Kn-Ko

Knickers (USA): Dance Party 84 (Rhino RNTI404, 12", 1982)
Pop
Linda Lawley, Sue Richman, Andrea Robinson
The ludicrous band name, EP title and track listing (covers of ‘Bend Me, Shape Me’, ‘Ain’t Nothin’ But A House Party’ and ‘The Rapper’) made me expect the worst. However, this isn’t dance music at all: it’s solid, if horn-heavy, pop, with a few rock moves here and there and a complete absence of eighties high-tech elements. Oddly, the disc features oversized picture labels and a plain die-cut sleeve, a curiosity that was briefly fashionable at the time. GRADE: C+.

See also Eternity's Children, Genesis, Indigo, Linda Lawley, Thieves

Knifeworld (UK): Buried Alone – Tales Of Crushing Defeat (Believers’ Roast BRR002, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2009)
Rock/Psychedelic/Progressive/Metal
Melanie Woods (joint lead vocals), Sarah Measures (saxophone, clarinet, flute)
Very much the vehicle of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kavus Torabi (also a member of a late Gong line-up), Knifeworld offer an unusual mixture of styles on their debut album. There’s an obvious debt to both the Beatles (though this isn’t pop) and Hatfield & The North (though this is only occasionally jazzy and it’s not especially playful or complex), hints of eighties psychedelic revivalists like the Magic Mushroom Band, and some definite hard rock and metal edges. Overall it doesn’t quite hang together, with a collection of songs that are solid rather than truly great. GRADE: C+.
Knifeworld (UK): The Unravelling (InsideOut 0506851, LP plus CD, with inner, 2014)
Rock/Jazz/Progressive
Melanie Woods (occasional vocals, effects), Chloë Herrington (saxophone, bassoon, backing vocals), Nicki Maher (saxophone, clarinet)
Album number two tones down the heavy edges significantly, as well as the psychedelic elements, offering more overtly seventies-sounding jazzy rock. Once again it’s an enjoyable enough set, though once again the material is competent rather than exceptional. GRADE: C+.

Knifeworld (UK): Bottled Out Of Eden (InsideOut 88985306392, CD, with digipak and booklet, Germany, 2016)
Rock/Jazz/Progressive
Melanie Woods (occasional vocals, percussion), Chloë Herrington (saxophone, bassoon, backing vocals)
Knifeworld have been widely acclaimed by progressive and psychedelic fans, but for the most part their music leaves me cold. Comparing them to Chloë Herrington’s other band Chrome Hoof indicates why: whereas Chrome Hoof have an anything-goes sensibility that can take their music anywhere (often to spectacular heights, though they’ve had some notable failures too), Knifeworld are at heart a straightforward rock band who bolt jazzy elements and occasional Canterbury and RIO references onto straightforward songs that impress mildly with their craft but never with their melodies. GRADE: C+.
See also Chrome Hoof

Knödel (Austria): Verkochte Tiroler (Rec Rec Music ReCDec 34, CD, with digipak, Switzerland, 1993)
Folk/Jazz/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Alexandra Pedarnig (joint lead vocals, bass, dulcimer), Cathi Aglibut (joint lead vocals, violin, viola), Julia Feigl (joint lead vocals, violin, Alpine horn), Margreth Köll (harp)
Refracting traditional Alpine music through an RIO prism (or quite possibly the reverse), these Austrian oddballs offer twelve short slices of playful yet never zany, dainty yet not throwaway, mainly instrumental chamber music. It’s difficult to find comparisons: maybe Julverne if they were influenced by folk rather than classical music, but even then there’s not much resemblance. There are also hints of the chintzy style of various French post-punk avant-prog bands, though this is rarely discordant and never particularly weird; simply a collection of amusing little vignettes that come and go in a very pleasant 35 minutes. GRADE: B–.
Knödel (Austria): Die Noodle! (Rec Rec Music ReCDec 64, CD, Switzerland, 1995)
Folk/Jazz/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Cathi Aglibut (joint lead vocals, violin, viola), Julia Fiegl (joint lead vocals, violin), Alexandra Pedarnig (bass, dulcimer), Margreth Köll (harp)
Their second album is a bit more sombre and less whimsical than its predecessor, making clear the classical elements underpinning their sound (hardly surprising, since most of the musicians pursued parallel recording careers in classical music). There are also three actual songs, with the standout being the beautiful, haunting ballad ‘Dschungellied’, performed to what sounds like a backdrop of running water.

