Sunday, 19 June 2011

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 young ears anyway) and the man responsible for my tastes veering leftfield from that moment on was the now sadly departed Captain Beefheart who has joined Peely to raid the bottomless juke box in the sky.

Returning to the here and now, I do still play all the old stuff but fairly infrequently, and I would not part with my collection unless on the verge of destitution. It feels like visiting an old friend, and the familiarity soon returns even if I’ve not called upon my old mate for some weeks.

My reason for writing this ramble is on the mp3 player as I write. In A Perfect World, the new album by Karmakanic was sent to me for review and after a cursory listen I told Nick that I simply couldn’t review it fairly. I’m sure the musicians enjoyed putting it together and it is a well produced album. BUT it starts off sounding like the sort of thing Yes cross-bred with Genesis might have come up with 30 odd years ago with added bombast. They would probably take that as a compliment, but if the point of your band is to recreate a nostalgic “classic” prog sound, why bother? Why not form a covers band, as anything you create will not be remembered for any positive reasons, at least in my book. These musical time machine bands no doubt delight in their “prog” tag, but hey “prog” is short for progressive, meaning pushing forwards to the new. Progressive is something these bands are certainly not in my view, a more fitting label would be “retro” short for retrogressive.

Karmakanic and bands of their ilk cater for exactly the sort of backward looking and elitist nerdy fan base that so bedevils the American scene, as eloquently described by Raffaella Berry in a great article for Nick's site some months back. Luckily here in the UK as there is not a prog scene as such we don’t have that problem. I’m sure Karmakanic have their fans over here, being an offshoot of The Flower Kings (another band whose sound is not my particular cup of larks’ vomit!), but they won’t be in the majority when it comes to the more discerning new music hunter.

I’ve been listening In A Perfect World while I type this and it’s taken until track 4 of 7 before anything approaching interesting happens. If the rest of the album was in the vein of the edgy Latin flavoured Can’t Take It With You, I might be more inclined to stick with the band. I may have been a bit harsh on Karmakanic earlier, there are some good instrumental passages, I especially dig the heavy riff in Bite The Grit, but it’s the retro feel of the whole album that puts me off.

Sharing the flash drive are albums by the afore mentioned incomparable Captain Beefheart (Live 1974) and the over productive Acid Mothers Temple (Goodbye John Peel – appropriately) and a new album by Italian jazz fusion band Garua. Yep, you guessed it, I’m headed for Garua as it’s new and I’ve never heard anything by them before, as that is my musical ethos!

Thank you and good night!

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