TesseracT has confirmed that they will be appearing as special guests on the Devin Townsend Project’s Transcendence 6 date UK tour in March 2017.
TesseracT guitarist James Monteith comments on the forthcoming live shows,
“We are beyond stoked to be touring with the Devin Townsend Project and playing such great venues around the UK next year. Not only are we all huge fans of the band (and our mutual agreement on music is a rare thing!), they also hold a very special place in our hearts, as they were the first band who ever took us on the road in the USA and Canada. They gave us a huge leg up in the touring game, were great mentors / advisers, all-round amazing dudes to hang out with, and they have remained our friends ever since. Not only will this be an honour on a musical level, it’ll be great to spend some time with them once again! Plus having Leprous on the bill is definitely the icing on the cake; they’re a phenomenal band and really help to make this bill special. Bring on 2017!”
These shows with DTP, TesseracT have confirmed will be their only UK club shows of 2017 as they work on their follow up album to 2015’s Polaris.
TesseracT will be keeping busy before the DTP tour, the autumn sees the band tour North America with Gojira and release a new 2 CD edition of ‘Polaris’ which includes a bonus disc entitled ‘Errai’ featuring four re-imagined tracks from Polaris by the band’s long time live producer and sound engineer Aidan O’Brien – “Survival”, “Cages”, “Tourniquet” and “Seven Names.”
Greek rock group Gravitysays_i is set to release their first album in five years, “Quantum Unknown”, on September 16th via Inner Ear Records.
Gravitysays_i is a six member band from Greece. Their sound is a mix of prog-rock, Pink Floyd-style space-rock, ambient electronics, with a traditional Mediterranean flair (In addition to the usual rock band instruments, Gravitysays_i adds acoustic instruments like trumpet, Cretan lyra and the beautiful sound of the santur).
It’s been a long time since the release of their previous album “The Figures Of Enormous Grey And The Patterns Of Fraud” (2011). Gravitysays_i are back with their third album, “Quantum Unknown”, which makes the long wait worthwhile.
If their previous album was a big battle with themselves, “Quantum Unknown” is the liberation from their own selves. In this mood, they began creating this album of 6 tracks, which is the result of four years of recordings and intense experimentation by the band in new fields of music and lyrics.
This time, the band’s themes play with every knowledgeable form in an attempt to escape from the human gaze itself. Music-wise the experimental and electronic element replaces the electric effusions of their previous work.
Gravitysays_i was formed in March of 2003 by Manos Paterakis and Nikos Retsos in Piraeus. Their debut album entitled “The Roughest Sea” (2007) was released on Sirius, the label founded by the famous Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis. It consists of nine compositions inspired by the egotism, vanity and isolation of modern man. It is a conceptual album characterized by consecutive flow, where the electronic element meets traditional instrumentation, while minimalistic forms follow the general pop-rock spirit.
Their sophomore album entitled “The Figures of Enormous Grey and The Patterns of Fraud”, released in 2011 (Restless Wind) is different, with regard to its theme, as it re-examines social values, institutions and morality as an extension of individual, as well as collective conscience. This time, their sound follows a more traditional / Mediterranean audio vocabulary, while, at the same time, the dark, atmospheric elements become even more apparent.
In 2016, after a period of absence, they are back to present live their new album ”Quantum Unknown”, which will be released this September via Inner Ear Records.
1. More Than A Matter Of Instinct 2. Of Woe / Migratory Birds 3. Dowser 4. An Ivory Heart 5. Every Man
“Do not live in the shadow of the masters for ever. Learn to live in the light of your soul. Life deserves full expression.”
― Amit Ray
Robin Boult (guitars), David Stewart (drums, percussion) and Steve Vantsis (bass guitars, electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards, programming) have been in the shadow of a giant of the Progressive genre while recording, writing and touring with prog legend FISH over the years.
Now, with their new project TILT, it is time for them to come out, front and centre, and be the focus of attention. Steve, being responsible for most of the writing of the last two well received Fish albums, ‘13th Star’ and ‘Feast of Consequences’, also has definite pedigree as a songwriter.
Over 5 years in the making, ‘HINTERLAND’ is the long awaited debut album from the band and follows on from their acclaimed debut EP ‘Million Dollar Wound’.‘HINTERLAND’ has over 60 minutes of new music and the three core members are augmented on this endeavour by guitarist Paul Humphreys and singer PJ Dourley.
TILT are also joined on this release by keyboard player John Beck (It Bites) and guitarist John Mitchell (Lonely Robot/Kino/Arena/It Bites) with John Mitchell also responsible for the final mix.
I got sent an early mp3 download of ‘HINTERLAND’ by Steve and have given the album many listens, it has now cemented itself as one of my favourite releases of the year and now I’ll tell you why…..
“Language taught, Instinct not
Society lost, Trauma is forced…”
The album is book-ended by two brooding and slow burning tracks that compliment each other. Opener _Assembly begins with some obscure static noise before a deliberate percussive beat, metronomic in its perfection, hypnotises you into the slow laid back feel of the song. It’s quite ominous and portentous as the tempo increases slightly, almost like a heartbeat in the background.
Here you get the first impression of PJ Dourley’s impressively distinct vocal as he delivers the gripping tale to an engrossed audience, keeping you on tenterhooks, that haunting percussion and keyboard sound covering everything in a layer of anticipation. The layered vocals are a nice touch with the more expressive voice overlaying a robotic stanza.
A dramatic guitar riff, urgent and dynamic, then takes over along with some forbidding sounding keyboards to leave you on the edge of your seat, bated of breath, wondering what’s coming next. The vocals take on a pleading manner…
Before the track concludes in a rather prophetic manner, a really impressive opening to the album.
“Your eyes are filled with wanted dreams, The strangest shade of green, I’ve never seen before…”
Hinterland is a total rock-fest from start to finish, from the ‘in your face’ manic riff that theguitar beats you over the head with to the frenetically exciting drumming and the ever present stylish bass. Add in the elegant keyboards and PJ’s vibrant vocal and there isn’t much that can go wrong. This is a talented group of musicians who are at the top of their game and it shows.
