Progarchy Radio is Back

BB #2
Progarchy Radio, Featuring “Adrift.”

Hey Everyone,

I’m sure you thought Progarchy Radio was dead, making its way slowly up the mountains of Purgatory.  But, alas, she has arisen!  Back on earth.  Back in time.

This edition begins with a song our very own Dave Smith wrote (along with lyrics by yours truly), “Adrift.”  From Birzer Bandana’s second album, OF COURSE IT MUST BE, released today.

Birzer Bandana is followed by Nosound to conclude the first set.

Set Two, nostalgia and the 1980s: INXS; Thomas Dolby; XTC; Ultravox, The The, and Talk Talk.

Set Three, the best of 2017: Big Big Train; Newspaperflyhunting; Dave Kerzner; Glass Hammer; and Tricksy Spirit.

Epilogue, Stranger Things: Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein; and Joy Division.

Yours, in the spirit of progarchy radio,

Brad

 

Big Big Train, a Big Big Interview

Following on from their surprise release of The Second Brightest Star, and coming up to their sell out gigs in October, I managed to grab a chat with Greg Spawton and David Longdon of Big Big Train, together through the magic of Skype (eventually, my technical ineptitude aside) to talk all things secretive, live and the next stops on the line. This interview was conducted prior to the announcement of next years debut European gig at Lorelei, hence some of the secrecy!

Lorraine Poole 1

(photo by Lorraine Poole)

Lets start with the surprise album, how did you manage to keep that one a secret?

Greg ‘We don’t know’ laughter ‘We thoroughly thought the cat would be out of the bag’

David ‘We didn’t think we’d be able to keep it quiet, because in this day and age it’s ver4y difficult to keep this sort of thing quiet, but we did, and we were expecting the bubble to burst at any moment, thankfully it didn’t and the surprise wasn’t spoiled and it was released on the day that we intended, which was the summer solstice’

Greg:’ It presented a few challenges for us, David and I talked about this before because other artists have done surprise albums, and they’ve had non-disclosure contracts for people to sign, obviously we don’t have the muscle to get that thing agreed to, so we had to try to create a strategy where as few people as possible knew about. But still before the day of release 30 or 40 people across the world knew about it, and we thought any one of those could mention it, but nobody did. It was very heart-warming that we kept it secret but to be honest I don’t think we’d do it again it was very stressful. It’s more difficult doing it that way than having a pre-order campaign’

When did you have the album?

Greg ‘To be honest we were working in parallel with the songs on Grimspound, we probably discussed it December or January, it was a long time ago’

David ‘ We originally thought about doing an EP, once Grimspound started to take shape, and we knew what we were dealing with we thought some songs that were part of the cycle, didn’t fit on Grimspound. Grimspound has such a strong identity, as indeed did Folklore. I guess they written around the same time, whilst some of the songs on Second Brightest Star were purposefully written for this release. We knew that we’d got another album in our sights, we could have released Grimspound as a double, but we’d like the idea of a different album. We plan these things well in advance, you have to’

Greg: ‘At one stage Grimspound was stretching out to 75 minutes and that’s when it started to feel unwieldy. Possibly we could have dug our heels and said ‘lets make it a double, do it that way’. But as I said before whenever we make an album we try to make it flow, like a proper collection of material that belongs together. However we sequenced the very long version of Grimspound it didn’t quite flow how we wanted it to, so we took a few tracks off. Which enabled us to write a couple of other pieces which enabled the Second Brightest Star to flow, in fact I think it flows as well as anything we’ve ever done.’

It forms a loose trilogy,

David ‘It forms the conclusion of the trilogy, which is what it is’

Greg ‘It’s a bit messier than that because the Wassail EP before all this had a couple of tracks on it Lost Rivers of London and Mudlarks, they’re part of the trilogy songs, I think you know the problem is, you make a number of decisions. If we’d thought it through two years ago to the nth degree we would have done things slightly differently, but you make these calls as you go and things evolve. Grimspound evolved from a companion EP to a full-blown studio album, and a similar process happened with the Second Brightest Star.

David and I we did the bulk of the writing, but there’s 4 other people writing in the band now, and so there’s a lot of material. It’s not a neat process, you don’t start writing for an album and then stop, there’s always a bit around the edges where things flow and that’s where we found ourselves’

David ‘ Not only that, the band was changing as well, the music was developing and aside from the bands career was developing, there were lots of different drivers, lots of accelerants. Grimspound turned out to be very much it’s own thing, it’s a very progressive rock album for prog fans, and is very much pitched in that arena, whereas Folklore was much more subtle. They’ve all got their own flavour.’

I do love the fact that on the Facebook page people are trying to come up with track listings if you were to put all the albums together.

