Review – Andy Tillison Diskdrive – (machte es) Durch – by Emma Roebuck


This solo album is, as Andy told me, a diary of his healing process following his serious illness last year. The literal translation of (machte es) Durch is “Made it Through” and this album is music that he considers to be “the extra material in the CD that is life”.

The album consists of 5 tracks, each different from the other, all of which thematically cover his musical influences and loves. From the electronic territory of Tangerine Dream journeying through Funk/jazz/trance through a tribute to Camel and an exploration of Borodin’s Classical influences. This all sounds highly pretentious and self indulgent doesn’t it? The reality is that it isn’t even vaguely pretentious, mainly because Andy is one of the most grounded people I know who has a passion for life and living it artistically through his music.

After his heart attack just over a year ago, enforced inactivity, especially after a particularly hectic and productive previous two years, cannot have sat well with him. The product of this sits on a CD for all to see and be laid bare.

The Pursuit of Oil opens the album and it comes straight from the Tangerine Dream ‘Ed Froese’ play book. Coming in at just under 22 minutes, this song shows an insight into what TD stood for in the early 70s. It starts and builds through the piece with a tension and atmosphere which makes you want to burst, until you get to the last 5 minutes when it explodes into a guitar (sound) and keyboard celebration of the ecstasy of being alive. Theo Travis adds a beautiful Flute refrain on this track that is the icing on a very impressive cake.

The album then flows directly into the title track Machte Es Durch continuing the thematic survival, almost “Phew”, feeling. It has a Jazz rock/prog  style with a foundation that only a “Hammond organ” can provide.  Intrinsically, it is a musical version of a journey with all the metaphors of  improvisations and returns to the common core.

The idea for the title of The Hood Of A Dodge comes from the Bruce Springsteen song  Jungleland but the music comes from the Trip hop Acid jazz of the 90s and, to be honest, feels like my experiences in the 90s at festivals and surviving that time somehow intact, Massive Attack and Portishead, eat your hearts out. It was recorded, apparently, in Ward 17 of Leeds General Infirmary last August, how I would have loved to have been on the ward that day!

Andy Tillison

Yuri Gagarin – From the Steppes of Central Asia is an interpretation of the classical composition by Alexander Borodin “In the Steppes of Central Asia”, the site of the Soviet Union space program and as far from the west as you can actually get geographically without being back in the west, so to speak. The power and passion in this track is worthy of the likes of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Pictures At an Exhibition’ and I think that, performed live especially, it would definitely be of that level.

Music Inspired by ‘Music inspired by the Snow Goose’ has been around for a while and Andy posted a version of this on youtube around Christmas 2013. It’s a fun homage to Camel and explores the classic Camel album “inspired” as they say in the book. Here is a full album in 9 minutes given the Tillison touch. His love and affection of the original ring true throughout the track and it is a mischievous fun trip full of nostalgia.

This is a healing album that I have taken to heart and passes the listening in the dark test as well as driving up the A1 from Scotch Corner to Newcastle and back several times over. As coping strategies go, this is a very good for the creator and the listener.

Released April 2016

Buy ‘Durch’ direct from The Tangent store






Review – Children In Paradise – Morrigan – by Gary Morley


Another day, another new treat via cyber mail from the wallet emptier.

This time, I chose the album on the basis of the beautiful artwork.

See what I mean?

So, as per standard operating procedure, I magically converted the ones and zeros Mr WE sent me and stuck them to  shiny metallic disc, inserted said disc into a receptacle in a black box with a single glowing eye, pressed the arrow and…

It unfolded into a musical tapestry that beguiled and enchanted in equal measures.

What Children In Paradise sound like – All about Eve meet Panic Room. Bjork and Lisa Gerrard guesting with Opeth. Iona, Dead can Dance with guitars… Nightwish, Panic Room, that whole Symphonic Rock , female fronted Prog metal thing that’s a staple of the European Rock diet, but with a Celtic twist.

This is a recent area of Prog / Rock/ Metal that I’ve been dipping the metaphorical toe in.

There are the angelic voices and big guitar parts as seems to be the recipe for all of the above. But whereas Nightwish go operatic and Wagnerian on you, The Children take the folk / Celtic route. That’s where the charm of this album captured me. It’s haunting, mellow yet has bursts of Death metal growls and big guitar riffs. But it also has delicate keyboards, melody and a wide soundscape to get lost in

If I labelled albums by feel and vibe, then this would fit in with Arjen Luccasson’s “Ambeon” Devin Townsend’s “Ghost” album, Luna Rossa’s “Secret & Lies”, White Willow’s “Ignis Fatuus”, or the Nordic Giants albums.

It mixes elements of Prog ( lots of understated guitar , very Pink Floyd in places) , elements of folk , straight forward head shaking boogie ( Part 2 Cu Chulainn Is Mine has a middle passage that cries out for air guitar and good ol’ Headbangin’ !) added to the mix are a smatter of  Metal guitar and crashing drums. Live, this would sound magnificent, the orchestral parts sweeping you away.


