The Future Postponed

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Steven Wilson’s army of fans will have to wait another seven months for forthcoming album The Future Bites. Steven writes

As with many of my albums, The Future Bites is not just about the music, it’s a high concept project which involves design, artwork, video and a tour production, all on a grander scale than anything I’ve attempted before. However, due to the pandemic, there are unprecedented challenges, ranging from manufacturing issues (particularly in relation to the elaborate deluxe edition) and the uncertainty facing record stores as the coronavirus forces them to close their doors, to being unable to shoot most of the video material I planned. It’s therefore with a very heavy heart that I reluctantly need to postpone the release of The Future Bites until such time everything can happen as intended. This will now be January next year, with new music and video starting to be issued again around October. In the meantime the pre-order page for the various editions of the album will remain online. Myself, management, agent and promoters are monitoring the situation regarding the live shows scheduled for this autumn. Should events change we will let everyone know as soon as we do.

I understand that this may be disappointing news, and to no one more that myself, believe me. I worked on the music and background of this project for the last two years and was thrilled to finally be able to launch it. The response to the Personal Shopper track released last month has been phenomenal, and I was looking forward to unveiling more over the next few months in the build up to the release of the album. But alas due to the current circumstances it was not to be.

I sincerely send everyone reading this a message of good health, and I hope that one day in the not too distant future we can once again focus on things like music, which even if it isn’t strictly essential seems to somehow makes life more worthwhile.

SW

It’s unfortunate but entirely understandable. Steven has always paid close attention to the production values of his work, from the quality of the recording through to artwork and packaging. He would not want to release something that didn’t live up to the high standards that he sets for himself, and most of us, I’m sure, would rather wait than see his unique vision compromised.

He stops short of confirming it here, but the live shows scheduled for September in the UK and Europe seem certain to be postponed also. (It would be decidedly odd to tour an album four months before its release…) An announcement will no doubt be made once new dates have been arranged.

Tim Bowness Lost in the Ghost Light

Years ago, when I was 16 I found an organization that helped with my curiosity about progressive rock, it was called the Classic Rock Society, they were based in Rotherham (a short bus ride away from the small village I lived in at the time) and they met on a Wednesday night in a pub. Beer and prog, all within a short distance from my front door, what was not to like?

One night at the pub talking about prog music in 1995 a friend lent me an album by a band I’d never heard of called No-Man, the album was Flowermouth, and it’s mix of shifting sounds and emotive vocals was my first introduction to the works of Mr Steven Wilson and Mr Tim Bowness, and I was hooked.

Luckily I got to see Porcupine Tree not so longer afterwards, but despite following No-Man and Tim Bowness solo work, it took me slightly longer (nearly 20 years in fact) to see Tim live, with Henry Fool at Eppyfest in 2014, followed quickly by seeing him at the Louisiana in Bristol in 2015.

Continue reading “Tim Bowness Lost in the Ghost Light”

Stone The Crow(s)

Big Big Train release their first (double!) live album “A Stone’s Throw From The Line” on December 2nd and it’s now available for pre-order here and here. It showcases some of the finest moments from last August’s sold-out-in-the-blink-of-an-eye concerts at King’s Place in London.

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Scott and I were fortunate enough to secure tickets so we travelled to the UK for a bit of a holiday and attended the Saturday gig before we flew back the following day. And I can honestly say it was one of the most remarkable days of my life.

This wasn’t just a chance to see our favourite proggers in concert for the first time in…well, forever – it was also a chance to catch up with friends we had made at 2013’s Big Big Weekend, which (if you missed it) involved much merriment in the beautiful English city of Winchester, a rag-tag group of Passengers (as BBT fans are known) being led around the landmarks (including pubs and a curry house) by Alison Reijman and Greg Spawton, with special guest appearances from Andy, Rachel, Danny, Rob, Robin Armstrong and Steve Thorne, to name but a few. It was a truly extraordinary weekend, and something that will stay with me for a very long time. The opportunity to catch up again for a ‘family reunion’ of sorts and witness some amazing music and extraordinary camaraderie was therefore a pretty significant moment in my life.

As a result this review’s not very objective, as it’s impossible to completely separate the sounds from the experiences we had back then, but I’ll try my best. Caveat lector, as the Roman music reviewers used to say to Internet people back then.

