|"He's done it
again, folks! TPE has created another
[The Tale of the Golden King] of progressive rock"
Drew Fisher, Prog Archives
"I continue to be more and more blown away by “The Sunstone”- the fifth album
by The Psychedelic Ensemble. Pure Progressive Perfection."
Marty Dorfman, House of Prog
"I surrender, admiringly, to a splendid and indescribable music
[The Tale of the Golden King]. Prodigious work, which, in my opinion,
will never be forgotten. An indisputable genius. Twenty out of ten."
Jose Luis Martinez, Descubre La Caja de Pandora
"Frankly, music doesn't get much better than this."
Alex Torres, Dutch Progressive Rock Pages
"One of the best releases of 2011, bar none."
Jon Neudorf, Sea of Tranquility
"If I could hand out six stars, I would."
Gert Hulshof, Sea of Tranquility
"This is no mere display of dexterity, but a coherent prog masterpiece!"
Jürgen Meurer, Babyblaue Seiten-Germany
"This is just fantastic symphonic prog. Period."
Matt Di Giordano, Progulator
"A timeless masterpiece"
W. A. Fisher, ProgArchives
"What more could a progger want?"
"A beautiful album [The Sunstone], especially the first part, which is pure progressive,
complex, and sophisticated but at the same time enjoyed by all for its pleasantness
and its smoothness. All songs are beautiful and meaningful, with compositions of
great depth and variety."
Pierluigi Daglio, TempiDuri (Italy)
|"Three strong symphonic
albums including The Dream of the Magic
Jongleur, a big contender
for the inevitable end of 2011 list."
Harry De Vries, ProgAfterglow-The Netherlands
"I am glad I heard this and it was a prime example of one man genius"
"One of the most impressive recordings of recent years"
EDITORS CHOICE John Zoin, Wild Thing (Greece)
"These three albums are great retrospective symphonic rock albums."
Volkmar Mantei, Ragazzi--Germany
"Breathtaking virtuosity on all instruments at the service of a creative genius."
Richard Guay, Ted Magazine--Quebec Audio and Video
"The Tale of the Golden King is an epic piece of work in more ways than one, a superb,
engrossing story told with amazing skill and musicianship."
Martin Hutchinson, Lady Obscure Magazine (UK)
"One of the best records of the year in the area of new progressive music."
[The Tale of the Golden King]
Pierluigi Daglio, Tempi Duri (Rome, Italy)
"If you don't like this album, I dare say you are not a real prog fan! There is not a dull moment
on this album (despite its duration of 72 minutes plus) it absolutely brims
with fantastic tunes, brilliant musical ideas, loads of keyboard play,
fine vocals and great lead guitars...Thank you Psychedelic Ensemble, for this masterpiece!"
Tonny Larsen, ProgPlanet (Denmark)
"I sincerely enjoyed this album [The Sunstone]. The original concept, the history that
lends itself to a beautiful legend, the vocals and the music ... Brilliantly done by
The Psychedelic Ensemble and I therefore think that this album deserves a lot of attention"
Rico Ennema, Progpratt (The Netherlands)
Once again this "band" amazes me, with the sheer brilliance,
ingenuity and delivery displayed here [The Sunstone], as with their former work,
they totally blow my mind to that famous jaw dropping extent!
Tonny Larsen, ProgPlanet (Denmark)
The mysteriously anonymous artist who chooses to let his projects attract their own merit without name associations under the title The Psychedelic Ensemble has released his fifth concept album in six years under the title, The Sunstone. Based upon legends and mythologies that have emerged from sea-faring cultures (mostly Viking) revolving around the mysterious navigational aid known as "the sunstone," the gifted and eminently skilled composer/performer behind The Psychedelic Ensemble once again draws from universal archetypes to offer entertainment and meaningful lessons to we, the people. Three things are particularly noticeable upon listening to this new TPE album that make it stand out as a bit different from previous releases. First is the way in which the presence of the orchestral and chamber instrumentations and arrangements are much more foundational and integral to the overall sound of The Sunstone's music--on virtually every song. This artist is above all quite accomplished as a composer and arranger of symphonic sounds and structures; TPE's song tapestries are always interesting and complex in a multi-layered way that is strikingly similar to symphonic structures from 'classical' music. The second thing that is noticeably evolved from previous TPE recordings (at least the previous two albums) is that the soloing weaves of multiple instruments that we've come to know and be awed by are somewhat tempered and not always delivered at such breakneck speed. It's as if TPE has let go of a desire to impress in lieu of allowing more emotional content to be delivered. I am still amazed by how he can create and perform these three-, four-, and sometimes five-instrument "duels." The third thing that I've found so noticeable is the way TPE has committed to sharing the lead vocal duties with his relatively new and quite talented female vocalist, Ann Caren. She is given lead opportunities in no less than three songs. And I hear more of Ann's own imprint on her vocal delivery than on her performances on The Tale of The Golden King. . . .
1. "Prologue - The Voyage" (2:14) opens with a wonderful display of the potential of full orchestra to set a mood. By the time TPE's electric guitars and synthesizers join the party there is a wonderful feeling of excitement--and perhaps a little bit of Blade Runner or Harry Potter-ish foreboding. (10/10)
2. "The Sunstone" (5:32) Moving straight from the Prologue, "The Sunstone" enters familiar TPE territory in that the drums and magical weave of multiple stringed and keyed instruments present themselves with the immediate joinder of the soothing voice (multiply layered) of TPE. The vocals are nicely harmonized and kind of held back within the instrumental mix--which sounds really fresh and demonstrates that restraint I mentioned above. Great TPE song! (9/10)
3. "The Siren's Spell" (4:17) opens with organ, synth and dirty distorted guitar setting the stage for Ann Caren's first vocal performance. Again, restraint rather than flamboyance seems to be the modus operandi here as Ann's vocal is never 'in your face' strong. The mid-section of soli is also much less flashy and feverous/high-pitched than we've come to respect--again to great effect. The song's acoustic guitar coaxed outro is very nice--and a perfect segue into the next song. (8/10)
4. "The Storm" (4:50) is an instrumental in which we see a return to a weave of more rapid-fire instrumental solo melody lines--though this time in the form of but two instruments--at least for the first 2:15. Then the Hammond organ gets a turn. Back to original two 'dirty' instruments, then electric violin to make it a threesome. . . (8/10)
5. "A Hundred Years On" (8:04) opens with some gorgeous orchestral play--like watching a sunrise through music! After two minutes the song shifts into medieval acoustic folk with some acoustic guitars, harpsichord, double bass and drums while TPE sings. The fourth minute opens with a new feel--some great vocals and Hammond organ with full band and some chamber support. Really beautifully constructed song--with great effect! The final minute sees an awesome atmospheric section in support of Ann Caren's lovely voice. I love this one! One of my favorite TPE songs ever! I wish every band could afford the support of such a wide range of instrumentalists--and compose with the maturity and sophistication that TPE does! (10/10)
6. "Sun Mad" (6:59) is kind of a continuation of the previous song's storyline but it brings the pace and tone down a bit--allowing piano, jazzy lead guitar, emotional vocal, and orchestral support to come shining through. Such a brilliant weave of melody lines, start to finish! Awesome chord progressions and key changes. Great choice of instrument sounds. Quite a beautiful song. Definitely a favorite of mine. (10/10)
7. "Digging Up the Past" (5:45) At the 1:30 mark the song is established. I love the three or four bass melody lines interweaving at the bottom of the song with drums and Hammond organ. Hypnotic in a kind of TANGERINE DREAM way but amazingly mixed into a 60s blues- rock song. Awesome song! (9/10)
8. "The Quake" (5:42) opens with a kind of jazz fusion soup with some wonderful vocal inputs trying to steer the song onto its proper course. Once established, it becomes a very solid instrumental display of jazz fusion. The sound and instrument choices are definitely meant to capture the sounds and stylings of 1970s fusion. Like something from JAN HAMMER or electro-funkified STANLEY CLARKE, even a bit of WEATHER REPORT. Incredible song! (10/10)
9. "Gaze" (7:43) is a sensitive, emotional song constructed mostly of orchestral instruments in support of a wonderful vocal of Ann Caren. Synths and electric guitar enter in the third minute; drums, fretless bass, and Hammond organ in the fourth. I love the JEAN-LUC PONTY-like electric guitar arpeggios providing the glue to the song throughout the second half. Awesome bass play (including a brief solo) in the sixth minute traded with synths and guitars. . . (9/10)
10. "Endgame" (4:07) features Ann Caren and TPE trading vocal duties in a conversant kind of way over an often rhythmic KING CRIMSON like weave of arpeggios coming from multiple instruments. A very familiar sound from previous TPE releases. (8/10)
11. "Back to the Sea" (7:19) opens with ocean waves and a bit of a folk sound with acoustic guitar, mandolin, recorder weaving behind TPE's light IAN ANDERSON-like vocal. In the second minute Ann Caren takes over the lead vocal--this time with additional support of folk electric guitar and slide synth sounds giving it more of a Nashville sound. Light and upbeat though--kind of like a 60s Flower Child song of total optimism. The church organ opening the fourth minute, coupled with the chunky bass notes, gives the song more of a YES "Your Move" feel to it. Then the fifth minute sees a shift into more of an ominous tone with horn-synth taking lead over some minor key chords. At 6:00 we re-enter the sunlight and hope with the church organ--which then gives way to the original light folk feel and its instrumental support. The final minute sees the return to ominous and heavy as the soloists vie for supremacy and dominance. The song finishes with the dominant church organ and folk voice harmonies claiming the title. Definitely the most mood-complex and song on the album. Nice to end the album on a bit of a quieter if still dramatic note. (9/10)
TPE believes that this is his best release yet and I agree. The variation and maturity of presentation on The Sundstone coupled with the slight evolution of soundscapes and slight pullback from the previous tendency to be a bit over-dramatic puts this one ahead of his previous masterpieces, 2013's The Tale of the Golden King and even my previous personal favorite of his, 2011's The Dream of the Magic Jongleur.
4.5 of 5
Tonny Larsen (Denmark) June 2015
Excellent. . . is the only word that covers!!
Once again this "band" (rumour has it, it is a one man venture with invited guests!) amazes me, with the sheer brilliance, ingenuity and delivery displayed here, as with their former work, see review elsewhere on these pages, they totally blow my mind to that famous jaw dropping extent! While the main character stays anonymous, under the moniker,Psychedelic Ensemble, there are mention as to whom delivers the beautiful female and male vocals, the Electric violin, The Hammond B3 and the cello!
The grand opener: "Prologue-The Voyage" is a very cinematic instrumental with a lot of feel and emotion, that will give most of you visions of a filmic scenery.
The following track, the title tune, reveals what comes in terms of brilliant music in the realm of symphonic prog...what an opening to an excellent album!
The next tracks are a display of excellence and brilliant musicianship, with some very great guitar playing and compostions some prog bands I could mention, would die for!
Track 5 "a Hundred years On" could have been out of a mid period Jethro Tull album, yes well maybe bar the beautiful female vocals! But the male vocal has an uncanny, though brief... resemblance to that of a certain Ian Andersson.
