Review: Rainburn – Insignify

Insignify

Indian progressive rockers Rainburn are a band who sit firmly within that region of emotive music which crosses the line between the plaintive sound of Porcupine Tree and the bluster of cinematic indie. Now on their second release, Insignify out on November 7th, they return to the age old trope of the concept album with a narrative, which feeds into the at times explosive music.

Telling the story that deals with issues of existentialism, the significance of human life, narcissism, craving importance, insecurity and the search for reason, you may consider it all a bit convoluted. At nearly 50 minutes long it does test your patience and you may find yourself drifting away from the main theme. Give it some due listening though, and you’ll find a concept which works to keep your attention.

Although thematically it’s difficult to keep up, within the music you find a way to enjoy this album. Cinematic in not just scope, but in drive, the peaks and troughs of a film are recast within some wonderful playing. Particularly good are the plaintive guitar solos, feeding off a classic sound developed by masters of prog, and given new life here. They are moments which lift the album to another level and become moments of transcendent emotion.

Rainburn can do heavy too and on the tumultuous end of “Suicide Note”, the devastating centrepiece of the album, they bring a new heaviness to prog rock which only the metal maestros dare explore. Unafraid to raise the tempo, it’s fascinating to listen to the way the band use their music as a kind of soundtrack of emotion, rather than a classic style of songwriting. They may veer on the more predictable side of prog, but at least they do it well.

There is plenty on Insignify to excite prog fans. It’s always difficult to deliver emotional music such as this without veering into cloying territory and with a concept verging on the slightly pretentious, you’re edging towards dodgy terrain. All dues to Rainburn for pulling this off in the main though, and if you’re willing to give it the time you’ll find plenty to keep you coming back. Pour yourself a drink, stick your headphones on, and lose yourself in the story for a while. You’ll enjoy it.

 

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Remembering the Genius of Porcupine Tree

2018 release
The 2018 release.  2 CD/1 Blu-ray from Kscope.

Porcupine Tree, ARRIVING SOMEWHERE. . . (Kscope, 2018).  2 CD/1 Blu-ray package.  A re-release of the 2007 title on DVD.

Though it originally came out over a decade ago, Porcupine Tree’s ARRIVING SOMEWHERE . . .–its live show from Chicago, October 11-12, 2005–has just been re-released by Kscope in a very nice 2 cd/1 blu-ray book.

When it first came out on DVD in 2007, I had purchased it immediately. Of all the concerts I own on varous forms of video, ARRIVING SOMEWHERE . . . has been in constant play, rivaling only Rush’s TIME MACHINE and Talk Talk’s LIVE IN MONTREUX for most played.

Now, having it on CD and blu-ray reminds me yet again how incredible Porcupine Tree was in the first decade of this millenium. Admittedly, between 2001 and 2010, I was rather obsessed with the band. To me–all pre-2009 and, thus, pre-UNDERFALL YARD–no other band had reached as far and as perceptively as had Porcupine Tree. The band seemed the perfect fusion of prog, pop, and psychedelia–in its music as well as in its lyrics.

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10 Years Old: FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET, Porcupine Tree

Ten years ago this month, Porcupine Tree released its magnum opus, FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET.  I’m sure that many of you in the progarchy community would respectfully (or otherwise) disagree with my belief that this was PT’s finest moment.  Is it really the magnum opus of the band?

foabp
PT, FOABP, 2007

Or, maybe to put it differently, is it the finest moment of Steven Wilson, version 1.0?

Well, this might be the subject of a much longer post. . . .  But, for now, let’s stick with FEAR.

Though much heavier than the albums prior to IN ABSENTIA, FEAR has everything that a prog fan would want.  The lyrics are top notch, the album is a concept, and the playing is flawless and immaculate.

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Richard Barbieri’s Prog-Electronica Genius

richardbarbieriI was first exposed to that exotic, amorphous musical genre called “electronica” in junior high by a friend who listened to what we called “weird stuff”. I’m not even sure what it was; some of it was from Japan. It made a dent in my memory banks, however, because until then my musical interests had been confined to some classical (Brahms! Mozart! Good!), Top 40 rock (Queen! Also good!), and lots of mediocre CCM (Not good!). During my high school years I listened to a good deal of The Alan Parsons Project, in part because of the huge hit “Eye In the Sky”; I eventually collected all of the APP albums. Parsons, of course, has straddled the worlds of progressive rock and mainstream pop/rock with his production prowess, writing, and work with keyboards and Fairlight programming. In hindsight, his music opened the door in various ways to music that was more overtly electronic.

