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Progression by Failure

Symphonic Prog

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Progression by Failure Sonic Travelogue album cover
3.85 | 99 ratings | 3 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2015

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Pyramid & the Sphere (10:05)
2. Sparkles (10:34)
3. Once Upon a Time (3:45)
4. A Day in the Swamp (5:14)
5. Forest of Doubt (4:49)
6. Escaping the Ankou (6:52)
7. The Sidh's Gate (6:27)
8. Autumn Mood (5:45)
9. The End of Sonic Vibrations (10:21)

Total Time 63:42

Line-up / Musicians

- Nicolas Piveteau / keyboards
- Drayen Labie / guitars
- Mike Saccoman / drums

Releases information

Label: Musea
Format: CD, Digital
Release date: January 29, 2015

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
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PROGRESSION BY FAILURE Sonic Travelogue ratings distribution

(99 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (38%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

PROGRESSION BY FAILURE Sonic Travelogue reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by LearsFool
4 stars In part taking off of medieval songs and influences, "Sonic Travelogue" is somewhere between an epic, symphonic wonderment of a musical journey, and a simply good collection of eclectically influenced tracks. The reason for this disparity is that Progression By Failure's eclectic sensibilities take him away from his strong point, some truly beautiful and, yes, epic tracks rich in classical and medieval leanings, that as a whole album would be an instant masterpiece. Some wonderful work with strings, mellotron, and wailing guitar. But, alas, we leave for some lower points. The rating notes that he knows what he's doing and that as such this is all good music, but this does drag it down in the end - ever more because of the sheer disappointment of the loss. Enough weeping, though, as, again, this is still good material all around. This is never a dull or bad listen. I have warmed to his particular eclecticism. But I still miss what could have been... I will say a 4.5 that must be rounded down. Still recommended, and this probably will still be a masterpiece for some.
Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Progression by Failure has graduated to the sophomore level, proving that the 2009 self-titled debut was no flash in the pan, and creating another magnificent opus that is as accomplished if not more so than its illustrious predecessor. Main man, composer and keyboardist Nicolas Piveteau has attempted crowd funding with minimal results, proving once again the frailties of the much vaunted social media marketing dictatorship, and nevertheless released this brilliant work that just screams out for more attention. There are some immediate upgrades from the first album, as Sonic Travelogue has 2 regular sidemen of very high quality and yet hitherto unknown to me : a bold and vibrant drummer in Mike Saccoman and an opulent guitarist by the name of Drayen Labie, both of whom add some serious dynamics to Piveteau's complex instrumental pieces, that encompass a wide spectrum from aggressive sympho prog to medieval baroque tendencies, constantly sailing towards uncharted territories that keep a tight focus on masterful melodies on each and every piece. Piveteau's keyboard work was already exemplary before but now, he really reaches new heights in creativity, tone and exploration, unafraid of infusing some modern electronic sounds as well as funky old school e-piano, a slew of special effects all drawn from his battery of synthesizers.

Slamming one against the wall from the onset is a cold move but what a wakeup call in 'The Pyramid & the Sphere'! Ka-boom, mon ami! Hefty guitars , dripping electro pearls, volcanic drum beats work together to introduce the sensational jazz piano section, smokey room in your mind, ladies in long dresses, gents in tuxedos, Armagnac and Champagne are both de rigueur and flowing seductively. The nasty metallic assault returns, even more drool pooling the chin, this time pointing towards a hard synth sound, drums firmly in tow, stretching towards dissonance and even RIO. Surprising this heavier sound, but I like it, as the now ultra-jazzy lounge big band synths emulate the brass section of some early morning musical breakfast, a glowing sunrise on the horizon. Whistling bird synths recall Jan Hammer or even Patrick Moraz, a bold undertaking that serves as letters of noblesse. Symphonic master stroke.

Align that opener with another 10 minute + epic in 'Sparkles' and you just already know this is going to be so much fun. This piece takes the thing to even loftier heights and serve as a highlight track of masterful proportions, a prototypical example of 2015 symphonic prog's elite capabilities. Pulsating, thrilling, stormy, electrifying and urban. Piveteau does an original take on keyboard wizardry, not just by varying his instruments but the tones and effects are scintillating. It doesn't really sound like anything in Progland, a heady mixture of all the explicit ingredients we have in our genre, but led obviously by urgent classical tendencies, as well as adorned by dazzling detail and concrete structure. The gentle exit is astoundingly effective and proof of genius at work/play.