So yet another near masterpiece from TPE!!
Beautiful themes, cinematic at times, very complex themes, some fusion rock tinged tunes a la Colosseum II and even magic sequences in laid back folky tradition for you to enjoy, when you purchase this fabulous album and you MUST!! You will agree with the superlatives above, while you push that replay button and enjoy another drink of your choice!
So not a dull moment, not a boring second.. Just superb music, perfectly delivered!!
Now go out and buy this fine release from a really superb band.
You wont regret...promise!!!
Marty Dorfman (U.S.)
"I continue to be more and more blown away by “The Sunstone”- the fifth album by The Psychedelic Ensemble. Pure Progressive Perfection."
The Sunstone8 of 10
Joel Atlas (The Netherlands) Issue 2015-43
The Psychedelic Ensemble is not an ensemble at all but is instead a one-person "band." The musician, a composer, music educator, and multi-instrumentalist, has chosen to remain anonymous. He writes the music and lyrics, performs all of the instrumentation, sings and serves as producer. He also maintains a thorough, well-organised web site that includes the story underlying each release plus interviews, reviews and more.
The Psychedelic Ensemble's four previous releases have received superlative reviews on DPRP. Like these, the new CD, The Sunstone, is a concept album. The theme centers around a gem with refractive powers, called a sunstone, and thus used by Viking mariners for navigation. In addition to a small orchestra, appearing on the CD as guests are, most notably, vocalist Ann Caren (a veteran of The Psychedelic Ensemble) and, on one song, organist Michael Wilk (of Steppenwolf). Atmospheric cover art depicting the CD's concept was provided by Sam Del Russi.
Given the orchestral flair and female vocals sprinkled throughout the symphonic prog on this album, a clear reference would be to Glass Hammer and more specifically to that band's The Inconsolable Secret, although there are also hints of Emerson Lake and Palmer and Return to Forever. The keyboard-heavy music here is complex and active. Throughout the CD, a high level of musicianship is readily apparent on all instruments (especially keyboards), a remarkable fact given that this is a one-person band.
Although, as is usual for concept albums, the songs tend to run together, a few songs deserve individual mention. The orchestral opener, Prologue-The Voyage, portends good things. It's mostly straight-forward classical music that is gradually laced with electric, progressive aspects. The title tune, The Sunstone, is a catchy one indeed; you might be singing along as soon as round two. The mid-tempo Sun Mad has, in parts, a haunting quality and throughout, some stand-out vocals.
Digging Up the Past moves along notably well and showcases aggressive keyboards that jive nicely with the fine vocals. Nods to 1970s jazz fusion are prominent on The Storm (which highlighting a frenzied violin, evokes the Dixie Dregs) and The Quake. . . .
In short, with this ambitious and engaging project, The Psychedelic Ensemble has created yet another winner. Let's hope that this "band" keeps them coming.
Pierluigi Daglio (Italy) April 2015
. . . The fifth studio album by The Psychedelic Ensemble, a solo project of the talented musician who remains anonymous, but that appears overwhelmingly on center stage in neo-progressive in 2015 with this wonderful album entitled "The Sunstone" , which is decidedly modern progressive but with some reminiscence of the seventies.
The atmospheres created by this one-man band are placed in a perimeter ranging from progressive rock and classic symphonic style, with occasional incursions into jazz fusion. The five discs produced to date are all concept albums seamlessly moving between one song and the next, and seek to address real musical journeys into uncharted territory. . .
Presumably the sophisticated and cultured music of The Psychedelic Ensemble can not be aimed at all types of listeners, but surely will appeal to fans of progressive music and not just those.
The multifaceted style, sometimes symphonic, the variety of compositions, and driving solos of the different instruments will hit the connoisseurs of good music and especially so-called educated music lovers of symphonic progressive. A great album, well constructed, with eclectic musical solutions and much to hear in one breath, that will surprise listeners. This disc will probably be one of the best and most original surprises of 2015 as part of the neo-progressive and symphonic [genres].
A beautiful album, especially the first part, which is pure progressive, complex, and sophisticated but at the same time enjoyed by all for its pleasantness and its smoothness. All songs are beautiful and meaningful, with compositions of great depth and variety. Absolutel, lovers of progressive will want to buy and possess this album but it is also for connoisseurs of good music.
9 of 10
Jose Luis Martinez (Spain) May 2015
I was eager to hear the new album of this old friend who hides behind this magnificent nickname that has already passed several times by these pages. And I do not understand how continues to produce as exquisite works from the shadows when it should belong to a great company with media support, promotion and such, to soar to the top of the progressive genre, not American, but global ...
The truth is that it is a pity that musicians like the present one have to fight so strenuously against all odds to gain a foothold in the independent and progressive scene of the century in which we live.
On this occasion, TPE presents another mature and cultured work since the beginning of [the project's] origins to present a story that will serve as a thread to this great music, The Sunstone, which if it had been published in the middle of the glorious seventies last century, today would be a referential masterpiece of the genre. I believe that with this I have said everything.
This time the story is based on the so-called 'sunstone' that the Vikings used to navigate and dominate the North Atlantic without having knowledge of the compass. Under this guise TPE is spinning the yarn to introduce a new conceptual work, halfway between Jethro Tull and Rick Wakeman (without forgetting classics echoes of Camel, Pink Floyd or ELP) in a dynamic and beautiful, full of electric moments and essences of melodic work, powerfully reminding us of those classic and pure sounds of the heyday.
We witness a work of enormous, complex magnitude, with elaborate arrangements and no less elaborate instrumental performances, with breathtaking duels of male and female voices and dressed, in many cases, not by imposing analog sounds, but by a full orchestra, which provides a exceptional magnanimity.
This is one of the great albums, no doubt. Before one of the most talented musicians of all time, intelligent and knowledgeable about music, composing for both electric combo as acoustic and for symphony orchestra. Who dares to include folklore, classical music and progressive rock to bring forth one of the works that will be key in the future of this entire year, I anticipate, good independent progressive work.
Delicacy and strength, emotion and thought, literature, legend and art, music and profound lyrics, comprise this new masterpiece of the American who gives us, again, a real piece of progressive treasure in this latest work, a classic of our times.
Go ahead and grab it with all previous albums. You'll thank me.
Wouter Brunner (The Netherlands) April 2015
. . . let me be clear about "The Sunstone" I'm very pleased. The Psychedelic Ensemble is for me with ease among the top of today's prog and "The Sunstone" is now already the third album in a row in which catchy compositions are combined with outstanding performance. In the use of the orchestra this album surpasses its predecessor and also the album benefits from the increased role for Ann Caren. To date, The Psychedelic Ensemble with each album gets better so I'm looking forward to the next steps. Given the rapid pace at which the albums follow, that will fortunately not be too far in the future.
4 of 5
Denis Boisvert (Canada) May 2015
The sun stone is a gem that helped Viking navigators to find the sun in a completely overcast sky. Already a 5th installment for the mysterious American composer we will call TPE, who created the genre 'progfusical' (prog / fusion / classical). The studio project continues to develop positively. On this iteration mostly the beautiful voice of Caren is included to increase rather ordinary voice of the artist himself. The battery seems more 'live' too. Finally there are more guests and classical instruments including a full orchestra. The theme is both more folk . . . and classic at the same time if that is possible.
. . . The creator is undeniable in his ability to lay a deep album with themes that range from madness, the medieval, through death is a sign of genius also recognized by numerous awards received by the progressive community. . .
"Sunstone" gives us a beautiful time of complex music, evocative and well reflecting the Nordic maritime folklore (like a parallel with The Death Defying Unicorn Motorpsycho has just arisen: shipwreck, hurricane, fusion and jazz and classical musical maelstrom but also some difficult access). Very inventive, very symphonic, beautiful orchestrations, layers and layers of epic pro and certainly colors. My favorites: 'The Quake', 'Gaze' and 'Back to the Sea'. A Hammond contribution was appreciated (a Steppenwolf touch via Wilk).
If you like symphonic prog, with cinematic orchestral touches done right, a flagship addition in the work of the enigmatic TPE. . .
Highlands Magazine, France
17 of 20
Didier Gonzalez (France) Summer 2015
After five albums unanimously acclaimed by international critics, the mystery remains unsolved of who is THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE: no way of knowing what multi-instrumentalist and composer is behind this identity. A mystery that is matched only by the constant quality of the albums made by this mysterious person who we only known is American.
In 2009, THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE offered his first album at Muséa, entitled THE ART OF MADNESS. In 2010, the second album, THE MYTH OF DYING was already published. In 2011, came the release of the third album THE DREAM OF THE MAGIC JONGLEUR previously chronicled in these columns. 2013, came the release of the fourth installment in the series: THE TALE OF THE GOLDEN KING which we have also reviewed. Prolific, THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, is back in 2015 with the publication of THE SUNSTONE, his fifth album, a shiny new artistic success. Although the name of the musician ["Psychedelic"] seems to give us an indication of the genre, it is not so because it is the symphonic genre that is the expressive domain of THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE. A sound very orchestral conferred by an extensive combination of keyboards in perfect combination, accompanied by the strings and woodwind arrangements. The sound is Episodically completed by brilliant synthesizer sounds, chosen with the most exquisite taste, while here and there appears a rhythm section more voluble, pulsing at a dizzying pace.
The music of THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE is a turbulent maelstrom of notes, sparkling, still played in harmony with grace and elegance, it is the reign of muted tones. Further, the electric guitar is heard in most exquisite complement (A Hundred Years On), accompanying a singer (Ann CAREN). Accompanied by a delicious piano, THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE utters his voice softly, muted tones too - albeit without burrs true character - but very pleasant. In addition, the intelligence of the composer / performer,
it is also remarkable that he managed to maintain balance throughout the 11 compositions which are the 62 minutes and a half in this collection.
Swirling music, mixing classical and symphonic rock with supreme skill, THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE provides us with this fifth opus THE SUNSTONE, a finished work, creating elegant print, refinement where inspiration is present at multiple intersections of its labyrinthine music. THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE is the ALAN PARSON'S PROJECT GENESIS meeting meeting meeting FRIPP and CAMEL. Melodic, symphonic, ambitious, stunning in the end, THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE's music never stops captivating you and seducing you. Let yourself be tempted! 17/20
4 of 5 ("Excellent")
Harry de Vries (The Netherlands) May 2015
. . . TPE is now an established name within prog. Supplemented by a number of guests, including the excellent singer Ann Caren, the unknown musician still shows in this fifth work all of his qualities: fine compositions, impressive keyboards, soothing orchestrations . . .
Matt DiGiordano (U.S.)
About a year and a half-ago The Psychedelic Ensemble (TPE) offered an incredible conceptual album in the form of The Tale of the Golden King. Well, TPE shows no signs of slowing down; fast forward to 2015 and we have yet another release to take in. TPE’s latest effort, The Sunstone, once again offers a fantastic tale with allegorical leanings. This time around he turns to medieval folklore and constructs a story inspired by sunstones, crystals that vikings used to aid them in crossing the sea. Once again, the result in both the lyrical and musical departments are stunning, bringing to the table the high caliber of symphonic rock that I have come to expect and love from The Psychedelic Ensemble.
