AmProg: “The fusion of Ambient with Prog” NOVA CASCADE’s DEBUT ALBUM JUST RELEASED

Above All Else
Artwork by Paul Dew

Okay. To set the story straight, there’s no such thing as “AmProg.” I just made that up just now. I will say though that in some ways it does suit the kind of direction this band is wanting to go in a relatively new niche of the subgenre of Prog. I spent the late 80’s and early 90’s championing the new wave of “Ambient” sound on local radio and in many articles I wrote for a national magazine. Thanks to the likes of Tangerine Dream,  jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis to name but a few, and also the rise of New World/Contemporary Instrumental music it found its own home in a very popular market of New Age thinking and marketing particularly in music. From Electronic Music, or EM as we like to call it, it has evolved and splintered into many other areas of sound and music as well as other genre fields. The rich melodies with Middle Eastern and Oriental beats thanks to the advent of bass synthesizers and drum machines have combined many different rhythms and mood enhancing arrangements to make it fresh and interesting. Such were the workings of such artists as Ron Boots, Ian Boddy and Andy Pickford with their heavily synth inspired albums leading to bands such as Loop Guru, The Orb, Aphex Twins and the ever popular The Future Sound Of London. and that was just in the early 90’s.

And to my way of thinking that’s what this band have in mind, and have clearly stated in their press blurb where they’ve intentionally gone “Retro.” There’s also a certain organic feeling to it as they maintain certain guitar riffs were actually recorded on phone, and vocals in the kitchen! There are twelve tracks in all and if you like the kind of vibe Nosound bring to the table in the gentle wave they’ve crafted then this album might appeal to you. It definitely is mood music with lush orchestral keyboards overlayed with atmospherics here and there to enhance that melancholic flavour bands like The Lotus Eaters dabble in. And let’s face it, Prog’s DNA is melancholic enriched right from the late 60’s to present day, and what sometimes draws us into. In a good way, if that is possible. It certainly is born out with the wonderful piece of artwork by Paul Dew they’ve chosen for their album cover.  Most of these are short songs but it’s the album as a whole you should go over to Bandcamp or iTunes to hear for yourself.

It’s also interesting how this band name came about.  Back in July last year Dave Hilborne contacted me not to promote their new band but to really go out of his way to praise another local Prog band he dearly loved and should be plugged further, THIS WINTER MACHINE, for which I wrote a piece about last August 2017 [https://progarchy.com/2017/08/06/ey-up-winters-coming-fair-starved-and-champion/]. And even this weekend Dave is plugging this band in his own plugs of their new album!

Dave and I got chatting and he also mentioned he wasn’t too happy about the name they were thinking of using. I have a few daft ideas every now and again and I suggested how about Prog fans on a Prog-related page come up with suggestions for a name they might like to choose from? We’ll make it a fun event and turn it into a competition of sorts. Well, cutting a long story short (which doesn’t happen that often in Prog), and after a reboot, it came down to a couple of names Dave and the band favoured, and to resolve it to their liking, they combined two words from each into one name. Thus was Nova Cascade born.

There’s also a great interview with Dave and Charlie of Nova Cascade on Progzilla Radio’s Northern Star show about the new album

http://www.progzilla.com/podcast-182-northern-star-6th-september-2018-nova-cascade-special/

 

DAVE HILBORNE INTERVIEW

I sent Dave a number of questions around the band and the music which he kindly and quickly responded to.

 

How did you get involved in music?

DAVE: I started writing music in 1987, and by 1991 I had formed a band and we released a single called “Wrapped in Silver.” Later I went on to write an opera, and perform solo shows in small theatres. I really enjoyed the intimacy of that type of setting.

What artists may have been an inspiration to you?

DAVE: My influences have mainly been Peter Hamill and Genesis, but I also take cues from others such as Talk Talk, Nick Drake and Pink Floyd.

I know that you met the other two main artists on a gaming platform. So how did the conversation get around to forming a band?