So, for the 5th listen I put on my nice shiny new headphones, and was transported into the land of the Children.

Alone opens with a big drum sound and a pulsing bass, choppy piano and possibly a harpsichord? The singer intones words pure of tone .As with most mp3 files, the sound is compressed to the disservice of the words, but the feel of the track is cinematic and the strings swirl, leading to a guitar layered piece with acoustic and electric parts jousting and combining to build the epic soundscape.

Lyrically, it sounds like a song of unrequited love, her waiting for him, offering to help him, telling him she waits for him, all she has to give is her love… She’s waiting for him to acknowledge and reciprocate…

I wait opens with voice and acoustic guitar, a plaintive song of longing, the protagonist’s lonely view echoed by the music with flutes or Celtic pipes making an appearance.

I’m Falling opens with the sound of either a tuba underwater or a very very angry wraith playing saxophone. Intriguing sample! Here we have a “cookie monster” growl, but it doesn’t intrude, on the contrary, it adds a sense of narrative to the piece, whether this voice is a force for good or evil in the story I’m not sure, but we seem to be at a tipping point with the middle section taking on a much heavier sound, big big riffs, thundering bass and a great flanged guitar solo.

The atmosphere invoked in the next track I Will Follow You is one of menace, the promise of following you more of a threat than a promise if you’ll forgive the pun.


Battle is looming at least it feels that way with the snare drum echoing as the guitar crash through the mix. Far from being a song of devotion, the declaration of “I will Follow “slipping through the music and into the next piece.

Here it’s all about waiting, a sunny feel with the pure voice and melody slowly being enveloped by darker chords, the menace builds as the track grows, This is the core of the album, a trilogy with the Metal side coming through with a huge guitar sound, lush strings and orchestration conveying the power and majesty of a full throttle rock band.

The voice is deep in the mix, centre stage but overwhelmed by the thundering battle all around it. The narrator still waits for them to come back to her through the battle and in part 3 it appears that even dying won’t stop the reunion, with her now pleading to come find you, never leave you, and that his is your nightmare – not sure if it’s being lost, being found or something worse, but the music drives on, a big big sound very nice it is too.


As you may have guessed, I like what is here.

I liked it so much that in the middle of writing this, I stopped, logged onto the Band’s website and ordered a bundle of both albums for 30 Euros…

Yea, the curse of Martin strikes again!

I also then discovered the nationality of the band, and thought C’est La Vie, a second Gallic Prog band, C’est Tres Bon!

I digress, tracks 9 & 10  , In My Mind  and He’s Dying are where the Celtic vibe comes to the front – For those of a certain age, think  Davy Spillane goes metal, or for those of you younger than the Century, the sound is very much in the feel of Troy Donockley (Iona & Nightwish)  . Uilleann Pipes mixed with guitars and a full throttle rock band. A Glorious noise indeed.

And then it stops, a cliff hanger ending. the song drives towards the cliff, the music fades and the haunting final phrase of I see the Light echoes and fades.

It’s not Prog in the pastoral Genesis lineage, this is darker, a twisted hybrid of Celtic roots, Hard Rock and Prog that takes  you on a journey through the landscape that’s more EM Escher or Tim Burton.

If “Game Of Thrones” was a concept album, these would be the people to make it.

Released 22nd February 2016

Buy ‘Morrigan’ from the band’s website


Review – Nosound – Scintilla – by Progradar

Nosound - Scintilla

“The power of music, whether joyous or cathartic must steal on one unawares, come spontaneously as a blessing or a grace–”
Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

I write reviews and run this website purely for the love of music. I don’t get paid for anything I write or publish and this bothers me not one iota. I am a music lover and I feel it is my mission to expose as many people out there as I can to some of the wonderful, awe inspiring, life affirming songs that are created mostly to be heard and to enrich people’s worlds.

Hopefully this will mean that they will then support the artists by buying the music or sharing it with even more people which will enable those musicians to carry on their creative endeavours. A musical Circle of Life if you like.

This could be upbeat music that just puts you in a really great mood or music written specifically for the love of life. When I’ve had a major upheaval in my life I like to listen to music that soothes my soul and calms me down, cathartic songs that can take the worries and strains of real life and just smooth them away to ease me into a place of calmness. I’m not bothered about genre, it is the music that speaks to me the loudest that I want to hear and, more often than not, it’s one band who my radar zeroes in on….


Italian alternative band Nosound started as a one man studio project in 2005 by Giancarlo Erra, but has since grown into a five piece band, evolving into something unique, focused and powerful. The music is evocative and intense, with personal songwriting. Influences range from Pink Floyd to Brian Eno, from Porcupine Tree to Sigur Ros, passing through rock and electronic/ambient.

As well as Giancarlo (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Nosound is Marco Berni (keyboards, vocals) Alessandro Luci (bass, upright bass, keyboards) Paolo Vigliarolo (acoustic & electric guitars) and Giulio Caneponi (drums, percussions, vocals).

