Saturday, 15 December 2012

2012 - A year in review

Firstly, thanks to all of you for reading my typo-strewn and occasionally acerbic nonsense in 2012.

Another day, another CD, or so it seemed this year; as fast as I was putting CDs away they were arriving, the piles on my desk never getting smaller. Of course, I love it really, and 2012 was another year of great releases in ye olde progressive genres, rock or otherwise.

In very rough chronological order, here are the releases that impressed, linking to reviews. The cream of the crop are in bold, although everything here is top-notch.

Gavin Harrison & Ø5ric – The Man Who Sold Himself
This shouldn't work but it does, very complex but highly enjoyable. My big regret of the year was that due to flu I had to miss the gig, which also included Tony Levin's Stick Men...damn!

no-man - Love and Endings
Live document of the headline act at Burning Shed's 10th anniversary bash, the best gig I attended in 2011.

Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion
The first (or possibly the second) of 312 projects involving The Hardest Working Man In Showbiz to see the light of day in 2012. A meeting of minds with Mikael Åkerfeldt.

Peter Hammill - Consequences
The Thin Man has sill got it. 

Øresund Space Collective – West, Space and Love 
A departure from the ØSC template - chillin' 

Thinking Plague - Decline And Fall
A hugely intricate intellectual avant-fest from one of the best bands currently working. Simple as.

Inner Ear Brigade - Rainbro
Highly enjoyable and not at all frightening American avant-prog. 

Gazpacho - March Of Ghosts
Sublime...'nuff said.

3 Mice - Send Me A Postcard
For whom I invent a new genre - alt-café music, if you will. Quaint and lovely.

Ancestors - In Dreams And Time
Extreme heaviosity with no cookie monster in sight - result! About as different from the previous album in this list as can be.

Autumn Chorus - The Village To The Vale
Is it post-rock or pastoral prog? I've no idea and couldn't care less, but it is lovely in a quintessentially English way.

Subtilior - Absence Upon A Ground
Slightly difficult chamber-prog for brainiacs.

Daal - Dodechahedron
Italo-Gothic instrumental magnificence.

Ligro - Dictionary 2
Power trio swamp-jungle-fusion-rock from Moonjune's latest Indonesian discovery.

Lee Fletcher - Faith In Worthless Things
Studio whizz-kid emerges from behind the console to make a lovely album with a stellar cast. Pop for thinkers.

Janel & Anthony - Where Is Home
Who would have thought a cello and a guitar and effects could make such a charming soundscape? Pastoral loveliness.

Motorpsycho and Ståle Storløkken: The Death Defying Unicorn
Many thanks to Jon Bradshaw for turning me on to this previously unexplored strangeitude! Scandi-psychedelia meets Led Zeppelin bang in the middle of a Wagnerian jazz symphony, all played out on on the high seas in unchartered waters. Epic!

Big Big Train - English Electric (Part One)
Once I got past the "Trick Of The Wuthering" on the first track, this album really surprised me with its high class songwriting. Very nice!

Tohpati Bertiga - Riot
More wonderful stuff from prolific Indonesian guitarist Tohpati Ario Hutomo, this time in power trio mode.

Änglagård - Viljans Öga 
Welcome return for Swedish prog legends.

Cosa Brava - The Letter
Fred Frith's "prog-rock group", about as far removed from "rock" as you'd imagine. Infectious off-kilter tunes by the shedload.

Travis & Fripp - Follow
Steven Wilson gets to mess with Robert's soundscapes and some unexpected scorching guitar work from the archives, while Theo is his usual undemonstrative but wonderful self.

Mike Keneally - Wing Beat Fantastic
Although uncredited on the cover, this album's quirky pop inflections result from Mike's collaboration on most of the songs with the one and only Andy Partridge. A truly marvellous meeting of styles, bought on the strength of Mark Huges' review - no regrets. XTC lovers note that Steven Wilson will be remixing Nonsuch in 5:1 surround sound next year - can't wait!

Dissonati - Reductio Ad Absurdum
Part post-rock, part retro-prog with a big VDGG influence, but thoroughly modern all the same.

