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ZOPP

Zopp

Canterbury Scene


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Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
4 stars Wow! Here we are getting close to a genuine canterbury sound, while showing strong roots back into the 1970s. This is the first ZOPP outing, hopefully not the last. More of a solo project initiated by United Kingdom based award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Stevenson. He provides the arrangements, guitar, bass, and a really wide range of keyboard instruments. It's not a big surprise actually that Andy Tillison has his hand in here too, as he's quite open to such stuff with his band The Tangent. He will offer some additional piano and organ input, and is noted as the album's co-producer as well. And then, time will tell maybe, making a very good impression, drummer Andrea Moneta can be considered as the second constant concerning this project. He's also known for playing with the Italian neo prog band Leviathan by the way.

The musical result somehow, to sum it up, I would say combines the spirit of Alco Frisbass, the trickiness of National Health, and the charming manner of Caravan also. Typically genre styled, I'm including Zeuhl as well here, some rare vocals are provided by Caroline Joy Clarke. Though generally we have a strong focus on the instruments to consider. Classical and ambient/space ingredients are occasionally given too, just take the stirring Sellenra by way of example. Manifold keyboards expectedly rule the album. I dig this. The songs in general are providing a charming relaxed atmosphere, entertaining all the way through. 'This will be a can't miss album ...' the associated Bad Elephant Music label insists. Yep, I fully agree. And there is nothing more to say.

Report this review (#2345956)
Posted Sunday, March 29, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars For those of us who were around in the 1970's, growing up listening to progressive rock music, among the plethora of bands,were a small group of artists emanating from the Canterbury area of England. Collectively,these bands and artists were labelled as being part of the Canterbury scene or sound.

Two of these bands in particular, namely Hatfield and the North, and a few years later Bruford, were at the forefront at producing some innovative music and pushing the boundaries in terms of compositions and sounds. Fans of the Canterbury scene, have been largely starved, in terms of new artists producing quality material, until now that is.

The year 2020, sees the emergence of a new and exiting band , namely ZOPP.

The central figure of the group, Ryan Stevenson has referenced the past, but more importantly, has updated the Canterbury sound to include influences from other styles of music including classical elements. In addition to writing and co producing the album, he is also credited for playing keyboards, guitar and bass, with his co partner Andrea Moneta from Italian prog band Leviathon , providing the drums and percussion.

There are nine excellent pieces of music on this album, carefully crafted,with intricate layer's that reward the listener with repeated visits.

For prog rock fans ,and in particular for those people who loved those instrumental masterpieces from the aforementioned bands, then this album will undoubtedly give you hours of enjoyment.

Go on, indulge yourself.

Report this review (#2345971)
Posted Sunday, March 29, 2020 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars Once upon a time when the Canterbury Scene referred to a specific cast of players who crafted a distinct improvisational style of progressive music that blended disparate doses of jazz, rock and psychedelia embellished with clever technically infused tight-knit rhythms along with a healthy dose of satirical whimsy. These artists emerged from the English city that gave name to a distinct subset of prog but after the initial 70s roster of artists had played itself out, the style quickly went out of fashion. Despite prog's decline as the 70s ended, the Canterbury Scene sounds provided enough inspiration for various musicians all over the world to adopt its unique musical approach. While several Canterbury bands continued the style on as solo artists, not much was heard of this absurdist sect of jazz-rock. Slowly but surely as the 80s churned on, bands like Mr. Sirius and Stubbs from Japan as well as The Muffins in the USA kept the spirit alive but even though a few bands like Moom and Tanger joined the party in the 90s and a few more such as Planeta Imaginario, Six North and Earth Wind Pot took on the complexes of Canterbury in the 2000s, the style didn't really make a true resurrection of the past until the 2010s with bands like Spain's Amoeba Split, Italy's Homunculus Res and Japan's DeLorians giving this unique form of comfort prog a much needed renaissance.

