Brooklyn's Naam play a kind of indie/psych crossover, elements of noise thrown in for not-especially good measure on The Ballad of the Starchild. Its first three tracks are pretty ineffectual, although the eleven-minute The Starchild's a big improvement, a woozy, heavy psych epic that, to my ears, points the way they should go. Johnny Weingarten's 'Mellotron'? Inaudible.
A decent enough pop/punk album, at its best on opener Clear Eye Clouded Mind and Teenage Dreams. Lee Russell is credited with a raft of unlikely gear on the acoustic bonus tracks, including a Mellotron and a Chamberlin, but, to no-one's surprise, there's zilcho to be heard.
Leona Naess (actually Næss) is a truly multinational artist; Swedish mother, Norwegian father, born in the States, grew up in the UK, moved back to the States in adulthood... Her (admittedly enormously wealthy) dad even subsequently married Diana Ross, which, as claims to fame go, isn't a bad one. 2008's Thirteens is her fourth album, starting pretty well by modern singer-songwriter standards, although a purple patch halfway through knocks a half star from its rating. Better tracks? Gentle opener Ghosts In The Attic and the mildly jazzy The Lipstick Song, the only real stinker being one of two bonus efforts, Unnamed (Mellow Version). Samuel Dixon plays chordal samplotron strings on bonus track Danke Schoen.
The Astrid Tapes might be acceptable at half its length, but, given Harry Nagle's 0 m.p.h. singer-songwriter style, a little goes a long way. Better tracks include Missing You Everywhere and Cold In Your Country, but I'm afraid this crosses the line between 'haunted' and 'dreary'. Nagle plays distant, way-over-the-eight-second-limit samplotron choirs on Cold In Your Country.
Mid-'90s EM generally had a more (for then) contemporary feel than today's retro scene, so Skyrider mixes some electronica into the Berlin School, the end result being perfectly listenable, if a little unexciting. On the samplotron front, Nagle plays obviously sampled strings on Stormspell/On Mercury's Wings.
Naikaku are a Japanese heavy psych/prog outfit, seamlessly merging several (admittedly related) genres into a really quite appealing jammed-out stew, at least on their second album, 2006's Shell. Opener Crisis 051209 starts gently enough, before shifting into a vaguely '74 King Crimson feel, accentuated by fairly out-there flute and trumpet work, while the album's other long(er) track, Shell itself, goes more for the slow-burn Crimson effect, amongst several shorter, but no less intense pieces. Guest Daishi Takagi plays keys, including samplotron, with very upfront strings all over the title track, the first chord holding for over thirty seconds, just in case you were doubting my sample-spotting capabilities, with more on the considerably briefer Tautrogy. I'm really not sure whether prolonged exposure to this album might make me like it more or less; it could go either way. As it is, initial acquaintance makes me keen to hear more, although they don't seem to have recorded anything since.
David Nail is a pretty mainstream country artist by modern standards, which puts him at the commercial end of Americana, to my ears. His third album, The Sound of a Million Dreams, has its moments, notably opener Grandpa's Farm, Half Mile Hill and the (relative) noise-fest that ends the record, but the bulk of it sails far too close to Nashville for my liking. Jeff Roach is credited with Mellotron, but the strings on She Rides Away and That's How I'll Remember You really aren't.
Although born in France, Yael Naïm moved to Israel as a child, later moving back to Paris, where her eponymous second album was written and recorded, sung variously in Hebrew, French and English. It should really be titled Yael Naïm & David Donatien, I suppose, as her percussionist and musical partner actually gets a co-credit on the sleeve. She had the very good fortune to have New Soul chosen by Apple to advertise one of its products, giving her massive exposure in the English-speaking market that she could never have managed without this boost. Yael Naïm has its less irritating moments, but they're few and far between, I'm afraid; no one track offends, but their cumulative effect is enough to make the listener begin to lose the will to live. Naïm plays samplotron on the album, with a nice little flute part on New Soul and what sounds like a variably-tuned recorder-type thing playing over flutes on Naïm's rather odd cover of the immensely talented Britney Spears' Toxic.