GRADE: B–.

Knödel (Austria): Panorama (Rec Rec Music ReCDec 74, CD, Switzerland, with poster booklet, 1995)
Jazz/Folk/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Alexandra Pedarnig (joint lead vocals, contrabass, dulcimer), Cathi Aglibut (joint lead vocals, violin, viola), Julia Fiegl (joint lead vocals, violin,

Alpine horn), Margreth Köll (harp)
Panorama lives up to its name by offering a more widescreen take on the band’s unusual sound, with stronger ethnic and classical elements taking them close to Julverne. In parts, it’s still quite odd and austere, with the Brechtian touches typical of RIO, but for the most part this is intricate, challenging easy listening (if such a term can be used). GRADE: B–.
Knödel (Austria): Original Soundtrack – Der Unfisch (Geco Tonwaren H013, CD, 1997)
Jazz/Folk/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Alexandra Pedarnig (contrabass, dulcimer), Julia Fiegl (violin, Alpine horn), Cathi Aglibut (viola), Margreth Köll (harp)
As the title suggests, this is a film soundtrack, mixing quite a number of short instrumental pieces from Die Knödel with a few contributions from other musicians, including the unfortunately named Thomas Wanker. Whilst the band’s music naturally lends itself to this sort of thing, this procession of short snippets – 31 tracks in all, with quite a few around the one-minute mark – doesn’t really bring out the best aspects of their work. GRADE: C+.

Knödel With Jeannette d’Armand, Jenn Brandon, William Dean & Amy Denio (Austria/USA/France): Non Lo So, Polo (Make Up make 5, CD, Switzerland, 1999)
Classical/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Amy Denio (joint lead vocals, accordion), Jeannette d’Armand (joint lead vocals), Jenn Brandon (joint lead vocals), Julia Fiegl (occassional vocals, violin, Alpine horn), Cathi Aglibut (occasional vocals, viola), Alexandra Pedarnig (contrabass, dulcimer)
The band’s fifth and final album is somewhat different for two reasons: first, everything is composed by American RIO musician Amy Denio, and secondly this is almost entirely song-based, being a chamber opera (the term ‘rock opera’ really doesn’t fit here). The results work effectively, sometimes resembling a chamber music twist on the most melodic end of Henry Cow or the Art Bears, with the delicate and dainty instrumentation effectively supporting the quasi-classical vocals. GRADE: B–.

Knoedel (Austria): Still (Col Legno WWE 1CD 20446, CD, 2019)
Classical/Folk/Progressive
Alexandra Dienz (contrabass), Cathi Aglibut (violin), Margreth Köll (harp)
The band’s first album in 20 years, issued to mark the death of founder Christoph Dienz, takes them much closer to neoclassical chamber music than earlier releases. The whimsy that characterised them in their earlier days is almost entirely absent, moving this closer to the sound of bands like Flairck; the results are delicate, beautiful and haunting. Herr Dienz would have been proud. GRADE: B–.

Krysia Kocjan (UK): Krysia (RCA LPL1 5052, with insert, 1974)
Singer/Songwriter
Krysia Kocjan (lead vocals, guitar)
Mirroring Sandy Denny’s transition from The North Star Grassman And The Ravens through to Like An Old-Fashioned Waltz, the former Natural Acoustic Band singer/songwriter adds an adult contemporary sheen to her folky tunes, with influences from faux-rural to faux-ragtime. With most of Fairport Convention backing and Del Newman producing, it’s impeccably done, but it was the naïve sense of innocence that made Natural Acoustic Band so charming, and this is as far removed from naïveté as one can get. GRADE: C.
See also Natural Acoustic Band

