The Madeira Live: Sonic Cataclysm

Artwork by the incomparable Stephen Blickenstaff. Out on June 14th on Double Crown Records.

Artwork by the incomparable Stephen Blickenstaff. Out on June 14th on Double Crown Records.

Forever Still: World Premiere of “The Last Day” New Official Music Video from @ForeverStillDK

The Last Day” is an excellent song from a very promising new group from Denmark:

********** Forever Still **********

You can find the new video at Beneath the Grid Music.

You can also listen to their debut EP Breaking Free at Bandcamp and even download a song for free.

Maja Schønning is a gifted vocalist who pours everything into her stunning performances.

Supported by the careful craft of top-notch musicians, she is clearly someone to watch.

I am very much looking forward to the LP that she has in the works. The EP is superb.

maja

Like Rush meets Jethro Tull – ‘Resistor’ – ‘to the stars’

I’m bordering on Hyperbole, but blimey the new album from ‘Resistor’ – ‘To the Stars’ is an absolute marvel!

To The Stars

To The Stars

Resistor are an American Rockin’ Progressive Rock outfit from Providence, RI with more than just a little touch of Rush.
The new album ‘To The Stars’ has blown me away this week. I can’t tell you how good this is… so why not find out for yourselves?

Jump straight in with track 4 ‘Train to Tucana’ as way to hear them first. Described as Ian Anderson meets Sergio Leonie! Not far off!

Listen free on Progstreaming -

http://www.progstreaming.com/_wb/pages/play-album.php?activeAlbum=00701%20-%20Resistor%20-%20To%20The%20Stars

 

Muse to Start Work on New Album

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According to Mark Kielty of PROG Magazine, Muse is set to start work on their 7th album within the next month.

But the follow-up to 2012′s The 2nd Law isn’t likely to be released until 2015.

Howard tells KROQ: “We’re going to go back in May and start working on some new stuff, so I think we’ll start recording it this year.

“If we can get something out this year that would be great – but definitely next year.

Frontman Matt Bellamy recently said he’d written some “good tracks” for the project and that the trio were aiming to return to a “more basic” sound.

He reported: “We focused on things like synthesizers, drum machines and stuff. On this next album, we’re going to veer back towards musicianship again: guitar, bass and drums. It’s probably going to be a bit of a rawer album, and definitely a bit more rock, I’d say.”

I’m glad they are deciding to steer back towards a more rock sound. It seemed like they were starting to head too far into the pop direction with the 2nd Law. Knowing Muse, the musicianship on the album will be fantastic, as will the ensuing concert. I believe I can safely say that 2015 will be a good year for prog.

Simon Godfrey – Motherland

One of my most exciting musical finds of recent years has been the band ‘Tinyfish’. They have a wonderful Englishness about them, that is reflected in their music and also in the sense of fun and humour that pervades what they do, particularly in their live shows. At the heart of that is their ebullient front-man, Simon Godfrey. Having discovered this brilliant band it came as a great sadness to learn that, following their excellent ‘The Big Red Spark’, there would be a hiatus in the band’s playing and recording together. Thankfully this didn’t mean an end to the music: Godfrey went on to record a kind of ‘techno-prog’ album with Shineback – ‘Rise up Forgotten, Return Destroyed’, and recently he has released his first collection of work under his own name – ‘Motherland’.

Simon Godfrey - Motherland - cover

This is an album of short, simple songs (nothing over six minutes), but strong ones nonetheless: songs that, though simple, display a deceptive complexity. A collection of 11 tracks which total just under 43 minutes, this is song-writing from the heyday of the acoustic troubadours. Although dominated by the acoustic guitar, this collection displays a variety of musical textures accompanied by strong, distinctive and at times quite emotional and emotive vocals. For those familiar with Simon’s earlier work, this collection is, to my ears, more Tinyfish than Shineback.