While the Canterbury Scene was making a comeback so to speak, most of the newer artists no longer English except a few outliers such as Magic Bus and Lapis Lazuli but that is changing as the newer generations seem to be catching the Canterbury bug. One of the newest artists to fall into this addictive situation is the Nottingham based ZOPP and after ten years of crafting its debut album has finally emerged onto the international scene to bring back all those warm feelings associated with the greats such as Hatfield and the North, National Health and Soft Machine. ZOPP is the brainchild and musical outlet for Ryan Stevenson who discovered the wonderful world of Canterbury sounds back in the early 2000s when he ran across a few Egg tracks on his dad's computer. Having been immediately smitten, his fascination led him to all the wonderful sounds that made the beloved style of prog so warm and inviting. Add to that the love of the jazz-fusion era of Frank Zappa, a fondness for Porcupine Tree and seeing a live performance of Anekdoten in Bergen, Norway and Stevenson was well on his way to his own obsession of crafting unique musical visions. Hmmm, could the moniker ZOPP be a sly reference to Zappa?

This debut ZOPP album was a labor of love that started all the way back in 2010 and what began as a musical pastiche of sections from Zappa's 'Uncle Meat' and 'Hot Rats' albums, slowly transmogrified into a major solo project that became much more eclectic as elements of not only Canterbury jazz but also electronic, minimalism, hard rock and various strains of prog slowly found their way into the compositions. After a few years off with an attempt at playing in the band scenario, Stevenson returned to the solitude of his visions that began the ZOPP project except that the time had come to take it all to the next level. With his Korg CX-3 and Nord Electro 5d synth organ rearing to go with the help of various fuzz pedals and wah-wah effects, Stevenson solicited the help of others which resulted in a collaboration with drummer Andrea Moneta of the Italian neo-prog band Leviathan but it wasn't until he met fellow keyboardist Andy Tilliison of The Tangent that he received some lessons in how to mix and produce an album that trims the fat and allows all the cream to rise to the top. The results were spectacular!

While technically ZOPP is a duo that consists of Ryan Stevenson (keyboards, mellotron M4000D, Hammond organ, Arturia analogue synthesizer, Korg CX-3 organ, piano, Hohner Pianet T, Nord Electro 5d, bass and electric guitars, voice, field recordings, percussion) and Andrea Moneta (drums and percussion), the album is really a band effort with the additional sounds coming from Andy Tillison (additional piano, additional Hammond organ, Leslie processing, synth, effects), Theo Travis (flute) Mike Benson (tenor saxophone) and the extra voice from Caroline Joy Clarke. While the sounds are retro enough to take you back to the golden years of the Canterbury Scene, the music is eclectic, original and dynamically diverse as well as graced with all the modern production wizardry that makes every sound crisp and clear.

The opening collage track may be called 'Swedish Love,' but with organ sounds right out of the 70s followed by the placid heavenly sounds of Hatfield & the North's diva section The Northettes immediately followed by some ominous feedback fuzz, it's apparent that the track's choice reference to nationality was of sure contradictory whimsy as the sounds clearly evoke the Kent Downs or the white cliffs of Dover just a stone's throw away! As the intro cedes into 'Before The Light' it becomes apparent that another major Canterbury force is at play and that is the love of National Health with strident display of dualistic keyboard effects, those familiar jazzy chord leaps into that undefinable yet unmistakable Canterbury style. Fortified with a heavier prog guitar heft more akin to bands like Anekdoten and Porcupine Tree, it's immediately clear that ZOPP is not about retro fro retro's sake. This confident eponymous debut is quite serious in taking the CS into ever expansive terrains beyond the English channel into the greater world at large however except for the few examples of wordless vocals, this one is entirely instrumental.

