Not Bauhaus but World Party: Fractal Mirror’s SLOW BURN 1

Fractal Mirror, SLOW BURN 1 (Third Contact, 2016).

Tracks: Prelude; Miracle; Numbers; V838; Floods; Mist; Enemies; Embers; Fading; Artifacts; Universal.

Mixed by Brett Kull, and mastered by Larry Fast.

slow burn 1
Fractal Mirror’s Third Album.  A new direction, but the same glorious dedication to art.

If you’re looking for some intelligent, thoughtful, and melodic rock, you’ve arrived at the perfect place.  The aptly titled, SLOW BURN 1, offers 11 contemplative tracks, each flowing elegantly from one to another.  While the first two Fractal Mirror albums possessed strong gothic-Prog elements, this album, as a whole, is rather Beatles-eque, especially in its vocal melodies.

Continue reading “Not Bauhaus but World Party: Fractal Mirror’s SLOW BURN 1”

Neither Bending Nor Conforming: Fractal Mirror Comes of Age

Review of Fractal Mirror, “Garden of Ghosts” (privately released, 2014). The Band: Leo Koperdraat; Ed van Haagen; and Frank Urbaniak. Art by Brian Watson and layout by Frank Urbaniak. Additional personnel: Brent Kull (mixer); Larry Fast; Don Fast; and Andre de Boer.

Songs: House of Wishes; The Phoenix; Lost in Clouds; Solar Flare; The Hive; Solar Flare Reprise; The Garden; Orbital View; Event Horizon; Legacy; and Stars.

Birzer rating: 9.5/10.


Take a Dutch singer/keyboardist and a Dutch bassist, an American drummer, and an English artist. Add a little Kashmir-Zeppelin and a lot of Bauhaus, some Cure from the Faith period, and a touch of Gilmour-era Pink Floyd. Mix in some master jazz and prog stars to produce, contribute, and engineer. Throw in a dash of social media to connect it all. Finally, glue it all together with lyrics that might make Neil Peart blush at the timidity of his own Canuck individualism. Even with such diverse and various ingredients, you’d probably still not arrive at the genius that is Fractal Mirror.

“I will not bend or conform; this is how I’m meant to be.”

Indeed, it is. The first Fractal Mirror album proved a spectacular success. This second release, even more so. By infinite degrees. This sophomore release offers a full-bodied constitution and a virtuous soul to the emerging voice that was the new-born first album.

Fractal Mirror has come of age.

In a very definite sense, the title of this release “Garden of Ghost,” tells the listener almost all of what he or she needs to know about the whole. From the opening lyrics, Leo Koperdraat’s haunting, quavering voice shakes the listener to his deepest longings and desires as well as to his greatest fears and anxieties. This is not an album for the weak of soul, the narrow of mind, or faint of heart. This album is full-bodied, and it demands immersion, not just polite appreciation. While the ghosts fits the tone of the album completely, a “maze” might have worked as well as “garden.” The garden, if it exists, is the garden one finds in a nineteenth-century cemetery. It is certainly not the English garden of even the most psychedelic of Beatle songs. Here, if it exists, the garden collects stones, obelisks, mutated lambs and gargoyles, crumbling and cracked names, and pieces of rod iron and greened bronze and copper. A fog hovers over it all, and the damp penetrates all who enter it.

Fractal Mirror’s Garden of Ghosts is fully prog, though not the prog of our fathers. If Andy Tillson and Brian Watson (who also happens to be the main artist of FM) are correct that we have been living in the third wave of prog since about 1994—and I think they are right—2014 might very well reveal a transition to a new wave. As I look back over my posts for the past five years, I realize that every single year I write something akin to “201X, the greatest year in prog yet.” Yes, I’m prone to hyperbole, but I did mean this every time I wrote it. For the first time in a half-decade, I’m not sure this year, 2014 by Christian accounting, is the best year in prog. There have been some truly brilliant releases this year, indeed, some of the best prog I’ve ever heard. I think it is quite possible, however, that Big Big Train, The Tangent, and Glass Hammer took us to an unsurpassable level last year, perhaps the very culmination of third-wave prog.

The best releases of this year, such as those by Cosmograf, John Bassett, Salander, and Fractal Mirror, offer a progressively retro look, in theme and in musical styles. That is, many of the best releases this year have been scavenger hunts of the years 1979-1984 while cleaning those remaining and latent treasures and reimaging them.