Greg ‘It’s interesting, I’ve screenshotted one of those because I wonder how we would do it if we were, we did go through that process with Full Power, which took a lot of thinking to make that a coherent release. When I look at the length of some of the play lists that these people are putting up, and it’s three hours and more. It’s very difficult to make something flow over that length of time. Maybe if we get some downtime we’ll put a Spotify play list up which shows the album as we would have released it if that had been the plan from the start’

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Now you’ve snuck out the Second Brightest star to surprise us all, I suspect you’re working out the set list for the London gigs’

David ‘ We’re practising at the moment aren’t we Greg, so it’s making songs that we’ve written go into our brains’

Greg ‘It’s learning stuff, learning songs we haven’t played before, and reminding ourselves of songs we have played before if we are playing them again. It’s getting them stuck in. One of the problems David and I face is that we play four or five gigs a year, if that and therefore we haven’t got the muscle memory of doing 100 shows a year, so when preparing for these gigs it’s a longish process, about two or three months of getting it under the fingers or into the throat. That’s our plans for the next two or three months. I would love to tell you we’ve got another album coming out on Friday but that would be a complete fib (laughter) ‘

David ‘the nicest thing about doing it the way we do it is that each session of shows are entirely bespoke, it makes them events. It’s not a question of ‘we’ve got a set’ and we’re going to wheel it out again and again and again until we can’t do it anymore. We’ve got lots of material, there are a few things that we played last time that we’ll play this time, but we’ve a wealth of new songs as well. There’ll be things from the English Electric albums and then songs from our canon that we want to get out and air. That’s exciting as well’

With the shows will there a companion Blu-Ray/CD release as well?

Greg: ‘Yes we’ve got a full film crew, as you know we filmed the Kings Place gigs and they came out really well, we were quite surprised to be honest as we only filmed them to maybe put a few songs up on You Tube, but Pete Callow is a very clever director and he made the most of the fairly small set up in Kings Place.

It’s interesting, I had a conversation with Pete a couple of weeks ago, and he was giving us the options of how grandiose we want to be. The starting point is that this is a gig. It’s not a show that’s being filmed with an audience there, it is a gig for the audience and they are the ones that count, so we’ve forbidden anything like any crazy wires across the stage, we don’t want anything that we’re filming for the TV to disturb the live audience, so the film crew have to be in the background, so people don’t find it’s getting in their way’

The plan is for it to be a more ambitious camera set up, so that we’ll have plenty of shots, David and I are very similar we don’t like fast editing. It gets very dizzy, but there are things we’d like to see in there, if Danny’s playing a nice keyboard solo I’d like to see it. We’ll just make sure we have cameras that can capture the moments so we can get a nice film out on Blu-ray’

BBT 3 by Simon Hogg

(photo by Simon Hogg)

Of course with the size of the band, and the logistics, working this way is a better approach for the band?

David ‘Logistically it’s an expensive thing to organise, everything costs money’

Greg ‘It is, it’s all about logistics, at the moment we’re doing everything ourselves. Everything is in house, and we know that can’t continue because in 2019 we want to do a couple of small tours in Europe and England, so that will take things to a level where we need somebody else to blame when it all goes wrong, and at the end of the day the band members and the crew need to be focused on their jobs and if we’re getting drawn into organising things the shows become very complex.

Which is why the strategy we’ve had, OK it’s a pain for people to travel to London from up and down the UK and abroad, but this is the way that we’ve been able to play live and is something that will change in the nearish future, but for now it’s the most sensible approach for a progressive rock band in 2017.

David ‘It’s amazing place to come from all over the world, it’s a capital city so it’s not just coming to see a band in place, it’s coming to see a band in an incredible city’

Are the gigs all sold out now?

David ‘yes they are’

That’s pretty good going isn’t it?

David ‘its amazing, when we were looking at what do we do next after Kings Place, there were no guarantees, because those shows went so well. I mean we’re still at the place where it could end tomorrow, it’s very much belt and braces. How much is too much when it comes to capacity. The last ones were 450 seaters; these ones are 900 seaters’

Greg ‘ David’s exactly right; there’s optimists and pessimists within the band, suggesting larger venues. Pitching it is very important, we felt we’d take a step forward and it’s gone really well in terms of sales. It’s gone really well, who’d have thunk it really? We were excited to see Kings Place out, and to do this at the next level up, its pinch yourself tine really’

David ‘We want to get out and do it, because Kings Place went so well, when we play live its very much our time, with our fans in the audience and it’s there time with us, and I’m really looking forward to playing this material with them. It’s sounding great in rehearsal and we’re only just scratching the surface of it. I really can’t wait’

BBT 2 by Willem Klopper

(photo by Willem Klopper)

You’ve released three albums of fresh material in a short space of time, and you have an impressive back catalogue, how do you decide when you look at the songs, and think right, what are we going to play?

Greg ‘I’m trying not to give anything away as people get upset if set lists get printed ahead of time. One of the things we started with is that the audience is a lot bigger this time, and there are a lot of people who have never seen us before. We have got a huge back catalogue now, and as David said it’s quite exciting to play stuff live we’ve never played before so we could have started with a blank sheet, which would have been exciting. But I expect a few fans in the audience would have been thinking ‘I wanted to hear that’ so you start with a process where you look at the essential live tracks that Big Big Trains want to hear at this stage in career, which may change as new albums come out and then you look through albums old and recent and select stuff you think will be good live and create a balanced set list. As you know we’re a band all over the world and there’s lots of emails flying round with various suggestions, rejections and approvals.

