Showing posts from June, 2011

Wave Your Freak Flag High..

Around 175000 punters shelled out £195 per ticket at last weekend's Glastonbury Festival. That's a turnover of over £34 million, a sum and a ticket price that would have been unimaginable, even with the helping hand of the sumptuous amounts of psychotropic drugs available at the 1984 festival, the first of the three I've been to. Back then the ticket price according to this poster was a handsome £13, and the crowd a far more tolerable 50000 or so.

If you had told prospective punters back in '84 that the bill would be topped by a band several years past their prime, a personality free pop diva, and a band that wouldn't know how to rock if they were mainlining amphetamines washed down with Jack Daniels, the whole thing would, in the words of Keith Moon, have "gone down like a lead Zeppelin". Oh, and if you were to tell that '84 crowd that Mrs Thatcher's constituency agent thought it was literally and metaphorically "safe" enough for him to…

Hi Fiction Science

Most folk when asked to think of musicians from Bristol will name Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky, a formidable triumvirate whose collective shadow looms over any new band from the city. Hi Fiction Science escape the comparison by forging their own take on acid-psych-folk music that stands on its own merits. They must have been raiding their parents' and possibly grandparents' (!) record collections to have come up with a sound that fuses classic acid-folk (Trees in particular springs to mind), indie shoegaze, krautrock and electronica. Knowledge of their lineage is apparent by the inclusion of a cover of a Third Ear Band song, Fleance from the 1972 Music From Macbeth LP, and how many modern bands have even heard of them? And it betters the original in my opinion. They also get to show their indie credos by homage paid in the cover version of Jonathan Richman's Old World.

Their own songs build on these influences and combined with a discernable Klaus Dinge…

It's prog Jim, but not as I know it...

How do you listen to music? Are you satisfied with your collection and only venture into the musical unknown on very rare occasions, preferring to stick with what you know, being quite happy playing the same Yes/Genesis/King Crimson/whatever albums over and over again? If your answer to that question is yes, then you’re the polar opposite of this author.
I have a large collection of music (not just what might be loosely termed “prog”) including all the prog classics and many from the more obscure end of the spectrum. However I reckon that I spend most of my time searching for and listening to the new and hitherto undiscovered. This love of always chasing after the new was instilled in me many decades ago by a certain John Peel, a name probably not unknown to those of you reading this outside the UK. From the time I discovered Mr Peel in the early mid 70s as a young teenager up to about 1990 I was a religious devotee of his late night radio show.
Probably the first obscure artist (to my…

Jo Hamilton - Gown

Another impulse buy, and one that I have no regrets after taking the chance. Jo Hamilton’s beguiling mezzo-soprano is here augmented at various points by a string section, brass, woodwind, found sounds, “Nordic mumbling”, Appalachian dulcimer, gamelan, “curious programming”, as well as the more traditional guitar bass piano and drums.
How to introduce this? Second song Pick Me Up is a great other worldly pop song in the tradition of Kate Bush. In fact Ms Bush might have come up with this album had she found more inspiration than was required to mess about with her back catalogue to no great effect on the underwhelming Director’s Cut.
Jo’s voice is first heard to greatest effect on the hope filled but musically melancholic There It Is, a beautiful piece of writing. Deeper (Glorious) is for me the high point of the album, a slow building slightly off kilter song about a joyously deepening relationship. “This is glorious” proclaims the song and so it is.
Due to her parents constant movi…

Amplifier - XOYO, Shoreditch, London - 15th June 2011

We missed the first third of support act The Pineapple Thief's set, seen by yours truly for the third time this year, but what we did see was well worth it, ended as ever by psych wigout Too Much To Lose, and they got a good reception from a mixed crowd, including a few who were obviously PT fans judging by their t-shirts.

Actually, a word on the crowd. Being a couple of middle-aged blokes of around the half century, we were musing beforehand as to whether or not we would be the oldest in the audience, which we thought might be a crowd of young teen boy metal-moshers, certainly the impression I got from the only other time I've seen the band, emerging after a few hours in a submarine at 2000 Trees festival in 2009 - it was a tad wet. We need not have worried, as the crowd covered everything from young teens to folk even older than us two old codgers, and there were a fair (literal & metaphorical) number of female fans too. The moshing, such as it was, was limited to some s…

Alberto Rigoni - Rebirth

Don't let the cover put you off! Not my cup of tea at all, but ultimately irrelevant to the music contained within.