Koenjihyakkei (Japan): Hundred Sights Of Koenji (God Mountain GMCD 012, CD, with obi, 1994)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Aki Kubota (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
On this amazing debut, Koenjihyakkei take the most bombastic end of mid-seventies Magma, cross it with the wild avant-garde stylings of JA Seazer, and crank the energy level up further notches. The end result is a sizzling procession of manic zeuhl grooves that may be too relentless for some ears but continually astounds with its sheer ferocity and intensity. GRADE: B.
Koenjihyakkei (Japan): Viva! Koenji! (God Mountain GMCD-027, CD, with obi, 1998)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Aki Kubota (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
With their second album, the limitations of their style begin to become obvious. Much of this sounds like the most hyperactive sections from Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh played at 78rpm, with manic Japanese bellowing and screaming over the top; exhilarating for a track at a time but fairly exhausting over the space of nearly an hour. As the title suggests, this was apparently recorded live, but it certainly doesn’t sound it and nothing is duplicated from their first LP. GRADE: B–.
Koenjihyakkei (Japan): Nivraym (Magaibutsu MGC-18, CD, 2000)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Nami Sagara (joint lead vocals)
Largely replacing the bludgeoning approach of the previous album, this is a subtler (though still very powerful and bombastic) work with a more avant-garde feel. Classical soprano vocals considerably heighten the weirdness, whilst the music pulls in a number of different directions whilst remaining firmly zeuhl. As far from easy listening as can be imagined, this is a genuinely exciting and creative LP.

GRADE: B.
Koenjihyakkei (Japan): Live At Star Pine’s Café (Magaibutsu MGDV-01, DVD, 2002)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Aki Kubota (joint lead vocals), Nami Sagara (joint lead vocals)
This is as basic as DVDs get, being shot with a single fixed camera, and the performance is an unspectacular as it gets – the back stand stock still on a tightly packed stage and simply play. But the playing is nothing short of amazing, creating an astounding gig. In many ways, it’s incredible that they could play this stuff live at all. GRADE: B.
Koenjihyakkei (Japan): Angherr Shisspa (Skin Graft GR78CD, CD, USA, 2005)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Kyoko Yamamoto (principal vocals), Miyako Kanazawa (occasional vocals, keyboards), Keiko Komori (reeds, backing vocals)
This is once again a wide-ranging disc, starting out like late seventies or early eighties Magma before moving through free jazz and neoclassical sections and even incorporating a diversion into African music. In the wrong frame of mind, one could regard this as a self-conscious collection of weirdnesses rather than a coherent album, but it mostly hangs together surprisingly well. GRADE: B.
Koenjihyakkei (Japan): Live At Doors (Magaibutsu MGDV-03, DVD, with gatefold minisleeve and obi, 2006)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Kyoko Yamamoto (joint lead vocals, tambourine), Miyako Kanazawa (occasional vocals, keyboards), Keiko Komori (saxophone, clarinet, backing vocals)
Much more professionally filmed than its predecessor, this shows the band turning in a truly exceptional performance on a larger stage. With a different line-up, the sound is much more strongly infuenced by free jazz, sometimes sounding a deranged Nippon Gong at 78rpm. In small doses, it’s truly breathtaking, but whilst the quality never drops the DVD becomes a little dizzying by the end due to the relentless weirdness and constant manic energy. GRADE: B.
Koenjihyakkei (Japan): 070531 (Magaibutsu MGDV-04, DVD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2008)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Keiko Komori (saxophone, clarinet)
The first half of this fascinating DVD focuses on the free jazz side of the band’s repertoire, with improvisations for different combinations of the instrumentalists. The second half shows the full band in zeuhl mode, creating some fascinating weird and extreme grooves. In addition to Keiko Komori, the set features an uncredited female joint lead vocalist, whom I assumed to be Kyoko Yamamaoto or possibly her replacement AH. GRADE: B.
Koenjihyakkei (Japan): Live At Koenji High (Skin Graft GR104DVD, DVDR, 2011)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
AH (joint lead vocals), Keiko Komori (saxophone)
The band’s fourth(!) live DVD is well up to their usual standard, featuring some astonishingly frenetic zeuhl and borderline free jazz. Over the course of more than an hour, their energy never lets up and the musicianship is frequently breathtaking. GRADE: B.