R(ay) Carlos Nakaí is a Native American flautist whose recording career began in his late thirties in the early '80s. His tenth album, 2001's Enter >> Tribal (a collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Cliff Sarde), while contemporary, may well disappoint lovers of 'authentic' Native American music, its programmed beats and heavy synth use clearly designed to sell to the new age crowd, rather than folk or genuine world music fans. It's all pretty much of a muchness, to be honest, the presence or lack of vocals being the chief method of distinguishing one track from another. Not selling this very well, am I? Sarde supposedly plays Mellotron, but the melodic string part on the opening title track is fairly obviously sampled, ditto the flute (quite distinct from the real one) on May There Be Beauty. All in all, this isn't a lot better than the kind of guff sold in health food shops and the like; in fact, it probably is sold in such establishments, while half-arsed sample use on a couple of tracks do little to improve matters.
On Love Junkies, Naked Lunch utilise that infuriating blend of '60s and '90s influences that the Britpop scene tapped into a few years earlier, to the point where you wouldn't even know they weren't British. No, there are no best tracks. Stefan Deisenberger's credited with Mellotron; I'm having trouble with this one, but I don't think it's genuine, despite the occasional wobbles, notably at the end of opener Disco Sadness. Anyway, strings all over said track and Silvertown, plus strings and flutes on Life In Vain.
Pete "Namlook" Kuhlmann has collaborated with many artists, not least the legendary Klaus Schulze, on a series entitled Dark Side of the Moog (ho ho); on 5, the Pink Floyd puns go further, the eight-part Psychedelic Brunch being named for the Floyd's Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast from Atom Heart Mother. Unsurprisingly, the album (also featuring noted New York avant-gardist Bill Laswell) sounds less like Floyd than any number of Berlin School electronic artists, although there's considerable variation between tracks, working on the basis that you can tell the difference between any EM pieces at all (he said, cynically). I've had this down as a 'Mellotron album' for some time and, indeed, Part 4 is essentially a Mellotron strings solo, but it took moments to realise that its smoothness indicated samples; good ones, but samples nonetheless. I can't say I'm surprised; Schulze's last obvious use of his MkV was at the dawn of the '80s, despite its being pictured on the rear sleeve of 1985's Inter-Face and he was always more of a synthesist than a 'keyboard player', anyway - don't forget his first album was the Tangs' Electronic Meditation, as drummer. Anyway, Part 8 features sampled choirs over a more rhythmic backing, but that's your lot on the fake Mellotron front.
Naomi are the German electro-pop duo of Bernd Lechler and Nico Tobias, whose third album, 2006's Aquarium, combines mainstream pop, hip-hop and R'n'B, with an unexpected hint of psych thrown in. Apparently, their first two albums relied more on instrumental work, but this time round it's songs all the way, for better or worse. To be honest, I've heard a lot worse in this vein, which is why it doesn't get a lower star rating, although it's hardly what I'd call essential listening. I've no idea who plays the samplotron - either member of the band or an outside musician? Anyway, we get faint strings and flutes on Gone, far more upfront flutes and choirs on Another Bite Of The Apple, volume-pedalled strings and flutes on Relax She Said and finally, more of those flutes on All I Need.
Named for a 17th Century calculating device, Napier's Bones are the duo of vocalist Nathan Jon Tillett and musician/composer Gordon Midgley, whose debut, 2014's The Wistman Tales, treads a fine line between heavy prog (not prog metal) and lusher, more '70s flavours. Top tracks include angular opener A.D. 1069 : The Harrying Of The North, the brief, atmospheric Room 237 and fourteen-minute closer Wistman's Wood, noticeably nearer the band's '70s roots than the rest of the album. Tillett's voice has a raspy, bluesy quality rare in prog outfits, while Midgley's arrangements generally complement his lyrics well, a quality often lacking in modern progressive releases, making for the kind of album that has the potential to appeal across a high percentage of the prog audience, all assuming they're made aware of its existence. Midgley uses the Redtron SE Mellotron plugin, slathering strings all over every track, with subtler choir and flute parts here and there. Effective? Decidedly, although a little restraint might have worked wonders on a couple of tracks. The duo lose no time whatsoever in following up, Tregeagle's Choice appearing within a year of their debut. Based on a Faustian Cornish legend, some listeners may be put off by the narration on several tracks, although it should probably be considered as essential to the story and far from intrusive. Musically, this is possibly less Genesis, more Barclay James Harvest, albeit with a far darker edge, many tracks based around acoustic guitar and pseudotron strings, with a distinct reduction in heaviosity levels when compared to The Wistman Tales. Top tracks? Difficult to say, especially on a concept work, but the title track and the creepy Tempus Fugit stand out. Samplotron? While Midgley's use is still quite overt, he's definitely toned it down this time round, to overall better effect.
