Summer’s End Festival announces (almost) complete 2017 line up…

We are delighted to announce the (almost) complete line up for Summer’s End 2017, to be held at the Drill Hall, Chepstow on October 6-8 2017.

Leap of Faith tickets have now come off sale and will be replaced by standard tickets on Tuesday 17th January.

• Hero tickets (including a t shirt and our very special thanks) priced £120
• Sponsor tickets (including a T shirt) priced £105
• Standard weekend tickets priced £85

A very limited number of day tickets will be available soon. The festival sold out quickly last year and we are already 50% to sell out just with LOF tickets, so very early purchasing is recommended. With one band still to announce, we are already very proud of what is our most varied and internationally-orientated line up yet!

Here’s the line up -with one major band still to announce. Day splits will be announced soon.

FROST* (UK)
www.frost.life

Our Saturday headliners are the inimitable Frost* making their first appearance at the festival since their remarkable performance in 2008. The line up of the band – Jem Godfrey, John Mitchell, Nathan King and Craig Blundell – is now stable and playing regular live gigs in support of last years’ excellent “Falling Satellites”,

THE TANGENT (UK / Sweden)
www.thetangent.org
KARMAKANIC (Sweden / UK)
www.facebook.com/KarmakanicOfficial/

As they did in 2014, The Tangent and Sweden’s Karmakanic will be touring in 2016 as an intriguing double act, comprising of (largely) the same members playing two sets, closing the festival on Sunday 8th October. The band(s) will comprise Andy Tillison, Jonas Reingold, Luke Machin plus Marie Eve De Gaultier and other members to be announced. The Tangent will be making their third appearance at the festival and release “The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery” in 2017, while Karmakanic released “DOT” in 2016 and last played Summer’s End in 2010.

FRANCK CARDUCCI (France)
www.franckcarducci.com

Those that have had the pleasure of seeing Franck Carducci and his superb band perform will know that they are one of the best – and most colourfully extravagant – live acts playing today. Mixing Prog with hard rock and just a touch of psychedelia, the band are sure to be one of the bands of the weekend following a successful UK tour in late 2016.

SOUTHERN EMPIRE (Australia)
www.unitopiamusic.com

Following his performance with Damanek in 2016 (and with Unitopia in 2010), Australian keyboard wizard Sean Timms returns to the festival with his current band Southern Empire. The band are riding high following the release of their superb debut album and will be touring Europe in late 2017 with Karibow.

MASCHINE (UK)
www.maschineuk.com

Few who were there will have forgotten the performance of a young band called Concrete Lake at Summer’s End 2011. Now called Maschine, guitar wizard Luke Machin‘s brilliant young band, which also includes bassist Dan Mash, released their magnificent second album ‘Naturalis’ during 2016 to great acclaim.

KARIBOW (Germany)
www.karibow.com

This well known German band have had an award winning, 20-year history. Led by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Oliver Rusing, their powerful, crunchy, song orientated brand of Prog is often compared to Saga and It Bites. The band will tour Europe in 2017 with Southern Empire in suport of most recent album ‘Holophinium’.

ELEPHANTS OF SCOTLAND (USA)
www.elephantsofscotland.com

Following Phideaux, K2, Discipline and 3rDegree, Elephants of Scotland will become the 5th band from the USA to play the festival. Formed in Vermont in 2010, the band have 3 studio albums under their belts and played a triumphant set at the Rosfest festival in 2014 , later released as a CD and DVD set.

MIDNIGHT SUN (UK)
www.facebook.com/midnightsunprog/

Making their first appearance at the festival, but with several members that have played for us before are Midnight Sun, which comprises various former members of Unto Us and Also Eden in a combination which moulds the progressive and melodic textures of those bands with some heaver elements. Recording of the band’s debut album will begin in early 2017.

HALF PAST FOUR (Canada)
www.halfpastfour.com

Our first participants from Canada, Half Past Four have won a deserved reputation for their quirky, jazzy, playful take on prog. So strong was their 2016 third album ‘Land of the Blind’ that we knew that it was high time they made their debut at the festival.

WEENDO (France)
www.weendo.fr

This superb band from France – fronted by vocalist and keyboard player Laetitia – mix Prog with slightly more metallic textures. The band are currently working on their second album following their excellent 2011 debut ‘You Need to Know Yourself’.

More news soon!

