American prog band Heresy have been inactive since the late 1980’s, and now they return with their 3rd album ‘Prufrock’, an adaptation of the T S Eliot poem, now, I’ll be honest here I am unfamiliar with both Heresy and Eliot’s’ work, whilst I know he also wrote The Wasteland, and he’s influenced a variety of different artists when it came to poetry I was always a Seamus Heaney or Simon Armitage reader, and yet, like the work of the Alan Parsons Project you don’t have to be familiar with the source material to enjoy this album.
Yes, there’s bound to be a comparison with both APP and indeed the very English prog sound of Looking Glass Lantern, who have made two highly accessible and intelligent adaptations of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books. This is no bad thing, because when musical adaptations on literary themes work well, they work incredibly well, and Heresy hit the spot here, the music and lyrics combine to create an eminently listenable piece of music that flows beautifully.
The album is split into two main suites, The love song of J Alfred Prufrock pts 1 & 2, which are neatly choreographed song suites that segue beautifully, with the hook line, ‘In the room, the women come and go, talking ‘bout Michelangelo’, refrained throughout the whole album, and is a line that will stick with you all day, and with the core band expanded by such musical sounds as flute, trumpet, sax and violin the musical palette they create is expansive and never loses it focus or impact.
The vocals from Tony Garone are superb throughout, with one of those wonderfully warm voices that is at turns sympathetic and empathetic to the material that the band are creating, a heady mix of rock, symphonica, baroque and whatever else fits the bill, having been 30 years in the conception you can tell the band have crafted the album round the source work, rather than shoehorn the poem into some music, and it’s this attention to detail and care taken to present the poem as a whole that really makes this album stand out from the crowd, and the linking piece of Night Vigilthat splits the main suites in two is a far heavier piece, with some ominous guitar and keyboard sounds (and a very Floydian feel) apparently it is a part of the poem that was lost, and only included in later editions published after Eliot’s death (kind of like the deluxe edition of the poem if you will) and has a touch of the Van Der Graaf Generators about it, with the sax sound and vocals.
There is beautiful piano and guitar work throughout this album, and anyone who says the idea of a concept album is dead should be locked in a room and made to listen to this, this sounds amazing, is superbly consistent throughout and whilst Heresy are American they have made one of the most English sounding albums for a while.
As a bonus on the album there’s a track from a Tony Garone solo album, and 6 tracks from their debut previously unavailable on CD before, wisely these have been added on to the end, as the style, unsurprisingly is different from ‘Prufrock’, and they are worth listening to, so you can see how Heresy have developed as writers and performers.
This is well made, intelligent and complete album that will happily sit on the shelf of anyone who enjoys literary progressive rock, and is happy to immerse themselves in the album for an hour or so, as this is one of those beautiful records where you need to switch off social media, ignore the cats, pop on the headphones and lose yourself in the music, and after all at the end of the day, what more could anyone want from a record?
The Tangent, the progressive rock group led by Andy Tillison, have announced the release of the first new music since 2015. Their new ninth studio album ‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’ is set for release on 21st July 2017. The line-up for this album once again features Tillison on keyboards, vocals (and for the first time on a Tangent record – drums), Jonas Reingold on bass, Luke Machin on guitars and vocals, and Theo Travis on sax and flutes plus new member Marie-Eve de Gaultier on keys and vocals. There are also guest appearances from author/playwright and Chumbawamba founder Boff Whalley on vocals, and upcoming DJ/producer Matt Farrow.
Band leader Andy Tillison had this to say: “Roger Waters did prove the ability of Progressive Music to act as a vehicle to communicate ideas about the current world scene. In both Pink Floyd’s “The Final Cut” and his “Amused To Death” albums, Waters set a challenge to others in the genre. A challenge which has not been frequently accepted.”
