Showing posts from 2011

Serious Beak - Huxwhukw

Described by their record label as "psychedelic-progressive discordant metal", when Sydney based Serious Beak landed their talons on my 'pooter I was wondering if I would like this, as endless crushing bludgeon riffola is not what my Sound Doctor normally prescribes. And I happen to have a cold coming on, so the idea of trying to extract the nuances from 41 minutes of probable headache inducing noise did not fill me with glee. 

Firstly I have to say the cover artwork really deserves a mention, as Caitlin Hackett has provided the band with something quite stunning...just take a look at this:

"Huxwhukw is the supernatural long-beaked cannibal bird and servant to Baxwbakwalnuksiwé, the "Cannibal at the North end of the world" in Kwakwaka’wakw mythology. Huxwhukw uses his long, snapping beak to crack open the skulls of men to eat their brains and pluck out their eyeballs. All hail Huxwkwux and the Crooked Beak of Heaven." Just in case you didn't know!

2011 - A year in review

Firstly a big Thank You to anyone who actually reads my nonsense. I'd still do it if no-one came, but sloppy kisses to ya anyway...xxxxxxxxxxxx!

2011 was a wonderful year for new progressive music, and almost totally crap in every other respect, but hey, let's not dwell on that!
2011 was also a year in which my amateur music scribbling pastime took off exponentially, and was a year in which I discovered, well confirmed actually, as I had always suspected as much, that "prog" is rarely the same as "progressive", and if you've followed any of my wibble then you'll already know my feelings on the subject, and you don't want me going off on one here, do you? Well...I might, a bit, somewhere nearer the end.
Presented below are my music year highlights (and some lowlights)...all completely subjective of course. It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to, or summat...
Albums of the year In the order they were retrieved from my fog-shrouded brain, the m…

Radio For The Daydreamers - Praying For The Be(a)st

So, back in the wonderful and frightening world of experimental post-rockers Radio For The Daydreamers we are gifted with the second part of the triptych Praying For The Be(a)st with the album of the same name. Our hero, having delved into the depths of his dark psyche on Mother Superior And Her Fields Of Migraines now attempts to come to terms with his inner turmoils by further withdrawal into the self, questioning every aspect of his existence. If that does not sound healthy, it probably isn't, and lines like "No more stab wounds in my arms. He will give me drugs to keep, He will give me nights to sleep." from the opening song We Are Only Safe Before Sunrise only serve to confirm it.

Musically the minimalism of the Mother Superior is continued, and more deliberately off tuned guitar sleepwalks through Wasted Faces In Secret Places. The following song Don't Give Up On Me Yet, Dad is actually almost symphonic and uplifting, as a shred of humanity is still there in th…

Truthseeker - Weightless At Dawn

A truly massive sound is made by this young Bostonian band of, well I suppose post-rockers is as close a description as you'll get from me. Like Mogwai at their most animated but with more of a sense of melody, and coming from a more rock oriented direction, thunderous distorted bass and crashing Bonham style drums played by a guy who is apparently a death metal drummer playing slow beats accompany the life-affirming layered, fuzzed and densely reverbed guitars all of which are very loud but not noisy, if you get my drift.  A psychedelic swirl collides with heavy and post rock to create an uplifting tidal wave of pre-post-rock (heheh). It all comes to a joyous climax on the last song Through The Waves, and at 23 minutes this EP deserved to be longer.

Leader, bassist and songwriter Brendan James Hayter has come up with a simple but emotional and wide-angled vista for these five instrumentals on this their debut EP, originally released via Bandcamp on 25th September, and it bodes we…

Ranting Roger - Part Six

Somebody once said "Opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one" and this critique is wholly subjective, and no attempt has been made to reasonable. So there!

Music comes in many forms, but essentially boils down to the Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent, and what one person considers "bad" might well rock another's boat, and thereby self-defeating arguments will disappear into the cosmos.

I will freely admit to being a music snob (and a beer snob, but that's another story) with an intense dislike of lowest common denominator X-Factor type shite, epitomised by any "singer" who has not paid his or her dues and expects fame and fortune to fall into their shopping-mall-clad laps as a result of a half-baked Karaoke performance on national TV, and who has had any vestige of individuality ironed out of his or her voice by that godawful voice cleaning software, said voice then applied to a generic inspiration-free R&B backing. Ah, I remember R…

Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow

An album to lose yourself in when the snow makes going outdoors a trial, sit at your window and gaze at the white blanket as it slowly covers everything and eerily muffles sound and thought while Kate relates tales of melting lovers, metaphysical Yeti hunts, angels and ghosts. Kate weaves a world that is personal, sensual and mystical, in a way that is instantly recognisable and you will find yourself lost is this otherworldly place. Instrumentally sparse, Kate's thoughtful and well played piano is mostly the main instrument with occasional electronica or orchestral backing for added effect.

