Focus — Focus 9 / New Skin
(Red Bullet RB 66.253, 2006, CD)
by Paul Hightower, Published 2008-01-01
After an initial stab at a return to action with 2002's Focus 8, Thijs van Leer is back with an almost totally new lineup that's sounding better than ever. That is, if your tastes for this Dutch outfit favor the classic early 70s sound of albums like Moving Waves or 3. Also returning to the fold is original drummer Pierre van der Linden, along with newcomer guitarist Niels van der Steenhoven (bassist Bobby Jacobs is still on board). Nobody can ever replace the great Jan Akkerman, though I find van der Steenhoven to be an excellent pick for the job. He easily moves from biting rock, Beck-like melodic leads, Metheney-esque jazz, plus elegant or folky acoustic work. Of course the other half of Focus' signature sound is Thijs van Leer who sounds like he just stepped out of the 1973 time machine. His Hammond playing has that great 70s warmth and his flute work easily encompasses classical elegance and Tull's folk-rock cheer. Nods to Focus of yesterday abound on this disk, including "Aya-Yuppie-Hippie-Yee" that recalls "Hocus Pocus" complete with cartoon-y vocalizations plus the not subtly titled "Sylvia's Stepson — Ubatuba." Standout tracks include the gorgeous opener "Black Beauty," the laid-back jazz rock ballad "Just Like Eddy," featuring an excellent vocal from Jo De Roeck, and the multi-faceted and extravagant "European Rap(sody)," that clocks in at over 10 minutes. I can't really find anything negative to say about this album. Let's hope it's the start of many more to come.
Glenn Branca RIP – Experimental guitarist and composer Glenn Branca has died at the age of 69. He was known for compositions featuring large ensembles of guitars, and for the use of feedback. He founded his band Theoretical Girls in the mid-70s as an art-punk answer to what he saw as the increasing commercialization of punk music. His compositions were highly influential, with such figures as David Bowie, Thurston Moore, and John Lurie among his fans. » Read more
OBEY Convention XI Set for May 24-28 in Halifax – As the 2018 festival season rapidly approaches, we’d like you to be aware of a real treasure of diverse and creative music that’s going to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next month. The OBEY Convention is on its 11th outing, and features a wide range of artists from around the world. From avant-industrial noise to experimental takes on Classical Chinese music, from chamber jazz to doom metal, from ambient soundscapes to Canadian First Nations drumming, you’d be hard pressed to find a festival with more variety in sound anywhere in the world. » Read more
Close to the Rain Festival in Bergen Announces Lineup – Now in its second year, the Close to the Rain Festival of progressive music is scheduled to take place in Bergen, Norway, on June 7 - 9. They've got an amazing slate of bands lined up, including such powerhouses as Anekdoten, Major Parkinson, Arabs in Aspic, Tusmørke, and many more. » Read more
Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington and Oregon. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more