A few things! I’m trying to start a “tour fund” to pay for flights etc to get Europe to play – if anyone wants to buy something from:
It’s greatly appreciated. Im actively pursuing gigs at the moment and this’ll be this year’s project alongside writing new music.
Some really good UK gigs coming up, especially looking forward to getting back to play our first gig in Manchester in three years and playing with Jon Gomm and Slayer legend Dave Lombardo:
With The Fierce And The Dead:
Your support is very much appreciated.
How is it November already? Here is the news:
This is a previously unreleased track from the Ghost album sessions. It’s called Blue Filter, I played it live a lot around the time when the album came out..
Available to download for the next week then it’ll be deleted :) Buying music like this allows me to keep on making music.
New video – playing Big Sky for Auden Guitars
I’m selling some of the my gear on Ebay. The Kaossilator I used on the song Lake Man on the Ghost album and delay pedal from the Stabbing A Dead Horse tour.
Other than that it’s heads down writing and recording new material for new projects/Fierce And The Dead and the next solo record. One gig coming up in Milton Keynes in on the 31st January with Solstice.
Thanks for all your support.
Cosmograf’s CAPACITOR is everything a rock album should be. And, I do mean EVERYTHING. EVERY. SINGLE. THING. It is wholesome, fractured, creepy, uplifting, contemplative, mythic, existentialist, moving, intense, wired, dramatic, contemplative, Stoic, mystifying, weird, satisfying, honed, nuanced, dark, and light.
The Meaning of It All
If I could capture the album in one sentence, comparing it to other forms of art, I would and will put it this way: CAPACITOR is an Edwardian journey into the Hades of the Ancient Greeks but emerging in BIOSHOCK.
Then, think about the artists involved. Andy Tillison plays keyboards on it. Matt Stevens plays guitar on it. Nick Beggs and Colin Edwin play bass on it. NVD plays all of the drums. Our modern master of sound, Rob Aubrey, the Phill Brown of our day, engineered it.
[Correction: from Rob Aubrey. My apologies for getting the credits and terms mixed up. “Hi All, Actually I didn’t ENGINEER it as such…. I recorded the Drums with NDV and then everything else was Produced and Engineered by Robin… He Mixed the album at home and I was here in an advisory role, just giving a hand when he ran into problems or I felt things needed more work. Robin and I mastered the album together just a few Months ago on my studio system here (Pro Tools) using all of his original sessions so Robin could make adjustments to the overall dynamic and “tweak” individual sounds if necessary. I cannot take credit for much as Robin really is the genius here!”]
Then, of course, there’s the artist supreme, the writer, director, and producer of it all, Robin Armstrong. English wit, critic, musician, lyricist, father, husband, entrepreneur, and demigod of chronometry, Armstrong is one of the most interesting persons of our day and age. He’s already proven everything an artist should in his previous albums, especially in The Man Left in Space.
Armstrong is a driven man, and it’s impossible to think of him without thinking not only of perfectionism, but also of his insatiable desire to perfect a thing even more so. In terms of constitution, he is probably incapable of doing otherwise. We all benefit from his unrelenting drive.
On the latest album, CAPACITOR, Armstrong explores the Edwardian fascination with spiritualism, giving us not “steam punk” but what should be called “vacuum tube punk,” something quite different from that of either H.G. Wells or Bruce Sterling.
The statement “energy cannot be created or destroyed” appears in print, in word, and in song multiple times on CAPACITOR. If this is true, Armstrong asks through his characters and story, where does our energy—our soul—go after the body fails us? We are everywhere and in every time, he notes, surrounded by the ghosts of the dead. Even if we don’t personally believe in an afterlife, we see “what they left with us.”
Ghosts appear frequently on the album, as does a vaudevillian preacher and a spiritual medium. In the end, though, especially by the final two tracks, Armstrong is critiquing the rise and predominance of “the machine,” any gadget that mechanizes us, makes us less than human, and distracts or captures our very soul and very essence, thus diminishing our humanity.
The person, it seems, can never be fully an individual without body and soul, not in war with one another, but in healthy tension.
