10 YEARS OF KSCOPE AT THE UNION CHAPEL ON 2nd October 2018

ANATHEMA TO HEADLINE CELEBRATORY RECORD LABEL EVENT IN LONDON WITH PAUL DRAPER, IAMTHEMORNING AND GLEB KOLYADIN

We are incredibly excited and proud to be celebrating our first decade as a record label. These past 10 years have allowed us to share and promote our favourite music, which has evolved over multiple genres whilst remaining fiercely adventurous. We kick-off the year’s revelries with an intimate acoustic show in our hometown, London, at the unique and iconic Union Chapel.

Our story began in May 2008 with the partnership between Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness as No-Man and their beautiful, haunting and cinematic album Schoolyard Ghosts. The label’s sound has since been constantly evolving through some truly brilliant and emotively powerful early projects from the likes of Anathema, Porcupine Tree, Engineers, Richard Barbieri, Gazpacho, Nordic Giants, Nosound and The Pineapple Thief, as well as Steven Wilson’s solo material and collaboration with Aviv Geffen as Blackfield.

In recent years the roster has grown to include a broader selection of talent, from the soaring dynamics of TesseracT, to the revenge-pop from The Anchoress, from the heart-breaking catharsis from Lunatic Soul to the electronica legacy of the great Tangerine Dream.

Shaping up to be a year full of celebrations, our first offering is the 10 Years of Kscope event, for which we’ve lined up a treat for guests with special acoustic performances from Anathema, Paul Draper, Iamthemorning and Gleb Kolyadin. This will undoubtedly be a night to remember for music lovers, and may even feature a few surprises…

TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE FROM – DICE & UNION CHAPEL

LINE-UP

Anathema, following the release of 2017’s The Optimist, continually evolved by placing hope in the future – from leaving the underground scene they were fundamental in establishing to continually mesmerising the world with stargazing post-progressive alternative rock that knows no borders.

“Welcome to a new Anathema experience: Ambient Acoustic.

In exploring what we might do to expand the music still further, out of thin air came the idea to arrange music in a ‘third way’, in the space between the acoustic band and the live rock band..

With ‘ambient acoustic’ we feel more free to explore many textures, mixing live loops, piano, strings, percussion, electronics, guitars and voices, all within the essence of the songs and the emotions they carry.

We hope you enjoy this next chapter of the story, the journey of discovery, of searching for something that can never really be found.

Much love, Daniel Cavanagh”

Anathema will be performing additional dates as part of their Ambient Acoustic tour in France, the Netherlands and the UK. For full details, see their website.

Learn more about Anathema via their artist page.

Paul Draper, one of British rock’s most singular and distinctive voices of the iconic 90s band Mansun, has returned with a top-20 debut solo album Spooky Action (“A properly fantastic album, ★★★★★ Record Collector).

Talking about the show, Paul told us he is “delighted and proud to be playing for my label Kscope at their upcoming 10th Anniversary show. It’s been such an exciting and productive time working with the Kscope team since I signed with them, so genuinely looking forward to playing a few tunes and celebrate with the Kscope family at the Union Chapel”

Learn more via Paul’s artist page.

Iamthemorning, the progressive chamber duo, Gleb Kolyadin and Marjana Semkina, formed in St. Petersburg and have released two albums of rich and eclectic music on Kscope, Belighted and Lighthouse, that showcase their brilliance as pianist and vocalist. Their latest studio film and soundtrack, Ocean Sounds, is due for release mid-October.

Gleb recently released his self-titled debut solo album, featuring an array of impressive guest performers, to high praise including a 4 ½ star review from All About Jazz, who said it finds the magical chemistry to weave everything into a dazzling ride with the smarts of Robert Fripp and the badassery of Beethoven. The spirit of Keith Emerson is probably pumping his fist in delight at seeing such inspired wizardry to carry on the tradition, and who knows, Franz Lizst may be cheering just as loud.

The pair told us how they felt when asked to perform at the event

Gleb: “For me, London was always a place where all important things happen. And this fall I will be very happy to be on this very special event in a wonderful place with great people and present a few piano passages from my solo album. Very exciting and looking forward to October.”

Marjana: “The first time we met Kscope team was on “5 years of Kscope” festival. It was our first time in London and back then no one knew who we were. It’s amazing how things can change if you work hard enough, and it’s our greatest pleasure to be performing an exclusive chamber set in a wonderful Union Chapel (which was always my dream venue) as a part of the label. We both are very pleased to be invited and are very much looking forward to this wonderful evening.”

Iamthemorning artist page.

Gleb Kolyadin artist page.

Follow Kscope online @kscopemusic and at kscopemusic.com

IAMTHEMORNING & KSCOPE RELEASE OCEAN SOUNDS ON 19TH OCTOBER

The new intimate studio film from the highly praised Russian duo recorded on a remote Norwegian island.

Following the success of two highly-praised albums on Kscope, Belighted and Lighthouse, Russian duo Gleb Kolyadin and Marjana Semkina are releasing a new studio film shot at and named after a remote recording studio on Giske, a Norwegian island. The footage offers a behind-the-scenes insight into the recording techniques of two of modern progressive music’s most talented composers. The content captures iamthemorning’s live set-up from the last three years, with the setlist consisting of songs from their first three studio albums and an unplugged recording of “Blue Sea”, the first track to be written for their upcoming fourth album and exclusive to this Blu-ray disc.

The studio was designed with panoramic windows that allow the stunning back-drop of Giske Island and the Norwegian Sea to be baked into the performances, a location that is featured in glorious high-definition on the Blu-ray. Marjana commented “It was the most inspiring place for us to work in, surrounded by the sea, mountains, wild flowers and gorgeous Norwegian sunsets. All of the natural splendour we don’t see that often.”

Ocean Sounds builds on the recent success of Kolyadin’s self-titled debut solo album on Kscope, which has been nominated as Album of the Year at the Progressive Music Awards ’18: an honour that Iamthemorning have already achieved with Lighthouse, and which is also backed by Semkina winning Female Vocalist of the Year in the 2016 Prog Magazine Reader’s poll. The pair’s live performances have included the likes of London’s Bush Hall, Ramblin’ Man Fair and the Netherland’s Midsummer Prog Festival.