With nine tracks that are just shy of a 45 minute playing time, ZOPP keeps the classic feel of a 70s album but benefits from the professional experience from a seasoned prog veteran such as Moneta as well as a modern seamless production job by Andy Tillison. The tracks are well paced ranging from energetic rockers such as 'Eternal Return' and 'Sanger' to the lugubrious piano ballad 'Sellan'.' Mid-tempo tracks like 'V' offer all the delectable Canterbury complexities with time signature rich piano parts, varying keyboard tones and timbres as well as a nice jazzy romp through varying processions of those familiar Hammond organ and mellotron excesses that evoke all those warm and fuzzy feelings of yore. Think early Egg, a little Supersister and a whole lotta National Health and Hatfield and you're on the right track. This is a stunning debut that proudly revives the fiery passionate of the classic Canterbury years with lots of juicy extra touches to keep this from being a hero worshipping folly. This is the real deal as far as cleverly crafted musicianship goes and perhaps one of the best Canterbury albums i've heard in modern times. Is it time for a scorpion or time for some tea? Listen to ZOPP and set yourselves freeeeeeeeeee!

Report this review (#2346004)
Posted Sunday, March 29, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is definitely the best of the year so far. Zopp has managed to create an exceptional work of Canterbury rock, full of inventiveness, energy and warm melodies that perfectly could have been composed back in the 70s. Among the main influences, hints of Caravan, Hatfield, National Health, Khan and Mainstream can be heard, but this album does not try to replicate those sounds, in fact it still feels fresh and original.

01. Swedish Love - 7.5/10 02. Before The Light - 9/10 03. Eternal Return - 9.5/10 04. Sanger - 8/10 05. Sellanra - 7.5/10 06. V - 9.5/10 07. Being And Time - 8/10 08. Zero - 8/10 09. The Noble Shirker - 9.5/10

Four solid stars. Highly recommended to all fans of Canterbury scene and challenging progressive rock.

Report this review (#2352428)
Posted Saturday, April 18, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars What a year is this! We are at home on lockdown and God bless the good new music We have. This is the year of the excelent new album by Pure Reason Revolution (check it out) and now We have a strong contender in the category of best album in 2020. I have never heard of Zopp before or Ryan Stevenson but I am real amazed of what I found here. One of the sub genres I like most in Prog music is Canterbury Scene why? because You can put an album and have a pleasant breakfast or a good evening drink, what the heck! even sex is better with a side of Canterbury, but it was all in the past, but wait a minute! this guy is here making the past present. This is a surprise because is revamping the genre with classical tones and soundtrack type of music and You won't find a better album to have breakfast with, this year. I raise my glass of Orange Juice to You.
Report this review (#2354105)
Posted Friday, April 24, 2020 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Competent modern prog done in the Canterbury style most similar to Dave Newhouse's Manna/Mirage though I find Egg, Hatfield and the North, Supersister, and The Muffins also come to mind. Fine sound engineering and overall production for this sometimes simplistic and basic imitation of the best sounds of Dave Stewart, Robert Jan Stips, Phil Miller, Richard Sinclair, and others.

1. "Swedish Love" (1:32) pure and delightful Hatfield and the North . . . until the eerie/bizarre second half (4.5/5) 2. "Before The Light" (6:05) Eggish with some Supersister sprinkled in (8.75/10) 3. "Eternal Return" (5:06) I hear Supersister, Cos, The Muffins, and a little Khan in the tapestry of this one. (8.25/10) 4. "Sanger" (3:20) sounds like The Muffins with Hugh Hopper's bass! (8.5/10) 5. "Sellanrå" (3:29) an interesting sound experimental starting with the organ start and some nature noises and then piano arpeggi and sparse echoing electric guitar notes and, later, faraway female vocalise. I actually really like this. (9.5/10) 6. "V" (6:37) using Andy Tillison as the time holder! Again, The Muffins and Manna/Mirage come to mind. Great bass and some really awesome Dave Newhouse-like melody lines. (8.75/10) 7. "Being And Time" (4:33) more regal and pretentious, like Black Sabbath or Deep Purple, but then turns into more melodic stuff á la Manna/Mirage. (8.67/10) 8. "Zero" (4:52) again, the individual layers of the tapestry are surprisingly simple, but the whole impresses as if some kind of Dave Stewart, Mike Rutledge, Dave Sinclair or even Alan Gowen composition--though, again, I hear Dave Newhouse melodies. (8.75/10) 9. "The Noble Shirker" (9:19) The most full and sophisticated song on the album, done in a style like AMOEBA SPLIT's 2016 album, Second Split.The sax is fun. (17.75/20)

Total time: 44:53

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music exploring the jazzier Canterbury veins.