The album sees The Tangent in political commentary mode once again – this time often focussing on the horrendous plight of refugees from war torn parts of the world – and the way in which they are treated by the West, and in particular by the tabloid press. The album laments the new trend in building walls and defending borders across the world yet takes time to look at the breakup of friendships and other more personal issues – along with a song about the fate of wildlife in the modern consumer world.
And it’s a Progressive Rock Record. Full of intricacies, long developed pieces, challenging arrangements and virtuoso playing from all members. New sounds and styles (the band have brought a DJ on board for some sections) – new voices and techniques (first female vocals in The Tangent since the “Not As Good As The Book” album 10 years ago). A new producer in the form of Luke Machin whose open and deep/clear sound is a major factor of this album, a new drummer in the form of Andy Tillison who decided at long last (after drumming for 30 years) to let his own performances guide the rest of the band rather than adding another musician later. And after 13 years of asking, Jonas finally agreed to play some double bass in a song where Luke also plays some Scat guitar and Andy does a full on drum solo.
“The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery” also features stellar artwork from Marvel / DC Comics artist Mark Buckingham. The sleeve of the album is totally based on the music it contains and was especially created for this project.
The album will be available on limited digipak CD, gatefold 2LP + CD, and digital download, and you can find the full track-listing below:
Two Rope Swings
Doctor Livingstone (I Presume)
The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine
A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road
The band will head out on tour in support of the new record, once again joining forces with Sweden’s Karmakanic to present albums by both bands. The full list of dates is as follows:
Aug 26th 2017 – Bierkeller, Reichenbach, DE
Sept 1st 2017 – 2 days of Prog +1 Festival, Veruno, Italy
Sept 9th 2017 – The Boerderij, Zoetermeer
Oct 8th 2017 – SUMMERS END Festival, Chepstow, UK
Oct 21st 2017 – Progtoberfest, Chicago, USA
Oct 22nd 2017 – Shank Hall, Milwaukee WI, USA
Oct 24th 2017 – Token Lounge, Westland MI, USA
Oct 26th 2017 – Roxy & Dukes, Dunellen NJ, USA
Oct 27th 2017 – The Regent Theatre, Arlington MA, USA
“I like a lot of the new synthwave music, the way they use the sounds from the 80s but with a modern production techniques such as sidechaining etc, also I like that you can use that retro setting to not be so afraid of using musical cliche’s, as with Arcade Messiah, I spend most of the time composing avoiding cliches, if you know what I mean?”
One man musical marvel John Bassett talking to me about his new Synthwave/Synthpop side project SΔCRED ΔPE (I have no idea why we have the Delta sign instead on an ‘A’ either so don’t ask…).
John Bassett is a colossus of the music world, maybe best known as the front man of powerful psychedelic rockers KingBathmat, this talented musician, producer and engineer is also the man behind the instrumental behemoth that is Arcade Messiah. He has also found time to release some rather more chilled and laid back solo acoustic music as well.
Not content with this, John decided to explore his love of 80’s synth music and the more modern ‘Darkwave’ and ‘Synthwave’ genres. Why? well it appears it was just because he could!
When I told John it made me feel as if I was going back to the 80’s he replied:
“…cool, that’s the idea, its a weird one for me as its probably the most personal album I’ve made and covers quite a few problems of late, yet a lot of it has a happy feel to it…”
The album opens with the driving synth of Horn, a dynamic and powerful instrumental that brings to mind Kraftwerk with touches of Jean-Michel Jarre. A swirling synthesiser corrals the troops before we head off on a hell for leather ride. It’s grin inducing and has an utterly addictive and carefree feel to it. Like a melting pop of all the electronic influences from the 70’s, through the 80’s and 90’s and landing in the noughties, my 49-year old ears are picking up all sorts of nuggets of brilliance. Mr Bassett has, once again, brought his magic to another musical style.
