Massive SAND/Sam Healy Sale

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Sadly, not everyone is born a handsome Irish man.  Then, again, some are.  Sam Healy.

One of my all-time favorite musicians, Sam Healy (North Atlantic Oscillation), has his second SAND album, the extraordinary A SLEEPER, JUST AWAKE on sale for $9 (cd and download) or $6 (download).

Definitely worth taking advantage of.  SAND’s A SLEEPER, JUST AWAKE was certainly one of my top three albums of 2016.  Healy understands sound as well as anyone in the scene today (or yesterday).

https://www.musicglue.com/sandtheband

Progarchy Radio, Episode 14

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Part I, 2010.

Our first show since Halloween!  Lots of great music on this one.  Four thirty-minute sets with only minimal talking on my part.  A restrained DJ am I!  Promise.

Set I

  • The Fierce and the Dead, Parts I-III

Continue reading “Progarchy Radio, Episode 14”

What I Liked This Year

I wasn’t too adventurous in my listening this year – maybe because artists I’m already familiar with released so much good music that they kept me busy!

Here’s what I liked in 2016 in the world of prog:

Tales_from_Topographic_Oceans_(Yes_album)10. Yes: Tales From Topographic Oceans (Blu-ray ed.)

Technically not a 2016 release, but with Steven Wilson’s 5.1 mix, this is a new album to my ears. This has everything a Yes fan could ask for – versions of TFTO that include the original mix, a radio promo, a “needle-drop” vinyl transfer, an instrumental version, in addition to Wilson’s new mixes – literally hours of music. A sometimes maligned work gets its proper release, and it really shines.

 

The Mute Gods9. The Mute Gods: Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me

I love Nick Beggs’ blend of 70s – era FM rock with snappy songwriting. Turns out he’s much more than one of the best bassists ever.

 

Continue reading “What I Liked This Year”

The Best Prog of 2016, Part I

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The best album of 2016: Glass Hammer’s VALKYRIE

What a year.  I would guess that when historians look back to 2016, they will see it as a year of extreme violence and angry populism.  Sadly, both the violence and the politics revealed themselves from time to time in the prog world, but not detrimentally so.

Life, dignity, and art remain, however, no matter what the politicians scream.  And, praise the Lord we have good music to heal so many hurts of this broken world.

Glass Hammer, VALKYRIE.  Not just the best GH album, but one of the greatest rock albums ever made.  Susie has never sounded better, and GH has gone well beyond their comfort level to explore a full-blown novel in this terribly moving story.  This album strikes that perfect—and all too elusive—via media, balancing beauty and innovation.  VALKYRIE is, undoubtedly, my favorite album of the year.

In the next several spots, I have to wrestle with myself.  Frankly, any ranking after VALKYRIE, would change day by day and, perhaps, even hour by hour.  So, I offer the following loves.

Continue reading “The Best Prog of 2016, Part I”

Some Random Prog Thoughts

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Press play.  Repeat.  Thank you, Glass Hammer.

My apologies for being so quiet for a bit now.  After the great visit by the Reverend John Simms and his beautiful bride, Jude, I’ve been working on tons of things not directly related to music or to progarchy.  Mostly classes and lecturing, but quite a bit of traveling as well.

Yet, at the back of everything, prog keeps reminding me what matters most in the world–hearth, home, kids, my students, beauty, truth, and goodness.

I’ve been rather obsessed with a few albums through the first third of this academic semester: Glass Hammer’s VALKYRIE; Marillion’s FEAR; and SAND’s SLEEPER.  If you’ve not gotten these yet, please do so.  They have  been in constant rotation.

Continue reading “Some Random Prog Thoughts”

Progarchy Radio Episode 9

I’m back!  After two months at 10,000 feet above sea level and almost no internet, I have high speed!  So, what do I do with my access. . . I record progarchy radio episode 9.  Music from The Tangent, The Ben Cameron Project, The Pineapple Thief, Frost*, Oceansize, Riverside, SAND, Karmakanic, Simple Minds, Nosound, Roswell 6, Tool, Threshold, Jason Rubenstein, and Cosmograf.

