Patchwork Cacophony Five of Cups

patchwork-2

 

Patchwork Cacophony is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Ben Bell, (keyboard player with Fusion Orchestra 2, and now keyboard player with Gandalfs Fist) in fact it was Stefan Hepe (Fist drummer) who passed my details onto Ben who dropped a nice little note asking if I’d be kind enough to listen to this, his second ‘solo’ excursion under the Patchwork Cacophony name.

I duly downloaded the album, and was blown away by what I heard.

Bit of background first, Ben, as a multi-instrumental plays pretty much everything on here, apart from a couple of guest guitarists (more about them later) and in a small genre like ours, it’s easier for albums like this to slip out unnoticed and slowly build up their reputation by word of mouth, particularly if bigger bands have new releases out there.

Continue reading “Patchwork Cacophony Five of Cups”

If it carries on like this I’ll be moving to the sea

I seem to have spent most of the last few months catching up with a backlog of album reviews that have landed either on my door step or in my inbox which built up during a traumatic move, (I am never spending two weeks sleeping in the living room again!!) and so I fear this latter part of the year has been chasing my own tail, as whilst I’ve reviewed older albums, never ones have appeared!

My new Years resolution is to be more organised (honest!)

This is my first word on Bad Elephant Music this year, wrapping up some of their fine releases last year.

tfatd

The Fierce and the Dead: If it carries on like this we’ll be moving to Morecambe

This is where it all began, and what better place for a shiny new remastered edition of TFATD debut long player to be released, complete with new artwork by Mark Buckingham, than their new home. BEM and TFATD have become synonymous with adventurous and eclectic music, and as some one who previously bought the original release from band camp, the remastering is absolutely superb, and does make a difference to the sound. Not that there was ever anything wrong with the production originally, but it’s like the difference between watching your favourite TV show on a normal telly and then switching to HD, it highlights certain nuances and little pieces of music on the album that you might have missed originally.

Continue reading “If it carries on like this I’ll be moving to the sea”

A new voice that’s worth listening to

lk

 

Now I’ve been a bit lax in reviewing this album for a number of reasons I won’t bore you with now, however it’s one that has been haunting me, and making me decide the best way to tackle the review, and anyone who usually knows me, knows I am not usually lost for words.

A bit of context, I know Liz, a multi instrumentalist and singer now based in Bristol, from many years ago in a different life and different world, when Liz was studying music at York University and I was an advertising salesman we shared a house in York for a year or so, and as these things do, our paths diverged and we only met again by chance on Whiteladies Rd in Bristol, where we both found ourselves.

Continue reading “A new voice that’s worth listening to”

Do Not Disturb – I am listening to Van Der Graaf Generator

Van Der Graaf Generator: Do Not Disturb

Esoteric Antenna EANTCD1062

vdgg

1 Aloft

2 Alfa Berlina

3 Room 2010

4 Forever Falling

5 Shikita Ga Nai

6 (Oh no! I must have said) Yes

7 Brought to Book

8 Almost the Words

9 Go

 

Revitalised as a trio of Hugh Banton, Guy Evans & Peter Hammill since 2008’s Trisector, this is the latest (and maybe last) album from one of the most innovative, exciting and original bands from progs first wave.

This was released back in September and it has taken me a while to get round to writing this review, due to as previously mentioned life getting in the way, and of course I needed time to live with and digest this album.

With the added shadow of this potentially being their last album, the mood of regret, or closure and a sense of finality hang over the record, which for my money is one of the finest they have produced in this latter period of their mighty career.

Continue reading “Do Not Disturb – I am listening to Van Der Graaf Generator”

Chris Wade, renaissance Man!

Chris Wade is a multi talented and multi-faceted chap who on the one hand produces his own music magazine, whilst on the other writes highly regarded critical analysis of various artists works spanning all genres from film to music, not to mention being the writer of his own range of comedic novels and the brains behind Dodson and Folk, the acid folk project that has spawned 11 albums, and features a multitude of special guests. Since 2012 he has been ploughing his own musical furrow as Dodson and Fogg, with musical excursions into instrumental prog (The Moonlight banquet) collaboration with his brother (Rexford Bedlo) as well as Rainsmoke (with Nigel Planer and Roger Planer) and the last time I spoke to Chris was just after his Dodson and Fogg début had been released. I decided that as four years is a long time in music, and because I like talking to Chris, I would have a chat with him to find out what’s going on in his world and to chat about his new album, The White House on the Hill.

a1-page-001

I first mentioned his role as a one-man acid folk pioneer, and the release of his new album

‘I prefer to call it Maltloaf folk; it’s a new tag that I’m going to start using. This is album number 11, if you don’t count the outtakes.

