Saturday, November 4, 2017

Vinyl in Sight: The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery by The Tangent


'The Album' as a musical format was born on vinyl, and it continues to lead an active, fulfilling life there. On this edition of Vinyl in Sight, we take a look at EU Proggers The Tangent's latest masterpiece, The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery (or, "Where Do We Draw the Line Now?")We have a full review essay for TSROFM over at Progradar, but the artwork and vinyl experience for this album are so fantastic that the LP deserves its own review. This is in large part due to the stunning images from Mark Buckingham (comic book art for Generation X, Fables, covers for The Fierce And The Dead, etc.), though the overall design and sound recommend themselves highly.


On the Platter

Buckingham's art (with colours by Chris Blythe) perfectly captures and re-expresses the political and emotional core of the album: Too much talk, not enough heart. "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaketh," says what some call The Good Book. What then of those who spew hot gas, whose blow-hardiness is a defining feature? Rhetoric without Logic is bad enough, but perhaps there is something worse: perhaps Heartless Speech damages Humanity worse than any concrete wall or mere political disagreement ever could. This sobering truth asserts itself in the gatefold:


 "The ACTUAL Story" is their story; it's the story we hear when we listen to the oppressed with open ears and open hearts. When we insist on inserting ourselves into the story, when we dictate the meaning of the story, we set ourselves up as a barrier to Humanity itself.


In this spirit, the art & packaging for the vinyl LP open space for the album's story with numerous cartoons and annotations along with full lyrics that develop the background and details for the songs beyond what is sung. The labels for each side are clean, vibrant, and unique though centered around a common aesthetic. Andy Tillison & Co. have a bit of fun here, as well. Guitarist Luke Machin is credited with lyrics for the instrumental "Doctor Livingstone (I Presume)," while the label for "A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road" pokes the bear a bit by crediting Tillison only with the arrangement—a cadre of particularly rancorous politicians and media personalities are named as the writers of the song. The discs themselves are clean, well-pressed, and feel substantial in the hand. They really didn't require any cleaning before play, and the holes were cut perfectly (secure but not too tight on the spindle). As usual, Inside Out Music releases only the highest quality vinyl pressing and packaging. The only disappointment in the packaging is that it lacks one or two illustrations from the CD digi-pack version, as well as the list of pre-pre-order supporters and a two-page (in the CD booklet) essay, "Where Are They Now?" Given the high cost of new vinyl compared with other formats, it's unfortunate when design elements have to be left out in the name of not raising the price further.

Oh, and there's a bit of an Easter egg on the label for Side 2 of LP 2—Side forty eight, eh? What's that all about? A song for The Remainers, perhaps?

In the Grooves


As we've already reviewed the music at Progradar, we'll focus here on the sonic experience of the album on vinyl. First things first: Jonas Reingold deserves to be heard in this medium. Of course, vinyl enthusiasts will be familiar with its advantages for reproducing low frequencies (given a good master), and that advantage is on full display on The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery. Reingold's bass is so massive, forceful, and acrobatic all over the album, and it's especially punchy and prominent in the LP grooves. On the high end, Machin's piercing guitar leads and Theo Travis' whirling wind instruments are wonderfully defined and sustained. The vocals benefit as well, especially when Marie-Eve de Gualtier and Tillison are singing together. Gualtier's voice sounds all the more delicate and atmospheric in the warmth of the vinyl. For those tired of hearing about the medium's 'warmth', let's say that there is a spaciousness and quality of air here that augments the clarity and tone of the complex and sometimes dense musical performances.

Again, the only drawback to this edition of the album stems from what is not included, namely, the excellent and very fun "Basildonxit" from the CD digi-pack edition. It would have been a tight fit and probably ill-advised squeeze without an additional side of vinyl, but it would be nice if the song had appeared on the CD included in the jacket pocket. In a more perfect world, the song would have accompanied the album as the A side of its own 7" record, backed perhaps with a short edit from the epic "Slow Rust." Nonetheless, the overall quality of The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery on vinyl warrants its purchase, even sans the bonus track. Our favourite album of 2017 paired with our favourite way to listen to music? Recommended without reservation.


The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery by The Tangent is available via the band's own webstore or, with a lower shipping cost for those in North America, from LaserCD.



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The October Playlist: A Journey Through All Hallow's Eve


The Night of the Great Pumpkin is upon us once again, and you'll be wanting some music to accompany your celebrations. We've got you covered with a playlist to guide you through the four stages of an All Hallow's Eve, so please enjoy this carefully curated selection of ghoulish and goofy tunes as you bob for apples, full-size candy bars, or perhaps something a bit stronger.

Trick or Treat
"Keepin' Halloween Alive"—Alice Cooper
"Skullivan"—They Might Be Giants
"I Love You So Much (It's Scary)"—Boyz 4 Now

Halloween Party Games
"Vampolka"—Devin Townsend Band
"Zombies in the Mall"—Gizmodrome
"Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)"—David Bowie

The Witching Hour
"Dead Eyes"—Casualties of Cool
"Spooky"—Starflyer 59
"The Great Gig in the Sky"—Pink Floyd

Early Morning Cocktails
"Great Pumpkin Waltz"—Vince Guaraldi Trio
"Damned and Divine"—Tarja
"Devils, Angels & Saints"—Dead Artist Syndrome





Thursday, October 19, 2017

Album Review: Sugar Skull by Sleepy Driver


With their 5th studio album, Americana-Rockers Sleepy Driver have retained all the rollicking energy of their first release whilst adding nuance in their arrangements and sound textures. Built on the solid foundation of another ten great Peter Hicks songs, Sugar Skull displays the talents of a band in full swing across ballads, garage rockers, anthems, and progressive moody compositions. In short, it's a lovely album that encapsulates the spirit of Sleepy Driver for old fans and new listeners alike.


