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Author Archives: paulms

About paulms

My name is Paul Shapera, a musician working under the name Mocha Lab. I make albums, theater shows, videos, dance pieces, commercials and move around a lot.

Is Elle King’s America’s Sweetheart The Perfect Pop Song?

I’m just going to go ahead and answer: Hell yes. Yes it is.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Meanwhile, In Bayreuth, Germany, Their Production Of Dolls (July 21-23) Is Looking Damn Fine

Dolls Of New Albion in Bayreuth, Germany 2017

I am seriously impressed with what they’re doing over in Bayeuth for the upcoming run of Dolls in late July. You should check out their Facebook page to keep up with the great videos and clips they’ve got.

Here’s a clip of a rehearsal for Faye Considers

 

And a clip about building Jasper

 

And a couple lovely little scenes from the general rehearsals

 

I don’t think i can worm my way out of an end of July commitment i have, but i tell you, this is a performance of Dolls i would go and see and in fact REALLY want to. If i can, i’m going.

Dolls Of New Albion in Bayreuth, Germany 2017

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Neal Morse Band: Similitude of a Dream

Neal Morse Similitude Of A Dream

Every few months on Facebook, when i run out of albums, i ask for recommendations. This last young i got a bunch that i bought, including the very awesome Ghost Quartet, but we’re here to day to discuss the recently released prog rock epic Similitude of a Dream by the Neal Morse Band.

I should state at the outset that i’m having a shockingly good time listening to this album. Like, really, really enjoying it. The reason that’s surprising is twofold:

  1. I know Neal Morse from a number of places, most notably Spock’s Beard. But here’s the thing, (and what i’m about to say is considered heresy in some circles) i like Spock’s Beard better after he left. X is an awesome album, awesome, and none of the albums he headed thrill me like that. A huge reason is frankly, lyrics and vocals.I love Neal’s harmonies, but his vocals don’t really do it for me. I could look past that (i used to be obsessed with Phish for heaven’s sake. Trust me, looking past the vocals is an art i am ninja level skilled in), but the lyrics… sad to say his lyrics are not my cup of tea. They’re earnest, they are discussing deeper topics, and yet they completely rub me the wrong way. In an over earnest Kansas kind of way. I don’t want to go into too much complaining, but it’s been a deal breaker for me. I have turned several of Spock’s Beard albums off because the lyrics just annoyed me to no end.
  2.  This is a very Christian, and i mean evangelical Christian album. Not soul filled gospel goodness, this is firmly evangelical Christian. Some friends i used to know would explode with joy over the full out Christianess of this. I am not at all opposed to music that reflects religious beliefs, the issues is that evangelical music is… rarely very good. To be honest. It is always so obsessed with keeping on point of its endlessly regurgitated message that it never reaches to be great art. It’s usually derivative, never artistically visionary or daring, and is only really interested in hammering its belabored point over and over and over again.

And yet here we are with an album i am enjoying tremendously. Its lyrics will never be my favorite, its vocals will never be my favorite but i can forgive them and look past them as well as other issues and flaws because a the end of the day, the sum of the whole utterly transcends these qualms. It is a 90 minutes, fully committed, balls out old school prog concept album that tells a modern update of the first half of The Pilgrim’s Progress. (A classic work of English literature that itself is rooted in heavy handed metaphor.)

Here’s the thing: A big problem with evangelical art is there are few truly great evangelical artists. Here we have Neal Morse, who is a fantastic musician, an amazing composer, and by allowing his band to also contribute, he is able to gather and harness enough material to fill this 90 minutes with an avalanche of incredibly enjoyable music.

His goal here is not to go off on extended prog journey’s into the ethersphere. There is a lot of great instrumental passages, tons, (you cannot have a prog masterpiece without them) but they exist in step with the songs and the story. So no 20 minute flights of fancy, but most songs have wonderful contained middle sections and segues. And it works. The ratio between vocal part of the song and instrumental part of the song is excellent. I never get bored by the instrumentals. (I am surprisingly okay with the vocal sections too, but as said earlier, in the parts where i have some issues, it’s some of the vocals. But i’ve made this point, no need to belabor it.)

The story in a nutshell: In a dream (we couldv’e skipped the dream framing device) a man named Christian decides to leave the City he lives in, the City of Destruction, in pursuit of something “more”. And by more, we more spiritual obviously.  His journey is fraught with trials and many characters who embody spiritual pitfalls.

There you go. Those trials and metaphoric characters could easily be over the top, and even if they are at times, i gotta say, it all works in the context of the prog rock music. I’m telling you, i can’t emphasize this enough, however the parts alone may seem at a glance, the sum of the parts transcends to greatness.