I hadn’t planned the next album but I moved out to the countryside about 4 months ago and found in the second month of living here I’d started writing the next record, but that won’t be out until next year because of the books I am working on’

Ah yes, the books,

‘I’ve just done a Hawkwind book, a recent fiction book and I’m working on books on Dennis Hopper, George A Romero and Woody Allen. I find when I’m doing the books I just get immersed in the world of the subject, I’m watching all the films, tracking people down and reviewing them’

We started talking about how things have changed since the first Dodson and Fogg album was released back in 2012,

‘Progs totally altered since the first release, since then the industry has changed with all releases, back in November 2012 there wasn’t things like Spotify, 4 years seems like a long time ago for me now’

I first contacted Chris back in 2012 using twitter and since then we’ve been friends on Facebook,

‘This is the thing about Facebook, you don’t see some people that often but you can see how peoples lifes have changed over time’

I wondered if Chris was still an avid user of social media,

‘I’ve got a Facebook set up for the books and the albums, and it showcases the latest work, but it doesn’t really generate sales for books or music, and in that respect it isn’t that useful. Someone was complaining on Facebook recently about mailing lists and emails not being read, I don’t thing it’s fair to criticise your audience on Facebook or social media, but it proves that you can’t rely on social media, I only use it a little bit’

Chris is very prolific and I wondered where the inspiration comes from,

‘I do all this because I don’t want a normal job, the more I do then the more income I get, I don’t push a lot of this to be honest, I like to do projects and that’s how I spend my time, on my projects and with my family. A lot of creative people like to think they are different and special, and I love making music and writing books but to me it’s an everyday job with no lucrative income’

230978_1930517816091_1036590552_32081547_3200589_n

With the books Chris tends to self publish,

‘My first self published book was before I discovered the server I use now, it was a book about Malcolm McDowell, and since then I’ve learnt over time, some of the earlier books are a bit creaky but it proved to me that learning as I go and self publishing is a valid option. I’d rather put it all out myself, as it gives me complete control’.

Dodson and Fogg are well known for the use of guest stars,

‘I have built up a contact list, for the latest record I used Toyah, I was only aware of her 80’s work, and heard some of her later work with Fripp in the Humans. I liked what she was doing and made contact through her website, she was working somewhere in a studio and I sent her the track (Drinking from the Gun), and it ended up being a co-write as she wrote a third verse and did really interesting things with the track.

I’m always after interesting sounds, I’ve always been after a stuffy brass band sound, I really like the old fashioned brass band, (It must be something about being from Yorkshire as I adore that sound as well) It’s the sad sound of the brass, it’s summit in the blood. I enjoyed working with Ricky Romain on the sitar, I loved mixing the sound in but people were saying I was just doing psych acid folk because of the sitar. I can’t do the same thing all the time, I like to swap things around’.

What about your influences?

‘I don’t tend to have lots now, I can find sometimes if I’m writing a book I can pick up the guitar and something will come to me, at the moment I keep listening to a lot of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, it’s stuff I like and will never stop liking it, it’s my music. I listen to a lot of Madonna, although you won’t see me in a conical bra. I used to really like Donovan but I can’t listen to him any more, you find without noticing that your tastes change over time’.

Do you ever have a theme for your albums?

‘On some of the early ones I did, the first two didn’t have themes, but the third one Sounds of Day and Night (2013) the loose thread was that all the songs were about day and night.

The later albums are more like a diary, showing where I am at any moment in time, for people who buy the later albums say the project has gone in different directions.

I do it for fun, and like to structure the albums like a 1960’s album, around 40 minutes long, it doesn’t ramble, you can listen to it in one sitting and pop it on a tape, I record and structure them in the way that I like to listen to albums.

