Bon Voyage: Melody Prochet’s Fantastic Journey

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This summer saw the long-awaited second release from Melody’s Echo Chamber: Bon Voyage arrived after five stop-and-go and, at times, tortuous years. On its June 15 release date Melody Prochet (vocal, guitar, synthesizers, violin, viola) wrote on her Facebook band page,

Today is a day life forced me to give up waiting for… ‘Bon Voyage’ is a little monster I hope will find it’s home in some of your hearts and…if not soothe, will resonate somehow positively…

So it comes down to listeners interacting with this beast, a theme-park ride of a record, while the artist, one imagines, pulls the covers over her head. First off, it is little, clocking in at a compendious 33 minutes. But given its twists and turns, its density and scope, the brevity of the work allows repeat listens to work out its strange but satisfying logic.

As I told a friend: I can’t imagine a Syd Barrett or Brian Wilson or Todd Rundgren or Wayne Coyne not really liking this record.

Prochet (b. 1987, Puyricard, France) began working on her sophomore project and releasing tracks (e.g. “Shirim”) in 2013. Rumor has it she threw away some of the material. Then last year she was involved in an undisclosed accident resulting in serious injuries. Her fans despaired until Bon Voyage was dropped in time for the summer solstice.

Melody’s Echo Chamber (2012) was readily classified as “psych pop.” But for those who tire of musical taxonomies Bon Voyage is as open borders as they come. The opening track “Cross My Heart” begins with composite acoustic guitar chords followed by a swelling string arrangement, a mid ’60s Wilsonish verse, then a beat box section folding into a flute and percussion-driven jazz passage embellished with some fanatical bass lines. The lyrics here, as throughout the album, flow freely between English and French. We’re escorted back to the opening chords for a reprise of the main (?) verse and a riff-laden, cinematic flourish.

As soon as “Breathe In, Breathe Out” drops a power rock groove the listener’s head-bobbing is interrupted by a trance section before the track accelerates again to its finish, the opening themes reworked but almost unrecognizable in the sonic whiplash.

Prochet cites composer Olivier Messiaen (1908 – 1992) as a favorite, and perhaps what we catch on this record are flecks of his emphasis on color and unusual time signature.

The first of two foci on this record is “Desert Horse,” pairing a dark Middle Eastern groove (including on old Black Sabbath riff) with a bright but plaintive chorus,

So much blood
On my hands
And there’s not much left to destroy
I know I am better alone

…except the isolation that birthed this record finds its emotional epicenter in the epic “Quand Les Larmes D’un Ange Font Danser La Neige.” Ironically it’s among the more conventional and readily accessible tracks on the album, even at seven minutes. Imagine the Bee Gees not taking that disco detour…

[spoken word] …it comes through the window like a whistle or a whisper under the bed and little children think that the monster —

Angels, aching
Keep smiling
Ain’t no karma, only love
To punish those with rotten heart

Good to have Melody’s Echo Chamber back — and this creature on the loose.

Minus

Black Sabbath meets Pink Floyd, in other words it’s heavy metal, but quite psychedelic, atmospheric and drawn-out. Kraków’s Minus exhibits significant post metal and stoner hues too. The album actually progresses from stoner straight into post rock territory. From a three minute album opener to nine minute compositions essentially reflects that trend. From fractious Soundgarden like textures to introspective drone riffs – the journey couldn’t be more seamless.

Progtoberfest IV Is Coming!

Reggie’s Rock Club and Music Joint has officially announced the line-up for Progtoberfest IV.  Sponsored by InsideOut Music, the festival will be held on the south side of Chicago Friday through Sunday, October 19-21.  Tickets go on sale Friday, June 1 Tuesday, June 5 at 12 noon CST at Ticketfly.  Here’s the line-up, with event and band links included wherever possible:

Friday, October 19 – Reggie’s Rock Club:

 

Friday, October 19 — Reggie’s Music Joint:

  • The Nick D’Virgilio Project (Fort Wayne, IN — jazz-rock fusion with colleagues from Sweetwater Studios)
  • Tempano (Venezuela)
  • Inner Ear Brigade (San Francisco, CA)
  • No More Pain (Old Bridge, NJ)

 

Saturday, October 20 — Reggie’s Rock Club:

 

Saturday. October 20 — Reggie’s Music Joint:

 

Sunday, October 21 — Reggie’s Rock Club:

 

Sunday, October 21 — Reggie’s Music Joint:

 

Ticket prices are as follows:

  • Single day general admission (standing room in Rock Club):$75
  • Single day general admission VIP (including poster, BBQ buffet and meet & greets): $100
  • Three day general admission: $175
  • Three day general admission VIP: $240
  • Three day Above Stage VIP: $275 (general admission seating in Rock Club balcony; my choice for Progtoberfest III)
  • Three day Seated VIP: $325 (reserved seats up front on Rock Club main floor)
  • Three day Red Chair VIP: $400 (reserved seats up front in Rock Club balcony)
  • There are additional Ticketfly service fees, but they’re reasonable.