I discovered the band upon the release of their 2013 album ‘Afterthoughts’ and I was immediately bowled over by their particular type of widescreen melancholia and wistful imagery which really struck a chord with me. This led to the discovery of their back catalogue including such gems as 2013’s reissue of the wondrous ‘Lightdark’, a remaster of the album originally released in 2008.

Their trademark symphonic lushness and winsome ennui really suited many of my moods and I almost felt reborn and pulling free of the trappings of a painful life after listening to the music.


So, you can imagine that news of a new album by this expressive band is going to make me a happy boy and you’d be 100% correct. Earlier this year an email arrived from the PR company stating:


After barely containing my excitement, I ploughed on to see what we had coming in store for us.

Featuring guest appearances from Anathema’s Vincent Cavanagh and acclaimed Italian singer Andrea Chimenti‘Scintilla’ is inspired by personal upheaval and a desire for change and is a wholly new musical and visual approach for Giancarlo Erra’s ever-evolving band. Cellist Marianne De Chastelaine returns tot he fold but, this time, in a more free-flowing and improvisational capacity.

He goes on to say:

“The intention with ‘Scintilla’ was to do something a bit more different than previously and illustrating more vigorously what Nosound is today.

During a decade of activity, my listening tastes have shifted gradually towards a more simpler, more direct music with an intimate character that still retains a certain richness and detail in sound.

Northern folk and alt singer-songwriter music are possibly the stronger influences, but generally speaking, everything that is simple, direct and minimal but with rich sound is what I like, and what I hope this album is.”

This latest work marks the beginning of the second phase of Nosound’s fascinating career.

Nosund garden party

Low key and almost under the radar Short Story makes a very unassuming entrance. Delicate piano, lush soundscapes and an almost ethereal vocal immediately set the tone and calm any rushing heartbeats. With an almost organic creativity to the music, it seems to have a life of its own as it wistfully drifts across your psyche with its gentle sonic palette. Last Lunch immediately takes on a more melancholic and dreamlike note, the music being the tapestry upon which the vocals paint their temperate scene. Initially a paragon of self-control and emotional depth, it really touches you deeply, the wondrous Cello is particularly emotive  and touching. 7 minutes of laid back, low key and yet deeply stirring music has an ultimately cathartic outcome and I find myself afloat upon a sea of my own dreams and aspirations. I saw Nosound play live at The Resonance Festival two years ago and can still remember how much of himself Giancarlo puts into the songs as he sings them. They are part of him and come from the depths of his very soul. As the song comes to a close you feel you have been through quite an emotional journey and are all the better for it.

There is a whimsical feel to the opening of Little Man, nostalgic and playful, as the chiming keyboards resonate. It soon opens up into a much more mature track as the soothing strings and heartfelt vocals stir up emotions deep in your psyche. The way the drums are delivered is relaxed and composed and the Cello, once again, provides moments of pure indulgence. A sinuous soundscape is created that leaves tendrils of thoughtful contemplation floating around in your mind, the meandering guitar playing is another highlight of this reflective song. In Celebration of Life sees the first contribution from Vincent Cavanagh and the introduction is as sonically intimate as they come, small pearls of musical delight surround you and leave you in a tranquil state, musing what is to come next. More verdant strings continue the meditative mood. The whole musical vista that is laid before you is celestially sublime and, when the vocals begin, all breathy and gossamer like, the spell is set and you are caught right in the middle of a thing of utmost beauty. The exquisitely heart-breaking solo is absolutely amazing and strikes you right in your heart, a song of pure delight and wonder.

Nosound in Studio 1

Sogno e Incendio was co-written, and is sung by, renowned Italian singer Andrea Chimenti, it is serenely intense and full of a deeply felt passion. The vocals are delivered in such a fashion as to leave you hanging on every word, whether you understand them or not. The musical accompaniment is classically superb and compliments Andrea’s voice perfectly, it is like a melancholy lament but is oh so beautiful, painfully so in places. The Italian language, especially when sung, is a thing of charm and grace and I am left with a feeling of utter bliss as the elegant guitar floats around your mind. The trancelike Emily is like wisps of cloudlike delights that fleetingly leave an impression on you before moving on, transient and ephemeral notes of music that leave you in a dreamlike reverie. It is surreal but in an exquisite fashion and tugs at your heartstrings all too briefly before departing to who knows where.

Cavanagh returns for The Perfect Wife, a mournful and somber track which wears its heart on its sleeve. There’s a deep lying and potent passion at the core of this powerfully compelling song, the ardent sentiment is clear in the fervor of the vocals. The somber and forlorn music is incredibly emotive and fills you with a sorrowful empathy, the Cello seems to become animate and alive with its own character and draws you even further into this dark and plaintive story. These musicians leave nothing behind and exhaust you with their intensity and ardor, as impassioned a track as you will hear this year. What appears to be an alluring love song at first with its tender piano and fragile vocals, Love is Forever soon reveals its unexpected sarcasm in the cynical lyrics yet you can never get away from the fact that this song has style and artistry at its heart, quite a conumdrum. I just let the winsome music wash over me and enjoy its cathartic powers.