The first album with a real concept was the one I did with Nigel Planer doing the stories (In a Strange Slumber 2014) and When the Light ran Out (2015) was an idea of home and how that works, both my Mum and my Sister moved away, and it made me think of what home meant. The songs are all personal to me and get emotions out there that you wouldn’t normally get out there, it’s a loose diary of my life’

Talking of home you recently moved to the country,

‘I’ve moved near to a farm into the countryside, I’ve taken up gardening and getting into my photography, it’s a nicer life, though there is that cliché about not making good art if you’re too content. I find it more comfortable that there’s next to nothing out here, an old train line, a farm, it’s far better than having too many people in your face.

Doing this interview is like therapy, I’m telling you stuff I haven’t mentioned before!

(I did mention I was much cheaper than any therapist!)

I like doing these projects because I’ve always wanted to do things I wanted to do and make it work for me. I had no interest in serving customers or trying to flog more things to get an extra 10p.

I just feel like when I was a kid I used to make books and liked the idea of putting a book together and playing drums. My brother and I used to make albums, with the sleeves and my Dad would encourage us by popping them on the shelves next to his Beatles or Kinks tape and encourage us to make more.

I’m a haemophiliac and found it hard to get work, it was difficult to get insurance in conventional jobs, I lost jobs because they couldn’t get insurance for me, when I was a child I wasn’t allowed to do contact sports and preferred to write, draw and play guitar. That’s another revelation to me, you sure this isn’t therapy?

Being creative is worthwhile, it’s important because what would the world be like without music, books, arts? It would be a very dull place indeed. We should encourage kids, my little girl Lily is 2, I wonder what she’ll do, she can draw, she loves music and watching films, it’s great watching them grow up.’

So where next for Dodson and Fogg?

‘If your creative you want to move onto the next thing, I don’t like sitting on work, I want to release it and move on, it might be commercial suicide but that doesn’t bother me, it’s not and never has been about the commercial side.

whitehouseonthill

 

In 2012 I spotted a tweet from a singer songwriter about a musical project he was launching, the tweeter was Chris Wade and the project was Dodson and Fogg, and I have watched and listened as Chris has taken his DIY ethos through 10 previous diverse albums, with guests like Celia Humphries, Nik Turner, Nigel Planer, Ricky Romain, Alison O’Donnell, Scarlet Riviera, Judy Dyble and Chloe Herington to name but a few, and over the past four years it’s been a delight to hear Chris muse take him down new and exciting avenues.

This latest release which came out back in August is his first release since moving out to the countryside, but don’t expect him to have gone all back to the country, no sir, what we have hear is another clear progression of the Dodson and Fogg sound, and every time Chris releases another record I worry about whether he’s stretched himself too thin this time, but no every time he comes up trumps.

It’s not cheap being a Dodson and Fogg fan, but when the music is this good, then does it matter how often the records are released?

With a smaller cast list, the focus is primarily on Chris soft vocals, and his superb guitar playing, with guests Georgia Cooke on Flute and John Garners violin adding their soft touches throughout the album to enhance the D&F sound. As Chris mentioned in his interview this time around he got Toyah to guest on this record, and the duet, Drinking from the Gun, where as ever the artist she is Toyah contributed an extra verse, is a superb jazzy duet, where their vocals blend perfectly, whilst the title track that opens the album is a joyously bucolic folk rocker with some fantastically sympathetic violin work throughout. Meanwhile the powerful instrumental Bitten has a real funky groove to it, in fact the album is pretty funky throughout, as Chris gets his funky troubadour hat on Tell Me When Your Ready to Leave, with its Ric Sanders esque jazzy violin, in fact with Chris vocals, this sounds like the current incarnation of Fairport Convention could cover it, and it would slot right into their repertoire.

In fact this is pretty funky album, as Chris growls his way through the heavy funk of The Giant. Whilst the instrumental Bitten has powerful rocking riff that runs through the record like Scarborough through a stick of rock.

The closing 7 minuter Lily and The Moonlight, a wonderfully languid mellow rocker inspired by Chris daughter, is a slow builder, giving time for the song to build and grow and Chris fantastically cool vocals and a wonderfully eloquent guitar led coda closes this fine album in style.