Continuing their policy of 'wasting no time whatsoever', the duo's third release in as many years, 2016's Hell & High Water, takes another stylistic turn into a more contemporary progressive sound, not unlike aspects of, say, Big Big Train or even Manning. Despite ostensibly containing seven tracks, the album is split into two 'side-long', multi-part pieces, The Transfiguration and Semerwater: The Fall, both of which, in time-honoured progressive style, shift through many different feels, from (relatively) mainstream modern prog opener An Air Of Mystery, through the Crimsonesque No Return?, to the punchy near-prog metal of Rain Down and acoustic singalong closer A Wake In Yoredale. Highlights? Probably the atmospheric Broadcasting Live and the epic No Room At The Inn, although nothing here disappoints. Once again, a more subtle approach to the samplotron pays off, its first use being a string part several minutes into the second track, Broadcasting Live, more string and choir use in No Return?, flutes in Mallerstang Morning and other string and choir parts across the rest of the album.
Do these two never stop? Unfortunately, 2017's Alpha-Omega Man sounds, at least to my ears, a little rushed: I can hear tuning issues with the multi-overdubbed guitar parts and some of the synth work, while the material seems to've had less care taken over its composition than before. Above all, though, producing interesting music seems to take second place here to The Concept; a significant chunk of the vocal work consists of narration, while the singing is largely subservient to the story (spot the conceptual link through to Tregeagle's Choice), while too much of the music itself is ambient sound, sometimes overlaid with narration. Don't get me wrong: there are plenty of decent bits, but I'm not sure we get enough, this time round, to satisfy the progressive rock fan seeking out new artists. Relatively little samplotron this time round, although there's a major strings part in Psycho Driving and several background string and choir sections. Now, here's the clincher: the band are giving their work away on Bandcamp. Free. Gratis. There doesn't even appear to be a method for donating. Since I can't imagine how they'll ever play live without recruiting a complete lineup, I can only assume that they'd rather people heard their music than they're remunerated for it; a meritorious approach which will hopefully make their name known and pay off for them in the long run.
Napoleón Solo (named for an At the Drive-in track, in turn named for the Man From U.N.C.L.E. character) are a Spanish-language kind-of alt.rock outfit, whose Napoleón Solo en la Ópera is a classic 'local's record', replicating an internationally-popular sound for their local market. Any highlights? I wouldn't go that far, but the Queen-alike En El Fondo De Los Sueños, right down to the May-esque guitar solo, isn't so bad, ditto Al Final. Miguel Diaz is credited with Mellotron, although the strings on Perdiendo El Tiempo, Siempre Me Lo Recordarás (particularly obviously) and Al Final are clearly sampled, as are the flutes and choirs elsewhere.
The Narcotic Slave Orchestra play a form of psychedelic indie on the hugely lengthy, two-disc Love, Art, Intoxication/Musick for Flies, much of it a little like a modern version of '70s 'middling rock', for want of a better term; you know, rock that doesn't really rock and, as such, has dated poorly. Will this date poorly? I'm not sure it hasn't already done so. Any highpoints? Each disc finishes with a twenty-plus-minute psych epic, without which this set would be noticeably shorter and probably even duller, while 'best track' award goes to 6ix (Lissi In The Sink With Diarrhoea), which sounds like King Crimson playing Fracture after partaking of some particularly potent weed. Dan Halden's 'Mellotron' consists of nothing more than samplotron strings on 11even, Higher Educkation, Waiting At The Spacebus Station, Heart Of A Monkey, Season Of Flies and Strange Musick.
Narum are a family-based group, whose Samma Hen du Fær is a Norwegian-language Americana album, perfectly harmless, if a tad unexciting. Lars Christian Narum (see, I told you they were a family group) is credited with Mellotron. Er, the strings on closer Sjå Ut? Really?
