Review – Frost* – Day And Age – by John Wenlock-Smith

What a year this is turning out to be, eh? We have had lockdowns, a new US President, I was so glad to see the back of Donald Trump and his inane ‘Twittering’s’, along with his clan of hangers on and thugs. Thankfully so were most Americans, sick of his lies and arrogance and concern for himself and so voted him out, although the incidents at the Capitol Hill probably sealed his fate, for now at least.

In other news, we have seen mass vaccinations against Covid, the emergence of random variants and possible hope for return to a more normal way of living, although some changes will probably remain in situ for now. In this time of uncertainty there are signs of new life, especially musically, as bands are emerging, once again, with the promise of live shows nearer to reality and new material in the can awaiting release.

Frost* are one such act. After a fine digital EP last year, ‘The Others’, and the ’13 Winters’ box set that brought the first ten years of the band together in one fabulous complete 8 CD set, comes this new release ‘Day and Age’ which opens the next stage of their ongoing history.

Consisting of 8 tracks lasting just over 53 minutes, this is a stroll through the modern world as seen by Frost*. Expect despair, hope, longing, confusion and fear along with strong melodies and inspired music, albeit with an edge of discomfort and unsettlement.

“Welcome to the rest of your life… sit back and remember, enjoy yourselves, you scum”, or so the disturbing child’s voice intones at the beginning of opener Day and Age. Things settle into a mid-paced track with lots happening musically, a powerful back beat and masses of keyboards and chiming guitars and with John Mitchell sounding not unlike a certain Mr Gabriel on this song. Everything passes swiftly with nary a wasted second, indeed, as an opener, it is certainly one of the most effective I’ve heard this year and stands right up there with tracks like Hypersonic from ‘Liquid Tension Experiment 3’ and Out Of This World from Kayak. Yes folks, in a dim world, there is mighty fine new music being conceived and delivered by our prog heroes who are, to a man, refusing to allow Covid restrictions to curtail their ongoing creativity and we are most thankful for that.

The album has a few shorter tracks in amongst the longer ones and, in all of these, you can hear the pop sensibilities that Frost* employ so wonderfully, along with the thunderous drums of Kaz Rodriguez, Darby Todd and Pat Mastelotto, each of whom pound away very satisfyingly indeed with power, strength and finesse..

This is especially so on the awesome The Boy Who Stood Still, which includes a fine voice over from Jason Isaacs. Sound wise, this song reminds me of the mighty Propaganda of ZTT Records fame who, through a blend of hard-edged percussion and angular vocals, married funk and progressive elements so wonderfully. Check out Duel or Dr Mabuse for an example of their sound and then see how this Frost* track compares, I can certainly see the similarities. The track is a decent length too and benefits from the extended running time to realise its ideas fully, it really is an interesting song. Lyrically this is a dark album and, were it not for the imaginative music Frost* create, could be considered very mournful and sad. Yet the music works with the lyrics to create something that is not really that sad somehow, I think it is the imagination they employ that elevates the songs to different heights. 

Another Excellent song is Kill The Orchestra, it opens with some rather dreamy piano that is completely in contrast to the darkness of the lyrics. That may, of course, be in part due to the locations involved in the writing of these songs, namely a converted coastguard tower in the south west of England amongst other locations. This possible bleakness contributes to the darkness and stark feelings contained in these songs, which, when you read the lyrics, is clearly apparent as a dark and yet interesting view of the world becomes clear.

All of this makes the album all the better for it does not sugar coat the band’s views and takes such a bold lyrical stance. Kill the Orchestra is particularly dark in tone with its tale of a would-be rock star who is lost in his own self worth to the point of self-obsession. All of this is backed by some epic musical sections to make a seriously good song.

This is an ambitious set of songs performed wonderfully and are very satisfying musically. With the modern edge to its sound, ‘Day and Age’ is an album that is impressive from its disturbing opening voice right to the end some, 53 minutes later. This is one that is best heard loud in the dark I think, you will love it!