Alberto Rigoni is a bass guitarist and composer, and member of prog-metal band TwinSpirits, and founder of an electro-pop duo Lady & The BASS (the latter unknown to me I admit). This, his sophomore solo offering, boasts contributions from Gavin Harrison, John Macaluso (Ark, Malmsteen, TNT) and others and together they produce a polished album with obvious high production values.

The music on this album is mostly low intensity instrumental jazz-fusion, and the title track in particular highlights Alberto's fluid chops to great effect. Other songs are not so dominated by the bass guitar, and there is some fine guitar picking on Story Of A Man for instance, and the general feel so far is of a laid back soundscape washing over the listener in waves. Ideal listening after a hard day's work, study, or whatever your monkey is.

So far so good. However, with the f…

Gösta Berlings Saga - Glue Works

Named after a famous 19th century Swedish novel, the story of a defrocked church minister with added sword and sorcery, this band has a lineage that one can trace back through Anekdoten, the recently reformedÄnglagård, and older influences such as Hansson & Karlsson, the ubiquitous King Crimson, and Van Der Graaf Generator. In fact Änglagård's Mattias Olsson is involved here on production duties and contributes "additional hidden and lost sounds".
Any entirely instrumental band has to be able to keep the listener's attention with many intricate twists and turns, or go the other way and create a trance-like ambience. Gösta Berlings Saga, not unsurprisingly given their influences, go for the former approach, and highly successful it is too. I've listened to this album quite a few times before attacking the keyboard, and each time I hear something I missed previously.

The first thing I notice is a powerful organic sound propelled by Gabriel's bass and Alexand…

Memories Of Machines - Warm Winter

In which Tim Bowness of No Man fame and Giancarlo Erra from Italy’s Nosound get together to blend the former’s breathy dreamy vocals to the latter’s laid back spacey soundscapes and guitar playing, all ably aided and abetted by the multifarious talents of Robert Fripp, Colin Edwin, Steven Wilson (mainly production duties), Peter Hammill, Julianne Regan and others. With a cast like that it is difficult to see how this could fail, and it doesn’t let you down!
Starting off sounding like a more full on No Man album, no bad thing, the sound fills out as we move from song to song. Giancarlo* gives the title track, apparently a leftover from the No Man album Schoolyard Ghosts, a searing guitar break, and the following song Lucky You, Lucky Me ends with a lovely melodic guitar run that fades out well too soon. Fripp starts the swoonsome Change Me Once Again with some trademark stylings, some of Tim’s love-ballad-from-space poetry follows, then a Giancarlo solo  – absolutely gorgeous!
Some p…

Jakszyk Fripp and Collins - A Scarcity Of Miracles

A Scarcity Of Miracles is given extra kudos in that it has been given the tag line “A King Crimson ProjecKt” owing to its numerous connections to the KC family tree. Aside from that it has its own drawing power simply through the respect its five contributors command within the world of modern progressive rock.
Long awaited by many including this writer, the arrival of this album will disappoint those expecting a loud KC type improv thang, but most folk I would hope have approached this with no preconceptions. My first impressions are of a late summer evening’s contemplative listen. Fully formed songs have arisen out of dreamy soundscapes lent a warm glow by Mel Collins’ mellifluous sax playing. The lyrics, which one assumes are probably mainly the work of Jakko Jakszyk and possibly Tony Levin hint at loss and regret and decay and dark nights of the soul, but the organic and emotionally warm music means it never gets depressing. Judging by the numerous meteorological references I can…

No Man's Land - The Drowning Desert

The best thing about being asked to review releases for other sites is being sent albums by bands from all corners of the globe which would likely otherwise have remained undiscovered.

This album landed on my desk last week. No Man's Land are a Greek band who have issued fouralbums (could be wrong here - it's hard to find definitive info on this group!) since their debut Zalion in 1988. Atmospheric rock with a hint of psychedelia is their bag, and The Drowning Desert, released in 2010 continues in that vein. The main band, a guitar/bass/drums line up is here augmented by piano, cello, and some plaintive trombone, which features as the main lead instrument on some tracks giving the already organic sound a warm and emotional feel in a quite understated but accomplished fashion.

The Drowning Desert is more structured than some of their previous more psychedelically inclined works, but that's no bad thing. The rockiest thing here is the opener MS408 featuring a bubbling bass r…