Nosound logo small

Evil Smile is an elegantly charismatic track that takes you on a meandering journey through a wonderful acoustic soundscape, the organic feel is increasingly evident in the flow and texture of the vocals and the hypnotic music, especially the strings. The trance-like instrumental sections leave you mesmerised, only recovering when the introspective voice of Giancarlo wakes you from your musing state. The final title track Scintilla takes all that has come before and amalgamates it into something even more divine. A fantastical musical journey where you are the only passenger and there is a musical universe of a myriad opportunities in front of you. Hesitant and slightly unsure, it takes small steps before the halting vocals draw you in and the journey commences for real. A song (and, indeed an album) worth listening to with headphones on and silence around you to pick up every tiny nuance and subtlety. Enjoy a fine wine and just relax as this seraphic track cleanses your heart and soul and encourages the deepest parts of your very being with its almost heavenly grace and charm.

Nosound - band

Not so much a leap into the unknown as a slight re-imagining of who they were before, ‘Scintilla’ is more than just a piece of music or an album of new songs. It alters your state of mind and your very essence and you come out of the other side feeling a better and more complete person. That Giancarlo Erra and Nosound can achieve that is testament to their amazing songwriting skills and musical ability. I implore you to buy this album and, as soon as you can, see them perform it live, I promise you will not be disappointed!

Released 2nd September 2016

Buy ‘Scintilla’ (in various formats) from Burning Shed





Review – Circuline – Counterpoint – by Progradar


“What do you get when you take two theatrical lead vocalists, a keyboard player from Juilliard, a jazz-rock genius on guitar, a bass player from Monster Island and a drummer with progressive rock in his DNA? The modern cinematic ProgRock band Circuline.”

That’s a pretty impressive opening gambit from the press blurb for Circuline’s latest release ‘Counterpoint’ and the next line nearly made me crack-up!

Circuline’s newest release, ‘Counterpoint’ (May 2016), features an all star line-up of SEVEN guest guitarists…”

No, you didn’t misread that, it said SEVEN guest guitarists!! Well, to me that could just turn out to be overkill or the musical equivalent of herding cats but, you never know!

So, for the sake of completion, here are those guests…..

Randy McStine (The Fringe, Lo-Fi Resistance), Doug Ott (Enchant), Alek Darson (Fright Pig), Ryche Chlanda (Fire Ballet, Renaissance), Alan Shikoh (Glass Hammer), Matt Dorsey (Sound of Contact, Dave Kerzner) and Stanley Whitaker (Happy the Man, Oblivion Sun).

So, would these additional musicians add to the depth of talent the band already has or would they prove that too many cooks can actually spoil the broth? Read on and find out……

Band 2

The album opens with a a powerful statement in New Day, a track that builds on a rolling drum beat and off-kilter keyboards to almost drive you crazy. Coruscating guitars blaze across the landscape, it is like some crazy sci-fi soundtrack or diabolical mind weapon that seems to be forcing you into submission. Dynamic guitars dominate the soundscape, interspersing with the keyboards like some ELP-esque monster. It’s forceful and influential Prog with a vivid outlook and a highly impressive beginning to what is awaiting us.

Like a one-two knockout, Who I Am explodes into the ring on the back of staccato piano opening, insistent and demanding, before a huge crunching riff literally knocks you over. Man, I’m getting hooked on this already! A huge wave of sound engulfs you with its magnificence and you just hang on for the ride. A break in the squall sees that piano note return, gentler and questing, along with the benign waves of the cymbals, calming your heartbeat. The vocals begin and they are theatrical to the max, superb interplay between Billy Spillane and Natalie Brown giving the music an extra nuance. That monstrous riff is what drives this catchy song on though, brooking no resistance. I love the laid back, chilled sections that occasionally grace your aural sensors, they give you a sweet respite from the upsurging music that hits you square on the jaw but always leaves you smiling. To be honest, it’s one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year and I could almost recommend the album just on the strength of this one song.

Did you expect a pause for breath? Well you should have known better. Another drama laden introduction building to something profound leads in the mysteriously named Forbidden Planet, keyboards swirling all around , apprehensive and almost sinister, are setting the scene. The vocals begin, quite emotive and descriptive, adding more shine to the proceedings. I’m almost reminded of the latest Dream Theater album, but in a good way. The thumping chorus will have you singing your lungs out, it is pure musical theatre of the best variety. Artful and dramatic, the guitar solo that fires out is superb and just adds to the feel that you are in an actual theatre, enjoying a musical show. The excellent bass-lead, guitar heavy, run out of the song adds even more of that drama and leaves you with a knowing smile on your face.


Hollow is a more circumspect song, the introduction washes over you before a passionate vocal and guitar fire up and lead the way. Heartfelt and moving, even a bit darker in places, there is a more progressive than cinematic feel to the track as it gets into its stride. To my ears there a definite hints of Glass Hammer and even Dream Theater in the intricate keyboard playing and the way the song seems to be built in layers, the instrumental sections are really convoluted and complex. It’s almost as if the musicians decided that they just wanted to have a prog-infused jam session, and a mightily enjoyable one at that! Once normality is restored we get more of the dominating vocals, leaving an ominous overtone in places. There is something for everyone in the song, baroque progressive moments, touches of Prog-Metal and, well, just excellent songwriting and musicianship.