Released 14th May, 2021

Order from Burning Shed here:

Day And Age (burningshed.com)

FROST* release ‘Terrestrial’; first single from new album ‘Day And Age’

Frost* recently announced ‘Day And Age’, their first new studio album in 5 years, set for release on the 14th May 2021. The band’s fourth record features Jem Godfrey once again joined by John Mitchell & Nathan King, as well as 3 guest drummers: Kaz Rodriguez (Chaka Khan, Josh Groban), Darby Todd (The Darkness, Martin Barre) & Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mister Mister). The album also features actor Jason Isaacs.

Today the band are pleased to launch ‘Terrestrial’, the first single taken from ‘Day And Age’, and you can watch the video here: 

Jem Godfrey comments: “Terrestrial is about Donald Crowhurst who disappeared while competing in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race never to be found. The last page of his logbook contained the words: “I have no need to prolong the game. It is finished – It is finished IT IS THE MERCY.”

 ‘Day And Age’ was recorded over the course of 2019 and 2020, featuring 8 tracks and striking cover artwork by Carl Glover of Aleph Studios (Steven Wilson, Marillion, Steve Jansen). The album will be released on Limited 2CD (including a bonus disc of instrumentals), Gatefold 180g 2LP + CD (with etching on Side D), and as Digital Album. Pre-order now here: https://frost-band.lnk.to/DayAndAge

The full track-listing is below:

1.         Day And Age 11:49

2.         Terrestrial 5:13

3.         Waiting For The Lie 4:31

4.         The Boy Who Stood Still 7:33

5.         Island Life 4:14

6.         Skywards 4:13

7.         Kill The Orchestra 9:27

8.         Repeat To Fade 6:14 

In September 2019 Godfrey and Mitchell rented a cottage for a week in Helford, Cornwall and set about converting it into a recording studio. Day one saw them write and record “Skywards”, “Island Life” was written on day two. On day three, the duo wrote what was to become the title and defining track of the new album, “Day And Age”. 

The following January, the band setup a new temporary studio for a further week in a converted coastguard tower at Dungeness in East Sussex. “We were 30 feet by the sea, next to a nuclear power station and a lighthouse, in midwinter. So there was hardly any daylight and the weather was dreadful”, laughs bassist Nathan King, “We wrote “Terrestrial” and “Repeat To Fade” there and you can definitely hear the bleak isolated oppression having an effect on us. The songs we wrote were far darker – the wind howling round the building at night, the power station generating crackles on the audio, a huge lighthouse next door sweeping light into the fog every 30 seconds and John screaming “ENJOY YOURSELVES YOU SCUM” into a microphone. It was absolutely brilliant!”.

In November 2020, Frost* released the career-retrospective collection ‘13 Winters’ which featured all their studio albums to date, plus live material, b-sides & last years ‘Others’ EP, all packaged in a beautiful artbook.

Frost* was formed in 2004 by keyboard player and singer Jem Godfrey, Released in 2006 the band’s debut album “Milliontown” was an instant success and is regarded by many as a classic in the modern prog rock genre featuring John Mitchell on guitar, John Jowitt on bass and Andy Edwards on drums. The band quickly followed it up with “Experiments In Mass Appeal” in 2008, in many ways the antithesis of “Milliontown” featuring a much more stripped back sound, more concise songs and a new band member and singer in the form of Dec Burke.

The live album “The Philadelphia Experiment” followed in 2009 and the a long gap followed before 3rd album “Falling Satellites” was released in 2016 with a new line-up of Nathan King on bass and Craig Blundell on drums, plus returning guitarist and singer John Mitchell on guitar who also co-wrote much of the album with Jem Godfrey. 

FROST* return with fourth studio album ‘Day And Age’

Frost* are returning with their first new studio album in 5 years on the 14th May 2021. ‘Day And Age’ is the band’s fourth record, and features Jem Godfrey once again joined by John Mitchell & Nathan King, as well as 3 guest drummers: Kaz Rodriguez (Chaka Khan, Josh Groban), Darby Todd (The Darkness, Martin Barre) & Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mister Mister). The album also features actor Jason Isaacs.

Jem Godfrey comments of the new album: “2020 was the year of the studio for obvious reasons. As a result 2021 is going to be a bumper year for new music I think and we’re very happy to be riding that wave too into what I hope will be a better year for everybody.”