There’s a super verse where things calm down a bit with a lovely guitar tone and ever more catchy vocals and you just find your self rocking along with this really upbeat song. We have a pause before that concussive riff returns with a slightly off-kilter piano note, just to make sure you’re taking notice and then we are off again, there is only one thing left to do, turn the volume up to 11!!
“Touch, don’t feel and know how this ended. It’s death but it’s not real, when truth is suspended…”
Time for a change of pace and lull in proceedings, Against The Rain is a superbly emotive song with the delicate piano and dreamy synth sounds backing the touching and affective vocal delivery. Almost dreamlike in delivery, it is a track that draws you into its warming embrace and heartfelt warmth and sentiment.
Reflective, it leads you pausing to gather your thoughts with its intelligent construction and demeanour. The gentle percussion and sympathetic guitar just add a lustre of sepia tinged nostalgia and, as it comes to a close, a feeling of compassion and well-being washes over you.
Talk about down and dirty riffs, the opening to No Superman hits you right in the solar plexus. A really low down and muted sound that then opens up and just nails it. Imagine taking some of the best 90’s grunge music and melding it with some modern prog metal and you wouldn’t be far off. The vocals have an edge to them and the drums are huge but it really is that monster riff that grabs my attention.
Deliciously dark and dangerous it is one of those tracks that leaves you feeling a little bit naughty but thoroughly entertained. PJ Dourley gives his best Scott Weiland impression (minus the illegal substances, obviously!) and seems to be really enjoying himself. Add in a little lull to let you get your breath back, rapidly followed by a hugely caustic, fiery riff and you really couldn’t ask for a more hard rocking track.
“Don’t look now, looking straight down, Reach for the sky, live or die..”
Even when you really like a whole album, there’s the one track that really grabs you and, for me, on this release it is Growing Colder. ‘HINTERLAND’ is a brilliant collection of songs but, for whatever reason, it is the slower, more brooding tracks that resonate with me most and the sombre and pensive opening to this song fits that brief perfectly. Wistful guitar, drums and keyboards lay the foundation for PJ’s melancholic vocal delivery, sad and downbeat and yet striking nevertheless.
There is a dolent tone running throughout with the supine, almost dreamy, rhythm almost lulling you into a hypnotic state. The build up to the hugely impassioned and affecting chorus is superb and I always find myself singing along at the top of my voice.
This is one of those tracks that you find yourself listening to three or four times in a row, it really is that good. The combination of the muted verse and stirring chorus really is something special and, as I listen to it again, it is making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The closing out of the song with string effects is utterly poignant.
“You look at me like you’re hypnotised, just blindness left behind your eyes…”
A hard rock track with a progressive edge, Strontium Burning is another one with a slow burning opening that builds slowly before flaring up and powering away into the distance. A definitive guitar note and powerfully dynamic drums are the driving force behind this track, all held together by the unobtrusive bass line. There is a raw energy struck through the centre of this restless and impatient song that you can hear in the delivery of the vocals, an elemental force that is embodied in the compelling and dexterous guitar solo that dominates the end of the track.
“Bleeding, holding onto the edge of my luck, I’m breathing, Trying to get out of here but I’m stuck, My soul’s gone…”
Bloodline was the lead single from the album and, like the title track, is more akin to a hard rock track than progressive but still, at nine minutes long, there is still a whiff of Prog about it. A low-key and subdued undercurrent of an opening makes way for a determined guitar riff and rhythm section, urgent and straining at the leash before the throttle is notched back a bit and the vocals come in, searching and probing. I say it has more in common with hard rock but, here especially, there is a feel of early Porcupine Tree serious feeling heaviness.
There are some intricate melodies playing in the background but, when the powerful chorus fires out, that more mainstream rock angle returns. It is quite a clever mix of styles with some subdued, complicated sections weaving between the more straightforward rock themes and gives TILT there own definite sense of identity. There’s quite a long outro to the song, brooding and self-involved that sets you up for the final track on the album….
“Is there no God, There’s only me, I watch them pour from church, like warriors lost in battle…
Disassembly_, the partner track to _Assembly, opens with a very moody keyboard note that gives a hushed atmosphere of anticipation before there is a sort of awakening, a keening keyboard and guitar tone that is quite abstract in its mysterious feel, almost oriental in fact. That enigmatic aura is only enhanced by PJ’s vocal delivery, precise and esoteric, as he sings over a laid back, electronica inspired, backdrop.
Calm and collected, his voice is almost like a mantra that your mind follows though this delicate maze of ambient progressive music that seems to flow all around you. Guitars join in to add some substance but, all the while, keeping the mystical feel. This song always makes me stop what I’m doing to let the music wash over me and fill my entire being with a feeling of fulfillment and, as it comes to a close, I just feel relaxed and as calm as can be.
What TILT have delivered is a superb album by a cast of very accomplished musicians. Brilliant vocals, burning guitar solos, a thunderous rhythm section and songwriting of the highest quality combine to deliver one kick ass release that I keep returning to again and again. A fine combination of excellent rock music with all that’s best about progressive rock, these guys show how it really should be done!
It’s a strange half life you have as a reviewer, you’re at one step the conduit between the bands and the audience, hoping that what you write influences others to investigate some of the exciting new music out there, on the other hand you end up meeting musicians, talking to the bands and becoming friends with them either online or, even better in real life, and that friendship you build up, you have to be careful not to let it influence your writing or your relationship with the band, a balancing act that shouldn’t compromise your principles or your opinions.
Of course you get sent albums to review, and having a day job, or indeed the house move from hell (never move, or if you do move, never use the decorator we had), it sometimes takes longer to get round to writing the reviews than intended, that’s the trouble with life, it always gets in the way.