Koenjihyakkei (Japan): Dhorimivishka (Skin Graft GR128CD, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, USA, 2018)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
AH (principal vocals), Keiko Komori (saxophone, clarinet)
Whilst the aggressive mastering does the music few favours, there’s no denying the quality of the performances here: Koenjihyakkei are past masters of furiously intense and inventive zeuhl, and once again they really deliver the goods. A double vinyl version was also issued, with a bonus track, but it’s merely an alternate version of one of the songs. GRADE: B–.
See also Bondage Fruit, Ruins

Koinoinia (USA): Latter Rain (Trinity Chapel LPS-1002, 1972)
Folk/Rock
Sue Schlepp (joint lead vocals), Mary Cumpston (joint lead vocals, guitar), Peggy Murphy (joint lead vocals, guitar), Wendy Mueller (flute)
This is exactly the kind of rare, expensive record that could sharply divide opinion. I love its sunny, naïve Christian folk and folk/rock vibes (peaking on exquisite cuts like ‘Compliments Of God’ and ‘Possess The Lord’) but I could imagine many listeners finding it annoying. By any standard, it’s at the top of its genre and definitely worth obtaining by anyone who likes the style. GRADE: C+.

Kompendium (UK): Beneath The Waves (Tigermoth TMRCD102, CD plus DVD, with book sleeve, 2012)
Progressive
Angharad Brinn (occasional vocals), Shan Cothi (occasional vocals)
This project by Magenta’s Rob Reed builds on that band’s sound but takes it into epic dimensions, with classical choirs, uileann pipes and an impressive cast of musicians including Steve Hackett, Francis Dunnery, Nick Beggs, BJ Cole, Mel Collins and Troy Donockley. However, under all the bombast it’s merely competent neoprogressive, with nothing much in the way of excitement. The accompanying DVD features a surround sound mix, some 'making of' footage and several promotional videos. GRADE: C+.

Kompendium (UK): Elements (Tigermoth TMRSE113, double CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2012)
Progressive
Angharad Brinn, Shan Cothi
This odd companion release to Beneath The Waves features isolated tracks, outtakes, remixes and other snippets on the first disc and an instrumental mix of the album on the second. Although the first CD is inevitably quite fragmentary, this is ironically better than the album proper – without all the vocals and lyrics, the musical score is revealed to be impressively varied and richly instrumented, at its best sounding like an orchestrated Pink Floyd. It’s far and away the best thing Rob Reed has ever done. GRADE: B–.

Kong (Holland): Earmined (Roadrunner RR 8812-2, CD, 1997)
Metal/Progressive
Marieke Verdonk (guitar)
This was Kong’s fourth album, but their first with a female musician in the line-up. It’s an interesting instrumental metal venture, venture far beyond heavy riffing with influences from jazz, dub, dance music and more. The result is an interesting and highly creative album containing some fine moments. GRADE: B–.
Kong (Holland): Freakcontrol (Roadrunner RR 8652-2, CD, 1999)
Dance/Metal/Progressive
Marieke Verdonk (guitar)
Whilst there’s still lots of heavy riffing, this album takes them much closer to dance music, with plenty of synthesisers and samples. Indeed, it often sounds like a much heavier Astralasia. There are plenty of intriguing ideas here, and a fair bit of variety too, but a few of the tracks are too simplistic and repetitious for their own good, as with a lot of techno sounds. GRADE: B–.
Kong (Holland): What It Seems Is What You Get (KonGenial KGM101, CD, 2009)
Metal
Mandy Hopman (drums)
This reunion effort is in some ways more satisfying than Freakcontrol, as it sensibly drops all the dance elements. Unfortunately, it also drops most of the experimentation and complexity, resulting in a straightforward instrumental metal set that’s powerful and dynamic but eventually a little one-dimensional. GRADE: C+.
Kong (Holland): Merchants Of Air (KonGenial KGR102, CD, with digipak, 2012)
Metal/Progressive
Mandy Hopman (drums)
Whilst firmly rooted in metal like its predecessor, this is a little more varied and interesting, making it something of a return to form.

GRADE: B–.

Kong Lavring (Norway): Kong Lavring (NorDisc NORLP 301, 1977)
Folk/Rock
Liv Nelle Solberg (joint lead vocals, melodica)
Formed by Jørn Jensen after leaving Folque and in parallel with his other band Folk & Rackare, Kong Lavring offered lovely electric folk in a style similar to Folque. Musically, the disc combines chunky guitar work and a lively rhythm section with some mediaeval instrumentation to generally great effect. Along with Folque themselves, Deirdre, Malicorne and Ougenweide, this is some of the best folk/rock of the late seventies. GRADE: B.
Kong Lavring (Norway): Den 2 Den (NorDisc NORLP 319, 1978)
Folk/Rock
Marit Jordbraek (joint lead vocals), Tone Halling (keyboards, backing vocals)
Recorded with an almost entirely different line-up (with Jensen having dropped out to focus on Folk & Rackare), this is one of the rarest Norwegian LPs. Opinions differ as to which Kong Lavring album is superior; I prefer their debut, but this is still a very enjoyable electric folk set. GRADE: B–.