That said, the album opens with a fresh rendering of a track from the Shineback album, ‘Faultlines’, which for the first minute or so creates an expectation for the album that is soon overturned, with a moody, ambient drone giving way to folky steel guitar. The mood of the songs varies from the thoughtful and slightly melancholic ‘Faultlines’ and the instrumental title track, (with spoken word from Godfrey’s long-time collaborator Robert Ramsay) through the upbeat sequence of ‘Tearing up the Room’, ‘God Help Me If I’m Wrong’ and Tinyfish classic ‘The June Jar’, to the slow, dreamy ballad ‘Sally Won’t Remember’, for me perhaps the most heartfelt song on the album.

From what I have seen and read of Simon Godfrey, he is a man who appears to enjoy life – perhaps more so now that he has secured his visa to enable him to live, work and marry in America; he is one with a great, and at times strange, sense of humour, but who shows here a seriousness and sensitivity alongside his fun side. If this is to be his parting gift to his ‘Motherland’, then it is a fine one.

 

Ian Anderson – Homo Erraticus – New Release

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Ian Anderson’s new album, Homo Erraticus, is out today, according to his website. According to iTunes, it comes out tomorrow. Today, tomorrow, whenever it is, this is a must have album. I have had a chance to listen to it a couple of times over the past few days, and I am thoroughly impressed. Ian Anderson proves, yet again, that he is a master of modern cultural critique. He is not just some old guy playing music. He is clearly aware of the world of today, and he does a masterful job of commenting on it in a humorous way.

I wish I could give you a full review of the album right now, but professors have this strange policy of wanting papers turned in on time. Weird, right? Briefly, the album covers basically all of British history, from Roman times, through today, and predictions for the future. Ian Anderson and company (which is essentially Jethro Tull, just not called that because of the absence of Martin Barre) wonderfully meld together history with cultural critique. I particularly enjoyed the backhanded reference to his son-in-law, who plays the lead role in the hit AMC TV show, Walking Dead.

The line up for the band is the same as it was on Thick as a Brick 2: Ian Anderson (vocals, flute, acoustic guitar), David Goodier (bass), John O’Hara (keyboards and accordion), Florian Opahle (guitar), Scott Hammond (drums), and Ryan O’Donnell (backing vocals). I noticed that they lowered the key of the music, so Ian Anderson sounds a lot better on this album than he did on TAAB2. O’Donnell also provides excellent backing vocals, sometimes singing lead. The instrumentation is amazing, as you would expect from anything produced by Ian Anderson. I am even more astounded by Florian Opahle’s guitar playing. As my friend and fellow progarchist, Connor Mullin, pointed out to me, his style of playing is more akin to King Crimson than it is to Martin Barre. This is not all that surprising considering Opahle toured with Greg Lake before joining Ian Anderson. His playing is simply fantastic.

In the end, Homo Erraticus should certainly be added to any prog rock collection. Ian Anderson has proved that you are never too old to rock and roll.

http://jethrotull.com/ian-andersons-homo-erraticus-now-available-to-pre-order

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/homo-erraticus/id842600703

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ODE TO ECHO: The Confidence of Glass Hammer

[A review of Glass Hammer, ODE TO ECHO (Sound Resources, 2014).  Please excuse any typos.  I composed this on my ipad while waiting for a very, very delayed flight at the Detroit airport.]

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For Glass Hammer, ODE TO ECHO means two things. First, and vitally, it’s a reference to a story of antiquity by Heroicus and dealing with the greatest of warriors, Achilles. Second, it’s a tribute to two decades of success as a band.

In every way, this album is packed with brilliance, beauty, and treats around every corner.

One of the most noticeable features of Glass Hammer’s latest, ODE TO ECHO, is its sheer diversity of styles and moods. Having four lead vocalists and three backup ones adds significantly to this, and it provides a wonderful listening experience. Over the course of eight songs, Babb and Schendel provide a journey into the fantastic and mythic. One could never find a dull moment here, even if one tried.

The second most noticeable aspect of the album is its self-assuredness. Progging since the early 1990s and rocking since the early 1980s, Babb and Schendel have every right to be confident. Creating Glass Hammer, a project that has always been self supporting, self sustaining, and impressively profitable, has proven significant not only for the history of American rock but, critically, for third-wave prog overall. These two geniuses emerged on the prog scene at the moment the genre was, almost certainly, at its nadir of popularity and influence. Through immense and never faltering talent, entrepreneurial initiative, and intense tenacity, Glass Hammer has reshaped much of the genre over the past two decades.