Making friends in the progressive genre is an easy thing to do, as it’s such a small scene, and for the most part a friendly and welcoming environment that you can go to gigs on your own and end up in a big group at the end, which is how coincidentally I met Leo Koperdraat, back at Eppyfest 2014.
That’s how Fractal Mirror, Leo, Ed Van Haagen and Frank Urbaniak, met, via a Facebook group, and from such an everyday occurrence, something magical was born.
‘Slow Burn 1’ is their third album following on from 2014’s astonishing ‘Garden of Ghosts’, which was one of my albums of the year, and see’s them consolidate their sound, an evolution rather than a revolution, after all if something ain’t broke, then don’t break it for the sake of it.
That is no criticism by the way, the band are in no way playing it safe, instead they are bolder with their sounds, and broader in their vision without compromising anything of their heart and soul that helped make ‘Garden of Ghosts’ such a great album.
Working again with Brett Kull, who produces and co-writes a few tracks on here, this is an exceptionally assured album, the Fractal Mirror sound is unique, a step away from what other artists are doing at the moment.
This means that you can tell who is playing the minute the album starts, and there are not that many artists who are instantly recognisable.
What’s also striking is the fact that each song title is just one word, which adds to the effect.
There is no sound and fury and bombast here, the sound is deceptively relaxed, and the album is as its title suggests a slow burner, one of those gems that works it’s way into your head subtly and each time you play it, you pick up more and more from each track, the beauty of the music being so subtle and almost chilled out, is that the lyrics then work their way into your consciousness.
Fractal Mirror have a clever way with lyrics, similar to how The Beautiful South used to work, by having beautiful music, with quite stark lyrics, the lyrics to Embers for instance are quite dark and haunting, belied by an amazing tune, in fact whilst there is light on this album, there is also a lot of dark, and understandably so, the times that we are currently living through are turbulent and unstable, and all the best art reflects the times we live in.
Tracks like Mist and v838 have an element of optimism about them, however the darkness of the lyrics on Enemies, Embers and Fading has it’s polar opposite in the final track, which I will come back to.
The music that Fractal Mirror make is superb, the synth and guitar work on Enemies for instance is striking and powerful, whilst the vocals of Leo are superb throughout, and the way the band work together in creating this music considering how spread apart they are is a testament to their vision and their friendship. Whilst some of the vocal harmonies are stunning and on Embers are very Beatlesque, particularly with the guitar work reminiscent of George Harrison.
Back to the closing track, never finish a set on a downer an old poetry tutor told me when structuring a reading, and I think this might be something Fractal Mirror have also learnt.
I don’t think I am overstating the importance of the message in Universalwhen I say it is all about the message of togetherness and how we could all be so much better together, the ambiguity of the closing suggests, like so many things that it could go one way or the other. With it’s musical refrain, and it’s almost pop sensibility it has some great hooks, wonderful keyboard sounds and great guitar work (with guest bass from Leopold Blue-Sky), I don’t like to overuse clichés, but I would say it is anthemic and one of those songs that can come to represent a time and a place, particularly with the haunting coda at the end.
However there is no ambiguity here, ‘Slow Burn 1′ is another fine piece of art from Fractal Mirror, musically and lyrically superb, and packaged beautifully with the work of Brian Watson, another friend of the bands who met in the Facebook melting pot. It’s so good to see bands taking as much care over their artwork as their music. I am from the era where how records look are s important as they sound, hands up how many of you out there have bought a record based purely on the sleeve? I know I have.
People criticise social media for keeping people apart, here we can see it has brought together like-minded creative individuals, all of who have something to add to the prog genre that we love.
Progressive, adjective, happening or developing gradually or in stages, favouring change or innovation, engaging or constituting forward motion.
I think looking at the true definitions of the word progressive, we can apply all those to ‘Slow Burn 1’ as it is an evolution of the Fractal Mirror sound, there is definite innovation in their work, and it’s another mighty step forward for them from ‘Garden of Ghosts’.
The best thing to come out of 1977 (the 2nd best being ‘Out of the Blue’ by ELO) I have been writing about prog since I joined the Classic Rock Society back in 1994, and have written for several online magazines, the BBC website as well as contributing two articles about Cult television to two anthologies.
I like cult TV specifically Doctor Who, and see where prog and Doctor Who meet in the music of the BBC Radiophonic workshop.
I live in Bristol with my other half, have a large collection of rubber ducks and more CDs/Books/DVDs than I have space to store them.
Not the revival tent meetings slavishly recreating the sounds of a bygone age, but new, young bands pushing the envelope, bringing new influences to the table.
Elements of Indie, dub step and shoe gazing form part of the lexicon that Dream the Electric Sleep bring on their new album.
When I say “Indie”, it’s not the fey wimp with a guitar and a whisper type but the noise merchants of death approach taken by Ride, Spiritualized and those post rock bands that issue manifestos that take longer to decipher than their lyrics- Crippled Black Phoenix produce some fabulous music, but the band’s in fighting and fallouts make Fleetwood Mac’s antics seem tame. Justin Greaves has a chip on his shoulder about a lot of things, but his heart is in the right place and his stand on Animal Welfare is brave and noble one that as a Vegetarian for 30 years I am in sympathy with.
So where do Dream the Electric Sleep fall?
Well, for a start it’s a stupid name. How are you going to widen your fan base when you call yourself after a bad double translation of a Philip K Dick novel?
And, yes, Androids do dream of Electric sheep. Electric sheep jumping over little digital gates.
Philip K Dick is THE author to name drop in the US, his books are all films or TV series or both it seems, so the origin of the name is sound, but c’mon. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a big welcome to the headline act, Dream the Electric Sleep” doesn’t roll of the tongue. Not without hallucinogenic intervention anyway.
But what do I know. I was in a band once, for a whole gig. We called ourselves “The Mighty Airbag Re-inflated”. We were legends in our own break time (not brave enough to claim a whole lunch hour of fame)
(Picture by Rob Dickes)
So what do they sound like?
