No. 1-Dutch Progressive Rock Pages Staff Picks (Alex Torres)
No. 2-Sea of Tranquility (Jon Neudorf)
No. 3-Dutch Progressive Rock Pages Staff Picks (Gert Hulshof)
No. 9-Prog Afterglow Netherlands
Progressive Newsletter (Germany)
Best Artwork Dutch Progressive Rock Pages (Gert Hulshof)
Top 100 2011 Global Progressive Rock Poll
ALEX TORRES 10 out of 10
GERT HULSHOF 9.5 out of 10
Alex Torre's Review
If you are one of those DPRP readers who trusts our recommendations and ratings then you may well be very familiar with The Psychedelic Ensemble's previous two albums, 2009's The Art Of Madness and 2010's The Myth Of Dying, which received lofty scores of 9.5 and 10 from my colleague, Gert Hulshof. High scores indeed! So, a new album and a change of reviewer – can The Psychedelic Ensemble do it again?
The answer is as positive a "yes" as you're likely to get. Frankly, music doesn't get much better than this. The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur is possibly the best of what is fast becoming an extraordinary sequence of high quality albums.
As the artist's name suggests, The Psychedelic Ensemble produces music that harks back to what many regard as the golden era of rock: the dawn of progressive music and its first few years. From within that era, each of The Psychedelic Ensemble's albums has been internally sonically consistent, but slightly different from the last. So, for instance, the main reference calls for The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur would be bands such as the progressive music of The Beatles, classic Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, whereas memories of Pink Floyd were evoked during The Art Of Madness. In the way that the fusion of these various influences work through to the compositions, we experience something totally new that, at the same time, reminds us of those great bands.
It therefore follows that a criticism that might be levelled at The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur might be that the musical composition is not innovative, but is a variation on well established techniques. This may be true, but innovation per se is over-rated. There are not many people who listen to classical music of the twentieth century: composers valued innovation over musicality but the paying public have a much greater preference for musicality! So, is this the dreaded commercialism? Well, you try and write a pretty melody or a catchy riff; it's not easy, or we'd all be heroes! Let me also say this: had The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur been the 2011 Yes album, rather than Fly From Here, then my guess is that Yes's album reviews would have been unanimously praiseworthy!
The care taken with the choice and variety of sonic textures throughout the album really enhances the listening pleasure and, together with the classical-leaning nature of compositions such as The Benefaction Of The Noble Wizard and Magicking, puts the music overall in the European, rather than American, progressive music stream.
The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur follows on from its predecessors in that it is – in all respects – a concept album. There's no messing about: the concept is not just in the story but in the artwork, the musical themes and in the way that the story is told. Seven of the eleven compositions are sung but the accompanying CD booklet tells the story through quatrains – rhyming poems of four line stanzas – even for the instrumental compositions. Together with Sam del Russi's evocative artwork, commissioned especially for the album, this means that The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur isn't just an album of music, but a magical, interactive experience. Sure, you can just listen to the music – even to single compositions out of sequence or context if you want, and still get enjoyment – but the primary experience is to enjoy the whole package; to let yourself enter into this fantasy world. Great music, great art, great story – as I said, classic progressive rock!
The music is deceptively catchy, addictive, whether the focus is on melody or rhythm: I found myself waking with it playing in my mind even before I had become sufficiently familiar to be able to identify the particular compositions.
Let me give you some thoughts on the individual compositions. The album kicks off in fine style with Overture - Into The Night, which is sung and whose melodic development reminds us of George Harrison's Indian-influenced writing for The Beatles; we also get some instrumental variations on the theme. The principal "instrument" of The Psychedelic Ensemble are electronic keyboards: his selection of sounds is first class and the musical textures throughout the album are gorgeously varied, as we begin to appreciate in earnest on The Secrets Of Your Mind, a deliciously rhythmic piece with tubular bells, vibe sounds and much more (tasty whiffs of piano and electric guitar, Spanish guitar). The depth of composition on the arrangements is significant, and always well allied to the story concept. A prime example is the instrumental The Benefaction Of The Noble Wizard, which is an unaccompanied church organ composition, beautifully played. Listen To Me takes us closer to Yes, which also has very slight whiffs of folk via a flute and lute (?) section; this suggestion links into the folkier Stones To Flowers, which then has the response of the beautiful, acoustic, mediaeval-feeling Magicking: in the story, this is played on the lyre, but I can't quite tell what the instrument used here is; it's a very beautiful sounding guitar, with a crisp, clean sound, if it is that. Gorgeous, whatever it is. The Riddle picks up the pace and has some attractive rhythmic work and some super and varied sound textures throughout; the vocal harmonies are also attractive in the singing section. Dream And Premonition starts ethereally before going into a sonically exciting plucked bass section, then oscillating between the two. The finale consists of Strange Days, which might be categorised as psychedelic folk-rock, given the vocal style and flutey influence; and the heavier, brooding End Of Days – Epilogue has some mean electric guitar work and good rhythmic elements; lots of sonic textures again.