The audio recording, mixing and mastering were handled by regular collaborator Vlad Avy, the film was produced and edited by Miles Skarin at Crystal Spotlight, and the watercolour artwork was designed by Constantine Nagishkin.

Ocean Sounds will be released as a 2 disc CD + Blu Ray set which includes the film and hi-res audio on Blu-ray; the audio on 180g LP; digitally and is available to pre-order HERE

2 disc CD (audio) + Blu Ray (video) / LP (audio)

1. Inside  [03:30]
2. Scotland 03:37]
3. To Human Misery  [04:05]
4. Romance [02:57]
5. 5/4  [03:12]
6. Touching II [03:53]
7. Os Lunatum  [03:49]
8. Matches  [03:53]
9. Sleeping Pills  [03:17]
10. Libretto Horror [02:04]
11. Chalk & Coal [04:06]
12. K. O. S.[05:51]
Bonus Track on Blu Ray disc only
13. Blue Sea [02:42]

GLEB KOLYADIN, THE VIRTUOSO IAMTHEMORNING PIANIST, DEBUT SELF TITLED SOLO ALBUM – OUT TODAY – NEW VIDEO FOR “STORYTELLER” FEAT. JORDAN RUDESS OF DREAM THEATER

With the debut self-titled album from Gleb Kolyadin (iamthemorning) released today on Kscope, the Russian virtuoso pianist premieres a new video for the song “Storyteller” which features special guest Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater

Gleb comments on the song and the Kolyadin/Rudess collaboration “Storyteller is the final point of this musical journey.  After passing through intricate corridors and stairs, the character finds a secret room where he comes to understand himself and everything that is happening with him. The room is a real mystical location in which time and space are intertwined. 

I think no one could play the solo part better than Jordan. His rocking piece is the true magic. I’m happy that everything turned out the way it did: his part was the most important detail that breathe new life into the track.”

Gleb Kolyadin is an emotive exploration of self-identity; a story of two parts with interweaving leitmotifs. The album’s central concept weaves through an elaborate tonal and thematic structure, built around the extraordinary rhythm section of Gavin Harrison and Nick Beggs, which is accented at its focal points by guest appearances from Steve Hogarth, Jordan Rudess, Mick Moss and Theo Travis.

The album is a collaborative piece with each musician recording their own parts separately, starting with Gleb recording himself on grand piano in Moscow Winter-Spring 2017 at the famed Mosfilm studio. The album was mixed and engineered by Vlad Avy, who also previously worked on the two Iamthemorning records.

Gleb Kolyadin is available on CD / LP and digitally and is available HERE

Follow Gleb Kolyadin: https://www.facebook.com/iamthemorningpage/

Review – Gleb Kolyadin – s/t – by Progradar

I suppose, like me, the music you listen to depends on the mood you are in? Uptempo, fast-paced music for workouts or when you are in a really energetic mood or perhaps the chilled out, more relaxing music for a quiet night in and then there is that album that sits a bit on the fence, it has the higher cadence but also the easygoing, even emotive tracks that make it a great listen.

I was lucky enough to receive the promo for Gleb Kolyadin’s (pianist and co-songwriter of Iamthemorning) self-titled solo release and was intrigued to find out whether it would be more of his day job or a change from the norm that would head in other directions. Along that journey I have had the pleasure to become engrossed in what is a wonderful musical adventure…

The record features a staggering who’s-who of performers, including: Gavin Harrison (King Crimson Porcupine Tree) on drums; Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson) on bass; Theo Travis (Robert Fripp / Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson) on flute and saxophone; the unmistakable voice and lyrics of Steve Hogarth (Marillion) alongside Mick Moss (Antimatter); and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) on additional keys.

The album is a collaborative piece with each musician recording their own parts separately, starting with Gleb recording himself on grand piano in Moscow Winter-Spring 2017 at the famed Mosfilm studio. The album was mixed and engineered by Vlad Avy, who also previously worked on the two Iamthemorning records.

There’s a wonderful freshness and freedom to the music that Gleb delivers, whether it is the instrumental tracks where his piano playing is key or the vocal tracks where intimate stories are weaved by the collaborative voices of Mick Moss and Steve Hogarth. The near-frantic tempo of opener Insight is a case in point with Gleb’s dextrous digits flying over the ivories to give a breathtaking demonstration of his skill. The accompanying musicians add a veneer of sheer class, Theo’s sax really stands out and you could imagine yourself standing to applaud as it comes to a close. There’s a humble feel to the opening of Astral Architecture, the gentle piano is hushed in comparison giving an ethereal grace to the song. Mick Moss adds a subtle authority as his vocals begin, full of feeling yet with an undercurrent of melancholy, they draw you into there intimate embrace and you willingly follow. A fantastical aura settles over the song as the vocals take on a more passionate note and the classical strings add gravitas, a powerfully emotive track. The elegant notes of White Dawn wouldn’t be out of place in a piano recital, oozing class and panache, it’s a short interlude that could be termed a musical amuse-bouche and it leaves a lovely feeling on the aural palate.

The theme continues but at a much faster tempo as we segue into Kaleidoscope, a track that lives up to its name as you are taken through a huge spectrum of musical wonder by Gleb’s incredible skill and artistry. Tatiana Dubovaya’s haunting vocals give an air of mystery and intrigue but it is a piece of music that fairly skips along without a care in the world and you gladly join the ride as Theo Travis’ flute takes up the reins to take us to a breathtaking close. The momentum slows a little for the captivating charm of Eidolon to beguile and enchant before the slightly discordant notes of Into the Void carry on the recurring musical theme, quite insistent and incessant in their delivery. Again, this is classical music given over to a mass audience with the added skill and expertise of modern day, real world musicians added into the mix to create something quite unique. The unrelenting timbre is carried over to The Room but you always feel the performers are totally in control of proceedings. A note of seriousness has entered the music in places, the happy-go-lucky quality taking a step into the shadows without leaving altogether, Theo’s sax playing adding a gritty feeling of ‘out there’ jazz playing to the furious piano that closes out the track.