Maybe David would disagree but I thought the set list came together very easily and it felt to us that the songs we play in September and October are the right ones for us to play at this time, and moving forward we will add to those’

David ‘the set feels good, it’s balanced, I remember speaking with fans in the foyer in Kings Place I was making a mental note of some of the things the fans were asking us to play, and when they coincide with the ideas that we’ve got its great. There’s one track in particular that came from that angle, a lot of people mentioned it to us, and there’s been a few things like that in the set’

Of course you’re heavily involved with the whole fan base with the group on face book

David ‘It’s a two-way thing; we wouldn’t be playing in places like Cadogon Hall without that support. We are there because of them; we can’t afford to do it on our own. The bands grown because of the fans and it’s down to them, it is a two-way thing. We’re very grateful, which is how it should be’

When you look at other discussion groups online, it’s a good-natured place isn’t it/

David ‘yeah, you’ve got to protect that ethos. There’s some incredibly jaw dropping things going on in the world at the moment, and in society that make you scratch your head and wonder, but we try to make it what it is. A bit of haven from all that. It’s not that we aren’t interested in political events around the world, we are, we’re very interested and in political events at home, but there’s a time and a place for it. It’s not for a progressive rock forum, not as far as I’m concerned and not for Big Big Train’

Do you have longer terms for the band, thinking two or three albums ahead?

Greg ‘we know the next album title, we know some of the songs that are going to be on there, David and I we’ve discussed working those things out. We know what we’re aiming for and taking the ethos of the material that we write into foreign places, literally writing about things that are moving away from England a little bit, which fits in with our career profile, certainly in terms of gigging. We’ve got plans through to 2019, and I have no doubt that we’ll be able to bring those to fruition.

That’s one of the nice things about being in Big Big Train in the last four or five years, is that whereas 7 or 8 years ago we’d talk about things and they’d feel out of reach. Now we talk about things and they feel achievable and doable and that they will happen and happen in a positive way. It’s like a fulfilment machine; it enables us to get our musical material in front of people and heard by people. That’s what songwriters want really and that’s what its all about. You can sit in your room and write stuff but if its not getting that approval if you like of people listening to your music, liking your stuff, your music and your lyrics. But we’re careful planners, we know what month and year the next album is coming out, and I suspect if we went away for a few weeks we have got about an hour of material if not more already written, and we’d get the songwriting process done to make it the best album we can’

Coming to the songwriting and structure of the albums, I know earlier you said a 75-minute Grimspound didn’t feel quite right, do you have an optimum time for an album?

Greg ‘that’s a good question, obviously albums in the 60’s/70’s etcetera were defined by format, the comfortable vinyl length defined the album length and there wasn’t much going beyond late 40’s/50 minutes. About 45 minutes seemed the perfect album then, I think there’s something in that. I know when CD’s came out and albums became a bit bloated I thought. Anything around the 40-50 minutes can be a sweet spot. But if you feel as a band you have a lot of strong material and it sits together, then length is no object so we found our recent albums have been coming in at around late 50’s 60 odd minutes, and that for me is where they work. It depends. I suspect our next album will have a couple of hours material to choose from, and we may decide to make that double album we’ve never done, or we may decided to pin it back to 40 minutes. Those decisions will be made when we have the material in front of us, sift it and see how it all fits together’

David ‘the good thing about being an independent band is that we can have ideas, we can action them. Not only that is the speed of the action, the turnaround. We’re not waiting for permission or going cap in hand to a record label for an advance to go and do something, we go and do it ourselves. We say wouldn’t it be great if we did this, or wouldn’t that be cool. We make it happen. It is an amazing position to be in. I love the fact that the ideas can flow, as they should, they are unhindered; it’s a really positive thing. There’s no shortage of ideas in Big Big Train, that’s the nice thing about it. We’re a band who have plenty of thoughts on what we do, what we’re doing next and why we’re doing it so, long may it continue’

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(photo by Simon Hogg)

I know Greg earlier you said about the difference between 2007/2008 and now where you say yes we can do it, what do you think has caused that change?