One of the shorter tracks on offer, Erosion is an instrumental that opens full of suspense, the cinematic overtones are there in spades, this could be the soundtrack to a sci-fi film with its haunting atmosphere and heavy doses of tension. It is quite disturbing in fact and I found myself on edge all the way through.

I love the bassline that opens Nautilus with its jazz-funk feel, there’s a really upbeat atmosphere to the song, the distinct guitar note and vigorous drumbeat adding to that high energy aura. The vocals, once again, hit the spot and give the song its own identity. At first, you aren’t sure whether there are too many influences running through the music but, by the time you’re really involved in the album, it is a distinctive sound unique to Circuline. I feel the keyboards generally take the lead and the rest of instruments follow and it works very well indeed. Another clever integration of the complexities of progressive rock infused with some powerful rock elements to give that cinematic feel, the guitar solo is another sterling effort.

guuitar man

The mood quietens for the delightful Stay which has more akin to a piano lounge track than your usual progressive fare but I really like it. Laid back, funky and with chunks of jazz dripping all over it, Natalie’s vocals are the centre-point of this sepia tinged song. Thoughtful and contemplative, it really does give you a complete feeling of chilled out security. The guitar playing is fluid, serene and composed, it is a song for a wonderful, warm summers day when you haven’t got a care in the world.

S.O.A is just over one minute of quite unsettling mind warfare if you ask me, it is really quite sinister……

That mood carries on into the opening of Inception with its 80’s synth overtones that seem to want to invade your mind. Again, another impressive cinematic soundscape that draws pictures deep in your psyche, music that challenges the mind as well as satiating the soul. It is almost transfixing in the way it draws you into its embrace to leave you feeling oddly at home. Then the vocals start and your attention changes, the voices, lilting in their delivery, have a hypnotic edge and work in concert with the inventive music to give a superlative listening experience, a musical journey that, once traveled, you are happy to return to time after time. The closing out of the song is particularly brilliant.

So, onto the final instalment in this cinematic treasure, Summit has all the clever subtleties of what has gone before, a quite enigmatic opening before the song begins its final traverse of your musical landscape. Sultry bass lines and drumming add a great backdrop to the exemplary harmonised vocals, like the perfect recipe from some masterchefs of the musical world. Nothing is ever too simple with these guys though, we have some involving musical sections to add substance to the lush vocals laid before us. Grin inducing guitar solos and keyboard runs abound and you are just left floating in a world of musical well-being. The potent chorus adds strength to the beauty of the rest of the song, you are left wanting for nothing with this band’s repertoire and it is shown to the full on this finishing track, some more prog wizardry to add to the dramatic and cinematic feel. I have to admit, by the end of this song and album, I am left feeling that I have been spoiled by the music and talent on offer.

So, do too many guitarists leave you herding cats or give extra shine to an already impressive collection of musicians? Well, if you’ve read what goes before this conclusion you’ll know that they enhance things immensely. A deep well of musical wonderment is laid before you to drink from at will, take a small sip and come back for more (as you will) or take it all in one gulp to be completely indulged. Whichever way, you’re going to love it!

Released 5th May 2016

Buy ‘Counterpoint’ direct from the band







Review – Tarja – The Shadow Self – by Craig E. Bacon

Tarja The Shadow Self

“There is a darker side of us all…Every one of us, we have a darker side that we should probably just appreciate that it exists…I believe it’s a beautiful darkness…The Shadow Self, it is a creative force in all of us.” –Tarja

Those familiar with Tarja’s solo work, or with the symphonic metal genre, will find much that is familiar in ‘The Shadow Self’. There are plenty of metal/hard rock guitar riffs, lots of low end, a smattering of strings and choirs, and lyrics that mostly sticks to discussing darkness, anger, love, and the natural world. Tarja has been headed in a single artistic direction since 2007’s ‘My Winter Storm’, and her latest album continues on that path. However, while some artists make a familiar-sounding album due to lack of inspiration or personal comfort, Tarja is clearly perfecting her craft, and ‘The Shadow Self ‘makes up the ground between past efforts and the ideal for what a symphonic metal album can be.

Lifted from an Annie Lennox interview, the album title provides a thematic focal point; indeed, ‘The Shadow Self ‘is the most thematically and musically cohesive album of Tarja’s career. Starting from the premise that each of us have a darker side, and that it’s best to face this darkness head on, the songs here move between introspection and explosive expression.

Tarja 1

The singles from the album focus in on the positive, creative force of the shadow self. On No Bitter End, Tarja encourages the listener to engage the darkness on its own terms.

“Blackout the sun/Light nowhere/Tell me you don’t need it anymore…”

To say that we each have a darker side is not to say that we are evil, but merely points to the fact that much of our inner life is a mystery, is unknown, is a void even to ourselves. But perhaps it is in this very darkness that we will find hope, strength, love, and freedom.

