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TRAVELHOUSE

Crossover Prog • Bulgaria


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TravelHouse picture
TravelHouse biography
Pavel Milenov, Kalin Tonev, Biser Ivanov, Daniel Eliseev (left to right)

TRAVELHOUSE is the brainchild of keyboarder/composer Kalin Tonev. His experience includes more than 20 groups, lots of shows in the biggest stages and clubs, festivals and tours in Bulgaria and abroad. He also manages his own prog-rock show at the Bulgarian National Radio. Featuring guitar virtuoso Biser Ivanov and Pavel Milenov (drums) the band is the premier progressive rock project at their home.

It all started off when a band called ALLEGRO split up in the beginning of the 2000's. Tonev, Ivanov and Milenov decided to stay together turning to another direction - instrumental progressive rock which was their intention long before. Picking the name DOMESTIC ENGINEERS in 2003, the trio took the first step - the recording of Tonev's composition 'Neutron I'. At the end of 2006, after some temporary changes in the line-up, they met again concentrating on a whole album which is composed by Tonev.

The whole idea and the sound design were the reason to change the name of the project to TRAVELHOUSE finally. In the beginning of September 2007 the work was done. 'Mind Mapping', released 2008 by the Bulgarian Riva sound label, holds an interesting mix of styles from hard-edged guitars through fusion coupled with a new age touch to ambient textures and industrial environment.

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KVZ Music Ltd. 2009
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3.44 | 9 ratings
Mind Mapping
2008

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TRAVELHOUSE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Mind Mapping by TRAVELHOUSE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.44 | 9 ratings

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Mind Mapping
TravelHouse Crossover Prog

Review by SonomaComa1999

3 stars REVIEW #14 - "Mind Mapping" by Travelhouse (2008). 08/10/2018

My random journey through the ever-expanding prog universe has brought me to an obscure work of crossover out of the Eastern European nation of Bulgaria. Travelhouse only released one album in its existence, that being the 2008 album "Mind Mapping". The band is led by keyboardist Kalin Tonev, whom alongside guitarist Biser Ivanov, are the two main musicians on this album, with the bass and drums largely being programmed in by Tonev. That being said there are two songs on this album that feature an organic quintet, but the bulk of the rhythm section on this album is coming from the computer.

Travelhouse markets itself as a crossover prog band which fuses many different styles from the genre. The two most evident faces of this band are the seventies-style synth based keyboard style of Tonev obviously drawn upon from genre legends such as Wakeman and Emerson, and the heavy industrial guitar riffs of Ivanov which will command comparisons to 90's-00's King Crimson or even Tool. Throughout the course of "Mind Mapping" these styles collide with each other; this is an entirely instrumental album outside of some programmed vocals in the beginning, and the band takes great care in ensuring each song has its own unique atmosphere. Travelhouse's music is very accessible on a musical level, with the band making use of catchy instrumental motifs which blend the old analog style of prog with a modern rock twist that is very refreshing to listen to.

The band starts off with the expositional "Route No.1" which opens in an ambient haze alongside an ad nauseam repetition of the track title. When the music hits, we are treated to a very heavy guitar riff with some rather simple and prodding drums in the background - typical of the drum machine. Tonev comes in with some well-placed and catchy synth interludes that diversify the soundscape in a good way. The band blends the old and new of prog with these dynamics; it's not a bad opening track at all. After about three minutes they make a hard shift, stopping the music entirely before embarking on a gradual reprise coda that brings us to the end where we segue into "A Guru In Love." This is a rather radical changeup from the rocking title track, as we drift away from dark and industrial themes and towards a more upbeat and symphonic style. Here we get a lot more of the synth in a rather fleeting tempo that evokes images of a Bohemian valley; one good thing Travelhouse does is aptly naming their pieces in a way that fits with the overall mood and tempo. Not only does this help the listener keep track of the movements the band goes through over the course of this hour-long album, but it also gives the listener a canvas on which to envision a subliminal theme to go along with the instrumental music. For example, we can imagine a more psychedelic landscape on this tune. While the band is notably doing work on this tune, the overall motif is retained over the course of almost seven minutes, which rather tapered my interest as I dug into the middle portion of this one. I feel that Travelhouse is definitely better off in that industrial fusion groove that we saw on "Route", and at this point I was sort of rooting for the band to return to those motifs later on in the album. My request is partially granted with the third track "Black Coffee Mornings" which features more of that burly guitar. Similar to "Guru" we get a fast-moving tempo on which the band moves over at a good pace. At this point it seems that Travelhouse moves off in a more modern and digital direction; I'm not trying to say that the previous piece sounded old-fashioned, but rather the band seems to be exploring themes that we would commonly see in modern lounge rock while giving it a progressive twist. In many ways the band tows the line between progressive and peasant rock, but they definitely make an effort to challenge the listener, which is good to hear. I generally like the themes on "Coffee" and the abject length of the tune does not make me weary as the band projects more of that heavy modern prog onto my eardrums. Tonev provides a very solid keyboard outro; I feel that when the keyboard is used sparingly at the forefront of the music, the band gets the best results. We get a shorter yet equally modern interlude track titled "Clouds" where the band brings on another guitarist in Daniel Eliseev; one major thing I sense from this performance is that it draws heavily upon the work of rather mainstream rock guitarists such as Satriani. It's not the style that is being copied here but rather the general theme of eloquent, soft, and cool twenty-first century guitar work; that being said the song title makes sense. Not much else to say on this one.