Greg ‘getting the right line up was really crucial, as you know the band has a long back story, and I don’t think I was writing terrible songs in the early 90’s or whenever, but that I needed to be working with an equal to get those songs as strong as they could be, and deliver them in a beautiful way. In 2007 Nick came into the band and David joined in 2009, and there’s no point in hiding from the fact that David brings a really high end voice, but he also brought with him songs, and an ethos which worked well with my ethos, and we found ourselves particularly the two of us as real brothers in arms in terms of working together and we decided to expand and become a full band again, David was suggesting people like Danny etcetera who came into the band and we’ve just been able to make sure the right people are there to do the right things, which works for the band. Then there’s a momentum of its own, you get the right people in writing good stuff, then the momentum takes over. As David said having that freedom to define out own destinies has been extraordinary. I mean we have been offered many record deals, but it would have to be a stunningly beneficial deal for us to depart from being a self managed and self financed band where we are today, because I don’t think we’d be able to make those decisions in the timely manner that we do today, I think it would change things. I think we’re interested in Steven Wilson’s move, as he feels he needs to be on a bigger label for more people to hear his music, and I’m fully behind him on that call, but for us right now, doing what we do together as a group of people feels like the right thing for us. It’s been a long haul, especially for me, right now we’re in a really good place and I can’t wait to play for people again, and for people to hear material over the next couple of years’

Touching on Mr Wilson, he’s remixing albums into 5.1, if it were viable would you want to pick an album from your back catalogue and remixing it into 5.1?

Greg ‘The Underfall Yard is a very important album for us, it was the first album David was involved in, he joined the band, it was a relaunch, it’s where we started writing about history and landscape and is where it all came together really, in 2019 that will be the tenth anniversary of that album, so I imagine when we play live we’ll be doing a number of songs live from that album, and we’ll be doing a reissue, it’s never been available on vinyl, and there’s definitely demand for a vinyl release and we will be doing a 5.1 release as well, 5.1 is interesting, you need that critical mass of fans to warrant the remixing and producing discs in 5.1. I’m not 100% convinced we’re there yet to do it for every album, but it’s something we’re keeping an eye on, and as the fan base is growing its something that will happen when the time is right. We’d all love to celebrate the Underfall Yard in a couple of years and that’s ripe for 5.1.’

What about a full performance of the Underfall Yard?

Greg ‘There have been conversations, I know some bands go out and play full albums, and it’s about 52 minutes so it wouldn’t completely dominate a set, maybe do one set Underfall Yard and the other something different, but I’m not sure yet. If we do that we’ll advertise it that way so people know what they’re coming to see’

Have you been to the Underfall Yard recently?

David ‘We’ve been down to the SS Great Britain, have you been to it?’

It’s on my doorstep so, I had some guided tours round there before they started the renovations, and we walked round where the new bit brings you in front of the Underfall yard and the pump house,

Greg ‘I will have to get back, I walked near there the last time I was in Bristol, but as David said the last time we were down there we were at the SS Great Britain that was around Far Skies Deep Time,’

David ‘The first pictures with Dave Gregory’

Greg ‘Of course, we picked Dave up and had some pictures done on the SS Great Britain. I love Bristol, my sons just been at the UWE, it’s a very cool place as you know’

Its got plenty of great venues as well, not that I’m dropping any hints..

Greg ‘there’s one I looked at in a church, a 4 or 500 seater, and when we do 2019 Bristol will be on the tour’

David ‘Fleece and Firkin, that what you want isn’t it?

Fleece or the Thekla

Greg ‘I saw the Lemon twigs on the Thekla, it’s a bit sticky floors for us, we like our seated venues, our fans must concentrate when watching Big Big Train so we like them to take the weight off their feet (laughter)

David ‘If it sinks while we’re on board we could play Abide with Me as it goes down, or we could do the Star and Garter, that’s another one’

So your talking about widening your musical horizons on the next album, and stepping away from England, are there other things inspiring you to write differently?

David ‘As we said earlier we work well ahead, and there’s always stuff around, you read stuff, you speak to people. There’s always more to be done, the nicest thing about it is as well. Big Big Train is a band that can share the load, so it’s not a mammoth task for one person to be doing. I know some bands have one person that writes everything and works on everything, at least the way our model is if you like, having multiple writers means if people are able to do stuff it liberates and takes the pressure off. There are always plenty of ideas. Plus this is progressive rock, so all the crazy ideas can be used further down the line. If we were in a more restrictive genre like deep house or something like that we’d be very limited on the ideas we could have. I’m not interested in that sort of stuff, so prog it is’

Lorraine Poole 3

(photo by Lorraine Poole)

Do you find in the past few years prog has stopped being a dirty word?

David ‘yes, it has, there’s nothing quite like announcing you’re a progressive rock musician defiantly, challenging them with your eyes and they go ‘what’s that then?’ Some people still cling to the past about progressive rock, it got a very unfair beating and a lot of things that were upsetting people aren’t in place anymore. You don’t have to be a rich man to make progressive rock music, you just need access to a desktop computer, plug ins, things like that. You don’t need to own a mellotron to write for one. It’s been very liberating. But that’s not why we do it; we do it because we love it. I’m a singer and a songwriter, Greg’s a songwriter and we’re all musicians and this how we choose to express ourselves’

