboard patterns and skittering drums dance an oddly-timed avant-jazz jig that brings to mind the more complex meanderings of both National Health and Hatfield & The North. However, 'Pictures' really starts to amp up the weirdness factor on the three epic closing compositions, each of which drags the listener bemused and kicking into the Swiss group's wholly eclectic musical world. Mainly instrumental - bar from some genuinely creepy vocals courtesy of percussionist and ex-Toad member Benjamin Jager - the title- track, 'Herold & King' and 'Here & Now' really need to be heard to truly be (dis)believed. At times, a slight medieval feel permeates the dizzy madness, and whilst frequent needless wanders into overly dissonant territory prove frustrating, it's almost worth the effort when Island do manage to concentrate on the actual music. If you can take over forty-minutes of whacked-out prog(sample chorus line: "Gastric Juices! Gastric Juices!") 'Pictures', an album almost perfectly summed up by its freakish cover art, may actually be worth exploring. However, you have been warned... STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#822315)
Posted Monday, September 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
3 stars Not much is known about this legendary Swiss Prog band, but it seems certain that Island evolved from the disbanded Deaf, as the very early mid-70's five-piece line-up included drummer Güge Jürg Meier and guitarist/singer Dany Ruehle (also a member of The Shiver).However their sole album ''Pictures'' would only see the light in 1977 on the unkown Round Records (propably Island's members had some involvement with the label), featuring from the original line-up ex-Toad Benjamin Jäger on vocals and percussion, Güge Jürg Meier on drums, Peter Scherer on keyboards and bass pedals along with the newest addition of wind-instrumentalist René Fisch.

The album is a British-influenced experience of dense and complex Progressive Rock along the lines of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, GENTLE GIANT and GNIDROLOG, very unpopular for the time of its release but definitely well-executed and offering plenty of interesting material already from the opening minutes and the superb instrumental ''Zero'', a milestone of rich and frenetic Progressive Rock with fantastic interplays between piano, organ, saxes and clarinets as well as some excellent drumming.What follows is a dark, haunting and complicated trilogy of three long epics, clocking between 12 and 17 minutes, where Island's sound reaches the top of its complexity but also where the VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR is trully apparent.What really shines in these compositions is the perfectly balanced sound of the band between the instrumental madness and the intense lyrical parts as well as the dreamy, almost fairytale atmospheres and obscure, dark soundscapes.The instrumentation seems also greatly measures.Lots of sax and clarinet interventions next to some lighter flute parts but also plenty of keyboard attacks, including Avant Garde-like piano textures and tons of organ orgasms.Pretty tight stuff and what makes ''Pictures'' even more charming is the absence of guitars and the use of bass pedals instead of a bass.Count in the numerous wordless chants and you get ''Pictures'' abnormal and schizophenic atmosphere.

The Laser's Edge CD reissue contains also a rare 23-min. jamming of the band, which is also attractive and very solid.A must have for all fans of complex and dark music of the VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR school of Prog and warmly recommended for all the rest...3.5 stars.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#873725)
Posted Saturday, December 08, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Living up to their name, it really seems like this band was stranded on an island somewhere far away for a really long time and had nothing better to do except create this otherworldly music. This sole release is probably the strangest prog i've ever heard. Yes, the influences of Van der Graaf, Gentle Giant, ELP, avant prog, RIO and the rest are here, but this music really doesn't sound like anything else. It is eerie, spooky, complex, powerful and bizarre! The decision to leave out the guitar and add lots of percussion, crotales, saxes, flute and clarinet really add to its uniqueness

Warning! This eclectic stew takes a few listens to grow on you. I have grown to love this! I heard this several times on YouTube before I tracked down a copy and after several listens I only like this more each time. The production isn't as bad as i've read and I think it actually adds to the strangeness of it all. The bonus track on the CD is no throwaway. It fits in perfectly with the rest of the album and clocking in at over 23 minutes adds a huge chunk of time. So what are you waiting for? Go out and find this! It's the perfect soundtrack for cuddling up to H.R. Giger's Necronomicon

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Send comments to siLLy puPPy (BETA) | Report this review (#1076602)
Posted Thursday, November 14, 2013 | Review Permalink

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