Big Big Train to Release New Album in January – “Welcome to the Planet”

Big Big Train - Welcome to the PlanetHoly cow! I wasn’t expecting news of a new Big Big Train album this morning. This just goes to show that this band is one of the few decent things left in this world. Life seems to suck more and more by the hour, but Big Big Train breathe a bit of light into the darkness.

The new album, Welcome to the Planet, is set to be released on January 28, 2022 – just six months after their last album, Common Ground. The new album features contributions from the entire new lineup. Here’s the tracklist:

PART ONE
Made From Sunshine
The Connection Plan
Lanterna
Capitoline Venus
A Room With No Ceiling

PART TWO
Proper Jack Froster
Bats In The Belfry
Oak and Stone
Welcome To The Planet

From the band’s website:

As with Common Ground, Welcome To The Planet sees Big Big Train retain their progressive roots but also take influence from all spheres of music. The album’s opener Made From Sunshine, co-written by guitarist Dave Foster and singer David Longdon, has guitar lines redolent of Johnny Marr and vocal harmonies reminiscent of the Finn Brothers/Crowded House, with violinist Clare Lindley sharing lead vocals with Longdon.

Elsewhere on the album, keyboard player Carly Bryant gets her first Big Big Train writing credit and lead vocal on the captivating title track. The two recent singles The Connection Plan and Lanterna are included along with a winter themed song Proper Jack Froster, a bittersweet tale of childhood. The album is completed by the delicate acoustic Capitoline Venus, the beautiful Oak And Stone  and a pair of dazzling instrumentals, A Room With No Ceiling and Bats In The Belfry, written by guitarist/keyboardist Rikard Sjöblom and drummer Nick D’Virgilio respectively

https://player.vimeo.com/video/637386993?h=aea344b340

Closing Hours of Crowdfunding Campaign for Lobate Scarp’s Second Album

Lobate Scarp - You Have It AllLos Angeles-based progressive rock band Lobate Scarp (which features Progarchy’s very own Adam Sears) is in the final day+ in their crowdfunding campaign for their second album. They have almost met their goal, and there are a lot of cool perks, so go check it out: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lobate-scarp-s-2nd-studio-album-new-prog-rock#/

In addition to all the other great things they have in store for the new album (just check out that artwork!), they announced that Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood will be providing guest vocals on a track. Yes!

Check out their single, “Beautiful Light,” from several years ago.

And check out their update video on the new album:

Devin Townsend Provides Video Update About Upcoming Albums

Devin Townsend released a video on his YouTube channel today updating us all on his upcoming albums – Puzzle, Snuggles, and Lightwork. Sadly due to supply issues for plastic, the release date is being pushed back to December 3, 2021. Townsend continues to work on the new Lightwork album as well, with the finished record due to the label right before the new release date for the two other projects. More from the man himself:

https://youtu.be/L9t17ldEb44

Lucid Planet to Issue Their Second Album on Vinyl

Lucid Planet - IIYou may remember way back in January when we reviewed Australian band Lucid Planet’s sophomore album. It’s a great album, and now it will be coming to vinyl on November 5. Pre-orders are open now. With beautifully detailed album artwork, the large record sleeve will look great. A real eye-catcher. 

The band also has some promotions going as part of the pre-order campaign. Check those out at their newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/097491d28ead/october-2021-update-lucid-planet-ii-is-coming-to-vinyl?e=aaaffa1bc4. You can sign up for their newsletter at the bottom of the home page on their website: https://lucidplanet.net

You can order the vinyl from their store: https://lucidplanet.net/shop/itemdisplay/41.

Prog-Metal Duo Athemon Set to Release Debut Album Tomorrow

AethemonOne of our media contacts sent us the debut album from prog metal duo Athemon, featuring Adriano Ribeiro (guitars and vocals) and former Haken bassist Tom MacLean (bass, production), as well as guest Gledson Gonçalves on drums. Initial thoughts – quite good. Heavy and dark. Vocals run the metal spectrum with cleans and distortion. Their overall sound is a lot larger than the number of musicians might suggest. Definitely check them out.

Here’s the press release and a Bandcamp link at the end:


Progressive metal duo Athemon debut self-titled full length will release on October 11th, 2021 and will be available on Flyathemon.bandcamp.com and Spotify.

Crossing paths online during the beginning of the Covid global lockdown, musicians Tom MacLean (bassist/producer, To-Mera, ex-Haken) based in the UK and Adriano Ribeiro (vocalist and guitarist) based in Brazil, used the digital world to their advantage to give rise to their new band Athemon. “Adriano sent me his demo and it gave me goosebumps, so I was keen to get involved,” says MacLean.

From a significant evolution between demos to their final introductory recordings, MacLean and Ribeiro created a bonding friendship over musical interests that created the perfect environment to allow them to evolve and conceive their debut album. Formed as a gateway to express their art using progressive metal music, Athemon’s first release is a concept record that is meant to be heard as one long 50-minute track divided into nine parts.