Greg ‘For us it’s a very liberating genre, the boundaries are very wide, and it enables us to do things we want to do. The fact that its now no longer music that dare not speak its name, is great, Prog magazine have had a lot to do with that, websites like yours have a had a lot to do with bringing people together and celebrating it. Turns out the original wave of bands in the seventies had a sense of humour after all, they were not po-faced about it, they were doing what they wanted to do and things got out of hand a little bit. I think the good bits of the genre are worth celebrating and are celebrated. As David said music making is democratised now, you don’t have to have a Hammond organ and a full mellotron to be able to make music. It’s not a rich mans game. There’s no reason to diss prog rock. One of the things we found before Christmas with the Classic Rock, Metal hammer, Prog magazine suddenly looked like they were going out of business, was that camaraderie in the rock community, we all stood together as rock fans, not prog fans or rock fans, just music fans. It doesn’t dominate the charts like it did in the 70’s in any way shape of form, I think we all agree that rock music is a form that’s worth maintaining, and there’s great rock music being made these days, but it doesn’t have the weight or the power that it did, and it brings people together’

David ‘I was reading an article the other day about the death of the electric guitar and how sales are plummeting, you won’t get those stories of the kid going into the shop, getting his electric guitar and the rest being history. But sales have dropped off for the time being. Does it mean something? I don’t know. Dave Gregory’s got them all!’

Greg ‘there’s none left out there at the moment! There are cycles with it, the thing is there’s an awful lot more that people do with their time now, people are into gaming, watching boxed sets. But in the seventies and indeed the early 80’s there were fewer things that people could do as a creative hobby, and therefore people gravitated towards making music more easily. Now, on the one hand music’s democratised and more people do it cheaply, but it seems that rock music is suffering from that. It may be an indication that there are different times ahead, or it may just be a blip.

Who’d have thought that vinyl would have come back?

When Chris Topham approached us about releasing our stuff on vinyl I think we had a bit of a giggle, it didn’t seem to me in anyway to be a sensible idea, and now we would even consider a new release without factoring in the vinyl version, these things do go in cycles’

David ‘The world of the hipster, I am far too folically challenged to be a hipster’

Greg ‘I wish we were part of the world of the hipster. We’re too old and gray around the gills. It seems to be cool again. Ironically when I went to school with a copy of a prog album under my arm on vinyl I was looked on, as a bit of a bell end, but these days a hipster would do such a thing. It’s funny how things change’

Maybe the difference is they have the courage of their own convictions’

David ‘The weight of their own beards’

Greg ‘their convictions are the weight of their beards.

I remember going to school in the 90’s with prog stuff and that was a definite no go,

Greg ‘You are a man out of time’

It was dead handy growing up in Rotherham in the mid 90’s though

Greg ‘The classic rock society’

Exactly

David ‘I don’t know about you, as I’m near Nottingham that you kind of ripples of the music industry, looking at Sounds or the NME at these new trends, it seemed to me that rock music sang to the soul of the midland male type of thing, it did. Its never stopped singing to me, it never stopped resonating. I still get excited by it, I think I’m a lifer’

When we write songs for Big Big Train, we’re not extending them for the sheer hell of doing it, we like the extended song format, we like the ideas, the modulations, the keys, the instrumentations, the ideas, there’s a lot of thought goes into that, and we’re lucky in the band that there’s a lot of muscle in terms of musical arrangements and people are able to bring a hell of a lot to these compositions’ Its brilliant, we make the music we want to make and make the music that we love and when you asked earlier why did it work, what made it successful I like to think that hopefully its because we did what we love, and that people picked up on it and they could sense the authenticity to the intent of the music and we care about what we do’

It comes across in the artwork, the music, the sleeve notes, and the whole package, there’s a level of sophistication and care,

Greg ‘You’re absolutely right, you’ve got to get it right, starting from the first bit of music we write to the moment it’s realised we’re trying o make people see that Big Big train does care, and you know that there is a quality threshold that we will always be above. It’s not a question of me or David saying we would never want to, but we won’t just walk blindly into making an album that we’re not 100% behind. Its what we live and breathe for, and to find that we’ve got an audience for that at this stage in our lives is absolutely brilliant’

David ‘We are grateful and it’s a two way thing, definitely reciprocal and one thing fuels the other, its great’.

 

Many thanks to Greg and David for their time, and of course for taking us along on their amazing musical journey.

 

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”

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.

whitehouseonthill

 

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!

napiers

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.

uvtraveller

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.

What Lies Beneath – Bad Elephant Special part 2, an interview with Mike Kershaw.

Hello Progarchists, welcome back to the second part of my look at the current releases from our friends over at the naughty pachyderm, today I have a review and an interview with Mike Kershaw.

Self taught singer songwriter Mike Kershaw has been working solo for several years now putting out releases that have got better and better, and more acclaim with each release, and his latest album What Lies Beneath (the follow up to 2014s critically acclaimed Ice Age) is Mikes first full length album since signing to Bad Elephant, and Mike was kind enough to chat to me about the album, before we hear from the man himself, lets see what I thought of What Lies Beneath.

Mike Kershaw4

This is the second release that Mike has made using guest musicians, and like the previous EP (Departure) signposts a new direction of Mikes working, instead of being fully solo, he has opened the doors and invited in a list of talented musical collaborators and label mates, including the inimitable Tom Slatter, who adds his unique sound to Wounds, whilst Leopold Blu-Sky of Unto Us adds his bass,guitars,keys and drum programming to the mix as well as producing the record, Gareth Cole plays guitar on the album whilst Fractal Mirrors Frank L Urbaniak drums on a few tracks and Leo Koperdraat co-wrote and guests on Two Eyes.

