From the inbox this morning, we got sent this new single from UK-based band, Barricane. The group is a six-piece based around singer songwriters Rosy Piper and Emily Green. Also featuring Charlie Lane (bass), Chris Alchin (keyboard, acoustic guitar and synt), Hamish Wall (electric guitar), and Gary Neville (drums).
“Saltwater” packs a lot into a mere five minutes. It begins with atmospheric guitars and spacey drums with ethereal vocals over the top before gradually building. The real treat is the ending where the song shifts into a proggy synth space before the electric guitar comes in for a hard rock solo complete with a wall of drums. It’s great. Check it out.
Michael Woodman, Psithurism, 2021
Tracks: Sacramento (2:32), Petrichor (3:32), Cloned In Error (5:36), The Levitant (6:44), Seachange (6:57)
Thumpermonkey vocalist Michael Woodman released Psithurism in August 2021, and we’re finally getting around to reviewing the lovely digipack CD he sent us. I’m calling it an EP because it’s less than a half hour long, but it could very well be an album. Semantics.
The music is relaxed and mildly atmospheric, although not quite in a Pink Floydian way. It has a more contemporary sound to it, somewhat reminiscent of Steven Wilson, although it isn’t as dark as that. Nevertheless the music is still rather haunting, which matches the artwork. The record focuses on the vocals and lyrics, with electric guitar and drums being the primary instruments. There are gaps in the instrumentation where the songs are carried along by a cappella vocals. The music is sometimes light, but it has its heavier moments. “Petrichor” starts off slow and sparse before building into a heavy blend of guitars and drums that then gets overlaid with saxophone. Quite nice.
At times the lyrics are more prose than poetry, or if it’s poetry it’s non-rhyming. There is a lot to dig into in the lyrics, since they’re on the denser side. This provides reasons to come back to the record, as well as a good reason to pick up the digipack, which has the lyrics printed on the inside of the foldout sleeves. Thematically the lyrics are very dreamlike. Images flash before the narrators eyes, much as it does in imagist poetry. The stories told are mildly in the horror, or at least mystery, genre, with cryptids lurking around corners and murders in the woods, adding to the haunting sense I mentioned earlier.
The Weever Sands – Stylobat’s Travels, 2020 Tracks: 1. Intro/The Breakout Session (3:29), 2. And Aphrodite Took The Veil (7:03),3. Stylobat’s Travels (25:27), 4. Acropolis (The Big Wave) (6:12)
Cologne, Germany’s The Weever Sands combine the album format and experimental playfulness of the early 1970s with what could be considered post-rock or ambient rock. To be honest, I didn’t quite get it at first, but then the other day I was listening to Gentle Giant and it hit me. The synth and organ sounds that predominate in Gentle Giant’s music are very similar to what I hear on Stylobat’s Travels, The Weever Sands’ sophomore album. Add in some flute and strong bass and you have the makings of a classically inspired progressive album. But this is stripped back. The music isn’t as heavily layered as you might get on a Gentle Giant or Jethro Tull record, and that’s by design. The band are also heavily influenced by Mike Oldfield’s idea of a “powerful miniature,” where the songs aren’t as heavily developed yet still stretch out into varying sounds.
The album opens with some spoken word that sets the stage for a concept that is told primarily through music, the wonderful cover artwork and other artwork included with the CD, and promo notes telling me what the story is about. The band describe the concept as a story about a bat (Stylobat) in Ancient Greece who goes on a quest to find his sweetheart. Most of the album is instrumental, so you’ll have to use your imagination, with some help from the artwork, to see Stylobat searching for his beloved.
The first two tracks most closely resemble what we would call progressive rock, but the 25 minute “epic” is most certainly post-rock, with all of the elements that might make up a layered prog song spread out and played individually. A splash on the high hat here, a symphonic tone there, a synthesized beep. Four minutes in and I’m beginning to wonder what’s going on. The first five minutes of that track are subtitled “Flatlined,” so the musical scene is apparently meant to be at a hospital bedside. Things pick up after that with the next section, “Stereobat,” but I would still label it experimental. There’s melody, but the combination of different synth sounds keeps it sounding unique, although it still references the gentlest of giants.
The third section, “Ah! These Ionic Beams!” nicely builds to a combination of keyboard combined with a rock riff that’s a lot more traditional. An electrical guitar finally comes in, elevating the music by leaps and bounds. Not that there was anything wrong with the music before, but the guitar solo is quite nice and certainly welcome. This section of the song is the best music on the album.
This is the point where I notice that the song has built gradually to this moment. The song began with disparate sounds, but they have gradually been brought together and build upon each other. The fourth section, “Introducing Fire Ghosts,” returns to some of the disparateness of “Flatlined,” but it never becomes that sparse again. It soon returns to the musical complexity of the previous section. The final section, “Underwater,” winds down with a synth sound that fills the musical space, perhaps suggesting being covered by water. The final song, “Acropolis (The Big Wave),” continues that nautical theme, but it builds and morphs into more of a rock song with heavier drums and heavier keyboards with a vintage 70s sound.
Stylobat’s Travels isn’t your typical instrumental prog album. Usually instrumental albums feature a lot of musical noodling, but this record seems to focus more on telling a story through music. Personally I would’ve preferred a bit more guitar and fewer moments of sparseness in the long track. Some more spoken word sections beyond the opening track would’ve helped move the story along as well. The opening spoken word passage reminded me a bit of a radio drama, and I think a few more instances of that on the record could have helped tell the story more clearly and coherently.
The Weever Sands are quite unlike most of what you’re going to find in progressive rock these days. They don’t seem to be copying any particular sound, even though I made that Gentle Giant connection earlier. Rather they start with a more ambient base and build that up until it’s no longer ambient… if that makes sense at all. It isn’t quite rock, even though it does have rock moments (which I wish were more numerous). It’s a fun little journey that has a few bumps in the road, but it’s worth checking out if you’re looking something inspired by classic progressive rock that isn’t symphonic prog.
Everything from hardcore to classical segments can be burned into post-metal, and it would still be coherent, Lined in Silver is no exception. Song duration rivals prog, frequently illustrating those meandering atmospheric leads and hardcore riffs. Surprisingly they also sometimes lead to industrial passages. Covering this spectrum of influences and usually keeping with that shoegaze ambience, but again except for those instances of post-hardcore outbursts and hard to define avant-garde progressions. Seems like Breaths, just like post-metal, is easy to identify but often hard to describe.
As expected, album goes beyond metal. In fact, that famous post-metal emphasis on aesthetic, more than concrete musical influences cannot be more evident. Even though straddling genre boundaries, it’s always grim in a unique way. In other words, you don’t have to be a fan of doom metal to enjoy these sludgy passages; it can simply captivate anyone appreciating the dark and the melancholy.
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.
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. . .
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.
Porcupine Tree, ARRIVING SOMEWHERE. . . (Kscope, 2018). 2 CD/1 Blu-ray package. A re-release of the 2007 title on DVD.
Though it originally came out over a decade ago, Porcupine Tree’s ARRIVING SOMEWHERE . . .–its live show from Chicago, October 11-12, 2005–has just been re-released by Kscope in a very nice 2 cd/1 blu-ray book.
When it first came out on DVD in 2007, I had purchased it immediately. Of all the concerts I own on varous forms of video, ARRIVING SOMEWHERE . . . has been in constant play, rivaling only Rush’s TIME MACHINE and Talk Talk’s LIVE IN MONTREUX for most played.
Now, having it on CD and blu-ray reminds me yet again how incredible Porcupine Tree was in the first decade of this millenium. Admittedly, between 2001 and 2010, I was rather obsessed with the band. To me–all pre-2009 and, thus, pre-UNDERFALL YARD–no other band had reached as far and as perceptively as had Porcupine Tree. The band seemed the perfect fusion of prog, pop, and psychedelia–in its music as well as in its lyrics.
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.