As you may know, the identity of The Psychedelic Ensemble has not been revealed. It is a solo project. All of the instruments and all of the singing, including the harmonies – with the exception of the fiddle part in The Riddle and the falsetto harmony in Strange Days - are performed by the anonymous artist. The purpose behind this irregular approach is an attempt to allow the music to speak for itself, rather than rely on the brand of celebrity to sell it. If you don't understand what I'm alluding to then may I remind you again of Fly From Here, an album, incidentally, that I personally enjoyed. Had that not been issued under the Yes brand it may well have "bombed". Brand sells, anonymity does not but excellent music should.
On that basis, it's time that you really checked out The Psychedelic Ensemble, if you haven't already done so. Can you really afford to ignore an average rating in excess of 9.5 per album?
Gert Hulshof's Review
The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur marks the release of the third long play album for TPE, short for The Psychedelic Ensemble, a one man band who really stirred up things in the progressive rock world with his first release in 2009. As were its predecessors the Magic Jongleur is a full blown concept album, telling the tale of a young musician, "The Magic Jongleur", in his quest to find magical music.
The complete story behind the album and various tracks can be found in the accompanying booklet, which also contains the artwork of Sam del Russi, who has done a terrific job in depicting the story/poetry of TPE into pictures. The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur, however is not only available as a CD and or Download, but is available through a designated website - like with his first two albums. The story can be found there as well as the drawings by Sam del Russi. True artwork. We are not reviewing the artwork although great artwork is a blessing for our eyes. It is about the music here. It all looks as if it is supposed to be this way. The Art Of Madness, The Myth Of Dying and now The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur. All captivating stories dealing with what most of us appear to banish from our day to day lives.
Starting all the magic is Overture - Into The Night, with bells chiming laying foundation to what can be expected. As before TPE makes use of the sounds and interpretations of progressive music of the 70’s, which I might add he does this very well. When you listen to the songs all influences become apparent. It is a blessing rather than a curse how this music is composed and performed. Beautifully crafted melodies draw us into the night our quest begins. And The Quest is fully instrumental, with complex rhythmic changes along with keyboard and guitar battles. The next track has been released for a while as an excerpt preview of this album. So this one may already be familiar to some. The Secrets Of Your Mind is a song of balladry with great lyrics and melodies. Outstanding craftsmanship.
Next up is the instrumental The Benefaction Of The Noble Wizard, a track performed only on keyboards. Think Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Don Airey, Patrick Moraz, need I say more. The Benefaction Of The Noble Wizard is has a great melody and even better performance - an exceptional piece of music. Listen To Me is the next title and rocks as if it was The Tangent playing it. Stones To Flowers is a very short track, marking a sort of transition or crossover song - with beautiful harmony vocal section, followed by an instrumental ditty going by the name of Magicking. This track is a solo on acoustic Spanish guitar, approaching classic music.
Next up we have The Riddle and as the title implies we are in for a complex treatment. The song is full of changes in tempo to aid the riddle. In Dream And Premonition the bass playing is fabulous, not only keeping the rhythm alive but performing a splendid solo. The premonition was perhaps one of "strange days" - a prelude to the stranger themes of the epic on the album. The highlight, no climax, of the album End Of Days – Epilogue. Everything we heard is passing by again, a magnificent closing to an outstanding album. I like to think so.
The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur is the most accessible album of the three albums created by TPE. Probably suited for a wider audience than its predecessors. Nevertheless a fine example of what you can be achieved in modern day music business. The accessibility also proves itself in more or less tracks you can listen to without damaging the concept per se. Highlights to me are The Benefaction Of The Noble Wizard, Magicking and End Of Days - Epilogue.
Will we see another album with again a concept and of sheer beauty, I hope so? Only TPE can tell us, may be an album about birth and rebirth?
ALEX TORRES 10 out of 10
GERT HULSHOF 9.5 out of 10
Thanks again to Sunhillow and progstreaming.com. Does anyone recognize how lucky we are to have The Psychedelic Ensemble in our lives? Three top notch albums in three years--and all conceived, composed, performed, and produced by one guy! Has there ever been a solo composer/performer who has produced music of this quality? And people: This Is The Best of all the Psychedelic Ensemble releases. It is utterly astounding! Time after time I am blown away by the emotion, the virtuosic performances--on many instruments--and the incredible clarity and engineering of this production. There are many times on this album that I am hearing an instrument solo, duelled by another, then a third! a FOURTH! even a fifth instrument gets into the act-- all playing top notch riffs, talking to each other through the fire of their instruments. Astounding! Amazing! God! I hate these reviews and the inability to get my excitement and enthusasm across. This, not "Shattered ..." or "Visions" or "Grace for ..." or "Ghosts" or SKE may be the Album of the Year!! Certainly the year's Best Album That Nobody's Ever Heard! There is no keyboard player on the planet that can compare to this guy's power and versatility.
The album opens with a cacophony of beautiful world sounds: bells, sitars, church organ, fuzz guitars and so much more, before it kicks into a great rocker with such a fullness of sound. "Overture: Into the Night" (9/10) is such a 'complete' well-thought out, well- constructed song (much like many of the BIG BIG TRAIN compositions of recent years)--which sets the stage for a whole album of absolutely TOP QUALITY music. The 5:54 mark gives the first real introduction to the ride you're in for: amazing soli, multiple instruments dueling (in this case like STEVE HOWE and RICK WAKEMAN in their finest hours).
