Dean Watson is a multi-instrumentalist from Toronto in Canada and, until he reached out to me, I have to confess that I had not heard any of his music before.
I am now exceedingly grateful that he did!
‘Track of Days’ is Dean’s fifth album of prog-fusion music and contains the 51 minute epic title track. To be fair apart from the short introductory track Updown Waltz, the whole album is the title track.
And what a track it is, sumptuous progressive rock fused with some extremely stylish jazz, a complete instrumental tour-de-force that takes you on a wonderfully involving musical journey with nods to the likes of Keith Emerson, Happy The Man, Pat Metheny, UK, Bruford, Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant and a whole gamut of others.
All instruments, programming, writing, mixing and mastering are done by Dean and he is an incredibly talented individual. It’s often said that you should listen to an album in one sitting and with ‘Track of Days’, that is a must, it is meant to be treated as one long piece and you will get the most from it if you do follow that advice.
It flows and segues from one act to the next, the musical ingenuity and complexity fusing and melding to create an intoxicating musical tapestry. For me it is the keyboards and synthesisers that are Dean’s piece-de-resistance and the comparisons with Emerson are earned. They come alive in his hands and give an energy and life force to the music that gives it a vibrancy all of its own.
The best compliment I can give to an album new to me is if I immediately press play again as soon as I have listened to it for the first time and with this album I did that not once but at least three times, it really is that good.
I’ll certainly be seeing where this accomplished musician goes next, with inventiveness like this then the sky is surely the limit!
In a Progradar exclusive, Michael Woodman, the vocalist of Thumpermonkey, has written this track by track guide of the band’s new, full length, album – ‘Make Me Young, etc.’
This was written ages ago – in about 2010. It was one of those songs that just sort of popped out complete, but then stayed in demo form for ages until we decided we had a release that the song would fit with. It’s a song about using other people to help push you out of a preoccupation with negativity. It’s about relying on somebody to point out that the things you find toxic or shameful about yourself aren’t really that big a deal. It’s a ‘note to self’.
I once tried to stay awake in an attempt to reset my body clock after flying back from getting married in New York – so I occupied myself by writing riffs. When I woke up, the verse for this song had appeared on my hard drive, though I have no recollection of writing it. Unsurprisingly, I ended up with a song, in part, about insomnia. Hearing the verses now, still makes me think about that state of not being in touch with reality when I’m really sleep deprived.
Another very old piece of music – Rael wrote the piano part years ago – it was just waiting to find a home with this album. It’s about the disorientation experienced when crossing the boundary between fidelity and infidelity in a relationship. There’s even a paraphrased bit of Alan Bate’s monologue in ‘Women in Love’ for good measure.
There’s a definition I read of ‘liminality’ that I really liked – the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of ‘rituals’ when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. Veldt is about crossing from self-loathing to self-acceptance. Cranefly is the boundary between sleep and wakefulness. Figstorm is fidelity and infidelity. To take this even a stage further, ‘Buttersun’ is a threshold in the middle of the album – the split between songs about internal things and external things.
5) Deckchair for Your Ghost:
This song started life referencing a nightmare I had about trying to hide a body underneath a tree in our front garden, but then it became a vehicle for a character – one who has just been cursed with the knowledge of an impending extinction level event. I had an email from a fan in about 2012 who had clearly been reading some of the nonsense I post about Aztec theology, and he seemed pretty keen on the idea that the world was going to end. I’m sure it was all meant in humor. I didn’t hear from him again.
6) Make Me Young, etc:
The title of the song is the last line of dialogue delivered by Kilgore Trout in ‘Breakfast of Champions’. It’s what he says to Kurt Vonnegut, (who has entered his own novel as a character), purely for the purposes of letting Kilgore Trout know that he isn’t real. This is a song about the end of the world.
7) Tempe Terra:
A mournful post-human coda. If any humans do escape earth and colonise Mars to start afresh, there’s always the fear that they’ll bring all their awful conceptual baggage with them and make a mess of Earth Mk2 as well.