Opening track "Unpromise" begins with tentative acoustic guitar and rolling organ before settling into a mid-tempo jaunt. Halfway through, guitarist and co-producer Ethan Young-Lai launches the first of Sugar Skull's many perfectly-toned melodic solos; by the end, the sax and trumpet accents of the chorus take the spotlight for some singing and swaying of their own. This adds just a bit of a Country & Western feel to the proceedings. Lyrically, "Unpromise" is a great example of Hick's reflective yet direct style as the song's character turns from an initially regretful/cautionary tone--"It's what you can't unpromise/it's what you can't unsay/it's what you can't take back"--to the hopeful first steps of a new beginning--"I'm going to make that promise/I'm going to take that vow/I'm going to change my ways and get you back somehow.

This new approach seems to pay off with the heart-on-the-sleeve declaration of love that is "Finer Things" before taking a downward turn in "The Last Heart." Previously released in a nascent acoustic version and now the first single for this album, "The Last Heart" is a gorgeous and textured exploration of the phenomenology of broken hearts and shattered dreams. Dave Palmer's pedal steel solo and John Heinstein's organ bed take the lead in expressing these emotions, but there's an ambiguity in the song's ending. Barry Hughes and Mike Hathaway charge out of the chorus with their drums and bass as another guitar solo ends things on an elevated note; perhaps the emphasis of "Must be the last heart that's breaking" is more on the certain pronouncement that this is the last breaking heart than on the tragedy of their breaking in the first place.


The Americana lilt of the album's early tracks does not quite prepare for the scorching groove of the title track. Every instrument dances its own strong magic around a simple but aggressive lyric. The drums and bass are barely constrained in their tight pocket, the vocals spit and leer, and the listener is treated to a jazzy Rhodes solo, searing guitar solo, and the funkiest pedal steel run this reviewer has ever heard. "Sugar Skull" is a sock on the jaw in the best way, and would make quite the parting shot for a live set. The band bring a similar noisy energy to "Radio Dial" and "Lucia," the latter of which continues Hick's lyrical fascination with the subject of murder. In this song, the focus is on the paranoid tensions running through an entire town after a group of children discover the young "Lucia at the bottom of the well." 

Sleepy Driver can pound and they can coo, but on the moody, progressive centrepiece "Believe/Belong" they show that they can slow burn, as well. The attention to production detail evident on this year's earlier Decomposed album is turned toward a proper song here, and the results are arresting. Finger-picked acoustic guitar and punctuating piano carry the song's beginning moments as ominous buzzes and swirls fill the soundscape like a portentous fog. Juanita Bourque's backing vocals sound less like a harmony than a beautiful haunting in the dark ambiance, and again the listener faces an ambiguity in the song's extended ending of wailful pedal steel and nuanced percussive work. Throughout, every sonic element is crystal clear while taking on the character of the darkest, haziest night. Songs like this one and the title track really beg for a proper vinyl release to tease out the details and the spaciousness of the music, and of course that cover art deserves to be experienced in 12" by 12".


Sugar Skull is quite the feat; Sleepy Driver have managed to incorporate all the best elements of their past work while moving forward to fashion an album that occupies its own creative space. Really, the only drawback is the album's brevity. At 34 minutes, Sugar Skull leaves this reviewer wanting more, and the fade-out on closer "Rubies, Diamonds and Pearls" doesn't sound like a closing statement to such a strong song sequence. Nonetheless, the album succeeds on several levels: the band is both mature and experimental, the sound is powerful and clear, and the songs are complete in themselves while also holding together as a set. Recommended for fans of Country, Americana, Rock and Roll, a Good Tune, or just those looking for a good CD to play on repeat while driving the back-roads.

Sugar Skull released on October 20, 2017 and is available via Bandcamp





Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wait, Is Liking Taylor Swift No Longer Cool? I Thought Liking Taylor Swift Was Cool


According to a possibly unrepresentative and certainly methodologically unsound sampling of young college students*, it's not cool to like Taylor Swift.


While causal factors are unknown, early hypotheses suggest this shift in attitude springs from the use of a Right Said Fred sample.


Do these results confirm that “the young people” have no musical taste? Or do they challenge fogey-notions of a homogenous youth culture?


One thing is certain from this study: nobody dislikes Adele.


Seriously, everyone adores Adele. She’s lovely.


*I just asked a group of like, 15 young college students. That can’t be statistically significant.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The September Playlist: Unfold The Future by The Flower Kings


The wonderful folks at Inside Out Music have announced that Unfold The Future, the epic-est of epic albums from The Flower Kings, will make its way to vinyl for the first time on November 03, 2017. To correct overcompression in the original release, Roine Stolt has remixed "The Truth Will Set You Free," "Devil's Playground," and "Black & White" for this 3LP/2CD set.

In celebration--and to rectify the difficulty of finding a properly ordered legal upload of the album online--we've created a YouTube playlist that follows the correct album order for the original 2CD release. Feel free to thank us in the comments or on our Facebook page, and let us know which other expansive 2CD albums you'd love to see make their way to vinyl for the first time.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Bandcamp Daily Goes Prog!


