Joy in the Wasteland: Riverside’s Seventh

A Review of Riverside, Wasteland (Insideout, 2018).

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Wasteland, released two days ago.

At first, I was surprised that the two best (and best known, at least in American prog circles) Polish bands named their most recent albums, Wasteland. Well, ok, there’s a slight difference. Newspaperflyhunting named its album with a plural. Still, it must be more than a coincidence. Presumably, each took the name either from the Arthurian legends or from T.S. Eliot (who took his from the Arthurian legends).  Regardless, the title fits for most of our world of 2018.

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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”

Guest Post: Michał Pawłowski on Labels and Steven Wilson

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Love it or hate it, it’s Steven Wilson!

The following came in as a comment on a post regarding the media and fan reaction to the new Steven Wilson album, TO THE BONE.  It’s so good, though, that I don’t want it to get lost in the shuffle of comments.  So, without permission!!!, I’m posting it as its own post. Michał Pawłowski is founder and lead of the astounding art rock band, newspaperflyhunting.  He’s also a really brilliant and good person.

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A very very good point Brad! Strangely enough (or not) the comments that jump on me on social media are more along the lines of ‘Wilson betrayed prog, if you like the album, there must be something wrong with you! Bring back PT!’

“What the?????” First of all ‘prog Wilson’ for me is: 1) “The Sky Moves Sideways” and “Signify”, 2) More importantly: prog is all his output taken together. ‘Prog Wilson’ is not “Grace for Drowning” and “Raven” as I don’t really count retro as progressive and those people on social media I quoted above somehow see this direction (a fraction of SW’s overall output) as THE Wilson. I do not – it was a phase in his career (probably caused by his remixing King Crimson et al. at that time) that seems to have passed (or abated) as all phases in his career do. This is the very thing that makes him TRULY progessive, now culminated in a self-proclaimed ‘pop’ album released after the retro of “Raven” and the wonderfully eclectic “H.C.E.”.

The position you descibe, ‘you must like his new album or you betray prog!” is equally daft. I don’t listen to genres. I use genre names so that I can communicate ideas (like this post), they have no qualitative value for me. I don’t like “Raven” not because it’s retro (prog) but because when I listen to it I’m bored. It doesn’t resonate. The label doesn’t change anything either way. I heven’t heard “To the Bone” in full yet (I’m waiting for the CD), but I like the tracks I heard a lot and Pariah is one of the best things SW has ever done.

Pop or not, prog or not I like what I hear and this is what ultimately matters. One should not like a poor record any more or less because it is a poor record in a genre they happen to like. And no album should be forced down my throat because it’s prog or Wilson or classic or whatever. People should grow good sets of ears and an anti-social media shield 😉

Progarchy Radio (March 2017)

 

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Over two of music and minimal commentary.  Featuring music by Arjen Lucassen in his many incarnations and manifestations.  Also, music by Big Big Train, The Tangent, Blodwyn Pig, Jethro Tull, Hans Zimmer, My Bloody Valentine, the Sundays, Tears for Fears, Vertica, Sixpence None the Richer, Roswell Six, Matthew Sweet, ELO, Spacehog, and Newspaperflyhunting.

Latest Single: Newspaperflyhunting’s “Hours Pass”

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The first single from their forthcoming album.

Our great Polish friends, the members of Newspaperflyhunting, have just released their latest single at Bandcamp.

In continuity with their past musical approach, but armed with excellent new ideas, the band progresses properly.  Be prepared for a much proggier 1985 New Order mixed with some 1990 Cranberries mixed with the genius that alone belongs to NPFH!

From their forthcoming album.

https://newspaperflyhunting.bandcamp.com/album/hours-pass-single

soundstreamsunday: “Through the Lurking Glass” by newspaperflyhunting

newspaperflyhunting1When the Polish band newspaperflyhunting released Iceberg Soul in 2014, to my ears it was a shot across the bow of prog, which maybe needed a little hard striving to bust out of the templates.  The album was an original in a widening landscape littered with knockoffs, so while their sound skimmed Pink Floyd and the Velvet Underground, Mazzy Star and modern metal, their song structures, melodies, and presentation were a strong reminder of prog’s roots: a playground for the far out and unexpected, combining psychedelia, improvisation, and musics new and old, with a focus on riffs and the straight-up sonic power of rock’s stomp.  This was not a music to be sequestered unto itself, and reminds me how the Soft Machine cut their teeth opening for Jimi Hendrix, and Yes was as likely to be paired with Iron Butterfly, or Rush with ZZ Top, as with strictly like-minded souls.