The Meaning of It All, Continued
Musically, CAPACITOR immerses us into perfection itself. See above for the musicians Armstrong has brought together. He’s obviously a creator of community and a leavenor of talent. He’s also within the prog tradition, with musical passages inspired by, indirectly, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Big Big Train, and The Tangent and, directly, The Beatles. Indeed, one of the most rousing moments musically comes in “The Reaper’s Song,” a song that, in large part, pays homage to THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR by the Beatles (1967).
Sitting in a station, waiting for a train to come
Frighten all the people, standing on the platform
Trying not to push them over
Trains are gonna crush them
Stupid little people
Stupid little people
Another track, “White Car,” has absolutely nothing to do with the unfinished fragment of the Yes song from DRAMA (1980). Yes’s song will have to continue in my soul as an unresolved enigma until the end of time.
It goes without stating (though, I will state it anyway!), the last several years have been not only amazing when it comes to rock, but they have also been, probably, the best years in the history of progressive rock.
2014 has been no different.
Please, however, don’t think of Cosmograf’s CAPACITOR as merely another Cosmograf release or as merely another prog rock release.
Of course, there is no such thing as “just another Cosmograf release,” though we might become a bit jaded when it comes to another “prog rock release.” There’s so much coming out at the moment, it would be understandable—if not forgivable—to take the historic moment for granted. Even with the somewhat overwhelming number of music cds appearing over the last several years, CAPACITOR is truly something special and, dare I use a word overused and misused for its sappiness, precious.
From my way of thinking, CAPACITOR is the best cd of 2014 and one of the best prog rock releases of all time. It is, at least this year, the one for all others to surpass. I very much look forward to those who embrace the challenge.
To pre-order for the June 2, 2014, release, please go here.
As readers of progarchy well know, we rather love Matt Stevens. Congratulations, Matt! Very excited about this new release.
Esoteric Antenna is pleased to announce the release of the new album by acclaimed guitarist MATT STEVENS. Noted for his work as both a solo artist and as a member of Fierce and The Dead, “Lucid” sees Matt joined by a host of guest musicians including drummer Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson), Bass guitarists Lorenzo Feliciati (Naked Truth), Charlie Cawood (Knifeworld) and Kev Feazey, keyboard players Jem Godfrey (Frost) and Emmett Elvin (Chrome Hoof / Guapo), violinist Chrissie Caulfield (Helicopter Quartet / Crippled Black Phoenix), vibe player Jon Hart and Nicholas Wyatt Duke (Trojan Horse) on Spoken Word.
Speaking about his new album Matt states; “Lucid took three years as I really wanted to make this one a significant step up from the previous albums. It’s inspired by a bit of a dark time, but hopefully it’s an uplifting record. I’m so proud of the people who played on it, working with people like Pat Mastelotto on drums from King Crimson and Jem Godfrey from Frost* was amazing but all the players really were outstanding. Stuart Marshall (Fierce And The Dead) and Charlie Cawood (Knifeworld) were the rhythm section for a lot of the tracks. And it was great to have Chrissie back who played violin on the previous records. It’s a record that reflects my love of Jesu and Celtic Frost as much as the Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson or even Peter Gabriel and I’m really proud of it. If you’re not going to take risks and try and do something interesting what’s the point?”
As befits this most unique musician, “Lucid” is a carefully crafted work, and one that is surely to be one of the Progressive Rock highlights of 2014.
Available 31/03/2014 [For us crazy North Americans: that’s March 31!]
