Showing posts from August, 2011

Oresund Space Collective - Dead Man In Space

Originally released in January 2010 on vinyl, the reissued CD version of Dead Man In Space came out in April this year, with an extra track not on the vinyl version. The album as a whole is more laid back than EITSC, as befits the title, and the half hour plus opening track High Pilots gets things going with a gentle meandering melody, building slowly and ebbing and flowing in a languid fashion. There's far more keyboards and synths on this than anything on EITSC, so the feel is more ambient and mushroomy (a new adjective? :)). You get the feel of the insignificance of the dead astronaut as he floats along through vast nebulae. A chillout experience par excellence. The extra track on this CD version is next and Who Tripped On The C(h)ord? continues the sonambulistic journey, and the trip is now in state of stasis. A bubbling bass groove underpins Space Jazz Jam 2.2 which as the title suggests invokes a jazzy feel which for some reason puts me in mind of The Grateful De…

Oresund Space Collective - Entering Into The Space Country

Caught as they drifted past overhead amongst some space debris, the robotic arm retrieved these two albums which show two contrasting sides to the multi-national jamming space-rock combo known as The Oresund Space Collective.

This amorphous musical co-operative revolve around the core of synth wizard Scott Heller aka Dr Space, and normally feature at least two guitarists, bass, other keyboards and drums. So, being of a certain vintage, with a line up like that I am immediately put in mind of 70s space rockers Man, amongst others.

Starting with the newer of the two albums, released in June this year, Entering Into The Space Country, first track Born Between Stars shifts through the gears around a simple enough structure, hitting a good groove about halfway through, and propels one along at a fair rate of knots, with some almost Hendrix like soloing later on. More Ozrics than Man, and at twenty two minutes long this is what one might term a typical OSC track, and fans of the band will no…

ByZero - Zencore

Labels - what would we do without them? Probably enjoy the music more and not get sidetracked into pointless and elitist debates about what does or does not constitute "bison-prog" or somesuch. On the other hand there are times when labels are useful, and as Amplifier's Neil Mahony says "I do....find some musical labels helpful – if something is described as Brainfuck Noisecore then I am usually pretty sure what to expect."

With that in mind, may I describe the scary and sometimes surreal noise made by ByZero as avant-punk-jazz-metal-rio-prog? No? well in that case I don't know where to start! Seriously though, this is one helluva CD and if you like your music challenging, unpredictable, HEAVY, and trance-inducing, then this muvva is for you.

Hailing from Moscow, ByZero have been going since 2009 and their core line-up consists of drums/bass/guitar/synths. On most pieces on this album they are joined by a saxophone or two, three or even four, whether or no…

Canon Blue - Rumspringa

Canon Blue are essentially Daniel James with a whole host of mostly Scandinavian back up. As part of Efterklang’s touring band, Daniel, while not on the road with the Danish alt-pop ensemble had been intermittently working on this, his second album as Canon Blue. This may explain why each of the eleven songs here are bookended with the names of US cities. 
There were sessions in Iceland with Amiina, better known as Sigur Ros’ string section, and the album was put together in Copenhagen with producers Mads Brauer and Casper Clausen of Efterklang.
Opening song Chicago (Chicago) features some choppy modernistic classicism to start, but soon finds its way into a gorgeous pop groove propelled along by a jaunty horn led electronica melody. “I keep searching for the thrill of it all” is the opening lyric and sets the theme for the album, with Daniel by turns questioning, optimistic, resigned, in awe, and in love, for the album is a road movie of the emotions. Trite the lyrics are not, and i…

Mars Red Sky - Mars Red Sky

Nick, over at fab webzine Prog Sphere dropped this beast in my Inbox and said, "Hey, Roger - Tell us what you think of this". Now, some of Nick's taste is divergent from mine, but this is an album we can both dig.

With a classic guitar/bass/drums power trio line up, this French band produce a sound tethered to Earth by enormous slabs of bass heavy doom rock, tuned waay below normal, anchored by an unfussy drummer with a John Bonham obsession, atop of which some fuzzed up wah and reverb guitar takes flight. The dark is lightened up by the singer, who sounds like a young Ozzy had he been a choirboy rather than a grave-digger. His angelic voice is a pure thing and with a similar range to Mr Osbourne but without ever straining at the leash. The band stomp into opener Strong Reflection, giving praise at the altar of early Black Sabbath like any other self-respecting doom rockers, but they manage to add mystique with the singer's pure tones.

There is also a blues sensibili…

In The Beginning - Part Four

In which the first wave of prog collapses under the weight of its own self referential pretension.

Part Four - "A waste of talent and electricity" or, Right, let's get controversial and ruffle some feathers...

This famous quote by DJ John Peel was his description of ELP's performance at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival after the band's performance had included the firing of real cannons from the stage, a Spinal Tap moment years before doing such a thing would be considered ironic. ELP are often quoted by prog haters as the epitome of everything excessive, bloated, and indulgent about prog, and, you have to say there can be little argument that their complete lack of subtlety combined with an apparent lack of self awareness remains divisive to this day. Even amongst prog fans they are either adored or loathed, although the former probably outnumber the latter.

What is certain is that the sight of three massive lorries in convoy with a massive E, L, and P on the roo…

Interview with Nordagust

In what may qualify as the most detailed interview yet seen on this site, Norwegian proggers Nordagust sat down for hours in front of their laptops, and with loving care and attention to my questions will now entertain us all with an in-depth insight into their music making and more. Enjoy!