I feel that the band begins to get a little off track with "More Magic From Oz", which is notably more experimental and evokes rather scary and dark musical themes with the keyboards to boot. Out of all the tracks on "Mind Mapping" this was the one I was least impressed with; I just feel there's no method to the madness despite such progressive dissonance. It's almost as if Travelhouse was trying too hard to be progressive here, but I think the biggest issue I had with this track is that it features too much keyboards just like "Guru". We get some sporadic guitar here and there, but this is largely a keyboard-centric piece. The nine-minute "Dark Gentleman", the longest track on the album, provides much more alluring sound structures. Immediately we get this eclectic intro that rings heavy in your ears, and you can tell that the band is going to delve into the heavy side of their music right before the riff hits. This ring goes in tandem with Ivanov's riffs to make for a really grandiose background. As is the case with prog songs that vault the eight- minute mark, there is a lot to absorb, but Travelhouse keeps it strictly dark and industrial. This is really where I feel the band is at their best, and they milk every second of it. One thing you will immediately notice with the band's individual tracks is that they don't feature radically different parts that are separated by interspersed tempo breaks, but rather each song works off the same motif for the entire run time, something we would associate more with generic rock music. Overall "Gentleman" is a very solid track, which provides a solid rebound from its predecessor. To cap things off we get another short fleeting interlude in the one-minute "Blink" which is like a less-interesting version of "Clouds" without the guitar. Not much else to say about it.

Now that we're about 2/3 of the way through "Mind Mapping" we delve into the first part of a three part series titled "Archived Travels: Neutron I" which lasts for just over six-minutes. We immediately get thrust into a rather erratic guitar intro that is backed by some organic drums. Yes, for the first time we get a real drummer in Pavel Milenov alongside a return performance by Eliseev; only the bass now is programmed. Travelhouse delivers once again with some well-timed riffs and Camel-esque symphonic style which makes for an enlightening listening experience. The advent of double guitars works very well, and when the three-minute mark rolls around I am blown off my feet by perhaps the most sick Ivanov riff of the entire album - too bad it only lasts very shortly. If this track is any first impression as to what this prog-style musical mini series pans out to be, then it makes a very good one, and I'm cautiously awaiting the other two parts which make it up. However, before we get to that we are treated to "Travels of a Son of a Gun [Dark Gentleman Unleashed]" which presents itself as a sequel to the nine-minute tune we listened to a few tracks ago. It opens up with a brief reprise of the "Route No.1" programmed vocal recital, before giving us a teaser of "Gentleman's" motif, namely the industrial drum-driven part. I was personally expecting a little bit more from this reprisal, as the band ultimately decided on replaying sounds that we've already been introduced too without much modification. Even the ambient keyboard part which I enjoyed the most from that song is only sparingly used and hardly elaborated upon, and really, things don't get much better as we pull into "Keeping the House: Neutron III [Coda]" which I consider to be a part of the "Archived Travels" series. In reality, the band uses the song as a musique concrete closing piece which reuses many themes from previous songs. Given that this is supposed to be the official end of the album, I strongly feel that it wasn't as strong as it could have been, even though I applaud the effort to go with musique concrete as I typically feel it is a safe way to end an album in a unique way.