The instrumental "The Quest" (9/10) begins with a STARCASTLE/ROBIN TROWER sound until the main themes are played simultaneously buy guitars and multiple keyboards. Love the 'bubble bass' sounding not unlike fretless master PERCY JONES. He even gets a solo (an awesome one at that!) at the 2:40-3:10 span. Return to STARCASTLE/YES sound. Awesome energy!
"The Secrets of your Mind" (9/10) opens with a bit slower pace but with exciting 'bubble' JACO PASTORIUS-like bass patterns. Vocals are rather high and etheric--somehow similar to JAMES TAYLOR--with some really well-constructed intricate harmonies. The long solo section has more laid back and layered approach to multiple instrumental soli--electric and acoustic guitars, electric and acoustic keyboards, GENIUS! Absolute genius!!
Next is the mind-bending church organ song, "The Benefaction of the Nobal Wizard" (10/10). This was my first experience while listening to this album of goosebump and awe. It starts simply, unassumingly. Then, suddenly a full organ chord is added. Then second had and bass pedals. The effect is humbling, truly humbling. Not unlike Wakeman's intro to Yes' "Awaken" combined with the the traditional Yes intro, Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite"--but with more emotion.
"Listen to Me" (9/10) brings us back to Earth--but at fairly high speed--and with some incredible keyboard and guitar work--the level of instrumental performance has just been turned up to 11! Vocals are the ONLY weak point here--and they aren't bad!
The all-too-brief "Stones to Flowers" (10/10) brings us back to the BEATLES/MAMAS & THE PAPAS 60s before gently fading into a dreamy BBT-like vocal collage.
"Magicking" (10/10) presents a beautiful, sensitive, virtuosic acoustic guitar duet. Somewhat reminiscent of "Mood for a Day" but moreso of Brother Ape's gorgeous BILL EVANS-like "In a Rare Moment" from 2010's In A Rare Moment of Insight.
"The Riddle" (10/10) puts speed and multi-instrumental soli back in our faces in a BIG way! My favorite song on the album, it is full of such hauntingly beautiful melodies--every vocal, instrument's sound, instrumental solo is of such high adrenaline pumping value that I don't think even JAN AKKERMAN could do it better! Once in a rare eon you wish there was a rating number higher than 10! This is it; my 11/10 for 2011/12! Amazing song. I listened to it over and over--had such joy trying to imagine playing all of the soli, imagining the level of extreme genius that could compose and perform at such a high level. He simply cannot be human!
Then--GET THIS--"The Riddle" is followed by a truly rare and amazing song of deft skillmanship:
The bass performance on "Dream and Premonition" (10/10) is jaw-dropping in a JACO PASTORIUS way. A song if you heard you would not soon forget!
The vocal harmonies and guitar and flutes on the JETHRO TULL-like "Strange Days" (9/10) is wonderful. Not unlike 2010's CICCADA release, like getting a fresh dose of great TULL!
The album's closer, the 11-minute epic "The End of Days: Epilogue" (9/10) is interesting for its emotional Richie Havens-like lead vocalist, high paced frenetic drumming (à la BROTHER APE), and of course, amazing interplay of what seems like an infinite number of keyboards and guitar. Great BIG BIG TRAIN feel to it.
A TIMELESS MASTERPIECE. (No arguments accepted.)
5 of 5
W. A. Fisher (January 2012)
The Psychedelic Ensemble is really the work of one musician who prefers to remain anonymous. The band's first album The Art of Madness was released in 2009 followed by The Myth of Dying in 2010. You can find both of those fine albums reviewed on this site. This brings us to 2011 and their brand new release The Dream of the Magic Jongleur and what an excellent album it is. As with the artist's previous work The Dream of the Magic Jongleur is a concept piece. The story is about a travelling musician (referred to as the Jongleur) on a quest to acquire 'magic music' (is that not what we are all after?). The album is beautifully packaged and the artwork of Sam Del Russi is superb and does a nice job linking the album's concept with his magnificent pictures.
Starting with the majestic "Overture – Into the Night" the album is off to a wonderful beginning. Eerie effects, bells, flute and organ lead to Middle Eastern guitar stylings and some dramatic organ work. It doesn't take long for the song to hit its full groove and bares some resemblance to classic Genesis. The lead and harmony vocals, like the music, are very good and fit the song nicely. The keyboards play a prominent roll and the solos are well crafted and never over indulgent. All the pieces of the musical puzzle are here and every note has a purpose.
Next is "The Quest", again with a prominent keyboard intro and a nice guitar solo. The song travels through retro progressive rock hitting its stride before a softer nuance unfolds. The guitar and bass is excellent.
In "The Secrets of Your Mind" keyboards again reign supreme although the acoustic guitar is quite lovely. The dreamy vocals and multi layered harmonies is another definite highlight.
In the organ drenched "The Benefaction of the Noble Wizard" there is an ELP feel and the playing has goose bump moments written all over it. This all-organ extravaganza builds dramatically leaving no doubt this is a progressive rock album through and through.