(A quick, semi-related aside: A good friend in high school, who spent a lot of money on a fabulous car stereo system, liked to alternate between playing—very loudly—the raunchy rap of 2 Live Crew and the muzak of Yanni: the first to demonstrate his system’s bass; the latter to show off it’s high end. I’m not sure which music scarred me more.)

In the late Eighties and early Nineties there was an explosion of so-called “New Age” music (which had been around since the Sixties and whose identity has been hotly debated for decades), much of which was ambient or involved whales bellowing, birds chirping, and flowers clapping their petals. I mostly  ignored it, but did eventually latch onto the music of Patrick O’Hearn, whose solo albums on the Private Music label were lush, complex, mysterious, evocative, and never boring, even at their most sedate. O’Hearn, like all of the finest electronica artists, is the master of tone and mood; the music is rarely about virtuosity—unlike wide swaths of prog rock—but about constructing layers and movements. I liken it to a painter who builds layers of luminosity into his work through patient precision (more on the visual arts parallel in a moment).

Not surprisingly, there was a lot of cross-pollination going on between some “New Age” artists and various progressive rock groups and musicians. O’Hearn, who has legit jazz chops—he studied with jazz giant and bassist Gary Peacock—played with Frank Zappa as a youngster, and then with the new-wave band Missing Persons; the Private Music label featured a number of musicians with deep ties to progressive rock. (Another good example of this relationship can be found in Jon Anderson’s albums with Kitaro and Vangelis.) In the 1990s I bought several albums by Moby, Portishead, Björk, Aphex Twin, and Massive Attack, even while I ignored (for whatever reason) other key artists (Brian Eno, for instance).

Richard Barbieri is, of course, no stranger to prog fans, being a key member of Japan and Porcupine Tree and having worked in a number of other settings. His new album “Planets + Persona” [Kscope Music] is his third solo album, following 2005’s “Things Buried” and 2008’s “Stranger Inside”, both of which I enjoyed quite a bit. The three albums are similar in many ways, but this new album seems, to me, to be warmer, more organic (or acoustic), and more contemplative. Geno Thackara, at AllAboutJazz.com, explains it so: Continue reading “Richard Barbieri’s Prog-Electronica Genius”

Richard Barbieri News from Kscope

Richard Barbieri

Richard Barbieri’s third solo album ‘Planets + Persona’ is OUT NOW, check out the 360° video for “Solar Sea”.

“What other planets are out there? Could there be any life 40 light-years away?” – The new 360° video for Richard Barbieri’s track “Solar Sea”, explores these questions, imagines these new worlds – colliding planets, ice crystals inside a hollow comet, volcanic asteroids spewing molten lava into open space and a breathtaking finale.

Richard Barbieri

WATCH HERE www.kscopemusic.com/rb

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Stardust

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Unapologetic hippie prog!

The older I get, the more I love the past, even as I’m profoundly enjoying the present.  2017.  It has a nice sound.  2017.  Looking back over the years of which this current one is an important anniversary (ok, not the best writing in the world), I can’t help but think of several important years and albums that spring to mind immediately.

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Who Is This Steven Wilson You Keep Going on About?

wilson-transience

If you’re a regular reader of Progarchy, you’re probably familiar with Steven Wilson, whether it’s as the leader of Porcupine Tree, a solo artist, or the go-to remixer of classic progressive albums. And you’ve probably raved about his work to uncomprehending friends and relatives.

Well, Mr. Wilson has just released a compilation that speaks more effectively to his artistry than any words. Transience consists of fourteen songs, clocking in at more than an hour. There’s not really anything new, unless you want to count a couple of edits, but they were hand-picked by Wilson, and as such make for an interesting listen.

All of the songs highlight Wilson’s “pretty” side – in other words, his extraordinary gift for composing a beautiful melody. The flow of the album is flawless, moving from one entrancing moment to the next. One thing that struck me was just how good his first solo album, Insurgentes, was. “Harmony Korine”, “Significant Other”, and “Insurgentes” are all included, and they really stand out.

Continue reading “Who Is This Steven Wilson You Keep Going on About?”