There’s a wistful, darker aura that descends around Confluence, a dreamlike and wistful opening seems to be meandering to nowhere in particular with is deliberately slow tempo and Steve Hogarth’s hushed spoken word vocal barely heard in the background. It’s a wistful, contemplative tapestry on which a beautifully mournful soundscape is created. The music has a thoughtful and reflective ambience as it dances gently across your aural synapses and belies its ten minute plus length. This song is a testament to Gleb’s creativity as it twists and turns to gather pace before applying the brakes, always demanding your attention, an introspective piece of music that leaves a lasting impression on your mind. Constellation The Bell is a moving song that has a barely hidden fragility behind the impressive piano playing, an eloquent and expressive three minutes that leaves a hollow feeling behind. There’s a grandiose and ebullient impression to the short lived Echo Sigh Strand, a track where Gleb’s piano playing seems to emanate from his very being to come alive and it crackles with electricity, powerful and exciting.

Penrose Stairs carries on the pomp and circumstance with added theatrics, a vibrant and imposing track aided and abetted by Gleb’s stellar accompanying cast of musicians. However, it is the intricacies of his skillful piano playing that is always at the core of these songs. The involving complexities of the elaborate Storyteller take on a slightly menacing tone as Jordan Rudess’ instantly recognisable keyboard skills take over, it’s quite a thrilling joyride from beginning to end. All good things must come to an end and the dulcet tones of Steve Hogarth herald the closing track on the album The Best of Days. A fantastically nostalgic song where Gleb and Steve work together perfectly to deliver a sentimental track that tugs at the heartstrings. It’s hard for me to put my finger on it but there’s just something about this song that really works and, to my ears, it is near musical perfection.

I met Gleb at this year’s Summer’s End festival and he is a quiet, polite and very unassuming man, perhaps it is through his creative side and his music that he can really express himself. This self-titled solo debut is pretty much a work of art where the undoubted piano playing skills of this virtuoso musician are complemented by some of the most prominent musicians around to give us something quite wonderful and ultimately rewarding and something which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Released 23rd February 2018

Order ‘Gleb Kolyadin’ from Burning Shed here

 

iamthemorning Pianist Gleb Kolyadin Announces Self-titled Debut Album

Following the success of two highly-praised albums with Iamthemorning, Russian virtuoso pianist Gleb Kolyadin affirms his musical authority with his debut, self-titled album on Kscope, on 23rd February 2018.

The record features a staggering who’s-who of performers, including: Gavin Harrison (King Crimson Porcupine Tree) on drums; Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson) on bass; Theo Travis (Robert Fripp / Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson) on flute and saxophone; the unmistakable voice and lyrics of Steve Hogarth (Marillion) alongside Mick Moss (Antimatter); and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) on additional keys.

‘The Best of Days’ features the instantly recognisable vocals from Marillion’s Steve Hogarth, on the collaboration Steve comments “Gleb is a beautiful pianist and a great musician. I was invited to collaborate on his new solo album and my mind was made up as soon as I heard the music.”

Gleb Kolyadin is an emotive exploration of self-identity; a story of two parts with interweaving leitmotifs. The album’s central concept weaves through an elaborate tonal and thematic structure, built around the extraordinary rhythm section of Gavin Harrison and Nick Beggs, which is accented at its focal points by guest appearances from Steve Hogarth, Jordan Rudess, Mick Moss and Theo Travis.

Gleb is an extremely rare talent as a pianist and as a composer. His compositions are very inspiring as he breaks new ground on the instrument.” Gavin Harrison (King Crimson / Porcupine Tree)

he album is a collaborative piece with each musician recording their own parts separately, starting with Gleb recording himself on grand piano in Moscow Winter-Spring 2017 at the famed Mosfilm studio. The album was mixed and engineered by Vlad Avy, who also previously worked on the two Iamthemorning records. 

Gleb Kolyadin will be released on CD / LP and digitally and is now available to pre-order HERE

“Gleb Kolyadin is a rare talent. A virtuoso classical pianist with tremendous compositional skills… believe you will find the listening experience quite breath taking.” Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson)

Photography credit: Alexander Kuznetcov

 

 

Progradar’s Best of The Year For 2016 – Editor’s Choice

So we have had a wonderful selection of Top 10 picks from some of my great collaborators and now it is my turn. I’m going to stray from the norm because mine is going to be a Top 20 to keep it in line with my TEP selection that I spoke with David Elliott about.

Yes, it is a bit of a cheat but it is my website so I don’t have to follow the rules. Anyway,without any further ado, here are my top albums of 2016,not in any particular order but they have all made a big impact on my life this year…

You will also notice that there are no Bad Elephant Music releases in my Top 20. The label I work with had another superb year but it would have been a bit unfair of me to include any releases from the artists on BEM.

Bad Dreams – Déjà vu

‘Déjà vu’ is an album that will stand the test of time and is a great achievement for Bad Dreams. I was impressed from the first note by the accomplished musicianship and the superb vocals, add in the exemplary songwriting and it was sure to be a winner in my book. What makes it stand out even more is the way the music becomes almost part of you and can make you stop what you are doing and just listen for the sake of it and that, my friends, is what truly great music can do to you.

Blue Mammoth – Stories Of A King

Proper seventies epic prog of massive proportions from these excellent Brazilians. The artwork alone is very striking but the music will literally knock your socks off, play it loud,VERY loud!

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.

Tony Patterson – Equations of Meaning

Well I was utterly mesmerised by ‘Northlands’, Tony’s collaboration with Brendan Eyre and this album deserves to be mentioned in the same breath. To get the utmost from the album you must listen to it from start to finish, preferably with headphones on, in  a darkened room and with your choice of relaxing alcohol. To me, ‘Equations of Meaning’ is not merely a great release, it is a state of mind that we should all aspire to when our Life in the Fast Lane gets too much for us. Superb and highly recommended.

