Mark Lanegan Band
Last Hard Men
The Last James
The Lees of Memory
Leevi & the Leavings
Different Days (2005, 42.47) *½
It Follows Me Around
Better Than Bleeding
Bring on Happiness
There is No
A Day Between
Chicago's L'Altra have been described as indie, electronica and even chamber pop, but to my ears, their third album, 2005's Different Days, is a straight post-rock/pop crossover. And yes, that's as bad as it sounds, to the point where I am entirely unable to pick out anything even remotely resembling a 'best track'.
Joshua Eustis is credited with Mellotron, amongst many other instruments, but I seriously doubt whether a real one came anywhere near their recording studio. In fact, I'm not even convinced they used samples: are those background choirs on It Follows Me Around? Flutes and/or strings here and there? This dismal record really is to be avoided at all costs, unless dreary, long-winded modern pop sounds like your bag.
Alpacas Orgling (2006, 35.54/38.37) ***
Ya Had Me Goin'
The Ol' College Try
Nothin' Will Ever Change
Don't Let it Go
Sukaz Are Born Every Minute
Don't Bring Me Down
[iTunes version adds:
Money and Music]
L.E.O. are probably best described as powerpop, although the usual influences are largely missing. Alpacas Orgling (er, huh?) contains a mixture of styles, with the funkyish Ya Had Me Goin' (spot the clavinet) and the slightly rocking Make Me contrasting sharply with the near-psych of Goodbye Innocence and Distracted, which sound like a superior E.L.O. as much as anything. Er, L.E.O.? E.L.O.? Is there something we should be told? Of course, Jellyfish established the E.L.O./powerpop connection in the early '90s, but it's rarely as overt as here, in my experience; I mean, just listen to those backing vox and (real) strings on Don't Let It Go... The album features several nice production touches, not least the reverbed baritone guitar on Private Line, although the overall effect is a little on the sweet side, as you'd expect from faithful followers of Jeff Lynne. Turns out it's all quite deliberate and they're a pick-up band featuring Bleu and Jellyfish's Andy Sturmer, amongst others, not to mention their 'hidden' version of Don't Bring Me Down...
Maclaine Diemer plays 'Mellotron', but going by the obvious Chamberlin samples on Make Me, it's probably fake throughout, which shouldn't really come as that much of a surprise. Anyway, strings and cellos on brief opener Overture, with a little more of the same on Goodbye Innocence and that Chamby solo male voice on Make Me, plus upfront strings (too smooth! Too smooth!) on Nothin' Will Ever Change and Sukaz Are Born Every Minute (is that the MkII 'moving strings' I hear on the latter?). So; a decent-enough record in its chosen genre with some reasonable 'Tron/Chamby samples. All a bit too 'decent' and 'reasonable' enough for me, though. More dirt next time round, please, although I'm fully aware that that's entirely beside the point. Whatever.
Echos (2003, 61.21) **½Kyrie (Overture)
Durch Nacht und Flut (Suche - part 1)
Sacrifice (Hingabe - part 1)
Apart (Bittruf - part 1)
Ein Hauch Von Menschlichkeit (Suche - part 2)
Eine Nacht in Ewigkeit (Hingabe - part 2)
Malina (Bittruf - part 2)
Die Schreie Sind Verstummt (Requiem für Drei Gamben und Klavier)
Lacrimosa are the Swiss-based darkwave duo of German Tilo Wolff and Finn Anne Nurmi, formed as far back as 1990. They have apparently shifted through several variants on the goth template over the course of their career, passing through a metal phase in the late '90s and moving on to a more symphonic style a few years later. 2003's Echos bestrides those two approaches, although some of it, lamentably, sounds more like Andrew Lloyd Webber goes metal, I'm afraid to say. In German. I'll admit there are some beautiful key changes on the two lengthy pieces that bookend the album, Kyrie (Overture) and Malina (Bittruf - Part 2), Middle-Eastern scales being used with reasonable subtlety, but far too much of the hour-long disc meanders through various goth and symphonic metal clichés, saying little new in the process.
A bassist known as Jay P (also, strangely, credited as Janet P) is credited with Mellotron, although the strings on Apart (Bittruf - Part 1) are fairly obviously sampled (he said, with the usual frisson of fear that he may've got it wrong. Again). Overall, one for that special person in your life who wears black nail varnish, eyeliner and too much purple. Good at what it does, but too overblown for the rest of us, I suspect.
Argyle Heir (2001, 46.14) ***
|Fires on the Ocean
Perfect for Shattering
Going Up North (Icicles)
Words Hang in the Air
|Fjords of Winter
In a Certain Place
The Reclusive Hero
The Glass Pane
The Ladybug Transistor are yet another Elephant 6 Collective outfit (Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, Marbles, Apples in Stereo) and, I have to say, one of their more twee examples. Their '60s-pop-just-about-crossing-into-psych schtick works for a few tracks, but quickly becomes tiresome, although Going Up North (Icicles) and Catherine Elizabeth work well enough.
