Nosound, “Afterthoughts”–a must own (brief)

afterthoughts640After posting a brief note this weekend re: the forthcoming album from Nosound, “Afterthoughts,” Giancarlo Erra himself (!) contacted me.  What a gracious man he is.

Thanks to his good graces, I have now had a chance to listen to a preview/promo of the new album several times.  In fact, I’m on at least my sixth time.  And, I’ve the had the chance to listen to it on at least three different types of devices.

“Afterthoughts” is stunning.  I–and perhaps a few other progarchists as well–will review this fully.  But, if you’re looking for something to preorder, make sure this is it.  Fantastic, melancholic yet uplifting, intense, organic, deep, imaginative–everything you expect from Nosound and then some.  A 2013 must-own.

To preorder (and YOU SHOULD!), click here.

 

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Also, in doing a brief bit of research on Nosound, I came upon this insightful interview from Prognaut:

http://prognaut.com/interviews/giancarlo-erra-nosound.html

Nosound–Quite the Contrary

comboweb640 (1)There can be no doubt that this will be one very, very great year for Prog.  We’ve already had masterpieces from Big Big Train and Cosmograf.  Sanguine Hum has released its second, though it’s still not available in North America.  Matt Stevens, Ayreon, Heliopolis, Advent, and the Tin Spirits are working on new albums as well.  Very exciting.

One of the albums I’m most looking forward to this year is the new studio album (KScope–May 6, 2013) from Nosound, “Afterthoughts.”  It will be their fourth studio release.

Sea of Tranquility was able to get a hold of a pre-release copy and has offered an excellent review.  You can read it here.

I’ve been a huge fan of this Italian (now, Anglo-Italian with the addition of Chris Maitland on drums) post-prog act for coming up on a decade now.  Indeed, I find Lightdark (2008) and A Sense of Loss (2009) to be essential parts of any serious progger’s library.  When music historians look back on this current revival of prog, the albums of Nosound will stand at the forefront–along with the works of Big Big Train, Glass Hammer, Gazpacho, Cosmograf, Ayreon, and The Fierce and the Dead . . . and many others (what a great time to be a prog fan!).

This music is contemplative and wave-like, without ever descending into the abyss of self-absorption or ascending into the madness of over-the-top ELPism.  Probably the best descriptive of Nosound’s perfectionist sound would be: tasteful.

Nosound’s official website is: http://nosound.net/.  I preordered “Afterthoughts” the moment the CD was announced, and I very much look forward to reviewing it.

Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock, 20 years on

I’ve become quite enamored of Wyndham Wallace’s writings over the past several days.  Here’s a wonderfully insightful piece he wrote on the 20th anniversary of the release of Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock.  Enjoy.

There are many remarkable aspects to the story of Talk Talk’s fifth and final album, Laughing Stock. It took a year to make, and most of what was put to tape ended up on the scrapheap. In London’s Wessex Studios, where it was recorded, windows were blacked out, clocks removed, and light sources limited to oil projectors and strobe lights. Around fifty musicians contributed to its making, but only eighteen ended up on the finished album. It was a commercial failure, critically reviled as much as it was praised, and was impossible to perform live. Then the band broke up, forcing fans to wait seven years before its central protagonist released any new music, something followed by almost complete silence. Laughing Stock is also shrouded in mystery: apart from limited comments made during brief bursts of promotional activity to promote their own even more limited work since, the three authors of the record – Mark Hollis (songwriter and founder), Tim Friese-Greene (producer and co-songwriter since their third album, The Colour Of Spring) and Lee Harris (drums, and the only other remaining member of the band’s original line up by the time of Laughing Stock) – have refused to discuss it for years. But the music remains, its reputation growing with each passing year since its release two decades ago: stark, bold, indefinable and the greatest testament to the band. . . .

To keep reading the article at The Quietus, click here.

Here She Comes, Laughter Upon Her Lips: Talk Talk’s 1986 Masterpiece

IMG_1425Years ago–maybe as many as 25 years ago–fellow Progarchist and classical musician Kevin McCormick and I vowed to listen to Talk Talk’s The Colour of Spring every April 5th, in honor of what is arguably the first post-rock track ever released, entitled, appropriately enough, “April 5.”  I’ve tried to live up to this agreement every year since, and I don’t think I’ve missed an April 5th listening yet.

Last year, before Progarchy even existed, I wrote a piece asking Mark Hollis to call his legitimate successor, Greg Spawton, and the members of Big Big Train.  I mean really.  Imagine Mark Hollis working with Spawton, Poole, NDV, Longdon, Manners, Gregory, and Aubrey.  What a match made in heaven.  After teasing Greg about this a few times, he admitted that if he ever runs into Hollis, he’ll invite him to join BBT.

Amen, Greg, amen.

But, back to Talk Talk.

Though I’d seen Talk Talk’s earlier pop songs/videos on MTV in the early to mid 1980s, I wasn’t taken with the group until I came across 1986’s “The Colour of Spring,” an album that, without much exaggeration, not only opened my eyes to artistic possibilities but also caused me to claim my second music obsession: first, Rush; second, Talk Talk and Mark Hollis.