Best wishes

Huw and Stephen
www.summersend.co.uk

Our facebook page:
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Our facebook group: www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=98170444873
One twitter: www.twitter.com/summersendfest
Email: stephen@summersend.co.uk

Progradar Best of 2016 – David Elliott’s Top 10

Here’s my Top Ten, in no particular order. You can disagree with me as much as you want, but I’m still right. Bad Elephant Music releases are excluded. I don’t want to die.

The Dowling Poole – One Hyde Park

Superb pop album from Willie Dowling and Jon Poole. Makes you smile throughout. Perfect to cheer up a cold winter day.

Afro Celt Sound System – The Source

Earthier and less electronic than their previous releases, Afro Celt redux! An album will never be as amazing as their sizzling live shows, but this comes pretty close.

Sand – A Sleeper,Just Awake

Sam Healy (North Atlantic Oscillation) does a spiffing solo project. The first Sand album was lovely, this one is even better.

Frost* – Falling Satellites

Well worth waiting for. It takes something to beat Milliontown – this might just be it.

Thank You Scientist – Stranger Heads Prevail

Fun, funky and far out. Progressive rock US-style. I dare you not to dance to ‘Mr. Invisible’.

North Sea Radio Orchestra – Dronne

Simply sublime. Music at its unclassifiable best. I can’t describe it, but you MUST hear it.

Bent Knee – Say So

More art-rock madness from t’other side of the Atlantic. Courtney Swain’s high-drama vocal delivery backed by equally striking instrumental performances. Utterly captivating.

Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden

The fullest realisation of Kavus Torabi’s unique musical vision. More bassoon!

Karmakanic – DOT

Probably my favourite full-on prog release of the year, BEM albums excluded. Karmakanic are sounding like a band these days, rather than a project.

Gong – Rejoice! I’m Dead!

Even Daevid Allen’s death couldn’t stop Gong from continuing. That man Torabi again, but although the voice is his, the music is undeniably Gong.

 

 

 

Progradar Best of 2016 – Rob Fisher’s Top Ten

We are going to end 2016 at Progradar with a selection of ‘Top 10’ picks. I have asked as many contributors as would like to join in the fun to give me their best 10 albums of the year. Here we start with Rob Fisher‘s selections.

Flux – Shadowlines

I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Flux perform at the Darbar Festival in London’s South Bank. They gave a superb and truly heart warming rendition of songs from their uplifting debut album ‘Shadowlines’. Since first hearing it earlier in the year I have been championing their music which is alive, fresh and above all joyful. There is an alluring blend of eclectic influences from around the world, stamped with a unique style and identity which exudes a passion for life through elegant melodies, exquisite playing and energetic rhythms.

Frost* – Falling Satellites

Glorious, sizzling, pulsating walls of sound. This is truly modern prog, aware of contemporary influences and absorbing modern ideas and sounds. It is a triumphant and shamelessly inventive experiment on how to do prog in the 21st Century, using sounds and techniques belonging to other musical contexts but making them your own. The result is a breathtaking adventure through expansive soundscapes, fascinating samplings and an album which stands as a shining beacon for genuinely creative and dynamic song writing.

Southern Empire – Southern Empire

Inspired, powerful song writing and intense levels of technical and musical virtuosity combine to create a debut album which does exemplary justice to both aspects of the term ‘progressive’ and ‘rock’. Sean Timms masterfully weaves intelligent lyrical insights with textured layers of expressive and compelling music which are psychologically perceptive, full of emotional insight and brimming with melodic creativity.

Thence – We Are Left With A Song

Thence have created what is, in effect, the soundtrack for life in the 21st century. It is an album which bristles with creativity, dynamism and enthusiasm, bringing together elements of orchestral and classical music, jazz, blues, rock and metal. The music ripples with stark contrasts, using sweeping and scintillating soundscapes to mirror the noisy backgrounds against which we live our lives. The vocals are buried in music which is humming with layers of distorted guitars, yet emerging into crystal clear oases of melodic calm and clarity. Enthralling.

Karibow – Holophinium
You can understand why Oliver Rüsing needed a two-cd release for the latest instalment of musical excellence from Karibow. The vision which inspires the album is majestic and sweeping in scope, telling stories of poignant self-discovery through vivid symphonic landscapes which are an exhilarating journey in delightfully imaginative musical creativity. From the outset you are fully engaged both intellectually as well emotionally in music which is hauntingly textured and beautifully expressed.