Big Big Train – Folklore

It was always going to be hard to follow ‘The Underfall Yard’ and the ‘English Electric’ albums but the acknowledged masters of pastoral progressive rock and intelligent and incisive storytelling have returned with a fresh collection of stories and 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…

Damian Wilson – Built For Fighting

Funny how music fits in with your life isn’t it? I was listening to this album walking back home last night and it just struck me as to how much it was a soundtrack to how my life has turned out this year. Painful lows, beautiful highs and, ultimately, balance has been restored.Taking a break form his Prog-Metal roots, Damian delivers a solo release of sublime brilliance.

David Foster – Dreamless

The usually modest and self-effacing Dave Foster has stepped out of the shadows and onto centre stage to deliver his second solo opus and is to be applauded and admired for doing so. Such a variety of moods, styles and colours doesn’t always mix well but when it is done with consummate skill, like it is here, you are treated to a cornucopia of musical delights. While neither ground breaking or game changing, what it is is really rather good.

Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

Gandalf’s Fist truly believe that this is the finest musical work that they have ever created. There’s a mix of all of their influences and, were you to put all of the best bits of our discography into a huge melting pot, you’d end up with something quite close (but not as awesome) as what the guys have created! But don’t just take their word for it – head over to the pre-order store and have a listen to a whopping 10 minutes of audio previews!

Ghost Community – Cycle Of Life

‘Cycle of Life’ is a thought-provoking, beguiling and fulfilling musical journey that excites and satisfies at every turn. Ghost Community may have had to endure trials and tribulations while making this record but the experiences have enabled them to deliver something quite magical and rewarding that will stand the test of time, worthy of a place in anyone’s musical collection.

Glass Hammer – Valkyrie

With its insightful, thoughtful lyrics every bit as important as the mightily impressive music, ‘Valkrie’ is a concept album in the true sense of the word. With some delightful departures from what some would call their signature sound (The Beatles anyone?) Glass Hammer continue to evolve into one of the world’s foremost Progressive Rock bands. This iconic group of musicians lead you on a journey through the horrors of war with a totally immersive sixty-five minutes of music and you will come out the other side changed forever. I can’t recommend this album enough, one of the best albums of 2016? One of the best albums of recent years more like…

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!

Nerve Toy Trio – Accidental Bar-B-Que

A really impressive and ultimately satisfying release that really gets into your psyche and has you reaching for the repeat play button again and again. Nerve Toy Trio has given us one of the best instrumental releases of the year with ‘Accidental Bar-B-Que’ and one with which the music really does stand comparison to the excellent album art. Seems my gut feeling was right once again, a highly recommended release.

I Like Trains – A Divorce Before Marriage

A real late comer to the party, in fact I haven’t reviewed it fully yet! This sublime and haunting collection of instrumental marvelousness from these Yorkshire musicians is a soundtrack to the film of the same name. Ethereal and yet solidly powerful, I haven’t heard anything like it all year and it demanded to be in this selection of top releases.

Patchwork Cacophony – Five Of Cups

There is intelligence and a wry humour than runs throughout this remarkable album. Ben Bell has an immense talent and really knows how to put it to good use. Intelligently crafted songs that make you want to listen to them show him to be a great songwriter and what he delivers proves what a notable musician he is as well. In the world of progressive rock a new star is set to rise.

Blue Rose Code – …And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing

Blue Rose Code is Edinburgh-born songwriter Ross Wilson. At the edge of contemporary alt-folk, Wilson’s music evokes a meeting of Van Morrison and a young John Martyn, both shipwrecked with a bunch of Motown records. A deep emotive well of stunning music that affects you at a core level, another late discovery of 2016 for me but a band I will be keeping my eye on now!

Of the new record, Wilson says, “It’s an album for music fans and musicians. A challenging record, I think, and it’s  abundantly clear that the process has been undertaken away from the cynicism of any record company.”

Ray Wilson – Makes Me Think Of Home

Ray Wilson has taken us on a deeply personal musical journey full of hope, despair, pain and, ultimately, salvation and I was hooked on every word, every note. This is music at its very best, written from the heart and full of the passion and soul of the artist. This is an album that I will return to again and again, no matter how much new music crosses my path and is surely a collection of songs that can, and will, stand the test of time.

Thence – We Are Left With A Song

What Thence have delivered with ‘We Are Left With A Song’ is no mere album, it is a breathtaking, creative powerhouse of sonic delight that grows to fill any space that it occupies to take on a life of its own. It is a life that you will want to share until your dying breath, above mere superlatives, it is an utter triumph.

Tilt – Hinterland

What TILT have delivered is a superb album by a cast of very accomplished musicians. Brilliant vocals, burning guitar solos, a thunderous rhythm section and songwriting of the highest quality combine to deliver one kick ass release that I keep returning to again and again. A fine combination of excellent rock music with all that’s best about progressive rock, these guys show how it really should be done!

Marc Atkinson – Home Grown

To me, this is what makes writing about music worth every single minute I take. I have been involved in this long musical journey in some small way from start to finish and when you hear the finished article, it is almost like welcoming a newborn into the world. Marc Atkinson will have agonised about every single word and note on this album and to my ears it has been worth every single second he has taken. This is music that takes over your mind and soul and which you can relate to on a very personal level. Fifteen songs that are extremely personal to this gracious man and we should be glad that he has released them for us to enjoy. A great album and one that I have no doubt is the complete pinnacle of Marc’s solo career to date, I am extremely proud to be able call him a friend.

Drifting Sun – Safe Asylum

Drifting Sun have delivered quite a work of art, one that touches on the past for influences but, also, has its own, confident vision of the future. Consume it in one listen to get the full effect of this great album, it is one that will live in the memory for a long time.

So, there you have it. 2016 was another brilliant year for music and I hope our End Of Year choices might make you go out and buy the music to support the artists involved. Please join me and my fellow authors at Progradar in 2017 for what I hope will be another stellar year for lovers of music.

 

Progradar Best Of 2016 – Gary Morley’s Top 10 With Statistics

I was supposed to have compiled a list of my top 10 ( I Think it was) albums of the year to be added to the sum worth of Progradar’s scribbling…

But I got sidetracked, applied work head and started an analysis what I’d bought and the statistics it presented me with. I blame being off sick with ‘flu or a cold as my wife insisted! J

So, an introduction is the formal way of working.