Ever a fount of great new music and concise, thoughtful commentary, the Bandcamp Daily has turned its attention to "The New Face of Prog Rock." Jeff Terich offers a brief yet nuanced history of progressive rock before spotlighting several contemporary groups who take a progressive approach to metal, psychedelic, ambient, fusion, post-rock, and more.



Have a look and more than one listen, then feel free to comment with links to more progressive artists on Bandcamp, or take up the conversation and listening party with us on Facebook. For starters, we would add to the list with Krautrockers Weserbergland:


Americana outfit Sleepy Driver:


And UK Pastoral Proggers Big Big Train:



Friday, August 11, 2017

The August Playlist: Prog + Yoga = Proga


Looking to integrate your soul, body, & mind through breathing, stretching, & mindfulness? In the mood for some musical accompaniment with just a bit more structure and pep that incorporates but expands upon the simple ambient swirls and gentle piano chords you're used to?

We've got ya covered. Introducing: Proga.

The initial playlist comprises four movements for a 30 minute session: Mindful Breathing, Awakening the Spirit, Meditation & Acceptance, and Closing Reflection. Feel free to explore this playlist with whatever poses you like, at whatever pace you like.  

Proga

1. "Breathe (In the Air)" by Pink Floyd
2. "Awaken" by Yes
3. "The Second Brightest Star" by Big Big Train
4. "Ghost" by Devin Townsend Project


Let us know how it goes in the comments or on our Facebook page, and feel free to suggest compositions for a future Proga Playlist.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday Matinee: The Celluloid Road by The Tangent


Progressive Epics. Folky Meditations. Extended Jazz Improvisations. Some songs are just long, y'know? So when better to sit down and take it all in than on a Saturday with your beverage of choice in hand?
Today's Matinee: "The Celluloid Road" is the Prog Epic equivalent of a Crosby/Hope Road Picture and features a similar free-flowing, jaunty restlessness. Celebrating America through America's own self-expression in television and film mythologies, Andy Tillison and The Tangent turn in a smile-inducing number that manages subtle poignancy amidst the myriad pop culture references. 


Thursday, July 20, 2017

777-The Past, Present, and Future of 2017


We've chosen to perfect the standard "The Year So Far In Music" list with our take on 7 sensational songs from albums released in the first 7 months of 2017, the 7 artists we're currently listening to on repeat, and our 7 albums to watch for in the coming months.

Past Perfect 7
"Holy Ghost" by Bent Knee

This nimble avante-prog ditty showcases Bent Knee's performative prowess and compositional ingenuity, while Courtney Swain's voice soars with all the force and grace of a musical dragon. A strong contender for "song of the year."


"Vegan Mother's Day" by Big Hogg

Funky, psychedelic, and eminently danceable, this brashly-titled track is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.


"A Mead Hall In Winter" by Big Big Train

What a lovely way to wrap up a strong contender for "album of the year." Let's have more prog epics celebrating the Enlightenment, please and thank you.


"The River of Sadness" by Rikard Sjöblom's Gungfly

Speaking of prog epics, here's another one written by Rikard Sjöblom that's catchy as the heavens. Chin up Beardfish fans, because it sounds like the best is yet to come from this Scandinavian gem.


"Found It In Silence" by HAIM

After what felt like a lengthy delay, HAIM are back with a sophomore slugger of an album--they just knock it right out of the park with hooks galore and rich but subtle production choices. Well worth the wait.


"Run! Apocalypse! Run!" by Ayreon

Arjen Anthony Lucassen has taken his tried-and-true progressive metal theatre approach and cranked it up with a liberal sprinkling of 80's NWOBHM and AOR sounds. You won't hear a better new Iron Maiden song this year.


"Lady Of The Lake" by Beatrix Players

Chamber Prog is here to stay (let's hope), and the Beatrix Players have quickly proven themselves to be its finest practitioners. Come for the lovely melodies, stay for the gorgeous use of sonic space.



Present Perfect 7
Bent Knee

It can take a few listens to grow accustomed to Bent Knee's relentless and unpredictable rhythmic changes, but once you "get it" you'll be in deep. Their new album Land Animal has stayed in heavy rotation for us, and you can bet it'll still be there when end of the year lists are being written.


Big Big Train

In the 13 months from May 2016 to June 2017, Pastoral Prog Progenitors Big Big Train released 3 Double-LP studio albums plus a 2-CD live album. If you're into progressive sounds, how can you not be listening to at least one of these releases in any given week? Pretty soon, the only options will be complete devotion to the band, or feigning disinterest like people do with The Beatles.


HAIM

Let's just get this out in the open: more than any other mainstream act these days, HAIM are the ones walking in Michael Jackson's moonsteps. They're writing perfect pop songs with perfect production and a rhythmic approach to melody that never tires on the ears.


The Tangent

With The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery, Andy Tillison & Co. have just released one of the most expansive and scorching albums in recent progressive music history. The prog equivalent of The Clash's Sandanista!, this album is politically charged but it's punk over punditry and driven by massive amounts of musical virtuosity and righteous indignation. Also, jazz.


Rikard Sjöblom's Gungfly

Seldom does a progressive rock band turn in such a catchy and personally relatable set of songs as those found On Her Journey to the Sun, but here we are, and we're not inclined to stop listening any time soon. Is that a Bob Seger lyric or guitar lick stuck in my head? Nope--it's Rikard Sjöblom's Gungfly.