 ‘Day And Age’ was recorded over the course of 2019 and 2020, featuring 8 tracks and striking cover artwork by Carl Glover of Aleph Studios (Steven Wilson, Marillion, Steve Jansen). The full track-listing is below:

1.         Day And Age 11:49

2.         Terrestrial 5:13

3.         Waiting For The Lie 4:31

4.         The Boy Who Stood Still 7:33

5.         Island Life 4:14

6.         Skywards 4:13

7.         Kill The Orchestra 9:27

8.         Repeat To Fade 6:14 

The album will be released on Limited 2CD (including a bonus disc of instrumentals), Gatefold 180g 2LP + CD (with etching on Side D), and as Digital Album. Pre-order starts 19th March.

In September 2019 Godfrey and Mitchell rented a cottage for a week in Helford, Cornwall and set about converting it into a recording studio. Day one saw them write and record “Skywards”, “Island Life” was written on day two. On day three, the duo wrote what was to become the title and defining track of the new album, “Day And Age”. 

The following January, the band setup a new temporary studio for a further week in a converted coastguard tower at Dungeness in East Sussex. “We were 30 feet by the sea, next to a nuclear power station and a lighthouse, in midwinter. So there was hardly any daylight and the weather was dreadful”, laughs bassist Nathan King, “We wrote “Terrestrial” and “Repeat To Fade” there and you can definitely hear the bleak isolated oppression having an effect on us. The songs we wrote were far darker – the wind howling round the building at night, the power station generating crackles on the audio, a huge lighthouse next door sweeping light into the fog every 30 seconds and John screaming “ENJOY YOURSELVES YOU SCUM” into a microphone. It was absolutely brilliant!”.

In November 2020, Frost* released the career-retrospective collection ‘13 Winters’ which featured all their studio albums to date, plus live material, b-sides & last years ‘Others’ EP, all packaged in a beautiful artbook. 

Frost* was formed in 2004 by keyboard player and singer Jem Godfrey, Released in 2006 the band’s debut album “Milliontown” was an instant success and is regarded by many as a classic in the modern prog rock genre featuring John Mitchell on guitar, John Jowitt on bass and Andy Edwards on drums. The band quickly followed it up with “Experiments In Mass Appeal” in 2008, in many ways the antithesis of “Milliontown” featuring a much more stripped back sound, more concise songs and a new band member and singer in the form of Dec Burke. 

The live album “The Philadelphia Experiment” followed in 2009 and the a long gap followed before 3rd album “Falling Satellites” was released in 2016 with a new line-up of Nathan King on bass and Craig Blundell on drums, plus returning guitarist and singer John Mitchell on guitar who also co-wrote much of the album with Jem Godfrey.

Review – Frost* – Others E.P. – by John-Wenlock Smith

The ‘Others’ E.P. is basically a collection of left-over tracks from their last album (‘Falling Satellites’) released in 2016 and with a running time of 32 odd minutes.

Acting as a taster for their next album, that is due to surface in September, this 6 track EP is most welcome treat one that, once again, proves that the creative force found in the mind of Jem Godfrey never rests and that, even now, his mind is still crafting and creating aural treasure for our delectation.

The EP opens in style and with a real presence in Fathers which utilises lots of vocal tricks to enhance the sound alongside some pretty ferocious drums and guitar work. There’s an almost thrash tempo to it that is softened by some prominent synths before an altered vocal is brought in. This is a very powerful song with some serious drive to it, thanks to Craig Blundell’s hearty drum patterns.

This is the suddenly interrupted by a brief xylophone break, which is very different, and then the main riff crashes back in again before a child’s voice says ‘goodnight’, leading into Clouda, which opens with gentle keyboard effects and a sole vocal. The song then morphs into an electronic dance sounding track interspersed with more keyboard effects among pounding drum patterns, keyboard effects and samples. An acoustic guitar lightens the tone, rendering some gentleness to the song before reverting to the harder format again.

This song is very atmospheric,the middle section is dreamy in tone with lots of effects surrounding the music, although I must confess that I don’t know what he is singing about! It is certainly effective though as, once again, this sound hurtles along with barely a breath. The music is very interesting and effective before another gentle dreamlike section towards the end, sounding like something out of a fairy tale, brings it to a close.