“Open up your inner eye/Let hope save the day…To be there with all you need/And nothing left to prove…..”

The chorus and bridge sound a bit like the best of the 80’s power ballads, musically emphasizing the ultimately triumphant outcome of this introspective journey.

Similarly, Innocence maintains a cautiously positive tone in the lyrics.

“Inside of me doors will stay open/A thousand lives to live/Waiting like universes do without an end/Love break into my innocence…”

However, the video version makes it clear that the innocence of the title may very well be that which has been lost, and the album version of the song features an alternate, extended instrumental break that suggests much the same. A solo grand piano picks out the melody, gradually builds in intensity, meanders into pounding and resounding bass chords, then calmly returns to the melody before being joined by a full string section and choral vocals.

The effect is unsettling, occasionally jarring, but finally invigorating. Tarja has done this sort of staggering of classical and hard rock within a song before (Anteroom of Death, Victim of Ritual), but the classical component is more adventurous and thematically cohesive here. As album opener, the song also announces that Tarja is breaking new artistic ground whilst perfecting old standbys.

Even if our inner darknesses contain a positive creative force, they surely also possess immense destructive capabilities. On those who have hurt and abused us, the shadow self seeks self-expression of our most violent impulses. The album explores this aspect of the shadow self as well, showing how even these impulses may be channeled in a properly creative direction.

Tarja 2

(Picture credit: Jaromir Zajicek)

In Supremacy, a Muse cover and one of the album’s high points, the target is an oppressive institution.

“Policies have risen up and overcome the brave…Embedded spies brainwashing our children to be mean…”

Instead of fear or angry fantasy, the song expresses a resolve for action.

“You don’t have long/I am on to you/The time has come to destroy/Your supremacy…”

The cover doesn’t stray too far from the original in terms of structure, but it does feature truly heavy guitars, cinematic John Barry-esque orchestration, and stratospheric vocals from Tarja to drive the hook home.

Diva relishes the poetic justice awaiting those who try to diminish our sense of self, if we only walk away and leave them to sink in their own rotten ships. The song may also serve as a personal response to Tarja’s dismissal from Nightwish and their subsequent song Bye Bye Baby. Once again the orchestration is cinematic in scope, carnival sounds and spoken vocals add a layer of creepiness, and Tarja’s vocals highlight both her range and her finesse.

Indeed, Tarja’s vocals are, as they should be, the main feature throughout the album. On Too Many, what could have been an extended fadeout instead gradually drops out instruments until only Tarja’s vocals remain. Whereas another artist might have ended the song with a whisper, or cut the song off after the first line once all other instruments were silenced, Tarja continues to sing until she has completed the chorus. The result is powerful, both in its presentation of the lyrics and in its completion of the album’s theme of a personal journey into the darkest corners of one’s own soul.

“Not too many facing their tears/When sunrise outshines the grey/Many too many living their fears/Only few won’t fade away…”

The repetition of this chorus takes the form of a lament, but is transformed by the choice to drop out instruments and leave Tarja’s voice as the final musical statement. In this closing moment, Tarja is expressing neither pity nor regret for others, but rather resolve and defiance on her own behalf–there are many too many living their fears, but she is one of the few who will face their tears and not fade away.

Tarja Woodstock

Befitting its thematic cohesion, ‘The Shadow Self’ also comprises Tarja’s most unified musical statement thus far (in her rock albums, anyway). Tarja has stated that she wanted the album to have more of a band feel, and this does sound more band focused, with fewer orchestral and choral overlays than some of Tarja’s past work. The riffs are little heavier, and Tarja’s lead vocals are kept to the fore, with minimal choral backing on most songs. This makes the ‘classical’ components more powerful when they do become the focus on songs like Living End and Diva.

It also makes room for more musical flourishes and nuances than is typical in the symphonic metal genre. Living End features beautiful acoustic guitar and pipes, while Demons In You begins with a half-minute funky jam before transitioning into a heavy piece spotlighting Alissa-White Gluz’s vocals. Even here, Tarja eschews the generic set of growls in favour of using both growled and melodic vocals from Gluz, allowing these to interplay with Tarja’s own melodic leads.

‘The Shadow Self ‘is unmistakably a Tarja album. It sounds much like other Tarja albums. It’s just a better Tarja album, one that displays a clear artistic vision as well as the skill and confidence to push forward with the arrangements and production.

Oh, and it also includes a bona fide hit song. You’ll know it when you hear it.