The band does add a bonus track which completes the link between the "Archived Travels" series, that being "Archived Travels: Neutron II" which is finally performed by an entirely human band, with Mario Ivanov entering on bass behind Milenov on drums and the double guitar formation. With a quintet assembled, the band gets to work making what is probably the strongest song on the album, even though it is ironically not "actually" considered to be a part of "Mind Mapping" in its original incarnation. Seriously, I would consider this to be an amazingly strong song by general prog standards; it continues on the path set by the first part but is way more aggressive, which really suits the band's sound. There is an obscene amount of guitar on the first part, and after a hard tempo break we get a very spacey sounding middle section which immediately screams David Gilmour; once again I am impressed as the band really takes all of the raw materials at its disposal and constructs them properly throughout the entire runtime. I feel that if you include this piece as an actual part of the album you get a much more cohesive and grand ending to the entire shebang if that makes any sense.

Travelhouse's sole studio album is a rather pleasant listen out of the crossover sub-genre. It is a good collection of instrumental music that is easily accessible and listenable. Kalin Tonev organizes a sound that fuses traditional keyboard-driven prog with that of modern prog metal, and it comes out rather refreshing, but sometimes monotonous and unchallenging. I think the biggest drawback apart from some rather long and unimpressive songs is that of the lack of a true bassist or drummer throughout the album's duration. This problem became immediately evident on "Neutron II" which is by far my biggest takeaway from the album. With the real people playing instruments, you get a deeper and more eclectic sound that cannot be reproduced by a computer. I feel that if Travelhouse featured the lineup from this tune across all the songs we would have had a very solid album, but otherwise it is a "good" piece which really fails to resonate. Surely there are some good motifs used here, but it is not really worth delving back into an obscure album for it, as it seems there are a plethora of bands making this kind of modern sound these days. I give "Mind Mapping" a respectable three-star (72% - C-) rating that shows it can compete with contemporaries and even some average works by the prog elite, but lacks the oomph that allows it to separate itself from the pack in a very large and diverse prog universe. Would recommend to any fan of lighter prog metal with a retro-prog touch.

 Mind Mapping by TRAVELHOUSE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.44 | 9 ratings

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Mind Mapping
TravelHouse Crossover Prog

Review by poslednijat_colobar
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Blend of subgenres

I'm very pleased to review a bulgarian band again - that's Travelhouse! Travelhouse originating from the beginning of the century Mind Mapping is their first full length album. Innovative effort, in my opinion! If you looking for variety that's you album. It's intricate blend of electronica (probably the most included subgenre), progressive metal, jazz fusion, neo-progressive, eclectic elements and bulgarian national folklore themes. Moreover, I find FSB infulence (Kalin will tell me, whether I'm wrong;).

Another impression makes the accurate titles of the songs. Each song provokes its title. You can feel the energy of each song and it coincide with the title. There are connection between composition and name. If we talk about the songs, my favourite by far is Black Coffee Mornings . It's precise and well structured and balanced. Other favourites: More Magic from Oz, the end of Dark Gentleman, and the Neutron suite as whole. Least favourites: A Guru in Love and Clouds. There aren't honestly weak songs all around the album. Something I don't like are some sleepy tunes and some heavy slow guitars, which are not on the right place, in my opinion!

As a conclusion: pleasant debut and waiting for more. 3,5 stars and of course rounded up ;)

 Mind Mapping by TRAVELHOUSE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.44 | 9 ratings

BUY
Mind Mapping
TravelHouse Crossover Prog

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Mind Mapping is the debut full-length studio album by Bulgarian progressive rock act TravelHouse. The album was released through Riva Sound in 2008.

The music on the album is very eclectic with influences from various genres. The music on the album is fully instrumental. The instrumentation are keyboards, guitars and programming. There are only real drums on two tracks and bass on one. The programmed drums are not wildy disturbing even though they are a bit too simple at times. At least for my taste. They are generally very well programmed though. So the focus is mostly on guitars and keyboards which is just fine when the music is as well composed as it is on Mind Mapping. The songs have strong melodic hooks and they are quite catchy but not simple. At times there are sections that are close to pop music in the vein of eighties Genesis, but there are also sections that are far more progressive, sections with distorted guitars and even sections with jazzy soloing. You´ll find yourself challenged all the way through the album´s 61:47 minute long playing time.

The production is very well balanced and I found myself enjoying the sound of the album a lot. Some might find it a bit sterile though.

I´ve had a really good time listening to Mind Mapping. It´s the kind of album that you can put on both for listening pleasure and for background music. You don´t need to pay attention all the time, but if you do there´re plenty of details to examine. A 3.5 star rating is warranted.

 Mind Mapping by TRAVELHOUSE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.44 | 9 ratings

BUY
Mind Mapping
TravelHouse Crossover Prog

Review by Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Steeped in creative juices.