No-one's actually credited with Mellotron, which is probably a good thing, as it sounds heavily like it was sampled. We get strings and cellos on Going Up North (Icicles) plus flutes on Catherine Elizabeth, Fjords Of Winter and closer Caton Gardens, but something about the timbres (not to mention the speed at which they're sometimes played) gives the game away. So; good at what it does, if you happen to like that kind of thing, I suppose. I'd stick with some of the other Elephant bands myself.
See: Apples in Stereo | Beulah | Marbles | Of Montreal | Sunshine Fix | Thee American Revolution
Light & Magic (2002, 59.28) ***
Flicking Your Switch
Turn it on
Start Up Chime
Light & Magic
The Reason Why
Ladytron (from the Roxy Music classic, of course), formed by a pair of Liverpudlian producer/DJ types in the late '90s, play a female-fronted updated take on that Depeche Mode/early New Order electro sound, at least on their second album, 2002's Light & Magic. They're keen on analogue gear, using a range of old Korgs and the like (and a new Moog), using them to produce a series of 1981-style robotic pop songs of surprising quality, highlights including Human League-alike opener True Mathematics, the early Ultravox! of Cracked LCD, the beautifully clunky string synth part that closes Re:agents and the title track itself.
Someone plays Mellotron choir samples on Fire and flutes, cellos and strings on Blue Jeans, or at least, I'm pretty sure they have little to do with anything using magnetic tape. To my considerable surprise, this is a very listenable album of its type, a world away from the landfill indie I'd been expecting, even if the Mellotron's sampled.
Building Sequential Stones Vol.1: Ecclesias Cathedrales Aedificans (2004, 74.43) ***½
Petra Super Petram
L'Insolent Promenade Nocturne des Gargouilles
Despite his not-very-Spanish name, John Lakveet is one Spain's premier EM artists, whose fourth album, 2004's Building Sequential Stones Vol.1: Ecclesias Cathedrales Aedificans (Vol.2 appeared later that year) makes a welcome change from the Berlin-School-by-numbers of so many of his contemporaries. As so often in this genre, it's the overall feel that matters, which is more experimental than the average, frequently more textural than melodic, Lakveet's (analogue?) synths often being used as noise-makers, rather than sound sources for a conventional melodic approach.
Lakveet uses his Mellotron samples sparingly, a long, slow pseudotron string note comes in towards the end of Exudus 3:14, with a more orchestrated, clearly sampled part on Oratio, with a handful of other, brief parts across the rest of the album, although the flute on Voluta and Oratio sounds real, or at least generic samples. I know of one other Lakveet samplotron album, 2009's Force of Reason, but, chances are, he uses the sounds on most of his releases. Suffice to say, this is one of the more interesting electronic efforts I've encountered recently, although I've no idea whether he's subsequently been able to keep to the more experimental side of the genre.
Scary World Theory (2001, 37.26) **½
Scary World Theory
50 Faces of
|Come on Home
Lali Puna's second album, Scary World Theory, is a record of entirely average electronica, German-style, with lacklustre female vocals from Valerie Trebeljahr, who may be enjoying herself although it's rather hard to tell. In all honesty, I'm finding it difficult to think of anything constructive to say about this album at all; it's sort-of electronic, sort-of gothy, and definitely dull.
Sampled 'Tron on a few tracks, notably the flutes on Don't Think, where you can actually hear the loop point; extra low marks for using such a low-rate sample - the loop seems to be under a second long. So; Continental electronica freaks may go for this, but I can't imagine anyone much else will.
|CDS/12" (2000) **½
Up With People (edit)
Up With People (Zero 7 remix)
Kurt Wagner's Lambchop are one of those bands I've always expected to crop up in Planet Mellotron territory at some point, although I didn't expect it to be via a remix. 2000's Up With People is probably pretty typical of their oeuvre, an alt.country/pop combi, basically, UK 'downtempo' electronica duo Zero 7 remixing the track for the flip, alongside Lambchop's own, vastly superior Miss Prissy.
Zero 7 add samplotron strings to their remix, their smoothness giving the game away. Do you need to hear this? Depends how much you already like either Lambchop or Zero 7, I suppose; I doubt whether I'll be bothering again.
See: Zero 7
Orange Days on Lemon Street (2008, 43.29) **½
|All We've Ever Done
Could've Had Me
As Much as You Lead
Play in Reverse
|My Fault Your Mistake
What I Want From You
While Alexa "Lex Land" Holland's debut album, 2008's Orange Days on Lemon Street, sits well within the 'confessional singer-songwriter' genre boundaries, it's nowhere near as bad as that sounds, although she crosses the 'twee' barrier a little too often for comfort. Its obvious highlight is closer What I Want From You, building continually over its five-minute length, complete with relatively psychedelic guitar solo, although nothing else here comes close, to be honest.
Peter Bradley Adams supposedly plays Mellotron, but the vaguely Mellotronic flutes on Play in Reverse and orchestral sounds on other tracks are not convincing me. So; better than it might've been, but nowhere near as good as it could be, with no obvious Mellotron. Pass.
An Older Land (1996, 73.45) **½
Wind Across the Water
Wake to Find Me Dead
Jazz Magic Potion
|The Last Word
i) Original Version
Natural Selection (1997, 74.00) ***Strictly Speaking in Geographical Terms
From the Ruins of a Fallen Empire
Love Through the Winter and Blood in the Spring
An Emptiness That's Never Filled...