Kesha

Tick-tock, it's time for Taylor Swift and Katy Perry to step aside as Kesha finally does whatever the heaven she wants and makes it sound real good. Here's hoping we hear a lot more of this funkier side of Kesha, as well as some Dylan-esque balladry.


Discipline

This Detroit-based band are mining a wonderfully satisfying vein of muscular 70's rock with a progressive bent. Think Supertramp, Steely Dan, and early Alice Cooper Band--tight writing and tight performances make their latest album, Captives of the Wine Dark Sea, oh so easy to play on repeat.


Future Perfect 7

In This Moment We Are Free-Cities by VUUR

Continuing what she started with The Gentle Storm, Anneke Van Giersbergen is rocking full steam ahead with her new full-time progressive metal band, VUUR. The first single is invigoratingly heavy and a bit menacing. While it's a shame that Marcela Bovio isn't there to share the spotlight, Anneke & Co. have no doubt followed through on the promise of an album packed with "heavy, proggy shit."


Pinewood Smile by The Darkness

Though they'll always be remembered for their massive first hit single, The Darkness first fully realized their own idiomatic synthesis of For Those About to Rock We Salute You and Hot Space with 2015's The Last of Our Kind. This fall, they'll land studio album #5 with what we must assume will be great panache.


What's That Sound? by Haley Reinhart

Do you love Haley Reinhart for her upbeat, funky-bluesy pop albums, or for her frequent collaborations in nostalgia with Postmodern Jukebox? If you answered "both," then you are in great luck, because Reinhart has a new album on the way that should play to all her strengths. Covers albums can be a disappointing venture, but considering that the lead single blows away both The Shirelles and The Beatles, this batch of songs appear safe in Reinhart's capable pipes.


Paranormal by Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper has his career on lock with relentless touring and a well-loved radio show. He doesn't need to make a new album. So, despite sometimes mixed results, it's always a treat when he deigns to toss his sick things a new bone. Expect Alice's trademark blend of creepy & clever lyrics with a sound somewhere between Killer, Goes to Hell, and Dirty Diamonds



To The Bone by Steven Wilson

Some fans will worship the new album just because it bears the initials SW while others will hate it on principle for being "pop," but after the career he's had thus far, why shouldn't Wilson make something that's both fun (?!) and accessible? We can't get enough of progressive pop bands like Electric Light Orchestra and Alan Parsons Project, so we're firmly in the "interest is piqued" camp.


Between The Walls And The Window by Ché Aimee Dorval

The self-titled Casualties of Cool is still one of our favourite albums of the past several years, representing a high point even for Devin Townsend's usually stratospheric bar. Devin's genius notwithstanding, you've gotta give a lot of that credit to his collaborator on that project, Ché Aimee Dorval. The previews for her new solo LP sound like she's brought that haunted, progressive-ambient texture to bear on the beautiful singer-songwriter approach of her past solo work.



Sugar Skull by Sleepy Driver

A new Sleepy Driver album is always a highlight of its release year, and finds its way into our headphones at least every few weeks. Built on the strong lyricism of frontman Peter Hicks, this Canadian Americana outfit play the best mix of love songs and murder ballads this side of whatever train tracks are nearest you.



That's our list; which songs have held you by the headphones this year? Which artist figures most prominently in the stack of LPs by your turntable? Any albums you couldn't wait to whip out your wallet to pre-order? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday Matinee: Ramada Inn by Neil Young & Crazy Horse


Progressive Epics. Folky Meditations. Extended Jazz Improvisations. Some songs are just long, y'know? So when better to sit down and take it all in than on a Saturday with your beverage of choice in hand?


Today's Matinee: "Ramada Inn" ain't the longest track on the sprawling Psychedelic Pill by Neil Young & Crazy Horse, but it is plenty expansive. The kind of personal, detailed story that might have been told in 4 minutes, "Ramada Inn" instead takes its listener for a 16-minute ride-along with a loving but beaten-down couple, with tons of Crazy Horse guitar licks to pass the time.



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Saturday Matinee: Traffic Jam by Starflyer 59


Progressive Epics. Folky Meditations. Extended Jazz Improvisations. Some songs are just long, y'know? So when better to sit down and take it all in than on a Saturday with your beverage of choice in hand?


Today's Matinee: While a short edit appeared on a limited 7" and the compilation CD Easy Come, Easy Go, this full-length version of "Traffic Jam" forms the bulk of the Fell In Love At 22 EP. Somewhere between the Starflyer 59 of the past and the future, at the time this track was shoegazy and droney enough to satisfy fans of the monochrome albums while bright and well-adjusted enough to signal that late 90's SF59 intended to break new indie/alternative ground.



Friday, June 16, 2017

One Sentence Reviews: Proof Through The Night By T Bone Burnett


Forget the details; let's get to the heart of the matter. Here's our one-sentence review for Proof Through The Night by T Bone Burnett (formerly T-Bone Burnett, but what's a hyphen between fans?).

Burnett's lyrics would be too clever by far if they weren't so darned clever and full of truth; served with a sonic palette including punk-a-billy, folk, and gated-snare-80's-pop, the overall experience is as invigorating and exhausting as a sweaty tent-revival conversion.



