Showing posts from 2013

The Fierce And The Dead - Spooky Action

Anyone who goes to rock gigs in London will be aware of Matt Stevens. He's that genial bear of a man handing out flyers to us queuing punters.

A man who deserves some return for his ceaseless hard work battling against the never ending onrushing tsunami of bands in this age of instant communication, Matt is no mean guitarist as his solo work attests.

That solo work is built around looping an acoustic guitar, and to be honest, it has have never grabbed me, what I need to hear is the impolite math-prog-beast that is his band, The Fierce And The Dead.

Spooky Action by The Fierce And The Dead

Spooky Action is the band's 2nd full length album, and there have also been three EPs, commencing with the debut, the sensibly titled Part 1 in January 2010.

A compact and tightly knit four piece, the band pummel the listener with unrelenting and intense heavy math-rock, the instruments locked together like the strands that make up a sturdy rope, one that cannot be unravelled. Like that rope …

Bulbs - On

Hailing from Liverpool, Bulbs released their debut album On roughly six months ago. I'm only writing about it now as it slipped through the net at the time, and I have become captivated by its individualistic stance. Yes, it is most certainly progressive, melding sci-fi prog, baggy electronic dance moves, classical acoustic wizardry, sound samples, math rock, and much more to produce a refreshing instrumental tour de force.

Neil Campbell is a highly talented classical guitarist, who, with the aid of loops, delay, and other knobs and switches weaves together layers of entrancing sound, the track Lantra being a fine example. Neil also plays the good ol' electric guitar with aplomb, have no fear.

Neil's other projects and his band The Neil Campbell Collective provide Bulbs with bassist Andy Maslivec. Drummer Joey Zeb has his roots in what is described in the blurb as "prog dub" and also plays with prog band Gorp and "dub hop" group The Corinthians. The el…

Quiet Sun - Mainstream

On downtime from working with Roxy Music, Phil Manzanera took the opportunity of the 26 days afforded him over a period spanning late December 1975 and early January 1976 to finally record an album with his pre-Roxy group Quiet Sun. Possibly because Mainstream was recorded without his label's knowledge, for as far as they knew he was working only on Diamond Head, it received little promotion, and maybe for this reason it went under my then youthful radar, these being decades before the instant info access era of today.

It was not until some ten years later that I bought this LP, and since then it has remained a firm favourite. When you consider the dozens of carbon copy unimaginative rock bands in the UK at the beginning of the 70s who were given contracts, even if only for one album, it is frankly astonishing that Quiet Sun were never snapped up.

The band evolved in 1970 out of Manzanera's college group Pooh and the Ostrich Feather - a wise choice of name change, methinks. T…

Phil Manzanera - Diamond Head

This is one of those records that has been with me in one form or another since its release in 1975. My first copy of this was on pre-recorded cassette, then came the LP, both of which I wore out.

When my disposable income allowed me to indulge in record collecting in a big way, I tracked down a pristine vinyl copy, the sound of which is simply gorgeous, better than the first CD version from the turn of the century. The last CD remaster that came out on Expression Records in 2011 however has done the sound the justice it deserves.

That this seamless beauty was recorded and mixed in a 26-day gap in Roxy Music's schedule at the tail end of 1975 through the beginning of 1976 before beginning a North American tour is quite astonishing, especially in an era when the rock heavyweights took a week to lay down a two note guitar fill, maan. Even more remarkable is that within this time frame he also recorded an album with his pre-Roxy Band Quiet Sun, unbeknownst to his record label! More …

2013 - A year in review - Part Two

...and so, on to Part Two.

Djam Karet - The Trip
A 47 minute voyage into the cosmos. Catch it as it flies past on a meteor near you!

Not A Good Sign - Not A Good Sign
Heavy prog, but not at all clichéd. Bloody marvellous record!

Not a Good Sign by AltrOck Productions

Earthling Society - ZodiaK
Stoogian nightmares from a chemically foul northern estuary. Righteously ancient rock'n'roll!

The Stargazer's Assistant - Mirrors & Tides, Shivers & Voids
Album artwork of the year encases this double 10" album from Guapo co-founder David J Smith. The sound of a slowly decaying ancient pine forest.

Leafblade - The Kiss Of Spirit And Flesh
You wont find better poetry as lyrics in 2013 than that contained within this beautiful piece of pastoral prog.

Juxtavoices - Juxtanother antichoir from Sheffield
An "antichoir"? "What's that?", you may well ask, and all I can say is that this album is unlike anything else that landed on my doormat in 2013. Avant-choral mu…

2013 - A year in review - Part One

Music was one of the few things to keep me sane in a bloody awful year from a personal point of view, and these spinning discs were the good 'uns that got caught in the net. Of course, there's bound to be some really good stuff that flew right on by, but this is my bag.

Really, it's just an excuse for me to make another list, in very rough chronological order, with links to reviews. What I consider the ten jewels in the crown are in bold, and it was damned hard trying to decide what would make the cut.

This year I will split this thing into two parts, otherwise it could take too long for the page to load!

Guapo - History Of The Visitation
Kicking off the year with this fearsome racket, the post-Xmas Holiday blues were blown away by this hypnotically sinister slab of noise.

History Of The Visitation by Guapo

Farmers Market - Slav To The Rhythm
A fun and different take on jazz-fusion with mucho exotic instrumentation aplenty. A joyous little record.