Set out the aims and objectives of this presentation.

Provide the data capture information etc.

Well ,all the CD’s were released in 2016 and purchased by my good self using either a credit card, PayPal or cash in a variety of transactions, involving human interaction, human to machine and machine to machine interfaces.

For statistical purposes, all are treated as “sales”.

Total number of “sales” of 2016 releases to the subject (me) was recorded at 159 units.[1]

These 159 units form the basis of our data extrapolation

Analysis and a breakdown into the main music food groups took place and we cross checked our data with the standard sources (A mate on Facebook, Wikipedia, a man at a bus stop and the local feline)

We then carried out advance statistical sampling and came to the following conclusions:

1 I spent far too much money on CD’s …again! Good job Wifey doesn’t read this J

2 I keep finding new bands and artists to listen to. This is a self defeating sub routine, s the more I listen too, the more get added to the library, so the more follow up CD’s and back catalogue CDs come under scrutiny, so the limited finances are spread across an increasing collecting field. Rationalisation will have to be implemented and decisions, tough decisions will have to be made in regards to future funding shortfalls.

3 I’m a sucker for a pretty cover. There are a number of “wild card” CDs here that have no discernible links to the others, they were chosen purely on a whim as I liked the look of the cover. To avoid embarrassment to both creator and listener, these will not be separated from the data and will be treated as equal contributors to the sum of all musical knowledge.

[1]  Unit – a physical Compact disc, either as an individual or as a multi unit (known as a “box set”)

Breaking down into the 9 detailed groups, we see that Prog is the most voracious in terms of numbers, accounting for 30% of my “spend”

Generic “Rock came a close second, at 28% , with Blues taking the final podium position with a sterling take of 20%. Specialist genres spilt the remaining funds between them with Soul and Ambient / Dance taking 14% each – a merger there could reap dividends next year.

That was the gross figures; there was no taste bias or cultural drift applied.

No additional “worth” was assigned to individual persons or products.[1]

The second part of our research was to “rank” the releases in order of “enjoyment” and “appreciation.

We pored over the raw data and assigned arbitrary plusses and minuses to each, factoring in musical dexterity, lyrical relevance, aura of cool, instrumental prowess, humalongabilty, ability to raise goose bumps, and “star Quality”

[2] For our research purposes, all “units” are assigned an equal cost, regardless of actual cost. This is to remove smugness bias and inferred value capping

The top 50 were assembled and separated from the 2016 subject group and were reassessed using the “Wallet emptier matrix”

Results were then sense checked and subjected to a “blind “listen to confirm that there were no tactical substitutions or last minute reappraisals.

And the top ten were dusted off , polished and are here for your pleasure.

In reverse order:-

10 – iamthemorning – Lighthouse

Glacial Russian Prog duo take everyone by surprise , this is a thing of beauty , genre defying and a Prog album that you can play to your non prog friends ( you do have them , don’t you? )

Beauty in both voice and spirit with a beast of a piano player, play it loud and get lost in their world.

9 – Joe Bonamassa – Live At The Greek

Yes, I know, Progradar writes about Prog. My ears listen to all sorts, this is my top ten of the year, and a lot of great music passed through my ears to get here.

Joe pays tribute to the 3 Kings of the Blues as only he can. By assembling a crackingly good live band, rehearsing them and then letting them loose in a concert environment. Where the joy and blues magic is captured by Kevin Shirley for us to enjoy, and I for one did. Highlight – the good vibes shining through the whole project and a full horn section powered blues band.

8 – Hawkwind – The Machine Stops

The first one in my list that I reviewed, so I can happily put this here. Hawkwind sound reenergised here, no more rehashing their own past, instead a thought provoking and relevant concept album about modern life, based on a story written 75 years ago. Fired up, rocking away, an album that thoroughly deserves the accolades it has received this last year.

7 – William White – Open Country

Switzerland, land of many things, but Rastafarian hotbed home of politically charged soulful reggae in the personable Mr W is not top of most people’s lists. In fact, after chocolate, mountain views and tax evasion, most people couldn’t provide much more of a picture of Southern European Alpine lining until Toblerone changed the shape of a chocolate bar- then every pub “expert” trotted out a variety of half facts, none of which prepare you for the sheer charm of this album. A double, one side is a fine collection of politically charged songs that anyone familiar with Ben Harper or Michael Franti would approve of .CD 2 is where the top 10 votes pile in. Live, William and his band are downright funky! Superb playing in front of a lucky crowd elevates this album into the top 10. Just listen to “Soul Rider” and defy your legs not to get all funky on yo’ Ass!

6 – The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude Of A Dream

I’ve reviewed this, but you won’t know that yet, as review is still being written. This is a Prog fan’s dream Prog album. Concept album – tick, double album in fantastic artwork – tick. Musicianship bordering on the fretwankery – tick.

Songs – oh yes , it has more tunes that an entire karaoke bar in Kyoto on a wet Wednesday ( traditionally the optimum time and place for karaoke )

Deep Purple collide with Genesis , listen to Queen and Led Zeppelin , all get kidnapped by God fearing Christian fundamentalists with an overzealous approach to redemption . All that and more wrapped up in the Prog Concept album of the year. It’s another exciting chapter in Morse’s book of tunes, not a radical departure from Spock’s Beard / Transatlantic output but still head and shoulders above many of the releases from the “big boys” this year.

5 – Big Big Train – A Stone’s Throw From The Line

To capture that rarest of events, a Big Big Train live concert required an engineer of skill and dexterity: Rob Aubrey proves that he is both with this album. Recorded last August in front of a, shall we put it politely, “devoted” “slightly biased” crowd ( I plead guilty to attending the first night) you can relive the experience in glorious Technicolor on the blu- ray  released earlier this year. But the release of the entire set as a 2CD set is the icing on the cake. Stripped of the need to spot faces in the audience, here you focus on the sound made on that stage. A glorious, very “English” sound too, but in an inclusive melting pot of traditional folklore , contemporary urban life and a celebration of the common man.