Damian Wilson – Built For Fighting

What an unexpected revelation and delight this fourth studio release from Damian Wilson really is. Penetrating lyrical vignettes tell poignant and moving stories, sung in a voice that portrays simply staggering levels of expression, emotion and passion. At the heart of it is the conflict between our biological and physical make up suited for life as a perpetual battle for survival, on the other the recognition that there is a kinder and gentler way of living. A remarkable and heart-breaking release.

Kaipa Da Capo – Dårskapens Monotoni

As soon as you hear the opening bars of this elegant and imposing album you both know and you feel as if you are home. Reuniting the original members of Kaipa from the mid 70’s, lush musical landscapes are built around smouldering keyboards, breath-taking guitar work, powerful bass and intricate drumming. This is prog as it was always meant to be, lovingly crafted and exquisitely played in songs which capture a bluesy, symphonic and deeply satisfying mood.

Dec Burke – Book Of Secrets

A fiercely intelligent and highly perceptive hymn to the pendulum of life as it swings between joy and despair. The album is boundlessly energetic, infused with power, drive and focus. There is an infectious conviction to the music which is expressed in a diverse mixture of styles, moods and competing instrumental emphases. The songs are incisive, vigorous and dynamic, filled with a strong sense of character and purpose.

T – Epistrophobia

A late entry to the 2016 list of releases, T’s follow up album to the fiercely powerful Fragmentropy illustrates that all good things come to those who wait. Despite having a more symphonic and even melodic character, Epistrophobia is intellectually intense and emotionally provocative in equal measure. T’s music has always demanded your time and attention when listening in return for the rewards it eventually yields and this is no exception. Profoundly brilliant.

Oak – Lighthouse

A third debut album makes my top 10 for 2016. Lighthouse is wonderfully charming and, the more you hear it, affectionately endearing. The album is a fusion and mixture of all sorts of feelings, experiences, thoughts and emotions which is expressed in music which has a vitality and dynamism that lifts you up, carries you along and sets you down again as it explores the joys and the agonies of being alive.  Upbeat instrumental work builds foundations for energetic landscapes and highly melodic harmonies.

 

 

 

Progradar – 2016 – Best of the First Six Months

David

(Yours truly and Prog Guru™ himself)

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the first official Progradar Reviewers and Friends ‘Best Of…’ feature.

I asked those who wished to contribute to cogitate over what great music they had heard, released 1st January to 30th June, in the first half of 2016 and come up with a list of their definitive five favourites.

Not an easy task, let me tell you but, here are the selections of nine (including me) erstwhile wordsmiths and friends, including a few words as to why these particular releases made the cut.

Emma

Emma Roebuck (Progradar reviewer)

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Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

This is Robin Armstrong on some amazing form.  I loved ‘Capacitor’ and I thought ‘Man Left in Space’ was a hard one to beat. I was clearly wrong and happy about it too. Robin is at his best when looking at the human condition when viewed through a less than regular lens. The mythology of Sisyphus and alien abduction combine to make such a lens.  I will treasure seeing his one and only live performance so far at Celebr8.3 fondly. The album is dark and melancholy which is the way I like my music to be honest.

This film might change your life and Relativity being high points in an album that is a mountain range of achievement.

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Preacher – Aftermath

Their second album, and independently released like the Cosmograf album (and another 2 in my, selection if I remember rightly.) Preacher craft both songs and albums exceedingly well. ‘Signals’, the previous album, shows signs (poor, but unintentional, pun) of a band with tons to offer. They draw their roots from 70s Floyd and the melodic side of the genre.  It could be said that this is the album that Floyd should have released instead of ‘The Endless River’, I could easily agree but this is not that Floyd this is a band that use melody, harmony and song in a way that could go beyond the genre.

Stand out Tracks

War/ War reprise and Vinyl show how we look to emotions and actions and make things or deeds of them as people.

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Drifting Sun – Safe Asylum

I was too young to be really aware of the genuine impact of the classic period of Prog rock. I caught the periphery in my early teens but felt no ownership of Yes, Genesis, VDGG, Floyd, Gentle Giant, etc only a serious attraction to the music as a 14 year old in 1975. In the early 80s, having ridden the horror that was punk, I remember seeing Marillion, IQ and Pallas in small pubs and clubs in 82 and it was a pure emotional and intellectual epiphany. It felt like I was hit in the heart and the brain with a piece of 2 by 4. I found home and ownership of music.  I liked ‘Trip the Light Fantastic’ immensely and when I heard this album I felt all those emotions again. I was in the Sheffield Limit club again hearing something of very high quality and I connected immediately to this music. It is Neo Prog of a very high standard.  They sound like themselves with echoes of the last 40 years resounding through the music.