Report this review (#2411050)
Posted Sunday, June 7, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars As a relative newcomer to the elements of prog rock below the tip of the iceberg, the varied styles of the Canterbury Scene have been a real mixed bag for me - I've found some of my most loved (Caravan) and most hated (Robert Wyatt) albums and tracks.

But what is this? A 2020 album fusing the modern stylings of 21st century music, with a Canterbury Scene twist that's just jazzy enough to catch my ears but not so rambling and improvisational that it descents into chaos. This is a well thought out, relaxing but entertaining contribution, full of twists and a variety of time signatures that still seems to maintain a coherent structure.

The album of 2020 so far, and also one that encourages me to delve further into the Canterbury Scene having been put off by some of its more 'out there' offerings.

I won't be reviewing individual tracks as the album is definitely a sum of its parts. But it's 5 stars. No question.

Report this review (#2431497)
Posted Thursday, July 23, 2020 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Zopp started life back in 2010 as the brainchild of composer and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Stevenson, and over the years he has developed the sound and has now finally released the debut album. Although he produces a vast number of the sounds himself (keyboards, Mellotron M4000D, Hammond organ, Arturia analogue synthesizer, Korg CX-3 organ, piano, Hohner Pianet T, bass, electric guitars, Nord Electro synth, voice, sound design, noises, field recordings, percussion) has also brought in Andy Tillison who not only played some additional keyboards, mixed and mastered the album but also brought in The Tangent bandmate Theo Travis to provide flute on one song. The other mainstay of the band is Leviathan drummer Andrea Moneta, while Caroline Joy Clarke provides vocals on three songs and Mike Benson tenor sax on another.

This is Canterbury to its very core, with vintage fuzz bass and Hammond organ mixing and meandering. It is a very English sound, progressive and making one think especially of Egg, although there are plenty of elements of Hatfield & The North. There is a simple complexity, with lead roles being switched between different instruments and it certainly never sounds as if this is a project but more as if it were a full band. Complex time signature changes mix with melodies which are intricate yet compelling, non-conforming yet somehow also familiar, taking the listener on a journey which is never straightforward and the direction and destination rarely in sight, but fun and enjoyable for all that. There is a clarity within many of the guitar leads which are quite different the distorted bass, and while there are times when it is quite frantic there are plenty of others where it is restful and gentle. It is both a class and classic album which any fan of this style of prog from forty years ago would do very well to investigate