Israel Nash Gripka's fourth studio album, 2015's Israel Nash's Silver Season, starts off in 'low-key country-rock album' mode, until, a few tracks in, you realise that Nash is quite possibly the natural successor to Neil Young, despite heavy competition. You wouldn't think it from opener Willow, but from Parlour Song through to the end of the album, you could almost be listening to one of Neil's legendary 'lost albums' from the mid-'70s, although Nash is never going to match Mr. Young for fragility, while his songwriting has some way to go before becoming any serious competition. No-one's credited with Mellotron, which makes sense. Willow starts with a lovely, low-end flute part, but... it's too low. Lowest note is F# and the Mellotron only goes down to G. Yeah, it could've been tuned down, but a close listen to the solo part that opens and closes the track says... samples. We also get strings on the epic LA Lately and Lavendula, plus distant ones on Mariner's Ode, for what it's worth. So; a very good album, streets ahead of the drivel I usually have to suffer while writing this site. Recommended.
Nautilus are that rarest of things, a decent modern British progressive band, who don't sound like the bastard sons of a satanic Marillion/Pendragon pairing twenty(-something) years on. I'm not going to pretend the Kent-based quartet are up there with the best Swedish and Italian bands of the last couple of decades (sorry, chaps), but both their albums to date are very listenable affairs indeed. The first of these, What Colours the Sky in Your World?, was released by the band in 2004, then picked up by Brit-prog label Cyclops and reissued two years later. It's all-instrumental (hurrah!), slotting into a vaguely Crimson/UK vein, top tracks including opener Doors To The Dark Room and Halloween Factory. Keys man Paul Blewitt (hi, Paul), adds samplotron strings (notably to closer Release) and choir here and there, rarely that overtly, more in a 'just another sound' kind of way, which is probably the best approach when using samples. Take heed, M-Tron over-users...
Cyclops' Malcolm Parker advised the band to add vocals to 2008's Fathom, as this apparently bumps up sales (why?); not feeling up to tackling the job themselves, someone brought forth '70s pop bloke, bit-part actor and friend of/collaborator with Freddie Mercury, Peter Straker to do the job. Well, he can sing, but whether he was actually the right man for the job is a matter for conjecture; his voice is rather too close to Broadway for my liking, stirring unwelcome memories of Rick Wakeman's taste in singers. I'm not sure if it's the unwelcome vocal intrusions, but the material seems less punchy this time round, with the honourable exception of (instrumental) closer Cadaver, which isn't to say the rest of it's bad, just possibly not as good as previously. More Blewitt samplotron, notably the strident strings on Heart Of Darkness and the background choirs on a few tracks.
Although Jacqui Naylor fits loosely into the jazz field, her chief musical contribution to date seems to be her invention of 'acoustic smashing': fitting the lyrics of one song to the music of another. I'm sure this has been done before, if only for comic effect, but Naylor clearly takes the technique very seriously, at least going by her 'holiday' (i.e. Christmas) album, 2007's Smashed for the Holidays (ho ho). On the smashing front, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town is set to Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama and an unidentified boogie, Silver Bells is a mutated take on The Police's stalker's charter, Every Breath You Take and we get no fewer than three Zeppelin tracks: D'yer Maker (Santa Baby), Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You (What Child Is This) and When The Levee Breaks (We Three Kings). Not every track fits that description; her jazzy take on The Kinks' Father Christmas is played relatively straight, but it's a rarity here. Art Khu plays a samplotron cello part on Silver Bells.
Ednita Nazario, a child star in the early '60s, is still performing and recording today, having notched up over fifty years in 'the biz', but have you heard of her? Nope, nor me; such is the fate of Latin American artists, although their own market is large enough that I'm sure few of them are too fussed. 2007's Real is something like her nineteenth studio album (it's hard to say for sure), a fairly typical Latin pop/rock effort, sadly more pop than rock, although Después De Ti cranks it up ever so slightly. Armando Avila (Avila Boys, many others) supposedly plays Mellotron, although, as with all his other album credits, it's hard to tell exactly where, especially given the preponderance of real strings here. The background strings on No? Who knows? Or, frankly, cares? You're not going to bother with this, anyway.
