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2014 - A Year In Review

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You're all still here, then? I thank you profusely for sticking with my outpourings of malcontented grumblings!

Another year has flown by, which can only mean it's a good excuse to make a list, as if I needed one, so yer t'is, as we yokels might say.

2014 was a good year for musical strangeitude, and leaving no stone unturned in my unending quest for the new and different, here are my musical highlights of the last 12 months, caught in my tattered net as the ceaseless tsunami of releases surges by. Before you ask "Where's Mordor's Weakness by Richard Volestrangler & The Mutant Discharge?", please bear in mind that even if I had had the assistance and advice of the ghost of John Peel, a man who lived the metaphor "snowed under", I still could not hope to listen to every vaguely progressive album that hits the shelves, virtual or otherwise.

Right then, all these are in highly approximate chronological order, and as ever, my top recommendation…

Scott Walker & Sunn O))) - Soused

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adjective: soused 1. (of food, especially fish) preserved in pickle or a marinade. "soused herring" synonyms:drench, soak, steep, douse, saturate, plunge, immerse, dip, submerge, sink, dunk More
"a crunchy bruschetta soused in green olive oil"
pickled, marinated, soaked, steeped "a soused herring" antonyms:fresh 2. informal drunk. "I was soused to the eyeballs"
When Sunn O))) turned up at Westpoint Studios in London to record their parts for this collaboration with Scott Walker they brought with them so much amplification it would not all fit in the studio. Along with Sunn O)))'s motto "Maximum Volume Yields Maximum Results" which turns up on the back of the Soused CD cover you would be forgiven for thinking they are forboding portents of the album's contents, but actually you would be wrong. Soused, while drenched, nay, soused in sound is not the kind of full-on aural assault you might expect from Sunn O))), nor is it the wilfully…

My DPRP Reviews

I have re-organised the page "My DPRP Reviews" - link over there on the right. It's nearly up to date, I'll add the missing ones over the next few weeks...

Aquaserge - À L'Amitié

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This album came out back in May, but up until a few weeks ago it was nigh on impossible to buy in any format. Originally released as vinyl only with a download code, the album was "available", and I use the term advisedly, from a French website that...well "didn't work" is a kind description. The online shop is called Chambre 404, and the deep irony in that number suffix was not lost on me!

As it was a pointless exercise reviewing an album that the prospective listener could not get hold of, I have held off until now as thankfully the band have recently created a Bandcamp page which means one can now obtain the album in any format desired. Huzzah!

I am glad I persevered as Aquaserge are a bit special. They were a band unknown to me until a chance scroll through Udi Koomran's always informative Avant Progressive Facebook page a few weeks ago, after which I obtained a review download. As said download came sans press release, I have very little info to go o…

Simon McKechnie - Newton's Alchemy

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Just over a year ago I reviewed Simon McKechnie's second album Clocks and Dark Clouds. A highly intricate work recorded under the most difficult of circumstances, it is with some relief that I can report that Simon is well on the way to recovery from his long-running health problems, and that the recording of third album Newton's Alchemy took place under far more "normal" conditions, although Simon did have to take many breaks during the recording process. Clocks... arose from a series of improvised musical sketches that Simon recorded mostly while flat out on his back, not that you'd guess, for the end result was surprisingly cohesive given the circumstances. Newton's Alchemy on the other hand is a through-composed piece, written as one piece of music, and therefore it evolves more organically as a consequence.

Simon retains his fascination with mathematics, and Albert Einstein, the inspiration for Clocks... is here replaced by the father of modern mathemat…

The MOJO CD - The Best Of 2014

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It's that time of year again when the "Best Of" lists start coming out. In order to give any band daft enough to release an album in December a chance, I always hold off until the Xmas holiday, but MOJO are there already with their picks of the year on January's cover CD.


Why do mags release issues in one month and call them by the month after next? Anyway...most of these are new to me, and here are my opinings:



1. Beck - Blue Moon (from Morning Phase, MOJO#1 album of 2014)
A typically lush and downbeat anthem from Beck's wonderful rise'n'shine album Morning Phase, which MOJO have as their album of the year. Do I agree? That would be letting the cat stick a tentative paw out of the bag now, wouldn't it?

2. Jack White - Lazaretto (Lazaretto/#4)
I quite like Jack White, the guy has a way with a choon and a dirty geetar. This noisy charge through White's garage rock workshop is enjoyable enough, and will certainly shake the dust off your shelves.

3.…

London (Jazz Festival) Calling

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Well, we have not long returned from a long weekend in "That There London" as it is now henceforth known to us mere yokels, or hicks, if you're on the other side of The Pond. The weekend came after another visit a few days earlier, and taken together we have now attended four events sponsored by the EFG London Jazz Festival in under a week.

This cultural extravaganza started on Tuesday 18th November with a gig by Snarky Puppy at the famous rock venue, the Chalk Farm Roundhouse. The actual raison d'etre of this particular soirée was to meet up with a handful of regulars from Pete's Nice Enough To Eat Facebook page, a place where several stoned hippies (and me) gather together in a cave and groove with...YouTube videos of psych and prog music past and present.

Pete I've met before, but it was great to put faces to "Dave Maximum Darkness", "Arv Lotus", and "Diane Sofer", which could well be her real name! :)
Also, a shout for Toby M…

The Wright Stuff...

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As this piece is only partly a discourse on the merits or otherwise of Pink Floyd's "new" waxing Endless River, I have avoided the usual "Band - Album Title" header.

Firstly, I have always been of the opinion that Pink Floyd were a) not a prog band as such, and b) stopped developing after Dark Side... came out. The Syd era will not be discussed here, it's another group effectively, anyway.