Report this review (#2440460)
Posted Saturday, August 22, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars Before even soaking up the content, ZOPP offers us a whole program with this symbolic and promising cover that could be the subject of a real essay subject. Indeed, I was immediately attracted by this interesting and intriguing cover. A well-put together origami game shows us how a teapot gradually evolves to transform into a scorpion, how one thing can radically become something else by means of an intelligently illustrated assembly. At the head of this mutant arachnid we have the composer and multi-instrumentalist RYAN STEVENSON, a specialist in film and documentary music, the organist ANDY TILLISON coming straight from THE TANGENT and the percussionist ANDREA MONETA from the group LEVIATHAN. You should not take "Zoop" as a conceptual album, but as a matured and refined collection of songs written and produced over the last ten years by RYAN STEVENSON who is at the center of all the projects. Here we are offered "Canterbury" adjusted to the taste of the day with the instruments of the time, with experimental merging sounds in the jazz and classical atmosphere of the 70 '. Despite the active participation of ANDY TILLISON do not look for similarities with his original group. The claimed influences are EGG, NATIONAL HEALTH, HATFIELD AND THE NORTH, and STRAVINSKY, I would add HAPPY THE MAN, CAMEL or even GENESIS and YES, because the melodies are numerous and the chords turned well. The name of the group comes from the contraction of "Z" from ZAPPA and "Fopp" for the name of a record store that our leader frequented. You will need a few listenings to fully appreciate all the contents of this opus which will prove to be exciting and full of flavors as much in its varieties as in its compositions. Here is a brief overview of my perceptions: We start with "Swedish Love", a sweet and short interlude with keyboards, sung without words in an obsolete way in the manner of HATFIELD AND THE NORTH, it's pretty but it darkens halfway, maybe the suede is not the best example to follow in this area ...? With "Before The Light" we start with a bang like a cavalcade, screaming synth, high-pitched organ, it is rhythmic and leading to the limit of "hard" in certain sections, but without exaggeration. The melodies are incisive and sumptuous, endowed with many contrasting passages, sometimes a tad jazzy and ambient which give this piece a feeling of total success, perfection is not far away! "Eternal Return" takes us into a lyrical and medieval world in a style that is close to GENESIS in its compositions and the instruments used. The whole is enhanced by punctual kinematic effects with impacts, accompanied by connotations à la ENNIO MORRICONE and some similarities of the Italian group LA BATTERIA, the guitars are more present here in order to ventilate the orchestration, and deliver major chords. .. success stories follow but are not alike! Half classic half jazz start in gala dress for the intro of "Sanger". This poet bard offers us a "Contre-bass" and a classy piano played gently colored with reliefs with evocative silences, to be taken up by brilliant fiery keyboards in the manner of ELP, an overhanging guitar sounds the alarm with a beautiful acoustic in the bangs of MIKE OLDFIELD, the ballad ends as it had started, all in fullness and subtlety. "Sellanrå" is a town taken from a Norwegian novel entitled "Soil Growth" by KNUT HAMSUN. Indeed, we can feel the life in this soil, we can even hear the grass grow as the slowness is taken to the extreme here. This piece offers us a ballad illustrated by keyboards surrounded by special effects transporting us on an atmospheric journey resembling a dream, it's chic and relaxing. The sixth title is a capital "V" for the 22nd letter of the alphabet, the age of RYAN STEVENSON when he composed this song. This "V" sounds like a journey, more exactly a cinematographic journey, a sort of detective story, where fusion and 70s prog blend admirably. The synths are fabulously irradiating there, the jazz / jazzy atmospheres project us into joyful bewitching nostalgia. Warmth with eternal sensations, measured relaxation in the touch of CARAVAN, and ideal accords to the structures of HAPPY THE MAN give this track a real success! "Being And Time" is in my opinion the less detailed piece, to the detriment of a six strings a little too repetitive, less complex and thin compositions ... An intermediate passage and an interesting orchestral acceleration will however save this construction doomy-like. "Zero" is a number that the Romans did not know, or that they did not consider to be a number. To evaluate this title I would use the Greek letter ... pi (3,14), symbol of perfection for a sublime transition at 2:48 with a keystone of an analytical and enjoyable descent and rise of the range, a real demonstration! Keyboards and guitar merge in these places in fast tempos and wrapped in sounds approaching around groups such as GENESIS or WOBBLER ... the comparison is fair and justified! "The Noble Shirker" is a phrase coined by RYAN STEVENSON which can be translated as "the noble dodge" alluding to a simple life carried by the passion of music. This last piece takes on an air that resembles a snub, a sort of orchestrated farandole. There is nothing to throw away, everything is there, you take all the qualities and the positive points mentioned above, you add saxophone solos, keyboard, electric arpeggios, a little well-placed mellotron, one last minute that will fly to a futuristic civilization, and you will discover highly prog music in the noblest sense of the term. This last event alone is worth the purchase of the album! This disc filled with good ideas smells of the revival of the "seventies, and offers us waves of complex harmonic sequences, scaffolded by a shower of synths and organs of all kinds skilfully superimposed in multilayer (see the list attributed to the keyboards) , by acoustisks of all beauties plunging us into melodic, lyrical, cinematic and atmospheric universes. I can say without much being mistaken that this cake will be a reference in the Canterbury scene and in the world of Prog in general. RYAN STEVENSON and his running mates have provided through this album an admirable work, with a real propensity for the exercise of balance by magnifying the music in all its compartments, and by mixing almost all the known genres of Progressive Rock to merge with the amateur jazz community and of classical music. I have placed this accomplished work very high in my collector's items, and I strongly advise you to do the same!
Report this review (#2456574)
Posted Friday, October 16, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars Zopp is the project made up by multi-instrumentalist Ryan Stevenson and drummer/percussionist Andrea Moneta and it features other great musicians. The album represents a fantastic ride and its mostly driven by keyboards. The first song on the album is a minute and a half intro filled with different layers of keyboard sounds and it takes us to "Before the light" which is a true prog explosion filled with heavy organ, fantastic guitar and rhythm section.