All in the Golden Afternoon... sits somewhere in between the gentler end of progressive rock, ambient and, perhaps surprisingly, trance, those distinctive choppy synth chords finding their way into several of the album's tracks. The end result features moments of quiet beauty, but I'm afraid all too much of it wanders along ineffectually, while the vocal samples/spoken-word sections on most tracks merely serve to distract. Samplotron strings, flutes and occasional choirs everywhere you look.
Nearly (or, irritatingly, nearlY) were ex-Nine Inch Nails drummer Jerome Dillon's occasional band, who released just the one album, 2005's Reminder. A pretty downbeat record, it contains pointers towards NiN's sound, not least the gothic soundscapes of Blackwing and Up In The Trees, although Claudia Sarne's vocals on most tracks (Dillon also sings on four) separate this from your typical NiN copyist outfit. On the tape-replay front, Dillon adds background Mellotron strings to Straight To Nowhere, Step Into The Light and Tributary, plus Chamberlin strings to Prins Hendrik, Sarne adds very background Mellotron strings to Mary Vincent, while Jeff Ciampa plays Chamby strings on Up In The Trees, although none of it sounds genuine to my ears.
Nebelnest, or NeBeLNeST, as they prefer to spell it, are a current heavily Crimson-influenced band from France, adapting that esteemed outfit's take on improvisational prog to their own material, creating something both familiar and new in the process. First track, Improv: Pooks Part 1 starts with what sounds like Mellotron flute, until you realise the sound goes way over the eight-second limit. There's more of the same later in the album and some very authentic Mellotron choirs, although keys man Olivier Tejedor has recently confirmed that they're all samples. Real Mellotron or not, this is a damn' good album, particularly if you're into the slightly further reaches of prog, without actually going for the full Univers Zero/Henry Cow. Their second effort, 2002's excellent Nova Express, uses real Mellotron alongside samples and is, if anything, an improvement on their debut.
Necromonkey's first live album, Live at Pianos, NYC, documents their 2014 New York appearance, featuring three new pieces out of the six on offer. Top tracks? Almost impossible to quantify, frankly; everything here displays a level of inventiveness that should make 99% of modern prog outfits blush, influences beaming in from not just the more musicianly end of the progressive spectrum, but from electronica, jazz, the avant-garde... Kinky Panda and A Glimpse Of Possible Endings are personal favourites, but this is one of those rare 'every track a winner records'. Incidentally, for proof of just how rude audiences can be, background chat is clearly audible over several quieter passages, before the band kick in again. Club crowds, eh? David Lundberg plays samplotron here and there, mostly brass, plus strings on The Storm and little bursts of strings and choir on A Glimpse Of Possible Endings, but it's hardly a reason to buy this album. The actual music, however, is; any of Necromonkey's albums is a probably a good starting point, but this may just be the best of all. Highly recommended.
The Hymn Sessions. Hmmm. Whad'ya reckon this might be like? Might it be like hideous CCM? It might indeed. Opener Christos Anesti aims for pseudo-transcendency, like an unholy (see what I did there?) cross (and there?) between U2 and generic pop/rock, the rest of the album shifting through several different, yet equally odious styles throughout its mercifully not-overlong duration. Needham even gets some Christian rap dude with a speech impediment in on Great Is Thy Faithfulness. Believe me, as experiments go, this one's a 'fail'. The final track is called It Is Finished. Thank fuck for that. Ryan Eldridge's 'Mellotron'? The exceedingly distant, quite certainly sampled strings on How Great Thou Art.
Nefarious Jack & the Naysayers' eponymous EP/mini-album/whatever is a rather dreary indie/folk kind of thing, at its least dull on And So It Goes. Jack Younger (previously of Mosquito) plays wobbly, but sampled Mellotron strings on the closing title track.
Los Negativos (PLEASE don't ask me to translate that) are a modern Spanish psych outfit, active since the mid-'80s, clearly as obsessed with all things '60s as their better-known compatriots worldwide. 2009's Dandies Entre Basura is at least their fifth album, although there could be many more, a decent enough effort, although its appeal seems to pall as it progresses. One of its highpoints is Capitán Escarlata is a Spanish-language tribute to one of Gerry 'Thunderbirds' Anderson's greatest creations, complete with samples from the original series, but tracks like closers La Buhardilla Del Lirón and Sacerdotisa De La Carne Eléctrica (does that really mean 'The Church of the Electric Meat?) drag somewhat, losing the album half a star. Carlos de Ordax plays samplotron on the title track, with a string part running right through the song.