King’s Place is an arts centre just down the road from King’s Cross Station in London. BBT played to a seated audience of just over 400 – it’s quite an intimate venue, the sound is warm and that’s captured well on this album. On rare occasions it feels like there’s a lot of audio happening at once but in general it doesn’t get too claustrophobic or chaotic. To my tin ears the second act sounds a bit more lively and expansive than the first – certainly on my initial listen I thought David’s vocals and some of the harmonies were lost on the early tracks of the first act, but this does quickly improve. I should also note here that the review files we received were lossy so I’ll have to give it the lossless test before I can fully appreciate the sound. Hopefully my own copy arrives on my doormat soon so I can perform this critical benchmark!

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Here’s the track listing…

Act One
Make Some Noise
The First Rebreather
The Underfall Yard
Uncle Jack
Victorian Brickwork

Act Two
Kingmaker
Wassail
Summoned By Bells
Judas Unrepentant
Curator Of Butterflies
East Coast Racer
Hedgerow

Many of you will be familiar with these tunes already so I won’t go into detail, suffice it to say that there’s a lot of music – it’s great to see so many long-form delights, and fantastic to see most of my favourites are included – the sublime TUY (get that brass section!), Victorian Brickwork (not a dry eye in the house), the rip-roaringly powerful East Coast Racer (she flies!) and the marvellously fun Judas Unrepentant (with a gloriously ostentatious NDV drum intro.) Curator of Butterflies isn’t one of my favourites from the English Electric albums, but the version on this release really does bring it to life. I’ll have to give the studio version another spin…

Early-BBT fans may be disappointed that there’s nothing on the track list from before 2009’s excellent The Underfall Yard. Personally I’m not unhappy about this because the majority of pre-TUY work doesn’t float my metaphorical boat, although I am sure I share a certain agog-ness with others at the prospect of hearing re-recorded pre-2009 material in the near future.

Anyway, what else do you get on this double album? Virtuoso performances, some very cool alternative arrangements allowing the guys to stretch their musical legs (Rachel’s violin and Danny’s keys on TUY, and Rikard’s guitar work on Victorian Brickwork being just a few examples), and of course that ‘live’ atmosphere that transports some people to strange places… Some (but not overly much) audience interaction from David, a few in-jokes, and the Passengers are also in excellent form – respectful, enthusiastic, with (joy of joys) minimal whooping at inappropriate moments.

In summary:

  • If you were at the concerts last year you’ll appreciate the memories of a great evening this album rekindles.
  • If you are a completist you have already ordered it. Why are you reading this?
  • If you are neither of the above, this is a solid exploration of BBT’s relatively recent catalogue, with the added joy of hearing them out of the studio – something that happens rarely enough that it’s definitely worth experiencing.

Chris Wade, renaissance Man!

Chris Wade is a multi talented and multi-faceted chap who on the one hand produces his own music magazine, whilst on the other writes highly regarded critical analysis of various artists works spanning all genres from film to music, not to mention being the writer of his own range of comedic novels and the brains behind Dodson and Folk, the acid folk project that has spawned 11 albums, and features a multitude of special guests. Since 2012 he has been ploughing his own musical furrow as Dodson and Fogg, with musical excursions into instrumental prog (The Moonlight banquet) collaboration with his brother (Rexford Bedlo) as well as Rainsmoke (with Nigel Planer and Roger Planer) and the last time I spoke to Chris was just after his Dodson and Fogg début had been released. I decided that as four years is a long time in music, and because I like talking to Chris, I would have a chat with him to find out what’s going on in his world and to chat about his new album, The White House on the Hill.

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I first mentioned his role as a one-man acid folk pioneer, and the release of his new album

‘I prefer to call it Maltloaf folk; it’s a new tag that I’m going to start using. This is album number 11, if you don’t count the outtakes.

I hadn’t planned the next album but I moved out to the countryside about 4 months ago and found in the second month of living here I’d started writing the next record, but that won’t be out until next year because of the books I am working on’

Ah yes, the books,

‘I’ve just done a Hawkwind book, a recent fiction book and I’m working on books on Dennis Hopper, George A Romero and Woody Allen. I find when I’m doing the books I just get immersed in the world of the subject, I’m watching all the films, tracking people down and reviewing them’

We started talking about how things have changed since the first Dodson and Fogg album was released back in 2012,

‘Progs totally altered since the first release, since then the industry has changed with all releases, back in November 2012 there wasn’t things like Spotify, 4 years seems like a long time ago for me now’

I first contacted Chris back in 2012 using twitter and since then we’ve been friends on Facebook,

‘This is the thing about Facebook, you don’t see some people that often but you can see how peoples lifes have changed over time’

I wondered if Chris was still an avid user of social media,

‘I’ve got a Facebook set up for the books and the albums, and it showcases the latest work, but it doesn’t really generate sales for books or music, and in that respect it isn’t that useful. Someone was complaining on Facebook recently about mailing lists and emails not being read, I don’t thing it’s fair to criticise your audience on Facebook or social media, but it proves that you can’t rely on social media, I only use it a little bit’