What we have this year, 2014, is prog, to be certain, but it comes very close to post-post modern prog. Atmospheres, tones, and lingerings have replaced force, rhythm, and drive. “Ocean Rain” might serve as the touchstone rather than “Close to the Edge.”

To put it another way, the music of 2014 seems as intense as anything before it, but it also seems content to be contemplative and deeply intellectual, an autumnal repose of the mind and soul, an in-taking of breath, anticipating exhalation.

“This winter feels like forever, a garden of regret.”

FM has created a thing of real genius with Garden of Ghosts. I apologize that this review is so introspective and reflective, so utterly subjective. But, the 2014 prog scene has brought out the most existential questions in me. As I listen and listen and listen to Fractal Mirror, I can’t help but feel a most fundamental soul searching.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been listening to this album for roughly a month now, and I’ve found it one of the most difficult things I’ve ever reviewed. Not because it’s bad, but for exactly the opposite reason. It’s so interesting and complex, so very good, that I wanted to give my own thought processes time to catch up with it. I’m certain that as I continue to listen, I will discover even more depths as well as breadths.

I must also note: it’s well worth getting the physical CD. Brian Watson has presented us with some of his best artwork, and Frank Urbaniak’s layout sets what should be the standard for all cd layouts. The lyrics are well worth reading over and pondering, again and again. The band even included a brief description of the intent and meaning of each song. I resisted reading these until just right now, as I come to a close with this review. As it turns out, my interpretation of the themes of the album—loss, age, regret, concern, and hope—mesh with what the band has explained here. Again, a masterwork of autumnal existentialism.

For more information, see

A New Fractal Mirror is Just Around the Corner

Well, they’ve yet to capture the imagination of Tim Cook and the PowersThatBeiTunes, but they have our attention.  And, we’re absolutely thrilled.  A second Fractal Mirror is just about here.  Amen, amen, amen.

But, I’ll let the guys of FM speak for themselves:


We are very proud to be able to announce that we have started taking pre-orders on our Bandcamp site for our second album Garden of Ghosts . The release of the album is scheduled for November 2014. The album contains 11 tracks and includes a 12 page booklet with artwork from Brian Watson and all the lyrics. The album has been co produced by Brett Kull (Echolyn) and Fractal Mirror. Brett Kull also mixed the album. Larry Fast mastered the album. People who pre-order the album receive an immediate download of the albums opening track “House of Wishes”. During the pre-order period the price of the album will be EUR 10,00 (ex shipping).
Brett Kull also plays guitars and background vocals on all the tracks of the album and there are also guest appearances by other members of Echolyn, Jacque Varsalona, Don Fast, Larry Fast and The Stephanus Choir.
Art by the incredible Brian Watson.
Art by the incredible Brian Watson.
Here is the link to our 4 minute album teaser:
Here is the link to our bandcamp page for Garden of Ghosts:
We sincerely hope you are willing to share this news with your readers and help us spread the word about the album!
Thanks for your support!
Fractal Mirror
Ed, Frank, Leo
progarchy’s take and prophecy: order early and order often.  Surely, this will be a top ten album of the year.

The Art of Brian Watson

Many of you might know (and you should!) Brian Watson from his excellent reviews over at the Dutch Progressive Rock Page.  He also, happily, reviews for us.  Indeed, he’s an extraordinary progarchist.  A man of law and order, he’s also a man of high writing and artistic talents.  He’s also a genuinely great and interesting guy (guy is Kansan for “real person”).  So glad he created this for us.  To check out Brian’s other works, check out his Facebook page, Plan A Art.


"Progarchy Dot Com" by Brian Watson.
“Progarchy Dot Com” by Brian Watson.

Fractal Mirror Arrives

FM web imageLeo Koperdraat of Holland posted this on Big Big Train’s Facebook page tonight.  Nice.  And, very exciting.  The drummer is even our own progarchist, Frank Urbaniak, and the artist is our own progarchist, Brian Watson.  A progarchical band!  Ok, I really can’t claim them–but I am rather happy to be associated with them–Brad (ed.)


Dear BBT friends,

Just a year ago I had build up enough courage to post a song me and a friend had made. We have been making music for ourselves for about 20 years but this group made me feel confident enough to post one of these songs. With all the talk that happens here I would not expect you to remember it.