'Once Upon a Time' is a prime example of the juxtaposition of medieval sounds and hard-edged guitar-fueled propulsion, a crisp rhythmic foundation at its prime, only to blossom into a gorgeous melody that hits all the heartstrings and oozes out all the repressed melancholia in a person's soul. This could easily have stretched itself out into a more extended piece but I guess the next one will fulfill that obligation.

Daring to venture into funkier climes, as on the Cajun-fueled 'A Day in the Swamp', replete with groovy guitar mannerisms that are closer to Steve Cropper, Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour than anything else, while the jambalaya-like electric pianos, clavinets and organs do some furious fusion, the piece suddenly morphs into a French Celtic stomp, something Malicorne, Patrick Broguiere and such would dare contemplate. The idea was perhaps to remind us that most parts of America and Canada were first discovered by Frenchmen and not the Brits, who came only later. Eclectic stuff, I daresay!

Ignited by a pastoral acoustic guitar frill, 'Forest of Doubt' has a mind-numbing theme that I have a hard time shaking, a sweeping synthesizer loop scours the mellotron-doused ceiling and a sound I am quite weak-kneed about, almost like a mid-period Genesis outtake, with a 'Nights in White Satin' finale. I have no doubt that this is another key piece of this remarkably startling album, a sheer delight. The synth work alone is exemplary but when the drums roll on in (they really kick into a groove), the arrangement just skyrockets upwards in volatile splendor.

Back to some noisy stuff with 'Escaping the Ankou', a space rock blast if I ever heard one, complete with a spooooooky metallic synthesizer rave that is out of any sci-fi oldie you care to imagine. Cosmic debris flung at breakneck speed over the steaming organ makes this even more dramatic, weird bass keyboard oscillations and a sudden jazz lounge piano solo that will catch one wholly off guard, and a slew of careening oddball sounds, what a thrilling ride! The mood is visceral and exalting, the playing is otherworldly in technique and delivery.

'The Sidh's Gate' should almost be considered as a segue piece, a variation on the previous insanity, a more obscure mood pervades with dexterity. The synth here has a saxophone patched into its memory banks and the result is quite breathtaking. The second section is pure symphonic bliss with an orchestral grandeur. Another character track is the sublime 'Autumn Mood', a charming reverie on that spirited season when cooler climes inherit the sun and the wind, here expressed as a thrilling piano etude of the very highest pedigree, a Chopin-like moment in time and space. It becomes abundantly clear that Nicolas Piveteau is a superb technician, extolling both grace, fire and technique with equal doses of proficiency. The charming silence only enhances the glorious sentiments of autumn, when coolness finally challenges the sunny heat, a delicatessen equaling prime Rick Wakeman.

The recording ends with the majestic 'The End of Sonic Vibrations' and that is when the truly spectacular kicks in, a rare glimpse at a finale that encompasses all what was heard before as well as preparing the next step in Piveteau's modern prog career and craft. The main extract is a valiant confidence, a vision that has few clones, a mastery of atmosphere, technique, composition, inspiration and outright class. The exhilarating orgasm is led by a hallowed guitar, long and bluesy just like we like them, lush with sensual flush, erotic undertones perhaps but Labie's sexual guitar rant certainly qualifies being somewhat explosive. This rates highly as a cousin of tracks like IQ's 'Road to Bones' or PTree's 'Anesthesize', fine examples of epic, spectral and mesmerizing 21st century prog.

This is a ridiculously interesting album of supreme quality, sound, playing and material. Easy masterpiece, with all that sparkling piano as well as a real drummer and not some robotic pounder.

5 musical journals

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I had forgotten how much I had enjoyed the work of this band from their previous self-titled release back in 2009 until I heard this music. The mix of Nicolas Piveteau's kind of New Age-y jazz with heavier Neo-prog elements is at first a little odd and tough to get used to--especially at transitions (which can be quite sudden and alarming)--but the musicianship of the drummer, Mike Saccoman, and some excellent bass and guitar tracks when coupled with a rather extraordinary gift for melody makes this band and its albums music that grows on you. At first I was always thrown off by the sudden shifts from heavy NeoProg to "cheezy" jazz but now find that I get quite excited by the prospect of hearing one of PbF's songs when they appear in my ears from my iPod Shuffle. Several of these songs have become my favorites from 2015. Some of the songs still lose me in transitions, but there are several that just melt me to the core. Let me discuss those.