Chris is very prolific and I wondered where the inspiration comes from,

‘I do all this because I don’t want a normal job, the more I do then the more income I get, I don’t push a lot of this to be honest, I like to do projects and that’s how I spend my time, on my projects and with my family. A lot of creative people like to think they are different and special, and I love making music and writing books but to me it’s an everyday job with no lucrative income’

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With the books Chris tends to self publish,

‘My first self published book was before I discovered the server I use now, it was a book about Malcolm McDowell, and since then I’ve learnt over time, some of the earlier books are a bit creaky but it proved to me that learning as I go and self publishing is a valid option. I’d rather put it all out myself, as it gives me complete control’.

Dodson and Fogg are well known for the use of guest stars,

‘I have built up a contact list, for the latest record I used Toyah, I was only aware of her 80’s work, and heard some of her later work with Fripp in the Humans. I liked what she was doing and made contact through her website, she was working somewhere in a studio and I sent her the track (Drinking from the Gun), and it ended up being a co-write as she wrote a third verse and did really interesting things with the track.

I’m always after interesting sounds, I’ve always been after a stuffy brass band sound, I really like the old fashioned brass band, (It must be something about being from Yorkshire as I adore that sound as well) It’s the sad sound of the brass, it’s summit in the blood. I enjoyed working with Ricky Romain on the sitar, I loved mixing the sound in but people were saying I was just doing psych acid folk because of the sitar. I can’t do the same thing all the time, I like to swap things around’.

What about your influences?

‘I don’t tend to have lots now, I can find sometimes if I’m writing a book I can pick up the guitar and something will come to me, at the moment I keep listening to a lot of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, it’s stuff I like and will never stop liking it, it’s my music. I listen to a lot of Madonna, although you won’t see me in a conical bra. I used to really like Donovan but I can’t listen to him any more, you find without noticing that your tastes change over time’.

Do you ever have a theme for your albums?

‘On some of the early ones I did, the first two didn’t have themes, but the third one Sounds of Day and Night (2013) the loose thread was that all the songs were about day and night.

The later albums are more like a diary, showing where I am at any moment in time, for people who buy the later albums say the project has gone in different directions.

I do it for fun, and like to structure the albums like a 1960’s album, around 40 minutes long, it doesn’t ramble, you can listen to it in one sitting and pop it on a tape, I record and structure them in the way that I like to listen to albums.

The first album with a real concept was the one I did with Nigel Planer doing the stories (In a Strange Slumber 2014) and When the Light ran Out (2015) was an idea of home and how that works, both my Mum and my Sister moved away, and it made me think of what home meant. The songs are all personal to me and get emotions out there that you wouldn’t normally get out there, it’s a loose diary of my life’

Talking of home you recently moved to the country,

‘I’ve moved near to a farm into the countryside, I’ve taken up gardening and getting into my photography, it’s a nicer life, though there is that cliché about not making good art if you’re too content. I find it more comfortable that there’s next to nothing out here, an old train line, a farm, it’s far better than having too many people in your face.

Doing this interview is like therapy, I’m telling you stuff I haven’t mentioned before!

(I did mention I was much cheaper than any therapist!)

I like doing these projects because I’ve always wanted to do things I wanted to do and make it work for me. I had no interest in serving customers or trying to flog more things to get an extra 10p.

I just feel like when I was a kid I used to make books and liked the idea of putting a book together and playing drums. My brother and I used to make albums, with the sleeves and my Dad would encourage us by popping them on the shelves next to his Beatles or Kinks tape and encourage us to make more.

I’m a haemophiliac and found it hard to get work, it was difficult to get insurance in conventional jobs, I lost jobs because they couldn’t get insurance for me, when I was a child I wasn’t allowed to do contact sports and preferred to write, draw and play guitar. That’s another revelation to me, you sure this isn’t therapy?

Being creative is worthwhile, it’s important because what would the world be like without music, books, arts? It would be a very dull place indeed. We should encourage kids, my little girl Lily is 2, I wonder what she’ll do, she can draw, she loves music and watching films, it’s great watching them grow up.’

So where next for Dodson and Fogg?

‘If your creative you want to move onto the next thing, I don’t like sitting on work, I want to release it and move on, it might be commercial suicide but that doesn’t bother me, it’s not and never has been about the commercial side.