I had a great time at Progtoberfest III last year, and I hope to make it to at least one day of this year’s festival.  This time around, I’m especially impressed by the variety of genres represented (including a generous amount of jazz-rock fusion) and the healthy mix of national/international big names (getting Soft Machine is a genuine coup), local favorites and hungry young artists.  See you there?

 

NAO4 Teaser Trailer

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Our last glimpse of real beauty–NAO’s compilation album.

Sam Healy–while complying with Big Euro Brother laws, regulations, and microintrusions–offered a wonderful teaser/trailer for the forthcoming North Atlantic Oscillation album, coming sometime this year.

Granted, it’s only a full-eighteen seconds worth, but it’s eighteen more seconds then we had before. . .

Looking East: Gazpacho’s Soviet Saga

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Gazpacho’s 10th Album, SOYUZ.

Gazpacho, SOYUZ (Kscope 2018).  Tracks: Soyuz One; Hypomania; Exit Suite; Emperor Bespoke; Sky Burial; Fleeting Things; Soyuz Out; and Rappaccini.

To be sure, every release from the Norwegian art rockers extraordinaire, Gazpacho, is not just another moment in a progger’s life, but an actual event—filled with meaning and significance, marked by the awareness and heighten-ness of all five senses.

For those of us in the United States, we wait that extra week for the package from Burning Shed to arrive. Then, we carefully remove the rectangular sticker from Kscope (this one, Kscope607) and, then, the cellophane.  I have the strange habit of collecting every one of these cellophane stickers, placing each within the front or back cover of whatever book I’m reading at the time.  Today, when the mail came, I was re-reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s Book of Lost Tales, Part I.  Hence, the Kscope607 sticker sits nicely behind the front cover.

Opening the booklet releases a smell every bit as satisfying as that of a brand new car.  It’s a bit sweet and a bit pulpy.  And, then, we dive into the pictures and, most importantly, the lyrics.

The only disappointing thing about a Gazpacho release is knowing that the next one is most likely at least two years out. Real art takes time, especially in the northern parts of the world.  I’ve now gone through this ritual exactly 13 times (counting studio, live, and re-releases) since I first purchased NIGHT in 2007.  It’s always healthy, and it’s always inspiring. As much a release as it is an inspiration.

Continue reading “Looking East: Gazpacho’s Soviet Saga”

soundstreamsunday #96: “Huey Newton” by St. Vincent

stvincent1It’s no real surprise that “Huey Newton” is not about Huey Newton but rather the rabbit holes of internet searches and the semi-free association that can result.  St. Vincent’s self-titled fourth album (2014) is full of these tricky ‘scapes, it’s second single, “Digital Witness,” a frugging Beefheartian horn romp through the minefield of social media and probably the catchiest song you’ll ever hear about our accursed blessings.  Annie Clark’s musical and lyrical smarts match the task of knotty commentary, so even as she obliquely declaims she does so riding a wicked beat, multiplexing fluid melodies with giant, nasty riffs shooting distorto-style from her guitar in subtle nods to Hendrix, Fripp/Belew, and other noise monsters of yore.  She is a musical polymath, a pop loving prog rocker with, importantly, a penchant for the editorial process, and as such working with hitmaker Jack Antonoff on her latest record, Masseduction (2017), is a supreme act of sincere irony.  It is a gauntlet waiting to be picked up by the Taylor Swifts of this world, for certainly St. Vincent has no need for the pop audience but, eventually, many of today’s iHeart radio stars may yearn for the legacy Annie Clark has already built.

HueyNewtonLyrics

“Huey Newton” is part cool-down dance nugget and part ZZ Top riff rocker, a product of an Ambien fever dream, where synthesizers are really guitars and basses are really synthesizers.  It all comes off sounding as if it and the entirety of the album was the most exciting of adventures to undertake, a feeling reinforced by a 2014 interview Clark did with Marc Maron, where she acknowledges her guitar skills but seems grateful that she’s “not so masterful that the magic is gone.”  Imagine, that there should be magic and not just mastery, allowing in the dark wilds….  In producer and fellow Texan John Congleton, who also produced Strange Mercy (2011), St. Vincent has an able partner (the ZZ Top reference is for real — Congleton’s a big Top fan).

Two performances of the song here: from the album and from an appearance on Letterman in the wake of the record’s release.  Both are devastating in their way, and recall for me, more than anything, early Roxy Music, with its skewering adoration of pop, the best kind of love letter to the muse.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.

Time Has Shown The Wiser: Fairport Convention at Fifty

It came about this way: I received a 180-gram reissue of Genesis’ Trespass for Christmas. In a documentary on the making of the album Tony Banks said the band’s first truly progressive work had been inspired by listening to groups like The Nice, Family, and Fairport Convention.

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Fairport Convention? I think I once saw a passing reference to “progressive folk” applied to their work, and was familiar with their definitive album, Liege & Leaf — a statement on their growing affinity with the English folk tradition. While Trespass has some folk-inspired moments it’s anachronistic to say Liege influenced Genesis’ 12-string arrangements and composite chords. I went back to Fairport’s debut, Fairport Convention, recorded in November 1967 (man, something about British bands and fall recording sessions) and released in the spring of ’68.

Oh my.

Continue reading “Time Has Shown The Wiser: Fairport Convention at Fifty”