Weekend Roundup 2: DIY Britprog

One indication of the absolute glut of recorded music available today: more of what I’ve whimsically labelled “DIY (for Do It Yourself, a la Peter Gabriel) Britprog” is available than ever. With Prog Magazine providing a megaphone and Big Big Train’s international impact paving the way, countless musicians from England have brushed up their chops, dusted off their home recording setups, and churned out self-released albums by the bushel in the past decade. Even as the chances of market penetration narrow in the age of Spotify and live lockdowns, an astonishing number of artists seem compelled to keep plowing the furrows first tilled by Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis and their sundry heirs. The sheer amount of “meh” music that’s resulted notwithstanding, three recent releases (and a teaser of more to come) indicate there’s still enough fertile soil in that ground to keep yielding fresh harvests.

First up: Tiger Moth Tales’ The Whispering of the World from late 2020, for which TMT mainman Peter Jones stripped down both his writing and his usual instrumentation. Working with producers Robert Reed and Andrew Lawson, Jones eschewed multi-sectional tunesmithery and one-man-bandship in favor of a song cycle for voice, piano and string quartet. The result works like gangbusters! From the vigorous, propulsive opener “Taking the Dawn” through melancholy mini-epics like the title track, “Quiet Night” and “Waving, Drowning” to the grave, sweeping pop of “Blackbird” (no, not THAT one, but arguably as affecting) and the closer “Lost to the Years”, every track feels unpretentious, fresh and heartfelt. The semi-classical sonics mesh effortlessly with the compelling songcraft; Jones’ sensitive singing and lush piano playing weaves in and around the light and shade of the strings. Even better, the music proves the right medium for the lyrical message, as Jones narrates a cathartic passage through (in his words) “special or significant moments . . . coming to terms with both losing those close to us and our own mortality and place in the universe.” Sound a bit heavy? Well, yeah — but paired with Jones’ solo Quiet Room Session, The Whispering of the World is a sentimental journey well worth taking. Sample it for yourself, then order it on Bandcamp.

Continue reading “Weekend Roundup 2: DIY Britprog”

Cosmograf to Release New Album in March

Cosmograf’s Robin Armstrong has announced he is releasing a new album on March 26. He also shared this brief album trailer:

The album will be released on Gravity Dream, a record label he launched last year. See more info at Cosmograf’s website: https://www.cosmograf.com.

Check out some of our reviews for some of Cosmograf’s previous albums:

Cosmograf – When Age Has Done Its Duty – 2011 (2018 remix) – Review by Alison Reijman

Cosmograf – The Man Left in Space – 2013 – Review by Brad Birzer

Cosmograf – The Man Left in Space – 2013 – Review by Tad Wert

Cosmograf – Capacitor – 2014 – Review by Brad Birzer

Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence – 2016 – Review by Brad Birzer

Cosmograf – The Hay Man Dreams – 2017 – Review by Brad Birzer

Bandcamp Does It Again!

Back on March 20, Bandcamp waived its share of all sales, in order to support artists whose livelihoods were effected by the COVID-19 pandemic (especially because of cancelled live shows and tours).  The results were astonishing: $4,300,000 in sales of downloads, CDs, LPs and merch, 15 times a normal Friday’s take.

So, to their credit, Bandcamp is doing it again.  And again.  And again.

On May 1, June 5, and July 3 (the first Friday of each month), we’re waiving our revenue share for all sales on Bandcamp, from midnight to midnight PDT on each day.

(Over 150 artists and labels are offering discounts, exclusive items, merch bundles, and more this Friday.)

It may sound simple, but the best way to help artists is with your direct financial support, and we hope you’ll join us through the coming months as we work to support artists in this challenging time.

And, in case you’re wondering, there’s tons of recorded goodness available at Bandcamp from these Progarchy-favored artists:

If your budget allows it, and you need a prog fix, why not do your shopping at Bandcamp this Friday?

 

— Rick Krueger

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

Robin Armstrong’s New Label Signs New Duo The Bardic Depths – Featuring Some Familiar Names

Progarchy wishes a huge congratulations to its former editor and co-founder Brad Birzer and Progarchist Dave Bandana who have formed a new band, The Bardic Depths, and become the first signing to Robin Armstrong’s (Cosmograf) new label Gravity Dream. Brad and Dave have made two albums under the name Birzer Bandana, with Birzer handling lyrics and Bandana handling most of the instrumentation and vocals. This new album, entitled The Bardic Depths, will feature a similar setup but with additional players and singers. Lyrics will focus on the literary friendship between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Less (two of my favorite authors!). It promises to be a great album.