Unraveling the Threads of a Waning Moon
Meridians of Time
The Theory And Practice Of Hell: Practice/Theory/Hell
The Lower Depths (2005, 136.06) **
|At the Scene of an Accident Waiting to Happen
Behind the Iron Gates
Why Should I?
Hope Springs Eternal
A New World Order
Believe in What
Eyes of Venus
The Philosophy of Containers II
Acquiesce to the Martinets Precept
Cyclops: The Second Sampler (1995, 8.46) ***[Lands End contribute]
Eyes of Venus
The Third Cyclops Sampler (1996, 9.43) ***[Lands End contribute]
Lands End's second album, '95's Terra Serranum, apparently features a real Mellotron, though not one that's sounding particularly well, which probably prompted the band not to use it again. The following year's An Older Land is, frankly, a bit of a mess, starting off badly (after the brief Ashes) with the entirely tedious Wind Across The Water and Wake To Find Me Dead, although the, er, jazzy Jazz Magic Potion's jamming and the laid-back K are rather better. Unfortunately, the grotesquely overlong (and impeccably-titled) Dross and The Last Word (presented in no fewer than three versions) drag the album back down, to the point where it barely scrapes that extra half star. We get excruciating samplotron choirs on Wind Across The Water and Wake To Find Me Dead and marginally better strings about ten minutes into Dross, but recommending this on any grounds is difficult.
'97's Natural Selection features faux-'Tron on most tracks, with a string part towards the end of its closing 30-minute epic title track which exposes its fakeness for all the world to hear. The album itself is reasonable US neo-prog, better than the dullsville North Star, but not a patch on Echolyn or Spock's Beard, not that either band actually counts as 'neo-' at all, begging the question, "What exactly do you call something that's newer than new?"
By all accounts, the members of this multinational outfit haven't all been in the same place at the same time since the late '90s, which hasn't stopped mainman Fred Hunter from writing, recording and releasing 2005's The Lower Depths. As far as I can work out, its second disc, ...Plundering the Depths, contains reworked outtakes from across the band's career (plus a leftover from disc one, ...The Lower Depths), but with the disappearance of their website, I can't tell you what with any precision. Basically, it's more of the usual and when I say more, I mean more, to the tune of over two hours'-worth, the worst offender being the fucking interminable Acquiesce To The Martinets Precept (I believe this was the 'source material' for An Older Land's Dross. No comment), while lowpoints include the crummy pseudo-analogue neo-prog synth solo on Digital Signatures, most of the vocal parts and an overall paucity of imagination. Hunter brings in three guests (all Brits): Cathy Alexander from The Morrigan, Bruce Soord from Pineapple Thief and Steve Anderson from Sphere³/Grey Lady Down, although only the latter's guitar work particularly impresses. Samplotron-wise, we get pretty full-on (and slightly more convincing) strings on most of disc one and Eyes Of Venus, for what it's worth, which isn't a lot.
Anyway, Natural Selection's a passable enough effort, a statement which belies the enormous amounts of work I'm sure the band put into it; sorry, guys. Unfortunately, I can't even be that kind about either An Older Land or The Lower Depths, both of which bored me rigid. Rather dodgy 'Tron samples, too, though fans of modern US prog may well like these. Incidentally, the band provided exclusive tracks for the second and third Cyclops Samplers, the neo-orientated British Cyclops label probably being their spiritual home. Both Eyes Of Venus and Breathing Deep are pretty typical Lands End fare; not bad, not that good, quite neo-. I'm sure the 'Tron strings on both tracks are sampled; they're far too smooth to be the broken-down relic they used on Terra Serranum.
See: Lands End | Transience
Lana Lane (US) see:
Blues Funeral (2012, 55.53) ***
|The Gravedigger's Song
Bleeding Muddy Water
Gray Goes Black
St Louis Elegy
Riot in My House
Ode to Sad Disco
Deep Black Vanishing Train
Tiny Grain of Truth
Imitations [as Mark Lanegan] (2013, 41.20) ***
You Only Live Twice
Mack the Knife
|I'm Not the Loving Kind
Phantom Radio (2014, 38.10) **½
Floor of the Ocean
The Killing Season
I am the Wolf
Torn Red Heart
Waltzing in Blue
|The Wild People
Death Trip to Tulsa
No Bells on Sunday (2014, 26.47) **½Dry Iced
No Bells on Sunday
Gargoyle (2017, 41.22) **½
|Deaths Head Tattoo
Blue Blue Sea
Goodbye to Beauty
Drunk on Destruction
|First Day of Winter
Mark Lanegan continues to plough his very singular furrow with 2012's Blues Funeral, which sounds better to my ears as Funeral Blues, although I'm sure he knows what he's doing. It's a typically murky, Laneganesque release, better tracks including propulsive opener The Gravedigger's Song, the ultra-distorted Quiver Syndrome and epic closer Tiny Grain Of Truth, although I'm sure he wouldn't thank me for comparisons with U2 on a few tracks, notably Harborview Hospital. Alain Johannes plays keys, including sampled Mellotron, with flutes (?) on Bleeding Muddy Water, Phantasmagoria Blues and Deep Black Vanishing Train, strings on Ode To Sad Disco and Tiny Grain Of Truth and cellos on Leviathan.
