Ulver – The Assassination Of Julius Caesar

New music from Norwegian experimentalists Ulver is always something to savour, and its diversity might surprise you. 2016’s cryptically-titled ATGCLVLSSCAP was mostly instrumental and partly-improvised, veering from ambient to intensely atmospheric post rock and back again. Their latest release is a quite different proposition, however.

The Assassination Of Julius Caesar channels progressive, pop and electronica influences to utterly glorious effect. Repeated listens variously bring to mind Pure Reason Revolution, Anathema, New Order, Propaganda, early Simple Minds and Massive Attack, amongst others (a list of musical reference points that will have a few Progarchy readers salivating, I’m sure).

It’s difficult to pick out highlights in an album of such consistently high quality, but right now I’m particularly enamoured by the expansive dark groove of Rolling Stone (at over 9 minutes, the album’s longest track), the elegant pop of Southern Gothic and the achingly beautiful chorus in Transverberation.

I’m calling it now. One of the best albums of 2017.

The Tangent News

More news on the next release from The Tangent, which now has the title The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery. Andy put a 10-minute video on YouTube before Christmas, summarising plans for the album and giving us a tantalising preview of the music in demo form.

If that’s whetted your appetite, why not head over to the ‘prepreorder’ page on The Tangent’s website? £50 will buy you a signed CD with your name in the accompanying booklet and a personal message from Andy, and you’ll get it a couple of days before the official release. You’ll also get an hour’s worth of album demos right now and some more track samples in March. The price drops to £30 if you can live without your name in the booklet.

This is expensive, true – but Andy’s commendably honest about the reasons for these prices. Check out the prepreorder page for a full explanation and for a preliminary track listing.

Rest assured that a normally-priced preorder option will be available in due course…

When I’m not cleaning windows: the joy of being in a part-time band

This piece in the New Statesman, from Scritti Politti’s Rhodri Marsden, will resonate for prog musicians everywhere – and for prog fans too, I guess.

There’s some really good stuff in here, particularly on the idea of ‘small but sustainable’, on the economic pressures favouring “solo projects with computers and acoustic guitars”, and on the role played by fortunate personal circumstances (the “Mumford & Sons route to success”), but I was particularly taken by the following amusing quote, from Tommy Shotton, former drummer of Do Me Bad:

We were among the last crop of bands who took advantage of an industry that had money to throw around… The label seemed to think that it validated their investment if we agreed to travel around in a funny taxi with flowers and magazines in the back. There was a lot of ‘Oh, give the artists space to be artists’ – but all we were doing was sitting about, arguing about the sound of a cowbell while eating free doughnuts.

Flow & Balance: The Exquisite Beauty of Folklore

What are the ingredients of a truly great album?

Well there’s the songwriting, of course: that’s a given. Likewise the performances of the players. But what else?

The overall sound that a band produces is important, for sure – the choice of instruments and how they’ve been employed in service of the songs, and how well the different qualities of those instruments have been balanced. And let’s not overlook other aspects of the production: the overdubs, the mixing, the mastering and so forth. (I’m sure we can all think of good albums that have suffered from a lack of attention to the latter.)

I think there’s one other underrated ingredient, however. For want of a better word, I call it flow: the way in which the different tracks on the album fit together and contribute to the experience of listening to an album as a whole. Note that I’m not talking particularly of concept albums here (although flow is a highly desirable quality of these). An album can flow well even if there is no story or common themes to link its songs together.

Continue reading “Flow & Balance: The Exquisite Beauty of Folklore”

Tangerine Dream Documentary Seeks Funding

Last week, film production company TAG/TRAUM went public with a long-awaited Kickstarter campaign to fund the first feature-length documentary about legendary electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream.

Production of a short documentary was already underway when founder member Edgar Froese passed away last year, but far from abandoning their project, the team resolved to turn it into a feature-length piece on this most important of bands.

One week into the campaign and they’ve raised a third of their target, but your help is needed!…