Everything else I treasured at the time such as early Yes and early Genesis paled next to The Colour of Spring.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I still adored Yes and Genesis, and I always have and probably always will.  But, The Colour of Spring was something beyond.  Beyond rock.  Beyond prog.  I heard lots of Traffic and Spooky Tooth in it, but I also heard a lot of experimental jazz from the 1950s and 1960s.

This album, frankly, seemed like the best prog album since 1977’s Going For the One, but still bettering anything that had come before it.

I studied the art work of James Marsh–those brightly colored moths forming some kind of order as they hovered around droplets of water.  I listened repeatedly to the music.  Too many times over the past twenty-six years to count now.  And, I have dwelt lovingly over the lyrics, which have, in their own way, brought me so much comfort during the good and bad of my life as to rival my love of the words of T.S. Eliot and of St. John the Beloved.  When I first purchased the American version of The Colour of Spring, no lyrics came with it.  Part of Hollis’s charm is his ability to muffle his words in a mysterious but artistic fashion.  I had all kinds of ideas about what Hollis was singing, but I later found I was mostly wrong in my interpretation and translation of those words into song lyrics.

In March 1988, Kevin and I found a copy of the British release of the album in a London music shop.  There, on a brilliant spring day–I can still remember the sun streaming through the windows into that rather dark shop–I read the lyrics as Hollis had written them (even printed in his handwriting) for the first time.

I was, needless to write, emotionally overcome as my mouth dropped open and my eyes teared up.

The lyrics were far better than I’d imagined, in meaning and in form.  I shouldn’t have been in the least surprised.  Though, every listening from that point forward has meant more to me than each and any previous listening.  Only a few other albums in my life have stuck with me as long as has The Colour of Spring.  It has remained my gold standard, surpassed only by its immediate successor, The Spirit of Eden, and (finally–twenty-five years later) by Big Big Train’s English Electric vols. 1 and 2.

In every aspect of The Colour of Spring, Mark Hollis offered not only his genius, but his very being.  That is, he was the music, and music reflected him.  But, really, it did far more than reflect him.  Without trying to become too metaphysical, I must state, the music seems to be coming from somewhere beyond anything known in this world, with Hollis merely reflecting the Divine itself, but putting his own personality on what was given to him.  This is much like the way Tolkien claimed to have written his mythology–not as a creator, but as a discoverer and as a recorder.

Hollis expressed so much love of the world (its physical nature) and a profound respect for religion in interviews–along with his despising of the corporate media culture of the 1980s–that one can easily envision him in Rivendell, the Last Homely House, recording his work among the greatest artists of Middle-earth, lost somewhere in a timeless realm.  Or, more classically, Hollis’s love of the created order makes me wonder if he somehow heard (or felt) the revolving of the Platonic spheres.

Back in 1986, Hollis admitted in interviews that the concept behind the album and the theme were quite simple: religion is wonderful, and war is horrific.  An alliance of the two, however, makes for the worst of all possible worlds.  Ultimately, Hollis claimed, the lyrics reflect the ideals of “life and morality.”

Prog fans, take pride: The Colour of Spring was a concept, to be sure.

The aim of ‘The Colour of Spring,’ he explains ‘is to present great variety in terms of mood and arrangement, treating the whole thing as a concept.  An album shouldn’t be something from which a single is pulled, leaving the rest filled up with rubbish. [New Music Express, Feb. 22, 1986]

The theme, however, must be the only thing that was simple about the album.  Certainly not the actual lyrics, or its song structure, or its production, or, even, its reception.

The album took Hollis exactly one year and two days to write and record.  Having made an enormous sum of money with the first two Talk Talk albums, The Party’s Over (1982) and Life’s What You Make It (1984),  Hollis fulfilled his dreams of moving everything toward the real and organic, away from the synths of the previous albums, there only because he couldn’t afford to hire a rock ensemble.  Now, with The Colour of Spring, he could.

Interestingly enough, Hollis considered “It’s Getting Late in the Evening” to be the core of the album.  For those of you who know The Colour of Spring, you’re probably scratching your head, as this song didn’t make it onto the final cut, and appeared at the time only as a b-side.  Haunting to the extreme, “It’s Getting Late in the Evening,” presents an impressionistic look at American slaves discovering their freedom following the American Civil War.

The tide shall turn to shelter us from storm/The seas of charity shall overflow and bathe us all.

IMG_1428Today, though, we at Progarchy remember the last track of side one, “April 5,” perhaps the first post-rock, post-prog track ever released.  At only 5 minutes and 52 seconds, it is a masterpiece of meandering brevity, a creative breath of freedom and beauty, a reaching and striving as well as a reflection.

Thank you for everything, Mr. Hollis.  If you read this, I only request of you the same thing I requested of you a year ago.  Please call Mr. Spawton.  If you need his number or email, just let me know.

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I dedicate this post to the genius and friendship of Greg Spawton.

Sources: Talk Talk, The Colour of Spring (EMI, 1986); “A Chin Wag with Talk Talk,” Number One (Feb. 8, 1986); “Talk Talk,” Record Mirror (Feb. 1, 1986); “Communication Breakdown,” New Music Express (Feb. 22, 1986); Rachael Demadeo, “Mark Hollis Interview,” Britannia Hotel in Manchester, May 5, 1986, posted at Within Without.