  1. Innocence [6:03]
  2. Demons In You [4:44]
  3. No Bitter End [4:26]
  4. Love To Hate [5:57]
  5. Supremacy [5:03]
  6. Living End [4:41]
  7. Diva [5:45]
  8. Eagle Eye [4:36]
  9. Undertaker [6:41]
  10. Calling From The Wild [5:13]
  11. Too Many [7:47]

‘The Shadow Self’ was released on 5th August 2016

Buy ‘The Shadow Self’ from Napalm Records

Craig E. Bacon

Craig E. Bacon is a PhD Candidate in Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. When not actively putting to rest all interpretative questions surrounding Kant’s idea of the highest good, Craig may usually be found at home with his beloved wife and rescue animals, listening to a Prog record with a craft beer in hand. Craig E. Bacon: Music, Philosophy, Beer, etc.
Craig Ellis Bacon

Review – Ludovico Laroche – Propulsion Galactica – by Emma Roebuck


“An 8 year project: an electro, psychedelic, prog rock, science-fiction concept album about a human used on an interstellar spacecraft to propel the ship using the kinetic energy in his blood-flow. The ship is suffering a mutiny as the sister ship powers beyond contact.

The captain of the vessel is accosted, beaten and finally ejected into space. Soon his voice is heard over the ships tannoy system causing the fearful, scattered crew to spiral into madness. The voices trace back to the ships teleportation device, which gives our human captive a means to escape.

His liberation is short lived as he finds himself marooned on a desolate moon, where it’s clear his fate is as one with the ship’s unfortunate captain. As one they are all left helplessly adrift amongst the stars that seldom shine”

This is the introduction to this delightfully bonkers journey, written and performed by Ludovico ‘G’ LaRoche, through the history of both music and the adventures of an experimental science project in space travel and it does it no justice what so ever.

Musically it is a journey through some serious good music condensed through the whole concept. There is some serious use of sampling to bookend the album accelerating through the various ages of rock/pop the 60s psychedelic heyday through to Prog to electronic Berlin school to downright rocking out. You cannot really single tracks out here as it is a whole suite of tracks that make up something greater than the sum of the parts.

Beginning with a scan across the airwaves in the way we used to turn the knobs on the old radios snippets of classical and psychedelic 60s pop tracks and interspersed with radio sci fi dialogue.

Straight into Propulsion Galactica Pt 1 a sitar sound dominates the track and a gruff harmony vocal line, straight from the summer of love. Part 2 comes straight from the Hawkwind play book of the mid 70s, it seamlessly spans Psychedelia to space rock without missing a beat. Sistership (XYZee) makes good use of sound clips from what sounds like a fifties Sci Fi radio series, it’s Buck Rogers meets the Forbidden Planet. The style is that of mid 80s synth pop Berlin School, overtones of electronica with hints of scratching.  Mutiny – now, if you can imagine Lemmy singing prog and having a huge influence on the actual production then you have an idea.

Terminal Velocity has a Crimsonesque feel about it with a huge keyboard impact at its core. Anyone remember Wendy Carlos and the massive Moog sound? then welcome to the Pilgrimage with fat dirty guitar threaded through and anthemic track of huge sonic proportions..

Fast forward a bit and Marooned flows into Amongst The Stars That Seldom Shine which has a guitar line that has captured Brian May’s sound impeccably showing the end of the journey and bookend samples again with a lovely use of a classic Floyd Track.

Overall imagine Hawkwind, Syd Barratt, Lemmy and Public Service Broadcasting on an acid trip and then locked in a studio, yeah that’s what I thought too……

Released July 22nd 2016

Buy ‘Propulsion Galactica’ from bandcamp



Review – Your Wilderness – The Pineapple Thief – By Kevin Thompson


About fifteen years ago I was rooting through a ‘bargain’ box of CD’s and came across one called ‘Jet Set Radio’, by Vulgar Unicorn, intrigued by the name and attracted by the price it found a place in my growing collection.

Then there was a time I collected my children for an all too rare visit from their Mum’s in Yeovil, a place full of history but devastated by modernity. As I wound up a hill toward their dingy council estate, I passed a theatre on the side of which a poster advertised a band, The Pineapple Thief (TPT). Again intrigued by the name I sought out what information I could and acquired ‘137’ and ‘Variations on a Dream’, and to this day they have remained my favourite two CDs of this band’s output; until this day…..

I still marvel how I came across this band and the fact I never realised the link between Vulgar Unicorn and TPT until a number of years later whilst browsing the sleeve notes to find the name Bruce Soord appeared on both. Now an established and sought after producer, dabbling in Wisdom of Crowds (with Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse) and with a solo album under his belt that appears to have rejuvenated his musical intent he returns with the 11th studio offering under the TPT monicker, ‘Your Wilderness’.

Fresh from watching their stunning performance at Be Prog My Friend festival in Spain, as headliners on the Friday evening, (report available here on Progradar), I had mixed emotions about reviewing this. I have always really liked this band and rate them alongside Porcupine Tree (PT), though I have never agreed with the comparisons in music style that some seem to find.

That said, whilst brilliantly produced and lovingly packaged, I had felt the last couple of albums, despite credible reviews, had an air of frustration and the feeling of treading water. I had feared that as have others, their ascendency and Bruce’s rising popularity in the industry may turn them into mediocrity and (the only comparison I will draw) that they may fade and disappear like PT. You stupid boy, Thompson!