“Full of dark and enigmatic atmospheres, this is a 50-minute concept album divided into nine songs, which tells a story about self-awareness. This is a creative release that seeks to forge the perfect alloy of darkness and beauty,” adds the band.

For the album’s recording, the duo invited a special guest drummer from Brazil, Gledson Gonçalves who added his percussionist touch to compliment each one of the nine tracks.

“As nobody goes alone in this world (even being totally alone inside one’s own mind), the songwriting process had a lonely beginning, but a very collaborative end. The beginning of this project was driven by Adriano, but nothing would fit so well if it wasn’t for the amazing connection the three of us have (Adriano, Tom, and our special guest on drums, Gledson),” says MacLean.

The lyrics for the album were written by vocalist/guitarist Adrian Ribeiro and were inspired by thoughts of how confusing reality can be if you are not taking care of your emotional side. “The thin line between what’s real and what’s not is an endless world,” adds Ribeiro.

New fans of Athemon, can expect much more to come from the pair as they already have plans to launch their second album by the end of 2022, which they are currently composing with promising results. As for the live spectacle of Athemon, for now, the band will let the music flow until the duo can connect from across the Atlantic for their first in-person jam session. Recommended for fans of Nevermore, Pain of Salvation, Opeth, Gojira, and Mastodon, Athemon’s self-titled debut is available on all digital platforms.

https://www.facebook.com/fly.athemon
https://flyathemon.bandcamp.com/releases

ProgJect – The Ultimate Prog Rock Experience – Featuring Michael Sadler, Ryo Okumoto, Jason Bieler, Matt Dorsey, and Jonathan Mover

Press Release:

ProgJect

ProgJect is The Ultimate Prog Rock Experience featuring Michael Sadler, Ryo Okumoto, Jason Bieler, Matt Dorsey, and Jonathan Mover performing the classics and epics of Genesis, Yes, ELP, and King Crimson, along with some Pink Floyd, Rush, Jethro Tull, Peter Gabriel, Gentle Giant and more.

Michael Sadler (SAGA) – Lead Vocals, Keys, Bass & Percussion
Ryo Okumoto (Spock’s Beard, Asia, Chris Squire) – Keyboards & Vocals 
Jason Bieler (The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra, Saigon Kick) – Guitar & Vocals
Matt Dorsey (Sound of Contact, Beth Hart, Hannah Montana) – Bass, Pedals, Guitar, Keys & Vocals 
Jonathan Mover (GTR, Marillion, Joe Satriani, The Tubes) – Drums, Percussion, Samples & Vocals

The brainchild of Jonathan Mover, ProgJect came to fruition out of his love for and childhood dream of playing the ‘Prog’ he grew up listening to. “Prog Rock is the reason I play drums,” Mover explains.

After a last-minute call to tour with the premier Genesis tribute band The Musical Box, Mover returned home waxing nostalgic:

I haven’t had that much fun onstage in a long time and was reminded of the reason I began drumming in the first place–Prog Rock. Playing songs like ‘Robbery, Assault and Battery’, ‘Dance on A Volcano’, ‘Wot Gorilla’, ‘Watcher of The Skies’ and ‘Back In NYC’ had me feeling fifteen again and relit the very same fire I felt when I first picked up sticks.
 
What if I put together ‘The Ultimate Prog Rock Experience’, with top players, and pay homage to our favorite Prog giants–Genesis, Yes, ELP and King Crimson, along with some Pink Floyd, Rush, Peter Gabriel, U.K., Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant and more?

With a two-plus hour set that includes Prog classics and epics such as, “Squonk”, “Cinema Show”, “Firth of Fifth’, “Karn Evil 9 – 1st Impression Pt. I & II”, “Siberian Khatru”, “Roundabout”, “Heart of the Sunrise”, “21st Century Schizoid Man”, “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic”, “Xanadu”, “La Villa Strangiato”, “Have A Cigar”, “Wish You Were Here”, “Solsbury Hill”, “Living In The Past” and more… ProgJect is going to drop your jaw and blow your mind.

Watch the ProgJect video trailer: https://youtu.be/_tDxVrl6qZc

From the first full-band rehearsal in late September, 2019, the chemistry was immediate. Rehearsals continued with the band shaping the songs and arrangements, and with their first tour in the works, ProgJect was set to embark on a two-dozen date run from Northeast Canada, down the East Coast and across to the Midwest… and then came Covid.

Sixteen months later, ProgJect is back in full-production rehearsals, modifying the set and preparing for their first official tour, starting April, 2022.