2013's Imitations is Lanegan's covers album (well, they're obligatory, aren't they?), apparently influenced by his parents' easy-listening and country record collection, alongside the gloomier end of his own taste. The approach really works on his takes on Chelsea Wolfe's Flatlands, John Barry's Bond theme You Only Live Twice (originally by Nancy Sinatra) and (Gérard) Manset's Élégie Funèbre, although I'm rather less enamoured by the three (!) Andy Williams songs. Two credited Mellotron tracks: Bill Rieflin's massed strings and choirs on I'm Not the Loving Kind and Alain Johannes' distant flutes on Élégie Funèbre, but neither sounds at all authentic, I'm afraid. Overall, I concur with the NME's website, who said that he 'just about gets away with it' due to being a 'classy bastard'. Worse things to be, I'd have said.
2014's Phantom Radio returns to the feel of Blues Funeral, only more so, with sheets of electronica (some of the drum parts were written on an app on his phone and sound like it) underlying most of its tracks. The end result is an uneasy compromise between his earlier style and a more contemporary electronic sound, but I'm far from convinced that the unlikely combo works. Best tracks? Opener Harvest Home holds the synths at bay, while Judgement Time and I Am The Wolf sound more like the old Lanegan, but too many pieces of cheap electronica (Seventh Day, Waltzing In Blue) only serve the drag the album down. Of course, this is missing the point, because this is what he's doing now, but I can't say I'm blown away by his 'this is my new direction'. Mellotron? Johannes is credited on Waltzing In Blue, but the track's string part doesn't even sound that Mellotronic this time round.
The same year's No Bells on Sunday EP is available on its own or as part of a two-disc set with Phantom Radio. It takes what seems to be Lanegan's new style and runs with it, at its most listenable on Jonas Pap and its least on opener Dry Iced and tiresome, repetitive eight-minute closer Smokestack Magic. Supposed Mellotron from Johannes on two tracks, but the strings and flutes on title track are clearly sampled, while there's nothing obviously Mellotronic on Smokestack Magic anyway.
2017's Gargoyle shows little change on the stylistic front, better tracks including Beehive, with its 'honey just gets me stoned' refrain and Emperor, but it's all rather slim pickings for fans of Lanegan's earlier work. Johannes' 'Mellotron' on four tracks, with nothing obvious on Nocturne, chordal strings on Blue Blue Sea, high strings on Sister and more chordal strings on First Day Of Winter.
See: Mark Lanegan | Screaming Trees
Quasi English (2015, 44.04) ****Quasi English
Worn to a Shine
Have No Standing
After the relative disappointment that was Cavalli-Cocchi, Lanzetti, Roversi's self-titled release from 2011, 2015's Quasi English (without drummer Gigi Cavalli-Cocchi) is a revelation: full-on Italian progressive rock, with no middle-aged Mediterranean balladry. The duo keep it varied, with the gentle Heartsick Clever contrasting sharply with the prog-with-riffs of the first two tracks and the jazzy Latitude Aloud, although the album manages a cohesion denied to many lesser practitioners. They even cover Gentle Giant's Convenience (Clean And Easy), from 1980's underrated Civilian; to my embarrassment, I didn't recognise it...
Roversi's credited with Mellotron, but I suspect he's back to his bad old ways, after using a real machine briefly, although... I could be wrong. The presumed samples turn up on most tracks, with distant choirs on the opening title track, more upfront ones (and what the hell are those strings?) on Worn To A Shine, strings all over Latitude Aloud... I think Heartsick Clever's the only track entirely free of it, though I could be wrong. Anyway, a fine effort, vastly better than its effective predecessor.
Official Bernardo Lanzetti site
Cristiano Roversi Facebook
See: Cavalli-Cocchi, Lanzetti, Roversi | PFM | Acqua Fragile | Mangala Vallis | Cristiano Roversi
The Last Hard Men (1998/2001, 52.36) **½
|Sebastian Bach interview
Kelley Deal interview
The Last Hard Men
Who Made You Do it?
The Most Powerful Man in the World
|That Very Night
Play in the Clouds
Satan's in the Manger
In Search of the Peace of Mind
Jimmy Chamberlin interview
I Enjoy Being a Girl
|When the Longing Goes Away
I Hate the Way You Walk
Jimmy Flemion interview
If You Want to Rock, Go to the Quarry
Baby, I'm King
Who Made You Do it? (II)
The Last Hard Men (named for the 1976 film) were a bizarre, one-off conglomeration of Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Jimmy Flemion (The Frogs), Kelley Deal (The Breeders) and Smashing Pumpkins' Jimmy Chamberlin. Their sole, eponymous album is even more eclectic than that lineup suggests; possibly the oddest thing about the project is that they presented the finished product to Atlantic Records and were presumably surprised when it was turned down. It crept out on Deal's Nice Records in '98, subsequently re-sequenced and reissued in 2001 on Spitfire, the version reviewed here.