The gentle yet busy "Listen to Me" features more excellent keys, nice drum fills and biting electric guitar nicely contrasted with more calming acoustic sounds. The short "Stones to Flowers" and "Magicking" flow together beautifully as both offer gorgeous melodies and sweet acoustic guitar that can be quite intricate, especially in the latter.
More highlights include the classically inspired "Dream and Premonition" where gentle guitar sweeps across the soundscape becoming more intense as the song unfolds making this my personal favourite.
The album ends with "End of Days – Epilogue" and as the bells chime and the keys build leading to heavier guitar rhythms, organ and exceptional synth/keyboard solos, one realizes just how a good an album this is.
Like a fine wine, The Psychedelic Ensemble gets better and better with age as The Dream of the Magic Jongleur is their best and most thought provoking work yet. A pure diamond in the rough and one of the best releases of 2011, bar none.
5 of 5
Jon Neudorf (January 2012)
2011 brings the third effort of one man band The Psychedelic Ensemble. Like the first two album The Art of Madness and The Myth of Dying, The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur is of conceptual nature. This time we'll crawl into the mind of a young searching musician, for the storyline depicted as the magic jongleur. As surprised as I was after I listened to album no.1 is as stunned I am now. We are three albums on our way from this band and still the music is growing stronger each album better than the last. Yes you've read it. This is the finest of the three albums by The Psychedelic Ensemble.
The album is more keyboard driven than the previous albums, more a sound in a modern jacket like the music produced by Yes, Genesis, ELP and the likes in the '70's.
Just listen to a track like the "Benefaction of the Noble Wizard", this complete song is like wizardry, keyboard wizardry that is. It is an absolute stunning piece of work, the classical sound of the organ and keys playing . . . I am short of words.
Need I go on? Quite simply all the music on the album speaks and tells the tale of the Jongleur in search for his answers. Did he in the end get them? I can't tell, but if I were able to hand out 6 stars, I would.
5 of 5
Gert Hulshof (January 2012)
First off, who is this guy and why does he want to remain anonymous? The Dream of the Magic Jongleur seriously took me by surprise and knocked my socks off. Apparently this anonymous bard plays just about everything on the album, and it’s all amazing. Ultra spacey synths everywhere, brilliant layers of vocal harmonies and intertwining keyboard and guitar leads and melodies make this album a fantastic listen. What we basically get here is an amazing blend of jazz fusion (reminds me very much of Return to Forever’s first album) with northern European folk overtones joined together by hyper-spacey symphonic prog arrangements. All the notes and chord shifts count on this record. The leads are fantastic, the tone is gorgeous and the runs are fun and expressive. On songs such as the Overture, you get this great vocal like dialogue going on between keyboards and guitar leads, in a Borg Sex kind of way (for the Satriani fans out there). The vocals are fantastic (somehow recalling a bit of Jethro Tull?), making you enjoy the entire composition rather than skipping straight to the keyboard solos. For all the comparisons to other bands, I didn’t feel like the album was a rip off in the least bit. This is just fantastic symphonic prog. Period.
5 of 5
Matt Di Giordano (February 2012)
We did not really have to wait long for the third act to arrive. What has changed? As before, the ensemble consists of only one man who still prefers to remain anonymous, so he is referred to below simply as TPE. He has again - apart from minimal exceptions - recorded everything alone. He is backed by a musical pal on violin on one track and on "Strange Days" help comes from another colleague as a backing vocalist (with an impressive rock voice).
Compared with its predecessors, the overall direction has been changed slightly. The strong debut settles in the psychedelic area - some early reminiscences Floyd included - then came the second album with Gentle Giant-like passages added. On album number 3 the pan to a pure symphonic prog is now fully complete. There are no more blues excursions, but instead he devotes himself entirely to classic art rock. And in this context are certainly Yes influences, as some arrangements are reminiscent of that prog-dynamo.
The structure is reminiscent of Fragile, because The Dream of the Magic Jongleur has - like the classic Yes - some solo tracks. So it is with The Benefaction of the Noble Wizard, which is a fantastic organ solo track played by TPE that recalls a mixture of Wakeman's "Jane Seymour" from "Six Wives" classic and Tomas Bodin's wonderful "Daddy in the Clouds" from his solo debut. But also a great track featuring solo acoustic guitar is present (Magicking), which demonstrates both the dexterity as well as compositional skill of TPE. "Dream and Premonition" in turn makes features very strong bass, which characterizes this title decisively. This did not require a guest bassists; this was also recorded by TPE himself. The drums are not programmed, but is - in an electronic drum set - the way of TPE.
In "The Riddle" TPE plays one very fine part on the recorder, and continues with the guest violinist perfectly staged. This variant shows very nicely the melodic, tender side of TPE, of which will hopefully hear more.
To complete the overall still positive picture, the psychedelic ensemble can also contribute an excellent voice for the recordings, which is not spectacular, but very pleasant and used quite variably, which perfectly fits into the overall musical picture, and which sometimes reminds one of the deeper layers of Ian Anderson. And the great thing: the vocal melodies are great, they complement the instrumental excursions in an absolutely coherent way. Some of them are actually quite catchy and settle in the ears. And you guessed it: of course this [the vocals] is also TPE himself!