Kontakt (Sweden): Kontakt (Glädje GLP-7303, 1973?)
Folk/Rock
Gunbritt Brask (joint lead vocals), Lili Dahlgren (joint lead vocals), Sonia Hansson (joint lead vocals), Agneta Hilmersson (joint lead vocals), Ingegerd Åhman (joint lead vocals)
This Christian folk/rock album is as saccharine-sweet as you would expect from the genre, and from the beatific, faintly ‘Stepford Wives’-like band photos on the back cover. Nonetheless, it’s frequently quite lovely, with some excellent harmonies, 

Konkrete Kantikle (USA): Konkrete Kantikle (Ventricle CD 13, CD, 2000)
Avant-Garde/Ambient/Industrial
Linda Suzanne (joint lead vocals), Kelly Thistle (organ), St Astatine (metal)
Another twist on the familiar Ventricle sound, this time using organ rather than Mellotron and adding metal percussion and electronic treatments to create a highly experimental set. As the title suggests, this has elements of musique concrète and lots of other musical references, resulting in an album that’s decidedly interesting but (like just about everything on the label) decidedly inconsequential.

GRADE: C+.

Kontraburger (Poland): Kontraburger (Ars Mundi AMS 032R, CD, 2002)
Folk/Rock
Magdalena Górska (joint lead vocals, guitar), Małgorzata Madejska (joint lead vocals), Sylwia Świątkowska (violin, flute, backing vocals), Małgorzata Litwinowicz (flute, backing vocals)
The music here – played almost entirely on acoustic instruments – blends different folk traditions in fascinating way. There’s a fair amount of Eastern European trad here, despite all-original compositions, with a definite gypsy influence, but they also add a smattering of jazz, quasi-mediaeval edges and some Malicorne-like fusion elements, wrapping everything up with a slyly funky base that gives their songs real propulsion. The result is a fascinating, intricate and virtuosic album, bolstered by a superb recording. GRADE: B–.

Kool-s (Canada/Greece): Ta Leme (Lyra 4724, 1993)
Pop
Ariadne Mackinnon-Andrew (joint lead vocals, programming), Dimitra Poulou (joint lead vocals)
As I expected, this is quirky pop, hinting towards artists like Theo Scherman or to a much lesser extent Lene Lovich or Nina Hagen. It’s all inoffensive enough, with catchy hooks and decent, if rather thin, arrangements, but I can’t imagine it figuring among anyone’s favourite albums of the nineties – let alone all time. GRADE: C+.
See also Ariadne Mackinnon-Andrew, You Guys

Anders Koppel (Denmark): Morels Opfindelse (Olufsen DOC 5096, 1989)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Ulla Koppel (lead vocals)
Koppel had previously been a member of Savage Rose in the late sixties and early seventies, but this is very different to most of their work. Building on the folky, neoclassical sound of the Dødens Triumf LP and adding in some dark avant-garde edges recalling Art Zoyd, this is a mostly instrumental score for a modern ballad performed by Koppel on keyboards and programmed drums, with wife (I presume) Ulla contributing wordless soprano vocals. With a number of shorter tracks, the disc can be a little disjointed, but at it’s best it is often excellent and very atmospheric. GRADE: C+.

Korova (Austria): Dead Like An Angel (Napalm NPR047, CD, 1998)
Metal/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Martina Hornbacher (joint lead vocals), Susanne Eckbauer (organ, Theremin)
This avant-garde black metal album is all over the place, from pummelling riffs to atmospheric keyboards, snatches of sound effects and passages of sampled church music. With lots of electronics, a mixture of clean, blackened and soprano vocals and even a few folky touches, it’s completely unpredictable and sometimes borderline incoherent, but there’s plenty of interesting stuff here. GRADE: B–.
See also Alas, Dreams Of Sanity, Therion, Underhill

Kosmogon (Sweden): Mässan (Tonbad Gramofon TONBADLP1, 2021)
Progressive/New Age
Sophie Linder (keyboards)
This duo of keyboardists – the other half being Nicklas Barker – sound nothing like Barker’s better-known project Anekdoten. Instead, this is Krautrock-influenced electronic music: two vast cosmic suites bridging prog and new age and calling to mind early Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh’s “Aguirre”. This kind of music can be too minimalist for my ears, but this is superb stuff, with both tracks featuring great melodies and showing real progression and development over their 20+ minute running times. GRADE: B–.