Well, imagine Coldplay getting so agitated that they throw away the rulebook, turn the amplifiers up to 11 and let rip with their best Muse impression.
Or Spiritualized get sucked into a studio and end up with Jem Godfrey as producer.
Frost* are the nearest equivalent I can associate them with , but there are echoes of “Antimatter” nihilism there, a splatter of Snow Patrol anthemic pop, alongside the hints of a Coldplay type band under the guitars .
Another band that DTES linked to in my warped and twisted mind is (or was) Pure Reason Revolution. They share a common ancestral link back via shoe gazing bands that utilize layers and layers of echo and reverb to create cathedrals of sound that the vocalists then preach their sermons in.
The guitar sound folds over itself to create strata of harmonic distortion which drives the vocals on, not quite shouting, but not far off.
The ‘Sleepies’ are full of energy and write songs that may not be complex 40 minute epics with numerous time changes, chord structures that require an excess of digits to replicate but they are still “Prog” , but in a modern style, mixing disparate elements and forging their path .
The path travels through the shoe gazing fields, along the path of indie, bypasses the swamps of instrumental excess, skirting around the chasm of death metal whilst aiming straight on for the Harmony Mountains.
In conclusion, if you like the idea of music that refuses to sit in a box with a neat label on it, if you like contemporary production values were the sum is greater than the parts, then take a listen.
It’s prog, but not just prog. It’s firmly in the post rock camp, deserving of the full attention of your ears.
I could go on and name drop Ulver, Nordic Giants, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy and No Sound.
In fact, Kscope would be the ideal home for these guys as they fit nicely into that whole post rock constituency.
Day two arose to bright sunshine and we ate an ample breakfast in the hotel before a morning in the wonderful Museum of Art, with so many treasures to see. But enough of that, I am not here to talk about the wonderful historic sites in Barcelona, the colonnades lining the street to the museum, waterfalls and twin towers replicating the style of San Marco Campanile in Venice. Nor am I about to tell you of the excellent Spanish guitarist delighting a crowd in front of the museum, on his ‘silent guitar’. No, we shall leap forward to our much needed early afternoon siesta from which we woke abruptly, making haste to reach the Pobel Espanyol and the beckoning sounds of day 2, at Be Prog My Friend.
Unfortunately the second day started an hour earlier and we joined the queue of latecomers as we fed into the square just in time to catch the last three songs from the ravishing Anneke Van Giersbergen and The Gentle Storm. This lady’s voice as those who have heard her will know, is a tour de force and her powerful vocals tore through the tracks with gusto engaging with the slowly swelling crowd in some grand Prog Metal. Her energy was infectious and warmed the audience up nicely as did the mid afternoon sun and we watched from floor level partaking of much needed liquid refreshment.
Buoyant from the night before and with a rousing first act to start the day we were feeling rather pleasant and whilst we waited for the next band we wandered round and checked out the t-shirts. No contest as I have to say the lovely Sarah Ewing’s artwork conquered all comers. I thought I had done well in the t-shirt battle yesterday but Big Big Train’s ‘Grimspound’ drew so many admiring glances it felt like being on a catwalk.
We briefly met the gang from yesterday for a chat, but they wanted to go down the front and we decided we would hang back and find a seat somewhere with a decent view, if we were lucky.
And so to the second band, whilst I had only heard a couple of tracks from Between the Buried and Me which sounded promising. They appeared to be attracting favourable attention from the media recently and I was looking forward to being impressed as they had travelled over from the US of A. I’m still waiting I’m afraid. The sound wasn’t brilliant, louder than clearer and Konnie and I agreed it was like listening to an extended promo reel, with clips from songs cobbled together.
Konnie said she was unable to decipher when one track ended and another began as it sounded so disjointed. Despite an enthusiastic following nearer the stage and you may read differently elsewhere, we didn’t seem to be the only ones and for me the guttural vocals only added to my disappointment, sorry guys I’m sure there are many disagree with us including those at the front, but here’s a photo.
I was a child of the 70’s it was the blossoming of my teenage musical years and the awakening of my eyes and ears to Prog. Now I’m sure many will agree, some records are timeless and transgress all era’s without ageing badly and some you raved about then, you find hard to reconcile why in the present day. I would not have bought the next band’s albums then and wouldn’t now as I will happily tell you, ‘it’s not my sort of thing’. So on an increasingly hot and sunny, Spanish afternoon surrounded by a sizeable crowd of MAGMA t-shirts, what happened?
Like a rabbit in headlights or with myxomatosis, I stood rooted to the spot as MAGMA took the stage. They seemed quite the perfectionists and had taken some time to set up which may have explained why they couldn’t play as long as they wished, but as they strode on to the stage and the music and chanting of the first song began I was transported to Summerisle. I was transfixed as if drugged and the tune grew like some creeping, Dario Argento film soundtrack as it swelled most disturbingly. I forced myself to look away from the stage and those around me seemed entranced and swayed to the the throbbing rhythms. I’m glad there was still daylight to bring me comfort.
As the music continued the young man in his twenties standing in front of us took up the song. A cherub faced middle aged man, with rosy cheeks and glasses, clad in walking gear with a backpack, wandered through the ranks of the audience singing the lyrics in a deep resonating tone, an angelic smile spread across his face, arms wide in subjugation. Had I stepped into a pagan festival? Konnie stood on my left enraptured and I glanced to my right and the terrace above. A boy of no more than twelve stood in front of his father, chanting in the knowledge of every word, his small hands air drumming without missing a beat.
And then they finished , disgruntled they could not extend their set, with a shorter tune (over 10 minutes) and the veil lifted from everyone’s eyes. Konnie talked enthusiastically and I tried to figure out what had just happened. Would I buy the music, no. Would I travel and pay to watch them, I don’t think so. Would I be able to resist the lure of their unique performance if they were on a festival bill again, probably not and they have a new disciple in Konnie. Strangely watchable, if you have never seen them and happen upon them, watch, you may be enchanted but rest in the knowing you don’t have to weave flowers in your hair and there are no human sacrifices required during the performance.
