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PBII - Plastic Soup

Plastic Soup is the convincing debut effort by the seasoned musicians that make up PBII, a direct continuation of veteran Dutch act Plackband. Their style of choice is probably best described as Neo-Progressive, but as many other artists exploring this sound in later years their musical canvas covers a somewhat broader territory than what some might associate this genre with. Lush, atmospheric symphonic backdrops and dreamy guitar soloing are central parts of the compositions explored, but spiced with hard and at times driving riffs, energetic soloing as well as mellower passages of a more ambient inspired nature. At times there's also room for textures with more of a psychedelic and space-oriented origin. With the bass guitar given a prominent place in the mix and arrangements that at times remind of Golden Earring, blended with an overall style somewhere in between later day IQ and Porcupine Tree, PBII explore a contemporary variety of the neo progressive subset of the progressive rock universe, and deliver an overall solid effort on this occasion. A well made and well performed debut album overall.

n the 70s and 80s a so-called symphonic rock band was wandering into the Dutch scene under the name Plackband. Labeled as Genesis from The Hague they achieve a reputation and that by itself shows something of course. Unfortunately the band didn’t manage to create the important right album at the right time so the conclusion cam be made that the world and the band missed out on something nice. Plackband folded but reunited in 2000 with new found spirit and that album was made at last with recognition from the prog scene. In 2008 the axe came down and the band quit but now, from the ashes PBII arises as if it was meant to be. It kind of feels like that because their debut album ‘Plastic Soup’ seems to make up for all the lost time of the past; yes it is that great! With a little help from friends such as John Mitchell (Arena, It Bites) and John Jowitt (IQ, Frost*) PBII surprises the hell out of the non-suspecting progger with a very nice album, one that can be used as a map for bands like Day Six. Still harboring the classic symfo sound but with a large dose of modern influences PBII delivers, together with the debut album of Sky Architect, the surprise of the year so far. The sung by Heidi Jo Hines (daughter of Wings musician Denny Laine) ‘It’s Your Life’ is magnificent and so is ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ as ‘Plastic Soup’ actually is known around the World. It is the official name for the plastic pollution in the oceans, it total covering two times the size of the USA! In any way; this album is worth a mandatory check!

PBII started off in the seventies and eighties as the band Blackband. Nickname they earned back then was being called the Dutch-Genesis. While the Genesis link still can be found in the music, PBII sounds a bit heavier now. Other bands that come up in me while listening are Marillion and Porcupine Tree. Again it’s just being influenced by both bands and not copying their sound. Theme of Plastic Soup is the pollution of the environment. At first i was bit afraid this would be overdone and become preaching but thankfully the album never goes that way. They just try to make us aware of the ecologic disaster happening in the Great Pacific while we speak. Hearing the whale sound on “The great pacific garbage” makes the message a bit chilling, as, i guess, it should be.

...Listening to PBII their debut-CD entitled Plastic Soup, I got more and more impressed, what an interesting and often captivating and exciting blend of symphonic rock, rock and progressive pop and it all sounds so well balanced and elaborate. It’s obvious that original Plackband members Ronald Brautigam (guitars), Michel van Wassem (keyboards and vocals) and Tom van der Meulen (drums) have learned from the past, now these experienced and skilled musicians present a very strong musical formula that will appeal to a wide range of progrock lovers without sounding too smooth or too mainstream. The first composition is the mid-long and alternating Book Of Changes (3 parts), what a splendid and exciting music: a strong tension between the exciting bombastic interludes, the compelling climates and the more mellow parts (evoking 67-77 Genesis), Ronald delivers varied guitar work (from propulsive riffs to howling leads) and Michel treats us on a wonderful and lush keyboard sound, from warm piano runs to majestic Mellotron eruptions and fat synthesizer flights. This is backed by a powerful rhythm-section in which newcomer Harry den Hartog gets room to show his skills on the bass guitar. In fact here PBII makes very strong progressive rock!..

...Mr. van Wassem’s more aggressive way of singing needs a different approach. The vocals come along with the distorted guitar sounds played by Ronald Brautigam and the new bassist Harry den Hartog. The latter certainly added a great deal to the new sound of PBII. Good examples of the way he influenced the music can be heard in Ladrillo and Fata Morgana. The first piece is a bass solo accompanied by some string synthesizers. Harry touches the strings as if he’s playing a flamenco guitar. The second piece has an Arabian-like melody played by Harry on his Roland VB-99-synthesizer. This track has also a guest performance of the well-known bass player John Jowitt (IQ, Arena), who needs no further introduction here. Other guest musicians on the album are John Mitchell (Arena, It Bites) who plays some fine guitar parts on Cradle To Cradle, and Heidi Jo Heines. Heidi is the daughter of Denny Laine who played in The Moody Blues and in Wings. She did the lead vocals on the fine ballad It’s Your Life. Another guest on the album is Charles Moore, who discovered the ‘plastic soup’ in the Pacific Ocean. He does some spoken words on the song that probably is the most important track of the album: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This piece deals with the pollution of our planet in general and the oceans in particular featuring all kinds of fantastic sound effects. You can get more detailed information about this subject in the interview with PBII...