- March 16 North East Guitar Show
- Mar 28 2014 – The Assembly, Leamington Spa, UK With Lifesigns
- Apr 3 2014 – Farncombe Music Club, Godalming, SRY, UK With Oliver Wakeman And Gordan Giltrap
- May 18 2014 – The Assembly – Leamington Spa, UK With Arena, The Reasoning, Touchstone, Alan Reed, Heather Findlay, and Rob Reed
- May 23 2014 – The Musician, Leicester, UK With The Enid
- Jun 14 2014 – Borderline, London, UK With Panic Room
- 1st August Resonance Festival
- 9th August Woodfest Irchester Country Park
- 10th August Cambridge Rock Festival
- The Other Side
- The Ascent
- Street And Circus
- The Bridge
- A Boy
All songs written by Matt Stevens
Produced by Kevin Feazey
Art and design by Carl Glover
Guitar – Matt Stevens
Bass – Charlie Cawood
Drums – Stuart Marshall
Violin – Chrissie Caulfield
Guitars/Loops – Matt Stevens
Programming – Kevin Feazey
Guitar – Matt Stevens
Bass – Charlie Cawood
Drums – Stuart Marshall
The Other Side
Guitar – Matt Stevens
Pipa – Charlie Cawood
Drums – Stuart Marshall
Guitar – Matt Stevens
Keyboards – Jem Godfrey
Bass – Lorenzo Feliciati
Drums – Pat Mastelotto
Jon Hart – Vibraphone
Matt Stevens – Guitar/Bass
Emmett Elvin – Keyboards
Guitar/Bass – Matt Stevens
Additional Bass – Kevin Feazey
Drum loop – Stuart Marshall
Matt Stevens – Guitar/Loops
Street And Circus
Matt Stevens – Guitar/Loops
Stuart Marshall – Drums
Guitar/DL4/Bells – Matt Stevens
Bass – Charlie Cawood
Drums – Stuart Marshall
Violin – Chrissie Caulfield
Spoken Word – Nicholas Wyatt Duke
Percussion/Effects – Kevin Feazey
Matt Stevens – Guitar/Loops
Master of all things keyboard related, Andy Tillison, has just posted this on Facebook. Tillison and Stevens. What form of heaven be this?!?!?!
Pictured during a 26 minute workout based on “Careful with That Axe Eugene” – the recording of the Matt Stevens/ Andy Tillison album has been taking place on an undisclosed planet this weekend. More about this as the improvisations that have taken place are knocked into shape over the next few weeks!!! We have had SERIOUS fun.–Andy Tillison, Facebook, February 16, 2014
Stabbing a Dead Horse – Slight Return
Trojan Horse, The Fierce and the Dead and Knifeworld
The Barfly, Camden, Sunday 2nd February 2014.
Having been championing the Fierce and the Dead and Matt Stevens solo work for large parts of last year in various articles, the opportunity to see them live was too good to miss.
Not only did I get the Fierce and the Dead, I was also lucky enough to see an encore of last years highly acclaimed Stabbing a Dead Horse tour, where these three highly innovative and original bands toured the country.
The Barfly in Camden is a classic British rock club, about as far as its possible to get from overly managed arena gigs as possible, and the tiny room upstairs was full, not just of the bearded middle aged bloke type fan the prog scene is full of, although there were plenty of those there, but there were plenty of women, and lots of youngsters, I know they were young by the fact that at the bar they were whipping our their passports to prove they were old enough to drink.
The site of these young kids cheered me up no-end, as it proved to me that if the youngsters are appreciating this kind of music, then the future is in safe hands.
First up was Mancunian 4 piece psychedelic noise vendors Trojan Horse, whose brand of rock is spacy, heavy, eclectic and hard to pigeonhole, which I suspect is how they like it. With some fantastic three-part vocals from Nick, Lawrence and Eden, and their tight, sound, backed by Guy Crawford on drums they had the Barfly going from the opening bars of their first song.
With musical dexterity, lyrical creativity and a heavy dose of good honest social observation which, in this day and age needs to be done, they gave their all into an almighty half house set, culminating in a legendary performance of their new, epic single Paper Bells, with some fantastic guitar work, a haunting keyboard riff, and some truly arresting lyrics it encapsulates their sound neatly. This was the first time I’d seen Trojan Horse, but on tonight’s evidence it won’t be the last.
Next up were the instrumental behemoth that is The Fierce and the Dead, Matt Stevens (guitar), Kev Feazey (Bass), Steve Cleaton (guitar) and Stuart Marshall (drums). With their latest album, the rather fantastic Spooky Action getting rave reviews wherever it is heard, there’s no surprise that the set was Spooky Action centric. The band were selling copies on the night, but judging by the crowds’ reaction it looked like most of the audience already had it.
On record the Fierce and the Dead are epic, live they are somewhere else entirely, at several points during the set I had to pause and count them, yup, there’s only 4 of them, but hell, they make one massive sound.
With the intensity of Matt Stevens guitar work on one side of the stage, Steve Cleaton on the other, and Kev and Stuart anchoring their guitar guys, the music takes off. Spooky Action tracks like Lets Start a Cult, I like it, I’m into, and the single Ark, were played to perfection, the guitars singing, the bass and drums echoing off the walls. The Fierce and the Dead live are a mighty proposition, like the Wall of Sound mixed with King Crimson and Zappa, throwing mad riffs and impossible tunes out to an appreciative audience who were absolutely loving it.