"Eternal return" continues in the same manner as the previous song and then "Sanger" begins, a three minute mostly jazzy driven song with touches of the heavy sound wich dominates the first part of the album.

"Sellanra" is a atmospheric passage and it leads to "V" one of the greatest songs on the album and it represents a story told by fantastic musicianship and interchange between organ and synth Piano.

"Being and time "is a guitar driven song and after comes "Zero" another tune that represents the main sound and style of the album.

"The Noble Shirker" is the last and longest song on the album and it is filled with positive energy. This entire album is a really great prog ride and it features fantastic musicianship -high technical-quality , it is complete and mature, the theme and the style of the album is influenced by 70's prog but innovative, with a modern touch and filled with great ideas.

Report this review (#2489561)
Posted Saturday, January 2, 2021 | Review Permalink
DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
4 stars A UK-based act ZOPP were born as a brainchild of Ryan STEVENSON around 2010, and this eponymous album featuring their fruitful material fed up carefully and sincerely for about ten years has finally been released in the spring 2020. We can easily guess this album had got gradually developed like the sleeve where a delicate teapot is changing to a fierce scorpion. Their melodic basis is less affected than other Canterbury artists nor pioneers, but we fans can be immersed in their pretty refined sound and promising visions for the debut album.

From the beginning "Swedish Love" the impression is tempting. Ryan's keyboard works are quite delicate and calm but sometimes serious and sharp-edged here and there. On the contrary, the first touch of "Before The Light" is complicated and powerful. This friendly soundgarden reminds us of the same vein of one of Canterbury giants Hatfield And The North. The combination of deep, echoic keyboard plays and heavy tight guitar / bass / drums performances is crazy great. In "Eternal Return" we can enjoy oscillation between quietness and hardness. Every single phrase is not so complex nor dissonant but the collective is kinda grandeur.

"Sanger" features Ryan's crazy keyboard and guitar techniques that encourage us in a dreamy manner. Like a flower blooms, his performances are developing step by step. One of my favourites "Sellanrå" is keyboard-oriented ambient silence smoothly streaming like a small river with creatures like birds, fish, green plants ... our heart is purified. "V" has another enthusiasm. Actually complicated melody lines can naturally be accepted and digested. What a fantasy. Nothing eccentric can be heard, regardless of antipop improvement.

In "Being And Time", another favourite of mine, colourful, unexpected situations like a serious tragedy can be heard. Slow-tempo progression is critical but addictive. Glad to find also Neo-Prog-ish essence all over. "Zero" has dramatic atmosphere tinged with ethnic, tribal seasoning. Let us feel this atmosphere leans towards King Crimson in Discipline era. The epilogue "The Noble Shirker" appropriate for the last scene of this creation is very cool, featuring Mike's delicious saxophone plays. We can hear diversity and eclecticism in it definitely. Tight junctions of all instruments are incredible and strongly impressive.

In conclusion, ZOPP's debut opus has drilled the Canterbury Scene out, let me say.

Report this review (#2489677)
Posted Saturday, January 2, 2021 | Review Permalink

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