...PBII is a new Dutch progressive rock band, although the members have been on the scene for quite some time. The band derives from the band Plackband where 3 of the members - Tom van der Meulen (V-drums), Ronald Brautigam (V-guitars, vocals) and Michel van Wassem (keyboards, vocals) – took part. They have added a bass player Harry den Hartog who also does vocals.The musical style is a mixture of modern progressive rock, neo symphonic rock and a little jazz rock influence. The first album by PBII – “Plastic Soup” takes the music from Plackband to another level...

Dutch review

Dutch progressive rock band PBII is the successor to internationally known Plackband, sometimes known as the Dutch Genesis, which rose to fame in the 70's and 80's. The remaining ex-Plackband members Tom van der Meulen (d), Michel van Wassem (lv,k) and Ronald Brautigam (g, bv) are joined by new bass player Harry den Hartog for their debut Plastic Soup. The album is named for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and PBII hopes to draw attention to this ecological problem through their lyrics. Musically, Plastic Soup finds PBII as progressive as their previous outing, with Brautigam's guitar work and Hartog's bass work shining throughout. Even, the early comparisons to Genesis can be found in certain guitar and synthesizer parts within In the Arms of a Gemini or Fata Morgana. Yet, longtime fans my find PBII to be heavier in parts, certainly noticeable in Book of Changes, Loneliness, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and most certainly on the closing instrumental, Cradle to Cradle...

...Plastic Soup consists of ten tracks, most of which are well over six or seven minutes that fall neatly into the symphonic prog category, but it also has a bit of a rockier edge, perhaps a little closer to something from Pallas with that trademark heavy edge but still grand and epic in scope. The CD kicks off with “Book of Changes” [8:34] a track written with three movements in mind starting off with some crunchy guitar crescendos and accents. There are multiple sections all pieced together very neatly as the song moves from tempo to tempo with some nice Mellotron styled choirs in the background. It’s a classic prog track with ringing trebly bass and lush Mellotron strings providing a great transition about three-quarters of the way through to the compositions final movements and grand finish. Things get a little more direct with track two “In the Arms of a Gemini” [7:02] with it’s driving bass and gravelly guitar riff repeating over and over all the while the keyboards provide the horn accents. The centerpiece of the disc is the four-part track five “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” [12:49] with its ecological focus on how plastic trash is ruining our Oceans. Each part is preceded by spoken word passages which explain the depth of the pollution problem, while each song segment focuses on the appropriate mood and atmosphere. Each of the compositions on Plastic Soup manages to meander through multiple time and tempo changes with the expected changes in dynamics and arrangements making for a listening experience that is never boring...

...PBII has returned to the progressive rock scene and with one giant step placed them amongst the top bands. A new name with a familiar sound with a fresh twist. The music is still very progressive rock and is not a drastic change from After The Battle, they did manage to lift the entire level of their music. The new bass player Harry den Hartog is a good replacement, very good solos and also a lot of groove comes from him. Plastic Soup deals with the problem of pollution but never becomes preachy, only The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is really focused on that topic. The guest performances by IQ's John Jowitt and Arena's John Mitchell make this album a bit more interesting but are not necessary to lift the level of this album, PBII is more than capable of doing that themselves. If two such musicians blend in nicely with the rest of the album this can only mean it must be a good album, highly recommended.

PLACKBAND was a legendary Dutch progband, who wanted to become the Dutch GENESIS, but sadly their records and live performances were just so and so, so they never reached a reasonable level to even come close to become the best Dutch progband ever and due to many line-up changes and long pauses, the band never became that successful, although they definitely had a cult following. Anyway, now in 2010 the band is called PB2 and release their new CD ‘Plastic soup’ on PROGROCK RECORDS. The band now sounds better than ever, finally releasing a real strong Progrockalbum. Maybe not a sensational release, still something worth checking out if you’re a progfan. SPOCK’S BEARD and FROST influences and comparisons are very clear and although that incredible high level is not reached all throughout the CD, I must admit that PB2 is doing a great job here. Vocally it could have been better (or should I say differently), because somehow their singer MICHEL VAN WASSEM does remind me a lot of ALICE COOPER (or the SAVATAGE singer!), so very theatrical and nasal sounding, just a little different than for example PETER GABRIEL, who also sounded theatrical when he was in GENESIS 40 years ago. The music is also nothing like GENESIS in their heydays, because the keyboardsound is taking them straight into pure NEO-PROG heaven a la IQ/PENDRAGON, so after all these years, the GENESIS comparisons should really be put aside now with this new record and I guess that is a good thing, because now PB2 has sorta created an own sound which combines Neo-Prog with more modern complex parts and a vocalist who sounds like ALICE COOPER (only vocally, not musically!). This is a very nice release actually and one to check out if you’re a proghead!

Interview with Ronald