The typical style and brand of psychedelic ensemble is heard again: the nimble, shimmering synthesizer runs, where I can see immediately TPE. It has its own note, and determines, among other things, the recognition of this "band".
When I mentioned that it shares similarities with YES (e.g., "And You and I" or "The Fish"), a form of copying is not meant, but an atmosphere that is reminiscent of known songs. TPE has found his own unique style that speaks for itself, and no form of cloning is necessary.
Of course, it is very impressive that such a work was actually recorded almost single-handedly, which is possibly a bonus point unconsciously in this evaluation. But quite independent of whether a solo artist or a band is responsible for this work, this is simply a great album. With The Dream of the Magic Jongleur , TPE confidently meets almost 100% with my taste and superior performance. This is no mere display of dexterity, but a coherent prog masterpiece! The underlying concept was proposed by a friend who recommended a concept album around the theme of "dreams." In the booklet, this idea is presented in the form of quatrains (written by TPE), accompanied by drawings of the visual artist Sam Del Russi.
I am very interested to see how TPE will go further. The "band", I trust, will have a few surprises in the future.
Jürgen Meurer (January 2012)
The Psychedelic Ensemble have released a number of albums and their latest is a superb example of modern Neo Prog. "The Dream of the Magic Jongleur" is the vision of the one man multi instrumentalist who remains anonymous and proudly enigmatic. His style is extreme psychedelic at times sounding like the acid rock of the 60s such as on 'Overture Into the Night', a blistering keyboard driven master work.
The bass is incredible on this album and really glistens with creativity on 'The Quest'. Each track sounds different, the vocals are pleasant and there are even shades of quasi-Neo on tracks such as 'The Secrets of Your Mind'. The harmonies are terrific and the music is organic, and creative at all times.
'The Benefaction Of The Noble Wizard' begins with piercing cathedral church organ, reminding me of one Wakeman. Even the melody is like Wakeman. One can imagine a royal procession making their way down the aisle. The pipe organ is joined by bass pedals, and "rollerball" atmospheres. Hmmm, church was never like this.
'Listen To Me' has a guitar intro, striking after the church organ. A very nice funkadelic rhythm locks in with spacey keyboards, and glorious Happy organ sounds. The vocals return, interesting lyrics; "gather ye round, hear ye what I found, my magic is on display to all, I've got a tale to sing to you, now listen to me." The lead break is great. The tale continues of a Wizard of dreams where it is said the dragon dwells. The flute sound and lute is as medieval as Gryphon. The keyboard runs are stellar on this, a definitive highlight.
'Stones To Flowers' is a short thing sounding like the 60s are back. A throwback to the flower power scene.
'Magicking' is a wonderful twin acoustic virtuosic guitar solo. The harmonics are beautiful, so good to hear at the end of the day as night falls.
'The Riddle' is an 8 minute labyrinthine journey into mystical musicianship. The keyboard runs are frenetic, the vocals are multi tracked and beautifully harmoinised, the percussion is deliriously sporadic and the soloing is incredible. The synergy of dynamic tension and release, instruments competing and warring against wild time sigs, is masterful. This is a quintessential highlight not to be missed.
'Dream And Premonition' brings things into a dreamy soundscape, a bass solo over an ambient keyboard pad. It builds into some awesome dramatic blasts and bass guitar heaven. One of the best basslines I have heard.
'Strange Days' is quite strange, acoustic chord progression and a flute sounding like Ian Anderson dropped by or a chat. The vocals are even a bit like Anderson; "strange days indeed, am I lost in a dream, these are strange days it seems, like the darkest of dreams." There is an angular guitar over a keyboard solo and gorgeous flute embellishments. The lead break is good but mixed a little low. I love that shimmering Hammond though. Then a louder guitar break and keyboard run chimes in. It is a relaxing journey and definitely well worth listening.
'End Of Days-Epilogue' is an 11 minute romp to finish this incredible album. It begins with esoteric effects, a bell chimes, a grand lead guitar is heard, reminds me of Pink Floyd but it is very regal pop rock. The heaviest riff crunches in with lighning fast key runs answering. I love that off kilter time sig and heaviness. The music is so dense it needs to breathe and so the sig is fractured with a new sig, speedy percussion and steady vocals; "the sea is churning blowing over me, the stars are burning blazing down on me, and it seems like end of days." The next key run is very techno and way of the scale. As good as Jordan Rudess running over his continuum. The musicianship is exemplary.
I am glad I heard this and it was a prime example of a one man genius, a vision and virtuosic skill doing what he loves; creating a compelling album of glorious prog. Some parts could be improved, and more musicians would augment the overall feel, maybe some guests vocalists, but this is excellent psych prog by any standards.
Scott Tuffnell (January 2012)
The Psychedelic Ensemble is a welcomed guest and heard here on ProgLog Afterglow. The first two albums, The Art of Madness (2009) and The Myth of Dying (2010), drew top marks from the editors. The third work of this still unknown artist, The Dream of the Magic Jongleur, is just as good.
Again this is a concept album. This time the story is based on 'dreams' and it is not surprising because the composer says his musical ideas often emerge in this mystical way. He quotes Cicero in his De Re Publica who wrote "It happens often that the things about which we have been thinking and speaking bring about something in our sleep." This I can not deny.