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SAND No. 2: The Unadulterated Excellence of Sam Healy

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

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

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

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

Continue reading “SAND No. 2: The Unadulterated Excellence of Sam Healy”

Nick’s Best of 2013 (Part 1)

In this, the first part of my round-up of 2013’s best releases, I highlight eleven superb albums that all made it onto my shortlist and managed to remain there – no mean feat given the incredible quality of the new music that appeared this year. Each of these has made a huge impression on me and yet, amazingly, none of them feature in my Top Ten. (We’d best not dwell on the excellent releases from Days Between Stations, Lifesigns, Spock’s Beard and others that eventually got pushed off the bottom of this shortlist, but what can you do when progressive music is enjoying a fecundity not seen since the early 70s?)

I won’t even attempt to rank this selection, but will instead list the albums by artist, alphabetically. Think of them all as being in a notional 11th place in my Best of 2013 list!

A word on criteria: I have considered only studio albums and I have ignored remasters, remixes and rereleases (whole or partial) of pre-2013 material. (In one case, this has had a significant impact on my choices.)

Ready? Off we go…

amplifierAmplifier – Echo Street

The masters of the heavy groove take a step back from the sprawling madness of 2011’s splendid The Octopus. The result is more reflective and refined but no less compelling. Echo Street is subtle rather than subdued, rich in atmosphere (‘matmosphere’?) and dreamy soundscapes but still with enough big riffs to get the blood pumping. The highlight is probably Where The River Goes, an epic that starts in delicate fashion with 12-string acoustic guitar before building to a thunderous conclusion.

ee2Big Big Train – English Electric, Part 2

Part 1 was my Album of 2012, but don’t be fooled by the follow-up’s apparent lowly position this year, as the difference in quality really isn’t that huge. Like its predecessor, Part 2 is a paean to the landscapes, history and fading industrial heritage of England. There are excellent songs to be found here – Worked Out, The Permanent Way and Keeper Of Abbeys are probably the highlights for me – but the album doesn’t flow as smoothly as Part 1 (a minor defect that combined album English Electric: Full Power has since rectified though a reordering of tracks and the introduction of new material).

????????Glide – Assemblage One & Two

Who knew that Echo & The Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant was such a fan of 70s electronica pioneers like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream? Or that he could pay homage in such a respectful and skillful manner? Assemblage is wonderfully evocative of that classic era of electronic music without being derivative. Strongly recommended if you are a fan of TD or other artists of that ilk. Its hypnotic rhythms will transport you to other realms…

guapoGuapo – History Of The Visitation

‘Guapo’ means ‘handsome’ in Spanish, but I’m not sure that’s an entirely appropriate term for the music that Dave Smith, Kavus Torabi, James Sedwards & Emmett Elvin have produced here. Visitation, Guapo’s first recorded output for five years, is a satisfyingly dense and complex slab of instrumental art rock, full of dark tones and edgy riffs. Intense 26-minute opener The Pilman Radiant dominates, providing all the shifting moods and time signatures that a prog fan craves, while Complex #7 provides a richly atmospheric interlude in which to catch the breath before the mayhem resumes with up-tempo closing number Tremors From The Future. Highly recommended.

lunarossaLuna Rossa – Sleeping Pills & Lullabies

The glorious voice of Anne-Marie Helder continues to delight, this time in partnership with fellow Panic Room member Jonathan Edwards. Panic Room’s Skin was one of last year’s surprise hits for me, a powerful demonstration of the growing sophistication and maturity of their sound. Much of that improvement carries over to the efforts of this acoustic double-act (unsurprisingly, given they are the principal songwriters for the band). Sleeping Pills is a delicate and beautiful album, beguiling in its simplicity.

midlakeMidlake – Antiphon

Imagine what it must feel like to be stalled in the midst of a lengthy and difficult recording process for your fourth album, when suddenly you lose your vocalist and principal songwriter! Midlake certainly demonstrated the ‘courage of others’ in scrapping two years of work and starting again from scratch. Given these circumstances, new album Antiphon, written and recorded in only six months, is a triumph. Stand-out tracks from these champions of American prog folk are probably The Old And The Young and Ages, although the whole piece is immensely enjoyable, albeit without quite the same degree of melancholic elegance as its predecessor.