Continue reading “What Lies Beneath – Bad Elephant Special part 2, an interview with Mike Kershaw.”

Bad Elephant – Good records

Hello Progarchists, how are we all?

You may have noticed I’ve been a little quiet recently, due to a house move from hell and all the real life stuff that gets in between the music and the reviewing, so apologies to anyone who has sent me albums to review and the delay I’ve had in reviewing them, as John Lennon once said ‘Life is what happens to you whilst you’re busy making other plans’, he also said ‘James, don’t use a friend of a friend as a decorator’ but I ignored him on that one, to my cost. He knew what he was on about old Johnny L.

One of the most consistent record labels releasing new music that spans the gamut of the contemporary prog genre is of course our friends over at Bad Elephant Music, who have artists like We Are Kin, The Fierce and the Dead, Simon Godfrey and Tom Slatter on their books, not to mention many other great bands, and that is exactly what I’ll be doing today, in the first part of a series of articles focusing my attention on a round up of their releases for the first half of this year, and hopefully causing you to spend some more money to keep David Elliott in curries….

 

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N.y.X The News

 

This release escaped into the world, kicking and screaming back in February (yes I know it’s August, have you ever had one of those years??) and I use that term advisedly, as I haven’t heard anything like this album in a very long time. In fact part of the delay in reviewing it was because it’s taken me a while to marshal my thoughts about it to be confident enough to put them out there.

Italian art/prog/who knows what outfit N.y.X (Walter F Nyx on vocals, bass guitar, electronica, Danilo A Pannico on drums, percussion, piano organ, marimba, electronica and Klod on guitar and vocals) have put together a 46 minute audio experience, blending elements of the more out there sounds of King Crimson (with Adrian Belew and Trey Gunn adding their distinctive sounds into the disparate mix) early Tangerine Dream and psych Floyd N.y.X is truly uncategorizable.

From the opening tumult that is Restless Slumber (At the break of dawn) you can rest assured this isn’t an easy listening album, there is disjointed electronica, jarring sound effects and it takes a few listens to get into the album.

That, to my mind is always the strength of a record, if it’s one you have to persevere with, and play a few times to get into then the work is worthwhile, prog is supposed to be the first music in space, and lets face it, if musicians aren’t pushing musical boundaries and challenging themselves and their audience, then you might as well go to watch Coldplay behind the screen of your iPhone in a big old metal barn along with a million other people in their identical SUVs.

This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and whilst this album is full of hardcore psychedelic moments, mixing the best of early Kraut Rock with the more esoteric end of English prog, like Crimson or Henry Cow, you then have the wonderful Discord (Domestic Policies) blindsiding you with it’s direct acoustic driven number, with some sublime guitar solo, almost the calm before the percussive The Paper (Titles & Subtitles) which keeps the whole News theme going throughout the album, and with it’s haunting guitar work, and the way the track builds and builds it sounds like a soundtrack to a dark film that no-one dare make yet.

The whole ethos of the album is encapsulated in the closing track, 13 minutes of The Daily Dark Delirium, if nothing else the titles on this album are cracking, with some fantastic vocals and the musical meld that N.y.X do so well, it’s a cracker of a journey with elements of techno, metal guitar (courtesy of Trey Gunn) and many other genres that shouldn’t work on the same record, never mind the same song, and the fact it does with its bewildering dark beauty is a testament to the band.

This album is not for the faint hearted, and probably has the potential to be the most polarising album I’ve ever reviewed, in fact to be honest I have been listening to it since January and still can’t decide whether I like it, or whether it’s one to be admired for it’s skill.

It’s a musically complex album, with lots going on and it’s always great to hear a band that aren’t concerned with sounding like anyone else and making the music they want to hear, it’s not a record that can be pigeonholed, mainly because it’s not a pigeon and because it transcends anything as banal as genre.

Fair play to N.y.X for their confidence in their ability, and in Bad Elephant for taking a punt on this real one off record.

Rube Goldberg

The Rube Goldberg Machine – Fragile Times

 

Nothing sums up the world we currently live in, for better or for worse than the album title on the debut album from London based prog trio Elliot Coombs (guitar, keyboards, lead vocals) Dan Bowles (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals) & Jordan Brown (bass, keyboards, backing vocals) and the album cover, whilst sparse is very striking and if, as I often do, you buy an album based purely on the sleeve, then you would pick this up, take it home and pop it in your CD player.

Your money wouldn’t have been wasted at all, as BEM have found another amazingly talented band to add to their roster as TRGM as no one ever calls them specialise in that melodic brand of prog that bands like The Pineapple Thief have perfected.

They are no copyists however, as the band have a warm sound that is all their own, despite channelling the spirit of Steven Wilson on the title track, with it’s warnings of bad times to come, and it’s wonderfully sparse guitar solo and atmospheric sounds.