There's probably a reason why this band floated around for so long on this site before being classified finally under crossover prog. Quite frankly, there's hardly a way to classify the band and kudos to you if you manage to be able to. This electo-post-progressive-groove outfit sounds something like Porcupine Tree wandering half baked through some kind of trippy techno dreamscape - a blend between ethereal and the completely tactile. Somewhat pretentious niceties aside, this is still something of an exciting debut album.

Although completely instrumental the band manages to hold attention with various catches and interesting melodies. Throughout any song you'll find at least one recurring riff or something in the vortex of sound that you can grab a hold onto and remember until the next spin. One of the best things that the band could have done is start their CD off with the incredibly (somehow) catchy Route No. 1 with the robotic, Office Of Strategic Influence-eque voice repeating the title of the song over and over again. Things only get better as the somewhat more upbeat synthesizers come in and take over on A Guru In Love, one of those songs that manages to float around in your brain without threatening to tamper with it in any way, shape or form. That changes around the time of Black Coffee Mornings where the heavy-ass guitar tempo change near the middle of the tune induces head banging and leaves you in a daze.

The rest of the album flows more consistently than the opening three songs creating a torrent of electro-progressive sound waves to quench any kind of thirst that you might have. Of course, this isn't to say that the differentiation in the first three songs isn't a good thing, the definite line between the songs gives a good example of the different angles that the band will play off of over the later course of the album. Likely the definitive standout of the latter half is the three part Archived Travels that shows off a heavier and somehow at the same time, more atmospheric side of the band. Neutron I shows off some Joe Satriani like guitar wizardry while Neutron II attempts everything that Mike Oldfield did on his new age album, Songs Of Distant Earth, but actually manages to succeed in making the music interesting and worth listening to. The dual Dark Gentleman tracks are equally impressive with Travels With A Son Of A Gun (Dark Gentleman Unleashed) providing a narrow barrier between the band's different sides, often hopscotching between incredibly fast electronic madness, beautiful atmospheres and heavy ass riffs.

With their debut album Mind Mapping, Travelhouse have managed to create something likely to appeal to all the senses thanks to its eclectic style and somewhat accessible instrumental tunes. A well worthy purchase for anyone who happens to enjoy keyboard or guitar driven instrumentals and for people who just want to hear a creative explosion of mad proportions. 4 stars out of 5 for a highly impressive, quasi-experimental and certainly fascinating effort.

 Mind Mapping by TRAVELHOUSE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.44 | 9 ratings

BUY
Mind Mapping
TravelHouse Crossover Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

3 stars TRAVELHOUSE stands for excellent progressive instrumental music. This project from Bulgaria is consisting of musicians which are working together for nearly ten years. 'Mind Mapping' is their first progressive rock production and was composed by mastermind Kalin Tonev in 2006. The album holds some surprises, offers a special blend of styles which I wasn't aware of before. This is not retro, provided with a new electronica touch. The vibe of some songs reminds me of Hungarian bands (not far away though geographically). A Guru In Love for example gets similiar to the sound of Korai Öröm or Sonar with a tribal grooving fundament. Less psychedelic on the other hand because guitarist Biser Ivanov is hailing from a fusion and metal origin stylistically.

Except on two songs the rhythmic backbone is the result of Tonev's programming qualities. However - somewhat unusual for the drums because Pavel Milenov is said to be a full band member. But it works - at least for Travels With A Son Of A Gun and Keeping The House: Neutron III, fitted out with a repetitive hypnotizing mood, triphop/breakbeat styled mainly caused by the halting rhythm. Cosmic spacey synths and the contrasting guitar, metal riffing as well as jazzy, this combination makes the songs very very interesting - a haunting output!

The opener Route No.1 shows another facet of the band - besides the metal edged guitar Tonev's organ work marks a nice symphonic episode as for the contrary. Black Coffee Mornings appeals to me - probably the most charming song. The special happy flavour, the groove - and on top of it some Holdsworth leanings are included. Dark Gentleman is containing some darker laid back ambient impressions. A special blend of prog metal and fusion is presented by the rocking bonus track Archived Travels: Neutron II which immediately brings Derek Sherinian's project Planet X into my mind.

TRAVELHOUSE is successful by combining electronic, fusion and prog metal elements on 'Mind Mapping'. The band has worked out an interesting album with variety and a modern touch mainly because of the high proportion of electronica - 3.5 stars.

Thanks to rivertree for the artist addition.

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