In almost every way, ODE TO ECHO, is a tribute and—musically—an autobiographical statement.

A third aspect of the album, and intimately connected to the second aspect, is Glass Hammer’s willingness to innovate as well as to borrow. Many reviewers have criticized the band for being too Yes-like. Babb and Schendel are nothing if not feisty, and such criticisms only fuel their desire to do whatever they want. If they want to reference Yes, they do so. If they want to reference Genesis, they do this as well. If they simply want to try something new, they do this, too! It’s endearing, frankly, contrarian, and very American. Hence, at a few points, this album references Yes from Going for the One as well as Yes from Magnification. At other points, it references Kansas (having David Ragsdale as a guest musician doesn’t hurt!). The Beatles creep in at points, too. Mostly, though, the album reveals the love Babb and Schendel bring to the art of music.

Frankly, I’m relieved Glass Hammer followed up their masterpiece, PERILOUS, with ODE TO ECHO. PERILOUS was so good and so mysterious as well as so profoundly moving that it would be most difficult for any band to follow. By moving away from a single story and embracing diversity of vocals and music styles, Babb and Schendel very successfully create a totally different kind of masterpiece.

While this is probably heresy in some circles, I find Jon Davison’s vocals fine but not glorious. I much prefer, for example, the vocals of a David Longdon, a Leah McHenry, a Sam Healy, a Jan-Henrik Ohme, or a Andy Tillison. Davison’s voice just comes across a little too fey at times. But, Susie Bogdanowicz? Be still my beating heart. She can sing, and she can sing with the absolute best of them. Indeed (and again I’m on possibly heretical ground), her version of Yes’s “South Side of the Sky” is better than the original. That she’s as gorgeous on the outside as she is in her vocals, of course, doesn’t hurt. But, once you’ve heard her vocals, you can’t imagine her as anything other than a truly beautiful person, nearly angelic.

Carl Groves and Walter Moore have much to offer as well, as do the backing vocalists.

No review of this album would be even close to complete without a reference to the actual playing. Babb and Schendel are certainly at their best. Indeed, their vast experience lends itself not to complacency but to the drive to perform better than ever. I have a feeling, these two do nothing half way. If a thing is to be done, it is to be done well. And, indeed, very, very well. I must also note the sonic excellence of the new drummer, Aaron Raulston. Sheesh, I’ve not heard anyone this good since Neil Peart and Nick D’Virgilio. Wow is all I can write. This guy will make his mark in the rock world, to be sure.

2014 has already proven to be a year every bit as good as 2012 and 2013, though we’re only in the fourth month. Whatever you do, do NOT bypass this album. ODE TO ECHO is not just great prog, it’s brilliant and shimmering Glass Hammer. Considering Glass Hammer never does anything that is not at the highest of standards, this is saying something.

Norse Macabre: Gazpacho’s DEMON

gazpacho_demon_2014[A review of Gazpacho, DEMON (Kscope, 2014—digibook edition).  Lyrics by Thomas Andersen and Jan-Henrik Ohme.   Please forgive any typos.  I composed this on my iPad in an airport waiting area.]

Everyone’s favorite artists from Norway have released an eighth studio album, two years in the making. And, not shockingly, it’s brilliant, stunning, and ingenious. If NIGHT is the Poetic Edda of modern progressive rock, DEMON is the Prose Edda.

Our own progarchist editor, Craig Breaden, has already offered his always excellent thoughts on the album, but I can’t let a Gazpacho release go by without also discussing it. So, please consider this review a supplement to Craig’s, certainly not a replacement.

As with every Gazpacho release, on DEMON, Jan-Henrik Ohme’s vocals are immaculate, and Thomas Andersen’s and Ohme’s lyrics reach toward the highest of the high, the most beautiful of the most beautiful.