Listening now, with 2016 fading into the night, it heralds a better place than the one we are in now. Our heroes were still with us, we were united as a people, hoping for better times and reflecting on the past, not with rose tinted glasses, but the lenses of modern technology and science.
One modern “myth” is that the death of David Bowie in January started the slow unravelling of the space time continuum that played out in 2016, ?I think that without the white heat of beauty this event generated, things would have been worse. Not quite sure how, but we are still here, I’m writing this, and if my theory is correct, the chance of someone reading this far is greater because of the subject within.

Just listen to the glory that is / was “East Coast Racer”.

4 – Colin James – Blue Highways

Colin James made this album for me… Or so it felt when I saw that he’d done an album of his favourite blues tracks, a sort of musicians mix tape. On here are 13 reasons why he is the greatest Canadian guitar player / singer out there. Greater than the God, Neil Young by virtue of the fact Colin plays the blues and is therefore probably human whereas Young is almost certainly not  .

Over the years I’ve followed James from a hot shot hyped up “future of the blues” gunslinger period through his “Big Band” period where he made Jools Holland sound like a school music project, to his dabbling with funk and soul up to his 25th anniversary celebration live album, always a bit of a secret pleasure for me, until this album cracked it for him. From full blown funky band to solo acoustic, all facets of his talent are here , impeccably produced ,an album that just oozes class.

3 – Skye & Ross – Skye/Ross

Morcheeba were the band that turned my head onto contemporary UK music , post rave. I’ve always loved soul and funk, but the rave scene and the endless splintering of genres across the spectrum meant that a lot of good stuff passed me by at the time. However. Watching “the White Room” TV show back in the day , 2 bands caught my ears . One was Kula Shaker with their retake of psychaedelia , the other wasn’t so much of a band , I heard this stunning slide blues guitar over a wash of samples and rhythm duelling with an angel. Looked up and there were 2 geezers and an angel! My first experience of the genius of Morcheeba. I tracked down their debut album and started a musical journey that continues to this day. Through line up fluctuations, fame and fortune, downsizing and fallow years, I persevered, collecting their albums, solo material and those of other bands they turned me onto. The whole “trip hop” fashion scene produced some great musicians, all of which now form part of my musical DNA – Banco De Gaia , Massive Attack, Thievery Corporation, Desert Dwellers, Shpongle, Ott, Dreadzone  , The Orb and Leftfield, all these unfolded from that first Morcheeba experience) .

So my excitement was piqued when I saw that 2/3 of the original line-up were promising a return to their roots. Not a rehash of old material nor old demos but new material! I paid my money ( a pledge music adventure) and waited.

That wait was worth it, 10 tracks of class and beauty, a “proper “ album of 2 sides , all killer , no filler as the clichés states. These are perfect “pop” songs with sparse instrumentation that allows Skye’s voice to pour like honey from the speakers. No showboating guitar fretwankery drowning everything, just well crafted songs played and sang to the benefit of the listener.

2 – Banco De Gaia – The Ninth of Nine Hearts

Coming from a very Rock centered youth, my musical tastes expanded rapidly as I was exposed to new sounds. My youth was spent emulating Friends elder siblings, declaring allegiance to the Gods of Rock – Free, Deep Purple and  Led Zeppelin were our local pantheon, I added Pink Floyd, Santana, Queen , Bad Company and more by the time punk exploded in our area.

XTC were our hometown band , we al rushed out and bought the 3D Ep, placed it on the communal stereo… and half got up and left after 2 chords!

Through the punk years and the new romantic desert afterwards, we were student, learning about life , love and David Bowie.

Employment beckoned it’s fickle finger and I followed my ears. Discovering Reggae, Soul, Funk, Jazz, African , “Electro”( hip hop ) , Acid House, and so on.

Throughout ll of these expansions, the one thing that linked the music that became part of me was melody. I love a good tune, no matter what label is put on it. Through the new romantics I discovered early electronic pioneers, the post punk movement produced This Mortal Coil for me to love , We Banco De Gaia latest album sits firmly in that melodic bag. It’s not “dance “music, it’s not “Electronica” , neither is it folk or classical. IT sits at the centre of a web with strands linking all of these . Pat Metheny group influences the vibe, as does Psych dub via hallucinogen style rhythms and synth use. It’s very trippy, but not in a 4 to the floor house / euro beat manner.

The only album that springs to mind as I listen is Jakata Visions with it’s up beat up-tempo tracks. Much of 9/hearts is a slow unfolding of layers of beautiful sound, sculpted to lose yourself in. Time is outside this album. Listen on headphones and the world around you fades and you are on a trip Toby Marks has constructed for you to enjoy. A rollercoaster between your ears, one I loved riding time and time again.

Listen to “Burn the Witch” and tell me that’s not “Progressive”!Isten to the Sax and synth on “the Princess and The Skygoat” – Pink Floyd meet Sly n Robbie . Bliss, sheer aural bliss.

1 – Prince – 4Ever

It took me months to accept that he had died. The cornerstones of my musical DNA took a battering in 2016. Losing Lemmy in December last year was a shock, he was an old festival warrior that wifey was friends with. David Bowie went out inder his own terms, leaving behind a final “great” album , Blackstar that I cannot listen to without getting the feeling that it’s an elaborate joke on his part. He knew that he next journey for him was imminent so left us with an enigmatic, dense jazz puzzle , guaranteed to sort  the men from the boys as it were.

Come April,  I get home from work, sit with a green tea and turn on my PC. Before it’s even on, my phone explodes with friends asking how I feel, that it’s a joke. Not a joke. Not true . can’t be… Life sucks., Raging friends “FUCK FUCK FUCK NO NO.

The greatest musician It was my pleasure to see, hear or be aware of had died.

The world has not been the same since. Prince was my world in many ways for the last 30 years, my family and friends were aware that I devoted hours listening to, talking about and sharing music produced, composed, arranged and played by this man.

IT took his death for them to see the genius.

His notoriously robust removal of unapproved live footage from the internet meant that most people saw the skills I (and my virtual family) had been banging on about.

Guitar players- this guy could eat them all for lunch (except, as a strict vegan, no animals were harmed in the playing of his guitars)

He was a master musician, able to play any instrument, ant style, at any time.