The album opener, simply named “Prologue,” throws us instantly into a symphonic dream where darkness and magic strike the perfect balance. From the first moments of the album it’s clear that TPE continues to step up his game on the symphonic side of things, paying close attention to both orchestration and use of motif, something which is very evident early on as the brass brings in the main theme before being restated with choirs and passed around through woodwind variations. At this point the ensemble picks up the pace with pounding timpani while the strings section grabs onto the theme amidst a whirlwind of blazing guitar and keyboard runs. The intro is, quite frankly, phenomenal, setting high standards for the whole record right off the bat. From here TPE takes it into the title track, “The Sunstone.” Immediately we get all of the recognizable TPE flare: a bit of funk in the bassline, vocal lines that are separated by fierce guitar/keyboard runs and drum fills, etc. The chorus offers dense harmonies spinning all around, followed by some nice interplay between piano and synth prior to a bout of TPE’s signature soloing. Then comes the real treat, a break where chiming bells separate interweaving lines of clean guitar melodies, icy synths, and plenty of leads to create a distinctly magical atmosphere. What’s even better though is the next break where plucking acoustics under pianos are a bed for mysterious vocals singing “guide us” and doing the perfect job at setting the tone for the story.
Since the album is very consistent overall, I want to focus here on the strongest tracks. First is what I would consider as potentially the best song on the album: “A Hundred Years On.” This pieces opens up with some extremely dramatic orchestral tension. The magical feel is present once again as harps pluck and pianos interject to increase the sense of mystery. The strings bring in the first melody and then combine delicately with brass harmonic work before introducing an eerie choir. After some nods to the prologue the piece dives into some tick tension through brass dissonance before a breathe of release when a sweet melody is introduced over acoustic guitars. At this point the vocals enter and we get a slight Jethro Tull-esque vibe in the distinctly folky flavor of the rhythm and melody. The refrain, “a hundred years on,” really hits the sweet spot and will echo in your head in the best of ways. After building the piece up with, growing the dynamic under the vocal line with the support of the strings section, the drums eventually break in and we head to a theme introduced on synth, followed by brief guitar meanderings, before heading into a gorgeous interlude. This piece really stands out in its morphing of sections, the trade offs between cello, violins, and sparkly guitar. The return to an eventual repetition of the verse, stripped down to guitar and Hammond, is magnificent, and the outro that thematically recalls “The Siren’s Spell” by the return of Ann Caren’s gorgeous vocals calls for a mysterious closure where you can really imagine the screaming sirens of the sea. From here, “A Hundred Years On” directly links us into “Sun Mad,” a piece with music to really pull on your heart strings. The juxtaposition between the bluesy vocal line and a dark, melancholy piano accompaniment with powerfully arranged strings is absolutely killer. There is so much weight behind the orchestra parts here, knowing precisely when simplicity should give way to mezmerizing dynamics. After the 2nd verse the mood picks up a bit with some odd-time-play. It gets very groovy at this point and features a playful chase between guitar and keys before eventually returning to the somber mood set forth at the beginning of the track. All in all, the combination of “A Hundred Years On” with “Sun Mad” makes for one of the absolute highlights of the album.
Speaking of highlights, I’m sure all listeners will be delighted to have Ann’s voice back on this latest TPE record. She floored me with her performance on “Queen of Sorrow” on the previous album, and her presence on The Sunstone is a joy. In particular I want to mention the track “Gaze,” which I consider to be the perfect type of piece for Ann’s voice. Her sense of expression is extremely subtle and are immaculately performed. She has this unique way of singing her lines fairly straight on this piece but capturing loads of emotion nonetheless. This works perfectly with the slowly moving orchestration as the bits of weaving violin and chiming of bells add a deep sense of sorrow to her delivery. The lyrics are perfect for the mood, expressing solitude in the darkness and nothingness of the self that couldn’t be a better fit for the music. Even with the groovy drums and bass come in the piece remains quite dreamy in this track where mood is everything. Ann and TPE really nail it here.
Finally, I’d like to close off with two more standout tracks from The Sunstone: “Digging up the Past” and “The Quake.” “Digging Up the Past” may very well be my favorite track on the record and it’s hard to put my finger on why. On it’s own it’s clear that it’s a great song, but it certainly isn’t the most ambitious piece on the record. All the same, this song is ridiculously catchy, so much so that you’ll find yourself listening to it over and over, regardless as to whether or not your stereo is actually on. Objectively it’s hard to say what makes it tick. I like the light cymbal-work throughout, the constantly moving basslines during the verse, the absurdly catchy chorus, and the blend of guitars and Hammonds (plus a great solo by Steppenwolf’s Michael Wilk). In the end though, “Digging Up the Past” simply nails it in the creation of a divinely catchy melody, and that’s not easy to do (kudos to TPE). Similar to the “Hundred Years”/”Sun Mad” combo, “Digging Up the Past” dives right into another brilliant piece: “The Quake.” The intro to this one is dramatic, featuring a tone which with both desperate and mysterious, fantastically augmented by the slowly moving orchestra and soaring vocals. TPE brings in skilled references to main themes of the records before diving into a flurry of fusiony playing where guitars, synths, and piano whirl around each other with the support of powerful basslines and drum fills, recalling a bit of a Return to Forever dynamic. The piano solo that enters around 2:30 is dreamy and colorful and the interactions with the drums are just perfect. This piece features so much amazing dueling between instruments that you’ll just find yourself smiling til the end, wondering if it’ll ever let up but while never being disappointed that it doesn’t.
The Sunstone definitely will not disappoint fans of The Psychedelic Ensemble nor those of symphonic prog in general. What really catches my attention is that it has a lot of familiarity but it doesn’t fall into the trap of sounding like a repeat of the last couple of albums. While remaining distinctly TPE, The Sunstone takes on a much darker, more mystical musical direction, which I absolutely love. The balance between orchestra and band is just as good as ever, and I would say that TPE one-upped himself in terms of dynamic delivery and emotional weight. In the end, The Sunstone comes highly recommended and will certainly be a solid addition to your collection.
I am familiar with the work of the psychedelic ensemble. Their last two albums are among the best modern progressive rock releases. I'm writing ''their'' but the impressive info about this project is that everything is arranged and composed by one mysterious musical genius behind the moniker of the psychedelic ensemble together with additional female vocals provided by Ann Caren (Also present on ''The Tale of the Golden King''. A perfect fit for this musical style).
The music itself is top-notch progressive rock, more symphonic driven, so the Yes comparison is inevitable. What impresses me the most is that the composition is on a such high level that you cannot really talk about typical ''one-man'' band flaws as the often noted lack of compositional skills on some area, rhythmic or melodic. The psychedelic ensemble is really something else, he is well crafted on every possible instrument. I'm not talking about shredding here but how intelligent, focused to have a complete and great sounding song than giving us a bunch memorable moments. The production has also a great 70-ies feel but what stands apart from other ''classic'' modern symphonic progressive bands is the very modern rhythm section.
This is for sure one of the best release of the year, give it a chance.
Progpratt, The Netherlands
Rinco Ennema, April 2015, The Netherlands
'The Sunstone' is a concept as it fits in the line of albums that were previously released by The Psychedelic Ensemble, as in 'The Art Of Madness', 'The Myth Of Dying', 'The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur' and 'The Tale Of The Golden King', this album is full on and around the theme written and certainly in this case in a particularly clever way. The album takes you into the experience that evokes the music and keeps the attention fixed on the listener, captivates, maintains and fascinates. . .
I sincerely enjoyed this album. The original concept, the history that lends itself to a beautiful legend, the vocals and the music ... Brilliantly done by The Psychedelic Ensemble and I therefore think that this album deserves a lot of attention. . .
Raphael Päbst (Germany)
THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE is back. The man, who is a whole ensemble, but still brings an orchestra and such sweeping, progressive concept albums fabricated tales like "The Sunstone", the sequel to the strong "The Tale Of The Golden King".
Nothing has changed in the sound of the one-man ensemble. Again, there is progressive rock, which is dominated by playful synthesizers, enhanced by some jazzy drumming, and seasoned with beautiful guitar solos. Furthermore the protagonist sings, again supported by guest vocalist Ann Caren, rather discreetly about the history of the sunstone.
The album . . . offers some truly magical moments. These include the haunting 'The Storm' that perfectly captures the title in guitar and keyboard sounds. The use of Ann Caren must again be emphasized here because she is significantly more present on "The Sunstone" than on the previous albums and with greater liberties.
Thus, the new album continues in the way of THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, who consistently delivers very detailed progressive rock, and who time and time again explores and who is always complete with new surprises, nooks and crannies. This is music in which to lose yourself, and which is full of beauty and delicate variety. If you like symphonic prog and love extravagant synthesizer, "The Sunstone". is highly recommended.
In Association with Progressive Newsletter
The great individual player and multi-instrumentalist "Mr. TPE " from the land of the unlimited possibilities brought us to his fifth album in just six years, a very special concept or topic. It is based on the -- some proven, partly legend-like adoption, that the Vikings had used for maritime navigation at night, on cloudy days, or in fog a so-called "sunstone" crystal that served as reflectors and so lead the way. It tells about such scientific evidence and archaeological remains always at once mystical stories that a TPE adds to one's taste.
The musical realization is, as usual of TPE, highly varied. Beneficially complex it comes to the length of the track carries up to eight minutes before doing this, as did the instrumentation by RetroProg - is beefed up items such as a "classic" used Hammond and even by a well-appointed orchestra. As usual, Mr. designed TPE text and music itself and recorded up to guest posts by vocalists and orchestra by Michael Wilk (Steppenwolf) on Hammond [track 7 solo].
Compared to previous albums, the proportion of symphonic prog rock has risen only by incorporating orchestral parts, but which are innovative…The special and appealing part is that TPE incorporates a variety of styles that appear throughout the entire time of the CD combining fusion, retro and Symphonic Prog or orchestral film-like music work not against each other, but they merge into one great whole, which after only after several listens is disclosed. Not because it is about complexity, but because there is so much to discover. The transitions between tracks carry one pleasantly on a journey through the cosmos of sound of TPE.
The pace is maintained instrumentally is consistently very high, very good and balanced vocal performances of TPE and his guests (some polyphonic) complement exciting duels between keyboards and Hammond or sometimes jazzy-inspired piano sounds. Solos are none less than feisty, sometimes almost hyperactive drumming falls - oh yes, and here Mr. TPE is personally at work - positively.
The album sounds more like RetroProg than previous works, but is not necessarily intended for pure "nostalgia", but it is - thank God - too modern and too independent. TPE succeeds in almost the perfect blend of style characteristics with very high variety and a correspondingly high entertainment value.
Siggy Zielinski (Germany)
Again on his fifth album, the mysterious Mr. Psychedelic Ensemble remains largely loyal to Retroprog-Concept.
What is striking is mainly the increased proportion of progressive jazz-rock that recalls the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever.
The very impressive orchestral opening of the album with the participation of The Psychedelic Ensemble Orchestra revealed the expected fact that an journey towards an epic symphonic concept album was in store. The operatic design of "The Quake" may be regarded as a short culmination of this concept work. . .