And it sounds like...? A very knowing send-up of various '90s styles, complete with odd, between-song interview snippets with band members, all of whom are asked the same set of questions, subsequently explained as their views on themselves, sex etc. Hmmm. Musically speaking, odder tracks include a peculiar version of Alice Cooper's Schools Out, Deal's sardonic rendering of Rogers & Hammerstein's I Enjoy Being A Girl, Deal and Chamberlin's If You Want To Rock, Go To The Quarry and, possibly above all, an effectively straight cover of the Scorpions' deathless In Search Of The Peace Of Mind (from their 1972 debut, Lonesome Crow).
Someone adds what are quite clearly samplotron string and flute parts to The Most Powerful Man In The World, but you really aren't going to bother tracking this down for one track of sampled Mellotron, frankly. I have no idea what persuaded the participants to record this; a sense of humour, probably, although at whom it might be aimed can only be a matter for conjecture. Fans of The Frogs?
The Last James (1993, 48.36) ***
|For a Long Long Time
There's a Woody Allen Movie
Waiting for Sleep
To Find Some Good Disciples
No No No
Don't Look Back
The Last James were helmed by When's Lars Pedersen, whose second release, 1993's The Last James, is a decent enough album of its type, if a little unexciting in the cold light of day. Its relatively lightweight psychedelia is typified by material such as Goodbye Lyve, Oh Louisiana, Waiting For Sleep and No No No, although many tracks have an unfortunate tendency to start well, before slipping into mediocrity.
In fairness, no-one's credited with Mellotron, as the exceedingly background strings on Oh Louisiana, flutes on Chrisbus Chrissieland and strings on Mama and No No No really don't have that ring of authenticity about them. Is this early eMu Vintage Keys use? Mellotron samples weren't easy to come by at that time, but the eMu module was released that year. Anyway, not bad, not brilliant, rather overshadowed by its successor, 1996's Kindergarten.
See: The Last James | When
[Various MP3s] (1999, 25.37) ***Alibi
Cubic Zirconia Smile
Lipse of Marchpane
Sea of Me
The Lazily Spun (a reference to the famous 'see how spiders spin webs on various drugs' experiment?) are a UK psych outfit who seem, going by their various releases I've heard, to be as heavily influenced by '80s and '90s developments in the genre as by the standard touchstone, a.k.a. Syd's Floyd. Is this a good thing? Not from where I'm standing, unfortunately; you really can have too many weebling, Pothead Pixie-type voices. No, really; you can.
After a 1997 demo, a four-track EP and a track on a Ptolemaic Terrascope compilation, the band apparently put some tracks up on their website for (free?) download, eight of which have been compiled onto a 1999 bootleg CD, along with some of their earlier material. Bootleg? Well, I've made no provision for sample bootlegs and anyway, since the CD inner states 'from MP3 collection at web site', that makes them technically 'released', at least in my book. If they wrote more material like the gentle Alibi and Cubic Zirconia Smile and less like the lysergic tedium of Bikes (enough mushrooms, already) and Body, the happier I might be, but then, the band are making music for themselves and can do anything they like, so what does my opinion matter?
Mellotron? I've got the band listed as having used one on their eponymous 2003 release, but, going by the strings on Lipse Of Marchpane and the flutes on Sea Of Me, I'm far from convinced that I'm going to hear a real one when I finally get my hands on a copy. Could be wrong, but I'm sure I heard some 'eight second-plus' notes on the former. Anyway, do you need to hear this? If you take loads of drugs and love those Terrascope compilations, then yes. Otherwise...
Lucky Stars (2015, 46.19) **½
Everything in Between
Don't Be Scared
|Gravity and a Ladder of Gold
Agent of the Night
The Man Who Sold the World
Leaf Rapids are the husband-and-wife duo of Keri and Devin Latimer, both members of Nathan, whose debut, Lucky Stars, is, essentially, a country album, better tracks including Vulture Lullaby, the spaghetti-westernisms of Agent Of The Night and their six-minute version of Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World.
Producer Steve Dawson plays Mellotron, or does he? I've been less than fully convinced by his previous 'Mellotron' work and this album drives the final nail into the 'authentic' coffin. The vibes on the title track are far too clean, so into samples it goes. Well, a Nashville-recorded, yet all-Canadian country album, well done, yet hard going for non-fans.
3001 (2000, 49.54) ***
O Amor em Pedacos
Entre sem Bater
Aviso Aos Meliantes
Historia Sem Fim
Aqui, Ali, em Qualquer Lugar [a.k.a. Bossa'n Beatles] (2001, 39.58) ***
|A Hard Day's Night
With a Little Help From My Friends
Pra Você eu Digo Sim
All My Loving
She Loves You
Aqui, el, Em Qualquer Lugar
|I Want to Hold Your Hand
Tudo por Amor
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
Here, There and Everywhere
In My Life
If I Fell
Rita Lee (ex-Os Mutantes) used a Mellotron on her 1974 release, Atras do Porto Tem Uma Cidade, but by the time, 26 years later, Lee finally uses the sound again, it seems to be only in sampled form. 2000's 3001 is a passable modern Latin pop album, but nothing to get too excited about, frankly. 'Mellotron' flutes on Cobra, one of the album's better tracks, but nothing to really write home about.