As with all of seven of their previous albums, on DEMON, the notes linger in a Mark Hollis fashion, melodies emerge through punctuated walls of sound, Ohme’s vocals soar in an introspective aural empire, every instrument is played with loving perfection and always contributes as a sonic res publica. One can find guitar, base, drums, and keyboards here. But, strings, accordions, umpa brass, and Eastern European folks instruments abound as well. Old phonographs spurt statically operatic voices, dinner party crowds murmur, wind howls, and the natural elements create a wash of color in the background, all adding to a perfectly late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century haunting. Though frightening, DEMON’s story reflects an eerie Ray Bradbury horror rather than an H.P. Lovecraftian terrifying one.

It would be hard to find a band in 2014 more suited to long epics than Gazpacho. Really, the band’s only serious rival would be Ayreon. Here, I exclude bands such as Big Big Train, The Tangent, and Glass Hammer, as they rather happily create both concept albums and non-concept albums. Ever since NIGHT, though, Gazpacho has created concept after concept: NIGHT (a dream); TICK TOCK (a journey and escape): MISSA ANTROPOS (a pagan Mass); and MARCH OF GHOSTS (a series of short stories). The last especially offers a thematic prologue to DEMON.

While Ayreon reflects a deep knowledge and a loving embrace of science fiction and is close to infinity in its longing expansiveness, Gazpacho creates a fantastic and fabulist aura of quiet darkness and asks us to reflect on ourselves and our ancestors (our ghosts).

In a previous post here at progarchy, I noted that Gazpacho produces what might be called Eddic prog. DEMON only confirms that. Edda is a word that has no definite origins. It’s seemingly neither of Germanic or Latin origin, yet it appears as a vital word in Medieval Scandinavia. In our modern times, we attach it to the work of Snorri Snurlson. Not quite a Saga (also a perfected art form in Scandinavia), an Edda seems, by best definition, to be an “utterance of the soul.” Really, nothing could better describe the lyrics, the vocals, and the music of Gazpacho.

While I have no intimate knowledge of the band (though J-H Ohme is quite gracious on Facebook in answering my pesky questions and putting up with my innumerable tags of him), I suspect that DEMON is meant to be a second or third chapter in a long line of stories dealing with the supernatural. It began either with MISSA ANTROPOS (the calling of the Muses into this world) or with MARCH OF GHOSTS. The latter, though, seems more of a follow-up rather than a beginning. MISSA ANTROPOS certainly has the makings of a prologue or opening chapter to a long novel. If I could offer Gazpacho one piece of advice, it would be this: make the next album about Scandinavia. Images of Sigurd (baptized St. Michael after Christian evangelists appeared), the gods and heroes of the Seeress’s prophecy of Ragnorak, and the modern works of Sigrid Unset would all serve to continue this story so imaginatively begun by Gazpacho.. Imagine the use of traditional Scandinavia folk music (which bled readily from the pagan into the Christian/Lutheran), melodies, and instruments; and the imagery of Nordic prowess, AllThings, rune stones, and the Stave churches. My wannabe Viking heart swells just thinking about the possibilities.

Many reviewers have compared Gazpacho’s music to Radiohead or Sigur Ros, but I don’t hear that. If anything, Gazpacho offers a much more energetic vision first expressed by Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene in 1988’s SPIRIT OF EDEN and 1991’s LAUGHING STOCK. Yet, these comparisons are inadequate. Gazpacho, as with all great bands and artists, is at once backward looking, inward looking, and forward looking. Rarely, however, do artists display the kind of confidence that this band so joyously does. Gazpacho is its own band and never a mimicry of another band. They may very well build on the music of Hollis and Friese-Greene, but they have taken it in directions that Talk Talk never could or would.

No, Gazpacho is its own. Its own beauty, its own excellence, and its own genius. Long may they pursue goodness, truth, and beauty, even while examining the horrors of the macabre.

Mike Kershaw’s new album, ICE AGE, arriving soon

Mike Kershaw released the artwork for his forthcoming album, ICE AGE, today.  It looks incredible.

ice age kershaw

To pre-order, go to Kershaw’s band camp page: http://mikekershaw.bandcamp.com

New Reasoning Announced

Oh boy, what a great day for prog–news from Cosmograf, Anathema, Mike Kershaw, and, now, The Reasoning.  The Cohens and Co. are pretty freaking amazing.

new reasoning album

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