For those worried that Chris is running out of ideas, don’t. This is another eloquent musical statement from one of the most prolific artists around who enriches the musical scene that he sits in.

Ladies and Gentleman, Dodson and Fogg, England’s premier Maltloaf folk band.

 

All photos by Linzi Napier

Thanks to Chris for his time.

Dodson and Fogg albums and Chris’ books are all available from

http://wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com/

 

 

Two different continents, two different styles

2016 has been a random and rather crazy year for me, I started the year ostensibly living on my own in a one bed rented flat in Bedminster, and now find myself at the end of the year living with the love of my life, and three cats in a flat that I now own on the edge of Bristol with wonderful views over the countryside and hills to Dundry, however the move (which I may have alluded to previously) has been the most stressful move I have ever done, and as a result I have received albums from bands over the year that I may have been lax in getting finally reviewed and updated here.

Again I apologise for this, and to paraphrase John Lennon, ‘Life is what happens whilst your busy making other plans’

I don’t do these reviews professionally, like the hugely talented Progarchy team of which I am but a small cog in a mighty wheel, we all do this for the love of the music, and if just one person buys a record and loves it based on my words then I feel like I’ve done a good job. But enough about me!

Here then is a round up of two releases from the opposite sides of the world that have made it past my door and which I feel you guys should really get into your ears!

napiers

Napiers Bones: Hell and High Water

https://napiersbones.bandcamp.com/

 

Released back in March, and building on their two previous cracking albums 2014’s The Wistman Tales and 2015’s Tregeagles Choice, this talented duo of Nathan Jon Tillet and Gordon Midgely focus squarely on storytelling and the classic big prog sound.

Their latest opus Hell and High Water is split into two distinct concepts, the first three tracks focuses on s paranormal investigator and is based around the ruined Holy Trinity Church of Buckfastleigh (the Napiers Bones boys love building on existing mythology and weaving it into their wider storytelling, this really roots the music and gives them something to build on), whilst the final 4 tracks are all based around the flood legends that have cropped up throughout history and takes us to Yorkshire and Lake Semerwater.

Their albums with tales rooted in geographical and local mythology are ripe for a guidebook!

The first song cycle focuses on a Paranormal investigator and the mysterious Squire Cabell and Buckfastleigh Holy trinity, and weaving in the contemporary obsession with reality TV, the constant search for something else beyond the pale and human scepticism and the need to answer every question, creates an intense and dynamic story.

The opening track An Air of Mystery is powerful classic rocker with some great vocals from Nathan, whilst Broadcasting live has some fantastic instrumental sections and great guitar and keyboard work, considering this is the work of a duo, and is totally home produced this doesn’t sound like it, and their musical skills are fully up to their ambition to realise the concept.

Like it’s predecessor Tregeagles Bones, the first song cycle is performed as much as a drama as a song, and Nathan’s performance and Gordon’s music is perfectly judged and brilliant executed. The finale, the 10 minute epic No Return is reminiscent of the powerful story cycle albums by Ayreon, and wraps the story up in true style, with some beautifully performed atmospheric keyboard parts.

Onto the second part of the album, this is an album of contrasts and the two different concepts on display here, show two sides to Napiers Bones, and are a subtle blend of both the dark and the light.

The 4 part song cycle that makes up the second half of the record with it’s mythology reflects the best of folk rock, and the multilayered and musically complex No Room at the Inn is another one of their beautifully executed story songs, pulling together some fantastically haunting keyboard sounds and Nathan’s passionate vocals.

The wonderful Rain Down with it’s fantastic lyrics and great musical moments leads into the closing A Wake in Yoredale which rounds off the second part of this majestic album.

Napiers Bones are in their nature story tellers and they use their music to facilitate and take us with them on their tales, years ago you could imagine them sat in low roofed pubs trading tales for tipples, now you can take them with you and engage in their immersive songwriting.

uvtraveller

UVTraveler: Stormchaser

www.uvtraveler21stc.com

 

American heavy progressive rock duo Randy Sepe and Wade Greenwood recently released this, their second album (following up 2014’s debut UVTraveler) and it takes their blend of progressive and classic rock into another dimension.