2001's Aqui, Ali, em Qualquer Lugar [a.k.a. Bossa'n Beatles] is Lee's Beatles covers project, tackling their songs in both English and Portuguese, mostly in a vaguely Latin style. Whether or not you like what she's done to them, the quality of the material is, of course, impeccable, and the whole thing's done to perfection. The samples here are a bit more obvious, with flutes on With A Little Help From My Friends, All My Loving, Minha Vida and In My Life, all used well. Shame she couldn't have found a real one, really. (Or is it??!).
I'd say, stick to her '70s work, or in fact, stick to Mutantes. Two so-so albums, but nothing you're going to miss if you never hear them.
See: Rita Lee | Os Mutantes
|7" (2015) **½
Within a Dream II
Unnecessary Evil (2016, 38.39) **½
|Any Way But Down
Just For A Moment
End of the Day
American indie darlings Superdrag finally ground to a halt in 2013, John Davis and Brandon Fisher formed The Lees of Memory, more shoegaze than mainstream indie. Their third (?) single, Soft Places, sits firmly at the rocky end of the genre, although the very indie-ish repetition on the 'B' quickly becomes tiresome. As far as Davis' 'Mellotron' goes, the distant strings on the 'A' just... aren't.
The following year's full-lengther, their second, Unnecessary Evil, proves to be more of the same, unsurprisingly, many of its tracks dreary and overlong, although better efforts include the propulsive Artificial Air and closer Look Away. The 'Mellotron' is, again, clearly nothing of the sort, the background strings on No Power and the upfront ones on Squared Up having none of the presence of a real machine.
Turkmenialainen Tyttöystävä (1993, 38.48) **½
Kuin Jäisellä Peltikatolla
Pohjoisen Taivaan Alla
Lumettoman Talven Tarinoita
Kuudentoista Vuoden Yhtäjaksoinen Sade
Kyyhkynen Ja Kyykäärme
Leevi & the Leavings began their twenty-five year career way back in 1978, 1993's Turkmenialainen Tyttöystävä (Girlfriend From Turkmenistan) being their tenth release. I'm not sure what I expected, but this is relatively harmless yet weak-as-water folk-influenced pop/rock, the Finnish-language lyrics clearly taking precedence over the music. If there's a 'best track', it's the brief, instrumental Muurahaisen Munat, but the bulk of the album is most unlikely to appeal to listeners outside the band's home audience.
Although the band sometimes credited not just 'Mellotron', but 'Mellotron M400' on their releases (there are at least two other relevant), I'm reliably informed (thanks, Juho) that they always used samples. Well, listening to this, you aren't kidding... The nearest this gets to anything even vaguely Mellotronic is some vague string and choir sounds that really could come from almost anything. '93 was extremely early in the day for Mellotron samples (eMu's Vintage Keys module was the only commercial sample set available at the time), so I doubt if they're even using those. What can I say? Don't bother.
Korby Lenker (2014, 31.59) **½
|Hurts Me So
If I Prove False to You
Lovers Are Fools
Here We Go Again
Got to Be More
|My Little Life
Heart of Gold
It's devilishly difficult to find an accurate discography for Korby Lenker, it seems, but I think his eponymous 2014 release is his sixth full-lengther. Korby Lenker is an album of two halves, one kind-of good, one not. Material such as If I Prove False To You, Lovers Are Fools and April May all have a melancholy folk edge to them, while he manages not to ruin Neil Young's Heart Of Gold, even if covering it seems a little redundant, but the vocal line in Forbidden Fruit made me gnash my teeth in fury, although Gotta Do, Got To Be More and the ukulele-fuelled My Little Life are only medium enraging.
Tim Lauer allegedly plays Mellotron on the album, but the chordal flutes on Gotta Do really aren't cutting the mustard, I'm afraid. Despite a handful of reasonable tracks, the overall balance tips towards 'avoid'.
Two Way Monologue (2004, 47.35) **
Track You Down
On the Tower
Two Way Monologue
Days That Are Over
It's Too Late
It's Our Job
Maybe You're Gone
I've no idea whether or not the Mellotron on Sondre Lerche's debut, 2001's Faces Down, is real, although I've got it in the regular reviews until/if I should find it isn't. It took him three years to follow up with Two Way Monologue, a similarly dull effort in an indie/singer-songwriter vein; in fact, the longer it goes on, the worse it gets, losing half a star 'twixt beginning and end.
Guitarist Kato Ådland is credited with Mellotron, but not only is it apparently sampled, but there's precious little of it to be heard anyway, with naught but possible flutes on It's Our Job. So; not only dull, not only sampled Mellotron, but next to none of it anyway. A waste of space.
See: Sondre Lerche
Lescop (2012, 42.35) **½
La Nuit Américaine
Le Mal Mon Ange
Tokyo, La Nuit
Mathieu "Lescop" Peudupin's debut album, 2012's Lescop, is a thoroughly modern synthpop effort, mixing sounds and styles from the early '80s with more contemporary ones, for better or worse. Better tracks include sparse opener La Forêt, the vaguely Ultravox-esque Ljubljana and the wondrously-titled Slow Disco, but I wouldn't actually recommend this to first-time round genre fans, I'm afraid.