However we got a lot of positive remarks and the best thing that happened was that one of the members of this group was so positive about our music that he volunteered to become our drummer.

And now one year later we are called Fractal Mirror, the ten songs that we hope will be on our first album have been mixed and mastered by the excellent Rhys Marsh from Rhys Marsh and the Autumn Ghost and finally one of our tracks will be featured on the New Species Vol X cd that will be part of the next issue of Classic Rock Society Magazine. Without this fabulous group of BBT fans none of this would have happened and on behalf of Fractal Mirror I would just like to say:

THANK YOU! BBT fans and GregAndyDavidNickDanny andDave for creating this wonderful platform called Big Big Train group!!

We will now be looking for a deal with a record company that is willing to release our first album, Strange Attractors.

Fractal Mirror are:

Ed Van Haagen: Bass, Keyboards and Programming
Leo Koperdraat: Voice, Guitars, Keyboards and Lyrics
Frank L. Urbaniak: Drums, Percussion and Lyrics
Brian Watson: All Artwork (Brian has been responsible for a lot of the booklet art that was part of The Tangent’s Le Sacre du Travail)
Andre de Boer: Video Art.

fm cover web

The Genius Rages: The Tangent’s Le Sacre Du Travail (2013)



Andy Tillison is a genius.  It must stated as bluntly as possible.  Tillison is a genius.  He’s a musical genius and a lyrical genius, but he’s also just a genius genius.  Actually, this might seem redundant, but it’s not.  Only genius could properly modify genius when it comes to Tillison’s art.

As I mentioned in a previous post on our beloved site, Progarchy, anything Tillison releases is not just an event, but a moment.  A real moment, not a fleeting one.  A moment of seriousness and reflection.

From the first I listened to The Tangent’s The Music That Died Alone, a full decade ago, I knew there was something special going on.  Not only did the cover art entrance me,  but the very depth and seriousness of the music captured my then 35-year old imagination.  I felt as though Tillison was speaking directly to me, asking me to remember the greatness of the musicians who came before 2003, but also inviting me–in a very meaningful fashion–to move forward with him.

cover_2458173122009The Music That Died Alone really serves as a powerful nexus between past and present, present and future, up and down, and every which way.  Only the evocative power of the lyrics match the classiness and free flow (though, we all know what makes something seem free is often a highly disciplined mind and soul) of the music.

At the time I first heard them, I mentally labeled The Tangent a “neo-Canterbury band,” but I was too limited in my imagination, and I would discover this very quickly.  Indeed, each subsequent The Tangent album offers new pleasures and paths for adventure, but always with that power of that Tillison nexus, connecting the past and the future with beauty.

Tillison makes this connection literal in his very fine novella, “Not as Good as the Book: A Midlife Crisis in a Minor.”  The dedication lists close to 100 names, including numerous members (first names only) of the members of various bands from Yes to ELP to The Flower Kings to Spock’s Beard to XTC and to authors such as Arthur C. Clarke and J.R.R. Tolkien.  None of this is contrived.  Just pure Tillison expressions of gratitude.not as good

Privileged (well, blessed, frankly, if you’ll pardon a blatant religious term) to receive a review copy of the new album, Le Sacre Du Travail (Out officially June 24, 2013 from InsideOut Music), I dove right into the music.  Full immersion.  With every album, Tillison has only improved.  Each album has bettered the already previous excellent album with even more classiness, more intensity, and more meaning.  Not an easy feat in this modern world of chaos and consumerist fetishes.

With this album, though, Tillison has moved forward the equivalent of several The Tangent albums.  Again, to be blunt, the album is mind-boggingly good.

Easy listening?  No.  Of course not.  It’s Tillison, it’s prog, and it’s excellent.  What part of those three things suggests easy.  No excellent thing is easy.  Can’t be.  It wouldn’t and couldn’t be excellent if easy.

Satisfying listening?  Oh, yes.  A thousand times, yes.

For one thing, Tillison has brought together some of the finest artists in the business.  I was convinced of the potential greatness of this new album when I first heard David Longdon (in my not so humble opinion, the finest voice in rock today) would appear on the album.  But, add a number of others in: Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), Jakko Jakszyk (Level 42), Theo Travis (Soft Machine), and Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree).  And, it doesn’t stop here.  Add Brian Watson (’s spectacular art work and the cool dj voice of Geoff Banks (Prog Dog show).  Ok, this is one very, very solid lineup of the best of the best.