The following fine people have contributed to the album:

Brad Birzer – Lyrics and concept, spoken word
Kevin McCormick – Guitars
Paolo Limoli – Keyboards, Piano
Tim Gerht – Drums
Gareth Cole – Guitars
Peter Jones – Saxophone, vocals,spoken word
John William Francis – Marimba, spoken word
Glenn Codere – Backing Vocals
Mike Warren- Cello
Robin Armstrong – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Dave Bandana – Vocals, Keyboards, Guitars, Bass, Flute, Harmonica,
With –
Richard Krueger, Henri Strik, Scotty Scott, Andreas Mowinckel, Tony Bridgeman,
Martin Holmes, Phil Ball – Spoken Word

Congratulations again to both Brad and Dave!

 

https://www.loudersound.com/news/cosmograf-mans-new-label-announce-first-signing-the-bardic-depths

Bryan’s Best of 2017

Here we are again, folks. We find ourselves at the end of another great year for prog. Sadly, we’ve had to say goodbye to some amazing artists this year, including John Wetton, but we at least have their music by which to remember them.

I know I’ve been a bit quiet here at Progarchy lately due to beginning graduate school this fall. Hopefully things settle down going forward, and I’ll be able to contribute more. For now, here are my favorite albums from 2017 in vaguely ascending order.

Continue reading “Bryan’s Best of 2017”

Watson’s Best Prog Albums of 2017: Part 2 — TOP TWENTY # # 20 — 11

Every album on this Top Twenty list is a standout. They are all worthy of your purchase (in hard-copy, not just streaming service).  The discs in the bottom half of the TOP 20 are not any less worthy than # # 10 through 1, rather, they just did not move me with as much excitement and passion as the ones I will be posting later.  Many of these albums were at one time in my TOP TEN but gradually slipped to this lower tier as the year wore on and as I continued to listen and pour over these works of art.  Enough blather. Here are my TOP TWENTY bottom half (in descending order):

20)  MONARCH TRAIL/Sand

MonarchTRAIL

This is the second effort under the moniker “Monarch Trail” for Canadian keys wizard and composer Ken Baird. As much as I enjoyed 2014’s “Skye” this second album surpasses it on all counts.  This has a pleasant “British pastoral sound” that hearkens back, for me, to the joys of first hearing Barclay James Harvest (with Woolly on the keys). This is beautiful and relaxing without being twee or saccharine. My favorite tracks are ‘Back to the Start’ and the 25 minute closer–the self-titled ‘Sand.’

Continue reading “Watson’s Best Prog Albums of 2017: Part 2 — TOP TWENTY # # 20 — 11”

Birzer’s Best of 2017, Part II

Continued from Part I: https://progarchy.com/2017/12/05/birzers-best-of-2017-part-i/

Hay ManNo. 5.  Cosmograf, HAY MAN DREAMS.  I’m pretty much a shoo-in for purchasing every thing Robin Armstrong—master of all things chronometry—does.  I love the angst and the seriousness he brings to each and every note and lyric.  Spirited without being gushy, and thoughtful without being pedantic.  I also love how entrepreneurial he is in his approach to music—finding the best musician to fit each part he’s written.  Whatever Armstrong does, he always achieves something serious and meaningful.  The HAY-MAN DREAMS is no different.  As with everything Armstrong does, there is gravitas.

Continue reading “Birzer’s Best of 2017, Part II”

Existential Genius: Cosmograf’s HAY MAN DREAMS

Cosmograf, THE HAY MAN DREAMS (Cosmograf Music, 2017).  

Professor Birzer’s grade: A.

hay man

Having grown up on Great Plains of North America, surrounded by grazing horses, big skies, and farms, that guy that hangs out on a big kind of crucifix in the fields of wheat was always, to me, a “Scarecrow.”

And, that really, really scary Batman villain, Dr. Jonathan Crane, is also a “Scarecrow.”  He’s creepy in Bruce Timm’s animated Batman, but he’s downright demonic in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.

When I first saw the title of Robin Armstrong’s latest Cosmograf masterpiece (and, yes, this IS a masterpiece) HAY-MAN DREAMS, I had no clue what the album would be about.  After all, Armstrong loves existential themes of isolation, alienation, and timelessness.  When I first saw the title, I just assumed the album would be about a farmer who cultivates hay.  Maybe some lonely old guy who couldn’t figure out the modern world.  I knew that Armstrong would do something wild with it, but I didn’t know what.  Hay man?

Continue reading “Existential Genius: Cosmograf’s HAY MAN DREAMS”