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In 2012 I spotted a tweet from a singer songwriter about a musical project he was launching, the tweeter was Chris Wade and the project was Dodson and Fogg, and I have watched and listened as Chris has taken his DIY ethos through 10 previous diverse albums, with guests like Celia Humphries, Nik Turner, Nigel Planer, Ricky Romain, Alison O’Donnell, Scarlet Riviera, Judy Dyble and Chloe Herington to name but a few, and over the past four years it’s been a delight to hear Chris muse take him down new and exciting avenues.

This latest release which came out back in August is his first release since moving out to the countryside, but don’t expect him to have gone all back to the country, no sir, what we have hear is another clear progression of the Dodson and Fogg sound, and every time Chris releases another record I worry about whether he’s stretched himself too thin this time, but no every time he comes up trumps.

It’s not cheap being a Dodson and Fogg fan, but when the music is this good, then does it matter how often the records are released?

With a smaller cast list, the focus is primarily on Chris soft vocals, and his superb guitar playing, with guests Georgia Cooke on Flute and John Garners violin adding their soft touches throughout the album to enhance the D&F sound. As Chris mentioned in his interview this time around he got Toyah to guest on this record, and the duet, Drinking from the Gun, where as ever the artist she is Toyah contributed an extra verse, is a superb jazzy duet, where their vocals blend perfectly, whilst the title track that opens the album is a joyously bucolic folk rocker with some fantastically sympathetic violin work throughout. Meanwhile the powerful instrumental Bitten has a real funky groove to it, in fact the album is pretty funky throughout, as Chris gets his funky troubadour hat on Tell Me When Your Ready to Leave, with its Ric Sanders esque jazzy violin, in fact with Chris vocals, this sounds like the current incarnation of Fairport Convention could cover it, and it would slot right into their repertoire.

In fact this is pretty funky album, as Chris growls his way through the heavy funk of The Giant. Whilst the instrumental Bitten has powerful rocking riff that runs through the record like Scarborough through a stick of rock.

The closing 7 minuter Lily and The Moonlight, a wonderfully languid mellow rocker inspired by Chris daughter, is a slow builder, giving time for the song to build and grow and Chris fantastically cool vocals and a wonderfully eloquent guitar led coda closes this fine album in style.

For those worried that Chris is running out of ideas, don’t. This is another eloquent musical statement from one of the most prolific artists around who enriches the musical scene that he sits in.

Ladies and Gentleman, Dodson and Fogg, England’s premier Maltloaf folk band.

 

All photos by Linzi Napier

Thanks to Chris for his time.

Dodson and Fogg albums and Chris’ books are all available from

http://wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com/

 

 

Two different continents, two different styles

2016 has been a random and rather crazy year for me, I started the year ostensibly living on my own in a one bed rented flat in Bedminster, and now find myself at the end of the year living with the love of my life, and three cats in a flat that I now own on the edge of Bristol with wonderful views over the countryside and hills to Dundry, however the move (which I may have alluded to previously) has been the most stressful move I have ever done, and as a result I have received albums from bands over the year that I may have been lax in getting finally reviewed and updated here.

Again I apologise for this, and to paraphrase John Lennon, ‘Life is what happens whilst your busy making other plans’

I don’t do these reviews professionally, like the hugely talented Progarchy team of which I am but a small cog in a mighty wheel, we all do this for the love of the music, and if just one person buys a record and loves it based on my words then I feel like I’ve done a good job. But enough about me!

Here then is a round up of two releases from the opposite sides of the world that have made it past my door and which I feel you guys should really get into your ears!

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Napiers Bones: Hell and High Water

https://napiersbones.bandcamp.com/

 

Released back in March, and building on their two previous cracking albums 2014’s The Wistman Tales and 2015’s Tregeagles Choice, this talented duo of Nathan Jon Tillet and Gordon Midgely focus squarely on storytelling and the classic big prog sound.

Their latest opus Hell and High Water is split into two distinct concepts, the first three tracks focuses on s paranormal investigator and is based around the ruined Holy Trinity Church of Buckfastleigh (the Napiers Bones boys love building on existing mythology and weaving it into their wider storytelling, this really roots the music and gives them something to build on), whilst the final 4 tracks are all based around the flood legends that have cropped up throughout history and takes us to Yorkshire and Lake Semerwater.

Their albums with tales rooted in geographical and local mythology are ripe for a guidebook!

The first song cycle focuses on a Paranormal investigator and the mysterious Squire Cabell and Buckfastleigh Holy trinity, and weaving in the contemporary obsession with reality TV, the constant search for something else beyond the pale and human scepticism and the need to answer every question, creates an intense and dynamic story.

The opening track An Air of Mystery is powerful classic rocker with some great vocals from Nathan, whilst Broadcasting live has some fantastic instrumental sections and great guitar and keyboard work, considering this is the work of a duo, and is totally home produced this doesn’t sound like it, and their musical skills are fully up to their ambition to realise the concept.