It’s worth mentioning at this stage that the transitions between bands was not as smooth as the previous day. Whether the crew were different or more likely the bands on the second day were more demanding, either way the wheels were not as well oiled. This gave us more time for food and liquid sustenance and to soak up the atmosphere. A couple of large tattooed Scandinavian bikers asked we take their photos and they kindly reciprocated snapping the ‘Grimspound’ shots of Konnie and I. They also gave some of their stone step space so we could sit for a while which was most welcome until we found seating a little further back with a better view.
It was time for the main acts of the day, first came Opeth. I am a late convert and up until now only have ‘Pale Communion’ and still feel some of their older material may not be to my liking. But I have since ordered a couple of older CD’s to try and Lamentations DVD on the strength of their performance and what a show. The sun descended as the atmosphere grew, Michael Akerfeldt and the band striding the stage as giants of the prog metal genre, rousing the crowd who need little encouragement. With acknowledgement to the long faithful that the newer material has not always received favour, they pulled old favourites from their earlier albums to rapturous applause and drove them like giant machines crushing any doubters under the sound, loud and clear with the lighting matching the moods. It is well known Michael and Steven Wilson have become firm friends and you can catch elements of influence in the work, enhancing the massive production here.
Revelation of the day was Konnie’s response, she has never taken interest in Opeth before and had neglected to listen on the occasions I have played ‘Pale Communion’, fearing they weren’t to her liking. By the end of the first song she was hooked, loving every minute, extolling the virtues of their live performance and on completion she was grinning like a kid at Christmas. Had they been the only head-liner, the day would have finished on a tremendous high. As it was, we were to be spoiled further…..
We knew what to expect from Steven Wilson as we have seen him on his last three tours, but this did not lessen our excitement, merely settled us in the privy we bestowed upon our Spanish friends, eager to watch a man who verges on deity status in the genre and learn all they can about him. Mr Wilson has developed and perfected his style with such precision he holds all in his sway and has carefully honed his stage craft since we first saw him. Again I feel his friendship with Michael has influenced and benefited him especially in performing as he seems more at ease talking to and joking (yes, joking), with the crowd. His live sets are always louder these days, the tracks played are heavier and rockier than the album versions. We always pack our ear defenders, but that could be our age, yet he balances the delicate, ‘Lazarus/Routine’ finely, gently sprinkled like fairy dust on the sounds emanating from his current band.
All masters in their own fields, with none finer on the drums than Craig Blundell, as readily recognised by the work he has done as an international clinician for Paiste, Premier, and Roland, Adam Holzman is a rare keyboardist, having moved from the jazz fusion field to his current position in the band, he consistently earns critical acclaim as one of the most daring and best contemporary keyboardists alive.
No one could have predicted back in the Kajagoogoo days that Nick Beggs would go on to be such a luminary in Bass guitar and Chapman Stick, his mighty presence up front ably bookending Steve with current guitarist Dave Kilminster. Having spent the last few years as principal guitar player in the Roger Waters band, Dave brings his own, skillful style to the well renowned tracks and my only regret is that they didn’t play Drive Home, as I would like to have heard his take on the beautiful guitar solo.
It’s a commanding show and a fitting end to a wonderful couple of days though the fuzzier lighting employed for the majority of the set prevented my getting many photos.
But not quite an end: it was by now 02:00, weariness took hold and with an early start the next morning we elected to leave with the majority and head for our hotel. Which leaves me to apologise to metalcore band Textures, who bravely came on after we left and played to a greatly reduced crowd, so I cannot comment on their performance.
It only remains to say ‘Gracias’ to the organisers of BPMF, everyone who helped make it possible the bands themselves and the Spanish people we met along the way. Watch for next year’s line up, take the leap, make the trip and revel in what Barcelona and Be Prog My Friend have to offer, you won’t be disappointed.
We’re English and we should be used to it, but let’s face it, there has been too much rain lately. An excuse, that’s what we needed. And then a poster appeared online for Be Prog, My Friend!, in Spain and the band list was just too tempting. Sun and great music has to be good and so Mrs T and I took the plunge, raided our piggy banks and booked gig tickets, flights and a hotel. Neither of us speaks Spanish, so armed with our little phrasebook we took off for warmer climes. This is not the story of our excellent weekend , but just the periods of the two days covering the festival, so I won’t be mentioning the delicious food, the wonderful Museum of Modern Art, or the exquisitely beautiful Sagrada Familia and the impressive Camp Nou. Nor will I mention the impressive buildings, statues, waterfalls or fountains at all.
We decided to recce the whereabouts of the the festival venue the day before, which turned out to be a very pleasant 30-40 minute walk from our hotel. This is not the first BPMF, though new to us and was to be held in the Poble Espanyol, an architectural museum in Barcelona, just a few meters away from the Fountains of Montjuïc.
The Poble Espanyol was built in 1929 for the Barcelona International Exhibition as the pavilion dedicated to art and was conceived as a real “village” in the heart of a city. The aim was to give an idea of what might be an “ideal model” of an Iberian village that would bring together all the characteristics of all peninsular villages. It was built in thirteen months and, curiously, had an expiry date, as it was supposed to last the same time as the Universal Exhibition: six months. However, thanks to its success, the Poble Espanyol still stands to this day, and some of the buildings have outlived the original ones to become one of the few monuments built for an International Exhibition that can still be visited.
The Festival is held in the central courtyard and is a beautiful setting with olive and palm tree lined stone balustrade terraces, balconies draped with colourful plants and parakeets flying overhead. A far cry from soggy Glastonbury.
All your needs are catered for with ample eateries, bars and facilities and we never had to queue more than a couple of minutes for anything. It is the best organised festival we have been to and clean, as most people placed used food and drink containers in the bins provided when discarded, a few drunk ‘tourists’ being the exception and they were berated in to tidying up. There were even lockers available should you wish to offload items/garments and return to them during the day/night. Security was good and polite along with excellent service without hiked prices. The merchandise was plenty and I did indulge a little, again nothing was overpriced. So…….