The album was released on 26/10/18 and you can order a copy here:
‘Make Me Young, etc.’ is Thumpermonkey’s first full length release for a while, the elusive and eclectic quartet announced their musical return last year with the stonking ‘Electricity EP’ (check out the review at the link at the end) and since then they have performed a barnstorming set at this years Eppyfest in Cheltenham (where their unique brand of music went down a storm), mixing their older material and new stuff created a vibrant and room rocking kind of set.
I mention Eppyfest because it was all thanks to Ian Fairholm that I saw them back in 2014 in Stroud, where their inventive and complex musical prowess, their emotive and powerful set and their sheer innate musicianship drew me in. Off I strolled at the end of the day with the two CDs on offer, 2010’s ‘We Bake Our Bread Beneath her Holy Fire’ and 2012’s ‘Sleep Furiously’.
Both albums are as eclectic and eccentric as the band are live and I am fully aware that the kind of sonic origami that Thumpermonkey creates is very much a marmite sound, you either love it and enjoy them or it passes you by. That is fine, not everyone likes the same thing, and I wouldn’t expect you to change your mind only 200 words into this review.
However, as a reviewer who gets quite a lot of stuff sent to me from various places to listen to, I would rather receive one album like this than half a dozen generic middle of the road, let’s make an album that sounds like 1974 Yes or 1976 Genesis because we’re prog and it’s what we do, if I want Yes circa ’74, I will go put ‘Relayer’ on.
This isn’t the sort of record that you can put on in the background. Very much like their live show, Thumpermonkey request you pay attention, and from the get-go, the opening salvo of Veldt, they grab the attention, and pull you right in.
The overriding theme of the album is an impending apocalypse (in this instance based around an asteroid hitting the planet), which, based on the way things are going in the wider world, may not be far off the mark, particularly when we seem to have world leaders who think that Threads was a manifesto and not a warning.
This flows throughout the music here, and the four piece manage to create some truly expansive widescreen sounds, with the beautiful interlude of Buttersunfitting between two wonderfully intense pieces of music, Figstorm and the intense and brooding Deckchair for Your Ghost.
The way the Michael Woodman’s vocals soar and glide through the music is a joy to behold, and they are treated as much as an instrument as his powerful guitar work, mix in Rael Jones fluid keyboard and guitar work, add the drumming powerhouse that is Ben Wren (who can flit between the soft and the heavy at the drop of a (hi) hat) and Sam Warren’s bass, that is as much of a lead instrument as Woodman’s guitar, then you have one of the most inventive musical quartets around at the moment, fitting into that area of music that is occupied by bands like Knifeworld or The Fierce and the Dead. Thumpermonkey are very much their own musical genre.
The title track builds and climbs to it’s crescendo, where the mantra ‘Take this useless sadness and throw it away’ acts not just as the climactic coda, but also an instruction, a life hack if you will, something that resonates with you long after the song has faded.
They mix widescreen cinemascope sounds, with big riffs, piano sound to die for, and an overarching concept that never feels forced or shoehorned into.
Very much like the best films and plays, the narrative drives and unfolds across these 7 tracks and it is an album that rewards, nay demands, repeat listening (luckily, I’ve been enjoying it on the commute to work through my headphones, so I am there, immersed in their world and sound).
This year has seen a strong bunch of albums from artists like Regal Worm or The Tangent, who have looked at musical boundaries and decided to ignore all of them, and this is one of those albums.
It sounds like nothing else out there, other than Thumpermonkey, and it’s a sign of how right this album is that now, as us reviewers are starting to think arbitrarily about those pesky ‘best of’ lists that people like so much, that I can say for a fact that Thumpermonkey, with the ‘Make me Young, etc’ have released one of the best albums of 2018, and it was well worth the wait.