Link Quartet's Paolo "Apollo" Negri is one of Italy's top jazz and funk (note: not jazz/funk) organists, a veritable Hammond god for our times, in fact. I believe 2007's sprawling double-disc A Bigger Tomorrow is his solo debut, an album for which the term 'groovy' could've been invented, stuffed with (mostly) instrumental Hammond workouts, straight out of the 1966 songbook. The trouble is, even disc one on its own is far too long, never mind the second disc of outtakes, remixes and alternate versions; maybe it's good to have on in the background at your '60s-themed party? In the instrumental credits, Negri's quite specific about what he uses with regard to models, so we get a 'Hammond A102 organ & pedalboard' and a 'Hohner Pianet T electric piano + MXR Phase 90', but merely a 'Mellotron', which tells me a lot about its authenticity. Saying that, the brief, solo strings part that closes the album at the end of Filtersweeping, Mommy Is Weeping (not reiterated on disc two's 'Moogified version') sounds relatively real, although I'm quite certain it isn't. So; given that A Bigger Tomorrow is released by US label Hammondbeat, that should tell you everything you need to know about it. Like Hammond-led funk? You're onto a winner.
Nektar (UK) see:
I've seen Sarah Bethe Nelson's music described as somewhere between 'ornate '60s pop and austere '90s slowcore'; it certainly recalls elements of, say Low, alongside a kind of pre-psychedelia, mid-'60s feel. Highlights? Since almost every track creeps along at a somewhat funereal pace, the surprisingly rhythmic title track makes for light relief, ditto the point halfway through the six-minute Every Other Sunday where it suddenly (though by no means instantaneously) doubles in tempo, while, of the slower material, Black Telephone and Paying stand out, both musically and lyrically. Rusty Miller and producer Kelley Stoltz are both credited with Mellotron, surely not the stringy sounds on the title track or Uneasy? Are they having a laugh? A decent enough album, then, but not only no real Mellotron, but not even something that sounds like one.
Tim Nelson's CD Baby page describes Animalvegetablemineral as 'a unique blend of instrumental progressive, lo-fi, post-rock and world-influenced genres', which sounds about right. But is it any good? In places, is the answer, specifically, solo acoustic guitar pieces Magically Delicious, Ether and Mamoul, while Stars Are Funny's solo Mellotron flutes are very listenable, too. Nelson allegedly plays 'copious amounts of mellotron' (note small 'm'), but the strings and flutes on Just So Long As I'm the Dictator, flutes on Stars Are Funny and strings on Swedish Fish sound sampled to my ears.
1999's Sky Archeology is either Finnish electronicists Nemesis' second (according to their website) or third (according to other sources) album. It's an EM release that, while paying rather more than lip service to the Berlin School, as you'd expect, also throws in some more contemporary moves, not least the House influence in Tango Fornax 9991, which may or may not be welcome, but certainly makes a change. One of the two musicians on board plays Mellotron samples on several tracks, more notable use including the phased strings on The Cygnus Loop, flutes on Tango Fornax 9991, upfront strings on Monocheros and choirs on closer Anaxagoras. More EM with sampled Mellotron? Music for the faithful, not the newbie.
Nemo are a current French progressive band who've somehow flown under my radar, which is a shame, as they're really rather good, certainly going by their fourth album, 2006's Si Partie I (II appeared the following year). The band's sound is an amalgam of current and past styles in the genre, metal guitar interludes followed by electric piano workouts or lengthy vocal passages, despite which it all hangs together quite nicely, thank you very much. The three shorter tracks in the middle are bookended by two epics, the second of which, the five-part Apprentis Sorciers, is the album's crowning glory, throwing just about every trick in the book into the pot, while remaining cohesive. There isn't a lot of 'Mellotron' to be heard here, with naught but a string part on opener Douce Mort, clearly sampled, but it's hardly the album's defining feature, anyway. I haven't heard anything else by Nemo, but if Si Partie I's anything to go by, I look forward to expanding my knowledge of their catalogue.
