By Brad Birzer
As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve been having a Big Big Train-love fest for the past several days at Progarchy. Even our criticisms (well, not mine; but I won’t point fingers) have been written out of love and respect.
Another recent release that deserves a massive amount of attention is the fourth cd by Robin Armstrong, writing under the name, Cosmograf. Yes, it deserves a MASSIVE (Ok, I’m yelling at you, fair reader; it’s not personal, I promise!) amount of attention. Massive.
Following Cosmograf’s history, it comes across far more as a project than a band. I’m not sure Robin would put it this way, but this is how it strikes me. Each album has been a concept with a variety of guest musicians. For this current album, The Man Left in Space, Robin has chosen the best of the best: Greg Spawton (who wouldn’t love this guy), Nick d’Virgilio (giving Peart a run for his money since 1990!), Matt Stevens (a young guy already inducted in the Anglo-Saxon pantheon of guitar gods), and other brilliant folks such as Dave Meros (ye, of the Beard!), Luke Machin, and Steve Dunn. Robin knows how to get the absolute best, and he knows how to bring the best out of his guests. Then, add the additional production of the ultimate audiophile of our time, Rob Aubrey. Can it really get much better than this? Not really.
By profession, Robin is a master of all things time-related. He’s a watch dealer and a watch repairman. I find this so very appropriate. What better thing for a musician and composer to be than to be a master Chronometer (I have no idea if this is the proper term, but I like the sound of it). Chronometrician? Ok, I’m floundering here, but I assume you get the point. Precision, mystery, time, eternity, space, place, humanity. . . Robin Armstrong. Read the rest of this entry
I often joke with my students that I can still remember the days when listening to progressive rock and watching Dr. Who could get a kid beaten up. Yes, 1981. I remember it well. Seventh grade at Liberty Junior High in Hutchinson, Kansas. Yet, it’s now 2013, and I’m still listening to Rush and watching Dr. Who. Obviously, I survived the bullies
But, I can get even nerdier. Much nerdier. I was also a huge Dungeons and Dragons guy. Yes, 1981. I remember it well. Yet, it’s now 2013, and I’m still playing DnD. Now, with my kids.
My love of all things progressive (music; not politics!), science fiction, and fantasy have come together quite nicely in a number of direct ways: Rush, Roswell Six, Rush again, Ayreon, more Rush, Cosmograf, Glass Hammer, The Tangent, Rush, Kansas, Star One, Spock’s Beard, and even more Rush.
Surprisingly, though, only a few rock bands have really explored the Arthurian legends. Those artists that have–such as Rick Wakeman and Gary Hughes–have gone all out, making nothing less than elaborate rock operas. While Wakeman’s Arthur seems rather French, Hughes’s remains very Celtic.
The French legends, generally centering on the love affair of Lancelot and Gwenivere, usually reflect the medieval notions of courtship as inherited from the Moors. The Celtic legends are almost always more mystical, suggesting strong relations between the Celtic gods (a twilight) and the Christian God. Famously, one Celtic god, Bran the Blessed, even went so far as to sacrifice himself so that the Christian God could reign supreme. How often does this happen in pagan myth?
Looking at some of the other ‘Best of 2012’ posts here, you have to wonder how some of the other Progarchists do it. That is, how do they find the time to listen to and fully absorb that much music (and particularly prog)? Not to be snobby or anything, but listening to prog is not a passive thing, it takes an active effort by the listener to fully “get it”. And yet when I read through these posts, I can conclude that my fellow Progarchists are A) listening to a lot of prog, and B) “getting it.” With the other obligations they have in their lives – families, careers, other hobbies, other blogs – it would seem like it would take a superhuman effort to fully absorb all of that music. And yet clearly they do just that.
Alas, I think I’ve figured out their secret – most, if not all of the other Prograrchists are in possession of an ERTEM – short for “Einsteinian Relativistic Time Expansion Machine.” In short, the ERTEM is a machine about the size of a booth or a very small room. A person may enter his ERTEM, shut the door, and emerge in what appears to be only a few minutes to an outside observer. But aaaah, inside the ERTEM, time expands, and the occupant therein can spend several hours of “inside time.” Thus, the Progarchist may receive a new CD or a new album in digital format, step inside his ERTEM, and indulge in hours of listening pleasure, until they fully “grok” (apologies to Robert Heinlein) their most recent prog purchase. They may even be smuggling their laptops in their to write some of their long, detailed, and typically excellent reviews – the type that usually send me lurching toward my computer to make yet another purchase. Read the rest of this entry