Standout Tracks Intruder and DesolationRetribution.

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Jump – Over The Top

I have been a fan of Jump for the best part of 21 years. It is the Classic rock society that I owe big style, not just for these but many others, in times of musical desolation.  I found my first sample of these by old school recognition and recommendation by word of mouth. Fast forward to many Jump gigs later, the new album ‘Over the Top’ comes out and it was ‘yes, get in!’. Some of the current live set had been used to fine tune some of the songs over the last 18 months or so and it shows. John Dexter Jones is a storyteller par excellence and the band are an excellent vehicle for those stories. The words are heartfelt and the music comes from the same place. If they lived in medieval times they would be the bards of old. The use of the past to illustrate the way of the world we live in now is the stock in trade here.

Stand out tracks, I want to say all of them but if I was to choose The Beach and the Wreck of the St Marie are those choices.

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Kiama – Sign of IV

Just when you think you have Rob Reed figured out, Sanctuary, Magenta and so on, he does something out of the blue and blows the socks of you. Take good old rock sensibilities from the 60s and 70s, put them in the hands of some very talented individuals and they become a band which sounds like they have been a unit for years. I recently saw them support Frost* and wow, just wow.

This is a hybrid, musically drawn from the past in a very real sense, and is a homage to how they used to work but it does not feel like a tribute band in anyway.  It results in a multifaceted album of light and shade with some fantastic songs and heartfelt lyrics. It is some of Luke Machin’s best work outside of Maschine & Rubidium.  Rob Reed has a blast playing with sound and tone to create things like ‘Muzzled’, which is a tribute to the Floyd Album ‘Animals’, using the tones from the period to reflect the music and the time it came out. Dylans voice is amazing, we need more Kiama …

Stand Out Tracks  Muzzled and Slip away.

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Leo Trimming – (Progradar and TPA reviewer)

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Red Bazar – Tales From The Bookcase

This was my TPA’s review’s conclusion early in the year for this surprise package, and I’ve had no reason to change it since…

This is an excellent collaboration: Red Bazar have helped Peter Jones express more of his serious, darker side and also allowed him to display more vocal dexterity. In return Red Bazar have gained a talented and very fine rock vocalist who has added great lyrical skill and vocal feeling  to their own fine emotional musical palette…

This may be a bit of a dark horse, but Red Bazar may just have released one of the Prog albums of the year.

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Matthew Parmenter – All Our Yesterdays

A favourite on two levels – it’s a great album of subtle artistry and fine music, and on another level the artist & his music  touched me personally. My Progradar review concluded:

Matthew Parmenter has stepped aside from the magnificent, gothic group dynamic of Discipline to create a solo work of art suffused with dramatic shades and emotional lyricism, conveying tragedy and hope. This is an album that is likely to captivate and beguile with subtlety and delicate emotion. It certainly gave me unexpected comfort – Inside.’

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Nine Stones Close – Leaves

A darkly trippy and psychedelic album. Part dream, part nightmare – this is an album for which repeated listens gradually unpeal the layers, like all the best progressive releases. My Progradar review observed:

Nine Stones Close create rich musical landscapes suffused with a sense of the dramatic and psychedelic… They do not stick to their old formula and want to progress. My advice is stick with these guys because you are never quite sure in which direction their songs or this albums may turn, but it sure is an imaginative and fascinating ride!’

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Big Big Train – Folklore

A much anticipated release does not disappoint as the album describes modern folklore, ancient legend, elegies for lost love and epic stories of heroism and loss … plus bees (!) in a rich tapestry of folk tinged progressive rock. Lyrically intelligent and insightful, conveyed with integrity and emotion, and played with consummate skill and passion. Impossible to ignore – we all sort of knew it would be great. Of course it’s great!

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Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

Simply stunning. Robin Armstrong has imagined a rich narrative of alien incursion (or paranoid breakdown?!) with sonic brilliance. The imaginative story is unnerving, whilst the music is captivating on a human level but cinematic in scope – ranging from crunching Purple riffs, through atmospheric acoustic passages to sweeping Floydian soundscapes. Undoubtedly, major contender for Album of the Year already from one of the best Progressive Rock artists of this generation.