I know fellow Progarchist Brad Birzer refers to me as the English progmaster, and I will admit that is where my interest in the genre was originally piqued and where my first love lies, but there is lots of exciting new prog coming from all over the globe, and to my mind UVTraveler are one of the best the states has to offer.

Producing a fine blend of classic prog whilst sitting on the harder and heavier side of the fence, they mange to pull the two influences together to create a musical union, and with the title and cover art, is there a homage going on here to Deep Purple/rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore?

In fact these influences run through the music as well, with the powerful and brooding Waiting for an Answer having some fantastic vocals from Wade that are reminiscent of Ronnie James Dios work with Black Sabbath in the early 80’s.

This doesn’t mean they are mere copyists however, after all most musicians are influenced by someone else, and it’s how you use that influence and weave it into your art that shows your mastery of your craft.

Sepe and Wade are talented enough to build elements of the heavier end of metal into prog and retaining their own musical identity that was forged on their debut album (which is also well worth a listen)

They are also masters of the blend of light and dark with If (based on the Rudyard Kipling poem) providing a contrast to the opening power of the first two tracks, with a more classily acoustic led piece that showcases Sepes versatility and again acts as a springboard for Wades impressive vocals, proving that like all the best singers he can turn his hand to the softer side of music without compromising his sound.

With guest musicians on the album fleshing out the sound, with the power of Michael Schiavo on bass and Greg Annunziata on drums, the opening rocking Deaths Call is a calling card for the album, and the rest of the tracks more than deliver on the opening promise.

The 70’s vibe runs through this record like a groove in vinyl, and tracks like a reworked version of their own When the Sun gets in your Eyes has a power and swagger of its own, whilst the closing duo of Calm before the…. provides an technically complex melodic instrumental introduction to the closing title track Stormchaser (with a nice play on words there as well, who says modern albums aren’t structured in a well thought out manner) which with it’s big riffs and fantastically catchy chorus brings the big heavy prog bands of the seventies to mind again, however this is no copy, more an honest homage blending the best of UVTraveler with some fantastic nods to bands like Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple.

There is no curse of the second record here for Randy Sepe and Wade Greenwood, indeed they have taken all the elements that made their first album so good, and built on them, progressing their sound, and refining their style into another cracking slice of heavy prog.

Esoteric Reissue Roundup

As their name suggests Esoteric Recordings are masters of remastering and reissuing long lost classic albums that are ripe for reappraisal, as well as having their own imprint Esoteric Antenna that is home to some of the most exciting new prog bands around. Today I am focusing on some treasures from their latest reissues campaign, including one that many of you Marillion fans out there might want to check out.

 

david-mcwilliams

David McWilliams Lord Offaly

Esoteric ECLEC2559

 

Irish singer/songwriter David McWilliams is a name that lingers at the back of the mind, famous for the 1967 single The Days of Pearly Spencer (later covered with much greater success by Marc Almond in 1992) there was always more to McWilliams work than posterity has accorded him.

Continue reading “Esoteric Reissue Roundup”

Threeviews

Afternoon Progarchists, as someone who writes for a variety of different sites I find myself getting sent diverse and eclectic albums to listen to, all of which roughly fall into the margins of the progressive genre, and today I have three radically different releases, all of which have been bouncing round my brain as I ride the mean streets of Bristol on the bus to and from work. Two are freshly minted (one so fresh it’s not even officially released yet – but it’s one hell of a pre-order!) and one EP which has been out for a while, so without further ado, lets introduce today’s picks.

verity

Verity Smith – Parenthesis

http://www.veritysmith.net

I first encountered Verity at the Classic Rock Society Awards back in 2014 where she was performing as part of Clive Nolan’s Alchemy musical, where she played the parts of Jane Muncey and Jessamine and was truck by her vocal prowess and stage presence.

Continue reading “Threeviews”

Bad Elephant keep on surprising…..

Bad elephant image

It seems no sooner have I cleared the  (self-created) backlog than bad Elephant add more interesting releases to this years schedule, which means there will be a couple more to add to this site in due course, it also means of my journey to work on the bus is enlivened by interesting new music, and odd toe tapping and finger drumming, which must be a delight to all the other passengers. Still at least I don’t play this loud through a tinny speaker in my mobile phone…maybe I should. Have you ever noticed that the worse the music, the louder it is likely to be, and the most likely it’s going to be coming from a smart phone?  Anyway, I digress, I shouldn’t let my mind wander as it’s not old enough to be out by itself.

