Saturday, 21 December 2013

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!

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 music, if you like. I do.

Mike Keneally - You Must Be This Tall
Highly accomplished quirky songwriting combined with brilliant but never flash musicianship make this a must.

Homunculus Res - Limiti all'eguaglianza della Partecon il Tutto
Clever and playful debut from Italian Cantabrians.

Ligeia Mare - Songs We Never Thought Of
Strange improvised oddity from way up in The Rockies somewhere. Quite compelling.

Thieves' Kitchen - One For Sorrow, Two For Joy
"Thieves' Kitchen is a place where classic English pastoral folk and prog influences meet with a modernistic sensibility" sez me. I'm not wrong.

Miriodor - Cobra Fakir 
I've only had the opportunity to give this a cursory listen so far, but from what I've heard it is shaping up to be another class release from these French/Canadian exponents of RIO/avant prog that is not at all scary, and hence accessible to all types of prog fans, as Raff says in her inimitable style.

Kayo Dot - Hubardo
Fearsome. That is all.

Ulver - Messe I.X - IV.X
The latter part of the year chucked a whole load of awesome platters at us, this marvellous album being no exception. Ulver have over the years progressed way beyond categorisation, and here they confound us yet again. This album is a 45 minute distillation of melancholy and sadness in musical form. Darkly beautiful.

I Know You Well Miss Clara - Chapter One
Another Indonesian jewel unearthed by Moonjune Records. Were it not for fierce competition from Soft Machine Legacy and The Wrong Object, this new twist on fusion would win the biscuit. Beguiling.

simakDialog - The 6th Story
Definitely a corking year for fusion, here's another, this time from a more established Indonesian act on Moonjune.

miRthkon - Snack(s)
Crazy mixed up music, with more tunings and time signatures than you can shake a fist at, including a cover of Fairies Wear Boots. what's not to like?!

Goldfrapp - Tales Of Us
Alison and Will reinvent themselves yet again with this lovely collection of tunes.

Empty Days - Empty Days (DPRP review soon come)
Highly musical in the most restrained fashion, and highly intelligent, Francesco Zago's imagination shows no signs of slowing down. Marvellous album.

Hejira - Prayer Before Birth
Only got this sent to me a few days ago, and it's playing as I type. Initially very impressive I must say, like a more agitated Tuung with pop sensibilities, or North Sea Radio Orchestra rocking out. I can thank Sid Smith's Best of 2013 lists for this one.

2013 was a year which saw the reissue industry aimed at those of us of a certain age, some of whom have more money than shelf space reach ridiculous proportions. This wallet extraction exercise was epitomised by the gargantuan Road To Red by King Crimson, a band, or should I say cottage industry, who in recent times have trawled their back catalogue like no other, chucking out tens and tens of live CDs, 5:1 remixes, kitchen sinks and plunger. There comes a point when even the most hardened Crim obsessive (me) says "enough is enough".  Luckily for Mr Fripp's bank balance there are still plenty out there who will continue to buy whatever is next off the production line. Ho-hum.

Definitely not ho-hum is Steven Wilson's sublime 5:1 knob twiddling on Yes's Close to the Edge, which wins my reissue banana, hypocrite that I am!

Archaeological find
Undoubtedly coup of the year goes to Cuneiform Records who released Robert Wyatt's '68, which for the first time collected all the demo tapes made by Wyatt after Soft Machine's 1968 US tour with The Jimi Hendrix Experience. This is essential listening for anyone with a love of musical history in general and the Canterbury/Soft Machine scene in particular.

A vintage year that included the Family reunion show, the Steven Wilson Raven tour at The Royal Festival Hall, Van der Graaf Generator playing A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers, the Tim Smith benefit; but the best for me was the Five Years Of Kscope celebration at The Garage in London on 24th July. Pete would agree it was worth the back pain!

So, to sum up, despite family setbacks and loss, and a Springtime unsettling run in with rabid fandom and fragile egos, the unending stream of music, good bad and indifferent helped keep me sane through what has been a personal annus crappus. Roll on 2014!

Finally, thanks to all you folk out there who read my nonsense, without whom I'd probably still do it anyway. Merry Solstice & A Happy New Year!

Part One of this Festive beano can be found HERE.

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