Nicolas "Johnny Hostile" Congé is credited with Mellotron. Where, Johnny, where? The not-very-Mellotronic string notes on closer Le Vent? Doubt it, but it's the closest you're going to get. Guaranteed to be samples, anyway, if it's here at all. Does what it does, then, but is unlikely to excite anyone who loved this stuff thirty years ago.
Now in a Minute (1996, 45.46) *½
I Love You Always Forever
Nothing Ever Changes
Love & Affection
|Lights of Life
I Love You Always Forever (Philly Remix)
Donna Lewis is what Kate Bush just might've been like had she been really, really shit. I'm sure she's a lovely lady an' all that, and I know full well she's very talented, but her debut album, 1996's Now in a Minute, is barfworthy drivel. How can I describe this? Why bother? OK, here goes anyway: soul-lite crossed with appalling balladry and the aforementioned Kate B's worst moments. There are no best tracks. Although Harvey Jones is credited with 'Mellotron flutes', I suspect you'll need sharper ears than mine to hear them. Maybe they pitchbent them up until they were out of the range of human hearing. Maybe they're just really low in the mix. Maybe you could think about not even attempting to hear this album if you know what's good for you.
I Never Learn (2014, 33.13) ***I Never Learn
No Rest for the Wicked
Just Like a Dream
Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone
Never Gonna Love Again
Heart of Steel
Lykke Li's third album has little in common with her debut, Youth Novels, being a classic 'breakup album', all swooning melancholy and sparse arrangements. Its chief fault, as has been noted by several reviewers, is its relentless, monopaced misery; all the best breakup albums have something about them to lighten the atmosphere, but we're denied that relief in this case. Best tracks? The opening title track makes the most effective use of Li's influences, Gunshot is reasonably melodically interesting and closer Sleeping Alone seems to encapsulate the album's modus operandi in a single track.
Producer Björn Yttling and Greg Kurstin are both credited with Mellotron, but, although both gentlemen have a presence on this site, it doesn't seem likely that we're hearing a real machine this time round. The string line and/or background choirs on I Never Learn? The cello-ish sound on Sleeping Alone? I don't think so. Not a bad effort, then, but a little more variety wouldn't go amiss next time. Lose the 'weeping widow' look, too.
See: Lykke Li
If I Kill This Thing We're All Going to Eat for a Week (2015, 37.55) **Belle Epoque
The Place You Wanna Go
Believe the Squalor
Lift the Sheet
Lieutenant are Foo Fighters/Sunny Day Real Estate bassist Nate Mendel's solo project, which, going by 2015's If I Kill This Thing We're All Going to Eat for a Week, is mainstream indie, dragged down yet further by Mendel's characterless voice. In all honesty, I can't even conjure up a passable song or two, although closer Lift The Sheet is marginally less tedious than everything else; this is dreary, indie-by-numbers nonsense, although I'm sure it has an audience somewhere.
Toshi Kasai is credited with Mellotron, but the vague strings on The Place You Wanna Go, Believe The Squalor and Artificial Limbs leave me thinking, 'You have to be joking!' I mean, they don't even sound much like Mellotron samples. Why do artists even bother pretending they used one when they quite manifestly didn't? Pointless.
Homeland (2003, 50.13) **The Crossing Cloud
Back to Earth
Last Day of the Butterfly
The Days Remaining
Like Wendy apparently coalesced from a drinking club; the only thing I have to say is: you can tell. A duo for most of their career, by 2003's Homeland, they'd contracted to effectively Bert Heinen's solo project, playing typical neo-prog with the occasional Genesis influence. The album doesn't start too badly, but second track in, Back To Earth, is pure neo-prog nonsense, from where it never really recovers, the lengthy title track being possibly the worst thing here, mainly due to taking longer to finish.
The 'Mellotron' on most tracks is quite clearly sampled, with murky choirs opening the album, repeating intermittently throughout The Crossing Cloud, with flutes and choir on Back To Earth and various combination of flutes, choir and strings on just about every other track. I'm sorry to be so harsh, but Homeland is exactly the kind of album that gives modern progressive rock a bad name, combining pretentiousness with an inability to write anything interesting or at all unusual in fairly equal measures. The grotty 'Tron samples don't hep this album's cause, but it was never going to get a particularly high rating.
Italian Playboys (2004, 49.01) ***
|Move Move Move
Deliquesced By Devonshire
The Monster of Milwaukee
Greased on Delta Street
Portofino Vespa Rider
After and Once Again
Link Quartet are Italy's answer to the mainly British 'acid jazz' thing; think 'James Taylor Quartet' and you won't be a million miles off. Despite forming in 1991, Italian Playboys is only their third album, but it should keep Hammond/'60s film theme/mod types happy with its unashamed homage to the era. Almost entirely instrumental, it's hard to fault on a musical level, although fourteen tracks is possibly a little too much of a good thing, as it all starts sounding a little samey to the untrained ear after a while.