Band 2

The cover picture could be interpreted as being in a wilderness and facing a difficult summit to climb, but I should have more faith……

A drum beat introduction leads in to Bruce’s distinct vocals as he berates being In Exile and the one line repeated chorus of “Don’t be afraid to miss me” ensures from the offset this album is not going to go amiss.  As the music swells and the guitar riffs in identifiable TPT style dig in to your mind the song ends with notes from stalwart Steve Kitch‘s keyboards ricocheting into a distant canyon at the beginning of this musical pilgrimage.

Beautiful acoustic strumming and the inimitable airy vocals from Bruce take up the journey into No Man’s Land,  and are joined by Steve’s piano for the ride. Slight pause for effect then the percussive rolls of guest drummer Gavin Harrison, (I know, Porcupine Tree, but still no comparisons) kick in redefining the sound, with Bruce’s cries floating over the top as further guest Darran Charles’ (Godsticks) guitars burst in with spine tingling energy and the bass playing of third man in the core trio, Jon Sykes, more than ably drives the engine of this vehicle through the canyon of music.

It has to be said that not having a permanent drummer at the moment does not detract. In fact, whilst bringing their own individual skills to the table, all the guest artists knit neatly into the TPT signature sound, adding a refreshing impetus.

Acoustic chords and a burst of electric guitar shoot out and Bruce advises he cannot Tear You Up, before the guitar flashes a short burst again and leaves way to the piano and vocals before crashing in with a heavy riff adding more energy to the drive and it definitely begins to feel like all these currents run to you, as it ends abruptly on those words.

The rhythms and riffs weave in and out returning at intervals on this album, linking tracks and  connecting to the whole pathway of the album.

Band 3 - Rob Monk

A gentler electronic sound with rhythm loops, like the breeze stirring desert sands along a dried up river, drifting across That Shore that once teemed with life. As the layered harmonizing echoes round a moonlit sky and you pull in for a rest, contemplating the aural massage of notes soothing your brow as you watch the sunrise.

As the orb rises in the sky, light guitar chords spread across the track and the bass heats up,  Bruce encourages it’s time to make your move. You had best get under-way and Take Your Shot at the listening journey ahead as you are carried on another racing track, kicking dust in the face of non believers as you hurtle down the gravel road in search of musical pastures ahead and your tail-lights disappear into the early morning haze.

A feeling of calm guides you on acoustic guitar, keys and dreamy soundscapes as you wind down the car window and a cool breeze of clarinet from John Helliwell (Supertramp) gently ruffles the balmy air. You are all alone no one around in this wide expanse and you must Fend For Yourself  if you wish to discover what lies ahead. Calmly you make your way fingers drumming on the wheel to the gentle rhythm of the engine and a feeling of contentment with Bruce’s vocals imparting the details of where you are heading, to the woodwind.

Looping guitar chords fuel the drums as you make your way and Bruce urges you not to forget The Final Thing on Your Mind as the heat of the the music swells carrying you on, with orchestral lines guiding you down the straight track. The keyboards plot the course on the penultimate longest track, regret in Bruce’s  restrained vocals at a broken relationship gone cold. Hurrying strings set the pace, the guitar solo points you toward your destination and the ticking of your engine sees this out.

As early evening approaches acoustic guitar shows you a coast coming into view, the familiar lights of a city flickering on as the sun drops away, almost there and Bruce reminds us of  Where We Stood at the start, a warm but fading memory. The echoing guitar and final piano refrain guides us smoothly home.

You can stand in the musical desert, you can blink at the sun and not want to go anywhere, or wish you were back where it all started. On this album, for me, the band seem to have regained focus and direction, overtaking their recent output and whilst I look back to the grand canyons they have journeyed before, I am more than happy to take a ride with them and see what lies ahead. Join us if you wish, there’s plenty of room and the ride is sweet.

All bands pics – credit Rob Monk.

Released 12th August 2016 (19th August in France).

Buy ‘Your Wilderness’ from Burning Shed


Review – TILT – Hinterland – by Progradar

Tilt Album

“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…

Save me!

Before the track concludes in a rather prophetic manner, a really impressive opening to the album.

Hinterland track

“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 the guitar 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.

No Superman

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.

Growing Colder

“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!

Released 30th June 2016.

Buy the ‘Hinterland’ CD from Burning Shed

Buy digital copies of ‘Hinterland’ from bandcamp





Review – Dream the Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky – by Gary Morley

Cover better

Modern prog…

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)

Rob Dickes

(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.

Featured image by L.A. Watson.

Released 22nd July 2016

Buy ‘Beneath The Dark Wide Sky’ direct from the band



BE PROG MY FRIEND! Festival 2016 – by Kevin Thompson


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:

kEV 1

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’.

Kev 4

Up first were local band, Exassens, (, 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.

Kev 2

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, ( 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.

Kev 3

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.

Kev 5

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 ( 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.

Kev 6

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.

Kev 7

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.

Kev 8

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.

Kev 9

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………..

Kev 10

Part 2 of Kevin’s BE PROG, MY FRIEND! experience is coming very soon…..