Asleep At The Wheel (Part 1) is a much more dark and brooding affair with John’s monotone vocal delivery giving a very dystopian sci-fi feel to the track. The music has a real methodical and relentless tempo, giving an alien tone and the ominous and darkly atmospheric aura created by the Delphian keyboards envelops everything. A mystical and deeply enigmatic three minutes of music indeed.
A pure nod to the 1980’s with it’s synthesier and drum machine brilliance, Birds Fall From The Sky is upbeat and dynamic and John lends his vocals to the mix once again. The catchy synth lines and addictive tempo have me hooked. It’s nostalgic and up-to-date at the same time and leaves me reminiscing abut days down the disco when I was in my 20’s and had hair (no laughing), this man is a musical genius. I found myself transfixed just letting the sepia tinged musical memories come flooding back but feeling that they are also of this time and place as well and that’s a very clever trick.
An eerily laid back synth note opens I Want To Go Back To The Happy House and this unassuming yet delectable piece of music saunters into view, like a lazy, hazy summers day brought to life by music. The keyboard tones are all late 70’s in feel and mood, like early Ultravox or Simple Minds before they discovered fame. It’s a chilled, easy going and lighthearted piece of music where every note passes in an undemanding and mellow vibe.
Season Of The Damned takes some of the John Bassett solo music and blends it artfully with this more synth-heavy style. John’s vocal is heartfelt and earnest and there’s a guitar note dripping with sincerity, matched by the haunting keyboards. As opposed to the other songs on this release, this is instantly recognisable as being from John, it couldn’t be anyone else. This track still feels as if it belongs on the album though, there is no disparity in the musical feel and tone as there is also no 70’s or 80’s influence.
Walking On Ice is like Depeche Mode and Gary Numan did a collaboration and I love it. The forceful synthesiser tone and drums give it a compelling and forceful edge while the rest of music paints soundscapes in your mind. The chorus brings to mind Flock Of Seagulls to this refugee of the 80’s but with modern production techniques everything has a gloss and patina of class and panache. Another track that just puts a huge grin on my face, it’s almost as if John wrote this song for my younger self, the memories come flooding back and I’m just lost in the reverie.
Wonderfully nostalgic in feel and delicate in tone, Asleep At The Wheel (Part 2) makes your emotions well up with its beautiful simplicity and ethereal quality. John’s vocal is ghostly and sublime and the music has an otherworldly ambience to it, especially the haunting nature of the piano but then everything comes to a halt and the song segues into something much more enigmatic, dark and primal in its ambience. The music becomes a dominant force, John’s vocals assertive and commanding and you feel compelled to follow wherever it may lead, a great end to the song and the album.
John Bassett never stands still when it comes to the music he creates and he is never afraid to explore new avenues or take influences from the past or current musical scenes and he’s never let me down yet. With SΔCRED ΔPE John has done it again and created music that just hits the spot on every level. As nostalgia it works perfectly, taking you back through the decades on a wonderful sonic mystery tour and yet it is also bang up to date with the current synth inspired generation. I, for one, just wonder where this musical magicians mind is going to take us next and I can’t wait to find out!
The following was scribbled on my phone as I watched from the vantage of the Merch Desk’s Forward command post (thanks to Brigadier Nellie Pitts).
It’s a good crowd of people with hair that time forgot… I’m jealous. My locks decided to leave me years ago, sacrificed to the trinity of job, mortgage and respectability. A plethora of tour t shirts… Yes, sundry variations on a theme of keep calm and prog /play on.
I can report that Nellie doing a brisk trade in robot paraphernalia
everyone seems to know each other and the atmosphere is good, a smell of anticipation in the air. I’m amazed that my hometown has all these like minded people.
Where do they hide? Why don’t I know anyone? Is the Lonely Robot me?
Perhaps Mr Mitchell and his crew will enlighten me. It will be an experience, seeing him on stage rather than nodding in passing as we orbit around Reading.
Sub 89 is filling up nicely and the band are on stage…
And they’re off, a quartet of songs from the debut album setting their stall out with panache and style. John Mitchell’s on stage banter is honed to a fine precision.
