Immersed in Memory: The Rising Brilliance of Oak

Oak, False Memory Archive, 2018

Tracks: We, The Drowned (5:24), These Are The Stars We’re Aiming For (4:19), Transparent Eyes (4:59), Intermezzo (1:42), The Lights (10:34), Claire De Lune (7:16), False Memory Archive (4:56), Lost Causes (8:30), Psalm 51 (7:26)

 

Have you ever found yourself so utterly satisfied by something in life that you find yourself feeling guilty for enjoying it? For me, that is Oak’s music. Their two albums are flawless. Every note. Every theme. Every lyric. Every wash of sound. Perfection.

2016’s Lighthouse blew me away. I’m not sure how much attention the band has received in more popular press (i.e., Prog magazine), but beyond Progarchy, the Dutch Progressive Rock Page (where I and Andy Read have promoted the group), Prog Sphere, and the Prog Mind, I haven’t seen the band covered all that much. That is a downright shame because this band has reached into a completely new level of brilliance.

Oak is prog in the vein of Pink Floyd’s, Riverside’s, Porcupine Tree’s, and Steven Wilson’s atmospheric and contemplative moments. Unlike those bands, Oak never abandon that overarching theme. Their new album, False Memory Archive, may start with a pounding drum intro reminiscent of the heavier moments in rock history, but that does not take the band away from their overall sound. Instead, it grounds them in rock, and it allows them to explore broad soundscapes. The band goes from quiet contemplative moments to heavy guitar driven rock in places all over the album. Throughout the first track, the heavy drumming seemingly contradicts the warm vocals and soothing piano and synth sounds, but when taken together it really doesn’t. The end result is a layered effect that allows the music to build gradually.

Continue reading “Immersed in Memory: The Rising Brilliance of Oak”

Album Premiere: Oak – “False Memory Archive” — The PROG Mind

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/v=2/album=4004955793/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracks=773703106,626084637,2147233160,3073911281,3095255974,923318095,2736249444,3261170423,3437170636/esig=67dcda28ff305cd044ce9deae04fb27b/

Check out the full album premiere of Oak’s “False Memory Archive”.

via Album Premiere: Oak – “False Memory Archive” — The PROG Mind

The Tangent and ‘The Adulthood Lie’

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‘Rekindle the fire in my heart…’

Music is something that should speak to the soul. It can lift you through hard times and soothe when stressed. It can light the way and enlighten and can make for a great night of intimacy if Barry White’s deep timbre is your thing. (thang?)

The Tangent’s most outstanding moments in a ten album career have been consistent and frequent, and the best of those have been where the music and words speak to the soul in a way that is tangible and personable. Songs resonate with fans from all corners of the earth, from Japan to Peru and the U.S and Manchester. It’s the soul in the music that links everyone, as the words and emotions speak on a higher level. The politics of recent times can voice anger and frustrations but the universal messages of love, joy, fear and doubt (to name a few) speak loudest and to the most.

 As complex and thought provoking as the songs have been over the years, a few have been taken to the fans’ hearts because of the simplest themes such as the loneliness of old age ‘In Earnest’ or the sadness felt at the hidden homeless of ‘Perdu Dans Paris’. We’ve been taken on American road trips and been stuck in traffic in the daily rush hour but the passion comes from core moments of the human condition that we all feel.

The newest of albums – ‘Proxy’ has many songs that will stand out as worthy additions to the canon. The political overhang of Slow Rust is there in the title track and the return of Supper’s Off serves to highlight the frustration of struggling bands against the glossy marketed bands of old that consume the market presence. Yet where Andy and the rest of the band really succeed in their latest release is the joyful, layered spirit in ‘The Adulthood Lie’.

Quite simply the track shines and should prove to be one that stands out as a key moment in the band’s career.

The Adulthood Lie is Andy Tillison’s EDM fused look at Ibiza and the dance culture therein. Controversially the sound itself may ruffle feathers but in truth the mix of beats and synth is truly progressive and holds true to the outline of what progressive music should be. It’s not a new concept in this fusion of sounds, Frost* and Galahad have mixed dance elements with rock over recent years.

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Fans of The Tangent know well that the band do not stick to conventional progressive rock formats and The Adulthood Lie is no exception. Michael Akerfeldt of Opeth remarked in an interview that fans who were outraged at the musical change in direction ‘weren’t paying attention’ and the same can be said of the latest from The Tangent.

This isn’t to say that there is total reinvention. If anything there is plenty of the definable Tangent sound in the piece particularly the tones from the ‘A place in the queue’ period with hints of ‘GPS culture’ that playfully add colour.

The sonic landscape of the Adulthood Lie perfectly compliments the feeling of passion for music and dance. It’s about love and excitement for what music is all about and its pulsating backbone is inspiring and uplifting. There is an addictive quality to the beat that leaves the listener wishing for more.