Like it’s predecessor Tregeagles Bones, the first song cycle is performed as much as a drama as a song, and Nathan’s performance and Gordon’s music is perfectly judged and brilliant executed. The finale, the 10 minute epic No Return is reminiscent of the powerful story cycle albums by Ayreon, and wraps the story up in true style, with some beautifully performed atmospheric keyboard parts.

Onto the second part of the album, this is an album of contrasts and the two different concepts on display here, show two sides to Napiers Bones, and are a subtle blend of both the dark and the light.

The 4 part song cycle that makes up the second half of the record with it’s mythology reflects the best of folk rock, and the multilayered and musically complex No Room at the Inn is another one of their beautifully executed story songs, pulling together some fantastically haunting keyboard sounds and Nathan’s passionate vocals.

The wonderful Rain Down with it’s fantastic lyrics and great musical moments leads into the closing A Wake in Yoredale which rounds off the second part of this majestic album.

Napiers Bones are in their nature story tellers and they use their music to facilitate and take us with them on their tales, years ago you could imagine them sat in low roofed pubs trading tales for tipples, now you can take them with you and engage in their immersive songwriting.

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UVTraveler: Stormchaser

www.uvtraveler21stc.com

 

American heavy progressive rock duo Randy Sepe and Wade Greenwood recently released this, their second album (following up 2014’s debut UVTraveler) and it takes their blend of progressive and classic rock into another dimension.

I know fellow Progarchist Brad Birzer refers to me as the English progmaster, and I will admit that is where my interest in the genre was originally piqued and where my first love lies, but there is lots of exciting new prog coming from all over the globe, and to my mind UVTraveler are one of the best the states has to offer.

Producing a fine blend of classic prog whilst sitting on the harder and heavier side of the fence, they mange to pull the two influences together to create a musical union, and with the title and cover art, is there a homage going on here to Deep Purple/rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore?

In fact these influences run through the music as well, with the powerful and brooding Waiting for an Answer having some fantastic vocals from Wade that are reminiscent of Ronnie James Dios work with Black Sabbath in the early 80’s.

This doesn’t mean they are mere copyists however, after all most musicians are influenced by someone else, and it’s how you use that influence and weave it into your art that shows your mastery of your craft.

Sepe and Wade are talented enough to build elements of the heavier end of metal into prog and retaining their own musical identity that was forged on their debut album (which is also well worth a listen)

They are also masters of the blend of light and dark with If (based on the Rudyard Kipling poem) providing a contrast to the opening power of the first two tracks, with a more classily acoustic led piece that showcases Sepes versatility and again acts as a springboard for Wades impressive vocals, proving that like all the best singers he can turn his hand to the softer side of music without compromising his sound.

With guest musicians on the album fleshing out the sound, with the power of Michael Schiavo on bass and Greg Annunziata on drums, the opening rocking Deaths Call is a calling card for the album, and the rest of the tracks more than deliver on the opening promise.

The 70’s vibe runs through this record like a groove in vinyl, and tracks like a reworked version of their own When the Sun gets in your Eyes has a power and swagger of its own, whilst the closing duo of Calm before the…. provides an technically complex melodic instrumental introduction to the closing title track Stormchaser (with a nice play on words there as well, who says modern albums aren’t structured in a well thought out manner) which with it’s big riffs and fantastically catchy chorus brings the big heavy prog bands of the seventies to mind again, however this is no copy, more an honest homage blending the best of UVTraveler with some fantastic nods to bands like Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple.

There is no curse of the second record here for Randy Sepe and Wade Greenwood, indeed they have taken all the elements that made their first album so good, and built on them, progressing their sound, and refining their style into another cracking slice of heavy prog.

Threeviews

Afternoon Progarchists, as someone who writes for a variety of different sites I find myself getting sent diverse and eclectic albums to listen to, all of which roughly fall into the margins of the progressive genre, and today I have three radically different releases, all of which have been bouncing round my brain as I ride the mean streets of Bristol on the bus to and from work. Two are freshly minted (one so fresh it’s not even officially released yet – but it’s one hell of a pre-order!) and one EP which has been out for a while, so without further ado, lets introduce today’s picks.

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Verity Smith – Parenthesis

http://www.veritysmith.net

I first encountered Verity at the Classic Rock Society Awards back in 2014 where she was performing as part of Clive Nolan’s Alchemy musical, where she played the parts of Jane Muncey and Jessamine and was truck by her vocal prowess and stage presence.

Continue reading “Threeviews”