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Kings Of Agogik: After The Last Stroke

After The Last Stroke, which is the seventh album from Hans Jörg Schmitz, the German drummer who also plays guitar, bass and keyboards, follows in the same suit as what has come before from his remarkably proficient Kings Of Agogik collective, in that it is thoughtful, wide ranging instrumental prog. My previous reviews for this outfit have alluded to it being a project with more than the talents of Schmitz on display and while other gifted musicians play a big part in the enterprise’s previous albums, for After The Last Stroke it is undoubtedly worth name checking all of the individuals who make up what certainly sounds like a band at work - Dago Wilms (guitar, bass), Gary Farmer (Rickenbacker bass), Steve Unruh of Resistor, The Samurai of Prog, UPF (flute, guitar, violin), Peter Simon (brass and woodwind), Enno Nilson (keyboards), Jeffrey Harlington (double bass), Andrew Marshall of Willowglass (12 string guitar), Philipp Schmitz (piano), Erik Vaxjö (Mellotron), Johannes Andrè (guitar), Scott Taylor (Uilleann pipes) and Alanda Scapes (‘voice’). That’s a huge cast list but their influence on this band and project is immeasurable. For proof you only need to delve into the keyboard-flute-guitar-woodwind interplay that pops and pushes through the beats on the 20 minute-plus “A Day Without End”. Although, if the compositions weren’t as strong as they undoubtedly are, then those talents wouldn’t be able to shine them into the classy soundscapes they become.

As ever with KoA, the introduction of new elements from album to album helps to move the themes and ideas into areas that avoid repetition and with After The Last Stroke, it’s arguable that it’s Peter Simon who makes that difference. Not new to the King Of Agogik cause, the flute and woodwind player is, however, given a freer rein on this outing and, for me, adds hugely to the scope of colours on display. With “Gannef” then incorporating South American dance flavours as it smashes traditional into a modern setting through a counterpoint of prog, jazz and a drum solo, so the daring side of what Schmitz and his gathering are wiling to undertake comes to the fore. The more guitar focused “”Plug In - Plaques Out” pulls the focus back in, prog metal adding a razor’s sharpness to some spacey themes, but then the slow, pensive and short “Watching The Moon” ensures that you never stay too long in one setting as this album morphs from mood to mood.

One of four ten minute-plus tracks, “Retromatic Lullaby” brings the voyage to an end, a more obvious neo-prog surf riding the waves of instrumental battles and soaringly melodic motifs to the album’s conclusion. And hugely satisfying it is too.

I must admit that until I was recently sent the (at time of writing) latest three albums from Kings Of Agogik they were a completely unknown prospect to me. How they’ve remained such a secret in the progressive instrumental scene I’m not sure because on this evidence there’s no doubting that they really are amongst the best outfits in this style around right now. When you consider the class of the opposition, that’s high praise indeed.


Track Listing
1. The White Raven
2. A Day without End
3. Carbon Soot
4. Gannef
5. Patterns on the Water
6. Plug In - Plaques Out
7. Watching the Moon
8. Back in the Second Line
9. Retromatic Lullaby

Added: March 13th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: King Of Agogik online
Hits: 763
Language: english

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