The recurring and intervening Psychedelic Ensemble Orchestra, conducted by Jonathan Roberts, consists of real musicians and not samples. Almost everything else, such as string instruments, is performed by the anonymous The Psychedelic Ensemble. I note that Mr. TPE has not forgotten Emerson and Wakeman. . .
On "The Sunstone", the concept implemented in the texts and in the artwork revolves around the mysterious stones that may have helped the Vikings on their sea voyages. In keeping with the concept, the music now and then sounds a bit exotic and psychedelic .... The finale, "Back to the Sea", will especially appeal to YES fans within the prog fan base.
The bottom line, the followers of TPE get a resourcefully composed and richly arranged work with impressive orchestral passages. The Psychedelic Ensemble has once again generated a CD that will make friends of symphonic retroprog happy.
Jochen König (Germany)
The fifth album by THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE begins like a monumental fantasy/horror film soundtrack. Orchestral soundscapes are designed, and they are brewing up something on the horizon. Beyond the horizon the Vikings could gaze and sail. So they would not get lost without a compass at sea, the Northmen needed something to navigate. The position of the sun is helpful, but even better if they used legendary sunstones, to which the mastermind behind the pseudonym of THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE has devoted the concept of his album..
I am excited to note as well that . . . Ann Caren . . . and C. Francis . . . sing excellently, which does not seem so simple in the complex, varied music of The Psychedelic Ensemble. Which brings us to the soundtrack again. After the short introduction, he creates a course for a collective, that he hits with verve and enthusiasm between a load of symphonic prog keyboards, fusion-like jazz, and rock. Michael Wilk of STEPPWENWOLF sometimes on the Hammond organ makes for a classic hard-rock feel.
The real orchestra, of course, also adds meaning. . .The guitars set relatively sharp accents on the other hand. . .
"The Sunstone" does not become a polyphonic, avant-garde spectacle. THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE is not afraid of oblique passages, but can also draw air and rest and shift down one or two gears. Also available are pastoral, folky, and a little wistful quieter prog for soulful minutes. Never being too long, these sections provide no chance for rust.
The KING CRIMSON influences of previous albums are a bit faded into the background, but instead find themselves in some vocal parts. References to JETHRO TULL in the late seventies ("A Hundred Years On", "Back To The Sea"), YES during their "Close To The Edge "/" Relayer " phases, as well as jazz-rock from the MAHAVISNU ORCHESTRA or RETURN TO FOREVER . . . All of these parts, including the orchestra are harmoniously woven into a complex body of work that certainly moves between jazz and prog, aware of the past, without becoming a mere citation cemetery.
CONCLUSION: On "The Sunstone" THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE navigate between full-blown retro prog, jazz-rock, soundtrack, knowledgeably and whimsically bonded back and forth without getting lost. A special thanks to the sun stone.
4.5 of 5
Jon Neudorf (Canada)
Since The Psychedelic Ensemble has been making discs I have been reviewing them and each album has been a revelation in this world we call progressive rock. TPE is a one man ensemble with a little help from his friends . . .
Each album TPE has released has an underlying concept and that trend continues with The Sunstone. According to Viking mythology, medieval mariners used crystals to navigate the seas. There may in fact be scientific evidence of their use but we will save that for another discussion. It is this myth upon which TPE spins yet another wonderful tale.
The first track "Prologue – The Voyage" is an instrumental where TPE unleashes all his musical tricks creating an orchestral symphony of pure delight. When the guitar enters, a cacophony of sound builds into a resounding and dramatic climax.
Next up is the title track featuring blazing guitar and synth runs and layered harmony vocals. For those familiar with his music, you know what I'm talking about. His playing here is simply outstanding, bursting with energy and melodic intensity.
"The Siren's Spell" is one of the album's heaviest tunes featuring razor sharp guitar leads and sizzling synth solos to go along with the occasional Hammond outburst. This one has a darker tone and is followed by "The Storm", another heavy offering. The guitar and synthesizer rock just as hard and TPE's Hammond gets a justifiable workout. The electric violin throughout is an album highlight.
"A Hundred Years On" is a prog rock tour d force venturing from heavy prog to acoustic folk-like moments. This one reminded me a little of Jethro Tull at times as TPE's lead vocals carry a hint of Ian Anderson. Ann Caren also adds some angelic crooning meshing nicely with the song's more pastoral moments.
So, through the album's first five tracks the highlights are really too numerous to mention. This is one of those discs that will keep your head reeling all the while putting a smile on your face. I used to think music was dead in the water but thanks to artists like TPE nothing could be further from the truth. For that I am truly grateful.
Ragazzi (March 2015), Germany
Die Welt des Psychedelic Ensemble ist besonders und eigenartig. Zugleich schwerelos und wuchtig, direkt und bombastisch, wirken die Songs unnahbar und flutschig, als seien sie nicht zu greifen. So wie Fisch im Wasser. Das ‚psychedelische' Element ist ausgeprägt, als wäre das, was hier zu hören ist, aus unwägbarer Sphäre. Dabei spielt sich das fünfte Album des unerkannt arbeitenden Musikers ebenso im symphonischen Progressive Rock ab wie seine vier Vorgänger.
Instrumentale Interplays haben oftmals eine fast fluchtartige Schnelligkeit, wobei die ausgeprägt komplexe Schlagzeugarbeit, deren Sound wie programmiert klingt, die rasante und ungreifbare Hektik in Zusammenarbeit mit der direkten, hintergründigen Bassarbeit ungemein unterstützt. Sobald ein hektisches Thema genommen ist, fällt ein schöngeistig symphonisches Motiv ein und mildert die Pingpong-Dynamik. Um gleich wieder von erneuter überaus fluchtartiger Dynamik eingeholt zu werden. Es braucht eine Weile, sich in den Kosmos des Mannes einzuhören, der sich The Psychedelic Ensemble nennt und außerhalb dieses Projektes vermutlich bekannt ist und seine Interessengebiete nicht überschneiden will. Solistisches ist rar gesät, so gibt es keine ausführlichen, nur hier und kurze Gitarrensoli zu hören. The Psychedelic Ensemble arbeitet konzertant mit strengen Arrangements ohne lose Enden oder emotionale Einzelausflüge.
Symphonisch elegische Passagen klingen Klassik-nah, im fülligen Klang der Tasteninstrumente ebenso wie im Arrangement der klassischen Instrumente. Romantische Bögen schweifen ins Weite, raffiniert konzentriert komponiert, mit gefühlter Leichtigkeit groß angelegt. So wie die hektisch rasanten Komplexpartien Holterdiepolter schießen und viertelnotenstarke Stakkatos zelebrieren, fließen die symphonischen Reigen weich und lyrisch wie in der romantischen Klassik.
The Psychedelic Ensemble, der ein umfangreiches Instrumentarium spielt, alle Facetten seiner Komposition ins rechte Licht zu rücken, singt seine eigenen Texte, überlässt jedoch überwiegend Ann Caren das Mikrophon. Die Dame hat eine entrückt schöne Stimme, die sehr angenehm zur instrumentalen Wucht passt und ebenso zerbrechlich und unnahbar klingt, wie das ganze märchenhafte Werk.
Gäste an Rockinstrumenten sind hier und dort aktiv geworden, Michael Wilk (Hammond B3) etwa, oder Davis Brooks mit den großartigen Beiträgen an der (Jazzrock-)Violine. Zudem gibt es das Principal Orchestra als markanten, steten Part des Werkes. Da ist der ‚Conductor of The Psychedelic Ensemble Orchestra' (Jonathan Roberts), der Leiter des zehnköpfigen klassischen Ensembles. Die Orchestration schrieb der Mann namens The Psychedelic Ensemble selbst, die Obacht der Einspielung der klassischen Parts übergab er Amanda Smith Roberts, die als Konzertmeisterin die Umsetzung der klassischen Arrangements übernahm. Die klassischen Musiker sind vielfach in allen Songs zu hören. Ihr Anteil macht die Songs reich, überraschend wohlklingend und klassisch. "The Sunstone" wird durch die klassischen Instrumente, die klassische Notation spielen, was perfekt ins Rockarrangement eingearbeitet wurde, besonders reif, hat eine ausgenommen professionelle Note, was im Progressive Rock nicht immer der Fall ist.
In 11 Tracks, die 62:34 Minuten füllen, wird das fünfte Konzeptprojekt (als märchenhafte Wikinger-Geschichte, deren Text samt einer Einführung im Booklet abgedruckt sind) erzählt. Neben den hektischen Parts, dem Rock-symphonischen Anteil und den eindrucksvollen, professionellen klassischen Parts ist nicht nur partiell, sondern tragend und überaus präsent Jazzrock im Stile des Mahavishnu Orchestra zu Zeiten des Albums "Apocalypse" eingebaut (was nicht nur am ‚Jazzrock-Einsatz' der Violine liegt, sondern in der Komposition). Gewiss klingt das, was The Psychedelic Ensemble komponieren, eigen und wenig vergleichbar mit anderen Bands wie ebenso wenig mit dem Mahavishnu Orchestra (wie ebenfalls das Mahavishnu Orchestra ein unvergleichlicher Klassiker ist). Aber die Parallelen sind eindeutig, wenn The Psychedelic Ensemble auch viel hektischer und rocksymphonischer arbeitet, und das Mahavishnu Orchestra diese besondere, erhabene Eleganz zelebrierte. Elegant ist "The Sunstone" auf alle Fälle auch, auf seine Weise. Wie oft im Progressive Rock, hier aber markant und auf unnachahmliche Weise, wirkt es, als sollten so viele Noten wie nur irgend möglich untergebracht sein. So machen selbst Parts, die nicht per se auf Speed sind, den Eindruck, wuchtig und beinahe überladen zu sein. Und gleichzeitig scheu, verträumt und unwirklich.
The Psychedelic Ensemble ist etwas Besonderes. Zum einen qualitativ. "The Sunstone" ist professionell (hört euch nur "Prologue - The Voyage" an), gleichzeitig fast unwirklich. Wer auch immer hinter dem Namen steht, was nicht größtes Interesse ist und der Musik nachsteht, möge unbedingt im Sinne dieses seines Projektes weiterarbeiten.
Wie würde unser Mann mit dem Fotoapparat und der stets guten Laune sagen: "genau mein Ding!".
Esther Kessel-Tamerus (The Netherlands)
The man behind The Psychedelic Ensemble (abbreviated TPE) is already 35 years in the profession. He has often appeared as a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and writes and composes his music. TPE is a pseudonym. He wants people to appreciate his music for the music itself, not its image. The Sunstone is his fifth anonymous album.
The album is about sunstones. In legends are already talking about this transparent crystal. They were also used to navigate at sea in bad weather. Only a few years ago, it is scientifically proven that these stones even in the dark to locate the sun. The fifth album tells a devised by TPE, story about a mischievous nymph. She has charmed the stone. ('The Sunstone "). With her beautiful voice and she lures sailors to her island (Siren's spell). But it turns out to be their downfall. Because it creates a storm ('The Storm').
