My Best of 2014, Part I: By the Way. Which one is Pink?

PINK-FLOYD-THE-ENDLESS-RIVER-album-artwork-low-res-600x350In a previous post or two, I’ve tried to explain what I mean by 2014 being a significant year in the history of progressive rock.  Something(s)—though I still can’t quite get my fingers exactly on it—is quite different.  That is, 2014 is not 2013, in the way that 2013 resembled but improved upon 2012, 2011, and 2010.

And, just to be clear, I’m not one of those proggers who actually thinks all new music must progress in the sense of offering some new technique the world has never heard before.  Sure, I love innovation.  But, never for innovation’s sake.  Innovation, by its very nature, is always momentary.  I want permanence.  And, permanence comes only with the discovery and uncovering of beauty.  If the new technique or innovation leads to a better understanding of beauty, so be it.  But, I would, I hope, always choose the timeless and true and beautiful over the clever and ephemeral.

So, what’s different about 2014 and what I believe to be a new wave of progressive rock?  Three things spring to mind.  First, the best of 2014—and there’s an immense amount of good—is beautiful.  Second, it’s eclectic.  Third, it’s atmospheric.

A few years ago, several progarchists were happily complaining that so much prog is being released into the world that it’s impossible to catch up with it or, once caught up, stay up with it.  True, I think.  And, all to the good.  Competition is rarely a bad thing, and competition for market and attention has forced proggers to think in very creative and entrepreneurial ways.  This is as true in selling music as it is in making music.

Take one very specific example.  Andy Tillison has always been one of the two or three demigods of Third Wave prog.  Take a listen, however, to his 2014 release, Electronic Sinfonia No. 2.  It is a thing of intense beauty, eclectic, and atmospheric.  It is the perfect fourth-wave prog release, in many, many ways.

Because we’ve been so overwhelmed with so much goodness over the last two decades, and, especially, the last few years, Anathema’s Distant Satellite is a severe disappointment.  Had it been released five years ago, it would have been pretty great.  Now, though, in this context, it’s simply a parody of Anathema and Radiohead.

Well, enough ranting.  I’d like to start describing my favorites of this year.  In no particular order, I offer my first glimpse into my loves of 2014.  Pink Floyd’s THE ENDLESS RIVER.  I’ve been shocked at how many folks on the internet have decried it, as a betrayal to Roger Waters and to traditional Pink Floyd.  Since when has PF ever been traditional?  The Endless River is something PF has never been before.  It has echoes of Echoes, but it also had a lot of Tangerine Dream in it.  It’s interesting, it’s soaring, it’s daring, it’s full of whale song.  Just listen to Skins and Unsung.  There’s no ego.  Just flight.

And, what an incredible honor to the brilliance of Rick Wright.

I’e always liked Mike Portnoy.  In fact, I’ve been quite taken with him, and I’ve been more than willing to put up with his own eccentricities and strong opinions.  But, when he lamented a new PF album this past summer, something in me gave.  My respect for the former DT drummer has declined dramatically.

Around the time that the Division Bell was released, Wright admitted that he feared that PF had lost some of its creativity, and he cited Mark Hollis as an inspiration.  Talk Talk, he argued, got away with much, mostly because Hollis had the integrity to dream and dare.  He wanted Floyd to have the same spirit.

Well, here it is.  THE ENDLESS RIVER.

What do David Gilmour and Nick Mason have to prove?  Nothing, really.  And, they prove nothing except the ability to offer a memorial to Rick.  Amen.  If every person in the world offered such a tribute to a lost friend, this would be a much better world.

Gilmour and Mason, I salute you for doing the right thing, the good thing, the true thing.

Have We Entered a Fourth Wave of Prog?

I’ve been thinking about this for much of the year.  2014 seems like a very different year for prog—especially when compared with 2011, 2012, and 2013.

8 page booklet P8&1The incredible music of 2014 in the prog world—from John Bassett, Newspaperflyhunting, Fire Garden, Tin Spirits, Arcade Messiah, Andy Tillison, Cailyn Lloyd, Galahad (Stu Nicholson), Salander, Fractal Mirror, and a host of others–further convinces me we’ve entered into a new wave of prog, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post.

Andy Tillison and Brian Watson have convincingly argued in favor of dividing the history of prog into three waves, the third wave beginning around 1994 or so.

If Tillison and Watson are correct, and I suspect they are, I believe we might have entered what we could call the fourth wave.

The turning point came in 2013 with grand and profound releases from Big Big Train, The Tangent, and Glass Hammer.  These albums were so excellent, perhaps the best in prog history, that they might very well have represented the apex of third-wave prog.

arcade messiah artTake a listen to any of the above mentioned artists in 2014.  Their music, especially when compared to the releases of the previous several years, offers something much more experimental and reflective.  The story telling is less narrative and more punctuated, the lyrics more imagistic.

Anyway, I’m thinking (and typing) out loud.  I’ll give it more thought.