Opener Snowflake sets the wintry scene as over its almost ten minutes it languidly describes the life and fall of a snowflake backed by Kate's minimal but deep ivory tinkling. Narrated by Kate's son Bertie, he intones "I was born in a cloud" which has a poignancy to it that blurs the role he is playing in the song. The ultra-sad and eerie Lake Tahoe is a ghost story about a …

Magazine - HMV Institute, Birmingham, 8th November 2011

After a crawl up the M6, where we spent an hour in a slow moving traffic jam, we arrive at the venue about halfway through the set of support act In Fear Of Olive. Playing a raucous rockabilly hybrid, these guys seemed an odd choice, and I have to be honest, made a horrendous racket which was at least partly due to a horrible over-loud booming mix that set one's teeth on edge.

Being a tremendous beer snob, it is a very rare occurrence these days to find anything approaching a decent drink at gig venues and this place has to be the worst I've been to this year for lack of choice. On offer were two godawful lagers, a cider, and Guinness Extra Cold, which for the uninitiated is the famous Irish brew served at a filling-shuddering freezing temperature so as to remove any semblance of its original taste. Someone tell me the point of that!

So, armed with a bottle of over-priced fruit juice each me and my esteemed fellow traveller await Magazine, now reformed for a couple of years an…

Radio For The Daydreamers - Mother Superior And Her Fields Of Migraines

In which Pittsburgh experimentalists Radio For Daydreamers take a leap forward from the sometimes irritating over-zealous minimalism of 2009's Clouds Of Smoke And Poison. This new album's title may lead you to expect an hour's worth of headache-inducing noise, but you'd be wrong. No, this album is a thing of melancholic melody, if of the strangely strange but oddly normal variety. Drawing on influences as far apart as modern electronica, jazz, classical, and good old pop, Mother Superior And Her Fields Of Migraines is a somewhat misleading title.

Video for Wasted Faces In Secret Places - electric mix

The first part in a triptych, alluringly titled "Praying For The Be(a)st" Mother Superior is sub-titled Act, relating the story of the protagonist and takes place in a single room where our hero is "..indulging in misery, self-realization, seclusion, developing phobias, anxieties and a need to break out to help his own mind. Accepting negativities, even tho…

Radio For The Daydreamers - Clouds Of Smoke And Poison

Pittsburgh's Radio For The Daydreamers have only been together for a couple of years and in that time have made two albums, this being the first, released independently in September 2009. Downbeat and strange, and drawing on influences from post-rock (whatever that means!) and modern ambient electronica, Clouds Of Smoke And Poison commences with Annunciation, a heavily reverbed  spoken-word treatise that may be setting out the philosophy for the band "..your job, as the radio, is to caress the people who are the poison, that works, like a Clockwork Orange, to make the dreamers believe they're smoking..." High ambition indeed, let's see what they're capable of..

Dark and gloomy, this is a murky record that for the uninitiated may at first listen seem impenetrable. Stoned mumblings mix with lo-fi minimalist and often distorted or over-recorded guitar, electronica, and synthesised as well as organic beats. Until we get to Rain on 24th Street that is,…

Steven Wilson - Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 31st October 2011

Grace For Drowning was one of the most eagerly awaited albums this year, and certainly lived up to all expectations in my book, so my anticipation for this show had been building for some time, ever since my esteemed colleague PW managed to acquire the tickets some months ago.

Not knowing what time Steven was due on stage, and vaguely recalling a posting on his Facebook page asking the fans to get there early, we were seated to the right hand side of the upper tier by 7:20. The stage is shrouded by what my mate referred to jokingly as a "net curtain", and some ten minutes later the house lights dim and Lasse Hoile's trademark bleak images, changed every ten minutes or so, are projected onto the thin gauze accompanied by Bass Communion's ambient drones, which are an acquired taste at the best of times. This carried on for an hour, which was probably at least half an hour too long. One wonders why we were asked to arrive so early? Another of Steven's polite request…

Steven Wilson - Grace For Drowning

I also write for The Dutch Progressive Rock Pages, and usually I treat my reviews for them as exclusive. However, as this is an important release in "The World Of Prog" I will make an exception. The original review can be found here and was published about a month ago.

It should have been a quiet year for The Hardest Working Man In Showbiz, aka The Man Who Never Sleeps, as his band Porcupine Tree took a well deserved break after finally cementing their rightful place amongst the rock elite with the triumphal Incident tour ending in 2010.