Frankly, organist Paolo "Apollo" Negri's Mellotron use on the album is disappointing, with naught but a background string part towards the end of Glass Onion; in fact, given his sample use on a couple of Wicked Minds LPs, I think it's probably safe to assume that the same applies here, ditto on his solo album, 2007's A Bigger Tomorrow. As far as Italian Playboys goes, it's good at what it does, as long as you like what it does, but next to no 'Mellotron', so don't bother on that front.
See: Paolo "Apollo" Negri
Minutes to Midnight (2007, 43.50) **
Leave Out All the Rest
Bleed it Out
Shadow of the Day
What I've Done
Hands Held High
No More Sorrow
The Little Things Give You Away
Of the several nu-metal (aargh!) bands to actually break through to some sort of commercial success, Linkin Park have always had the least credibility (strange, in a world where Limp Bizkit exist), even being accused of pseudo-'boyband' status. This seems to be an unfair allegation - the band seem to have formed in a genuine enough manner - but they're certainly at the lighter end of the mini-genre, sounding rather 'plastic', to use a particularly cutting term of which an old school friend of mine was fond. Minutes to Midnight (how many? Two?) is their third album in seven years and is generally regarded to be their most diverse yet, heading even further into the rap/rock mainstream. Personal opinion? Absolute tosh. What is the point in this nonsense? Call me an old fart, but this is bloody rubbish; giving it two stars is doing it a favour. As far as I'm concerned, nobody since Faith No More has successfully combined the two genres, and it seems unlikely that anyone's going to now.
I've read all over the place that there's 'Mellotron' on the album; upon actually listening to it, most of the string parts are either real or sound like samples, leaving the cellos on In Between sounding like a Mellotron, but sampled. Rick Rubin may've produced some fine albums, but he doesn't appear to've found a real 'Tron for these boys to play. If you're lucky enough not to have this drivel forced upon you by your teenage children, avoid like the plague. Completely pointless.
Soul Riot (2015, 43.21) ***
|The Absolute Best (Intro)
When it Rains
At a Loss
Smoke and Mirrors
|(Will You Be) My Girl?
The Magnificent Dance
The Lions (presumably as in 'the Lions of Judah') describe their musical hybrid as 'dusty reggae soul', which sounds about right. 2015's Soul Riot is actually pretty decent, largely reggae as it used to be, complete with slightly bogus Jamaican accents and several vocalists and toasters vying for attention. Top tracks? Probably At A Loss and Going Nowhere, complete with dub-like delay, but I wouldn't have said there was anything here to offend the old-school reggae fan.
Producer Dan Ubick is credited with Mellotron, but if the strings on (Will You Be) My Girl? (and flutes on closer Wilder Style?) are meant to be it, we're in no danger of encountering a real machine, frankly, despite talk of real Hammond. Most likely not your thing, then, nor mine, but good at what it does.
Liquid Scarlet (2004, 52.46) ****Greyroom
Hesitating in the Foyer
Talking in Ashes
Comes Near, Lingers Far
The Red Stairs
One Last Masquerade
Liquid Scarlet II (2005, 56.16) ****
|Lines Are Drawn Again
The Carafe (part II)
The Marriage of Maria Braun
Just Like You
Killer Couple Strikes Again
There's Got to Be a Way to Leave
|The Thorn in Your Flesh
There's been a bit of a fuss over Liquid Scarlet recently, though less so than for, say, Wobbler. Unjustly, it seems, as they're actually really good, with plenty of 'that Scandinavian sound' about them, without actually sounding like they're trying to rip Änglagård. Thinking about it, they're more like Anekdoten, actually, though with enough of themselves in there to deflect any major criticism.
Liquid Scarlet is a fine album, not too long, nice and varied (within the genre, obviously) and with good playing and writing throughout. It's going to take rather longer than I've got right now to extract its highlights for general consumption, but suffice to say, there's nothing here that's going to upset anyone into complex, symphonic progressive, with zero neo-prog influence, thankfully. On the fake 'Tron front (from Frida Lundström), Greyroom opens with strings blasting away over a jerky rhythm, and most tracks feature at least a little of the instrument, mostly strings and flutes, though the vibes on The Red Stairs could be 'Tron samples, too. Most accomplished, although it's a pity (of course) that they couldn't have sourced a real 'Tron, at least for the recording.
A whole year later, Liquid Scarlet II is a revelation, showing how dramatically a band can change in a short period of time. Far more 'progressive' than its predecessor, the album takes influences from a much broader palette, using a string section on several tracks, alongside the 'Tron samples. The nine-minute Rhododendron is one of the album's highlights, although the combination of Markus Fagervall's intimate vocal style and the band's original approach towards songwriting make pretty much every track a winner. In fact, I think it's fair to say that Liquid Scarlet II doesn't really sound like anybody much else, and it's not too often you can say that these days. Those 'Tron samples crop up on probably half the tracks, with new keyboard player Olle Sjögren clearly preferring to use Fender Rhodes or organ in preference.
So; two worthwhile albums, with the former being more for the symphonic fans, and the latter for those who actually want to hear something new. If you favour both approaches, you're laughing. Buy.