Not in a look at me techno-wank speed guitar ego boost, but in a very understated but forceful way. Live, when he let rip, you stood there, jaw dropped, staring. And he knew it. Impish smile as he solo’d furiously during the secret 3rd Eye Girl gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 3 hours of high octane funk n roll guitar melting fun that I’ll always remember.

He controlled that stage, the others following his lead as he took the band (and us) with him on his trip.

Then there are the songs. Throw away ditties, ballads, songs he gave away, songs people didn’t realise he’d been involved with, let alone written…

Kiss, Sign O The Times, Purple Rain, The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, Raspberry Beret, Nothing Compares 2 U. I could carry on listing them, but I think you get the picture painted here.

So 4ever is the first posthumous Prince album, and a corker it is too. Planned by him as a career overview, it contains all the hits, a smattering of rare edits and, for the hard core faithful, an official release of “Moonbeam Levels” at long last.

His vault contains much material unreleased, unheard and unreleased, how much of it gets released depends on the lawyers, but I’ll be there, in line saying take my money, I want that live album, and that one, that box set too.

Live the man was untouchable. In 40 years of gig attendance, he was the apex performer. Better than Led Zeppelin at Knebworth, better than Stevie Ray Vaughan at Reading, better even than Marillion in the Brunel rooms Amphitheatre in Swindon, where I watched them stun a crowd from the relative safety of my DJ booth.

No, there could only be one album of the year, one artist of the year and this is that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BE PROG MY FRIEND! Festival 2016 – by Kevin Thompson

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We’re English and we should be used to it, but let’s face it, there has been too much rain lately. An excuse, that’s what we needed. And then a poster appeared online for Be Prog, My Friend!, in Spain and the band list was just too tempting. Sun and great music has to be good and so Mrs T and I took the plunge, raided our piggy banks and booked gig tickets, flights and a hotel. Neither of us speaks Spanish, so armed with our little phrasebook we took off for warmer climes. This is not the story of our excellent weekend , but just the periods of the two days covering the festival, so I won’t be mentioning the delicious food, the wonderful Museum of Modern Art, or the exquisitely beautiful Sagrada Familia and the impressive Camp Nou. Nor will I mention the impressive buildings, statues, waterfalls or fountains at all.

We decided to recce the whereabouts of the the festival venue the day before, which turned out to be a very pleasant 30-40 minute walk from our hotel. This is not the first BPMF, though new to us and was to be held in the Poble Espanyol, an architectural museum in Barcelona, just a few meters away from the Fountains of Montjuïc.

The Poble Espanyol was built in 1929 for the Barcelona International Exhibition as the pavilion dedicated to art and was conceived as a real “village” in the heart of a city. The aim was to give an idea of what might be an “ideal model” of an Iberian village that would bring together all the characteristics of all peninsular villages. It was built in thirteen months and, curiously, had an expiry date, as it was supposed to last the same time as the Universal Exhibition: six months. However, thanks to its success, the Poble Espanyol still stands to this day, and some of the buildings have outlived the original ones to become one of the few monuments built for an International Exhibition that can still be visited.

The Festival is held in the central courtyard and is a beautiful setting with olive and palm tree lined  stone balustrade terraces, balconies draped with colourful plants and parakeets flying overhead. A far cry from soggy Glastonbury.

All your needs are catered for with ample eateries, bars and facilities and we never had to queue more than a couple of minutes for anything. It is the best organised festival we have been to and clean, as most people placed used food and drink containers in the bins provided when discarded, a few drunk ‘tourists’ being the exception and they were berated in to tidying up. There were even lockers available should you wish to offload items/garments and return to them during the day/night. Security was good and polite along with excellent service without hiked prices. The merchandise was plenty and I did indulge a little, again nothing was overpriced. So…….

DAY 1: Friday – 1700:

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We arrived in good time and joined the line, people were friendly and my all over print PALLAS t-shirt drew quite a few admiring glances, there was quite a bit of t-shirt posing with everyone checking out each others. I got chatting to a guy in a Ltd edition Sanctuary 2 t-shirt and discovered he was a local and a big fan of Rob Reed. Entry to the Friday night was free if you had tickets for the Saturday, bargain!

We were soon through, into the festival and as we were some of the first, took the chance to get our bearings and map out the facilities, grabbing tokens for the food and drinks for both nights to save time and buying our merch. It was lovely and warm with a gentle, pleasant breeze circulating and the sun sat neatly at the edge of the courtyard roofs offering welcome shade. We found seating on some of the stone steps giving a great view, though standing and moving around at intervals was required to prevent ‘numb bums’.

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Up first were local band, Exassens, (www.exxasens.com), formed in 2011, I’d describe them as an instrumental rock band, or post-rock, but with hints of progressive and space rock. A mix of different sounds, where guitars with long echoes, blend with synths and a powerful rhythmic base, displaying many influences such as Pink Floyd and The Cure, through to instrumental bands like Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai. The solar system backdrop videos adding to the atmosphere and they warmed the late afternoon crowd up nicely. Whilst mostly instrumental, Bruce Soord did make a surprise appearance to duet on vocals for one track raising a cheer from those watching.

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As the venue began to fill we were joined by a bunch of Spanish lads and a lady (girlfriend) who explained they had grown up together in Barcelona and then gone their separate ways. The festival is their excuse to meet and catch up every year. They spoke fairly good English and we joked about our phrase book Spanish. They seemed to value our opinions on the bands and made for a very pleasant company throughout the evening. Konnie wasn’t complaining as the lads kept topping up her drinks!

Up next were Obsidian Kingdom, (www.obsidiankingdom.com) another local band with a hard-to-classify heavy sound with plenty of contrast, making use of multiple sound resources. Unfortunately the sombre and cryptic quality of the band’s lyrics and music coupled with muddied sound, brought the atmosphere down somewhat. I don’t have any live shots unfortunately as we had been led to believe no cameras were allowed (not true) and the heavy use of smoke in the early evening sun blurred my phone photos. Listening to them online now they sound better than on the day.