I may have mentioned before that the earlier part of this year has involved moving, and so from March to the middle of May we were living out of boxes and struggling with finding what we needed, never mind anything else, I don’t think my stereo system was set up until the end of May, luckily I could still get to my laptop where the releases from Bad Elephant kept coming through thick and fast, and blimey what a diverse and eclectic release schedule they have had so far this year.

A well-known outspoken progressive rock ‘character’ has been quite forthright (again) this week on Facebook about how modern prog is dull and boring, or to quite his words ‘Prog is Bog’and how there’s no truly progressive bands out there. I think that Robert John Godfrey could do with joining the BEM fan page on Facebook, and then he’ll be able to see which bands are doing the creating and where the new voices in prog are coming from. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but to slate an entire contemporary genre, which some could argue is leaving him behind, without putting in the hard yards and listening to large chunks of what’s out there does him, and the genre he’s supposed to be part of and has been a champion for in the past, a great disservice. God there’s a whole chunk of music out there I haven’t heard yet, but as any good reviewer knows, your mind is like a parachute, it works best when it is opened. Anyway I’ll put away my little book of reviewing clichés now and crack on with another batch of music from those Elephant boys. I hope once you’ve had a read you take the time to investigate some of this music, which is at the cutting edge of contemporary prog.

Pardigm Shift

Paradigm Shift – Becoming Aware

 

Released back in June, this début album from North London 4 piece mix the best of contemporary prog, with nods towards prog metal and electronica, taking a broad musical palette that brings to mind so many different bands that is hard to know where to start.

Paradigm Shift aren’t shy about covering heavy topics and Becoming Aware is chock full of them, drawing inspiration I imagine from the darker world that we are currently living in. However if you’re expecting the album to depress you and bring you down then you’re wrong, the topics may be heavy but the mood set here isn’t.

A lot of that is down to the musical prowess of the band, the taut musical ability of this four piece who were founded back in 2007 by Ben Revens (vocals & keyboards) and Reuben Krendal (guitars) joined by Bryson Demath (drums) and Leon Itzler

(Bass). Moving through styles and moods with dexterity and grace, and with some fantastic piano pieces from Revens.

From the opening power of A Revolutionary cure, with its sampled speeches about freedom and slavery, topics that recur throughout the album, as the band are interested in the ideas of politicians telling the people what to do and the counterargument that these ideas fail, and it is this that drives A Revolutionary Cure, this and the powerful guitar and keyboard combination of Revens and Krendal, whose versatility taking in what some would describe as classic prog tendencies, mixed with metal, and running the whole gamut to some finely textured jazz piano means they are covering all bases musically, and to do so with such aplomb and self-assured confidence is great to hear.

The fact that these guys are so young gets forgotten, as this album builds and builds, with some amazing guitar work throughout. The album flows organically each track leading into the other, and it shows a lot of care and thought has been put into the programming and running order, which is wonderful to hear, an album designed as such.

There are certain traditional prog sensibilities on display here, from the epic 14 plus opener, to the two beautifully performed instrumentals, The Void, segueing nicely into the Shift, here Revens piano playing is to the fore, and it’s an instrument that helps define their sound, as integral to the album as the drum and bass combo of Demath and Itzler who provide real power and momentum on tracks like the closing two epics of Masquerade and Reunification.

With 4 tracks all clocking in at over 8 minutes, they give the songs room to breath, room to expand and grow, and yet nothing seems or feels superfluous, the tracks are this length because that’s how they are, no padding or waffle throughout.

This is an assured and confident début from another strong young prog band with plenty to say, and believe me it’s well worth you listening.