DAY 1: Friday – 1700:
We arrived in good time and joined the line, people were friendly and my all over print PALLAS t-shirt drew quite a few admiring glances, there was quite a bit of t-shirt posing with everyone checking out each others. I got chatting to a guy in a Ltd edition Sanctuary 2 t-shirt and discovered he was a local and a big fan of Rob Reed. Entry to the Friday night was free if you had tickets for the Saturday, bargain!
We were soon through, into the festival and as we were some of the first, took the chance to get our bearings and map out the facilities, grabbing tokens for the food and drinks for both nights to save time and buying our merch. It was lovely and warm with a gentle, pleasant breeze circulating and the sun sat neatly at the edge of the courtyard roofs offering welcome shade. We found seating on some of the stone steps giving a great view, though standing and moving around at intervals was required to prevent ‘numb bums’.
Up first were local band, Exassens, (www.exxasens.com), formed in 2011, I’d describe them as an instrumental rock band, or post-rock, but with hints of progressive and space rock. A mix of different sounds, where guitars with long echoes, blend with synths and a powerful rhythmic base, displaying many influences such as Pink Floyd and The Cure, through to instrumental bands like Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai. The solar system backdrop videos adding to the atmosphere and they warmed the late afternoon crowd up nicely. Whilst mostly instrumental, Bruce Soord did make a surprise appearance to duet on vocals for one track raising a cheer from those watching.
As the venue began to fill we were joined by a bunch of Spanish lads and a lady (girlfriend) who explained they had grown up together in Barcelona and then gone their separate ways. The festival is their excuse to meet and catch up every year. They spoke fairly good English and we joked about our phrase book Spanish. They seemed to value our opinions on the bands and made for a very pleasant company throughout the evening. Konnie wasn’t complaining as the lads kept topping up her drinks!
Up next were Obsidian Kingdom, (www.obsidiankingdom.com) another local band with a hard-to-classify heavy sound with plenty of contrast, making use of multiple sound resources. Unfortunately the sombre and cryptic quality of the band’s lyrics and music coupled with muddied sound, brought the atmosphere down somewhat. I don’t have any live shots unfortunately as we had been led to believe no cameras were allowed (not true) and the heavy use of smoke in the early evening sun blurred my phone photos. Listening to them online now they sound better than on the day.
Plastic glasses refilled we were ready for the much anticipated Russian band, I Am The Morning and they didn’t disappoint. The captivating, angelic vocals of a barefoot Marjana Semkina as she floated round the stage, with the beautiful keys of classically trained piano maestro Gleb Kolyadin drifting around the square. They enchanted all and were ably assisted with strings and backing band. Flowers were thrown on stage and they won our hearts, someone even shouted out ‘Marry Me Marjana!”. They captivated everyone watching with a quite magical performance and deserve a wider audience.
By now the sun was beginning to set behind the buildings and the lamps in the square came on adding to the ambience as we discussed the music so far and waited for the next act.
On to the stage bounced the surprise of the festival for us, with much enthusiastic applause from our Spanish friends who had advised us ‘this band is brilliant, yes’. I had seen the current album cover but not heard any of the music from Icelandic band Agent Fresco (www.agentfresco.is) and what an awesome show. Think a male version of Bjork with a band coming from a Rage Against The Machine/At the Drive In angle and you’re some-way to describing them. The mechanics and rhythmic patterns unpredictably stutter, yet seamlessly stitch together into stunning compositions veering from blazing alt-guitar rock to piano ballads and stadium-size anthems, often in the same song, to decisive euphoric effect. All this with lead singer Arnór Dan Arnarson defying doctors orders after leaving hospital only 48 hours earlier, having been treated for pneumonia and told he had to rest. They left us breathless and wanting more and we hope Arnór is soon fully recovered and we get the opportunity to see them again.
The night had drawn in and we settled down ready for the head-liners, the excitement was palpable and voices rose as the anticipation grew. The stage planning and crews had made smooth transitions between the different acts, removing and replacing equipment with practised ease showing very little delay, keeping close to schedule but allowing time for ample refreshments.
Enter head-liners of the night The Pineapple Thief to resounding applause, as they burst into a repertoire, which plundered their catalogue as far back as Variations on a Dream including a ‘shortened’ version of one of my favourites, ‘Remember Us’ with some great guitar soloing. An apt track as the crowd were not going to forget this performance for a long while. Konnie remarked how much they have grown in the ‘live’ environment, the last time we saw them was in a very small, intimate venue and tonight they looked so comfortable on the large stage, every bit the stadium head-liners.
A polished, rocking performance, holding the crowd in the metaphorical palm of their hand and our newly found Spanish friends couldn’t agree more. Great sound quality and lighting added to the performance and even though they played a couple of encore tunes we would of all happily stayed longer.
Buoyed by a great night’s entertainment we said goodnight to our ‘crowd’ and flowed out of the venue and into the streets, strolling toward the city, it was 0130 and everyone was chatting as they walked. We struck up a conversation with a young Frenchman man who now lives in New Zealand. He’d flown over to visit his Mum in France and then down for the festival before heading back to NZ. To say he had enjoyed the first night would be an understatement, amid the numerous enthusiastic expletives he enthused about the evening none stop until we parted company and steered ourselves contentedly toward our Hotel, tomorrow would be a longer day, but who knew what delights awaited us………..
Part 2 of Kevin’s BE PROG, MY FRIEND! experience is coming very soon…..
TesseracT has debuted the re-imagined version of the single Survival today. The track is from the all new 2-disc tour edition of TesseracT’s critically acclaimed studio album ‘Polaris’, with bonus disc ‘Errai’, released on September 16th via Kscope. The package includes four re-imagined tracks from ‘Polaris’ by the band’s long time live producer and sound engineer Aidan O’Brien – Survival, Cages, Tourniquet and Seven Names. This new version will keep fans thrilled leading up to TesseracT’s U.S. tour with Gojira in September.