In fact the less is more ethos is spread across the whole album, with the wonderful Little Funerals drawing the listener in with its warmth.

The music is superb, and is full of little quirks, In Symmetry being a case in point, whilst the lyrics and the music match up perfectly, being more questioning and reflective about the state of the world, rather than bringing you down.

Elliot’s voice is superb, and its his vocal warmth that draws you into the album, whilst the musical skills at work from the trio should not be underestimated, throwing elements of folk rock (your contemporary folk sound of bands like The Levellers or the Oysterband) into play on the delicate Man of Glass, the slide between styles and themes is part of this albums strengths, as it seems more like a well constructed concept than a mere collection of songs.

Meanwhile The Captains Blackjack is wonderful character piece with a great catchy chorus, and reminds me very much of Badly Drawn Boy.

With it’s great music, its superb lyrics and production, Fragile Times is one of those wonderful contemporary prog records that appears from nowhere, and with it’s hooks pulls you in, until you find yourself humming parts of the title track so you have to dig it out and put it on.

Like N.y.X its one that rewards repeat listening, unlike N.y.X it’s not going to alienate 50% of the readership, indeed this album is probably the best musical commentary on 2016 that we’ve got so far, and if we are living in Fragile Times, we might as well relax and enjoy the music.

Mothertongue

Mothertongue – Unsongs

 

It’s been a year of contrasts for BEM, from Jack Arthurs to N.y.X David Elliot hasn’t let the grass grow under the labels feet, and for sheer joie de vivre you don’t get much better than Mothertongue.

Mixing the joy of Ska, the anthemic quality of folk rock and some odd prog bits, Mothertongue throw everything (including the kitchen sink) into the musical mix to create a sound that puts a big daft grin on your face, and some toe tapping music.

Manchester based 6 piece band Phil Dixon (guitar, backing vocals) Will Holden (bass, backing vocals, saxophone) Andy Malbon (trumpet, cornet, backing vocals) John Simm (drums, percussion, programming, synths, backing vocals) Louis Smith (vocals, guitar, synths, ukulele) and Mark Wall (guitar, mandolin, violin, synths, backing vocals) combine their sheer musical skill and powerful energy into one noisy fantastic euphoric sound.

The great lyrics to The Devil Can Steer sets the album off at one hell of a pace, and the Ska sound runs through this track like the word Scarborough does through rock, whilst the brilliant titled A Poem that the Sky Wrote with its jagged guitar and vocals sounds like a Polyphonic Spree track recorded by Young Americans era Bowie, in fact the impact of the brass section on this album of prog/pop does for the genre what pioneering folk rockers the Home Service did to that genre with their sound.

Coming from t’North Brass runs through my blood like Sam Smiths best bitter runs from my glass, and so when the brass section kicks in on the album it’s a joy to hear.

The way this six piece manage to make a sound that makes you think there’s at least a dozen of them is wonderful, and the way they flip between prog, pure pop, psych and brass, like the wonderful Perfect Zero is nothing short of genius.

Whilst Nautilus manages to mix disco, samba and funk into one catchy tune before an amazing rock interlude kicks in and the chorus blasts out.

Whilst the ensemble vocals and brass on Shango with its percussive power is superb.

The musical dexterity and power that this band bring to their music is astonishing, and the way they mix and hop from rock, to prog to Ska and back has to be heard to be believed, and if you want a joyous album to put a smile on your face, and revel in the music then this is a fantastic summer record.

Perfect to put a smile on your face as you walk in the English rain!

We Are Kin

We Are Kin <and_I_know>

 

I’ve been waiting for this album, since We Are Kins debut Pandora was released, al album that appeared as if by magic in my in box one day, and was so powerful that I had to buy the physical CD. For me it was one of the albums of last year, a finely realised debut concept about the Pandora project, and this, their second album is also set in that world, and (spoiler alert features the return of wonderful voice of Alex Dunedin as Isaac…. but I will say no more!) having coalesced around the four piece quartet of Dan Zambas (guitars/keyboards/vocals) Gary Boast (drums/production) Lee Braddock (bass) and new vocalist Emma Brewin-Caddy this is a confident and bold album.

Having received the download a while before it’s release (but after I pre-ordered the album, with the limited edition live album!) I decided that I would listen to both Pandora and then flow straight into <and_I_know> and boy does it work.

It’s the aural equivalent of binge watching boxed sets as the story just picks up where it’s left off, but with much stronger musical statements on here, and far more diverse sounds, the opener …that one day… starts with some fantastic guitar work and a brilliantly powerful percussive sound, then the bands new ace kicks in, when you have a vocalist as powerful and with such a range as Emma, then you use her as much as possible, and the way hers and Dans vocals fit together are superb, a wonderful contrast.

Throughout the album there are recurring motifs, and the eagle eyed among you will spot the way the album has been titled, and the name of the tracks that form the start, the middle, and the end of the album give what I suspect is the albums full title, and a phrase that is repeated several times on the album, one which has significance to Isaacs story.