As a recording act the Fierce and the Dead are amazing, as a live band they are unstoppable and one of the best I’ve seen for a very long time.
Finally up were Knifeworld, a band I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a long time, unfortunately due to the vagaries of British transport times on a Sunday night I had to leave halfway through their set, a fact which disappoints me very much. To console myself I bought their 2 CD’s on the way out to listen to at home.
Again Knifeworld are a unique musical proposition, with the superb guitar and vocals of Kavus Torabi, the traditional band format (keyboards Emmett Elvin, drums Ben Woolacott, bass Charlie Cawood) is expanded by the sound of Chloe Herington (bassoon, sax, vocals) Josh Perl (sax, guitar, vocals) Nicki Maher (clarinet, sax, backing vocals) and Melanie Woods (percussion, glockenspiel, backing vocals) and this addition of a horn section gives them an edge live.
Opening with the latest single download Don’t Land on Me, which gives you a good introduction to the work of Knifeworld, with its huge sound and great vocals, then a set full of crowd pleasers like The Wretched Fathoms and Torch, Knifeworld are an impressively tight live act. Torabi is a magnetic frontman, a charismatic performer, with superb guitar skills and great vocals, whilst the sound that Herington, Perl and Maher produce in union is fantastic.
I have it on good authority that Knifeworld continued to perform a fantastic set, and it’s a pity I couldn’t see the end of it.
Overall it was a fantastic evening of great music, watching three totally different bands own the stage, and show the most inventive, eclectic and entertaining live line up I have seen together for a long time.
The future of this wonderfully diverse genre we call prog is in safe hands, and I had the pleasure of seeing three of its most interesting bands perform live.
Some guy you might have heard of–a Matt Stevens, some kind of guitarist–has a new solo album coming out. Oh, wait–we LOVE that Matt Stevens. Congratulations, Matt! The new album looks stunning. Please pre-order to support Matt and his work of beauty and goodness. It also doesn’t hurt that Matt is as kind as he is talented.
I’m very pleased (and excited) to say my first solo record in 3 years and my first for Esoteric Recordings is now available to pre-order from Burning Shed.
This is what they say:
“Lucid sees Matt Stevens joined by a host of guest musicians including Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson), Lorenzo Feliciati (Naked Truth), Charlie Cawood (Knifeworld), Jem Godfrey (Frost*) and vibes player Jon Hart.
A step beyond Matt’s previous work, Lucid is an album that reflects a love of Jesu and Celtic Frost, as much as it does a passion for Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson.”
Your support is very much appreciated
I think it’s also starting to appear on a few of the international sites as well, Amazon etc… If you could share this that would be lovely. We will also have a simultaneous digital release for those that like using i-tunes, amazon digital etc
Thanks so much to everyone who came to the recent close to sold out Fierce And The Dead gigs. I have many more solo gigs coming up and Fierce And The Dead ones. Gigs are listed here:
Speak soon and thanks loads
2013, what a superb year for prog music, there have been dozens of fantastic albums released across the whole gamut, from classic English prog, to experimental rock music, and returns of several prog legends with fantastic new albums and new bands making waves and moving the genre on.
This is what I consider to be the albums that have been the strongest this year, and ones which I have kept coming back to over and over again, the musicality, the performances, the songwriting, the production, the sound is different from album to album, the topics wide ranging and when you listen to these albums back to back, they are all fresh, vibrant and new.
This is my sound of 2013, and these are albums that will stay with me, long after 2013 is but a memory.
Kingbathmat: Overcoming the Monster
Following on from last years superb Truth Button, Kingbathmat returned in triumph, on their most assured album to date, Overcoming the Monster is all about dealing with psychological obstacles, which is reflected in the brilliantly observant lyrics, and the superb cover art as well.
Masters of making an album, rather than just one track, the full force of Kingbathmats impressive musical arsenal is unleashed and untamed over these 6 fantastic tracks, with luscious harmonies reminiscent of Yes in their heyday, with tracks like the driving Parasomnia and the musical finale, the epic riff driven full on space rock masterpiece that is Kubrick Moon, with its superb guitar and keyboard work, and the interplay between all 4 members of the band is a joy to listen to as the track reaches its epic conclusion after 11 plus minutes of sheer musical abandon.