Friday, June 2, 2017

One Sentence Reviews: Is This The Life We Really Want? by Roger Waters


Forget the details; let's get to the heart of the matter. Here's our one-sentence review for Roger Waters' much-heralded new album, Is This The Life We Really Want?

Is This The Life We Really Want? finds Roger Waters getting old and trying to make up for it by still being Roger Waters, but however much you like it, The Final Cut just isn't The Wall now, is it?





Anneke van Giersbergen & VUUR Release First Single

We squealed with joy when we heard that Anneke van Giersbergen's new solo album would in fact be a band project continuing on from The Gentle Storm. We bowed in sad silence when Marcela Bovio announced that she would not continue with the group. Now, we can finally throw up some horns as we prog and metal out to "Days Go By-London," the debut single from Dutch progressive metal outfit VUUR.


Released first to Anneke's newsletter subscribers, the song's lyrics communicate the violent destruction as well as the promise of hope of London's Great Fire of 1666. Yes, the song is sung from the perspective of the element Fire in a year whose numeration includes the Number of the Beast. Anneke van Giersbergen & VUUR have made it clear that their as-of-yet-untitled album will be metal through and through. In addition to Anneke's lovely powerhouse vocals, which strongly recall the arrangements of mid-90's The Gathering, "Days Go By-London" includes frenetic and precise drumming from the always-incredible Ed Warby, plenty of chunky low end from bassist Johan van Stratum, and invigorating heavy riffs and 'classic' metal leads from guitarists Jord Otto and Ferry Duijsens. VUUR's debut was already one of our most anticipated album releases for 2017, and this first single just drives expectations further.



Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday Matinee: Invention of Knowledge by Anderson/Stolt


Progressive Epics. Folky Meditations. Extended Jazz Improvisations. Some songs are just long, y'know? So when better to sit down and take it all in than on a Saturday with your beverage of choice in hand?


Today's Matinee: "Invention of Knowledge" comprises the first side of the Anderson/Stolt album of the same name (which we reviewed here). This 23 minute epic is a joyous, meditative exercise; Jon Anderson isn't content to tell you things in these lyrics when he can invent knowledge with you in a collaborative experience, and this seems to be the motivation grounding both his making of this album with Roine Stolt, and the results thereof as the listener is carried along by the 'stream of consciousness' lyrics.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sleepy Driver Release New "Reimaginings" Album, Decomposed

Ahead of their brand new studio album to release later this year, Canadian Americana-Rockers Sleepy Driver have set free a 9-track download-only Bandcamp album entitled Decomposed. In a move orthogonal to the now popular "acoustic" or "ambient" albums in which bands cover their own songs with different arrangements and instrumentation, Decomposed works entirely with existing instrumental tracks from Sleepy Driver's catalogue to create new soundscapes that exhibit at most a tenuous connection to the original songs.



Sleepy Driver frontman Peter Hicks explains the motivations and results for Decomposed thusly:
"If this album has a concept, it is one of texture, and the revelation that underneath the surface of a recorded song lives a whole other piece of music. When you strip away the “composition” – key song elements like the words, the base chords, the vocal melodies – and you let the instruments that support the song come through to the forefront, what remains is no less beautiful, no less unnerving. Sometimes what is left bears no resemblance to the original song. [...] As a standalone album, “Decomposed” is late-night music: a soundtrack for meditation, for relaxation, for contemplation, an exploration of the deeper layers that exist below the composition. We hope you enjoy it."

We at Radio Eclectic have been Sleepy Driver fans for nearly a decade, and it's great to see the band continuing to explore new musical territories while retaining their core identity. If anything, Decomposed is less an experiment and more a magnifying glass on what Sleepy Driver have always done well as a band and not just as a vehicle for Hick's distractingly good lyrics. It's especially great to hear so much more of John Heinstein's keys that have provided such an important and unique texture to the band's Americana sound.





Saturday, May 13, 2017

Saturday Matinee: My Favorite Things by John Coltrane (Belgium '65)


Progressive Epics. Folky Meditations. Extended Jazz Improvisations. Some songs are just long, y'know? So when better to sit down and take it all in than on a Saturday with your beverage of choice in hand?


Today's Matinee: John Coltrane's recording of "My Favorite Things" in 1961 was a big hit, and it remained a live staple. But as Coltrane and band grew ever more adventurous over the decade, they took "My Favorite Things" along for wilder and wilder rides. This 1965 performance in Belgium finds the band giving this song A Love Supreme.



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Tangent Release Details for New Album, The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery

Andy Tillison and his EU Prog outfit The Tangent have released details and cover art for their new album, The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery. The album was first announced with last year's post-Brexit scorcher "A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road," and pre-preorderers have heard some demos, but now the album is finished and officially out on Inside Out Music on July 21, 2017.


As you can see, the album features stunning art from acclaimed comics artist Mark Buckingham. Musically, The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery features the debut of band leader Andy Tillison on drums as well as vocals, synths, and other keys, the return of Jonas Reingold, Luke Machin, and Theo Travis on bass, guitars, and sax & flute, respectively, and the album debut of Marie-Eve de Gaultier on vocals and keys. Unsurprisingly in light of the prog-punk indictment of "A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road" and this album's subtitle, Tillison references Roger Waters' politically challenging lyrics as an inspiration for his own approach on Slow Rust. The musical arrangements feature a classic Tangent approach to unabashedly bombastic progressive rock, with a bit of punk, jazz, and even techno adding nuance and texture.