Following the tremendous success of 2017’s The Night Siren (charted at #22 in Germany, #28 in the UK), legendary former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett announces the release of his new studio album At The Edge Of Light on the 25th January 2019. The album which features ten songs, sees Steve unite a vast amount of styles ranging from guitar driven rock to epic orchestration, from world music to the reflective and atmospheric all brought together in Steve Hackett’s unique style.
Steve says: “In these dangerous times, deep shadows feel even sharper than usual and we find ourselves standing at the edge of light… The contrast between dark and light weaves its way throughout the album in many ways, from the sense of good fighting evil through to the interplay of dark and light opposites magically combining in cultures, including the heartbeat of India and primal tribal rhythms. Ultimately, this album embraces the need for all musical forms and cultures to connect and celebrate the wonder of unity in this divided world.”
At The Edge Of Light is released in a number of formats including a Mediabook CD plus extra DVD with 5.1 surround sound mix & behind the scenes documentary, double vinyl LP + CD, Jewel case CD and digital album.
Steve Hackett has established himself as one of Rock musics finest and recognisable guitarists through his time with the legendary Genesis who he joined in 1971 and a solo career following his departure from Genesis in 1977 and is a hugely influential guitarist particularly in the Progressive Rock genre. At The Edge Of Light will be Hacketts 26th studio album in a solo career that began in 1975 with the release of his debut solo album Voyage Of The Acolyte.
At The Edge Of Lightwas mainly recorded in Steve’s own studio but also around the world. The album features international artists, including Durga and Loreley of Pink Floyd vocal fame with drummers Nick D’Virgilio and Simon Phillips from USA, Sheema on sitar from India, Icelandic drummer/percussionist Gulli Briem, tar player Malik Mansurov and Swedish bass player Jonas Reingold… This album also features Paul Stillwell on didgeridoo, Rob Townsend on sax, bass clarinet and duduk, Amanda Lehmann on vocals, John Hackett on flute, drummer Gary OToole, Roger King and Ben Fenner on keyboards, Dick Driver on double bass, violinist and viola player Christine Townsend… All magically honed and engineered by Roger King.
1. Fallen Walls And Pedestals
2. Beasts In Our Time
3. Under The Eye Of The Sun
4. Underground Railroad
5. Those Golden Wings
6. Shadow And Flame
7. Hungry Years
The album is released shortly before Steve performs as special guest on the Cruise To The Edge in February 2019 and the On The Blue cruise featuring Justin Hayward, also in February.
Hackett recently played a series of Genesis Revisited shows with Orchestra and will perform two UK dates with acoustic sets in early December before touring Europe in April/May 2019 and has just announced a UK tour in November 2019 with a much anticipated “Selling England By The Pound & Spectral Mornings & Album Highlights” set.
The Pineapple Thief have just returned from the first leg of their Dissolution tour where they enthralled audiences across Europe and the UK. Including many sold out shows and their biggest show to date at London’s prestigious O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The band are now ready to announce new dates for 2019.
Frontman Bruce Soordstates “Our first Dissolution tour went so well, and we had such a great time so we’ve decided to do it again. This time visiting some of the cities we couldn’t make the first time around. I know there are a lot of people disappointed we are not coming to their neck of the woods, but we hear you all and are definitely working on it!”
The Pineapple Thief will once again be joined by now full-time member Gavin Harrison on all dates.
The mercurial Pete Jones seems to have an exhaustible supply of musical ideas at present. Fresh after playing with Camel on a triumphant tour of Europe ending at the Royal Albert Hall, and not long after his last fine Tiger Moth Tales album ‘The Depths of Winter’, Peter Jones returns with the second instalment of his Story Tellers project. Based on Fairy tales and Children’s stories this is an album of pure whimsy and diverse, entertaining music. Listeners need to check in their more cynical tendencies at the door if they enter this world – this is definitely for the young, and for the young at heart. However, do not be deceived – this is not a collection of simplistic childish nursery rhymes. Pete Jones has skillfully framed these tales in a range of musical styles, intuitively threading elements of pathos, comedy and adventure through the songs.