The music of “Proloque- The Voyage" has to immediately grab you. The beginning is quiet. Instruments are slowly added. This continues for a while murmuring quietly then afterwards the momentum builds. There is pleasant too similar to listen to this instrumental track.
Without a break is about to 'The Sunstone. But I do hear clearly the turning point in the music .. the transition from one to the other number.
The color of the TPE of voice fits well in the music. Singing and music are intertwined. The beautiful dynamic drums fit in perfectly with the music. Of course there are twists in volume and tempo.
And now there is, without a break, a transition to “The Siren's Spell" which begins with the sounds of a storm, waves and organ.
The beautiful organ lines are perfectly combined with the percussion with many dynamics. This provides quite a bombastic music. Ann Caren’s voice sounds clear and yet mean, matching a vicious nymph.
The tension is built up in music and singing. If stress is mitigated later, the voice of Ann clear. The sounds of the storm and the waves come back.
Without looking at the cover, I know pretty quickly that we will encounter 'The Storm'. Because this song is built like a strong wind that turns into a storm. Violin and guitar especially are played with incredible speed. Moments later, the organ plays very fast and once again the extreme dynamics in the drumming. All this sounds restless as it should in a storm. For a quiet storm does not exist.
Suddenly it is a lot quieter as we enter "A Hundred Years On”.
The bass is classic, but there are many additional details. The vocals are small but warm. The vocal and instrumental pieces alternate. Then the music gets busier, faster, and more, without being over the top. Beautifully the music turns to a quieter area with compelling melody which the strings nicely bring forth. The vocal here is slightly theatrical. The vocalists colors go well together, and with the music. Everything is put down to perfection.
“Digging Up The Past” has a very nice and quiet start. Beautifully building to raucous music. Many drums, not only with much dynamism, TPE also plays tight at the high hats. Michael Wilk (of Steppelwolf) here provides a nice up-tempo Hammond solo.
Sounds of the sea and the cracking of a sailing ship. If the music and vocals come in, it sounded almost cheerful. As in "The Voyage Proloque” music remains in' Back To The Sea 'as by lapping. Slow build to a bombastic whole. Enjoy a little ... because just before the song ends, I know that the CD is almost over, I hear just the music.
Not the most accessible album because there is so much to listen to. Yet this is the very appeal of “The Sunstone”. These are not just 11 individual songs, this album tells a whole story. Everything fits perfectly in all, it plays like a good book.
Ages of Rock (March 2015), Italy
It 's true that you never stop learning ... even when you feel quite updated you discover with guilt that you have left something behind and so, thanks to the timely cue of a friend, I put my ears on The Sunstone, the new album by The Psychedelic Ensemble, a dynamic American band classified as neo prog but also able to present different styles.
The debut dated 2009 was followed by a steady crescendo of what is in fact, rather than a real group, a constellation of musicians and a female voice that revolve around an anonymous multi-instrumentalist.
The Sunstone is thus the fifth work of this eclectic and imaginative musician. The usual brilliance, the usual dynamism of the American musicians are enhanced by sonic turbulence, passing through fusion, symphonic prog, the use of strings and powerful orchestrations, some passing classic rock; a bold use of long instrumental segments often directs the music. . . .
Michael Wilk [contributes a solo on track 7] on Hammond, C. Francis and especially the incisive Ann Caren provides lead vocals, other musicians take care of the strings. . . The Psychedelic Ensemble, the anonymous mastermind, plays keyboards, guitars, bass, drums, mandolin and vocals. . . .
THE TALE OF THE GOLDEN KING
The Tale of the Golden King
10 of 10
Some four years ago now I did my first review of a Psychedelic Ensemble album, at that time his debut album. If you do not know The Psychedelic Ensemble yet, TPE is a one man band - a musician extraordinaire. Four years ago I started my review with: "If you are looking for a band or music that is in a league of its own, go out and find yourself the music of The Psychedelic Ensemble. This band, or better still one man show, really rocks the house”.
Since then there have been two further albums and now a third, TPE's fourth all together. Once again a concept work of high level and superior class, I know some of you will now put aside the review because of all the bombastic words that I have started with. Your choice all together as long as you do try and give TPE's Golden King a spin to at least confirm to yourself you do not like it.
I do like the album - you probably noticed that from my words already. Again I can say that TPE surprised me with this album, so much so that I dare to state that he has really outdone himself and compiled, composed, produced and arranged an even better work than its predecessors. Some of the arrangements have a familiarity to them, stating the original sound that TPE has created with his music.
Multi-instrumentalists, or musicians of creative mind producing music all by themselves are a strange breed I guess, not allowing anyone to interfere with their works, at least not within the arrangements and production. At times they seek help from others to create just that piece of music that they hear in their mind. For the Golden King, TPE has made use of a real orchestra, albeit a chamber orchestra, but nevertheless an orchestra of real instruments and not one conjured from his synthesizers.
Also a female voice is used for the vocal parts of the Queen in "The Queen of Sorrow". The voice and timbre of this vocalist has a resemblance to Annie Haslam of Renaissance fame. Introducing the chamber orchestra and female vocal adds a new dimension to the music on this album.
Words fail to describe the intensity and beauty of this musical extravaganza. You could call the concept a 'rock opera' but in my eyes this does little justice to what this musical experience really is. At times rocking, then going into the smoother works of neo progressive, a little psychedelia here and there, but to my eyes most of the time an eclectic work of art made by a creative mind extraordinaire.
Yes I know I use a lot of Superlatives in this review once again but I cannot help feeling that way. Each track is literally full of creativity with lots of different instruments used, too many to mention in a review. Once again I am overwhelmed by the creativity, but most of all by the sheer unlimited musical talents, of TPE.
The album comes nicely packaged with a short introductory tale on the inside of the booklet along with all the lyrics so you can read along with the songs as they progress.
To conclude, I can only state to all of you once again, try this album - you will not be disappointed. But one remark also needs to be made; take your time, you will need it. Listen but listen closely, not once but...you'll be as overwhelmed as I am.
The Tale of the Golden King
Finally I get to hear this much talked about ensemble, which actually and most impressively is a one-man band and this multi-talented artist/musician has chosen to be anonymous. All very intriguing, mysterious and really the stuff legends are built upon! Already at first listen I was blown away by the sheer brilliance, the grandeur and excellence this magnum work offers. I actually couldn't believe my ears, this is what real prog/symphonic prog is all about, old school prog renewed, refined and fresh blood infused. Think early Renaissance, early Yes, slight ELP, then add chamber orchestra, invited guest on superb female vocal, great compositions and excellent musical delivery and you are almost there!! I promise you are in for a very special treat. I haven't heard such excellence/brilliance in a very long time. The superb arrangements, musical brilliance, beauty and complex time signatures just oozes and floats from this masterpiece. So there is hope after all, real prog is not dead and believe you me this is the real deal!! Let me explain, many new bands claim to be (crossover/blend/hints and allegations to) prog music, I guess it is due to the renewed popularity of prog these years, but a certain tag is not always valid, is it? This however is genuine prog music in the retro/old school super class. If you don't like this album, I dare say you are not a real prog fan! There is not a dull moment on this album (despite its duration of 72 minutes plus) it absolutely brims with fantastic tunes, brilliant musical ideas, loads of keyboard play, fine vocals and great lead guitars, adding to the whole picture of symphonic prog, pompous rock, even cinematic sequences, folk and art rock combined, to mention just a few of the musical idioms herein! Highly recommended to every serious prog collector! Needless to say (even though I do) this one goes straight into my private collection! A fine release that will return to my cd-player ever so often. Thank you, Psychedelic Ensemble, for this masterpiece!! Now someone please tell me who this musical genius is!
The Tale of the Golden King
Two years after The Dream of the Magic Jongleur (2011), that we ranked among the best records of that year, the mysterious American The Psychedelic Ensemble returns with his fourth album, The Tale of the Golden King. The Tale of the Golden King is their most ambitious, rich regarding the orchestration and production, and more conceptually complete work. The use of the word “work” is not coincidental – this is how the punk fanatics used to call the progressive achievements 35 years ago even if the post punk scene (besides a few exceptions) never succeeded to produce equally marvelous music and restricted itself in constructing “situations”. Here we are dealing with . . . a “work”. As a matter of fact, the revival of prog is, of course, a reality since the 80’s but the pop and metal conventions and restrictions have always underlined it. The Psychedelic Ensemble, however, has shown and continues to show that he doesn’t feel the need to “put water in their wine” and follow the conventions of our time. He does what he really feels like doing, deep from his heart.
The Tale of the Golden King is a typical concept album. The ten pieces, besides being played as parts of a complete musical work that lasts 72 minutes (a suite in terms of classical music) without pause, narrate linearly the episodes of a story of medieval imagination with sleeping kings, civilizations that are attacked by barbarian hordes and magical mountains that is given in the booklet of the record which also contains beautiful pictures and all the lyrics. Musically we could talk of symphonic rock since, besides the usual guitars, keyboards, percussion bass, mandolin that one of the musicians who is hidden under the name TPE (and who insists on not revealing his name), there is in the project the sound of a regular string orchestra with 20 woodwinds. Like the the previous albums the music is not experimental, everywhere there are echoes of the classical style of prog from from Genesis and the ELP and Caravan, but this time the timbral palette is much richer, while the female voice of Ann Caren next to TPE gives the project an ethereal and “polyphonic” dimension.
With The Psychedelic Ensemble one has the impression of the total revival of 70s art rock, that irrefutably have been, from the musical point of view, the peak of rock creativity and which, for those who haven’t experienced them, is mythical and for us who have experienced them as the Lost Earth of rock Blessedness. Given that the calendar shows “2013”, if this is not by itself an achievement, what else is it?
The Tale of the Golden King
! of 6
Prolusion. The US project THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE appeared more or less out of thin air back in 2009, and has since then been an active contributor to the progressive rock universe, fairly steadily recording and releasing new material. "The Tale of the Golden King" is the fourth full length studio production to be released under this moniker, and was commercially available from the fall of 2013.
Analysis. One of the intriguing aspects about The Psychedelic Ensemble is that few know who the person creating and releasing this music is. He prefers to stay unknown for personal reasons, and so far he has mostly catered for all aspects of his productions by himself as well. This latest production does see the man behind this project expand his creative borders dramatically however, with a handful of guest musicians involved as well as employing an orchestra to record classical symphonic passages used throughout this CD. And as far as changes go, this one is all for the better as far as I can tell. Symphonic progressive rock of various kinds has been the chosen field of The Psychedelic Ensemble throughout, and on this occasion this is taken to a whole new level entirely. We do get plenty of the features we kind of expect from an album released under this moniker of course – swirling, flamboyant keyboards aplenty, majestic organ textures, dark and dampened guitars, and more often than not arrangements with a distinctly dramatic nature either as a dominant trait or as a more dampened undercurrent. Especially the keyboard arrangements are of a kind and nature that should make most avid fans of this brand of progressive rock salivate, richly layered, complex and quirky, often with a feeling that these could very well be rearranged to be performed by a full scale classical symphonic orchestra. The manner in which the classical symphonic recordings are utilized throughout this production adds a certain emphasis to that point of view in my opinion: The transitions between the classical and the rock based sequences are seamless, and there are moments where both of these aspects are tightly interwoven as well, and so tightly that separating one from the other when listening to these passages is a challenging task indeed. The stylistic palette utilized is a fairly broad one, too. And while The Psychedelic Ensemble never strays from the symphonic progressive rock territories, he does include a fair share of details from other genres, such as folk music tinged instrumental details, occasional psychedelic touches and quite a few instrumental details and movements with a distinctly jazz-oriented sound to them. As far as in-genre references go, I did note some tendencies towards Yes first and foremost. Not in any major way, but occasional details here and there struck me as familiar sounding in that specific context.