The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery (or, "Where Do We Draw the Line Now?") will be available as a digital download, CD, or 2LP set on July 21, 2017. The Tangent are currently accepting pre-orders for a signed CD, while pre-order announcements for the vinyl edition--how that gorgeous Mark Buckingham art is meant to be enjoyed--are forthcoming.

Tracks:
1. Two Rope Swings
2. Doctor Livingstone (I Presume)
3. Slow Rust
4. The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine
5. A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road
6. Basildonxit






Saturday, May 6, 2017

Saturday Matinee: A Mead Hall in Winter by Big Big Train


Progressive Epics. Folky Meditations. Extended Jazz Improvisations. Some songs are just long, y'know? So when better to sit down and take it all in than on a Saturday with your beverage of choice in hand?
Today's Matinee: "A Mead Hall in Winter" closes the vinyl edition of Big Big Train's latest album, Grimspound. The ambulatory epic recapitulates a musical theme and lyric from the earlier "Meadowland," and in general encapsulates the Humanistic values expressed throughout the album. It may just be Big Big Train's best epic, and it's certainly a high point on an album that's earning a lot of love and even some UK Chart success.



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Vinyl in Sight: Grimspound by Big Big Train


'The Album' as a musical format was born on vinyl, and it continues to lead an active, fulfilling life there. On this edition of Vinyl in Sight, we take a look at the recently released Grimspound album from UK Proggers Big Big Train, out on Plane Groovy.

On The Platter



We're reviewing the limited edition 'frosted clear' vinyl, which is unfortunately out of print already, though there are plenty of 'classic black' copies still available at Burning Shed. The discs are gorgeous, just two shades coloured beyond glass clear, and a lovely match for the sandy-old-map illustrations on the jacket and insert. The striking lines and textures of Sarah Louise Ewing's paintings come through wonderfully on the gatefold jacket and clean labels; this whole package is about as pretty as an LP comes. The full-size, 4-page insert includes complete lyrics, song notes, credits, and band thank you's, so the bibliophiles and those conscious of linguistic meanings among us are well cared for.

The discs arrived pristine out of the sleeves, and were cleaned perfunctorily rather than necessarily. Apart from some low crackle at the drop-in and under the softest musical passages, Grimspound's sound is as clean and clear as its appearance. As they have before, Chris Topham and Plane Groovy lead the pack in quality with this release, and we'd enjoy a better world if the big labels would put so much care into their own pressings. The only complaint--and it's a minor one at that--is that the gatefold at rest swings open like an unhinged gate, and it's a bit tight fitting both LP 2 and the insert into their pocket. But what's a minor complaint amongst friends?

In The Grooves


The passage is clear from Big Big Train's previous album, Folklore, but it appears equally clear that Grimspound is a step forward and upward for the band. Eschewing the rich brass additions to the last few albums, the arrangements here focus on the band, as a band, ensuring that everyone in the group receives ample time in the spotlight. On an initial listen, D'Virgilio (drummer), Manners (keys), and Hall (strings and a lovely lead vocal) get more of a workout here, but repeated exposure foregrounds perfectly situated instrumental performances from Spawton (bass), Sjöblom (guitars), Gregory (guitars), Poole (acoustic guitar & keys), and Longdon (2 whole lines in the credits). Rob Aubrey's spacious and delicate mix preserves the potency of these arrangements.

Lyrically, these are stories of England's past, present, and future, shot through with the best Humanistic values of European Enlightenments & Romanticisms. We hear of both the admirable strengths and unconscionable tragedies found in the lives of those conscripted for "king and country," the enlivening optimism of scientifically-minded explorers, and rather a lot about loss, letting go, and death. The band dance a fine jig along the line between Big Concept Prog and Microcosmic Folk Lyricism, and the music mirrors this integrated approach. "Brave Captain" and "Experimental Gentlemen" embody the splaying progressive splendor many will associate with BBT, while "The Ivy Gate," "Grimspound," and "Meadowland" tip the balance slightly in favour of a folky/traditional lilt; it's all shot through with a bit of jazzy feel, as exemplified "On The Racing Line." In an analogous but never homophonous sense, Big Big Train are the contemporary Anglicana-Prog counterpart to the Americana/Heartland-Prog of Kansas.


As if the beautiful packaging and sound of this vinyl release were not enough, the alternate tracklisting for this double-LP lifts Grimspound even above the impressive sum of its parts. As with the Plane Groovy pressing of Folklore, this vinyl version of Grimspound features a subtle and rewarding reworking of the song order, though unlike Folklore there are no additional songs here to distinguish it from the CD version. What does distinguish the double-LP version of Grimspound--as if the glory of vinyl were not sufficient--is the conceptual neatness of two simple song swaps in the middle and at the end of the album. 

First, by ending the record with "A Mead Hall in Winter" after "As the Crow Flies," BBT subvert their own tendencies in releasing 3 straight CDs (counting English Electric: Full Power, Folklore, and now Grimspound) that sign off with the longest album track followed by a singer-songwriter ballad referencing flying animals. The available evidence clearly suggests that this is a winning formula, but a change-up is nevertheless suitably refreshing. More importantly, by swapping the final tracks whilst also inverting "Meadowland" and "Grimspound" in the middle of the record, BBT create a truly conceptual double album in which LP1 and LP2 comprise two distinct, self-contained, yet intertwined mini-albums. 