However, you didn’t really expect Steven Wilson to rest on his laurels, or on anything else for that matter did you? What to do for our hero? Well, let’s start with a new Blackfield album and tour, during which he had to cope with the sad loss of his father, to whom this album is dedicated, as well as remastering work for King Crimson, Jethro Tull and Caravan, and production credits on Memories Of Machines’ and Opeth’s new albums! I’ll bet h…

My Brother The Wind - I Wash My Soul In The Stream Of Infinity

You may get the impression from the title and the cover of My Brother The Wind’s keenly anticipated second album that a meditative experience is what is on offer here, and you may be right. However, the opening piece, with the aptly adrenalin fuelled title of Fire! Fire!! will instantly dispel any notions of calm Zen-inspired navel gazing with its wah-noise attack, reminiscent of one of Acid Mothers Temple’s more tuneful sonic assaults. An opening thirteen plus minutes of aural rearrangement that you WILL find a groove in, it won’t let you go until you do. Actually the more you listen to this song the more you can find to latch on to and it gets to the point where I’m not entirely sure I heard that melody, or if it was some random synapse connection in my head that made me imagine it. Once the spaceship has escaped the pull of Earth’s gravity, the bass guitar of Ronny Eriksson propels the song along on a more relaxed but still speedy grove as the sounds become more stretched, spaced …

Ske - 1000 Autunni

1000 Autunni is the first solo album by keyboard maestro Paolo Ske Botta, a name familiar to me from French TV's This Is What We Do, and latterly as a member of Italian avant-proggers Yugen.

What we have here is another gem from Italy's Fading Records that delivers a difficult but engaging album drawing on a wide range of influences ranging from chamber music, Gentle Giant, Henry Cow, Hatfield And The North, National Health, and a smattering of classic symphonic prog as well as jazz and modern classical.

Paolo is a collector of vintage keyboards, many of which are used on this album to great effect, all lovingly noted in the tastefully designed booklet. Each track gives a complete listing of all the instruments used as well as the keyboards, showing that this album was most certainly a labour of love.

The Hatfield's influence is felt with the vocalisings of Roberta Pagani, very much in vein of The Northettes, when she makes her appearances on Carta E Burro (Paper And  Butt…

Abrete Gandul - Enjambre Sísmico

From Chile, Abrete Gandul offer up a satisfying stew of styles on this, their third album. Enjambre Sísmico (Seismic Swarm). It lives up to its English translation, sounding at times like a jazz infused Anekdoten, or a Latin King Crimson, with helpings of Canterbury influence updated to the 21st Century having spent the interim under Latino influence, and is one hugely enjoyable musical ride.
At an hour long the album has eight songs only two of which are under the seven minute mark. Such is the intricacy of the instrumentation that one’s attention is required all the time, but having said that it all flows together nicely, so the listening experience is never hard work, as can be the case with some more wilfully obtuse offerings.
Judging by the album titles and what I can understand with my limited Spanish from the story in the cover booklet, the album appears to be a journey through a natural disaster, with which being Chilean, the band are no doubt all too familiar. 
The seven and a …

Burning Shed 10th Anniversary Concert - The Assembly, Leamington Spa, 14th October 2011

Burning Shed, distributors of and home to some wonderfully eclectic independent music celebrated its 10th anniversary at the charming venue that is The Assembly in Royal Leamington Spa (to give it its full name) on Friday last.

With a varied and esoteric bill, the gig commenced early in order to fit everything in. First up, in the upstairs gallery was the two man Resonance Association playing in front of a small exhibition of Carl Glover's images, many of which have appeared on Burning Shed related album covers. This was what the more artistically inclined would refer to as an installation, as Daniel and Dominic weaved dark ambience through heavily treated guitar and sundry electronica. The short set put me in mind ofManuel Göttsching's solo work, and intrigued me to the extent that I bought one of the 20 limited edition digi-packs on sale.
Venturing downstairs to the main hall where we were pleasantly surprised to see seating laid out, belying the dreaded word "Standing&q…

Seven That Spells - The Death And Resurrection Of Krautrock: AUM

This is the first album in a projected trilogy whose lofty ambition is to attempt exactly what it says on the tin, so these guys do not lack confidence, and after eight albums in as many years why should they?

Back in 1972 German synth pioneer Deuter also released an album called Aum (or Om to us Anglos) whose proto-new age spacey vibe is well worth checking out, but there the similarity ends.

Opening song In is a reverberating wall of noise, repeatedly marching up the scales and resembles a triumphant army storming into battle. Brings to mind Guru Guru as the powerful drummer Stanislav Muškinja beats the daylights out of his kit in a fashion Mani Neumeier would have been proud of. As well as the obvious Krautrock vibe, the all pervading influence of the inevitable Acid Mothers Temple (with whom they have toured and collaborated in the past) is felt, particularly on title track Aum where Niko Potočnjak enacts an imaginary battle between Kawabata Makoto and Ax Genrich before Jerem…