Gary

Gary Morley – (Progradar reviewer)

HAWKWIND The Machine Stops

Hawkwind – The Machine Stops

Everything that Hawkwind evoke distilled into one disc. Great musicianship, tunes and tons of atmosphere make this the top of the pops for me. It’s been a long time since a Hawkwind album had such a buzz about it. Biggest regret – that I missed the live shows. Biggest hope – a proper live blu-ray & CD set is coming.

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Preacher – Aftermath

Prog at it’s best for me needs a driver. Preacher use guitars. Proper guitars like your dad waffles on about when he talks about Pink Floyd, Steve Hillage, Jimmy Page and that time he watched Rory Gallagher play for 3 hours at the Hexagon Theatre and your mum was drinking pints and ended up paralytic, singing along to “Wayward Child” sat on his boss’s shoulders…

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I Am The Manic Whale – Everything Beautiful In Time

Local boy’s debut embraces everything that is good about music. It has great tunes, off the wall lyrics and subjects that place it head and shoulders above most of what passes for modern music from the under 30’s. I’m looking forward to their next offering, be it a live gig in Reading or more music.

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Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

‘The Clockwork Fable’ is a Steam punk opera, like a space opera or a soap opera but without the bad romance and dodgy backdrops.

I loved the variety of musical genres used to tell a totally bonkers tale of clockwork suns and steam powered boys looking for missing cogs in a giant machine all played out in a cavernous underground city. There are rock tracks, some great drumming, some “epic” prog , some plaintive melodies and a host of guest vocalists and musicians, all of which add to the mix without overegging the lily.

The first time you listen you get sucked into the world presented here. It’s a Post apocalyptic, dark dystopian world but there are flashes of humour and the absurdity does not detract from the sheer brilliance of the effort here.

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Steven Wilson – 4 1/2

“left over’s” from ‘Hand .Cannot .Erase’ these track might have been, but as a snapshot of Mr Chuckletrousers ( © Angus Prune I Think) and his Zeus like stature in the modern Prog pantheon  this is sublime in its perfection. Hints of Zappa referencing impossible “stun guitar”, epic soundscape that demonstrate his skill as an arranger and bleak yet beautiful lyrics are all wrapped in a package that sticks 2 fingers up at the download and go generation. This is a quality production in every detail, lovingly constructed and presented for your pleasure.

Shawn Dudley

Shawn Dudley – (Progradar reviewer)

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Messenger – Threnodies

It took several spins for this album to truly work its magic on me, but once hooked it just won’t let me go.  A beautifully organic record, informed and powered by vintage sounds but not a slave to them.  The tastefully arranged guitar work on this album is a particular highlight.  Favorite tracks:  Balearic Blue, Celestial Spheres. 

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Haken – Affinity

Haken leaves the 1970s sounds of ‘The Mountain’ behind, makes a brief stop in the 1980s for the song 1985 and then ventures forward into the future on Affinity.  An endlessly inventive collection of intricately designed and passionately performed pieces it’s one of the most thrillingly forward-looking albums of 2016.  It’s time to drop the “Prog Metal” genre tag, these guys have transcended it.  Favorite tracks:  The Architect, Red Giant

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Purson – Desire’s Magic Theatre

Purson’s follow-up to ‘The Circle And The Blue Door’ is essentially a solo album from Rosalie Cunningham who wrote, arranged, produced and performed the majority of D.M.T. herself.   A conceptual psychedelic journey influenced by her Father’s record collection and her own experimentation with mind-expanding substances.  Another case of an artist using the canvas of vintage instrumentation and production techniques to create very personal and unique modern music.   Favorite tracks:  The Sky Parade, The Bitter Suite.

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Big Big Train Folklore

Another beautiful collection of immaculately arranged and produced “pastoral prog” from this master collective of musicians.  I recommend going for the extended track-list available on the LP and High-Res download editions, I believe an even stronger collection than the shorter CD version.  Favorite tracks:  Salisbury Giant, London Plane

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden

A wonderfully quirky concoction of pop sensibility, progressive experimentation and the harmonic sophistication of jazz all mixed together into a thoroughly accessible brew.  And it’s fun!  Favorite tracks:  I Am Lost, I Must Set Fire To Your Portrait.

Roger

Roger Trenwith – (TPA reviewer and Astounded by Sound blog)

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Bent Knee – Say So

An unparalleled triumph of invention, melody, and strangeitude, it will take some beating for album of the year.

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David Bowie – Blackstar

Hardly seems right relegating this poignant artistic statement and full stop on a career of a true visionary to No.2, but from a purely musical point of view, them’s the breaks.