Steven Wilson - The Raven …

The Magic Band - The Musician, Leicester, 6th December 2013

My entry point into the alternate and wilfully singular universe once inhabited by Captain Beefheart was witnessing him and his post-Magic band playing a heavy space swamp blues take of Upon The My-O-My on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1974. A suitably mainstream entry point, I think you'd agree, it left me entirely unprepared for the more cacophonous records in his discography. Emboldened by hearing strange blasts of alien blues on John Peel's shows, and later when the punk revolution saw his name mentioned occasionally, I bought the albums from the Virgin years, and eventually Trout Mask Replica.

Although I certainly have a taste for the more avant end of the rock spectrum, or "chimps playing kazoos" as my mate would have it, I will freely admit that I have never got on with that most divisive of records, and to this day I struggle to understand it. Luckily I didn't let it put me off, and I've grown to love most of the back catalogue, apart from the dreadful…

Kayo Dot - Hubardo

In an event of near synchronicity it falls to me to review Hubardo almost a year on from vainly attempting to dissemble Scott Walker's Bish Bosch. That both Walker's and Kayo Dot's atramentous works are being dissected at the gloomiest and darkest times of the year is more than appropriate.

Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt apparently wanted their album Watershed to be a heavy metal version of Scott Walker's The Drift, a work of deliberate literary obfuscation and non-musical mayhem. According to Åkerfeldt "it proved to be impossible simply because his [Scott's] head is sicker than mine and I also love melodies and dynamics." Well, although Kayo Dot's Hubardo does contain melody, sometimes but not always buried beneath waves of furious instrumentation, and certainly is frighteningly dynamic, in the most extreme sense of the word, if there ever was a band that could put Mr Engel's works through an avant-metal mincer, it is Toby Driver's band of feis…

Camel - The Barbican Centre, London, 28th October 2013

For the first time on Astounded by Sound! I have a guest scribbler, in the guise of my good mate and long-time gig going companion Phil W, who knows far more about Camel than I do, so...take it away, El Phillipo....

Never underestimate the power of music to inspire, embolden and to heal. As Camel return to active service for the first time in a decade, there is huge cause for both celebration and relief. This is, after all, a moment many had feared would never come, not least due to Andy Latimer's well documented battle with ill health. If anyone can doubt the restorative power of music, then let this legendary musician and the extraordinary music he has created stand as powerful evidence that even when it seems that hope is fading, the call and allure of the creative process wields a unique potency.

Perhaps there is something quite magical about the timing of the return of Camel to the live arena. For fans who have long cherished this band and its remarkable achievement…

King Crimson - The Road To Red

He powered down the central hub for the weekend, locked the pod, and made his way down the long flight of stairs to the exit. By the street door and lying on the floor was a small envelope. He picked it up, turned it over to inspect it, but found no indication of its origin; indeed, there was no writing or typed text on it at all. He opened the envelope and inside was a small craft knife and a handwritten note. "For the shrinkwrap - use with utmost caution" was the sum of its content.

Curiosity roused, as usual he took the Metrobus home, which deposited him at the city transport hub at the top of his street. He then walked the short distance down the hill to the entrance to his block. Taking the opportunity to forgo the elevator he ascended the three flights of stairs at speed, the only exercise he got all day in the week, and, breathing hard he arrived at his apartment door. He passed the keycard through the lock and stepped into the hallway.

When he walked into t…

Thieves' Kitchen - One For Sorrow, Two For Joy

Why had I not heard of this fab band before reading my good friend Raffaella's review for DPRP? Who knows, but, casting my net far and wide on the endless seas of left-field music in my never ending quest for the new, I seem to have missed what is right under my nose. A case of not seeing the wood for the trees, methinks.

Right, that's enough metaphor stew to be going on with. Thieves' Kitchen are a UK/Swedish band, who because of their geographical spread are unfortunately unable to gig at the moment. I hope this changes soon, as I'd imagine that this intimate and thoroughly musical album would sound mighty fine being belted out live.

This is the band's fifth album since 2000, and in that time they have gone through several combinations of personnel, the only constant being guitarist Phil Mercy. Now down to a trio, the other two are Änglagård keyboardist Thomas Johnson, who played on the band's fourth album, 2008's The Water Road; and last but by no means …

Progstravaganza 14 is here!

Another 507 hours of free music from those industrious folks at Prog Sphere. There just ain't enough time!

Progstravaganza 14 by Prog Sphere Promotions

Prog/Comics Correlation

Me, I'm somewhere in the top left corner of A, but you lot in the middle need to visit this funky new place to get your obscure comics fix...

Borderline Press
You know it makes sense!

Read It In Books - Part One

...and magazines, and the "inkies" as they were affectionately known. Music for me is, as anyone who reads my nonsense must have worked out by now, an obsession. Even more so back in the days when that which came under the all-encompassing umbrella of "rock music" actually mattered to the teens-to-twenties generation.

This means that we of a certain age don't just listen to the music, we devour the printed word on the subject, too.

Here, I begin an occasional series of discussion, mini-review, call it what you will ("bollocks" perhaps?), of the countless thousands of words I have read on the subject of Mr Rock & Mrs Roll over the course of my many years on this planet. This will unavoidably be UK-centric, and there are obviously important books on The Noise I'm not even aware of, so feel free to make your recommendations in the Comments section at the end.

As a mid-teen I first bought what would soon become my Rock'n'Roll Bible, th…