Kosmos (Finland): Tarinoita Voimasta (Kosmos 001, CD, with booklet, 2005)
Progressive/Folk/Rock
Päiví Kylmänen (lead vocals)
Offering beautiful folky sympho-prog, this contains some stunning passages, with Mellotron, flute and Päiví Kylmänen’s gentle vocals well to the fore. If it has a failing, there is nothing very original here, and some of the material drifts by pleasantly without making any great impression. GRADE: B–.
Kosmos (Finland): Polku (Kosmos 002, CD, 2007)
Progressive/Folk/Rock
Päiví Kylmänen (lead vocals)
The childlike folk song that opens the album is rather underwhelming, but at least it’s short (although repeated at the end). But overall this is a huge step forward, with the band creating its own sound: folkier, dreamier and more psychedelic, with lots of ethnic elements. Much of the music here is simply exquisite, and aside from the intro and outro a high standard is maintained throughout. GRADE: B.
Kosmos (Finland): Vieraaan Taivaan Alla (Kosmos 003, CD, 2009)
Progressive/Psychedelic/Folk/Rock
Päiví Kylmänen (principal vocals)
Once again, the superb Mellotron textures are the defining feature, and the album is quite experimental and adventurous, becoming increasingly weird and disturbing as it progresses. But whilst impressive, it’s less consistent than its predecessor, with several short, beautiful but quite conventional folk songs scattered among the more dramatic pieces. GRADE: B–.
Kosmos (Finland): Salattu Maailma (Kosmos 004, CD, with poster booklet and sticker, 2013)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Päiví Kylmänen (principal vocals)
After their majestic earlier work, this is a surprisingly straight album of folk music with mixed acoustic and electric backing. For certain, it’s beautiful, haunting and excellently crafted, but – the trippy ‘Uni’ aside – there’s no sense of pushing any boundaries and the progressive and experimental elements (not to mention the Mellotron) are much scaled back. Overall, it’s something of a disappointment, though certainly a very listenable and worthwhile disappointment. GRADE: B–.

Kosmos (Finland): Ajan Pelli (Kosmos 005, CDR, with booklet, 2019)
Progressive/Psychedelic/Folk/Rock
Päivi Kylmänen (principal vocals)
In what seems to be a recurring theme with Kosmos, Ajan Pelli is wonderfully atmospheric, superbly textured, subtly psychedelic – and a bit inconsequential. The first six tracks, lovely as they are, drift by without much happening but things pick up towards the end – ‘’Jatkuvuus’ is far weirder and trippier than anything preceding it whilst they really demonstrate what they can do on the sole extended number, the 12-minute ‘Minä Olen’. As such, whilst the running order is impeccable, this is a slightly frustrating LP: it’s likely to figure among my favourites of 2019 but the last two cuts indicate they could have made a truly stellar album with a little more ambition. GRADE: B–.

Kotebel (Spain/Venezuela): Structures (Tritono MCCD 016, CD, Spain, 1999)
Progressive
Adriana Nathalie Plaza Engelke (tambourine)
At this stage, Kotebel was essentially the solo project of Venezuelan keyboardist Carlos Plaza Vegas (who also contributes bass and drums here). The liner notes make much of his background in classical music, but this sounds indistinguishable from numerous other keyboard-based sympho-prog albums. Like many one-man projects, it suffers from a rather thin sound and crude programmed percussion, and occasionally the tempo changes are not well handled, but there is some solid material here. Adriana Nathalie Plaza Engelke, who along with a couple of other contributors would go on to become an important band member, is not heavily featured, merely contributing tambourine to one cut. GRADE: C.
Kotebel (Spain/Venezuela): Mysticae Visiones (Muséa FGBG 4402.AR, CD, France, 2001)
Progressive
Carolina Prieto (lead vocals)
Expanding to a full band, Kotebel offer a much more impressive second album comprising two long suites: the 36-minute ‘Mysticae Visiones’ itself and the 15-minute ‘The River’. Both pieces are well constructed and excellently played, although a little light on truly great melodies; the only other significant drawback is some of the rather cheesy synthesiser leads, which add an unwelcome neoprogressive edge.