The band have got a wider musical palette to play with on this album, and with them performing live shows and the reception Pandora got, I sense they are growing as a band with the concept.

Take the wonderfully late night jazz club vibe of No Evil, with some wonderful piano work, or Emma’s free form vocal improvisation over the starker elements of radio, where the band pare things down to a sparser darker less is more approach. Meanwhile one of the musical motifs from Pandora is revisited with some wonderful flute playing by Ramsey Janini accompanied by more of Dans fantastic piano on the haunting …we’ll have to say… Meanwhile reaper, with it’s fantastic guitar work, and more of Emma’s sublime vocals, has a very Floydian air about it, particularly Dans guitar solo, however that is the only real musical touch point to any other band. As We Are Kin sound like no-one else out there, from the distinctive vocals of Dan and Emma, to the musically rich tapestry that the band weave, and the tight narrative that allows the band to dictate there sound and not vice versa.

exhale, with more of Dans piano playing and Emmas vocals, echoes the way the album has been constructed, there are very few elements of bombast and the way the music has been composed is as much about the space between the performances, as the performances themselves, with a powerful finish.

…goodbye starts with the repetition of a lyrical phrase that has repeated across the album, and it’s a 12 minute epic that ties the whole album together, with some amazing musical performances from the band, fantastic guitar work and an amazing ensemble work to bring this part of the story to a close, and like all the best dramatic works or films in the cinema where you need to stay to the end, play close attention to the end of the album.

This is an assured and intelligent follow up to what is one of the strongest debut albums I have ever heard, and it moves the story on in new and musically interesting ways, and is a strong contender already for an album of the year.

I also need to mention the artwork for the album by Leon Arts and We Are Kin, which again flow from the debut albums work and is a superbly realised concept with shades of Hipgnosis about it.

If you were one of the lucky 500 who pre-ordered the album you also got a cracking limited edition live show from Manchester, where the Pandora material is brought to life in fine form.

I am hoping that they are going to do more shows, where they can tell the story so far to what will definitely be appreciative audiences.

I cannot state enough what a great album this is, and if you liked Pandora then this album will delight you as it takes the story to the next level.

The band have made massive leaps forward across both these albums, so I cannot wait to see where they take their sound next.

 

All albums are available from www.badelephant.co.uk

The Enid, Dust to Glory.

The Enid, one of the most iconoclastic progressive bands have ploughed their own furrow over the last 40 years guided by the individual (some might say bloody minded) vision of Robert John Godfrey, a unique musical visionary who polarises opinion with his outspoken critiques, yet he has driven The Enid forward for the last 40 years and with the current tour being his last hurrah with the band as he steps back and lets the young blood in the current revitalised incarnation take over, I was lucky to catch up with Robert, and Enid vocalist Joe Payne last month before they flew of to Japan, to talk about their latest opus Dust.

Robert John Godfrey

RJG

Robert is one of the most erudite musicians I have ever interviewed, an intelligent and passionate individual he has so many ideas that we would veer off topic at a regular occurrence including several off the record chats that sadly I cannot reproduce here, witty, self deprecating and very down to earth I think when he steps aside from the stage work he should do a few ‘Evening with…’ theatre shows.

We started our chat by talking about their mighty fine new album Dust and Robert explained the albums concept and themes,

‘Basically there is stardust round and round us, and it’s the culmination of a trilogy, Dust is a prophetic look at where we’ve got to.

It’s about 7 things represented by a seven-point star, there are six things that are on a collision course with massive consequences, the environment vs consumerism, the sacred and the secular and wealth and poverty.

The seventh is something that might have been implicit at the Big Bang, when you got a Terry Pratchett disc world and the 6 points are all fighting each other and this enormous problem us something the next generation has to sort out is the legacy of the mess my generation have made. In this pretty devastated place at the end of it all you’ve got Love, which you must have had in place at the start.

Love, it’s what you’re left with at the end and the stuff of creation, the message that was behind (classic Enid album) Something Wicked this Way comes.

Is this the end? A punishment or a great forest fire, a reset. The trilogy is about the relationship between the one and the many.

It’s about being interested in ideas of mortality and what it means to be a believer, I honestly don’t know and don’t pretend to know.

I’ve spent my life half rationalising against the idea of God and the other half talking to him’ Continue reading “The Enid, Dust to Glory.”

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”

Apologies and An Explanation

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Dear Progarchists,

First, let me apologize for all of the changes to progarchy.  I did my best to upgrade the site, but I, frankly, bit (byte?) off more than I could chew.

Second, I have returned us to the site as it was on September 29, 2015.  All links and credits are working again. Perfectly, from what I can tell.

Just to let you know, I had hired a third party to host the site rather than WordPress.  We are now back with WordPress, and I don’t anticipate leaving again.

I hope and trust you all approve, and, again, my apologies for the craziness.

Yours, humbled, Brad

P.S.  Today is the 3rd anniversary of Progarchy!!!!