Plastic glasses refilled we were ready for the much anticipated Russian band, I Am The Morning and they didn’t disappoint. The captivating, angelic vocals of a barefoot Marjana Semkina as she floated round the stage, with the beautiful keys of classically trained piano maestro Gleb Kolyadin drifting around the square. They enchanted all and were ably assisted with strings and backing band. Flowers were thrown on stage and they won our hearts, someone even shouted out ‘Marry Me Marjana!”. They captivated everyone watching with a quite magical performance and deserve a wider audience.

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By now the sun was beginning to set behind the buildings and the lamps in the square came on adding to the ambience as we discussed the music so far and waited for the next act.

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On to the stage bounced the surprise of the festival for us, with much enthusiastic applause from our Spanish friends who had advised us ‘this band is brilliant, yes’. I had seen the current album cover but not heard any of the music from Icelandic band Agent Fresco (www.agentfresco.is) and what an awesome show. Think a male version of Bjork with a band coming from a Rage Against The Machine/At the Drive In angle and you’re some-way to describing them. The mechanics and rhythmic patterns unpredictably stutter, yet seamlessly stitch together into stunning compositions veering from blazing alt-guitar rock to piano ballads and stadium-size anthems, often in the same song, to decisive euphoric effect. All this with lead singer Arnór Dan Arnarson defying doctors orders after leaving hospital only 48 hours earlier, having been treated for pneumonia and told he had to rest. They left us breathless and wanting more and we hope Arnór is soon fully recovered and we get the opportunity to see them again.

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The night had drawn in and we settled down ready for the head-liners, the excitement was palpable and voices rose as the anticipation grew. The stage planning and crews had made smooth transitions between the different acts, removing and replacing equipment with practised ease showing very little delay, keeping close to schedule but allowing time for ample refreshments.

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Enter head-liners of the night The Pineapple Thief to resounding applause, as they burst into a repertoire, which plundered their catalogue as far back as Variations on a Dream including a ‘shortened’ version of one of my favourites, ‘Remember Us’ with some great guitar soloing. An apt track as the crowd were not going to forget this performance for a long while. Konnie remarked how much they have grown in the ‘live’ environment, the last time we saw them was in a very small, intimate venue and tonight they looked so comfortable on the large stage, every bit the stadium head-liners.

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A polished, rocking performance, holding the crowd in the metaphorical palm of their hand and our newly found Spanish friends couldn’t agree more. Great sound quality and lighting added to the performance and even though they played a couple of encore tunes we would of all happily stayed longer.

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Buoyed by a great night’s entertainment we said goodnight to our ‘crowd’ and flowed out of the venue and into the streets, strolling toward the city, it was 0130 and everyone was chatting as they walked. We struck up a conversation with a young Frenchman man who now lives in New Zealand. He’d flown over to visit his Mum in France and then down for the festival before heading back to NZ. To say he had enjoyed the first night would be an understatement, amid the numerous enthusiastic expletives he enthused about the evening none stop until we parted company and steered ourselves contentedly toward our Hotel, tomorrow would be a longer day, but who knew what delights awaited us………..

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

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.

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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.

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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!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

iamthemorning confirmed for the BE PROG! MY FRIEND festival in Barcelona

BE PROG! MY FRIEND FESTIVAL ANNOUNCE FINAL BAND IAMTHEMORNING 

CO-HEADLINERS STEVEN WILSON & OPETH

MAGMA, BETWEEN THE BURIED & ME, ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN, THE PINEAPPLE THIEF, TEXTURES, OBSIDIAN KINGDOM, EXXASENS 

1ST – 2ND JULY

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Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend have announced the final band for this year’s line-up. Russian progressive duo Iamthemorning who released their new album ‘Lighthouse’ earlier this month will join the likes of co-headliners Steven Wilson and Opeth as well as Magma, The Pineapple Thief, Between The Buried and Me and many more. Vocalist Marjana Semkina comments:

‘It’s a great pleasure for us to join the amazing line up of Be Prog! My Friend this year – such a lovely surprise at the very last moment. It’s a great pleasure, but also a great challenge. We’ll be playing the chamber set with our string duo (cello and violin) and some percussion, and you can’t get more different from other bands on the festival. So, we’ll see how the audience responds to such a huge contrast and our almost classical sound. It will be our first appearance in Spain and first big prog festival – wow, so many things for the first time. Very exciting.’

Since its inception in 2014 the Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend has played host to the likes of Anathema, Devin Townsend, TesseracT, Camel, Meshuggah, Katatonia, Riverside, Isahn and Alcest.

Taking place in the beautiful open air surroundings of Poble Espanyol, the site is one of the most important landmarks of tourism in Barcelona. By day the Catalonian hotspot is an architectural museum and on the first weekend of July it will play host to some of the world’s finest progressive bands.

Sponsored by Metal Hammer and Prog Magazine, 2016 will see Be Prog! My Friend co-headlined by Steven Wilson and fellow progressive heavy weights Opeth.

Friday 1st July Is a free entry show only for those who have purchased tickets for the Saturday. This will also now take place at Poble Espanyol having been moved from the Sala Apolo concert hall to meet demand. The line-up features Steven Wilson’s label mates The Pineapple Thief who will be joined by the highly rated Icelandic band Agent Fresco and Barcelona’s very own Obsidian Kingdom and Exxasens as well as the newly added iamthemorning.

The line-up so far:

Friday 1st July, Poble Espanyol:

The Pineapple Thief, iamthemorning, Agent Fresco, Obsidian Kingdom, Exxasens

Saturday 2nd July, Poble Espanyol:

Steven Wilson, Opeth, Magma, Between The Buried & Me, Anneke Van Giersbergen, Textures

Tickets priced at 90 Euros are available here:

http://ticketmaster.es/es/entradas-musica/be-prog-my-friend/6279/

http://www.beprogmyfriend.com/

facebook.com/beprogmyfriend

Be Prog! My Friend takes place in the heart of Barcelona and with an airport only 12km away, regular, cheap flights make it an easy festival to get and from the UK. Bands will start playing from mid/late afternoon each day which will also mean visitors have plenty of time to explore the stunning city of Barcelona while they are there.

http://www.barcelonaturisme.com