Aranis - Made In Belgium
Wonderful chamber-prog from Belgium - where else?

douBt - Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Fusion and improv from another galaxy. This is what "prog-rock" should be all about.

Thumpermonkey - Sleep Furiously
In-yer-face avant-prog, and Steve Davis' album of the year. Is it interesting? Yes, it is!

Yugen - Mirrors
Who would have thought that such mind-boggling complexity could be recreated live with such panache? Marvellous!

Scott Walker - Bish Bosch

The ones that got away
There are more than a few albums I probably would have bought had I not been deluged by review CDs, two of which I've just ordered; Paul Buchanan's Mid Air being one, and from what I've heard on YouTube it promises to be a truly marvellous piece of intricate minimalism, that, in the absence of a new Mark Hollis album will more than do. The other is Can's The Lost Tapes, which if it lives up to the hype should be the definitive and probably final statement from the top dogs of Deutschrock. Also, thanks to Steven Wilson's Albums Of The Year list, sounding worthy of investigation are The Seer by Swans, Animal Joy by Sheerwater, and Desertshore / The Final Report by X-TG.

Bleedin' hundreds of 'em, where to start, where to start? Well, there's the obvious; King Crimson's Larks' Tongues In Aspic, which should need no introduction, the budget Magma - Trilogy box, the fab Moe Tar - From These Small Seeds, and Gazpacho's Night, to name a few worthy of your time, but the reissue of the year in my 'umble opinings is the simply stunning Eros by Dün, an obscurity rescued by the very fine Soleil Zeuhl label. 

Label of the year
As ever a close fought battle between AltrOck and Moonjune, with kscope making it a three-way battle, but sneaking up the inside on the home straight to take the crown is Alain Lebon's Soleil Zeuhl. A labour of love and a highly interesting roster. Read my interview with Alain here.

Archaeological find
...was a simply stunning unreleased version of Levitation's near-invisible second album Meanwhile Gardens, featuring the irreplacable Terry Bickers (one half of the driving force behind The House Of Love). Fools that they were, Levitation did actually replace him, re-recorded the album re-recording most of his vocal parts, and the result is ok if underwhelming. Probably wisely the thing was only released in Australia. If you have any affinity for what is sometimes dismissively labelled shoegaze, but in this instance infused with tabs of psychedelia and a more than a touch of prog, then you'll love Levitation. Here's a track from their one and only official album (not forgetting Coterie, a collection of EP tracks) with Sir Terrence of Bickers at the helm. Groovetastic!

Judging by all that little lot above, the old adage that there are not enough hours in the day rings truer than ever!

A fairly sparse year on the gig front, but just about topping a rather short list is Gazpacho at The Garage, Highbury, London, back in March. If there was any justice, this band should be huge.

...and finally
A quick mention for my former editor at DPRP who took his foot off the gas for a well deserved break from the OCD demands of us scribblers. Have a good holiday, Bob!

Have a great Xmas and a Happy New Year, see you on the other side. XXX


  1. A fine view on your what you prefer, Roger. And well defined too. It's nice getting to know you musically bit by bit. At least two albums in common with my top 10 of the year 2012:

    1 Overhead - Of Sun And Moon
    2 King Bathmat - Truth Button
    3 Dissonati - Reductio Ad Absurdum
    4 In the Silence - A Fair Dream Gone Mad
    5 The Pineapple Thief - All The Wars
    6 Beardfish - The Void
    7 Absolace - Fractals
    8 Gazpacho - March Of Ghosts
    9 Kong - Merchants Of Air
    10 Anathema - Weather Systems

    A toast to a musically astonishing 2013 and to honor the odd contact.

    1. A fine list there, and no doubt some of those I would have considered too, but it's just impossible to listen to everything!

  2. A great overview of 2012 Roger, interesting and entertaining reading as ever from your stylish pen (keyboard/stylus). Lots of bands and albums I've not heard here that I shall endeavour to investigate. I love the Levitation clip, I've been getting into this sort of thing big time in 2012 and have a host of similar artists, old and new, who have helped contribute to an excellent year in intelligent (and sometimes dumb as a bag of hammers, and no less interesting for that)music from around the world.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. Season's Greetings!


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