Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Roger Dean - Dragon's Dream iOS game

Got home from work today, went online, and thanks to The Verge of all places found out there was an iPhone/iPad game out from Roger Dean. Who knew?! For all you youngsters out there Roger Dean made many famous album covers back in the ’70s and ’80s, most notably for Yes (not to mention designing their logo). His incredible technique with the airbrush let him create wondrous paintings for dozens of prog albums from that era. 

Yes logo

I’ve worn many of his designs on t-shirts over the years, and I’ve always wanted to build a Roger Dean house (with badgers in the basement) and have Roger Dean furniture in my (regular) house. I could write a whole article on his paintings and how they influenced my musical direction, but this is about his iOS game.

The app basically has three parts. There’s the art of course, there’s music, and there’s the actual game. In a way the art elements need no explanation. It’s all Roger Dean paintings. The music surprised me a bit to be honest. I was expecting boring game music, but it’s actually somewhat interesting. I haven’t played the game for hours on end, but the pieces I’ve heard so far have been pretty good, sort of “prog lite” in a way. Not elevator music at all, but a synth-heavy and not overly simple bit of game music. Definitely background to the game, but good in its own right. And the game? It’s fun. I’m not a gamer with lightning-fast twitch reflexes, so I guess I’m what’s known as a casual gamer. Dragon's Dream is easy to play and it’s fun. You’re basically flying a dragon around avoiding obstacles and picking up objects. Not a revolutionary concept, but a good solid side scroller. 

As you play you get rewarded by unlocking images you can use as backgrounds on your device, which is cool as they're Roger Dean paintings. So far I’ve gotten two of the seven without too much effort. I’m hoping the others are equally reachable as so far I’ve not gotten a score better than an E. I’m hoping that stands for “excellent” but I have a funny feeling that it’s really only the tiniest bit better than an F. Told you I wasn’t a gamer. 

I’m not sure Dragon’s Dream will set the gaming world on fire, but it’s only US$5. If you’re a Roger Dean fan, as I am, it’s pretty much worth it though.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Glass Hammer - Perilous - The Review

Wow. Just played the new Glass Hammer album for the first time. Loud. In headphones. It’s called Perilous. Classic prog rock at its finest. 

Lofty mellotrons, growling organs, and classic Moogs, righteous guitars, bass that won’t quit, drums propelling things forward, vocals floating high above it all, harmonies aplenty. And you know, maybe a flute or recorder or something as well now and then, just for the heck of it.

This album is everything I love about Glass Hammer. Great music, well written and well played, brand new and yet completely familiar even though it’s my first listen. I guess all I really need to say is that they speak my language. Or maybe what’s closer to the truth is they speak the language I already hear.

The album’s an hour long, and all I could think when it ended was, “darn, it’s over.”

In some ways I feel lost when I try to write about them, try to describe them. They have that great prog rock sound. Yes, Gentle Giant, Utopia, all the classic prog bands from the ’70s and ’80s. But they also rock, and their music is informed by the 21st century as well. It’s the music I’d play and write if I played and wrote that way, if I hadn’t taken that turn towards Tangerine Dream and Synergy all those years ago. I suppose if I’d gotten the organ before I’d gotten my Minimoog things might have turned out differently, but I learned to play keyboards on the Moog rather than the Hammond. Suffered for it ever since! (Which I always say with a grin.)

13 songs, all tied together, maybe better described as 13 movements in one continuous piece of music. No bathroom breaks, so plan ahead. I guess if I had to describe it all I’d have to say simply that it’s heroic from start to finish. Just the way a great prog album ought to be. 

They’re threatening to tour this album. I sure hope they do. I’ll be there.

Or the band's own Perilous page.