Nine stones close

Nine Stones Close – Leaves

 

Founded by guitarist Adrian Jones, five piece Anglo Dutch proggers Nine Stones Close released this, their fourth album in May, and see’s the band build on their legacy and a few line up changes, as the band has coalesced round Adrian Jones, drummer Pieter Van Hoorn, Aio O’Shaughnessy on impressive vocals, Peter Groen on bass and stick and Christiaan Bruin on keyboards. With the new line up comes a change of direction as well, although as this is the first album of theirs I’ve heard I can’t really comment, although I do know that Aio’s vocals are of a very different style to previous vocalist Marc Atkinson.

There is a lot of power here, and it’s hard to imagine on tracks like Lie that there’s only 5 men performing, as the intensity and groove they build is fantastic, as the instrumental precision and power here builds and builds as Adrian’s guitar work matched with Peters bass climbs and climbs in intensity and power and pulls you in.

The only short song on the album is the 5 minute opener Complicated, which eases you in gently before the power of the album kicks in, and what power, with some amazing musical work throughout the album it’s difficult to say which one of the 5 songs is my favourite, although I am edging towards the 16 minutes plus epic Spoils, where the symphonic textures and guitar create a tension that simmers throughout the track, with Aio’s fantastic vocals shining throughout this track, he has impressive range and a subtle skill in moving through light to dark, reminiscent of great singers like Dio or Bruce Dickinson, whilst the musical symphony that the band creates is fantastic, and the acoustic interludes and musical riffing throughout are superb.

This is a rather amazing record, which ends with the title track, Leaves, when you consider the power and darkness that has been on display throughout the album the title track is almost a counterpoint to what has gone on before, with an ambient undertow and almost minimalist playing until it builds to a hauntingly beautifully climax.

There is a lot going on with this album, and a complex sound that echoes long after the record has finished, this is definitely a left field album that is pleasantly surprising.

Konchordat

Konchordat – Rise to the Order

 

Third album from South East based prog 4 piece Stuart Martin (vocals and guitars), Neil Hayman (drums), Steve Cork (bass) and Neil Watts (keyboards) unleash, after much delay, their third album on an unsuspecting public through the Bad Elephants, and after having started out as a studio project, the current line up has evolved into a popular live band, and the power of a live band is reflected in this album.

Moving to a heavier sound, with the opening Like a Heart Attack kicking straight in and grabbing you by the throat with its heavy sound and driving keyboard work, you know you’re in for a treat. Operating firmly in the more traditional end of neo-prog, and adding symphonic touches to the sound, reminiscent of Threshold the sound they make is mighty and on Nowhere left to Go there is a wonderful driving Hammond influenced vibe. With the shortest song clocking in at just over 6 minutes, the rest of this material has room to grow, and plenty of opportunity to show off their power and skills. The bass and drums of Steve and Neil (Hayman) anchor the sound and allow Stuart and Neil (watts) to go nuts in guitar and keyboards, giving us a rich and warm sound that is a delight to listen to.

Konchordat are purveyors of prog that sits on the heavier side, but unlike other bands who throw the baby out with the bathwater and focus on the technicality of the metal and lose the soul, Konchordat have the songs to pull it off without it ever drifting into a technical bore fest, they have remembered the key part of any album is starting with the songs, and as a consequence have created a well crafted album that packs both a musical and emotional punch which rewards listen after listen.

Heliopolis

Heliopolis – Epic at the Majestic – Live at Rosfest

 

American prog band Heliopolis mark their new relationship with BEM by releasing their set at last years American prog landmark festival Rosfest.

The 5-piece band, Jerry Beller (drums and backing vocals) Matt Brown (keyboards, lead & backing vocals) Kerry Chicoine (bass and backing vocals) Scott Jones (lead vocals) and Mike Matier (guitars and backing vocals) perform their 2014 album, City of the Sun in its entirety.