Lifesigns by Lifesigns
Keyboard player John Young, bassist Nick Beggs and Martin ‘Frosty’ Beedle have combined their not inconsiderable talents, and present 5 amazing tracks as the Lifesigns project.
With guests of the calibre of Steve Hackett, Thijs Van Leer, Robin Boult and Jakko Jakszyk Lifesigns fits nicely in the English progressive tradition, with inventive performances, quality musicianship, (the interplay between Beggs fluid bass playing and Youngs superb keyboard playing is a particular delight, while Beedle builds on and adds to a tradition of inventive percussion started by Bill Bruford and others) and instead of imitating or following a pre-ordained idea of what progressive rock should be, this is showing what it is.
Intelligent mature well crafted songs, atmospheric and ambient soundscapes created by the band, where Youngs emotive vocals weave over, and the beauty of the album from the superb Lighthouse to the closing 11 minutes worth of Carousel, Lifesigns is the sound of three talented musicians having the time of their life, not compromising, and delivering the album they were born to make.
Thieves Kitchen-One for Sorrow Two for Joy
The trio of Amy Darby, Phil Mercy and Thomas Johnson have moved from being a live band to a studio project, and in the process have moved organically away from Thieves Kitchens original prog roots, into something more prog folk, with some fantastic vocals from Amy, whilst Phil’s versatility as a guitarist shows all over this album from the brilliant The Weaver, the two epics in which the album hangs, Germander Speedwell and the closing Of Sparks and Spires, whilst Thomas is as inventive a keyboard player as any on the current scene. This is a well-performed, well-produced album, which is made to be listened as a whole. There’s no dipping in or out of songs here and this is a superb musical meeting point of songs and lyrics and performance, and a high point in Thieves Kitchens story so far.
Ravens & Lullabies: Gordon Giltrap & Oliver Wakeman
Two musical powerhouses in their respective fields, guitar maestro Giltrap and keyboard supreme Oliver Wakeman combine their considerable talents on this magnificent concept album on Esoteric.
With Giltraps effortlessly beautiful playing and Wakemans beautifully fluid keyboards, any album with one of them on is a joy; with them both together you’re getting a masterclass in collaborative performances.
With Olivers vocalist of choice the incomparable Paul Manzi on board (seeing Oliver and Paul perform together sends shivers down your spine) and with Wakeman and Giltrap trading licks, exchanging riffs and building things of beauty around each others talents, has to be heard to be believed.
This album is a thing of great power and great beauty and is one which you’ll find you keep returning to again and again, and each time you’ll discover something new, one of the best albums either man has put their name to, and this is one of those collaborations you hope continues.
John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest: North
The first new studio album from John Lees BJH since 1999’s Nexus, this is a superb continuation of the BJH sound, and a triumphant musical return for one of the most underrated bands of the progressive scene, this is classic BJH at its finest.
However in an album full of strong tracks like the digital single Unreservedly Yours, The highlights of this superb album, which as the name suggests draws on the Northern roots of the band, reflecting beautifully and evocatively on where they came from, is the epic and beautiful title track, which brings the landscape and area home to anyone from the North, especially if they are so far from home, that and its beautiful finale At the End of the Day, a wonderful musical end with words from a poem by Northern poet Ammon Wrigley, these two tracks close a magnificent and wonderful album, with grace, beauty and pathos
This deserves to be acclaimed as a great album from John Lees Barclay James Harvest, building on the fine musical tradition and heritage that BJH have, whilst giving their sound a contemporary feel.
Manning: The Root, the Leaf & The Bone
This is Guys 14th album, and he shows no sign of slowing up, with a magnificent concept all about change and time passing, brilliantly executed and realised, with superb pieces like the opening title track, the dramatic Forge with its fantastic percussive sound, and the lyrical themes running through the album about what has been lost to progress.
The core Manning band are a stunningly tight group, and guest musicians like Chloe Hetherington and Marek Arnold enhance the magic of Guys music.
This is a brilliant folk tinged work that shows Guys songwriting to be top notch and is another triumph for Manning.
The Tangent – Le Sacre Du Travail
L’Etagere Du Travail
After a break of 2 yrs Andy Tillison and the Tangent return with not one, but two stunning new albums.