“Craig Blundell on drums – he’s not shit!”, being the first bon mot to raise a groaning cheer…
And the robot appeals to all, as can be seen from the Reading wildlife grooving to the first new song, a slow burn with gorgeous guitar and a hypnotic vocal.
More banter, “Ian Holmes, on bongos…”, then it’s their theme song, Lonely Robot, with its chiming guitars and thunderous drums… Some fine piano over that hypnotic drone, a robot’s soul exposed as a dark broody labyrinth of noise .
John is on fine form, singing with vigour and passion, then peeling off intricate guitar parts casually,the way only a true expert can. Equal parts Peter Gabriel and Chris Martin, he has a distinctive voice, suited to Prog or Pop.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Robot, they mix rock, prog and pop into a swirling mix that, like a black hole, draws you ever deeper in. There are flashes of Porcupine Tree guitar, those thunderous drums, a solid bass rumbling throughout and keyboards that fill out the few spaces left.
John now introduces his special guest, Kim Seviour to perform a track. Much more pop and upbeat, their voices fit and the music steams on. The hook line, “don’t forget me”, is an instant earworm and the song gets heavier until the middle 8 breaks down to a heartbeat drum pattern with some fine synth layers draped over it.
There is a commonality in Mr M’s work, from The Urbane through Arena and It Bites to The Robot clan, a melodic core, songs that burrow and charm in equal measure, vocal harmony as important as the instrument. “Are we copies” demonstrated that, with the impassioned vocals equal to the guitars.
We are then treated to a lighters in the air moment, as the next track floats over us, building the castle of sound, the voice and guitar increasingly emotive and the crowd rapt in attention, following the melody and swaying with the chorus. It was a beautiful moment. And finally, a vocal tour de force, Mr Mitchell and keyboards drifting weightlessly across our event horizon before Mr “Not Shit” thunders and bashes a drum piece, more demolition job than drum solo. He hits as hard as John Bonham and the electronic percussion effects add to the Bonham groove.
We are then warned that we are getting a velociraptor riff, a T- Rex, according to it’s creator , and the next track does just that, guitars roaring and snarling to a climactic finish.
Now for a short personal interlude, fellow passenger, Jane Armstrong has retreated from the front to recuperate and berates me for looking nothing like my Facebook avatar! It’s loud but very clear here at the merch desk, the band are in full flight now, and what a band they are, jamming away, first the keyboards taking the lead then John and his cybernetic guitar scything through the mix.
We then are treated to another of the new tracks, Sigma, which is all Nirvana approved quiet/ loud /quiet and another earworm chorus, great keyboards and stun guitar, in fact a fitting end to a great set.
So, there it was. The 4th Law of Robotics – “Thou shall Enjoy the sounds emanating from the Robot Clan , even if you know no-one, are run down and in need of a battery charge”.
After that set, my life meter was reading full again and I slipped off into the night, clutching a copy of the new CD that Nellie insisted I purchase as, “It’s alright and they’re OK people …”
Far be it from me to question the wisdom of a Prog Queen, but sat here listening to the CD, you know what? She had erred on the side of caution. It’s a great CD, well worth investing in.
Right! Listen up class! Roll call before we start, David Elliott, Martin Hutchinson, David Rickinson, Emma Roebuck, Tony Honour, Leo Trimming, James R Turner and Rob Fisher, all present and correct.
As announced in assembly this morning we have a very special guest in our music lesson today. Martin Hutchinson, down the front please, I am not having you and Leo Trimming messing about at the back of the class.
No David Elliott, it isn’t Denzil Dexter from the Fast Show.
As I was saying, we have a guest who is going to play the music from his soon to be released new album On Her Journey To The Sun, under the band collective name of Gungfly, so please give a big round of applause for Mr Rikard Sjoblom and his fellow musicians:
Petter Diamant (drums), Rasmus Diamant (bass), Sverker Magnusson (keys), Martin Borgh (keys) and David Zackrisson (guitar).