Sunday Jazz – Benjamin Croft’s “Far and Distant Things”

Benjamin Croft Far and Distant ThingsBenjamin Croft, Far and Distant Things, Ubuntu Music, 2021
Tracks: Overture (1:13), Far and Distant Things (6:13), Brock (4:47), S.A.D. (Spatial Awareness Disease) (6:21). Tudor Job Agency (6:25), S&R Video (5:07), The War Against Loudness (6:17), How Not To Win The Nobel Peace Prize (6:17), Than You, That’s What I Wanted To Know… (5:35), St Gandalf’s (1:55), The Cashectomy (6:25)

I don’t listen to as much jazz as I should, probably because it is such a diverse genre that I barely know where to begin. I’ve always enjoyed jazz music in live settings. I think the genre excels when played live because it is a highly experimental genre, allowing room for improvisation. When I was in college I loved attending the concerts put on by the faculty jazz band. They were always so much fun. I think I enjoy jazz for some of the same reasons I enjoy progressive rock, which obviously is heavily influenced by jazz. At its most basic, the technical musicality in jazz keeps me interested. 

UK musician Benjamin Croft’s Far and Distant Things has been such an enjoyable CD to listen to over the past month and a half. Croft wrote and arranged all the tracks on the album, and he also played all of the keyboards. In addition to Steinway and Yamaha grand pianos, Croft plays a whole list of various synthesizers and keyboards, thus bringing in a bit of a prog texture to his jazz record. Perhaps those elements are why he sent us his CD for review, but regardless of why, this is an excellent album. At any rate, the artwork is certainly prog, featuring cover art (and other artwork on the CD and in the packaging) by Hugh Syme. 

Beyond Croft on keyboards, the songs have a revolving cast of characters, with Tristan Mailliot or Laurie Lowe playing drums on most of the tracks, except for “St. Gandalf’s,” which features Chad Wackerman. Flo Moore and Henry Thomas share bass guitar duties on the record. Guitars and on the album are played by a few guests, as are the wind instruments. Garthe Lockrane’s flutes on “Overture” and “Brock” are really quite something. It brings in that element of classic progressive rock as well as a fresh classical texture.

As is typical in jazz, there’s a lot of soloing on each track – keyboards, guitar, bass, trumpets, flute. Not each one of those on every track, but you get my meaning. The playing is smooth and easy to absorb. Some jazz can be overpowering, but Far and Distant Things sets you right at ease. The drumming and bass create a smooth yet complex rhythm throughout the entire album. The interplay between piano, keyboards, and the various wind instruments is quite pleasant. 

“How Not To Win The Nobel Peace Prize” is an interesting piece in the way it shifts over the course of the track. It starts off as a more typical jazz song before speeding up and morphing at the end of the song into more experimental territory before fading out. It’s a shame it fades out, because I wanted to hear where they were going. The title of the track, along with others on the album, hints at a bit of sarcasm, which I can always appreciate. 

Benjamin Croft – Far and Distant Things Music Video – YouTube

There are some rock moments on the record. “Far and Distant Things,” featuring Frank Gambale on electric guitar, is perhaps more rock than it is jazz, especially when you take the synths into account. “Tudor Job Agency” has its jazz moments, but the guitar, played by Barry Finnerty, has a Clapton-esque vibe to it. There is also a passage of some incredibly fast drum beats that add a rock element to the song.

Give Benjamin Croft’s Far and Distant Things a listen for a laid back Sunday afternoon or evening. Or for any day of the week. The music is exceptionally well-written and equally well-performed. It brings me back to simpler times when I could enjoy a live jazz show without worrying about… well all the things we seem to worry about these days. This instrumental album will take you a world away, if only for an hour. 

https://www.benjamincroftmusic.com
Spotify

Werke Horse – Yellow Cab

We were recently sent this song by Dan Hereford of the band Werke Horse, and it’s very fun and eclectic. Part prog, part pop, and it may remind some of you of a certain banana-colored submarine. Although this song is far less annoying than that particular song. It has a vintage prog sound befitting the subject matter. Heck when my Dad was a kid, his parents had a Checker for a car. Yes that’s right – the Checker Cab Company made cars that the regular public could buy. They were basically unchanged from the 1950s until the early 1980s.

Werke Horse – Yellow Cab – YouTube

Check out Dan Hereford’s full album, Werke Horse, on Bandcamp: https://danherefordswerkehorse.bandcamp.com/album/werke-horse

And check out their website: https://www.werkehorse.com

Album Review – @Echo_Us – The Windsong Spires

a3501667282_10Echo Us, The Windsong Spires, June 22, 2021
Tracks: We Seek the Descending Levers, (8:06), If You Can Imagine… (5:29), The Night Sky (3:19), When the Windsong Spires, (5:49), Squals (3:53), (Fly You Home) (4:41), And When They Dance At Dusk, (4:16), I’ll Wave You In (4:54), (And Acquiesce) (5:41), If We Can Breathe Again… (3:39), Under the Smallest Sky (11:40)

Electronic. Atmospheric. Ethereal. These are just a few of the words I could use to describe Portland, Oregon, music project Echo Us. The band was founded by composer and multi-instrumentalist Ethan J. Matthews 20 years ago. He is joined on the record by drummer Andrew Greene and vocalist Charlotte Engler. Matthews provides vocals, guitars, hammered dulcimer, glockenspiel, percussion, and synthesizers.