The main treat is the new studio album proper Le Sacre Du Travail, which translates as the Rite of Work. Influenced strongly by Stravinskys Rite of Spring, this is a contemporary progressive symphony for modern times, with Andy thinking big about things that don’t necessarily fascinate other songwriters, the music itself is written and should be listened to as a complete symphony, like Andy says, progressive music should take you on a journey, and Le Sacre does that, from the opening of Coming up on the Hour (overture) the 22 minute epic Morning Journey and Arrival, its musical dexterity, with wryly observant and sympathetic lyrics, pulling you into the piece, and its counterpart the leading to the conclusion of the symphony, Evening TV, with its cyclical ending of ‘it all starts again’. This is one of the finest examples of a rock sinfonia I have ever heard.
The companion piece of an album as well L’Etagere Du Travail, the Shelf of Work, a 10 track supplementary disc of outtakes and alternate mixes available only from the Tangents website, from the older material the remix Dansant Du Paris is the Tangent go pop, with a fantastic sax break and clever remix, and a different version of the brilliant Ethernet. There are also 5 extra tracks on here, the brilliant Monsanto, the contemplative lost in Ledston, however the stand out track here is the fantastic Suppers Off, an amazing piece of work, from the free festivals of the 70’s to the corporate greed of today via questions about why people have stopped making things and only want to make money, this is a musical angry young man statement, with big questions about musical recycling, and how come big bands remaster stuff all the time, and people lap it up.
To create a masterpiece like Le Sacre is achievement enough, but to then follow it up with a companion album including Suppers Off which would be a significant track by anyone’s standards is an astonishing record by any musician, but to do it in one year as a simultaneous release reminds us why Andy Tillison is one of the most important voices on the prog scene.
Shineback: Rise up Forgotten Return Destroyed
This debut release by Tinyfish frontman Simon Godfrey with lyrics from Robert Ramsay, this is a step away from the Tinyfish sound.
Drawing on a diverse range of genres and sounds, this tells the story of Dora who videos her dreams and is drawn into a dark journey into her own past uncovering dark secrets.
Danny Claires vocals work so well on the album in the musical blog interludes, telling part of Dora’s story, whilst musically the genres flip from the driving electro rock of Is this the Dream? The synth driven Bedlam days that mixes techno and garage sounds, with some great keyboard work.
Godfrey has pulled together an amazing story and the electro emphasised music taking his muse in a totally different direction from anything he’s done before.
His own insomnia is drawn on throughout the album adding to the story, particularly on the mood changing piano driven Faultlines, his vocals being sublime throughout the album, whilst the title track is 10 minutes plus of musical brilliance.
This is a superb debut for a talented musician stepping out from the music he’s known for, into a left field musical future. The fact that this succeeds so well is testament to Godfreys talent and vision, and his choice of collaborators (including Matt Stevens, Dec Burke, Henry Rogers). This is fantastic.
The Fierce and the Dead: Spooky Action
The Fierce and the Dead is this intense, powerful, exciting groove monster.
The 11 new tracks that make up this mighty album all take you different places, and into unexpected territories, from the opening groove of Part 4, the driving intensity of the single Ark underpinned by a monster bass riff, and powerful percussion sound, whilst the twin guitars trade riffs and licks of an almost industrial nature, it’s a mighty blend of light and shade.
There are hints of jazz, of rock, of prog, of allsorts running through this album, and plenty of sounds coming through that you wouldn’t expect a guitar to be able to make, the fantastic Lets start a Cult with its stabs of brass and epic finish, the funk stomp of I like it, I’m into it, with its great drum beats and dirty bass and guitar sound, and a that killer riff, this is the sound of a band operating at full capacity.
Kev Feazey plays his bass like a third guitar, whilst the guitar sparring of Matt Stevens and Steve Cleaton is exemplorary, both being mighty guitarists, whilst the drums of Stuart Marshall underpin everything and build to the mighty sound of the Fierce and the Dead.
This is experimental, this is exciting, this is everything that is good about instrumental rock, new, fresh and an album you will keep returning to, time and time again as there is so much depth to these tracks that you pick something new up every time you listen.
Sanguine Hum: The Weight of the World
Oxfords Sanguine Hum took their debut, Diving Bell as their starting point, and pushed their music even further creatively and musically, creating as they do so, one of the most interesting, exciting and unpredictable albums I have heard all year.