The opening song Best Friend feels like the opening of a Fairy Tale book with gentle piano notes giving way to some orchestration and Renaissance style acoustic guitars. The catchy, positive lyrics tell of close friends in Jones’ lovely baritone, one of the finest voices in modern progressive rock music. A Hackett-esque guitar line and tinkling keys interlude segues us from this sunlit world into different territory both narratively and musically in Kai’s Journey. Chiming guitars and a tripping, dancing synth evokes the journey perfectly in musical form. An eerie almost jazzy cornet from long time friend and collaborator, Mark Wardle, presages chilling vocoder effects of a sinister snow queen, voiced rather maniacally by Pete’s usually lovely wife Kim! This is an atmospheric and evocative rock instrumental, and the influence of Steve Hackett (one of Pete Jones all time heroes) is strong on this piece, and that is a GOOD thing – indeed, there are distinct echoes of Hackett’s own exploration of children’s tales in his own classic Please Don’t Touch throughout this album.
The delightful diversity of this album is most borne on the next two songs, both masterpieces of whimsical musical imagination in their own very different ways. Toad of Toad Hall is a playful, infectious tune which bounces along mischievously as Jones’ keyboards skips joyfully and eccentrically through this musical vignette. This song also demonstrates Peter Jones’ great ability to sing and talk in distinctive character voices, and his inimitable puckish laugh is absolutely perfect for the character of Toad of Toad Hall – this is just great fun. In contrast, not a word is spoken in the much more sedate Hundred Acre Wood, but so much is said in different ways. A lovely ambling clarinet tune over gentle piano keys simply conjures up the image of Winnie Pooh and his friends walking in Hundred Acre Wood by instruments alone – close your eyes and you are there.
Eternitytakes the album in a very different direction as Peter Jones duets on a lush ballad with his old singing partner Emma Friend whose own lovely voice complements the Mothster’s perfectly… but then he throws in a short soaring guitar solo midway through the song as the duo take flight vocally. I always felt that the fate of The Boy Who Cried Wolf was rather cruel, and it seems Peter Jones agrees as he has produced a rather sombre take on his rather dramatic tale. This more ambitious song admittedly took more time to grow on me as it is not as immediate as some of the other tracks. He uses a range of guitar tones to convey the story, moving from the fear of the wolf attack through to anguish and finally a rather mournful conclusion.
‘Story Tellers part one’ featured the comical A Kid’s Tale, which is surpassed on this instalment with the comic masterpiece of Three Little Pigs, starting with some humourous ‘false starts’. The consistently funny and witty lyrics genuinely made me laugh out loud at one point… and how often can you say that about an album! Played in intentionally childlike or music hall style this song brims with humour and funny voices – kids would love it… I certainly did!
The ghosts of Trick of the Tail / Wind and Wuthering era haunt the instrumental epic of The Palace as Hackett-like guitars and Tony Banks-like keys thread right through the piece like a stick of Genesis Rock. Peter Jones makes no secret of his love for any era of Genesis, and the influence that legendary band has on his more ‘Prog’ like offerings is there for everyone to hear, and for many that is why they love his material. For such listeners this will be a highlight on the album and Jones’ skills as a fine guitarist and keyboard player pulls it off with aplomb. After such drama Jones soothes us with a touching tale of the Match Girl over a simple piano backing and a melancholic melodica. This song particularly show cases Peter Jones’ lovely voice, emotively singing this poignant tale.
The story book closes with swelling orchestration and electric guitar solo as The Mothster and Emma Friend briefly reprise Best Friends. You can almost see the credits rolling like the end of some Disney-esque animation… and that’s not said in a sneering manner – Disney have done some great adaptations of Fairy Tales!
This album is a real step up from ‘Story Tellers Part One’, which has not been quite as popular or as revered as other Tiger Moth Tales releases. It had some highlights such as the title song and A Kids Tale, but the rapidity in which it was recorded (there was a challenge to make an album in one month!) did mean it seemed to lack some of the depth and quality associated with his other fine albums. To be fair it was always meant as a more lightweight offering. In this second instalment there is still the sense spontaneity that Jones is looking for in this type of project, but he does it more successfully and subtly on this occasion.