Those of you familiar with Mr Sjoblom’s previous work with Beardfish, recent forays with Big Big Train and solo output may have some idea what to expect from this accomplished multi-instrumentalist. If not, those admiring the opulent Santana/Mahavishnu type cover of this album may also hope to glean some clues as to what lies between the grooves of the latest from this excellent musician.
So pay attention, we will discuss each track on completion and there will be homework………
Well girls and boys that was the first track, Of The Orb, what do we think?
Yes Leo, I can see you waving frantically and please take off that top hat, we are not holding auditions for Alice in Wonderland. So you think it is reminiscent of some of your Dad’s old 70’s material, with the keyboard sounds, mixed with more contemporary progressive instrumentation. And you like the synthesiser and guitar harmonies David Elliott along with Mr Sjoblom singing the catchy line throughout of “Stay with me, care for me, I will be yours”. It is quite an epic track in length, Martin Hutchinson, and please try not to shuffle so much on your seat. Oh, you’re chair dancing because you think it’s catchy, well don’t get carried away.
Back to the music, this is the second track On Her Journey To The Sun….
You liked that did you Emma Roebuck,thought it was jazzier, had a bit of swing to it but is maybe more of a pop tune. Yes, Petter and Rasmus Diamant are brothers and yes their drums and bass do work well together to create an effective rhythm section. It’s Mr Sjoblom to you young Rob Fisher, not Rik, but yes he does have a high voice sometimes, anyone know what this type of vocal is called. It’s not ‘girly’ Hutchinson, it’s Falsetto.
Track 3 is entitled He Held An Axe….
Would you you like to take a moment out from digging a tunnel to your brain via your left nostril David Rickinson and give us the benefit of your opinion. You thought the acoustic beginning to this one was good and the way the same chords segued into the electric guitars which loop throughout parts of this track and then back to the acoustic sound. Yes Mr Sjoblom’s voice does change, he has quite an impassioned vocal range and the lyrics do seem to be about quite a gruesome story, I thought that would get your interest.
Number 4 is, I believe, My Hero….
It was an exciting, heavier track Tony Honour, I quite agree, but could you please remove your gum, there is no chewing in class. Don’t stick it under the desk put it in the bin thank you. You think the guitar work sounds quite complicated on this one and it is more up tempo. Well the guitars played by Mr Zackrisson and Mr Sjoblom do have some very fine interplay and yes, you could call this one a ‘rocker’ with some powerful drumming. Please note David Elliott you will get a headache if you keep trying to head-bang like that.
On to Track 5 class, If You Fall, Pt 1….
Emma Roebuck, you think this has a beautiful piano introduction and a gentler organ melody. Anyone else? Yes it does sound quite sad in a way Leo, maybe a bit wistful and it is quite a contrast to the previous track. It is shorter than the other songs which also enhances the change in pace, with a fading ending, which as you will hear, adds emphasis to the intro of Track 6, Polymixia….
A ‘funky’ start you say James R Turner. Why are there no vocals you ask? It’s what is known as an ‘instrumental’, with no singing. It is the longest track so far James and yes it has multiple layers on top of each other which reveal themselves subtly and I’m sure you would be able to distinguish many melodies and time changes with further listening. You feel there is a sprinkling of whimsy do you Rob Fisher and it is bubblier, with more of an upbeat. I’m glad you think so and have decided to join in the discussion as I thought for a moment that you had nodded off. Please take note how the length of this track allows these wonderful musicians to stretch and show their instrumental talents to the best of their abilities.
Hand up again Martin, oh you need the toilet. Okay be quick about it and no, it isn’t an excuse for everyone else to go, you can wait until the end of the lesson. Whilst Martin is out of the class, the band will have time to retune and I would like the class to ponder on the rather delicious keyboard contributions on this album from Messrs Sverker Magnusson and Martin Borgh which are most excellent indeed.