On LP1, the enthusiasm of "Brave Captain," centered as it is on a bronze memorial to the greatness of humanity in an exemplary human, passes through the instrumental tribute of "On the Racing Line" and the exuberant commendation of Captain Cook's "Experimental Gentleman" to its proper interrogation in the piercing question of "Grimspound": What shall be left of us?/ Which artefacts will stay intact?/ For nothing can last. LP2, while admitting the force of this question in the tragedy of "The Ivy Gate" and the brave face of "As the Crow Flies," undertakes the meritorious beginnings of an answer, initiated in the quiet mantra of "Meadowland" and carried forward in the jubilant commitment to meet together in "A Mead Hall in Winter." A melodic and lyric recapitulation completes the musical proceedings: Here in science and art/and beauty and music/and friendship and love,/you will find us,/the best of what we are,/the poets and painters,/and writers and dreamers. Furthermore, since "Meadowland" is dedicated to the late and decidedly great John Wetton, LP2 begins with its own encapsulated recapitulation of the memorial grounds in which we first find ourselves at the outset of of LP1. The running order would be almost too neat, if it were not perfect. If you have a turntable and a progressive spirit, Grimspound renders itself indispensable; if you've not yet embraced vinyl, this may well be the release to convince you.


Grimspound by Big Big Train is available on vinyl at Burning Shed (w/Bandcamp download)



Saturday, April 29, 2017

Saturday Matinee: Concerto for a Rainy Day by Electric Light Orchestra


Progressive Epics. Folky Meditations. Extended Jazz Improvisations. Some songs are just long, y'know? So when better to sit down and take it all in than on a Saturday with your beverage of choice in hand?


Today's Matinee: "Concerto for a Rainy Day" comprises the entirety of Side 3 of Electric Light Orchestra's 1977 Out of the Blue album. While "Mr. Blue Sky" has over time become a signature single for Jeff Lynne and ELO, it originally appeared as the finale of this side-length 'concerto'. The relentlessly positive track provokes an even bigger smile when experienced after the beautiful melancholy of "Big Wheels" and the sense of futility expressed in "Standin' in the Rain" and "Summer and Lightning." Come for the big pop hooks, stay for Richard Tandy, King of the Vocoder.



Monday, April 24, 2017

Magenta Release Trojan EP Ahead Of New Album

Welsh progressive outfit Magenta have released Trojan E.P. ahead of the April 27 street date for their upcoming LP We Are Legend. The extended play single comprises an edit and remix versions for the album opening 26 minute epic, "Trojan."


This single edit for "Trojan" is the longest musical preview Magenta has provided leading up to the new album's release. It certainly whets the appetite with moody synths, downright pretty electric key tickling, a powerful and focused rhythm section, lyrical guitar leads, and Christina Booth's enchanting vocals. Oh, and you can also dance to it! It's a progressive rock miracle! The Trojan E.P. is available from Magenta's Bandcamp site, and you can view an accompanying music video below.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

That Singles Life: Your Saturday Sins by Dw. Dunphy

We told you this was coming; now it's here.




Dw. Dunphy's first 7", "Your Saturday Sins" b/w "Nothing's Harder Than A Song," is hand-lathed and cut at 33 1/3 rpm, in an extremely limited (no, really) edition pressing. The record looks and sounds great, bringing out both the brightness of the keys and the almost Eddie Offord/Yessongs-esque (take that as you will) sense of space that Dunphy imbues to his relatively lo-fi recordings.

The long overdue resurgence of the vinyl format has brought its share of setbacks; namely, the cost and long wait times at the major pressing plants can make it prohibitively difficult for the most independent of artists to release their music on this beloved physical disc. Remember when independent and fiercely regional small-run releases made up the majority of albums being released? Me neither, but the bins at my local Goodwill tell an intriguing anthropological story. Hopefully, the recent increase in pressing machines (at both Third Man Records and URP) and the proliferation of smaller hand-lathing operations will promote an increased diversity and affordability in the vinyl market. "Your Saturday Sins" is a lovely example of the joy of tangible musical accomplishment in this world of sound and fury, often pressed to nothing.

"Your Saturday Sins" is out now on Introverse Media Ltd., available for purchase from Bandcamp





Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday Matinee: Stranger In Your Soul by Transatlantic


Progressive Epics. Folky Meditations. Extended Jazz Improvisations. Some songs are just long, y'know? So when better to sit down and take it all in than on a Saturday with your beverage of choice in hand?


Today's Matinee: "Stranger In Your Soul" is the second 20+ minute epic on Transatlantic's impeccable Bridge Across Forever album. Neal Morse has described the track as "The epic to end all epics," and it's hard to disagree. Every piece in the suite interlocks perfectly with its fellows, there are some heavier rock moments interspersed with quieter numbers, and several genuinely moving emotional highlights transpire. "Stranger" is a strong contender for best modern progressive composition.



Friday, April 14, 2017

One Sentence Reviews: Anoraknophobia by Marillion


Forget the details; let's get to the heart of the matter. Here's our one-sentence review for Marillion's groundbreaking, crowd-funded album, Anoraknophobia.

Anoraknophobia is the fresh, modern, stadium-ready yet nuanced and soulful art-pop follow-up to All That You Can't Leave Behind that U2 never quite managed to record.