‘Story Tellers Part Two’ is an entertaining album, and it does exactly what it says on the tin – it tells stories wonderfully well. There’s laughs, tears and adventure… all played with skill and touch in a great range of different musical styles. Categorizing it is impossible, to be honest – it’s not deep or symbolic, just great fun.
If you’ve got young kids or grandchildren then get it and play them some of it (especially Three Little Pigs)… or if you feel like a kid yourself and you just need some escapism just play it to yourself –it may help you live Happily Ever After!
Soaring over a variety of soundscapes in just under 5 minutes, The Huntpaves the way for Sectile’s refreshed and contemporary approach to their music. The new single will undoubtedly surprise many listeners, showing Sectile’s ability to craft a unique wall of sound out of their various influences, from the classics all the way to post and prog metal.
Lyrically, The Hunt talks about isolation, despair and the feeling of being hunted by your past mistakes. The sensation is further enhanced by the single’s original artwork, created by the band’s singer Gabriel Gaba, as well as the nightmarish video, Sectile’s first, entirely produced by the band themselves.
Mixed and mastered by Irish producer Aidan Cunningham (Bailer; Overhead, the
Albatross; LNT) The Hunt was recorded in the band’s home studio, with the exception of the drums, helmed by Michael Richards at Trackmix Studio.
Almost a year separates their debut EP to the launch of The Hunt. Sectile feel now, more than ever, ready to rise higher and bring their music to wider audiences in Ireland and abroad.
Sectile are: Gabriel Gaba – Vocals Mark O’Reilly – Guitar Michael Sheridan – Guitar Cormac Hennigan – Bass Zachary Newman – Drums
Those perfect proponents of incisive social comment coated with a liberal dose of whimsical nostalgia, Sleeperman, return with September’s single (okay, I know, check the date but life gets in the way you know!), the imaginatively titled Cheddar Baguette.
Damn, these guys are good, this gentle meandering track really does get hold of you heart with its sepia tinged memories. Neil’s elegant guitar has just the right touch of thoughtful longing and the harmonised chorus is a delight.
“You had on your green canvas jeans and you were eating a cheddar baguette, I was wearing suede boots and a beret, they’re are things we’d all rather forget, but straight from the off we had things in common, you’re Dad drove a Ford Escort and so did mine…”
There’s only Sleeperman that can turn such simple lyrics into something so moving. This song is a sentimental daydream down memory lane and, for those of us of a certain age, a love song that will surely touch an emotional chord.
“I fell for you, I’ve fallen for for, I’ll fall for you as long as I breathe air…”
Utterly wonderful and, for me, the best single yet!
This time, the ‘B’ side is an, erm, alternative version…
Available from all the usual digital suspects and retro CD from the band contactable at their Facebook page:
I love a powerful instrumental album but they have to work harder than your normal release due to there being no words to elucidate the songwriter’s thoughts and ideas.
The best ones are chock full of brilliant instrumental phases and phrases and tend to not let each track follow the same musical path.
Hailing from Sofia, Bulgaria, Kalin Tonev was previously known as the heart and the leader/composer/keyboardist of the prog rock project TravelHouse. Tonev released just a single album (‘Mind Mapping’– 2008) under this moniker, but it gained some favorable reviews in the main prog rock sites. Kalin began working on his debut solo effort, ‘Machine Years’, spanning the whole gamut of prog signatures.
Spread over thirteen tracks and covering sixty-five minutes, ‘Machine Years’ is a thoroughly involving musical experience. Massively injected with the classic 70’s lines, modern electronic scapes with occasional dark and heavy riffs, it is a theatrical journey awash with catchy melodies and intelligent moments intertwined with a more industrial, dystopian edge in places.