‘Don’t tell me to act my age…’

The narrative behind the music is paradoxically simple and complex at the same time as Tillison paints a pretty picture of bliss in a warm evening in Ibiza and the way the music ignites the fire within. Deeper into the song we find a melancholic centre which deals with ageing and regret. It’s an often explored topic for Tillison’s lyrics and here the sense is that he wishes that he had done things differently in his 30’s and 40’s “I blinked and I missed it”.

The regret spills over into frustration at the loss of youthful opportunity and “pissing away the day” and some of the conceptions that he had then about the dance sound. “That’s not music”.

The beauty of the lyric “as I got older I let those dreams die”, is both profound and cutting.

As usual for the Tangent the long form songs take the listener on a journey. The resolution to The Adulthood Lie is that it’s not too late, “there’s still time…” The closing segment of the song brings back a sense of optimism and perhaps this life grabbing opportunism is borne of the return to health after heart problems seriously affected Tillison in the recent past. tangent-proxy-tillison-740x480.png

We all feel some sense of regret of places we turned left and should have turned right, of how we took dogged viewpoints that in hindsight deprived us of opportunity. There’s truth in the saying ‘Youth is wasted on the young’ and this speaks to us all deep down of how we might do things differently if somehow we could return to our past and talk to our younger selves. Perhaps the lasting message should be that of the Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s track – ‘Deep Kick’ poached from the Butthole Surfers ‘Sweet Loaf’ – “It’s better to regret something you did than something you didn’t do.”

There’s magic in Proxy which will set the album apart from many of their previous releases and should put it into many fans favourite album shortlist. The quality of superb musicianship is ever present throughout from the groovy, funky bass of Reingold to the effortless fretboard skipping of Machin on guitar. They always augment the writing and raise it to a higher level of excellence. Crucially though, Tillison has bottled something this time around which is truly sublime.

The new album from The Tangent – Proxy is released on Inside Out records on the 16th November 2018. Available from the website: https://www.thetangent.org

Selah No More

sanguine hum
Now, in technicolor from Bad Elephant Music.

Back in the summer, I worried that 2018 would prove a very slow and quiet year for progressive rock, perhaps a moment of what the Old Testament would have called “Selah.”

2018 is now a month past its halfway mark, and the year is somewhere in its middle age, and it will only continue to age until that fateful day, December 31, inevitably comes.

From the perspective of progressive rock, it’s been a solid year, but not an outstanding year–at least in terms of studio releases.  Certainly, those released–from The Fierce and the Dead to Gazpacho to the Kalman Filter to Galahad to 3RDegree–have been excellent, to be sure.  But, they’ve been few, especially compared to the re-releases and re-mastered and re-packaged.

Perhaps, 2018, in the end, will prove to be a moment of all of us catching our collective breath.  Maybe what the Old Testament called “Selah,” pause.

I’m very glad, as of October 2018, to have been quite wrong.  Since July, a lot of greatness has happened.  In no particular order, here are the best albums released thus far (or close to it) since July.

  • Glass Hammer, CHROMONONAUT.  Perfect.
  • NAO, GRIND SHOW.  Spectacular.
  • Riverside, WASTELAND. Haunting.
  • Oak, FALSE MEMORY ARCHIVE. Stunning.
  • Sanguine Hum, NOW WE HAVE POWER. Sublime.
  • Nosound, ALLOW YOURSELF. Intelligent.
  • Haken, VECTOR. Crisp.
  • Shineback, DIAL. Playful.
  • IAMTHEMORNING, OCEAN SOUNDS. Quality.

And, we still have the new Flower Kings to look forward to.

Am I missing anything else for the second half of 2018?

 

Review: Project Sapiens – Here We Are

Project Sapiens - Here We Are album art

“Here We Are” is a debut EP release from a Copenhagen-based alternative/progressive metal act Project Sapiens, comprised of five songs.

Kicking off with the title track, “Here We Are” hints its diversity. Elements ranging from hard rock, heavy metal to Opeth-influenced Prog Metal and alternative motifs are included. 

There is definitely potential here, and “Uprising” and “My Prison Cell” prove that. The transition between different parts is rather smooth. “Anger” starts with a very nice melody provided by a clean guitar of Poul Jakobsen and clean vocals by Mads Rahbaek. The guitar riffs that can be heard on this one, and throughout the record, are another highlight and an element that makes difference. Closing “Keepers of the Realm” starts very atmospherically, but it doesn’t take too long to become a hybrid child of Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Porcupine Tree.

What is important here is that Project Sapiens made a brave step to produce a release that is stylistically very different, and with the experience called “Here We Are” I’m sure that they will take the best out of it and use that knowledge on their next release.

“Here We Are” is available here.

The Call: Still Amazing, Even After 29 Years

I’d forgotten how great this Oklahoma band could be.  Lyrics to rival St. John of the Cross.

These are the woods
The night of the soul
Painful to see
Love without action
Painful to see years of neglect
Achin’ to see all that they see
Still telling lies to the remains of respect
Creatures we are worth defending
It takes the right word said from the heart
Given to you without ending
Given to you, the purpose of art
Thousands of plans, I’ve made many
I wonder just how many plans I have made
Feelin’ this mood overtake me