All instruments are played by the multi-instrumentalist, a single contribution in a falsetto voice and fiddle by musicians not to be named . . .
Again, there is this is a sweeping virtuoso symphonic album with special keys and synths in particular playing a major role. The compositions have a nice build and have strong melodies and generally refer to the time of Camel and Yes's The Yes Album and occasionally to The Alan Parsons Project, typically without sounding retro. . .
Absolute monumental in the existing eleven tracks album is The Secrets of Your Mind, which is not just a catchy theme that sticks in your right brain but also peerless synth solos and keyboards. And the strong "The Riddle" is impressive with a great 'fiddle'. Oh, and that applies to the whole album: High quality, up-tempo pieces and somewhat restless balanced with subdued passages, and thus a strong use of dynamics.
The Psychedelic Ensemble has been well established. Three strong symphonic albums including The Dream of the Magic Jongleur, a big contender for the inevitable end of 2011 list. It will cut this year. Beautiful 'artwork' too, by the way!
Harry De Vries (December 2011)
With the musicians third concept album, the anonymous multi-instrumentalist behind The Psychedelic Ensemble distilled magical sounds from his dreams. This album is much more accessible than The Art of Madness and The Myth of Dying. The 63-minute journey is less arduous. Besides exciting soundscapes it offers more songs since this time more room is given for the vocal parts. The opener, Overture-Into the Night, provides the basic mood of the album--gloomy, mid-tempo, plausible melodies with numerous retro-prog citations and distinct melodies. Often Emerson, Lake and Palmer seems to be heard with analog synthesis, sometimes classical (The Quest), and sometimes even sacred (The Benefaction of the Noble Wizard). The Secrets of Your Mind is convincing with its complex vocal arrangement. And Listen To Me reminds one of the vocal and rhythmic style of Yes. There are also classical guitars as in PFM, a virtuoso multiple bass solo as well as Tull and Magma influences. What more does a retro progger want?of 10
Top Track: Strange Days
Eclipse Magazine (Germany-January 2012)
Translated by Marianne Herrmann
I was fortunate enough to get a physical copy of this album from the man who is the creator of THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE.I can't tell you his name because he has chosen to remain anonymous,but i have talked to him.He told me that with his music he tries to retain the spirit of classic prog while introducing those classical and fusion influences that he has studied over the years.I have to say that this is a classy release with lots of info in the liner notes with lyrics and a discussion about the album's concept.Also there are some beautiful pictures which are related to the story.I've made it no secret that i'm not really into concept albums but this is one i can get lost in.As far as the music goes my only complaint is that the synths are very dominant at times.I love spacey synths but these are more in the style of Rick Wakeman showing what he can do.A minor complaint and one that is about my tastes only.I actually feel the same way about the synths in "Romantic Warrior" by RETURN TO FOREVER.Not bad company right ? The compositions here though have left me shaking my head in appreciation.This isn't what i was expecting at all.This isn't what i'd call Neo,in fact i thought of YES more than any other band.A lot of these tracks blend into one another as well. "Overture-Into The Night" opens with church bells and atmosphere before it kicks in around 1 1/2 minutes.Vocals follow then synths.Atmosphere and vocals then lead before a beat and lots of synths take over.Atmosphere and church bells end it.Great start ! It blends into "The Quest" which opens with the church bells still ringing from the previous track before synths come in swirling as we get some bombast.The guitar makes some noise in a good way and the drums seem to be all over the place.It settles late with atmosphere and blends into "The Secrets Of Your Mind".Vocals lead with a beat and synths before a minute.Church bells ring briefly after 2 minutes then we get some guitar.Vocals are back before 5 minutes. "The Benefaction Of The Noble Wizard" reminds me of Wakeman as the organ leads throughout. "Listen To Me" opens with guitar before drums and synths kick in along with bass.Vocals join in and it eventually blends into "Stones To Flowers" where it settles down with vocals and picked guitar. "Magicking" is led by intricate guitar then we get "The Riddle" where we hear some fiddle along with synths and more.I like this one a lot. "Dream And Premonition" has some powerful atmosphere and it turns experimental and dark before kicking in somewhat.Great stuff ! "Strange Days" is another killer tune.Strummed guitar,flute and vocals lead early.Very cool.Synths after 3 minutes.Drums,organ and guitar follow and check out the passionate backing female vocals. "End Of Days-Epilogue" ends it and what a way to finish ! This is my favourite track and the longest at almost 11 minutes.It's raining as the thunder booms.Church bells and atmosphere follow.A heavy soundscape takes over before 2 minutes.So good.Vocals and more later.The synths rip it up 4 minutes in.Lots of synths as it brightens late. This is one of the more interesting albums i've listened to this year and a solid 4 stars.