They tried being prog; the studio album of Ummagumma while it has its moments is largely forgettable, although it did give us one of the best track titles ever...you know what that is, I'm sure! Probably their most "prog" piece, Atom Heart Mother, was ok, but it cannot hold a candle to its peers of that era. Before you ask, Echoes is an enjoyable hark back to their own take on post-Syd space rock, and not prog in the slightest. Now, there is nothing wrong with not being prog, in fact many would say that's a bonus - me included, sometimes!

The post-Syd b…

The MOJO CD - November 2014

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Yep, it's another keeper in the MOJO cover CD series. It is no surprise that one of the best tracks on this compilation is a cover of a classic from the original psychedelic era. Having said that their are some other corkers on here too. Celebrating modern psych-rock in all its many guises, Brain Damage is the kind of glorious racket that can really only be played LOUD.

The psychedelic classic I refer to is Interstellar Overdrive, which, along with Astronomy Domine started the British version of acid rock in 1966. The tracks that make up Brain Damage all share some degree of inspiration from the freedom expressed in Syd's formative forays into lysergically propelled acid-rock expression.

Everyone knows the story behind Syd's primal descending riff that bookends Interstellar Overdrive, surely? No? OK then - Floyd's manager had an earworm going through his head, but he couldn't remember the title. So, he hummed the riff as he semi-remembered it to Syd who then played…

Seven Impale - City Of The Sun

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It seems I have followed the careers of Norwegian proggers Seven Impale on this blog since the beginning, reviewing their debut EP Beginning/Relieveback in March 2013, and following that up with an interview. This was not planned, it just panned out that way, so rather than write this review on TPA or DPRP, for the sake of continuity, I shall wibble on and on and then a bit more, right here.

Well here they are then with their first full length album City Of The Sun, and they seem to be coming along quite nicely, albeit a tad in thrall to their influences, particularly on opener Oh My Gravity! which runs the gamut of VdGG and the mighty Crim, the latter even down to a take on the stop and start section of 21st Century Schizoid Man in the middle of the song. It's still a fun ride though, and the boys in the band show they are getting rather skilled in the arrangement department, contrasting a repeated gentle guitar run with Tormod Fosso's growling bass. The latter will become a…

Emmett Elvin - Bloody Marvels

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Multi-instrumentalist Emmett Elvin is the keyboard player for Guapo, Knifeworld, and Chrome Hoof. In another no more or less real world he is an artist and graphic designer and an exponent of sundry related activities. He describes himself on his website as “hectically creative”, a description that also fits this, his second solo album to a tee. 
Bloody Marvels consists of thirteen (plus two "bonus" tracks) pieces of mostly instrumental music varying in length from under a minute to well over five minutes, and it could all be the soundtrack to a wilfully obscure arthouse movie that still only exists in its writer's head.

Aided by many of his colleagues from the aforementioned bands, along with some other musical friends and relatives, Emmett has created a vast all-encompassing cinematic soundscape in which the listener can easily get completely absorbed, to the point where the album has ended either after ten minutes or two hours, who knows? This audio painting is mixed an…

Sounds Of Sputnik - New Born

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Sounds Of Sputnik is Russian multi-instrumentalist and producer Roma Kalitkin who is here aided by Canadian/Ukranian duo Ummagma on three of the five tracks of this, his debut release. Proof positive that you can have successful collaborations between Russians and Ukranians in these fraught times.

Shauna McLarnon and Alexx Kretov are Ummagma, under which name they released their first two albums simultaneously back in 2012. Since then they have released singles and remixes while keeping very busy promoting themselves online in order to be noticed in this over-populated internet music world.

Like Sounds Of Sputnik, Ummagma are firmly rooted in the world of shoegaze and dream pop, and here the trio rekindle a working relationship originally tentatively begun some 12 years ago until McLarnon and Kretov moved away from Russia. Theirs is a perfect match and here they present us with five new songs steeped in the world of MBV, Slowdive, Cocteaus, and just about every other British origina…

Has it really been ten years??!...

Ten years ago this month the man who kick-started my continuing obsession with the musically odd, the consquences of which I continue to occasionally inflict upon you, dear reader, moved on to play that jukebox in the sky. He touched the lives of thousands if not millions of fellow curious music lovers and will continue to be sorely missed. That man was of course John Peel, and fellow scribbler Mark Whitby over at Unwashed Territories had the marvellous idea of getting some of the many bands Peely featured over the mostly later years of his reign to contribute to a free compilation put together in the great man's honour.

21 Songs For John will be available as free download until 30th November, when it will be deleted...go on, what have you got to lose?

21 Songs for John by Various

Mark is doing mini-features on the artists involved, starting with Cuban Boys, and this will be a series to keep an eye on. Shame there's no Fall track, but you wouldn't expect anything else, reall…

Martin Archer - A man following his muse...

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Some time ago - August last year to be more exact - I reviewed a strange and singular but nonetheless enjoyable release on Discus Records by the name of Juxtavoices - Just another anti-choir from Sheffield. My route to this odd record started with Combat Astronomy's Kundalini Apocalypse, an equally uncompromising but utterly different beast. Both these albums featured the talents of Sheffield citizen Martin Archer, and the Juxtavoices CD was one of a number of CDs sent to me unprompted by Martin following the Combat Astronomy scribbling for DPRP.

As I am constantly buried by my "to do" pile I have never found the time to write about the other CDs in the box. That, and quite frankly, I found the prospect of hour upon hour of challenging music that I had no frame of reference for a scary prospect. "Come on, ya big wuss, get on with it" the box kept saying to me, staring at me malevolently from the groaning shelf it sat imposingly upon. Now that what sounds like …