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Major Parkinson - Valesa - Chapter I: Velvet Prison CD (album) cover

VALESA - CHAPTER I: VELVET PRISON

Major Parkinson

Eclectic Prog


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4 stars MAJOR PARKINSON, name found in an old theater building, founded in 2003, 1st album in 2008, name associated with TOOL and FAITH NO MORE at the start, distilling pop, rock, hardcore and prog...not easy. Jon's voice can recall that of the late COHEN, Steve VON TILL or Tom WAITS; collider group of avant-garde sound bathing between synth-pop, new wave, cinematic and psyche-progressive, art rock in all its splendour. Texts on political life for their 6th album based on dark melodies, on a greasy synth base and 4 and a half years of work to give birth to it.

7 real titles mixed with interludes for a new concept: "Goodbye Blue Monday" cinematic intro, current fashion between film and 'The Wall' sequence, violent orchestral crescendo before "Behind Next Door" voice à la Cohen warm, languorous on a melancholy piano, air of the 1st 'Top Gun' and it takes off on a live where it's more Garou (yes I know) or Joe Cocker who seems to take the microphone, astonishing, divine and solemn on this tune? heady; well we are far from what they did before. "Saturday Night" not the disco though; tribal synth pads, a bit of ethereal, strange new wave pop; the soaring keyboards, the childish voice of Claudia, all that disconcerts, sounds grandiloquent, symphonic with the stunning organ finale. "Ride In the Whirlwind" for the pre-Foxtrot nursery rhyme piano interlude? It denotes the start, it puts the ear on alert and launches "Live Forever" always on heavy, catchy synths, a little on the MEAT LOAF in more pop than rock; syncopated tonal air which boosts the title and brings the vocals naturally, the crystalline choirs then a bass drum machine that will have to be ingested, yes danceable. It rises and advances towards synth-pop, dream-music, you have to listen and go up a floor to swallow "Sadlands" on a live sound, cinematic country-rock air again, stadium atmosphere, it would put chills behind the back of the neck, what a voice anyway from Jon; singular unstoppable interlude and "Intermezzo" follows on an 'electronified' DEAD CAN DANCE, dark Wallian musical trance again; latent ambient cinematic with forward-thinking F1 racing. "Jonah" and the return of the late Leonard COHEN, air to the JOY DIVISION, THE CARS, KILLING JOKE for a gospel atmosphere with appropriate choirs; the languorous synth; the piano break Nick CAVE for a while. We arrive at the first half of an album for the moment unclassifiable, the eclectic genre at its peak; I even read reminiscence at the PET SHOP BOYS it's to say, come on, we'll close and we're going to "Velvet Moon" for a short intimate piano-voice title Jon abusing his suave atonal voice.

"Irina Margareta" follows for the title even more hilarious in the good sense of the word, it is warm, solemn, grandiloquent; it's nostalgic, cinematic, epic. It goes up with the haunting synth now recognizable, Jon raises his voice lowers it on that of the Archangel, we are conquered. "The House" returns to the dark classic atmosphere before leaving on a Genesis charisma air... before leaving on a disconcerting post new wave sound you will have understood; it's dancing pop, I know that many won't understand the chronicle on this site... but it's very progressive like a TEARS FOR FEARS, a SIMPLE MINDS, a TALK TALK. "The Room" shifts, it changes and it's in the same line, the strength of the bass synth with the melody choirs; a violin on a TANGERINE DREAM melody throws even more trouble if possible, the synths are more shrill and dancing in the tune of 80's BUGGLES now. I note that this album is excellent to avoid falling into Alzheimer's in view of the memories generated. "Posh- Apocalypse" raw cinematic interlude on KRAFTWERK for example, on the soundtracks of the 'Supercopter' or 'K- 2000' series, much longer than it seems and "Moma" for the ultimate break in this album, downgraded noisy punk hard trance, a shrapnel of sounds before continuing on Claudia surfing on the synth notes, drowning us a little more in this musical maelstrom. "Lemon Symphony" another cinematic interlude on a fast beat, choirs, confusing, progressive. "Fantasia Me Now!" Here's QUEEN now with 'Radio Gaga', well the last real title with Claudia and Jon on a more or less frantic air, the style: a little brass à la BRAND X, hop the voice à la Kylie MINOGUE now. 3'40'' sudden break and it starts again; the finale becomes aggressive on the voice, soft on the synth, an unclassifiable cinematic musical melting pot bringing "Heroes" finally, at the end also to deliver the coup de grace, Jon delivering his last dark phased song on the piano while Claudia gives the la to aerate the air, an important moment to come back from this dreamlike hour.