Ten years ago, Tillison released the first The Tangent album.  100 years ago, Igor Stravinsky released what was arguably his masterpiece and certainly one of the finest pieces of music of the twentieth-century, The Rite of Spring.  While The Rite of Spring hasn’t pervaded our culture in the way the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony has, it’s a close second.  Every person, an appreciator of music or not, knows at least part of The Rite of Spring.

Imagine for a moment 1913.  It was, by almost every standard, the last great year of the optimism of western civilization.  Technology upon technology had produced innumerable advancements, almost everyone in the western world believed in unlimited progress, and even devout Christian artists (such as Stravinsky) had no problems embracing the greatest elements of paganism and folk culture.

In almost every way, Stravinsky explored not only the folk traditions of his era, but he embraced and, really, transcended the modernist movement in music.  He bested it.  His Rite is full of tensions and dissonance, but each of these is overruled and corrected by harmony and emergent joy.  The Rite, no matter how pagan, also has deep roots in the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman traditions.  The Rite–the ritual, the liturgy–has been a part of western civilization since the pre-Socratics debated about the origins of the cycles of the world and history: earth, water, air, or fire.


Imagine for a moment 2013.  Well, ok, just look around.  Technology remains exponential in its growth, but few would praise the development of the Atomic Bomb, the gas chamber, or the aerial bomber.  But, then, there’s the iPod.  And, unless you’re Steven Wilson, you probably think your iPod is ok.  Certainly better than an Atomic Bomb.

Optimism?  No.  I don’t need to go into detail, but, suffice it state, T.S. Eliot might very well have been correct when in the late 1940s he claimed the western world in an advancing stage of darkness:

the tower overthrown, the bells upturned, what have we to do

But stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards

In an age which advances progressively backwards?

The U.S. and the U.K. are currently waging numerous wars, and there seems to be no end in sight.

The Rite of Work

As with the Stravinsky of 1913, the Tillison of 2013 surveys the cultural landscape.  Unlike his Russian counterpart, the Yorkshire man finds little to celebrate in this whirligig of modernity.

The “good guy anarchist,” as he described himself in a recent interview (and, not to be too political, but more than one progarchist would be in great sympathy with Tillison on this point), Tillison observes not the Rite of Spring, but the liturgy of work.  We get up, we commute, we sit in our cubicle, we commute again, we eat, we drink, we have sex, we watch a little t.v., and we sleep.  The cycle beings again every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  Who made this deal, Tillison wisely asks.

Throughout it all–pure prog interspersed with very modernist musical elements from time to time–Tillison references much in our modern folk and popular culture, including The Sound of Music and Rush (2112):

In a Rush T-shirt, pony tail, 2112 tatooed on his hands

He’s a star through thick & thin

But he still gets that data in

A modern day warrior, today’s Tom Sawyer is a clerk

He’s a meta for disillusion

He’s a metaphor for life

But, interestingly enough, Tillison does all of this as a modern-day St. Thomas the Doubter.

But I don’t believe them, not ’til I see it

Until I put my finger in the holes

In every word, the lyrics rage against the conformity demanded in 2013–demanded by our corporations, our neighbors, and our governments.  What have we become. . . mere ants, living in a world of bird dung.  Certainly, whatever humanity remains has been given over to some institution radiating power.

And, yet, still somewhat in the persona of St. Thomas, Tillison asks us to reconsider our day-to-day rituals and liturgies.  Is it worth it that we squander what little time we have in the name of the mindless and soulless cycles of modern life?  By far the most powerful moment of an album of immense power (power in the good sense; not in the domineering sense):

‘Cos you can’t take it with you

There’s no luggage allowed

No you can’t take it with you

No matter how rich or proud

Your kids will sell it off on Ebay

For god’s sake don’t waste their time

‘Cos you can’t take it with you

You can leave just a little bit behind.


Well, what an album.  What an artist.  What a group of artists.  If any one ever again complains about the superficiality of rock music, consider handing them a copy of this CD.  No superficiality here.  Only beautiful–if at times gut wrenching–meaning.

Keep raging, Mr. Diskdrive.  Rage on.

To order the album (and you should, several times!), go here: