Progressive Music in a Time of Pandemic

In the era of Napoleon, the Prussian diplomat Klemens Wenzel Furst von Metternich coined the phrase, “When France sneezes, the whole of Europe catches a cold.”  Like all good clichés, it’s been re-purposed endlessly since the 1800s.  Which leads to today’s question: when the music industry of 2020 catches COVID-19, what does the progressive music scene come down with?

In the last few weeks, the toll of the current pandemic has been steadily mounting, with the postponement or cancellation of tours by Yes, Steve Hackett, Tool and Big Big Train (plus this year’s Cruise to the Edge) at the tip of the iceberg. 

The tale of Leonardo Pavkovic, impresario of MoonJune Records and MoonJune Music (Bookings and Management) is all too grimly typical; since the outbreak of coronavirus, eight MoonJune-booked tours have been cancelled at a loss of about $250,000 to the artists, with many more tours now in jeopardy.  MoonJune artists Stick Men lost 8 of 9 concerts in Asia, plus their US spring tour; touch guitarist Markus Reuter resorted to GoFundMe in order to make up for the loss of six months’ income.

So where’s the good news?

For one thing, the plight of progressive musicians has resonated strongly with their fans. Reuter’s GoFundMe goal was met in just over a day; Pavkovic has had a newly positive response to MoonJune’s digital subscription program and discount offers. (Full disclosure: I’m a digital subscriber and I love it!)  And now Bandcamp is getting into the act:

To raise even more awareness around the pandemic’s impact on musicians everywhere, we’re waiving our revenue share on sales this Friday, March 20 (from midnight to midnight Pacific Time), and rallying the Bandcamp community to put much needed money directly into artists’ pockets.

So (if your situation allows it), who can you support via downloads, CDs, LPs and merch bought on Bandcamp this Friday?  Well, you could start with four fine new albums I’ve reviewed this year:

Then move on to other artists well loved on this blog:

Best of all, the music keeps on giving.  Leonardo Pavkovic is already sharing details about his next MoonJune albums: a live set from Stick Men’s only uncancelled Asian concert, plus an album of improvisational duets by Markus Reuter and pianist Gary Husband recorded during down time in Tokyo.  And jazz-rock master John McLaughlin has made his most recent album (Is That So with vocalist Shankar Mahadevan and tabla player Zakir Hussain) available as a free download.

Whither the music industry in time of pandemic?  As with everything else, it’s way too soon to tell.  But, if all of the above is any indication, progressive music — due to the indefatigable, awe-inspiring musicians who make it — will survive.

— Rick Krueger

kruekutt’s 2018 Favorites: New Albums

Here are the albums of new music from 2018 that grabbed me on first or second listen, then compelled repeated plays. I’m not gonna rank them except for those that achieved Top Favorite status, which I’ll save for the very end. The others are listed alphabetically by artist. (Old school style, that is — last names first where necessary!) Links to the ones I’ve previously reviewed are embedded in the album titles.  But first, a graphic tease …

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More Soon From The Tangent

Proxy_by_the_Tangent

Pre-orders are open for the new album from The Tangent!

Recorded “quietly and carefully” over Spring and Summer of this year, Proxy is scheduled for release by the esteemed Inside Out Music on 16 November and will be available as a CD digipak, vinyl LP and digital download.

Soon after placing my order, I was delighted to receive a long and chatty email from Andy Tillison, delving deeply into the influences and musical styles of the new album, and the approach used to make it. Absolutely fascinating.

According to Andy, it is a “very organic feeling piece”, featuring a real drummer this time (Steve Roberts). Naturally, we should expect Prog – “not just Prog, but lots of it… often focused on the Hammond and Electric Piano”, with “less in the way of orchestrations – more focus on the core instruments”. Apparently, we’ll “spot influences from Chris Squire, Keith Emerson, Pip Pyle, Pierre Moerlen, Tony Iommi, Chick Corea, Fatboy Slim, Sophie Ellis Bextor and Peter Hammill”. Now that’s an eclectic bunch!

Because Doctor Livingstone from Slow Rust was so well received, we’ll be getting another instrumental on Proxy, along with a 17-minute epic that, intriguingly, has all the hallmarks of Prog and yet is “not made out of Prog… Imagine the Eiffel Tower made in mahogany”. I am very curious to find out what this actually means…

And what of the lyrics? Let me quote Andy in full here:

No overall concept this time. Yes, there will be politically motivated bits – there will be introspect – there will be reckless optimism and ever more reckless pessimism. Some of the songs are tinged with the regrets arising from missed opportunities earlier in life, some are angry and cynical. But the overall conclusion of the album is that there is “still time”.

Bring it on!

The Mischievous Red-Headed One is Back (Tillison’s KALMAN FILTER)

kalman filter
Arrived yesterday: The Kalman Filter (Andy Tillison and Matt Stevens).

The term “Kalman Filter” refers to a process of observing and measuring something over long periods of time, rather than simply making a single observation of a single moment at a specific time.  The process never claims to be perfect, but it does claim to be a more accurate of understanding over the long term.

Why Andy Tillison chose to name his new band and new project Kalman Filter is beyond my knowledge. Whether he just liked the name or whether he has some intent in comparing his approach to the music to the Kalman Filter process is, again, unknown to me.  Still, if it’s the latter, it seems to fit.  The music does seem to me to be a way of thinking about a process, seen over moments of great lengths of time, reaching toward perfection.

To complicate matters, Tillison has written an extremely detailed if rather psychedelic story about his encounters with some black-op security forces here: https://www.thetangent.org/index.php/read/the-kalman-filter

Tillison is best known—especially to Americans—as the fountainhead and touchstone of all thing The Tangent related.  But, he’s responsible for a number of other groups and projects as well: including, most recently, Tangekanic, as well as Parallel or 90 Degrees and a number of solo albums (Fog, Murk, Electric Sinfonia, and Durch).

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Tillison/Tangent/Kalman Filter News

This arrived, happily, this evening from Sally Collyer.  Great update about all things Tillison.

TheTangent

Happy New Year to everyone and first and foremost a huge thank you to all who supported Andy and the band last year, bought “The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery”, attended the live shows in Europe and the USA and voted for the album and band members in the PROG Magazine readers poll, huge congratulations to Andy for being voted number one in the Keyboard players category and to Jonas and Luke for gaining 5th place in the Bass Player and Guitarist categories respectively, the album “The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery” also achieved 5th in the best album category, all in all incredible achievements considering the wealth of talented output in the progressive music  genre over the last 12 months, in addition to the fact that we have a policy of never asking fans to vote in polls, it was wonderful to get this news in the knowledge that people had chosen to give support without any outside influence, the music really did speak for itself!

Lots going on here at Tangent HQ right now:

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A Highly Rewarding Outing: SLOW RUST from The Tangent

The Tangent, SLOW RUST OF FORGOTTEN MACHINERY (Insideout Music, 2017).  Tracks: Two Swings; Doctor Livingstone; Slow Rust; The Story of Lead and Astatine; A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road; and Basildonxit.

tangent slow rust
The antithesis.

Andy Tillison is not a happy man.

From the art work, to the vocal work, to the lyrics of this latest The Tangent album, SLOW RUST, Tillison has embraced a critical response to the rapidly growing and evolving fascistic, fascist-lite, and insular movements of the western world over the last several years.  As artist, as man, and as thinker, Tillison hopes to stay the dark trajectory of the West or even, God willing, reverse it.  While the great red-headed man of prog mischief has never backed away from controversial viewpoints, he’s rarely been this explicit.

Even the album cover makes one pause.  Previously, Tillison has joked that he represents the dark side of prog, the antithesis, in particular, to Big Big Train, and the cover seems to project this rather profoundly, as a (presumably) single Muslim mother walks along dilapidated railroad tracks, holding the hands of her two daughters.  The once majestic train has derailed, and the crossing sign (the closest thing to the viewer of the album) reads “go.”  Clearly, several things have gone very, very wrong.  There’s no hedgerow in the distance, only a ruined, collapsed, and spent civilization.  There’s some blue sky showing, but it’s obscured by the ruddy reds of smoke and grit floating all too freely in a broken and war-torn world.

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Rush and The Tangent: Influences and Speed

This morning, Andy Tillison, the mighty and mischievous redhead of the prog world, posted this wonderful essay on how much Rush has influenced him and his music.

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Delayed yesterday owing to the highly unpleasant news about Jonas – and only because I know he’s on the mend – here is the FOURTH of the albums I have chosen to represent some of the influential albums on The Tangent’s career. Once again to stress that this is not a chart, a “best of” – nor is it an effort to say or imply that The Tangent sound like this. Because today – i do not think we sound anything like this band, who (like the previous artist) hail from Canada

rush moving pictures
Perhaps THE greatest album in prog history?

So far my choices have been street credible and artistically laudable I think – and there will be those who heave a sigh of disappointment when they see that I chose an album by Rush. Indeed, I spent many years not having a great deal of time for this group and they didn’t really hit me until the mid 80s. But when they did… they did.

What I find so appealing about Rush – is something that Sally had also identified, independently of me before either of us met.. and that to us – to try an explain, is the MOTION in which Rush songs set themselves. Where many progressive bands take a stand on the hilltops- taking a view of the broader vista, Rush are always IN the landscape, travelling through it – usually at some speed! They’re looking at the hills that others are standing on – as they whizz past gas stations and motels, steel works and a very very familiar real world environment.

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