MAJOR PARKINSON I've read it and it captures the effect just released an album more like driving a convertible down an ocean boulevard through a scorching, psychedelic sunset with mushrooms receding at the far'!

You should hang on if you don't know yet, otherwise you know you're going to listen to a unique unclassifiable musical genre that won't leave you indifferent. Let's wait for Chapter 2.

Report this review (#2844450)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2022 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I was pretty impressed with this band's 2017 release "Blackbox" but even more impressed with their live album from earlier this year called "A Night At The Library". On the heels of that live record the band releases studio album number five called "Valesa-Chapter !: Velvet Prison". Quite a change in musical direction with this one as they head straight into 80's Synth/Pop but with some Disco and Rock thrown in. The backdrop for this album is the 80's as they go into the politics of that decade. Jon Ivar the singer says this about this record "Synth anthems set in a disco of nuclear anxiety."

There are a ton of guests helping out including a female vocalist who has an almost squeeky high voice which contrasts with Jon Ivar's rich and powerful singing. I always put a check mark beside a song I really like and circle it if it's really amazing but I also put an "x" beside a song if I really don't like it. So a few check marks on this one but several "x" marks too. I can't get past the plastic. Synths dominate this and there's also a keyboard percussion instrument that I lament. Now it's not all like this as we get some tracks without all the 80's and Disco sounds but I can't get past the prejudice I have towards Disco being a teenager when it was popular and detesting it at the time.

I know some Avant bands who've implemented some of these Disco sounds to great acclaim but not from me, it's just too much to get past. I loved that they added "Jonah" to this record, a track introduced on the "A Night At The Library" album. It's a little different here plus they actually talk about Jonah a few tracks before on "Live Forever" which is so cool. "Behind The Next Door" is such a good track and I have to mention "MOMA" which is CARDIACS-101. Like a tribute to them because this is supposed to be set in the 80's?

I'm not going to say much more but 3 stars is all I got. Jon Ivar is one of those vocalists that is the price of admission. Just so impressed by him but as far as the music goes just not my scene for the most part.

Report this review (#2852823)
Posted Thursday, November 17, 2022 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Reviewer
3 stars I have been aware of this Norwegian band for some time, but the only album I had come across prior to this was 2014's 'Twilight Cinema', which was their third release, and I missed out altogether on both 'Blackbox' and the live 'A Night At The Opera' which have both been highly regarded. There was quite a change in line-up since 'Twilight Cinema', and the current line-up only contains singer Jon Ivar Kollbotn, bassist Eivind Gammersvik and keyboard player Christian Bjørknes who appeared on that album, and the current seven-person line-up has been greatly extended on this release with a large number of guests.

With 17 songs and a playing time of more than an hour, this is an album which is heavily dominated by keyboards and huge production, with arrangements and sounds that are very much rooted in the Eighties. Jon's vocals are gravelly and dominate proceedings, with the rest of the band set to allow those vocals to always be front and centre, and while there are progressive elements here, there is also plenty of pop. At times they come across as being heavily influenced by Depeche Mode, while the drums often sound as if they are generated by a drum machine as opposed to drummer Sondre Veland which is obviously quite deliberate. What lifts this away from being merely something I would dismiss (as I did with much of the pop scene in the 80's) is the quality of the material on offer and especially the vocals which lift this to new levels. It is not an album to which I can see myself often returning, but that has far more to do with my personal tastes as opposed to anything particularly poor with the album. There is no doubt there is something quite special going on here, with Jon being a star in his own right, and fans of this style of music will find much here to enjoy but I confess to not liking it as much as the last album of theirs that I heard.

Report this review (#2936780)
Posted Friday, June 30, 2023 | Review Permalink

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