sandSand – Sand

A magnificent solo effort from North Atlantic Oscillation’s Sam Healy. Sam has suggested that Sand serves as a ‘musical palette cleanser’ before work begins on new NAO material, and he has spoken of this album’s different feel – but in truth, Sand could easily be mistaken for a new NAO album. The characteristic NAO ingredients are all here – drum machines, samples, layered electronics and dreamy vocal harmonies – but Sand manages to eclipse 2012’s Fog Electric, feeling somewhat gentler and more refined. Stand-out tracks for me are Clay, Destroyer and Astray.

shinebackShineback – Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed

A bold statement from Tinyfish frontman Simon Godfrey, ably assisted by lyricist Rob Ramsay. With its strong pop, dance music and electronica influences it certainly won’t be to every proghead’s taste, but adventurousness such as this is surely necessary to evolve and reinvigorate the genre. Highlights are probably Passengers, the languid Faultlines – the “A paper doll in Scissorland” lyric is particularly memorable – and the ten-minute title track. The vocals are at times a little too thin and tend to get overwhelmed by the more forceful passages of music, else this might have made my Top Ten.

solsticeSolstice – Prophecy

I’ve always had a soft spot for Solstice. I saw them live many times during the mid 80s and the feel-good hippy vibe of their performances never failed to put a smile on the face. It was gratifying to see them return in 2010 with Spirit and even more gratifying to see them take further strides forward this year with Prophecy. The focal point, as ever, is the superb guitar playing of Andy Glass, but everyone plays their part and Jenny Newman’s violin playing contributes greatly to the overall feel of the album. Forget the new age lyrics if that kind of thing bothers you and just revel in the gloriously uplifting sounds that this band can produce. A most welcome bonus is a trio of Steven Wilson remixes of tracks from the band’s 1984 debut Silent Dance that greatly improve on the originals.

Sound-of-Contact-Dimensionaut-Cover-300x300Sound Of Contact – Dimensionaut

The debut release from the new project of Simon Collins and Dave Kerzner is another of 2013’s unexpected pleasures. The underlying concept doesn’t really fire the imagination, to be honest, but the music most certainly does! Ironically, the album’s prog epic – the 19-minute Möbius Slip – is probably the weakest track, but that’s mainly because the rest of it is so melodic and catchy as hell. It is difficult to pick out highlights, but the five-track sequence from Pale Blue Dot through to Beyond Illumination is near-perfect. Simon Collins is excellent on vocals, with just the slightest hint of father Phil prompting a shiver of recognition here and there.

Spooky-Action-CD-Cover-FinishedOverThe Fierce & The Dead – Spooky Action

Matt Stevens & Co move from strength to strength with this, their second album. As before, it’s an unfailingly energetic and heady mix of King Crimson, math rock, punk and other influences – difficult to categorise adequately, but that is surely part of the attraction. This is the sound of a band charting new ground and growing in confidence as they do so. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.

SAND debuts Today

The cover of the new Sam Healy solo album, SAND.
The cover of the new Sam Healy solo album, SAND.

While my copy hasn’t arrived yet (I’m eagerly awaiting it), Sam Healy’s first solo project, SAND, came out today from Kscope.  iTunes and amazon.com both have music samples, and I’ve been enjoying them quite a bit.

Healy is the lead singer and main songwriter for the Celtic (Irish and Scottish, I’ve recently discovered) prog group, North Atlantic Oscillation.  I’ve had a chance to correspond a bit with Healy over the past week, and I’ve found him to be as intriguing and intelligent as one would imagine from this deeply talented song writer.  He’s also quite witty.  After I mentioned to him that I was heading to class (western civilization), he reminded me that all would be explained when I came to realize that “Soylent Green is people.”

Thank you, Sam.

For more information, go here: http://www.kscopemusic.com/2013/10/04/sand-the-debut-album-from-new-project-by-sam-healy-north-atlantic-oscillation/