2. "Sparkles" (10:34) opens with a gorgeous VANGELIS-like melodic hook which gradually gains perfectly arranged support from the full band (bass, drums, other layers of keyboards) and then shifts into a kind of Asian keyboard percussion base for the conintuous play on the the main melody and wonderful--and I mean wonderful--drum play. At 3:20 the music shifts into another gear with some more aggressive play on the part of all members and multiple keyboard solos and guitar riffing taking the center stage. Awesome song construction and instrumental arrangement! At 5:30 the bottom drops out of the music and we are left with a fast-panning electric piano arpeggio and slow picked guitar notes to fill some deliciously spacious time. A minute later we are beginning to rebuild around the new instrumental weave with a variation on the old main melody and sounds. Again, the perfection of the drum contributions are, to me, nothing short of amazing--possibly my favorite element of the album. The song ends with a kind of ambient show moving into a slow fade. Brilliant song! One of my favorites for the Year. (10/10)

5. "Forest of Doubt" (4:50) opens with a very ANTHONY PHILLIPS-familiar guitar sound playing slow arpeggio and then joined by two or three other acoustic/electric guitars weaving their own arpeggios into the mix. Awesome and gorgeous! A lone synthesizer enters at the 1:20 mark with a kind of TONY BANKS sound and frivolous, faerie-like dance through the "woods" of guitars. At 2:15 the full band with heavy background of Mellotron and thumping deep bass notes and solid, forceful drum play join in and support the guitar weaves setting up the awesome BANKS-ian synthesizer solo to ensue for the next minute and a half before band and synth voices close out the song in a very Wind and Wuthering way ("All in a Mouse's Night"). (9/10)

6. "Escaping the Ankou" (6:53) is a more dynamic, kind of KING CRIMSON song with some great electric guitar lead play. (8/10)

7. "The Sidh's Gate" (6:27) incorporates into its mid-sction another one of those magical TONY BANKS/ VANGELIS-like keybaord-driven melodic weaves--with full complement of GENESIS-like instrumental support from bass (pedals?), power guitar chords, and, of course, some great drumming. (8/10)

8. "Autumn Mood" (5:46) MUST have been inspired by GEORGE WINSTON's Autumn record because the style of piano play is so incredibly similar. It's so nice to hear! Then, at the 2:00 mark a dramatic George Winston-like shift occurs but is accompanied by a cool midi keyboard contribution that is midi-ing wind and deep buzzing noises. Then things pick up and become more fast-paced as the synth sound becomes more buzz-like for a few seconds before the music returns to the original section in embellished recapitulation. Nice emulation and nice effect! (9/10)

9. "The End of Sonic Vibrations" (10:22) opens with some steady bass and drum lines over which a whole mess of instruments gradually add their contributions into a dynamic weave of pleasing harmonic and melodic sensibility. At 3:15 we get a complete break in the established music as a kind of Tibetan overtone voice fills the aural soundscape. Then a beautiful vocal and piano major seventh two-chord sequence establishes itself over which a piercing JEFF BECK-like guitar solo takes center stage for the next two minutes. Gorgeous! Then, suddenly, it's gone at 6:48 and a heavy PORCUPINE TREE-like multiple electric guitar chord strum sequence is established over which two different keyboard voices play their melodies--one in floating chords of sustained sound, the other in shifting three-note arpeggios. AT 9:15 a kind of bass drum-thumping doom metal section is added beneath the searing play of the floaty keyboard--to crashing end. Brilliant song with amazing emotional impact. Also the most uniquely independent in sound and structure of the album. Another of my favorites from 2015. (10/10)

While not a flawless album--there are actually a couple of "throwaway" songs--there is enough beautiful and often brilliant music here to make this an album that I highly recommend. I do consider Nicolas Piveteau a man worth following as he produces more and more excellent music.

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