Conclusion. "The Tale of the Golden King" comes across as an impressive production through and through. Excellent compositions, excellent musicianship, superbly assembled and with a quality production to boot. While it may not hold a universal appeal, this album should most certainly be of interest to those with an affection for symphonic progressive rock, and then most of all to those who cherish music of that kind made with a high degree of sophistication. A truly superb production, and just about as close to perfection as you can get in my point of view.
The Tale of the Golden King
He's done it again, folks! TPE has created another masterpiece of progressive rock--this time a "prog rock drama" telling an original story synthesized from medieval sleeping hero and mountain king legends, The Tale of The Golden King. A benevolent, Arthurian-like king is rewarded by the gods by being turned into a gold statue with the attached promise to his sad reverent subjects: When the time comes your king will return. The Great King's disappearance results, of course, in the invasion of a greedy and oppressive lot, "The Henchmen." Fear and despair fall upon the citizens until finally a revolt is planned--with the ensuing battle, victory and celebration. The "return" of The Great King, however, is not as one would expect, which is the clever twist in this allegory for a new age. Musically, TPE has surpassed all previous work by not only expanding upon his multi-layered, multi-instrumental wizardry but also by exploring a broader variety of musical genres than previously . . . Also, TPE has expanded his horizons by incorporating orchestration in the form of The Psychedelic Ensemble Orchestra and guest vocalists, including the crystalline voice of Ann Caren for female leads and background vocals. And, as usual, the artwork of TPE's CD and booklet are breathtaking . . . .
TPE's unique multi-layered multi-instrumental sonic weave and sophisticated composition skill always make for a listening experience that I highly recommend for all music and prog lovers. The music TPE creates is fascinating, creative, and intricately worked--and masterfully performed. Check it out!
Another masterpiece of music that is difficult to compare and categorize and yet awesome to behold.
The Tale of the Golden King
20 out of 10 Stars
Jose Luis Martinez (Spain)
Translated by Emily Everett
The anonymous multi-instrumental group, “The Psychedelic Ensemble,” recently released its fourth album of pure symphonic conceptual rock, in which all the themes tie together to create an assemblage of coherent narratives. The new album, full of dramatic spirit, is loaded with progressive ideas not only in its structure but also in its depth. Its spectacular and magnificent compositions, developed from a melodic and dynamic feeling, are full of the heaviest and most legendary symphonic rock references. What’s more, touches of religious and classical renaissance arrangements, epic vocals, exquisite and highly technical performances built on long instrumental progressions, spirited keyboard solos, skillfully played electric guitars, attractive traditional instruments not only enrich the music being expressed but also, like never before, portray an epic poem of an infinite genre of possibilities.
It’s just that the music, in an illustrious and intelligent way, knows how to construct themes from melody and musical drama to produce symphonic rock of the highest quality. Perhaps we have before us one of the greatest composers since the 1970s that, on top of everything, does not blush at any moment because of his approach to progressive rock of authentic and traditional academic taste.
We are allowed to depart from a sensationalist concept that not only serves as a pretext for an instrumental exposition of supreme magnitude that flows from a perfect narrative that is both of sensitive and technical execution that transports us to a world of unsuspected labyrinths where abrupt musical landscapes rule, diabolical technical rhythms continuously break the compasses of musical developments in the most tasteful way, but we are also afforded, more than anything, a great intelligence that sustains the gorgeous and beautiful compositions of this fabulous piece of work. Without realizing it, we have entered a time machine, and it has transported us to that long-lost nostalgic era of musicians that told us stories. We are before tales from the Renaissance or the times of Rick Wakeman, Le Orme, Pink Floyd, ELP, Jehtro Tull, or PFM that seem to have been forgotten, but from a modern and new perspective that, more than anything, accentuates the longing and hope of such a dismissed genre. There are a lot of progressive musicians that shield themselves behind a cinematographic sound to recreate sonorous spaces that guide their music, but The Psychedelic Ensemble does not need such excuses to show a raw and authentic progressive sound in which their music is worth exactly what it is: emotion, sensibility, virtuosity, tenderness, delirium, enthusiasm, and, on top of everything, heart.
I listen, astonished, to one of the greatest instrumentalist and one of the greatest publications of our time and I surrender admiringly at the splendid and flawless music. Wonderful work, that, I feel, could never be forgotten. An indisputable genius. Twenty over ten.
Lady Obscure Magazine, UK
The Tale of the Golden King
I started reading at an early age and it was obvious from those formative years that heroic fantasy was going to be my genre of choice. I tried Michael Moorcock, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and other science fiction authors but, it was when turned the first page of The Hobbit and read novels by Terry Brooks, George R.R. Martin and Raymond E. Feist that my imagination took fire. My interest focused on heroic fantasy, sword and sorcery if you like and I really enjoy reading novels by the likes of Conn Iggulden, R.A. Salvatore and Bernard Cornwell, a solid base in history but with a liberal licence taken and drops of magic and mystery thrown in, perfect for me! So, it would seem a perfect fit for me to enjoy listening to progressive music that relates to these kinds of literary genres and novels, generally concept albums as the whole story would be seen as a concept in any case.
When I was asked to review The Tale of the Golden King by The Psychedelic Ensemble I was intrigued by the description of ‘a 72-minute concept presented in 10 gapless tracks. The concept is based on medieval sleeping hero and mountain king legends’. To me, this was progressive heaven, as you probably know, I’m a huge prog rock fan anyway but, to find an album that was based around fantasy legends, swords and sorcery et al was like nirvana to this reviewer. Before we get onto the review of the album, let us find out more about The Psychedelic Ensemble.
The Psychedelic Ensemble is actually a misnomer being, in reality, a one-man, multi-instrumental enigma. TPE (as we shall call him) has garnered numerous awards including more than 20 ASCAP awards and many others. Having worked as a performer, composer, and arranger with many preeminent musicians worldwide, The Golden King is the fourth solo album released under the moniker of The Psychedelic Ensemble. In 2009, Musea Records released the debut album, The Art of Madness, which received many nominations for various progressive rock awards, this was followed in 2010 by The Myth of Dying and, in 2011, by The Dream of the Magic Jongleur, both of which were garnered with extensive praise. For The Tale of the Golden King, TPE is joined, on certain tracks, by a full chamber orchestra conducted by Jonathan Roberts and featuring Amanda Smith Roberts as principal violinist and concertmaster. Furthermore, Ann Caren provides lead vocals for Queen of Sorrow and backing vocals elsewhere and Kurt Fowler is the cello soloist on Queen of Sorrow. As an aside, I have to mention the amazing artwork on the album booklet by Yimin Lee which is totally in key with the concept of the album and adds to the whole package.
As is the norm with most progressive rock epics nowadays, the album opener is an overture, Overture – Our Great Kingdom to be exact, and it is a huge behemoth of an opening song, the intro just builds up the intrigue with layer upon layer of intricate and spellbinding music before the superb vocal kicks in. I am dumbfounded that one person can produce this astonishingly complex mix of sound, keyboards swirling here, classic guitar soaring high and, in keeping with the concept, there is a definite mediaeval feel to proceedings, expertly emphasised by the clear as a bell organ sounds and harmonised vocal. The complex guitar notes and keyboards lead you on a fast paced, meandering journey away from the real world, superb from the first note until the last. There is a gentle acoustic guitar and keyboard introduction to The Prophecy of the Seer- The Transformation of the King that leads in a vocal that is more focused on the narrative and telling a story. There are hints of Yes, Rick Wakeman and prog legends of the 70’s flying around with the intricate time changes and convoluted keyboard sections. Whilst being a concept album, each individual track is given its own chance to shine and this song goes heavy on the 70’s psychedelic keyboards and quick fire guitar runs to produce a sophisticated smorgasbord of musical delights.
The Golden King starts delicately with a delightful orchestral introduction, fans of modern progressive stalwarts Glass Hammer will be very much at home here. The music has a lilting quality to it, dancing on your aural receptors, before a vocal glides in with a delicate timbre, adding to the fantastical feeling that is all pervading. The vocals offer a narrative as the principle and secondary voices converse back and forth. There is an incredible lightness to the proceedings emphasised by the nuances of the songwriting and expert musical ability on show, another admirable part of the ever impressive whole. Captive Days takes the listener on an instrumental journey though the world of The Golden King giving, as it does, a feeling of movement, perhaps a journey. The musical arrangement is a delight, the whole piece having an ethereal quality that, rather than making it feel like an interlude or break in the main composition, gives it a life all of its own.
Now to one of the masterpieces of the album, Queen of Sorrow is a quite breathtaking song, the angelic vocal of Ann Caren providing beauty and soul which gives this track a folk rock feel. The guitars, cello, flute and piano all take their place in the musical majesty on show. There is definite melancholy feel to the song, hinted at by the quality of the vocal and, especially in the low key, almost sinister section where the vocals become eerie whispers and the instruments take on an almost chaotic, distorted sound with staccato keyboards and guitars firing back and forth. The superb orchestral backing to the final vocal section is bordering on genius, giving this song the finale that it deserves.
Save Yourself moves away from progressive rock to a very modern jazz feel, funky basslines and rat-a-tat drum beats backing an ululating vocal. The virtuoso keyboard playing is a fine touch and adds to the ultra smoothness of the groove and the catchy chorus. The music strays into fusion territory in places including some stylishly imagined jazz piano, a super-smooth insert into the continuing narrative. In a clever contrast, Make a Plan – Golden Swords takes on a laid back blues mantra with a cool blues guitar in combination with a sultry piano note. The keyboards take on a mind of their own but work well with the more intense vocal eventually performing an intense duet with the scorching licks from the guitar. A lot of that chaotic intensity finds itself flowing over into The Battle, a raging instrumental that evokes the chaos and disorder that happens in war. The time changes come thick and fast imbuing a feeling of discord and even anarchy. If I have one small criticism it could that, on these three tracks, there is a feeling of smugness and cleverness, of being abstract for abstract’s sake, only my opinion but, it does detract from the whole very slightly.
We return to the calm and harmonious theme that runs through the rest of the album with the heavily Yes influenced, Great Day. The acoustic and 12 string guitars glide in with an all encompassing feeling of serenity, ably aided and abetted by the serene synthesizer. The vocals are silky and polished hitting a higher range than elsewhere on the album and harmonising with great effect. There then follows a section of intense competition between the instruments as, one after the other, they come forth to burst into life with a brief solo before the song is lead out by a precisely harmonised choral section that harks back to the initial part of the track.
