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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Plastic Soup is the convincing debut effort by the seasoned musicians that make up PBII, a direct continuation of veteran Dutch act Plackband.

Their style of choice is probably best described as Neo-Progressive, but as many other artists exploring this sound in later years their musical canvas covers a somewhat broader territory than what some might associate this genre with. Lush, atmospheric symphonic backdrops and dreamy guitar soloing are central parts of the compositions explored, but spiced with hard and at times driving riffs, energetic soloing as well as mellower passages of a more ambient inspired nature. At times there's also room for textures with more of a psychedelic and space-oriented origin.

With the bass guitar given a prominent place in the mix and arrangements that at times remind of Golden Earring, blended with an overall style somewhere in between later day IQ and Porcupine Tree, PBII explore a contemporary variety of the neo progressive subset of the progressive rock universe, and deliver an overall solid effort on this occasion. A well made and well performed debut album overall.

Report this review (#291139)
Posted Monday, July 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars One night I was listening to a prog rock radio station in internet, and suddenly I heard a song which sounded really good to me, really neo prog sound. I checked the name and was expecting the name SATELLITE or PETER PAN on screen but it wasn't like that, what I saw was PB II. Unknown to me, I hurried to investigate a bit from the band and learnt they are from the Netherlands and indeed, they play neo progressive rock. I searched for the albums and found "Plastic Soup", when I listened to the album I was completely delighted to hear a band so consistent in their compositions, so creative and at the same time influenced by bands such as the ones I mentioned or even IQ and Marillion, somehow. The album is really nice to hear from beginning to end, such an excellent production, and gosh, let me tell you about the bass player Harry den Hartog, he's such prodigy, he plays amazingly his lines, it's one remarkable aspect of the album. For those who do not know this band and enjoy neo prog, this is definitely for you!
Report this review (#1029605)
Posted Thursday, September 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Team
4 stars Michel van Wassem (keyboards, vocals), Ronald Brautigam (guitars) and Tom van der Meulen (drums) are all well-known within the progressive scene for being founder members of the mighty Plackband, a highly regarded Dutch group who sadly never reached their full potential. Here they are back together (hence the band name), and they have been joined by Harry den Hartog on bass. It is strange to think that the core of this band started playing together in the Seventies, as this has much more in common with the neo prog scene of the early Nineties, than what was around twenty years earlier. Musically this is an incredibly powerful piece of work, with great performances from all four. Ronald's guitar style is incredibly reminiscent of Alan Morse, and "In The Arms Of A Gemini", in particular, contains some Spock's Beard moments, but there are also strong elements of Galahad and Pendragon as well as more American melodic stylings. This is strong stuff, with some crunching guitars, great over the top keyboard, and a dynamic rhythm section. Harry sometimes provides gentle fretless bass as a counterpoint, while others it is a fretted plectrum-led attack that gives the music a totally different feel.

The vocals for the most part have a slightly harsh edge, they haven't been smoothed out too much, and that is totally in feeling with this concept album, as this is a call to arms about the state of our environment, and what we are doing to our seas. The term "plastic soup" refers to the way that carrier bags react when they are in the sea. Dutch minister Jacqueline Cramer said "I think it's great PBII chose plastic soup as a topic on their new album! The more people know about it, the better!". The longest song, at nearly thirteen minutes, is the title cut and contains the thought provoking lyrics "It's plastic soup, it chokes the oceans, while all of mankind fails, will we ever hear again, the singing of the whales."

Musically and lyrically this is a wonderful piece of work that anyone into melodic or neo prog will get a great deal from. Well worth investigating

Report this review (#1682800)
Posted Friday, January 20, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Dutch symphonic rock formation Plackband made wonderful early Genesis inspired symphonic rock in the late Seventies and early Eighties. After they had disbanded in 1982, Plackband decided to reunite in 2000 and released the CD's The Lost Tapes (2000) and After The Battle (2002). But in 2008 the band changed their musical formula and their name, into PBII, brilliant simplicity. In 2010 PBII released their debut album entitled Plastic Soup, a year before I had seen PBII their try-out in the Musicon (The Hague) and quickly realised that PBII was not founded to play music in the vein of Plackband. PBII were searching for a new challenge, a new musical adventure.

Listening to PBII their debut-CD entitled Plastic Soup, I got more and more impressed, what an interesting and often captivating and exciting blend of symphonic rock, rock and progressive pop. And it all sounds so well balanced and elaborate. It's obvious that original Plackband members Ronald Brautigam (guitars), Michel van Wassem (keyboards and vocals) and Tom van der Meulen (drums) have turned into experienced and skilled musicians. They present a very strong musical formula that will appeal to a wide range of progrock lovers, without sounding too smooth or too mainstream. The first composition is the mid-long and alternating Book Of Changes (3 parts), what a splendid and exciting music: a strong tension between the exciting bombastic interludes, the compelling climates and the more mellow parts (evoking 67-77 Genesis), Ronald delivers varied guitar work (from propulsive riffs to howling leads) and Michel treats us on a wonderful and lush keyboard sound (from warm piano runs to majestic Mellotron eruptions and fat synthesizer flights). This is backed by a powerful rhythm-section in which newcomer Harry den Hartog gets room to show his awesome skills on the bass guitar. In fact PBII makes very strong modern progressive rock!

The next track In The Arms Of A Gemeni clearly showcases the more accessible side of PBII. But you can enjoy a tasteful colouring: a propulsive guitar riff in the true R&R tradition, a 'brassy' keyboard sound and beautiful twanging acoustic guitars. In general the rhythm is catchy and the atmosphere sounds modern.

The following eight songs also alternate between these styles, the trademark of PBII on this album.

A sound towards 24-carat symphonic rock with frequent shifting moods, accelerations and breaks in Loneliness (from exciting bombastic climates with a propulsive rhythm-section and sensational synthesizer runs to more dreamy with a moving guitar solo and delicate work on the church organ).

The varied The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (wonderful guitar play with strong hints of Steve Hackett because of the use of the volume pedal and 'hammering down').

And the splendid final composition Cradle To Cradle: awesome keyboards, blistering guitar work (by guest John Mitchell) and an impressive final part with choir-Mellotron and a flashy synthesizer solo, all members in its full splendour!

A more progressive pop atmosphere can be traced in songs like Criticize The Critics (a tight beat with a propulsive bass and heavy guitar) and Living By The Dice that halfway changes into compelling symphonic rock again featuring the mighty choir-Mellotron sound.

And finally PBII delivers tracks that are tastefully arranged with each its own climate: soaring keyboards with inventive bass work in the instrumental Ladrillo, the ballad It's Your Life (from a dreamy start with piano and emotional female vocals to a conclusion with sumptuous keyboards) and a sultry bass (by guest John Jowitt, from IQ fame) and intense guitar play in the Eastern oriented Fata Morgana.

The additional DVD contains a wonderful live rendition of It's Your Life in which singer Heidi Jo Hines shines. And an impression of Michel and his musical adventure in a local church, including shots of his play on the church organ, short but very pleasant to watch.

In my opinion PBII made an excellent debut CD that will please many progheads. And a big hand for PBII to let us be aware of the devastating effect of plastic, almost 10 years after Plastic Soup the situation has only become worse and worse!

Report this review (#1915664)
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2018 | Review Permalink

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