The Neal Morse Band

Drummer Mike Portnoy (you know, Dream Theater, Scenes From a Memory 2, another modern prog rock masterpiece) has been freaking out about this album, calling it THE album of his career, and who am i to argue? I love Scenes From A Memory (as an example) and as far as musical complexity it’s hard to beat, but that album is also turned up to eleven 97% of the time and the never ending onslaught can be a bit much. (For me. I know some Dream Theater fans who will tar and feather me for that comment.) Dynamically this is more satisfying and the songs are catchier. Even songs i start off rolling my eyes at (Breath Of Angels for instance. I audible groan during the first few verses of it) by the end i am, despite myself, smiling and swaying to. And you like odd time signatures? They love 5s and 7s here. Nicely blended too.

I lover (LOVE) the instrumental bits, some of the songs are really catchy, and piecing together the story and metaphors is, frankly, really good fun. The album as a whole is freacking great. It really is. You have to like prog rock Instrumentally it’s not breaking any new ground, it’s not operating in any newer genres, but it is like someone released a classic album you never heard, with surprisingly modern mixing technology.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

New Lullaby Animation: Scarborough Fair, by Charles Dyson

I really like these lullaby songs i’m doing with Charles, Lauren, and Kevin. So here’s the newest animation for one of my favorite of these.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Carnival Album Update

Wow, i am… oddly… WAY ahead of schedule.

As you all know by now, one of my closest, dearest friends in the world hung himself 2 months ago. I flew back after the funeral, went downstairs to my studio, pulled up the Carnival track i had been working on before i got the news, deleted it and began again from scratch. And then… weeks passed. A couple months i think. And the next time i looked up to take stock of what was going on i was… well hell, i had made almost the entire thing. I’m like, a song away from the end.

There’s was bunches of other stuff i’ve been supposed to do, but i’ve ignored it all. All i do is either work on this project or play with my children. There is little else. Those are the only things i give a fuck about. (Obviously my wife too. But since we live out in the boondocks work is a tag team operation. If i am with the kids, she’s working. If she’s with the kids, i’m working.)

This album is…. uhm….  I am making an album that a dead man would like. A dead man who will never hear it. Yet i am making it specifically for him to listen to. Which makes no sense. It is still the 2nd act to Lost Hallow, i am keeping true to the story and the characters, it’s just… i do whatever the fuck i want with the songs. I don’t give a shit if they’re concise. I have music flowing out of me that i can’t contain so i just make whatever instrumental sections i want. Whatever moods strike me. The old style. The shit that Shaun liked.

Hell, Shaun was the one who named Raven. Raven dates back a long time and we had numerous discussions about him when we did the Fallen (and again when we planned to redo The Fallen). I was so excited when he figured out i was pulling Raven back out and excited for him to hear what i had done with him.

I was Morty when i sat down to make this and now i am Rick.

I am however… shit, i’m months ahead of schedule. I mean, i can always spend time editing and fixing stuff up. And it needs a lot of that, no doubt. Even so… i hadn’t expected to be this far along. I need to get my butt in gear to arrange things, like singers and the guitarist i found to do the two solos. (Yes, guitar solos. Because fuck you. I do not give a fuck. I can feel them. I want them. They will be.)

Look, i give everything i have on each and every album i make. Whether you enjoy it or not, i do give everything on every one. It just comes down to what i have to give at that particular time. And this time i…. have a lot.

Thank you to everyone who has sent in auditions. I have a male vocalist, Alex McNamara.  I still do not have the female vocalist, but with Lauren’s help i think i’m zeroing in.

So there. I just have to make the last track, which is really barely even a real song, since the song before that is where the neat end of act stuff happens.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Dolls At The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017, Presented by Thistle N’ Thorn Productions

Dolls Of New Albion presented by Thistle N' Thorn Production

Yes, Dolls will be at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, presented by Thistle N’ Thorn Productions. You can check them out on FB here: https://www.facebook.com/ThistleNThornProductions/ and follow the escapades as the show gears up to go up.

I am debating popping round to see it and maybe some other shows. Perhaps i’ll see you there. If you’re interested in tickets they can be purchased here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/dolls-of-new-albion

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Lullabye: Lavender’s Blue with Gorgeous Animation by Charlie Dyson

I have mostly been hard at work on the carnival, particularly since it gives me catharthis over the death of my close friend. In fact, i would say at this point i am making the Carnival album for him specifically. Not in memory of him, FOR him. What i think he would have liked to hear. And Raven is a character near and dear to his heart. Hell, he named Raven. I mean, the most awesome reveal of my career is in this album and NONE of you will get it, because you’d have to be familiar with my really early work )Justacorp, Shadow & Flames, Caravan, and yeah, the Fallen, which some of you indeed are) to fully get it. In fact, the only person who would really get it and have their mind blown is dead. But… you know. So it goes. There’s plenty of other cool stuff, and there’s another especially awesome reveal that will cause squealing amongst you fine, fine folks. Although i am more concerned with music, and flow and the feelz.

HowEVER, we have another lullabye vid up, with amazing art by Charles Dyson. There’s a couple new songs on the way and soon i’ll compile a full length, ambient spiced lullabye album, which… there’s a thing that it’ll be released around. I have a plan, but we’ll talk about that later.

Here, a lullabye with GORgeous art. Seriously, i love watching this thing.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2017 in Uncategorized