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden

A chronicle of loss leavened by hope, Knifeworld get better with each release. Criminally underrated.

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Body English – Stories of Earth

Is there a sub-genre called “prog-pop”? If not, this is it. A truly joyous record shining a light in this dark Year of Stupid.

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King Crimson – Live In Toronto – Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto, Canada, 20th November 2015

Whatever I put here means leaving out at least half a dozen albums equally as good, so this came out on top after a complicated mathematical randomisation process involving dice, incantations, dead frogs, toads, and copious amounts of single malt. The mighty Crim remake, remodel like no-one else. The version of Epitaph will make you shiver, unless you have no soul. Superb!

Kev

Kevin Thompson (LHS) – (Progradar reviewer)

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Big Big Train – Folklore

Does this really need a reason?, best of the Band’s excellent output so far and an album that will always be on my desert island disc list. As near to perfect as it gets…

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Long Distance Calling – Trips

There are so many bands in this area of music it’s hard to stand out, but, on this release, Long Distance Calling have…..

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Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

A tremendous 3 disc concept package of such quality. Never been better value for money and shames the bigger bands!!

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Iamthemorning – Lighthouse

A delicately beautiful album from this Russian duo added further poignancy with the heartfelt vocals from Mariusz Duda on the title track.

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Downriver Dead Men Go – Tides

Another band who came recommended and I’d not heard before buying. Slow, dark and emotional, this Dutch band surpassed my expectations.

David

David Elliott – (Prog Guru™, TEP, Bad Elephant)

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Lazuli – Nos Âmes Saoules

There is nothing else quite like them, and they keep on going from strength to strength….

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Bent Knee – Say So

My first exposure to this amazing American band…genuine innovators, and hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck exciting!!

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The Dowling Poole – One, Hyde Park

Unashamedly unoriginal, but huge fun, and immaculately crafted. Big smiley music.

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden

Banging tunes, a great groove, and more bassoon!!

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Frost* – Falling Satellites

A great return to the arena from the masters of modern progressive. Progressive rock with pop sensibilities – what’s not to like?

John Simms

John Simms – (Progradar reviewer, Rev Sky Pilot blog)

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Big Big train – Folklore

Consistently turning out excellent pastoral English progressive music, BBT have hit the motherlode again with this suite of songs celebrating the British folkloric tradition. From the sublime beauty of ‘Transit’ to the quirky tale of ‘Winkie’ the Pigeon, this is music of the highest calibre.

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Anderson/Stolt – Invention of Knowledge

This, for me, is simply the best music anyone connected with Yes has produced since ‘Awaken’. It draws on the bestaspects of Yes and Flower Kings and produces something sublime and beautiful. It was a very close call between my Top 2.

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Southern Empire – Southern Empire

One of the up sides to Unitopia folding a few years ago is that we now have both UPF and Southern Empire to carry on the legacy. This is a fine collection of melodic progressive rock music, exhibiting high levels of virtuosity and songmanship.

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out of Eden

Another band with a unique style and approach to music making. This is a wonderful follow-up to ‘The Unravelling’ and Kavus and his band of minstrels continue to delight.

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Mothertongue – Unsongs

The best music is that which stands out from the crowd, and Mothertongue certainly do that. Ecclectic, bizarre, unexpected and bonkers, this is a wonderful collection of (un)songs.

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And finally my thoughts, this selection of five albums was incredibly difficult to pick but I’m pretty certain that, at this moment in time, it is my definitive top five!!!

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Mothertongue – Unsongs

With its incisive, intelligent lyrics and first-class musicianship, Unsongs is unlike anything you will have heard in recent years. The music will lead you on a roller-coaster journey of acid jazz inventiveness that’s a big heap of noisy and light and also includes a lot of brass because everyone likes brass, right? A musical breath of fresh air that you will return to again and again, it’s just brilliant!

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Big Big Train – Folklore

The acknowledged masters of pastoral progressive rock and intelligent and incisive storytelling return with a fresh collection of tales gleaned from our heritage and history. With their penchant for heartfelt lyrics and beautiful music it is an involving and mesmerising journey that everyone should take at least once in their life.

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Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

Thought provoking, questioning and inventive, ‘The Unreasonable Silence’ has all that I ask for in my music. A well constructed and intelligent concept brought to reality by a gifted musician with incomparable support from some incredible guests. It makes you really think about what you have heard and, above all, is a peerless, outstanding and incomparable listening experience that you will not forget any time soon.