GRADE: C+.
Kotebel (Spain/Venezuela): Fragments Of Light (Muséa FGBG 4509.AR, CD, France, 2003)
Progressive
Carolina Prieto (joint lead vocals)
Album number three is a further step up, with some excellent passages of intense King Crimson-like prog. But once again, not everything works well: the cheesy synth leads put in an occasional appearance, whilst the male vocals on ‘Fuego’ are little short of dreadful. With some judicious editing, this could have been a far more impressive disc. GRADE: C+.
Kotebel (Spain/Venezuela): Omphalos (Muséa FGBG 4652.AR, CD, France, 2006)
Progressive
Carolina Prieto (lead vocals), Adriana Nathalie Plaza Engelke (keyboards)
Without the tasteless lapses of its predecessor, this is a substantial album of complex symphonic progressive, ranging from heavy King Crimson-like passages to more relaxed moments with folky or classical edges. Despite some excellent playing, some of the music is unnecessarily choppy and messy (notably the instrumental ‘Excellent Meat’), confirming that the band’s writing talents did not really match their ambitions. Nonetheless, there is plenty to enjoy here. GRADE: B–.
Kotebel (Spain/Venezuela): Ouroboros (Muséa FGBG 4798, CD, with digipak, 2009)
Progressive
Carolina Prieto (occasional vocals), Adriana Nathalie Plaza Engelke (keyboards)
The decision to go entirely instrumental – only the bonus live version of ‘Mysticae Visiones’ features former vocalist Carolina Prieto – was a good one, as this is easily Kotebel’s finest album to date. As with their earlier LPs, it’s a bit messy, but it’s also very intense and well assembled, with no songs to distract from the powerful riffs and hooks. GRADE: B–.
Kotebel (Spain/Venezuela): Concerto For Piano And Electric Ensemble (Muséa FGBG 4874, CD plus DVD, with digipak, France, 2012)
Progressive
Adriana Nathalie Plaza Engelke (piano)
After a number of patchy albums, Kotebel really hit their stride with this excellent instrumental LP. Not as messy or as disjointed as usual, it’s a fine record that carefully balances atmosphere and complexity – with a few more killer tunes and riffs, it would have been a true classic. The bonus ‘making of’ DVD (a remarkably flimsy disc, billed as an ‘EcoDisc’) isn’t a documentary, but footage of the band playing the main suite in the studio. GRADE: B–.

Kotebel (Spain/Venezuela): Live At Prog-Résiste 2013 (Muséa FGBG 4968, double CD, with digipak and booklet, France, 2016)
Progressive
Carolina Prieto (occasional vocals), Adriana Nathalie Plaza Engelka (keyboards)
Kotebel’s first live album was originally released as a download in 2014; this limited edition version was remastered and featured two bonus tracks (one of which features former member Carolina Prieto on vocals). The band demonstrates considerable prowess and dynamism on stage, though the lack of variety in their keyboard-led instrumental music becomes obvious over the 83-minute set; I actually prefer the bonus numbers, comprising one folky piece and an incendiary instrumental. GRADE: B–.

Kotebel (Spain/Venezuela): Cosmology (Muséa FGBG 4986, CD, with digipak, 2017)
Progressive
Adriana Nathalie Plaza Engelke (keyboards)
Whilst Kotebel show little-to-no artistic development from one album to the next, there’s no denying that their instrumental music – vaguely jazzy, mildly neoclassical, always dynamic, frequently mellow – is impressive. Cosmology represents another fine addition to their discography, and is definitely worth hearing by anybody who can’t get enough of their style. GRADE: B–.