“Through the Lurking Glass” is representative of the rest of Iceberg Soul, which is unfussy and melodically rich, a dark stage lit by accents like Fender Rhodes piano and an innocent, plaintive vocal approach which is improved by its Polish tilt.  It’s an utterly unique record.  Along with the work of Gazpacho, newspaperflyhunting is the best argument I can find for the continuing vitality of progressive rock.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section above.

SAND No. 2: The Unadulterated Excellence of Sam Healy

A review of SAND (Sam Healy), A SLEEPER, JUST AWAKE (forthcoming, September 30, 2016).  9 tracks.

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SAND, A SLEEPER JUST AWAKE (forthcoming, September 30, 2016)

As much as I’d like to start with something artsy (the album deserves it), I’ll just be really, utterly, completely, and totally blunt.  This album is extraordinary.  After a summer of horrors and violence (not personally, but around the world), this album seems like the necessary art to calm the savage soul.  I think this is, quite possibly, Healy’s best.

As I’ve written a number of times before when writing about Healy (solo) and about North Atlantic Oscillation, he does three things with unadulterated excellence.

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THREE WORDS by Newspaperflyhunting

Newspaperflyhunting, THREE WORDS EP (2015).

The band:

  • Michał Pawłowski: guitars, backing vocals
  • Jacek Bezubik: guitars, lead and backing vocals
  • Gosia Sutuła-Grabowska: basses, lead and backing vocals
  • Krzysztof Sarna: drums
  • Beata Grzegorczyk-Andrejczuk: Fender Rhodes piano
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THREE WORDS.

 

There’s something just so terribly infectious about the music of Newspaperflyhunting.

Granted, the name of the band is the weirdest thing since Annie Oakley shot three playing cards (ace of hearts, of course) at 100 yards while looking at the target through a mirror.  Yes, as with Oakley, Newspaperflyhunting brings a standard of excellence to every single thing it touches and produces.

The band’s latest EP, THE THREE WORDS, is a thing of wonder, beauty, and majesty.

Though the three-song EP has a familiar Newspaperflyhunting sound, THE THREE WORDS is different from their other releases and offers the long-time listener even new aural ecstasies.

As I’ve mentioned previously, the band’s music possesses much in common with the American and British neo-psychedelic wall-of-sound revival of the late 1980s which saw the rise and glory of such bands as Opal, Mazzy Star, the Cocteau Twins, and My Bloody Valentine.  Whatever the similarities, however, Newspaperflyhunting (as the name would suggest) is very much—maybe even absolutely—its own band.  Other than being from Poland and believing in the purity of art, Newspaperflyhunting evades any easy labeling or categorization.

At nearly 11 minutes in length, the opening track, “3 Words,” a song ostensibly about wisdom, tradition, and loss.  The song builds slowly but surely in the first two minutes, exploding at the 1:56 mark.  The voice drones (appropriately) as much as sings in a longing fashion, a plea for attention and contemplation.  The mood of the song changes numerous times through the 11 minutes, demanding the full immersion of the listener.

At just under 10 minutes, “Past Perfect (revisited),” track two, is a remake of an older Newspaperflyhunting song.  Never satisfied with the song, the band completely rebuilt it for the THREE WORDS EP.  The new version of the song is nothing short of stunning.  The female vocalist especially brings the song to life, drawing the listener into introspection as well as inspiration.

“Demolished Mansions” reflects the overall themes of the EP: the loss of tradition, replaced by heartless modernity.  There might also—though I speculate, nothing more—be something scriptural in the title, a loss and the death of God in our insane whirligig.

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To order: http://newspaperflyhunting.bandcamp.com/album/the-three-words-ep

The band’s description of itself: “Formed in 2006 in Białystok, Poland. Prog/post/space rock. Longing, melancholy, and rays of light scattered throughout. Introspective music, disregarding trends or expectations.”  One of the most accurate self-evaluations I’ve encountered in my life.

Our 2001st Post: Celebrating the Book of Riverside and Mariusz Duda

Riverside's latest album, LOVE, FEAR, AND THE TIME MACHINE (InsideOut, 2015).
Riverside’s latest album, LOVE, FEAR, AND THE TIME MACHINE (InsideOut, 2015).

Erik Heter’s grand interview with Mariusz Duda this past summer, The Duda Abides, reawakened (or least reminded me of) much of my love of Riverside.  And, that love is and never has been a shy love.  I first heard Riverside sometime between 2005’s SECOND LIFE SYNDROME and 2007’s RAPID EYE MOVEMENT.  I was immediately riveted by their music.  Not only do I love the Polish people and culture, I love prog and rock—so what a perfect mix of things.

Frankly, if you measure Poland’s prog and art rock output through Riverside and Newspaperflyhunting, it’s hard not to think of Poland as one of the most important countries in the world when it comes to producing modern music.

Continue reading “Our 2001st Post: Celebrating the Book of Riverside and Mariusz Duda”