Nascent, Nascent: The Natural Order of Talk Talk

I’ve offered my “Talk Talk” testimony so many times, it’s probably getting a bit ridiculous.  To sum up, I really, really, really, really, really (well you get the idea) like Talk Talk, and I have since the spring of 1987, when I first encountered them by chance.  Further, I would have to rank “Spirit of Eden” as one of my two or three rock albums of all time.

Phew.

Talk-Talk-Natural-Order-1982-1991So, much to my surprise the other day, I saw that Mark Hollis had emerged from his seemingly J.D. Salinger like-life (may Salinger rest in peace) to release, under his official direction, a Talk Talk compilation.  It’s entitled “Natural Order,” and it just arrived.

Most of the others, frankly, from “Natural History” to the remixes to . . . . Well, let’s face it, Talk Talk just can’t be broken into parts.  The albums come as a whole.  I don’t just plop “Colour of Spring” or “Spirit of Eden” or “Laughing Stock” into the CD player when dropping the kids off at school or running to the supermarket to get milk.  No, these last three albums require attention and love.  Listening to them casually would like roller skating through the Field Museum in Chicago or jogging through the Nelson Museum of Art in Kansas City. Continue reading “Nascent, Nascent: The Natural Order of Talk Talk”

Kevin McCormick’s Squall (1999)

kcmccKevin McCormick, Squall (1999).  To my mind, this is some of the best rock music ever written—but tempered with very serious classical sensibilities and lacking the over-the-top bombast present in even some the best of 1970s progressive rock.

If one had to label his music, it would most likely be a post-prog, post-rock, or, simply put post-Talk Talk.  In the current realm of music, one might think of a mixture of Matt Stevens, Gazpacho, and Nosound.

McCormick incorporates his profound poetry as lyrics.  Each word—and the way Kevin sings it—seems utterly filled with grace and conviction.  This is part two of a rock/post-rock trilogy (he’s currently working on number three).  And, it’s hard to listen to Squall without listening to its equally fine predecessor, With the Coming of Evening (1993).  Kevin really has it all: a great voice, the ability to write poetry as lyrics, and the training of a classical guitarist.

Before I write any more, let me admit my bias.  Kevin is one of my closest friends, and he has been since we first met in the fall of 1986 as freshman at the University of Notre Dame.  We still talk and correspond frequently.  Kevin is the godfather of my oldest son, and I of his second daughter.

We bonded immediately on matters of music back in 1986.

Kevin and his two brothers had a well-known Texas band in the mid 1980s, and Kevin formed the finest band at Notre Dame, St. Paul and the Martyrs, during our years there.  Toward the end of our senior year, St. Paul and the Martyrs opened for the-then unknown progressive jam band, Phish.

During our years in college, Kevin and I traveled throughout the U.S. and England together (making sure to visit Trident studios as well as EMI (hoping to catch a glimpse of Mark Hollis) while journeying through the mother land of prog and New Wave), co-produced a “Dark Side of the Moon” charity show, complete with an angsty-movie backing a full performance of the album by the Marytrs, talked music and lyrics until late into the nights, and even co-hosted a prog rock radio show on Friday nights.

Not surprisingly, one of my greatest memories of Kevin in college was listening to the entirety of Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden in 1988.  We remained completely silent for a very long time after its completion, stunned by the immensity of its beauty.

Kevin is extremely talented in a number of ways.  Not only is he the father of our beautiful daughters, but he has won national poetry as well as classical guitar composition awards.  In addition to the two post-prog albums (With the Coming of Evening and Squall) already mentioned, Kevin has also released several albums of solo classical guitar as well as an album of Americana, all recorded on an 1840s Martin.

His music has been praised publicly by many (see, for example, his entry at Allmusic) and privately by such luminaries as Phill Brown and Greg Spawton.

As of this afternoon, Kevin has finished mixing a Christmas CD, recorded with his oldest daughter on vocals, to be released next Christmas season.  And, as mentioned above, he is currently working on the completion of his post-rock trilogy.

Here’s Kevin’s music at CD Baby:  http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/KevinMcCormick

Here’s Kevin’s official site: http://www.kevin-mccormick.com/KM/index.html

I know we at Progarchy have offered lots and lots of suggestions for worthwhile purchases over the last three months.  But, as we begin this near year, I can state unequivocally that it’s worth supporting Kevin, especially as he prepares to record his new post-prog album.  I’ve only heard bits and pieces, but Kevin is a man of absolute integrity.  He is, like so many of us who either play prog or simply listen to prog, a perfectionist.  He also possesses one of the finest senses of beauty I’ve ever encountered in another.  So, while 2013 will probably NOT be the year of Kevin McCormick in the prog world, 2014 almost certainly will be.

Certainly, Kevin’s album should be one of the most anticipated releases of the next two years.  It’s worth beginning to anticipate today, January 1, 2013.

 

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Some video links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umMMJ4B-D6k

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kewac1nhue8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqsAcTs8KN0