I'm sure Nerve's blasts of pop/punk on Psycho Poetry are highly invigorating, should you be into such a thing. Buzzcocks? Yes. Hüsker Dü? Yes. Nerve? No. Geoff Allan plays background samplotron strings on Losing Streak.
Georgian Barbara Nesbitt's debut album, 2007's A Million Stories, while ostensibly Americana, also incorporates elements of jazz (Horrible Moon), pop (Summertime - not that one) and rock, amongst other styles. Top tracks? The slow-burning opening title track and Fly are both pretty good, but pride of place is taken by closer Broken Girl, a very English-sounding folky number featuring some lovely open-tuned guitar work. Ben Moore is credited with Mellotron, but the only possible use is the vibes on Horrible Moon, which sound far too clean (at least to my ears) to be genuine. Despite a bit of a lull in the middle of a slightly overlong album, which could've been remedied by excising a handful of weaker tracks, this is a worthy first effort, although its 'Mellotron' use seems to be anything but.
Up Late With People is largely an indie-end-of-powerpop, album, although Ness pull a rabbit out of a hat (and an extra half star) with the stomping Imaginary Life and the bizarre, twelve-minute, powerpop-goes-prog of the title track. Phil Young plays fakeo Mellotron flutes on Let's Vaporize and distant strings on Cosmoa.
Seattle's Nevada Bachelors' second and last album, Hello Jupiter, starts off like a generic millennial indie effort, only to slowly morph into a rather better indie/powerpop release, better tracks including The Preliminaries and Jimmy's Off. Martin Feveyear's alleged Mellotron strings on E-Mail really aren't.
Neverending White Lights are the Canadian one-man band of Daniel Victor and whoever he brings in as collaborators. Their/his debut, Act 1: Goodbye Friends of the Heavenly Bodies, uses different vocalists on every track, several of which are written by the relevant vocaliser. I suppose it's essentially the pop end of post-rock (there is one?) and about as dreary as they come, full of croaky vocals, heavily reverbed piano and lashings of artificial strings, all taken at a funereal pace. To add to the pretentious atmosphere of the whole sorry shebang, tracks 1-5 fall under the general heading The Hour Arrives, 6-12 are My Angel, My Queen, My Death, My Treasure and 13-16, A Pale Nation Sleeps in Misery. Drivel. Absolute drivel. Victor is credited with Mellotron, but if the vaguely Mellotron-like strings and flutes on a handful of tracks are a real Mellotron, I'm an accordionist. OK, maybe they are, but if so, why have they been recorded to sound like crummy samples? Anyway, you have absolutely no reason to buy this album, so do yourself a favour and don't.
The New Amsterdams began as the Get Up Kids' Matt Pryor's side-project, going on to take on a life of its own. 2003's Worse for the Wear is their third album, combining Americana and modern indie into an only intermittently appealing stew, better tracks including brief opening instrumental Vignette, From California and haunted closer Slight Return. The slower stuff, basically. Pryor plays samplotron, a string part hiding away in the mix on the harmonium-fuelled Vignette and more of the same on the title track.
When you think of early '90s Swedish prog, does the name New Clear Daze spring to mind? No, nor me. Their wildly overlong Selling Diamonds on the Edge of Time has its moments, but they're few and far between, often only a burst of something mildly interesting amongst acres of sub-Floyd wibble. To make matters worse, they devolve into horrible neo-prog moves every now and again, notably on Beyond All Boundaries, while the English-language lyrics leave a great deal to be desired, even if they display a sense of humour at times. This is yet another entry in the 'there used to be an online reference to Mellotron use, honest!' stakes. Suffice to say, Mats Nygren uses nothing of the sort.
If Benjamin Herman's New Cool Collective's Chin Chin has a real fault, it's in the length department (fnar fnar); this kind of instrumental, brass-driven jazz is, at its worst, very listenable, but an hour of it is probably twenty minutes too much. And, as with Herman's solo albums, Willem Friede's Mellotron is nowhere to be seen.
The New Earth Group play a kind of propulsive, instrumental, brass-driven jazz/prog on their eponymous debut, at its best on twelve-minute opener De Notenkraker Boom Suite and Part D of the five-part Electric Mario, In Search Of The 72 Names Of God. Jeroen S. Rozendaal plays samplotron strings on closer Part E, Electric Mario's Exodus.