Die Platte beginnt bereits mit einer sehr interessanten 'Overture', die fast schon den Charakter eines Jams präsentiert, sich jedoch dank der vielen sphärischen Elemente immerzu im Zaum hält, schon zu Beginn völlig abzuheben. THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE ist hierbei keine Ausdrucksform abgefahrener Instrumentalkunst, sondern bewahrt diesen kontrollierten Forscherdrang und bewegt sich konsequent zwischen den unterschiedlichen, harmonischen Soundlandschaften, die mit viel Liebe zum Detail, aber weitestgehend überraschend still erkundet werden. Es ist ein steter Wandel zwischen einzelnen Symphonic-Prog-Arrangements, einem leichten Kammermusik-Abstecher und den bereits erwarteten psychedelischen Elementen, die entgegen der Erwartungen jedoch nur einen untergeordneten Part übernehmen. "The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur" definiert sich durch seine bestechenden Harmonien, die vielen langsam aufgebauten Variationen einzelner Hauptthemen und letztendlich durch seine verträumte Grundstimmung, die jenseits jedweder Melancholie unglaublich einladend erscheint - und selbst so manchen etwas sperrigeren Part schnell vergessen macht.
Dennoch sollte man nicht vergessen, dass "The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur" gewissermaßen Special Interest ist. Das neue Werk von THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE will entdeckt und erforscht, bis ins letzte Detail aufgesogen werden. Und gerade weil hier viele unkonventionelle Elemente an Bord sind, muss man sich die Ruhe und Geduld gönnen, das Ein-Mann-Projekt und das aktuelle Werk gründlich zu studieren. Und überdies wird man sich mit der Dominanz der Synthies arrangieren müssen, die in diesem Fall aber keinesfalls störend ist. Aber wie so häufig, so ist auch in diesem Fall ein Werk, das viel Zeit in Anspruch nimmt, genau jenes, welches sich am Ende am meisten lohnt - und Letzteres kann man für "The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur" ohne jede Einschränkung bestätigen!
Anspieltipps: The Quest, Listen To Me, Magicking
8.5 of 10
Björn Backes (February 2012)
In den beiden Interviews, die Progressive Newsletter und Progarchives mit dem seit 35 Jahren aktiven Komponisten führten und die auf seiner Webseite (siehe unten) nachzulesen sind, erläutert der für seine musikalische Arbeit als The Psychedelic Ensemble unerkannt bleiben möchtende Musiker, warum dies so ist und was "Psychedelic" im Bandnamen bedeutet: "The "Psychedelic" component of The Psychedelic Ensemble derives from my belief - and perhaps I am alone in this belief - that both albums are neo-psychedelic projects. Psychedelia lies more at the core of the concepts of both albums than the musical style." Hätte der Mann sein Projekt The Progressive Ensemble genannt, wäre er - mit denselben Alben und der gleichen Musik - wahrscheinlich bekannter und erfolgreicher. Namen sind nicht nur Schall und Rauch, sie sind Orientierung und Bindung, etwa wie die dumme Denke der musikalischen Schubladen, die schlicht nicht auszumerzen ist.
In "The Realm of the Skeptics" singt - ab jetzt nenne ich ihn Mr. PE - von verschwendeter Zeit. Und Musikhören kann, diese Erfahrung sammelt ein jeder Musikhörer im Laufe des Musikhörerlebens, durchaus massive Zeitverschwendung sein. Wenn die Musik nicht die Qualität erfüllt, die/den Hörer(in) aus der Zeit zu reißen und in sein Mysterium zu ziehen.
Ganz eindeutig haben alle drei Werke beeindruckend hohe Qualität. Vor allem werden Progressive Rock Süchtige ihre Freude an den Alben haben. Das momentan leider angesagte und überaus überschwemmte Genre (alle Bands wollen plötzlich ‚progressiv' sein, oder so genannt werden, haben sie damit auch kaum etwas gemein) erfährt mit den drei in erstaunlich kurzer Zeit veröffentlichten CDs einen enormen Qualitätsschub. Stilistisch macht Mr. PE kein schmales Brett, da sind tatsächlich stilistisch psychedelisch anmutende Unwägbarkeiten zu hören, viel mehr symphonische Komplexe, erstaunlich neumusikalische Einlagen, gar Blues und liedhafte Pseudo-Folk-Sprengsel - aus allem lässt sich die klassische Handschrift als Komponist und als Handwerker an den diversen Instrumenten, die Mr. PE tatsächlich im Alleingang bespielte, erkennen. Zudem Sozialisation in den Sechzigern und Siebzigern, als Rockmusik aus drei Minuten hinauswuchs und mit Jazz, Klassik, Blues und Avantgarde in seinen wildesten, befreitesten und besten Momenten zu dieser klassischen Größe fand, die Progressive Rock genannt wird.
Die stilistische Mischung der drei Alben ist ungewöhnlich und erfüllend. Mr. PE lehnt sich nicht an bestimmte Klassiker der Progressive Rock Szene an, bedient sich nicht des Stiles eines Vorbildes, sondern findet seine eigene Qualität, seinen eigenen Klangraum und Stil. Gewiss sind viele Parts in den diversen Songs auf den drei Alben leicht nachvollziehbar, als seinen sie bekannt. Die instrumentale Ästhetik des Rockinstrumentariums, die Rhythmuskomplexität, die elegische bis ausgefallen ‚schräge' Note einiger Parts, der bisweilen symphonische Breitwandsound, E-Gitarren, Synthesizer - Musik kennt keine Grenzen, jedes Genre darin schon. Und doch ist nicht ein Song herkömmlich oder abgekupfert. Manche Parts in manchem Song erinnern an ganz bestimmte Parts in Rockklassikern, wenn die Hammondorgel dem Blues frönt und Bass, Orgel und Schlagzeug samt Gitarre ein den Song auflösendes Motiv vorantreiben - solche Ideen sind in tausenden historischen Rocksongs zu hören, und doch nicht in einem weiteren so, wie das Arrangement hier entwickelt ist.