This fantastical concept is brought to a close by Finale – Arise! – Great kingdom, the recurring orchestral themes are brought back into play with increased grandeur and meaning. There then follows a dazzling, multi-layered vocal section with energetic, vivid instrumental interludes that, rather than detracting from the vocal sections, add subtle overlays and nuances to the overall sound. The frequent solo incursions are precise and delicate incisions in a complex piece of music that seeks to give an overview of what has gone before, a précis of the whole story in instrumental fashion, and the energy and enthusiasm are superbly judged. The finale is another excellent combination of the orchestral and vocal that comes to a flamboyant and grand close.
To be fair, The Psychedelic Ensemble has been hovering around the edges of my consciousness for a while and yet, I have never had the foresight to listen to any of their work, more fool me! The Tale of the Golden King is an epic piece of work in more ways than one, a superb, engrossing story told with amazing skill and musicianship. It is 72 minutes that just fly by, immersed in the music as you are and is not just a glorious piece of music but a complete listening experience that makes your life just that little bit better.
The Tale of the Golden King
Two years ago I was taken by surprise when I first became introduced to The Psychedelic Ensemble (TPE) through the album The Dream of the Magic Jongleur. Upon interviewing TPE I found out about his next album in the works which would feature not only all the goodness that this one man mystery exhibits, but would raise the stakes even more by including an orchestral ensemble. Needless to say the expectations were high and I’m glad to say that high expectations were met by the new release, The Tale of the Golden King.
What perhaps pleases most about The Tale of the Golden King is that it is basically everything we already love about TPE with bigger sounds, grander orchestration, and more nuanced writing. The record kicks it off with “Overture: Our Great King,” a piece that demonstrates stunning arrangements from the start, offering mysterious moods, dueling guitars and keys, and some of the best narrative vocals ever by way of the “Enter all who with to hear the tale” segment which presents some fantastic church organ and bells before diving into a nicely executed fugue. “The Prophecy of the Seer” offers great dialogue between principle and secondary vocals, a sort of call and response if you will. Additionally, the instrumentation on this piece is a real gem, with loads of acoustic instruments that are subtle yet powerful. The dreamlike section about two thirds into the piece is absolutely killer as the church organ presents descending patterns flanked by fluttering chord changes while blasting you with bursts of aggressive keyboards; one of the coolest moments on the album from where I’m sitting, and that’s saying a lot.
Those who heard the sample tracks on TPE’s webpage should be well aware of the glory of “The Golden King” and “Queen of Sorrow,” some of the absolute highlights of the album. The former shows TPE taking full advantage of the orchestra to lay down a beautiful intro followed by and an epic, almost cinematic, outro. In between we see all the melodic phrasing, weaving synthesizers, solid groove, and catchy vocal lines which have become trademarks of TPE, all presented on a superb level. “Queen of Sorrow” shows itself to be a stand out track as well, this time due to the gorgeous vocals of Ann Caren who demonstrates vocal, angelic beauty this a sense of power and melancholy worthy of the title “Queen of Sorrow.” Musically speaking, this, like “The Golden King” stands out at the top of this album, taking full advantage of piano, acoustic guitars, cello, and horns to create a distinctive atmosphere, particularly in the uber eerie middle section in Ann’s voice takes on a ghostly whisper which is highlighted by echoing strings and fading voices before diving into an aggressive array of guitar and key solos. To cap it off, TPE leads us toward a final verse and chorus which opts for orchestral arrangements to back up the main vocal lines, providing a somber and majestic ending to one of the strongest pieces on the record. In a word: breathtaking.
While the middle section just described was most definitely the highlight of the album for me, the rest of the album continues in the tradition of strong tunes. “Save Yourself” and “Make a Plan” constitute a perfect complimentary duo both in terms of music and lyrics, with “Save Yourself” offering funky, jazzy basslines, solid groove, and one of the catchiest choruses around, while “Make a Plan” does it up nicely with some fine bluesy vocals and organ, and an eventual shift into a storm of scorching guitar and keyboard solos, more of which can be found on the rhythmic instrumental storm known as “The Battle.”
The closing track, “Finale: Arise, Great Kingdom” is determined to give us a grandiose closing to this wonderful tale. After opening with a fantastic, album encompassing orchestral arrangement, TPE launches us into a multi-layered vocal arrangement that recalls Yes in the most wonderful of ways, with a nicely added pastoral touch. I must also say that as so often I feel with TPE’s music, I am impressed by the delicacy of instrument treatments on this piece, both on the lighter vocal sections as well as those that might conventionally be called more busy; we simply get what seems like an infinite number of instruments coming and going, but never feeling forced or like they’re just making an appearance for the sake of it. Furthermore, unlike many artists’ albums which seek to make grand use of motifs by merely rehashing themes in the most banal ways throughout the album, this finale truly weaves together the best melodies of the album while finely portraying the spirit of the complete work. Finally, I must put in a plug for the solo sections on this piece, particularly the one that starts as we approach the seven minute mark; they’re remarkable, and capitalize not only on the treatment of leads and phrasing themselves, but are skillfully supported by the entire arrangement. After hearing the climactic closing of “Finale,” I marvel at a piece which so well captures the essence of The Tale of the Golden King and sits among the strongest of songs that I’ve heard all year.
Just in case I have to spell it out more clearly, The Golden King is a remarkable album that should grab up some great attention for The Psychedelic Ensemble. While the last album was good, this one really went all out, demanding many a thorough listen due to its complex arrangement, variety, and skillful performances. In reality, The Tale of the Golden King takes everything I love about TPE, crafts them to near perfection, and still manages to give you more. There have been a number of brilliant albums that have come out this year, and I suspect there’s still a few more to come, but as for myself I think I can safely say that this one will find its way among them as a memorable release of 2013.
The magic started in 2009 with the release of The Art Of Madness and continued with The Myth Of Dying (2010) and The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur (2011). All three are excellent with each successive release adding to the artists considerable repertoire of outstanding musicianship and fine song craft. Fast forward to 2013 and TPE's new album The Tale of the Golden King.
The Tale of the Golden King
The Tale of the Golden King just might be TPE's best album yet. For those of you unfamiliar with the band, TPE is essentially one musician who prefers to remain anonymous. There is the occasional guest on vocals as well as the TPE orchestra. His previous albums are conceptually based and that trend continues here. The concept involves a magical kingdom and it's great king who is transformed into gold and the kingdom laid to ruin. A time of darkness descends over the land until one day the kingdom arises once again. The music meshes beautifully with the lyrics and concept, making for an absorbing and intriguing listen. This is complex stuff and the music often careens in different directions but never at the expense of the wonderful melodies found throughout the disc.
The CD begins with "Overture – Our Great Kingdom". The moody section at the start carries a darker motif. One gets the feeling the music will burst forth as the orchestral instrumentation continues onward. A myriad of instruments join in, including pretty acoustic guitar and intricate synth work. The melody is one those that you want to hear again and again. Eventually the intensity level increases as organ, synths and frenetic guitar passages take hold, almost reminding me of the Yes classic Relayer. This leads directly into the second track "The Prophecy of the Seer – The Transformation of the King" where delicious acoustic guitar and synth work ensues. Yes and ELP fans will love the intense orchestral moments and as the electric guitar took on more bite, my mind wandered back to those glorious '70s prog rock epics that we all know and love. "The Golden King" starts in an orchestral vein with a myriad of instruments making for a breathtaking intro. The softer tranquil moments will make fans of the Moody Blues happy before the music gets heavier turning into a full blown prog rock epic. "Captive Days" is one of two songs under five minutes, the other being the frenetically intense instrumental "The Battle". The former has a somber feel, with splashes of piano, synths and other orchestral flourishes. The synthesizer work is particularly spellbinding.
Other moments of excellence include the wistful "The Queen of Sorrow" with sublime lead vocals courtesy of Ann Caren. I really dig how TPE injects heavier organ and guitar parts into the mellower acoustic framework. The album ends with the equally satisfying "Finale – Arise – Great Kingdom". Melodies and themes are revisited closing the album in grand fashion. The other tunes not mentioned are also superb with not a duff track in the bunch.
The Psychedelic Ensemble is able to weave rich sonic tapestries of complexity and melody like few others can at the moment. To put it simply, The Tale of the Golden King is one of the best modern symphonic progressive rock albums I have heard in a very long time. This is without question an outstanding work of art that needs to be in every progressive rock collection.
Casually, the anonymous author of this project moved on to his fourth album. We remember the first album of THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, "The Art of Madness," published in 2009. Then two other albums were released (2010 and 2011), all are of superior quality and are all concepts. The latest, " The Tale of the Golden King," which is also a concept of 72 minutes spread over 10 tracks, is a story that makes us move through time and takes us back to the middle ages .
The Tale of the Golden KingRating: 4.5/5
(Translated by Marc Fromm)
The spectacular compositions are developed from a very acute sense of melody. They are full of references to legendary symphonic rock . There are a few influences from classical music and also those from the Renaissance in the arrangements, with the addition of memorable and highly technical vocal performances. The vocals are inserted into long instrumental developments, full of solo keyboards and electric guitars that are played with ease. Also included is the appearance of The Psychedelic Ensemble Orchestra, conducted by Jonathan Roberts and its traditional instruments enrich the music of "The Tale of the Golden King." I wouldn't describe the album for you piece by piece, but I must tell you about some. "Overture --Our Great Kingdom"-- sets the tone for what is to come, and this is a title that offers magnificent orchestration, and with the inclusion of flute and guitar, creates an atmosphere. The vocals enter accompanied by synths and drums. " The Queen Of Sorrow " begins with acoustic guitar and a sound that approximates the time of knights and castles. The voice of ANN CAREN presents this melancholy melody. "The Battle" is an instrumental and, for those who know THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, is the trademark of the group. Guitar and keyboards, and in fact all instruments involved in the confrontation, go a little crazy and bring joy to the heart. "Great Day" brings a more sedate pace with the female vocals. Here you will recognize slight parallels with YES and the voice of Jon Anderson. The instrumental section gives us the impression of participating in the celebration after the victory. "Finale - Arise! -Great Kingdom" ends the story with the longest piece, about 12 minutes. There is heavy orchestration early then the guitar emerges. The song begins with a festive atmosphere that is felt throughout the room. The sung parts come and go and contrast with up tempo instrumental explosions.
This album confirms the talent of the musician and anonymous protagonists that accompany this project. "The Tale of the Golden King" is unquestionably the most ambitious of all the band's discography. If you do not know THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, this album is, in my opinion, a great way to get acquainted with this group. I invite you to participate in this adventure of medieval times.
The Tale of the Golden King
I'm in an orchestra? I am an orchestra!
THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE is the name of a single musician who, despite the name of the project, has played, recorded, and composed an album single-handedly for the fourth time. All alone? No, because this time he has brought support from a singer and an orchestra that make "The Tale Of The Golden King" a bombastic experience for the fan of the sound of prog and art rock.