O’Brien offers, “The fascinating thing about taking a track apart to remix, rework, or re-imagine it, is being able to look at each individual element and figure out exactly what makes it tick as a composition.”
“In the case of ‘Survival,’ it was amazing to see how the track still retained a real power and drive even when the distorted guitars and drums were stripped away, and it was very exciting to experiment with rebuilding the track around a basic chord structure and Dan’s vocal by using piano, synths and a handful of sound design tricks to push it into a darker and more cinematic direction.”
“Using that as a base to build on meant that when I brought the track back to the band they were able to reinterpret a lot of what they had originally written in a totally new context – capitalising on that darker sound and resulting in an arrangement, which in some ways is much lighter and sparser but in others is far more brooding and menacing.”
TessaracT vocalist Dan Tompkins comments “It’s been fantastic to re-visit and re-work the vocals to some of the Polaris tracks from a different angle and with the benefit of time and space. The normal process of writing TesseracT songs starts with the creation of the music followed by the lyrical content; this time Acle and Aidan have stripped away the music and re-created the songs based around the vocals. As a result this has allowed much more breathing space between both and also highlighted much more detail in the performance.”
Listen to Survival here:
The ‘Polaris’ Tour Edition will be released as a 2 CD set, as well as digitally, with ‘Errai’ being released as a stand-alone 180g heavyweight clear vinyl with enclosed download code.
The last time U.S fans saw the band was on the highly successful run late last year. Tickets are on sale now. Fans can visit the band’s official website for more info.
TesseracT released ‘Polaris’ in September of last year – the new LP was the follow up to the highly regarded ‘Altered State’ LP that was released in 2013. ‘Polaris’ is the band’s third studio album and first for Kscope.
(mock up of possible cover for new album using one of David A. Hardy’s previous works)
On 11th July, California Progressive Rock band Lobate Scarp released the new single Beautiful Light from their upcoming album entitled ‘You Have It All’. Recorded and mixed at The Mouse House under the production expertise of Rich Mouser, the song features an array of guest musicians plying flute, English horn, oboe and violin. The release has been followed up with a lyric video created by UK -based production company Crystal Spotlight.
Mouser, whose mixing repertoire includes Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Neal Morse, as well as Lobate Scarp’s debut album ‘Time and Space’, will join as producer of the new album. Steven Leavitt, producer of ‘Time and Space’, will also return to co-produce and David A. Hardy, the world’s oldest living space artist, will again create the artwork.
In congruence with the single release, Lobate Scarp launched a major crowd funding for their follow up to ‘Time and Space’.
(click on the ‘K’ in the top left corner of the video to go to the Kickstarter page)
Lobate Scarp is a progressive space-opera rock band based in Los Angeles. Their influences range from classic prog-rock of the 70’s such as Genesis and Yes, to 80’s pop such as Simple Minds and Tears For Fears, as well as strong ties to musical theater. Their debut ‘Time and Space’ was made possible in 2012 by a successful Kickstarter campaign and has since received accolades from all over the world, played on radio shows, podcasts, as well as had reviews published in numerous music publications.
“The group Lobate Scarp presents prog rock that hits you right between the eyes. This band’s rich melodies flow naturally like a stream, while the songs are broken down into movements much like a symphony” – Music Connection.
“When you’re looking for a band name, I know it sounds weird, but everything you look at, everything you observe and read, you kind of think, ‘Man, maybe that could be our band name.'” – Dave Haywood.
I’ve spoken in the past of how, on one side, a band’s name can alienate them from an audience or, on the other, how it can grab people’s attention and generate interest in the artist.
I first heard of Elephants of Scotland through bandcamp and the incongruity of the name got me wanting to find out more about it and the band behind the name.
Apologies if you’ve heard this story before but, while researching the band for my review of their debut album from 2013 ‘Home Away From Home’, I got talking to the band’s bassist and unofficial spokesperson Dan MacDonald and he revealed how the band came to be called Elephants of Scotland…….
The name Elephants of Scotland comes from a photography exhibit by noted photographer George Logan where wild animals were superimposed onto images of Scotland and the countryside, one of the more notable ones being an elephant in a highland village (above). In keyboard player Adam Rabin’s own words,
“There are no Elephants in Scotland. That’s part of what I like about the name. It’s just a Band name.”
The band is completed by Ornan McLean (drums and percussion) and John Whyte (guitar) who shares vocal duties along with Dan and Adam. They have released two albums to date, 2013’s ‘Home Away From Home’ and ‘Execute and Breathe’, from 2014.
With the release of their latest musical tapestry ‘The Perfect Map’, Elephants of Scotland themselves up to a broader variety of styles and songs. They continue to keep the “rock” in progressive rock with their high energy performances while employing elements of folk, balladry, and Eastern music.
‘The Perfect Map’ was not conceived as a single unified piece nor does it tell a single story like many concept albums in the progressive rock genre. Each song was written independently. It wasn’t until all of the songs were written that a clear theme emerged which then helped the band create the order of the tracks. The album could be seen as an examination of our journey through the various stages of life from childhood to death.
Adam goes on to explain,
“The whole idea of the album concept started with the contradiction: How could we have “Counting on a Ghost” on the same album as “The Perfect Map”? The former being anti-religion and the latter having the refrain of “Man plans and God laughs.” How could we challenge the existence of God in one song and acknowledge it in another?
I had written “The Perfect Map” about the foolishness of making plans. But the lyric is just as much about Man’s plan to find Truth or to find a simple answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything. It’s a moving target – it’s unknowable. If you think you’re on the right path then you’re definitely on the wrong one.
Then I realized that each song deals with a foolish pursuit for “what we want the most.” “Orphans” is about longing for healing; “Counting on a Ghost” about Truth; “One By Sea” about controlling love; “Swing the Gavel” about justice; and “The Perfect Map” about control of our destinies.