Roger: Thanks for emerging from the dark woods of Norway for this chat! For those unfamiliar with the band, tell us a bit about your musical backgrounds and how and when the band first started.

Ketil:Thankyou very much for your interest.

I grew up in a musical family - 3 generations in the same house. My grandmother was singing hymns and old traditional songs, my grandfather played harmonica, my father played accordion, my mother played acoustic guitar and upright bass. My 11 years older brother is playing guitar and kantele.
I began playing accordion at 10 years age  – with my father as a teacher. Spontaneously – my brother bought a vintage John Grey drum kit in 1978. It looked and sounded very inter…

In The Beginning - Part Three

Here I get my boots muddy as I trawl along the deepest depths of the prog rock trench to unearth some splendid obscurities and some not so obscure, from the first wave of UK prog, up to 31st December 1973. Some are now well known, some remain beneath the radar.

Part Three - 10th October 1969

In my opinion the first true 100% UK prog rock album by a 100% prog band was King Crimson's In The Court Of The Crimson King, released on the 10th of October 1969. I consider that King Crimson were the first band formed specifically to create something entirely different both in lyrical scope and in musical structure and ambition, and did so using musicians who were not necessarily rock musicians by choice or instinct. The Nice may have released prog albums before this, but ITCOTCK stunned the rock underground at the time with its grand ambition and vast scope in a way that no other album had before.

There were albums released before that auspicious date by bands that were already in existence …

Temple Of The Smoke - Against Human Race

In which four heads from Belgrade throw some classic metal and spacerock influences into the blender with dub reggae (really!) and come up with a retro stoner rock psych-fest.
The first song has a title that tells you nearly all you need to know about these guys’ influences, and Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator will pin you to your seat or put you in need of a neck brace if you’re standing up. Spitting and snarling from a forgotten chunk of space debris, the ghosts of DikMik and Del Dettmar are conjured up and space squiggles a-plenty haunt this song, a Hawkfest meets Bevis Frond on bad speed. This is baaaad, man.
Unnatural Regression lets us chill with some space-dub-reggae. I’ll bet Lee 'Scratch' Perry never thought dub reggae would get as deep as Serbia, but there you go. Melting into Naked Sun the return of the analogue synths languidly builds with another Hawks-like bassline and some heavily treated guitar from Ozricland.
Deadly Skies sounds like it could be an ou…

Daymoon - All Tomorrows

Daymoon are a multi-national collaboration based around the songs of Fred Lessing, and are based in Portugal. The album was co-produced by Andy Tillison of The Tangent, so the prog credos are present and correct. I must admit that when I read in an interview that Lessing himself describes the band as regressive rock, and that they make "no conscious effort to create 'new' music" I was put off somewhat, as there are enough prog bands out there doing that already, and for this listener recreating what has gone before is simply not enough.

However, I need not have worried too much, for although what Daymoon have presented us with is certainly referential, it is not slavishly so.
So, on to the album....with a retro Hammond (or modern synthesis of same) sound on the first and title track on initial listen this band put me in mind of Atomic Rooster, but I couldn’t have been more wrong, as this song ends on a waltz, led by a Brian May like guitar line before flatlining!  F…

Grails - Deep Politics

The album starts with the nonchalant groove of Future Primitive, almost Gothic in atmosphere, setting the tone for this, the 6th Album by Grails, nigh on undefinable psych-space rockers-postrockers (?!) from somewhere in the USA. There is a strong Swans influence pervading some of the tunes which while mostly calm have a mysterious dark cinematic undertone, something Swans specialised in particularly on fantastic albums such as The Burning World and White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity (if you've not heard these, you really should). This would explain Michael Gira's attraction to the band many years ago when he asked them to support Swans on tour. Gira was also instrumental in them getting their first record deal.
For some reason All The Colors Of The Dark, while continuing with the Gothic vibe, puts me in mind of Spaghetti Westerns. By Corridors Of Power things have taken a more spaced out vibe with some flute warbling on top of deeep bass drum and oriental vistas are imag…

In The Beginning - Part Two

In which we discover the important influences on what would become the UK Progressive Rock scene.

Part Two - Proto-prog

As an almost uniquely British phenomenon to begin with it is no surprise that most of the bands listed below are from the UK, but of course this is entirely subjective, as I'm sure we all hold differing opinions on this subject.

Morphing from psychedelic rock and blending influences from jazz, classical and experimental music, and featuring many jazz and classically trained musicians playing rock, progressive rock produced many moments of sheer brilliance as well as more than a few turkeys, particularly towards the end of its period of dominance.

These then are my thoughts on the bands that became or were an influence on UK prog rock...

Pink Floyd
Already blazing a trail with their unique blend of quirky psych-pop and longer more experimental journeys when playing live, Floyd's The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn album from 1967 (see Part One) was a benchmark for U…

In The Beginning - Part One

In The Beginning is a short history of the rise of prog rock in the UK. If I have missed out influential bands from the USA or more particularly Europe, then I apologise, for my formative years were spent immersed in glorious eccentricity of the UK music scene and my knowledge of other scenes is at best sketchy!

Part One


For a relatively short period of six years between 1967 and 1973 the UK underground rock scene developed at a frightening rate, with new bands being formed and dissolved in the blink of an eye, and going down hitherto unexplored aural backwaters to emerge squinting into the daylight exhausted but exhilarated, with seventeen new ways of playing the most elusive chord progression in the oddest time signatures imaginable.

The journey starts in 1967, the best year for debut albums ever, absolutely no question. There have been other years since where a slew of new music was unleashed into an unsuspecting world, but no year since then has thrown up such a diverse mix of …