From the musical tour de force that is the epic title track, clocking in at well over 15 minutes, and not one minute of which is wasted, there are hints of electronica running throughout the album, pulsing through the fantastic Cognoscenti, providing an exciting counterpoint to the beautifully melodic guitars and the driving percussion, whilst Day of Release provides one of the many musical highpoints, with hints of early OMD and Joffs vocal melody providing a sublime contrast.
From the start not a moment is wasted, not a foot is put wrong, and there is beauty throughout the album, in the music, the lyrics, the spaces between the notes.
This is an album like albums are supposed to be made, running almost seamlessly from start to finish.
I would argue that they are one of the few truly progressive bands out there, not copying, but creating, not imitating, but innovating.
Conundrum in Deed – Gentlemen
This is London based quartet Conundrum In Deeds debut album and is classic jazz prog rock, with their sound being enhanced by the fact that instead of different keyboard sounds, its just Sadlers piano adding to the rock, sound, and from the opening Falling leaves, right through to the closing title track, the music entrances you, draws you in and takes you on a journey.
With the lyrics as important (if not more so) than the music, songs like the beautifully mellow Strangers in Sympathy, the driving funk bass driven Love in the Age of Technology, the brilliant Holy Flowers, and the majestic Rise/Church Bells with its stunning bass/piano interplay.
Conundrum in Deed are the finished article, a superb band with something new to say, echoing the sounds of yesterday, reminiscent of bands like Caravan and others of that ilk from the Canterbury Scene.
Big Big Train – English Electric Full Power
A monumental collection by anyone standards, this is strange as it may seem, my first introduction to Big Big Train, and what an introduction.
This is English Electric parts One and Two, and the EP Make some Noise, in a lavish hardback book with some beautiful new pictures, stories behind the songs, and is a weighty package suitable for one of the greatest musical projects its been my pleasure to listen to.
From the opener of Make some Noise, and into the albums proper, the expansive sound, the powerful musicianship, the intelligent and well observed lyrics, this is a complete musical package.
Tracks like Uncle Jack, the haunting and poignant A boy in darkness, the English sound of Hedgerow and Keeper of Abbeys, and the frankly brilliant East Coast Racer make this a double album to get lost in, you don’t listen to one or two songs, you clear the decks, turn off the phone or internet, put the album on and sit down, let it wash over you, as you absorb its beauty, its strength, its power.
This is a magical work and one, which in 20 years time will be looked on as a significant musical achievement.
There are loads more albums that could have made this list, and some honourable mentions must go out to Chris Wade, whose been so prolific this year (three Dodson & Fogg albums, and one prog instrumental one) that it has been hard to choose between them, the musical maturity and progression from Derring Do, to The Call, via the Sounds of Day and Night have been exciting to listen to, and fascinating to see where Chris is going to take his musical talent next, I predict even bigger things for him in 2014.
Haze’s fantastic Last Battle saw their triumphant return, and what was nearly a goodbye has become a new beginning for them.
Jump just get better and better, and like a fine wine keep on maturing, and their stunning Black Pilgrim takes familiar themes and weaves their musical magic round them.
If I’ve missed out some other big releases like the Steven Wilson album, or the new Magenta album then it’s because sadly I’ve not heard them yet!
2013 will go down in Prog history as a superb year, and I am already excited about the prospect of 2014, so I shall end by wishing you all Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Enjoy Matt, Kev, and all of TFATD.
And, from Matt and the guys today via email:
Listen to the whole album streaming at Total Guitar now!!
The new album ‘Spooky Action‘ is almost here, out on November 4th. However, we know you are an impatient bunch so you can now stream the whole album exclusively over at the Total Guitar Magazine website for the next 48 hours!
And you still have a little bit of time to pre-order the new album before it’s release date on November 4th and bag yourself a bonus live track, or a discounted CD/T-shirt bundle.
Digital pre-orders here:
CD and T-Shirt pre-orders here:
And another heads up – we will be appearing on Steve ‘Snooker’ Davis’ Interesting Alternative Show on Phoenix FM next monday. We’ll be celebrating ‘Spooky Action’ release day by picking our favourite music and chatting to Steve and Kavus. Will be much fun.
Kev, Matt, Stuart & Steve.