Kalin’s signature synth sound is dynamic and edgy with a real feel to it and he is joined on this impressively involving soundscape by three talented guitarists, Nenko Milev, Daniel Eliseev and Biser Ivanov. Their frenetic, energetic and compelling playing adds force and vigour to an already compelling mix.
There are moments of wonderful clarity when Kalin’s vintage keyboards soar to the heavens and these are countered by the somber, skittish feel when the music takes a more chaotic route. It’s a record full of memorable tunes but the highlights for me are Short Story About Tanks, Beings, Mad Dancer, News From Nowhere and the hypnotic This Empty Space.
Complex industrial, instrumental progressive rock with a lush and thoughful side, ‘Machine Years’ is an impressive debut and should see this talented musician really forge a name for himself.
As I am sure you can imagine here at Turner House of Prog in North Somerset, and indeed at Progradar Towers up in Yorkshire, we get a multitude of albums that cross our desks and into our ears. Some from established artists who we know and love, others from bands that I’ve not heard of (Martin seems to know every band in existence!) and I generally get some nudged in my direction as Martin reckons I will like them.
Until getting this three track album in my inbox I was woefully unaware of who Jet Black Sea are and am happy to be able to rectify that here.
The talented chaps behind this atmospheric album are Michel Simons and Adrian Jones (from Nine Stones Close) and this is their third release following 2013’s debut ‘The Path of Least Existence’ and 2017’s ‘Absorption Lines’.
There are only three tracks on this album, although the albums centrepiece, the majestic title track clocks in at an impressive 35 minutes. Framed by two beautifully haunting songs, first up, the sublime opening Escape Velocity which mixes ambient soundscapes and yearning cellos and strings, building slowly with a sublime laid back sound and some soulful guitar, this hits the spot from the opening chords.
With a wonderful slow build and blend of organic and electronic, it really kicks in after two minutes with a driving pulsating riff that sees the guitar and drums duelling before the excellent vocals, courtesy of Jones’ Nine Stones Close bandmate Adrian O’Shaughnessy, begin.
Bold, epic and showing an artist not afraid to push their musical boundaries, this album’s title track The Overview Effect, ebbs and flows, builds and climbs, crossing multiple genres and sounds, from ambient soundscapes to works that would nestle in any record collection alongside No-Man or even Mike Oldfield. I am reminded of Mike’s early 90’s ambient electronica albums, like ‘Songs of Distant Earth’, in approach if not sound.
The two musicians here, Simons and Jones, are immensely talented individuals and they bounce ideas off each other to create a vast, beautiful and all encompassing sound, one that is the musical equivalent of a big hug, and this is the sort of music that the album format was invented for. Big, and yet surprisingly intimate, not afraid to push big ideas in a beautiful way. The track builds and builds, with some sublime vocals from O’Shaughnessy, whilst the musicians weave intricate musical webs that pull you in and keep you hooked.
After the almighty brilliance of the title track, the album ends on Home (E.D.L)which is probably one of the most beautiful things I have heard on record this year. The piano, the vocals, and guest performer Christian Bruin on drums, all come together to create something sublime, a genuine piece of heart wrenching beauty with a solo so spine tingling that it out-Gilmour’s David Gilmour with its soulful beauty, man you could just weep at the sheer emotional beauty of it all. You know when a song just gets it so right it transcends perfection? This is it, this is what beauty sounds like.
As my colleague over at Bad Elephant, David Elliott, says, ‘This is proper’ and he is not wrong, this is one of those albums that hits you out of leftfield, comes into your life with nary a fanfare and subtly reminds you with great big bursts of sonic prowess why you love doing this job. It’s an album that never outstays it’s welcome and is everything that a great album should be.
Thank you, Martin, for introducing me to Jet Black Sea, and thank you Adrian and Michel, this album is a pleasure to listen to, and a treasure to keep…. now where’s your Bandcamp page again, and where did I put my bank card…. if anyone needs me I’ll be absorbing the Jet Black Sea back catalogue!