Monday, April 10, 2017

The April Playlist: Great Interpreters of Song


Spring. Unpredictable weather, happy thoughts, what was old is new again. To celebrate, we've compiled a playlist featuring Great Interpreters of Song. This is no mere list of great cover songs; rather, we've included artists who, like the great Crooners of old, prove time and again that they can take almost any song and make it their own. The playlist includes two songs from each artist. You'll notice that the secret secondary theme is U2, while the tucked away tertiary theme is Keith Emerson.

1. "Southern Accents" by Johnny Cash (original Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)
2. "Love is Blindness" by Sixpence None The Richer (original U2)
3. "All I Want Is You" by Anneke Van Giersbergen (original U2)
4. "Stardust" by Bob Dylan (original Hoagy Carmichael)
5. "Jerusalem" by Keith Emerson/ELP (original William Blake/Hubert Parry)
6. "Lucky Man" by Magenta (original Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
7. "Unchained Melody" by U2 (original The Righteous Brothers)
8. "Hurt" by Johnny Cash (original Nine Inch Nails)
9. "Don't Dream It's Over" by Sixpence None The Richer (original Crowded House)
10. "Little Red Corvette" by Anneke Van Giersbergen (original Prince)
11. "Full Moon And Empty Arms" by Bob Dylan (original Frank Sinatra)
12. "America" by Keith Emerson/The Nice (original Stephen Sondheim/Leonard Bernstein)
13. "Wonderous Stories" by Magenta (original Yes)
14. "Paint It Black" by U2 (original The Rolling Stones)



Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday Matinee: Ars Longa Vita Brevis (Symphony for Group and Orchestra) by The Nice


Progressive Epics. Folky Meditations. Extended Jazz Improvisations. Some songs are just long, y'know? So when better to sit down and take it all in than on a Saturday with your beverage of choice in hand?


Today's Matinee: "Symphony for Group and Orchestra" comprises Side 2 of Ars Longa Vita Brevis by The Nice. A clear preview of the sort of excess that people would come to associate with Progressive Rock, this track features avant-garde improvisations and extended drum soloing in the first half of the track, before settling into the classically-influenced keyboard cacophony that would become Keith Emerson's trademark. It's loud, long, wild, and ingenious fun.



Monday, April 3, 2017

Review Roundup: Pain of Salvation, Tim Bowness, Last Flight To Pluto, Nerissa Schwarz, Big Hogg, Steve Hackett

While we publish a variety of features on this site, many of our more in-depth album reviews appear elsewhere around the InterWebs. We've compiled a list with links to recent reviews both here and elsewhere.


"Clearly a concept album about death, this progressive metal tour-de-force is also a love story, and manages to cover religion, sex, “politics, and poetry” along the way. Musically, the band delivers on the promise of a return to a heavier sound, and there are brutal palm-muted riffs and speaker-busting bass rumbles aplenty. Léo Margarit is the hero here; more thunder than lightning, he hits the drums so hard that you’ll have to sit up straight and pay attention. Still, with three people playing keys, the songs exhibit a variety of textures, from industrial sounding synths and effects to more tender piano."

Full review is at The Prog Report


"The album fully inhabits that 1967-1969 period without coming off as retro, and it’s at least as upbeat as it is offbeat. Don’t fear the strange and unfamiliar, folks; embrace the weird and the wonderful. There are plenty of sing-along hooks and smile-inducing horn breaks here to carry a new listener through the initiation, and once you’re in, you’ll have twice as much fun as your benighted friends. Recommended for fans of progressive music, jazz, Bob Fosse dance sequences, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore films, boozy halloween parties, and Stonehenge."

Full review is at Progradar


"Classic Hackett leads cry the alarm whilst diverse musical accents frame Clapton-esque vocal melodies; the more the merrier, indeed."

One Sentence Review right here on Radio Eclectic
 

"Last Flight To Pluto makes a grand entrance onto the prog scene with their debut album, ‘See You At The End’. Their energy is brash, raw, and engaging across six tracks and an hour of music—a deft alchemy of late 70’s Rush and late 90’s Massive Attack in roughly 65-35 ratio. Band leaders Alice Freya (lead vocals, guitar) and Daz Joseph (drums, vocals) put in years on the cover band circuit, while young lead guitarist Jack’o McGinty must have studied ‘A Farewell To Kings’ from birth to channel Alex Lifeson’s riffs and solos so naturally. The result is that this band, while young as a unit, are experienced, confident, and very tight."

Full review is at Progradar


"Musically, the focus throughout the album remains on Bowness’ vocals and the rich bed of keys. And there are a lot of keys, strongly reminiscent of Tony Banks’ work on ‘…And Then There Were Three’ and ‘Duke’. Bowness mostly sidesteps the busier side of prog virtuosity in favor of layers of different key sounds, including Moog synths, bright piano, Hammond, and various blips and bloops. Tasty kit work and lyrical fretless bass lend more than a hint of jazz to the rhythm section, while the guitars tend to add texture, such that the few times a solo cranks up, its impact is felt doubly."

Full review is at The Prog Report


"Most of the songs move between pretty, bright uses of the electric harp and mellotron—more like the ‘hippie’ and folky-psychedelic sounds you probably associate with the instrument—and downright frightening brown notes that creep, circle, but never quite obscure the harp. Indeed, Schwarz has come up with some truly inventive uses for an instrument that often occupies a place of nostalgic filigree in many compositions. Here, the sounds range from meadowy to proggy to atmospheric to reminiscent of Taurus bass pedals."

Full review is at Progradar