Again this is my first introduction to the band, and from playing it I like what I hear, there’s plenty of old school prog tricks throughout the album, with some of the wonderful harmony vocals shining throughout, particularly on the uplifting and elegiac New Frontier, listening to the audience’s reaction to the band’s performance it’s clear that they are loving the bands performance, and it is a confident and strong performance, as the band take the audience with them and treat them to some barnstorming performances, Scott Jones vocals are excellent throughout and he reminds me in part of Steve Hogarth crossed with Geddy Lee, whilst musically Heliopolis are a traditionally old school prog band, with plenty of epic keyboard pieces like the soloing in Take a Moment, and with some fantastically powerful drumming. There’s even a hint of Yes in Mr Wishbone/Optical Delusion, whilst Elegy has a gentler piano driven vibe to it that nicely counterparts the more complicated songs with a simpler sound. Live albums are always a different beast to their studio counterparts as they show the evolution of the songs and how the music has grown to fill a live venue, and I am sure that if I sat down and listened to City of the Sun I would be able to play spot the difference, as a live experience is something to be treasured and for those lucky enough to be at Rosfest would have enjoyed this performance, and this is an excellent souvenir of a one-off gig, and for those who couldn’t be there, this is a fantastic document of a band playing to their strengths and an incredibly supportive audience.

Under a Banner

Under a Banner – The Wild Places

 

Lets not forget that Bad Elephant don’t just operate in the prog world, they are home to such songwriters as Tom Slatter, jh, and Mothertongue, all of whom are operating in totally different genres. As anyone whose spoken to David Elliott knows, he loves his prog but he also loves his folk rock music, and Under a Banner from the midlands are definitely operating in the rock end of the folk scene.

Following on a long line of political bands from this scene, like Billy Bragg, The Oysterband, The Levellers amongst others, Under a Banner have been plying their trade for around three years.

The band Adam Broadhurst (vocals/guitars) Jake Brooks (guitars and backing vocals) Simon Hill (bass guitar) Tim Wilson (drums,percussion, backing vocals) and Kat Davis (keyboards) are a powerfully tight folk influenced rock band with a mighty mighty sound.

From the opening In the End, you are drawn into the story telling that Adam weaves around the superb music from the band, his distinctive vocals draw you in, and the power of songs like Birdsong hit you from the speakers, the big choruses and elegiac quality to tracks like Sunburst leave you blown away.

I confess to having a loving of folk rock and the whole political movement behind the bands, with folk songs literally being the music of the people, the oppressed, the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the ones who want to see a change, and lord knows the way the world is at the moment we need a change, and it is refreshing and pleasing to know that there are bands like Under a Banner out there documenting today’s struggles, with some passionately played and relentlessly driving folk rock, the guitar solos on Snow Song, complete with it’s harmonic vocals and instrumental piece building until the guitar sears through the sound is particularly amazing.

I have had this album in my lug holes as I ride the bus to work, and each time I listen reveals new and intricate sounds and the sheer power behind the songs is superb. No overtly complicated arrangements, and certainly no 20 minute epics, instead the whole ‘less is more’ ethos works here in spades, and as new folk rock crusaders go, these guys are one of the best of the bunch. It’s an album that leaves you wanting more, and I cannot wait to see this brand of fiery anthemic folk rock performed live, with the connection that you would undoubtedly get between the band and the audience.

I cannot recommend this release enough, buy it, put it in your ears and let it live!

All albums are available as always through the Bad Elephant website www.badelephant.co.uk

What Lies Beneath – Bad Elephant Special part 2, an interview with Mike Kershaw.

Hello Progarchists, welcome back to the second part of my look at the current releases from our friends over at the naughty pachyderm, today I have a review and an interview with Mike Kershaw.

Self taught singer songwriter Mike Kershaw has been working solo for several years now putting out releases that have got better and better, and more acclaim with each release, and his latest album What Lies Beneath (the follow up to 2014s critically acclaimed Ice Age) is Mikes first full length album since signing to Bad Elephant, and Mike was kind enough to chat to me about the album, before we hear from the man himself, lets see what I thought of What Lies Beneath.

Mike Kershaw4

This is the second release that Mike has made using guest musicians, and like the previous EP (Departure) signposts a new direction of Mikes working, instead of being fully solo, he has opened the doors and invited in a list of talented musical collaborators and label mates, including the inimitable Tom Slatter, who adds his unique sound to Wounds, whilst Leopold Blu-Sky of Unto Us adds his bass,guitars,keys and drum programming to the mix as well as producing the record, Gareth Cole plays guitar on the album whilst Fractal Mirrors Frank L Urbaniak drums on a few tracks and Leo Koperdraat co-wrote and guests on Two Eyes.

Continue reading “What Lies Beneath – Bad Elephant Special part 2, an interview with Mike Kershaw.”