None of these topics is knowable or controllable. So, I wouldn’t get caught up in the topic of God or religion (which are two VERY different things, remember). Rather, focus on humanity’s relationships with all of these concepts – our need to explain the unexplainable – and how fleeting knowledge really is.
The resolution is in “Random Earth” which accepts that everything really is out of our control and we should spend more time appreciating the beauty of each moment.”
Opening track Sun-Dipped Orphans and the Wizard’s Teapotis the first of three lyrical contributions on this album from Greg Skillman. One possible reading of this lyric is from a Jungian perspective where we spend our childhood forming our ego through the mother archetype, apparently…. The song opens with a great piece of drumming over which some intricate keyboards and guitars lay the melody. For anyone who knows Elephants of Scotland, the sound is instantly recognisable. The feel good instrumental opening really allows the music to shine and puts a smile on your face before the vocals begin. Nicely harmonised and layered, there is a feel of alternative, even jazz-infused rock to the voices, like Ben Folds had joined a progressive rock band. The musicianship is of a high pedigree and you find yourself on a crest of a progressive influenced wave, surfing to the beat and I love the abrupt ending.
The immediate feel of Counting On A Ghost is a large slice of Rush influence. Keyboards, drums and guitar all have that late 80’s power trio feel. The vocals are dynamic and edgy. On this song Skillman and Rabin collaborated on the lyric challenging the trust we often place in empty in promises whether it’s religion, politicians, each other, or even ourselves. The harder we try to nail down what Truth really is, the further we get from it. Serious, compelling and determined, it drives on at a fair lick, holding your attention with every note. Let the music wash over you and there are some delicate intricacies that run throughout as well and Rabin really does earn his corn on this track, his keyboards are immense. The caustic guitar solo sees Whyte channeling his inner Alex Lifeson and you find yourself nodding appreciatively at the complexities of the musical mosaic being played out in front of you.
On One By Sea the band brought in guest vocalist Megan Beaucage (a former bandmate of Rabin, Whyte, and McLean in their old cover band side project). Emmy award-winning composer and violinist Gary Kuo (a childhood friend of MacDonald) also takes the track to a new level. A gentle piano opens the song before Megan’s delicate, fragile voice brings an etehreal and otherworldly feel to this part of the song. There is a sheer beauty to her singing that almost moves you to tears and you are transfixed by the sincerity at its core. Gary Kuo’s violin adds some real heart and soul and, also, vibrancy as the song then opens up into a foot-tapping country jazz romp. A quite uplifting track with some wonderful nuances deep at the heart of the matter.
The first track that Dan shared with me was the heavily medieval folk influenced Swing the Gavel, written for Musea Records’ “The Decameron” compilation, it is based on a 14th Century story by Boccaccio. Rabin breaks out some recorder flutes in the verses and a thinly-veiled double entendre in the choruses. It feels light hearted throughout, that delightful sound of the recorder is impish in its delivery and the mandolin adds the required authenticity. You could almost imagine the band capering around in medieval garb, like a host of Royal Fools entertaining their Lord and his guests. The chorus is really addictive and catchy and the whole track just breezes past in a maelstrom of fun and frivolity. An up-to-date instrumental section, still full of all the fun of the fayre, keeps the jovial and buoyant atmosphere going and you get the impression that this would be a bundle of fun to play live, a really jovial and lighthearted track.
The Perfect Map is about the foolishness of making plans or expecting the future to play out exactly how we want. The past two years since their last album has been challenging for each member on a personal level. Lots of changes and losses. This is a lesson learned the hard way. Percussionist Joe Netzel contributes a tasty doumbek track to add to the exotic feel on the song. There is an eastern, mystical feel to the opening of the song, exotic sounds evoke exotic smells whirling around your mind with a subtle psychedelic undertone. The vocals start edgy and low down, almost hesitant and the guitar note is full of eastern promise. Mysterious and enigmatic, it slowly worms its way into your psyche with its slow burning spiritual ambiance.
“Man plans and God laughs.”
There’s an overtone of ambiguity and uncertainty at the heart of things here, searching for a resolution to the eternal question. It’s a very thoughtful and thought provoking track, intelligent and inquisitive and one that plants a seed in your consciousness, left there to flower at a later date. The keyboard takes centre stage with its beguiling and hypnotic tone and you are left entranced by the intricate melody and precise percussion delivered by Adam and Ornan. A perceptive and creative song that maybe leaves more questions than it answers.
The last lyric on the album,Random Earth is about accepting that we will never have any lasting control over our world or even ourselves.
“I’ll never know what I am. The idea is ever-shifting.”
Quite a philosophical song, it opens with a pulsating and questioning 80’s sounding keyboard and guitar riff. The vocal begins, questing and searching and the drums add weight to those questions. This is pure Elephants of Scotland, a sound I have come to appreciate more and more for its involving and interwoven melodies and influential rhythm section. It takes that forceful power trio feel of Rush and adds barely perceptible hues of its own to create something engaging and refreshing. There are moments of calm and clarity and also flashes of complexity and esoteric profundity, something for all progressive fans. You can lose yourself in the music and hear different subtleties every time you listen to it, the guitar and keyboards on this track are at their most bullish and impressive, it’s Prog Jim but not necessarily as we know it……
The album closes with Für Buddy, a requiem for Adam Rabin’s dog and the band’s long-time mascot who died during the writing stage of this album. Buddy had attended just about every practice since the band’s inception. A moving instrumental that leaves a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat, the beautiful music is a fitting tribute to the loss of someone close to their heart and gives the the album a poignant ending.
This impressive Vermont four-piece just keep getting better and better and are forging a truly unique identity in the world of progressive rock. ‘The Perfect Map’ is another tour-de-force from these rather fine musicians who take incisive, intelligent lyrics and combine them with some of the best music around. Find it in the Progressive Rock section under ‘E’ and just buy it, trust me, it is well worth your money!