Win Kowa (Germany): Discovery Drive (Innovative Communication IC 720.153, CD, 1992)
Rock/Progressive
Jennifer Kowa (lead vocals, bass, piano)
This new venture by Win and Jennifer Kowa is decidedly better than Octopus’s Rubber Angel, not to mention their underwhelming mini-album as the Radio. Mostly instrumental, this offers nice chunky guitar work (as the liner notes correctly state, Win Kowa is clearly a huge fan of Dave Gilmour), mid-paced rhythms and a mellow mood; I just wish they’d used a live drummer instead of a drum machine. GRADE: C+.
Win Kowa (Germany): Touchdown (Innovative Communication IC 2207-2, CD, 1993)
Rock/Progressive
Jennifer Kowa (lead vocals, bass)
The first thing that strikes you about Win Kowa’s second album is the superb recording – even the drum machine (though live drums are used in parts) doesn’t detract. Musically, this is in the same vein as his first, aiming to ‘recreate the day of an American football player on game day’. Once again, it offers chunky rock instrumentals with a vague Pink Floyd edge – not particularly original or exploratory, but thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying. GRADE: C+.
Win Kowa (Germany): Imagination (Innovative Communication IC 2251-2, CD, 1995)
Rock/Progressive
Jennifer Kowa (lead vocals, bass)
Album number three is somewhat softer, with an emphasis on sparse synthesiser lines rather than power chords. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of guitar, mostly playing elegant Dave Gilmour-esque lead lines, creating a stately and mellow mood.GRADE: C+.
Kowa (Germany): African Moments (Innovative Communication 87 2276-2, CD, 1996)
Rock/Progressive
Jennifer Kowa (lead vocals, bass, piano)
For their fourth album, Kowa became a three-piece band with a live drummer; as the title suggests, African musicians apparently guest on the album but their contributions appear fairly sparse. Instead this offers their usual elegant mid-paced rock, mixing five instrumentals with three songs. GRADE: C+.
Kowa (Germany): Nippon Moments (Innovative Communication 87 2288-2, CD, 1996)
Rock/Progressive
Jennifer Kowa (bass, piano)
Kowa think they’re turning Japanese, but despite the presence of a shakuhachi player this doesn’t sound much like traditional Nippon music. It does, however, sound much like their last couple of albums, though it’s a slight diversion inasmuch as it’s completely instrumental. 

GRADE: C+.
Kowa (Germany): American Moments (Innovative Communication 87 2337-2, CD, 2000)
Rock/Progressive
Jennifer Kowa (joint lead vocals, bass)
If you imagine this marks a return to their original more rock-oriented style, think again: the ‘American’ in the title refers to Native Americans rather than to contemporary US culture. If anything, this is more ethnic than the two previous volumes, with a real Native American intoning solemnly here and there (creating an almost Krautrock atmosphere, which is unusual for Kowa), though overall it’s not dissimilar to their last few albums. GRADE: C+.

Kowa (Germany): Gemini (Rouge RR - 612007, black CD, 2007)
Rock/Progressive
Jennifer Kowa (lead vocals, bass)
This is a bit mellower than their earlier work, a touch more electronic, and a shade less ambitious. It’s still pleasant enough, though some of the themes sound familiar, confirming the impression that they’ve begun to repeat themselves. GRADE: C+.
Kowa (Germany): Times Of Television (Rouge, CD, 2009)
Rock/Progressive
Jennifer Kowa (lead vocals, bass, piano)
A number of the pieces here appeared on earlier albums, though others are unfamiliar; I am unclear whether everything has been re-recorded or this is partially a compilation of remixes. In any case, this mostly marks a return to their more rock-oriented original style, with some nicely majestic moments. GRADE: C+.
Kowa (Germany): Scoring Tools (Rouge RR - 612008, black CD, 2008, recorded 1997-2008)
Rock/Progressive
Jennifer Kowa (lead vocals, bass, drums)
Once again, this isn’t an entirely new album, instead compiling unreleased recordings with remixed numbers from Nippon Moments and American Moments. It’s all nice enough, offering a good cross-section of material, but isn’t it about time Kowa came up with something new? GRADE: C+.

Jennifer Kowa (Germany): Slow Down (Rouge LC 9814, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2018)
Blues/Rock
Jennifer Kowa (lead vocals, bass)
Jennifer Kowa’s solo debut is quite different from her joint projects with husband Win (who co-writes everything and plays guitars and keyboards). This is song-based rock with bluesy and jazzy edges: slow, spare and beautifully recorded, effectively topped with Kowa’s sultry vocals. For sure, there’s nothing here you won’t have heard before, but this is nonetheless a charming and unassuming album. GRADE: C+.

See also Octopus, Radio