Exhibit A opens with a guitar and some chant type vocals that fade to sampled keyboard sounds. Again, it is very dance driven and sounds almost like an African rhythm before a huge guitar riff and drums crash in. More treated vocals are employed before the choral chant is introduced with more keyboards and programming, “We won, we own you…” is repeated to great effect before a brief keyboard riff and then onto verse 2! Telling us again that we are owned and will do as we are told. There is a middle section of some spaciness and then the guitar solo and drums play their parts along with a wild synth solo. It is all very effective asthe chorus plays out, with a female vocal this time, and more keyboards/samples bring the song to a fine conclusion as a strong spoken male voice riffs over then end of the song. The track is all about the downside of fame and how it’s not always what you thought it would be and how it can be a prison of your own making.

Fathom is a song about a wife who goes to war with her husband rather than him leaving her on her own. The piece has a military feel and beat to it and it certainly tells a different story. This is a very emotional song talking, as it does ,about the reality of war and the lengths this wife went to be with the one she loves. There’s sounds that are reminiscent of ELO in the Synths and there is also much tenderness to it too, in the emotions it expresses. Next up is Eat, which is very vocally effected and manipulated to good effect, the clever effects really adding emphasis and emotion to the song again, most impressive. The song is actually about a blood sucking insect and its view of a victim!!

The final song is called Drown. Again a very languid and dreamy piece with lots of chiming keyboards and samples. Craig’s drumbeat keeps it all in time and holds it together. Quite a simple piece but it is an effective and reflective one to round off a very different style of progressive rock music, the sort that makes you think WTF initially but that gradually grows on you the more your hear it and become acquainted with it.

I have to confess that I know very little about Frost* overall, never having heard their previous albums. That is something I will have to rectify now, I think, as this has certainly impressed me and whetted my appetite for more!

Released 5th June, 2020.

FROST* – release first track from forthcoming “Others – EP”

With FROST*’s latest album, “Falling Satellites”, dating back to 2016, it was about time, mastermind Jem Godfrey teamed up with Nathan King and John Mitchell to continue forging daring and dynamic progressive music. After announcing the 32 minutes long “Others – EP”, now the time is nigh to reveal a brand-new track ‘Exhibit A’.

 Jem Godfrey states: “It’s good to be back with a cheerful song for these cheerful times! This is about being careful what you wish for when playing the fame game”.

Completed already back in 2019, Jem has the following to say about the “Others – EP”:

“Others” is a 6 track EP containing 6 songs that were written at the time of the “Falling Satellites” album. Initially the idea was that “Falling Satellites” would be a double album, but it felt more focused and concise as a single album by the time we’d finished making it, so these half completed songs were put to one side. Now finished and mixed, they are ready to see the light of day! 

The EP will be released digitally on June 5th, 2020 and will be released as part of the limited “13 Winters” anthology-artbook physically later this year. 

Pre-order the digital EP here: https://frost-band.lnk.to/OthersEP  

Furthermore, FROST* are putting finishing touches to their highly anticipated new studio album which is tentatively scheduled for a September release through InsideOutMusic.

FROST* – announce release of “Others – EP” on June 5, 2020

With FROST*’s latest album, “Falling Satellites”, dating back to 2016, it was about time, mastermind Jem Godfrey teamed up with Nathan King and John Mitchell to continue forging daring and dynamic progressive music.

Completed already back in 2019, FROST* now announce the release of the stunning 32 minutes long “Others – EP”. Jem Godfrey states:

“Others” is a 6 track EP containing 6 songs that were written at the time of the “Falling Satellites” album. Initially the idea was that “Falling Satellites” would be a double album, but it felt more focused and concise as a single album by the time we’d finished making it, so these half completed songs were put to one side. Now finished and mixed, they are ready to see the light of day!”

The EP will be released digitally on June 5, 2020 and will be released as part of the limited “13 Winters” anthology-artbook physically later this year. 

A first track from the “Others – EP” will be released on May 22! 

The track-list is below:

1. Fathers

2. Clouda

3. Exhibit A

4. Fathom

5. Eat

6. Drown

Furthermore, FROST* are putting finishing touches to their highly anticipated new studio album which is tentatively scheduled for a September release through InsideOutMusic.

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:
www.facebook.com/…
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)

Cover 2

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.

Aftermath

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.

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Gary Morley – (Progradar reviewer)

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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!!