Die Qualität des Psychedelic Ensembles ist die besondere, inspirierte und begabte Art der Komposition, und das über viele Songs und (bisher) drei Alben hinweg, und die Ungewöhnlichkeit und nachvollziehbar hohe Qualität der Arrangements. Nicht zuletzt ist die technische Einspielung am Instrumentarium locker und versiert, erstklassig und ohne jedes Manko. Kopf und Hände wissen, was wie zu spielen ist.
Ganz besonders freut und beeindruckt mich, dass die auch in guten, inspirierten und begabten Bands oftmals tumb bis blöd geschriebenen und ausgeführten Gesangslinien hier keineswegs solche sind, sondern von eigener intelligenter, inspirierter Art, nicht und gar nicht langweilen und überaus hinreißend geschrieben und gesungen sind.
Während Psychedelic Freaks mit den drei kunstvollen Alben des Psychedelic Ensembles weniger anzufangen wissen werden, weil Mr. PE nicht diese tumbe Krassheit und den extravaganten, Punk-rüden, wilden Ton trifft, der nie besonders avantgardistische, sondern provokative Kunst sein will und kaum etwas am Psychedelic Ensemble im Psychedelic Rock stattfindet, sind die Schöngeister im symphonischen Progressive Rock alter Schule, denen der ganze Quatsch ab Neo & Co. herzlich egal ist, von drei hinreißenden Alben umgarnt, die es zu entdecken gilt. Vieles der drei Alben kann gewiss unter Neoprog laufen, ohne indes den üblichen simplen Strukturen zu entsprechen, eher, weil der komplexe Sound diese Sanftmütigkeit bedient, die dem Untergenre so fad eigen ist.
Ganz besonders hat es mir persönlich das Instrumental "The Quest" vom jüngsten Album "The Dream of the Magic Jongleur" angetan - wie überhaupt die weit ausgeführten symphonisch elegischen Instrumentalpassagen, die manche ganze Songs umfassen und in den Stücken mit Gesang weite lyrische Strecken absolvieren. Avantgardistische Schräglagen passieren auch hier, indes gut ins harmonisch-lyrische Arrangement eingebettet, so dass die Freaks des abgefahrenen Avantgarde-Prog weniger Erfüllung finden. Drei Alben für die klassische Progressive Rock Szene.
Volkmar Mantei (Germany, February 2012)
The Psychedelic Ensemble is the name of a multi instrumentalist who has pursued a solo career. . . and who wishes to remain anonymous! This practice is unusual, especially when the person is so talented and should not feel the need to supress his name! Nevertheless it remains that this mysterious man is doing remarkably well in this industry already with three sublime albums in as many years in his repertoire: The Art of Madness (2009) and The Myth of Dying (2010). The Dream of the Magic Jongleur is intended as a logical continuation of the preceding works and remains in the same style. The artist plays all the instruments while managing this enormous creative freedom without constraint. His music, rather cozy and atmospheric, is full of finesse, with delicate melodies and catchy ballads with his detached, soft and smooth voice, which succeed each other in frenzied passages on keyboards, solo classical guitar, organ variations in church style, and jazz bass guitar; all this within an infrastructure of perfect progressive style. The artist fills our ears with his breathtaking virtuosity on all the instruments at the service of a creative genius unrivaled!
Richard Guay (March 2012)
It begins with a bell. Suggesting a peacefulness, but the true direction is given seconds later where musicians play at the highest level. Musicians? No, just a solo artist plays all the instruments. The voice is very pleasant and reminds me of Ian Anderson. The artist provides his own backing vocals too. This music is at the highest level. In the "Overture," he sings with himself as a counterpart. Really, really great. Two artists support him in a few moments. Namely with a falsetto voice and a violinist. Unfortunately it was not possible for me to discover the name of this exceptional artist in the booklet, or to locate his name on the Internet. This is probably intentional. In earlier releases there also appears no name. However, the name "ensemble" is unsettling. An ensemble means, in the traditional sense, many musicians. The other part of the title is already served more. The main focus is on the keyboards. A comparison might be Rick Wakeman. Here my recommendation would be "The Benefaction of the Noble Wizard." The church organ is performed wonderfully. Then to directly rock out in the next piece.
Here we have a wonderful album. Everything fits together, without being too complacent. Solo parts take turns with complex compositions. In each chapter of this concept album, there is a mystical drawing. The drawings of the booklet were designed by Sam Del Russi. Those interested in the dream-like images will want to click on http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/sam-del-russi.html.
Given this was almost completely played and recorded by one single person, this musician is someone who really understands his craft. At the height of creative rock music, this disk would have been lost in the jumble of albums. Today, it goes down, because this music is no longer in demand. And that's unfair, because this CD should be given much attention.
Klaus Bornemann (Germany, March 2012)