DAVE: We were all talking about how we were musicians but weren’t actually doing anything creative currently. So we decided to to experiment and write a track between us. We had no idea whether we would gel as musicians. Fortunately the results surprised us all and continue to do so!

What motivated you to record “ABOVE ALL ELSE?”

DAVE: Once we started collaborating on a regular basis we were producing roughly a track a month. Our 4th track “Hurtled” entered the UK ambient chart at number 5 and went to number one the following week. Our next 2 tracks did the same. That motivated us immensely and we put our heads down with the intention of making the album you hear today. We all feel immensely proud of how far we’ve come.

Can you describe your writing process for the music of this album?

DAVE: Our first two tracks “Continuum” and “Prophecy” were deliberately created around riffs that each of us would contribute our individual part. Swapping files back and forth until a complete structure was decided upon. After that our approach altered. I would create complete skeletons of tracks either as instrumentals or songs and the others would add their complimentary parts. The material became more fleshed and ambitious at this point as well. Its a process that has served us well during the writing. This entire album was recorded in our homes with whatever means we had at our disposal. I mostly used an iPad pro and a midi keyboard,the others audacity or reaper.

 

From memory, the last time we spoke I think you said there were three of you in the band? So who else has joined Nova Cascade?

DAVE: After our 2nd track we recruited a flautist (Charlie Bramald) and Heather Leslie (Violin) in quick succession. Very late in the recording process we were joined by David Anania (Drums) a member of the world famous blue man group. He only appears on one track “Epiphany” but his performance is incredible.

Where there any challenges you faced either in the creative part or even in the recording segment?

DAVE: Recording at home with very limited means is always going to be a challenge,but the restrictions also force creative decision making. I think the recordings speak for themselves.The writing for the most part was very easy . Ideas flowed regularly and we kept up a good momentum.

For that matter, Ambient is all about tone and atmosphere – how has that helped you in creating this album?

DAVE: As I’ve gotten older I’ve become far less interested in the rock side of progressive and far more drawn towards its subtle elements. So creating the skeletons of the tracks the way they are was very natural for me. The others all added their own individual tastes and influences which made for some very unexpected results!

I know that Ambient music has played a large part in the New Age/Contemporary Instrumental music field for over a couple of decades, but now in 2018 can you see perhaps a direct fusion of Ambient and Prog developing?

DAVE: There’s definitely a fusion happening. Bands like London Grammar are taking Prog elements and fusing them with ambient . I know a lot of Prog fans like myself find the combination very exciting. I also think its been around for awhile. Bands like Talk Talk were infusing Prog and Ambience way back in the late 80’s with great success. I’m pleased Nova Cascade are adding to that catalogue

I see you mention on your page that you are currently #1 in the UK Ambient Charts. Has your love of Prog in any way played a part in the music you’ve created for that genre of music?

DAVE: Definitely. Its just in my DNA to create progressive sounding music. I’m naturally drawn to music which is constantly evolving. A few of our tracks never repeat themselves. Having said that I’m not against standard song structure either. Once a song start to take shape I never force it into any one direction.

Now that the album is completed, what next? Any plans of perhaps a video or even playing a live version of any of these tracks with the band if you can get together or others?

DAVE: The simplest answer is, it largely depends on demand and how the album is received and sold. A few of us already reside in one country and others have expressed their enthusiasm for potential live performance. Its perhaps not as outlandish idea as it might appear.

What is the best way to purchase “Above all Else” and where?

DAVE: Above all Else can be purchased digitally on Sept 10th via iTunes/Amazon/Google play and Bandcamp. We plan a limited CD release a month after featuring some very special photography by Brooke smith whom we recently had the pleasure to begin working with.

https://novacascade.bandcamp.com/album/above-all-else

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/above-all-else/1435412923?app=itunes&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

You can also find out more about Nova Cascade on their social media pages:

Nova Cascade on Facebook

Nova Cascade on Twitter

 

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