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Iamthemorning – Lighthouse

‘Lighthouse’ is an amazing musical journey from the first note to the last. It is bewitching and beguiling and removes you from your everyday life to a place of wonder. Darkly captivating, it is not all sweetness and light but is a musical legacy that iamthemorning can build on and the ‘Lighthouse’ can light the way. These two exceptional artists have now moved into the major leagues and it is well deserved, album of the year? why not!

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Tilt – Hinterland

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. By the way, three of these guys are better known as Fish’s backing band but, oh my god, have they risen well above that soubriquet now….

So, there you have it, a small selection of our own, very subjective, opinions on what has been the best music of a highly impressive first six months of 2016. You may agree, you may not but, one thing that everything agrees on is that the music just keeps getting better, and long may it continue!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Frost* – Falling Satellites – by Progradar

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“You can decorate absence however you want- but you’re still gonna feel what’s missing.”
― Siobhan Vivian

Bloody hell, I didn’t realise it has been 8 years since Frost*, the brainchild of seminal keyboard wizard Jem Godfrey, released their last album ‘Experiments In Mass Appeal’.

This was a band who I saw supporting Dream Theater in Leeds and, despite the fact I’d never heard of, or anything by, them, was utterly blown away by the combination of incredibly complex keyboards and fizzing guitars which, combined with impressive melodies, gave us the breath of fresh air that was the ‘Milliontown album in 2006, one that is still revered in hushed tones to this day.

My love of Dream Theater began to wane in earnest that evening but I have been waiting with bated breath for news of a new Frost* album.

The Flash

So, to bide the time awaiting the new record I came up with imagined scenarios as to what Jem could have been up to in the intervening years (I know, I need to get out more).

Have any of you watched DC Comic’s The Flash? I bet a few of you have but, if not, a quick summary.

Uber genius Harrison Wells has his own particle accelerator (like you do) at his company Star Laboratories which goes into meltdown and causes a huge explosion. Some of those caught up in the blast end up with super powers, Meta-Humans, some good and some bad.

Now, imagine if our Jem was one of those caught in the fallout and his supercharged, manic energy came as a result of the Star Labs explosion? (still with me?, good!) and he has been kidnapped by some evil Bond villain and forced to sit in a room and churn out turgid mainstream hits for the last 8 years?

Enough to send you mad, you would agree? Not Mr Godfrey, upon his exciting escape, he set about writing the latest Frost* album ‘Falling Satellites’ and put all of his near 8 years in captivity into this latest bombastic musical extravaganza!

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On ‘Falling Satellites’ Jem Godfrey is joined by long term collaborator John Mitchell (Lonely Robot/It Bites) on guitar and vocals plus Nathan King (Level 42) on bass and drummer Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson).

“This line-up has been in existence since 2010 and is now the longest version of Frost* that there’s ever been”, says Godfrey, “so it’s strange to think that this is the first time we’ve recorded an album together”.

There are 11 songs in total with the final 6 songs forming a 32 minute long suite called “Sunlight”. Within this collection of songs comes an unexpected guest appearance from none other than Grammy nominated guitar legend Joe Satriani.

As to the album’s theme… “It’s about chance and life. The astronomically unlikely chance of being conceived to start with and then surviving to old age”, Godfrey says, “the near impossible odds of the things that happen to you in life benefitting you rather than killing you are gigantic and yet it happens all the time. It’s about celebrating how extraordinarily rare the period of us being alive is and how we should take more time to appreciate it while we’re here. We’re a long time dead at either end of this brief little flicker.”

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What were we going to get after eight years? opening number First Day is a short introductory track that has Frost* writ large all over it, reverential keyboards and hushed, breathy vocals given a real sense of anticipation before we get into the new music proper…. Numbers showcases the new high energy prog/pop style perfectly with a funky keyboard intro, full of energy and innovation. The harmonised vocals are excellent and you just find yourself toe-tapping madly to the addictive sound of crunchy guitars and Jem’s manic keyboard style. The fast paced guitar licks and solo add even more impulse to this high octane four minutes of near-perfect musical vivacity.

How do you incorporate dub-step into progressive pop music? I have no idea but Jem Godfrey obviously does! Towerblock begins in quiet, reverential fashion, all calm and collected before all hell breaks loose and a really dynamic and grungy keyboard takes over. To be honest I had no idea what to make of it at first but, do yourself a favour, just go with the flow and it soon starts to make addictive sense as it gets under your skin. Flowing, fluid  and off the wall keyboards writhe around never quite letting your brain comprehend them and Jem’s fiercely protective vocal gives a serious edge. It really shouldn’t work but it does, gloriously, as you find yourself playing air keyboards and jumping up and down (what do you mean, you didn’t?). One of the most innovative and fresh tracks to hit progressive rock in many a year, I loved it, the utterly demented keyboard and drum frenzy that closes out the song is inspired.