Now Mr Hutchinson has returned to the fold we can continue with Track 7, Over My Eyes….
You seem quiet Miss Roebuck, why don’t you take a moment from drawing love hearts on your exercise book and tell us what you thought of this song. Who is the lady playing the exquisite violin on this one you ask? It is none other than the lovely Rachel Hall who plays in a band I consider to be one of the front runners in Progressive music today, Big Big Train. If you remember I told you at the start of the lesson that Rikard, apologies Mr Sjoblom, plays in the very same band. Yes it has a rippling piano lead in, Emma, and the violin does float above it like birds over the farm fields under a darkening sky, very imaginative. You can stop the sniggering David Elliot the birds would not be plopping on your head, I swear shaking yours has done some damage.
We now have Track 8 which is called Old Demons Die Hard….
What are you whispering to David Elliott, Rickinson? You think the title is about me, don’t be so facetious, see me afterwards. Tony Honour the view out of the window is not that interesting, why not give us your thoughts on this song. It has a blues and jazz feel to this one in places with some intricate guitar work that at times reminds you of your Mum’s Steely Dan LPs. She still has LPs, I’m impressed. It has got some very good bass work too, yes I would concur.
Now class, we have another of those instrumental tracks, Keith (Son Of Sun)….
Mr Hutchinson your thoughts on this one? You thought it was quite ‘lush’, smooth and laid-back did you. A bit like Mr Trimming with his feet up on the desk at the back there, take them off please Leo. That means you won’t be able to walk does it, very funny. You can wait behind with Rickinson at the end of the lesson as well. It sounds like a church organ at the start you say Turner, I suppose it does and yes there are intricate rhythms which show great restraint to create a ‘chilled’ tune. Well I can’t argue there Turner and I would say the jazz influences give it that sort of vibe.
Does anyone know what ‘penultimate’ means? Your hand will drop off as well as your feet Leo, if you keep waving it that frantically, but please enlighten us. You are quite correct it means second last, which Elliott unfortunately was in last week’s cross country.
And so we come to the penultimate and longest tune on the album, The River Of Sadness….
Mr Fisher, you have your hand raised. You feel it takes you on an emotional journey with all the differing changes of tempo and you like the various soloing with whirling keyboards and guitars which go from laid back to more aggressive. Yes Emma, it does showcase everything the band are capable of whilst being a track that sums up the album nicely and despite it’s length it seems to be over quickly and you would like to hear it a few more times to hear all the subtle nuances. Well you all have a digital file of the album to listen to tonight as part of your homework so you can do so when you get home.
So who noticed it was actually two tracks and that The River Of Sadness leads straight into the final haunting tune with spoken vocals which reflect that maybe it’s All A Dream. Yes Martin, I agree that it is the ominous synthesiser rumble combined with the echoing piano keys that create the atmosphere on this and in being brief leaves you wanting more.
Well that’s it and there’s the bell for home-time, if we could give Mr Sjoblom and his associates a huge round of applause before we leave for taking the time to gift us the thought provoking music on this wonderful album. Please listen to it again tonight and I expect at least a two page essay on my desk tomorrow with your full review and no rude diagrams in the margins this time Trimming.
Make sure you consider the impressive mixing and production values and don’t fail to mention Mr Sjoblom’s accomplished 12 string fretwork along with his other talents.
By all means let your parents have a listen and please inform them the album is released on 19 May, should they wish to purchase on 2 CD Special Edition and will be available on all digital platforms. You might also mention to your Mum, Tony Honour, that it will also be available on 180g double vinyl which may pique her interest.
Class dismissed! Not you Trimming, Rickinson. You two can stay behind and help Mr Sjoblom and his band take the equipment out to the van. Not fair you say Mr Turner and Miss Roebuck, anyone else think so? Very well you can all give a hand, but don’t be late home and be careful with the equipment.