Just based upon the variety of instruments Matthews plays, you might guess that his music has a rather eclectic mix, and you’d be right. Their sound ranges from atmospheric to classical and folk, all within a subtle rock context. I even picked up what sounded a bit like a Pacific Northwestern Native American influence in the opening moments of the album. Piano plays a prominent role on the record, along with clean electric guitar. 

The vocals contribute to the ethereal tone of much of the music, but the drums keep the music grounded here on earth without allowing the album to get too heady. In that way there’s a nice balance between the various sounds. The mix of male and female vocals also contributes to the balance of the sound on the record. Matthews’ voice reminds me of Tim Bowness, and Engler’s voice reminds me a bit of Kate Bush or Amanda Lehman

The Making of the Windsong Spires – Youtube

The music helps tell a story. “The Night Sky” is primarily piano with synth sounds swirling around it and ghostly vocals at times throughout the brief track. The listener is left picturing a calm, cool night sky away from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

Greene’s drums and percussion on the record might sound relatively straightforward at first notice, but when you dig in you notice there’s a lot going on. One moment it might be a simple drum part, but the next might have a military-style snare drumming, such as on a portion of “When the Windsong Spires.” This conjures up new images in the mind, adding to the musical tapestry Echo Us create. 

I’m not positive that this is intentional, but I get the feeling that the names of the tracks are meant to be read together as you might read an imagist poem. Since the names of the songs include punctuation, I suspect I’m right.

We Seek the Descending Levers, If You Can Imagine… The Night Sky
When the Windsong Spires, Squals (Fly You Home)
And When They Dance At Dusk, I’ll Wave You In (And Acquiesce)
If We Can Breathe Again… Under the Smallest Sky

This is a pretty cool way to add texture to a record. You have the poetry of the lyrics, but to use the very names of the songs to create another poem is unique. 

One might classify The Windsong Spires as ambient music, but there’s a lot more going on than just ambient sounds. The drums and guitars bring in elements of rock, although I don’t know if I can call this outright rock ‘n roll. At the end of the day genres can be rather meaningless categories to which we assign music. What really matters is whether or not the music is good, and Echo Us is very good. Their music has had a calming effect on me, which has been much appreciated and needed lately. When everything else seems to be crashing and burning, it’s nice to settle back into something that slows you down and makes you think. 

https://echous.net
https://echous.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/echous.net/
Twitter

Mandoki Soulmates Perform “Utopia For Realists: Hungarian Pictures” Open-air Concert in Budapest

It’s nice to see concerts coming back a bit, even if it’s very far away from me. From Inside Out Music:


Under the motto “Utopia for Realists”, thousands of enthusiastic fans celebrated the stage return of the Mandoki Soulmates in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica in the heart of Budapest last Saturday, where they performed ‘Utopia For Realists: Hungarian Pictures’ in full, ahead of its release in September. After the pandemic break, this was the legendary band’s first performance since their show at the Berlin Concert Hall to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Get a taste of this incredible evening here: https://youtu.be/upwS8kAkxd8

“I am happy and proud that despite the travel restrictions, many of my soulmates were able to arrive in Budapest,” enthused producer Mandoki, who presented an impressive line up of international rock and jazz icons such as Al Di Meola, Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, Bill Evans, Till Brönner, Tony Carey, Richard Bona and Italian bandoneon virtuoso Fausto Beccalossi as vocalist and drummer. Also on hand was Budapest music legend Szakcsi, professor at the Franz Liszt Academy and icon of Roma music. Mandoki: “It was overwhelming to finally be able to make music together again after such a long time.”

The Mandoki Soulmates also delivered goosebump moments for music lovers of all stripes in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica with their progressive jazz-rock suite “Utopia For Realists: Hungarian Pictures” (soon to be released via InsideOutMusic), based on themes by Béla Bartók and the greatest Soulmates hits. “Bartók mixed sounds and traditional melodies from a wide variety of regions in the Carpathian lowlands to send a signal against the threat of National Socialism with the power of music to unite people. This idea of uniting people has been a lasting inspiration for me,” Mandoki explains. 

InsideOutMusic recently announced the release of a brand-new expanded version of Mandoki Soulmates ‘Hungarian Pictures’ suite, released under the title ‘Utopia For Realists: Hungarian Pictures’ on September 24th, 2021.

Continue reading “Mandoki Soulmates Perform “Utopia For Realists: Hungarian Pictures” Open-air Concert in Budapest”