I've seen New London Fire compared to Depeche Mode, which really isn't the way to Planet Mellotron's heart, frankly. I Sing the Body Holographic, despite its Ray Bradbury-paraphrasing title, is a cruddy indie/electropop crossover, replete with that horrible, light-as-air vocal style that was everywhere in the 2000s. There are no best tracks. Jason Debiak plays a clicky, yet sampled-sounding 'Mellotron' flute part on Tonight.
The New Order story is far too familiar to bear any serious repetition; suffice to say, they are essentially the regrouped Joy Division after that band's dissolution following the suicide of vocalist Ian Curtis. New Order have kept a foot in both the indie and dance camps, frequently mixing the two, or producing innovative dance-based material such as 1983's excellent Blue Monday (and no, the choirs on that track are absolutely not Mellotron). It all seems rather unlikely that they'd use a Mellotron on the acid house-influenced Technique, but halfway through track three, Run, a familiar-sounding string sound appears, although the more you hear, the less Mellotronlike it sounds. 1989 is extremely early in the day for anyone to use samples, so the likely scenarios are:
1) It's a generic late-'80s grungy string sample that sounds slightly like Mellotron strings 'cos they're, duh, grungy string samples.
2) It's an early Mellotron sample.
3) It's a Mellotron.
Upon a re-listen, I'd say option 1) is the most likely, so here it goes and here it stays. Anyway, is it a good album? Actually, yes; although I'm not exactly a fan of their thang, this is a pleasant listen with some reasonably groundbreaking material. And a pointless remake of Blue Monday.
Grace - the EP is a hideous piece of Christian schlock, at its worst on opener This Is Grace, although it's a close call. Cason Cooley allegedly plays Mellotron, but the vague flutes and strings on One Love aren't cutting the mustard.
John Newman has sold over a million records in the UK, which might explain why I've never heard of him before (?!). He has the most infuriating voice, as if he had a built-in graphic EQ, leaving only a narrow, midrange band of frequencies. Sung through his nose. Someone should let him know he has a diaphragm. Suffice to say, his songs, production and anything else I might think of are hideous. Newman's Mellotron credit on All I Need Is You? Inaudible.
The New Raemon play a kind of psychedelic folk, for want of a better phrase, making a reasonably decent job of it on their second album, 2009's La Dimensión Desconocida. The songwriting's the kind that makes you suspect it might grow on you given time, highlights including opener La Siesta (start with a strong one, chaps), the gentle El Fin Del Imperio and Dramón Rodríguez, although I'm not sure what to make of the Bob Dylan harmonica on closer La Recta Final. Ricky Falkner plays samplotron, with strings on Variables, Por Tradición and Sucedáneos and strings and church organ on Dramón Rodríguez.
Within seconds of putting on Next to None's debut, 2015's A Light in the Dark, it's obvious that the drummer has a major say in the band, as he's about twice as high in the mix as he should be. And he is...? Max Portnoy, son of Mike (Dream Theater, Transatlantic, other bores). And I'm sure they got their deal with InsideOut entirely on merit. So... What do they sound like? Guess. Clue. It isn't The Pastels. Or James Taylor. Give in? OK, it's Dream-Theater-as-death-metal, complete with 'we can't sing so we'll just yell' vocals, with obvious Autotune use during the occasional sung bits. Better moments? For some reason, Control seems to focus their abilities, while A Lonely Walk and Legacy provide a little light relief, but no, not really. Dad's buddy Neal Morse plays 'Mellotron' on A Lonely Walk, but, given that he hasn't (to my knowledge) played a real one since... When? The late '90s? It doesn't seem (or indeed, sound) likely that he's suddenly got hold of a real one here. I know the band are all still in their teens, but so were Diamond Head when they started and they didn't sound like this. Complete rubbish.
Nexus are one of those progressive bands whose work sits somewhere in between '80s neo- and '90s 'modern' prog (you know, Spock's Beard). Perpetuum Karma is a decent enough album, but needs, ooh, about half an hour slashed from its length. I nominate the neo-prog bits. Seasoned South American 'Mellotron' watchers will be utterly unsurprised to hear that Lalo Huber's clear credit consists of no more than vaguely Mellotronic strings here and there, notably on closer En Ese Viento.