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The calm after the storm, Signs begins as a wistful and whimsical delight with carefully delivered vocals before opening up with a monster riff and some towering keys. The rhythm section of King and Blundell (new cop partnership anyone?) ably providing support. the track flows between these calm amd collected verses and the lofty and imposing chorus where the organ-like keyboards add a real note of veneration. A superbly crafted piece of songwriting with some punchy powerful riffs that showcase Mr Mitchell’s guitar prowess and an utterly compelling performance behind the kit from Craig Blundell. This song sees a more influential return to the expansive and charismatic soundscape well beloved of Frost* fans everywhere and brings a smile to my face. Oh you thing of infinite wonder and delight, Lights Out is a gorgeous little track that pulls at your very soul with its unclouded resplendence. The keyboards have an ethereal edge to them, Craig’s drumming is sublime and the vocals have a soft yearning feel underlying them. A touch of longing fills your soul and you drift away on a cloud of well-being, notably Frost* but with a new and stylish veneer. Belay that feeling of goodwill, the high-energy intro to Heartstrings takes no quarter and fills you with a feeling of expectation. That keyboard heavy sound returns and the instantly recognisable and harmonised chorus could only be Frost* at the height of their powers. Like a white water ride in a tumbling raft, the irrepressible dynamics of the song pull you along in their wake, an utterly willing victim of its charismatic persona. The final repeat of the chorus feels like an outpouring of emotion as the track closes out with a hook filled ending.

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The whole album is full of superb tracks and this is only intensified with Closer To The Sun. Another fine exponent of the new found pop sensibilites it just feels right. The introduction is catchy, upbeat and utterly persuasive and has a feel of lazy summer days without a care in the world to it. The vocals are kept in the background and everything is expertly subdued before John Mitchell delivers another spellbinding guitar solo that squirrels through your mind, touching every sensory receptor before making way for Jem’s potent and progressive keyboards that tell a musical tale all of their own. Zone out these two musical maestros though and you can hear the notable chops that Nathan and Craig bring to the party. If the previous track was smoother than an otter’s pocket (thanks to Robin Armstrong for that gem) then (deep breath all) Raging Against The Dying Of The Light – Blues in 7/8 is as forceful as a tsunami. The thunderous opening is dominated by the evil sound of Jem’s keyboards, literally blowing everything out of their path. The vocals have a real dark edge to them, forceful and demanding and Craig really gives his kit a work out. The real star of this track though is the hugely demonstrative tone of the keys as they forge their own way, brooking no argument. The occasional lulls only seem to enforce the aggressive and potent intent of the rest of this red-blooded track, it’s like Frost* on something entirely illegal, it shouldn’t be allowed, just be glad it is! I do like a good instrumental from these boys and they really scaled the heights with Hyperventilate from ‘Milliontown’ so it was great to know that ‘Falling Satellites’ would feature it’s own. Nice Day For It….. is another great track, technically it’s not fully instrumental but you’ll forgive me that foible I’m sure, that just seems to flow perfectly from beginning to end, all the musicians working in perfect harmony to deliver a near flawless slice of melodic precision that is just bliss to the ears. It rises and falls superbly, the keyboards being the driving force once again, guitar adding the finishing touches and drum and bass playing the perfect wingmen.

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Hypoventilate is a two minute wall of sound, a musical force of nature that blots out the Sun around it. An slow burning, brooding and intense musical experience that just knocks you over, leaving you senseless before the gentle persuasions of Last Day pick you up and get you back on your feet again. The tender, mellow piano matching the placid, if a little care-worn, vocals to close out ‘Falling Satellites’ in a nostalgic, sentimental, even slightly regretful, manner.

So, after an eight year hiatus Frost* have returned with a triumphant third album that ticks all the relevant boxes for this tired old music hack. Definitively Frost* and yet with a distinctive lustre and some rather inspired new sounds that give it even more depth. Instantly accessible but, also, with untold layers of sophistication, oh bugger, this musical year just keeps getting better and better!

Released 27th may 2016.

Pre-order ‘Falling Satellites’ from The Merch Desk