In keeping with the fantasy concept and supported by the sweeping orchestration, the album develops parallels to classic film soundtracks that are only strengthened by the fact that there are no real song transitions. Thus the listener from the first note dives into the world of the Golden King in which acoustic guitars, virtuoso keyboard and charming folk melodies rule while the title's hero stews in the dungeon. From the first note it is clear that the orchestration is extremely successful and goes far beyond what one hears in most cases in this style. The individual classical instruments are used competently, and receive all the space to unfold and are not wasted as just harmony-supporting strings, but act more like guitar riffs played with their own timbres. THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE understands his craft, also one hears keyboard and guitar duels, which create another cornerstone of the album. Here friends of straight Heavy Metal may be quickly bored, but they probably do not listen often to orchestral art rock. The diverse styles of music are played here skillfully and varied, sometimes one hears jazz elements, then again blues, before they all burst into a neo-classical soloing.
We repeatedly see the various main themes of the album, which are not only presented in their main songs, but alluded to again and again. For example, the theme of the title track ["The Golden King"] you have already heard presented before the actual song appears, and that emerges time and again in the later stages. Thus, one of the highlights of the album is the title track, the other title, 'Queen Of Sorrow', lets guest vocalist Ann Caren play out all her charm.
The result is deeply emotional . . . distorted guitars are almost exclusively used for solos, extensive acoustic passages through many of the pieces ensure a fantastic folk atmosphere.
But even without the intertwining and playfulness in the songwriting and musical implementation "The Tale Of The Golden King" consistently captivates, and is a beautiful album, in whose depths there is always something new to discover.
. . . We still do not know who is behind this project, only that it is an American, in his the fifties, and he has been in the business for a very long time . But the main thing is the music . . . already his fourth album. The Dream of the Magic Jongleur, his previous record chronicled in our columns, dates back to 2011.
The Tale of the Golden King
Jean -Pierre Schricke
THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE is back with The Tale of the Golden King, a refined and lengthy album accompanied by a symphony orchestra. Another concept album, this time drawing its source from the middle ages, oh what a fascinating and mysterious period. The CD begins with a sensational introduction where we are immediately plunged into the medieval era, only the flaming electric guitar comes from our time embedded in multiple synthesizers and Hammond organ, and the voice of our mysterious storyteller.
The truth is, it is quite dramatic, with a taste of well-pronounced YES and even the electric guitar style of STEVE HOWE. An acoustic guitar on synthesized background followed by a cavalcade of electric guitar introduced the opening of "The Golden King", accompanied by the symphonic orchestra with 2 piccolos, 2 flutes , clarinet, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets , trombone, cello, bass , the whole being conducted by JONATHAN ROBERTS. "The Golden Kin"g is a masterpiece of mastery with acoustic guitars, its strings, cello, synthesizers, the voice of our unknown being supported and accompanied by vocals from ANN CAREN. There is a great electric guitar solo, the end from the large orchestra and flute, dazzling.
Another high point, "The Queen Of Sorrow", with ANN CAREN singing the role of the queen, displays a graceful voice. It has also made an important contribution to the creative process of the album by being more choral.
"Save Yourself" highlights a talented bass with a jazzy funk style . This is also the whole title is in the jazz movement, in short, here's a one-man band , a kind of MIKE OLDFIELD. The Battle sounds like an epic ELP … with debauchery guitar, organ and orchestral fury.
The ANN [Caren] voice is back on "Great Day", pure YES or PFM. Returning forces on the last track the 12 ' Finale titled - "Arise - Great Kingdom" concludes the album in a mix of influences between the medieval and progressive …. The Tale of the Golden King is a gold album by a goldsmith, 72 minutes of musical success. ... A tour is in preparation, will it be hidden? Add a beautiful cover produced by YIMIN LI .
The Tale of the Golden King
4 of 4
In the purest tradition of concepts albums of large-scale, "epic" proportion, we arrived at this year-end album from The Psychedelic Ensemble, which is a project of several musicians who have collaborated in this grand sonic fresco. As the name of the group suggests, The Psychedelic Ensemble produces a music that returns to what many regard as the golden age of rock: the dawn of the progressive music and to its first glorious years. The main musician, a multi-instrumentalist, as well as all the other musicians (with a few exceptions) prefer anonymity so that their musical project can be taken directly and without being associated with a person who may or may not be well known ... "The Tale Of A Golden King", packed full of dramatic spirit, is in charge of "progressive" climates, not only in its structure but also in its depth. The compositions are spectacular and grandiose, and developed from a melodic and dynamic feel, and full of the heaviest and the most mythical of references to symphonic rock.This collection of songs will be appreciated in a dreamlike vein, this new PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE album is full of dramatic spirit. There is also a certain mysticism and great references to symphonic rock, but that seems appropriate in this type of album. In addition, arrangements in a renaissance tone presented by superb female or male voice (the fact that they are not mentioned thus prevents me from telling you who they are) are perfect and the technique of using long instrumental sections is masterful. Long dialogues with keyboard and other synths (ubiquitous and full of absolute lyricism) are fiery allies to devastating and skillfully played guitars, and give a fascinating side to this work of the highest caliber, depicting the long epic poem, all that makes this album a major attraction that will satisfy the most jaded of us. I can not conclude without mentioning that the keyboardist is an absolute virtuoso. Listening to this great disc there is little doubt that the future looks bright.
The Tale of the Golden King
Tempi Duri-Rome, Italy
The fourth studio album by The Psychedelic Ensemble, a solo project of a talented musician who wishes to remain anonymous, but who stands strongly at the center of the progressive scene in 2013 with this interesting album titled "The Tale of the Golden King" much appreciated by both audiences and critics alike. The atmosphere of this one-man band lies within an area that ranges from symphonic progressive rock to the classic styles, with occasional incursions into jazz fusion. The four discs are all concept albums that move seamlessly between one song and another and seek to address true musical journeys into uncharted territories. In particular, in this fourth album, you will enter into a mythical and magical realm…Truly impressive about the work is the compositional arrangements on this disc…The multifaceted style, sometimes simple, sometimes symphonic tracks, the variety of compositions, solos and combinations of the various instruments will strike music connoisseurs and music lovers, especially the so-called educated, symphonic, progressive listeners. A great album with eclectic musical solutions and much to hear in one breath that will surprise the audience. One of the best records of the year in the area of new progressive music.
The Tale of the Golden King
Nik Brückner - BabyBlaue-Seiten (Germany)
Wonderful album! Quite wonderful album! …this man is a seasoned composer, who knows what he's doing: it is obvious that he knows well the genre of musical and operetta, all right, and opera . . .
The Tale of the Golden King
At last . . . waiting for this piece of art . . . and [it] arrived . . . this masterpiece at last. So beautiful and complex compositions . . . so well recorded . . . with great instruments and performance . . .
The Tale of the Golden King
12 of 15
A miracle has happened! A miracle has happened again!
The mysterious and exceptional talent behind THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, an American multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and songwriter, strikes again. This time with the story of the "Golden King ", which, like the three previous albums, again wrapped in a concept, is rich and very demanding, illustrated with the help of YIMIN LI. And just as in the past four years and three albums, the progressive music is is again awesome, more awesome than what the FLOWER KINGS or SPOCK 'S BEARD are producing nowadays. And always just when you think retro prog is playing itself out, then out of nowhere appears a new album from THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE and turns it at 70 minutes!
The musical jack of all trades, "Mr. Anonymous " puts the venerable prog - gods of PINK FLOYD on YES to EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER in a modern style and breathes new life into our memories of " Meddle ", " The Gates Of Delirium" and " Brain Salad Surgery " . . .
. . . our solo multi -wonder instrumentalist gets help from many professional string players who bring a fresh new element to the music . Exactly the ingredients that could be the newest album by CHRIS, but we are surprised to find it is the exceptional neo-progressive work of the anonymous U.S. prog-musician.
Then there are the many refined vocals from "The Tale Of The Golden King." For example, "The Prophecy Of The Seer " is like a combination of floydian "Great Gig In The Sky" , "Pictures" of ELP and TANGENT. No wonder, since the story behind this song and the entire album is the struggle of the great king and his golden kingdom when threatened and despite all his wealth, and is just as exciting as the music.
Medieval sounds are in this release, of course. After the threatening beginning in " Overture - Our Great Kingdom" with strings, acoustic guitars that give way to electric guitars and keyboard bombast plus clear YES connections, the story really begins to gain momentum and move towards the big battle. Woodwinds and brass indicate this (battle), as well as the driving percussion rhythms. The captivating vocals of ANN CAREN, who somewhere inherited ANNIE HASLAM'S vocal cords,as convincingly demonstrated in "The Queen Of Sorrow " and " Great Day ", even set a RENAISSANCE feel and makes this CD not only fun but deserving of respect.
The influence of musical ideas of primarily YES permeate the entire album. But also flutes and horns, which rise in " The Golden King" to a classical symphony with strings, giving the music an extraordinary appeal. " Save Yourself " then surprises us with a heavy psychedelic broadside, which is reminiscent of very early Pink Floyd . And after the great battle is over, we find the "Great Day", which sounds like RENAISSANCE with RICK WAKEMAN on keyboards .
In the three -part "Finale " it seems like we are listening to a "MikeOldfield goes classic" album, . . .
. . . a stunning retro-prog album full of secrets.
CONCLUSION: Welcome to the house of the King, who only through the exceptional progressive rock of The Psychedelic Ensemble reaches his true power and glory!
The Tale of the Golden King
. . . A concept album revolving around the story of a king transfigured into a golden statue, and how later generations in the kingdom make ingenious use of the statue to win a battle against tyrannous forces, the band manage to dip into the styles of a range of prog acts of the past. For instance, there's a really good Emerson, Lake and Palmer-styled bit there which reminds me of the best of Tarkus-era ELP, and a bit later on which sounds uncannily like Close to the Edge-era Yes.
The really neat thing they accomplish, though, is having the music of the album flows smoothly from section to section, so the dipping into the styles of past bands don't feel artificial or forced - they arise naturally from the direction of the overall composition, and so they feel much less gratuitous than they otherwise might. This puts the Ensemble well ahead of much of the retro- prog crowd, and it's excellent stuff.
The Tale of the Golden King
. . . The prog fan will get from "The Tale" the whole range of what defines traditional progressive rock . . . Symphonic and epic moments meet dense and tight compositions, showing TPE as an accomplished musician . . . In my humble opinion, TPE's "The Tale" is an impressive traditional prog-rock opus that should satisfy all fans of this kind of music.
The Tale of the Golden King
Well - WELCOME ALL YE to THE CD of 2013, Yep - this has got to be the best release this year by a parsec or more I reckon. I have given this two spins and it's knocked the old skin off the prog rice pudding!! yep it most surely has! If you like your prog pudding richly sprinkled with moog runs and bombastic themes, then this is surely for you ! I will be definitely investing in the back catalogue after this masterpiece has tweaked my aural-synapses to the point of prog-ejaculation! It has bits reminiscent of yes (Sound Chaser off Relayer) and a bit of old yes off the "Yes Album" , but I am also reminded of ELP (the drumming is a bit Carl Palmer-ish) - Also - a bit of Greenslade in the keyboard/combos. Loads of sumptuous Moog and Hammond - really nice guitar licks, good strong themed lyrics which add to the overall pomposity of the piece. I think that this is not NEO-PROG but more Keyboard oriented Symphonic Prog or KOSP for short!! Just buy it people and SHARE the LOVE.