“Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once.”
― Robert Browning, The complete poetical works of Browning
Damn, 2018 has been a stellar year for some great new releases and another one has found its way to Progradar Towers!
Damanek are a sort of Prog Rock supergroup formed by fellow Yorkshireman Guy Manning (vocals, keyboards, percussion, guitars, bass), Marek Arnold (saxes and seaboard), Dan Mash (bass) and Sean Timms (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals & additional programming). This talented quarted is joined by a plethora of stellar musicians including Antonio Vittozzi, Luke Machin and Tzan Nico on guitar and Brody Thomas Green on drums.
Described as ‘a genre-defying collection of sophisticated songs..’, ‘In Flight’ is the follow up to 2017’s well received ‘On Track’. Once again Sean Timms’ sleek production adds to the overall sense of quality and class.
There’s a shiver of anticipation running through me as the opening notes of Ragusa break out, there’s already a feeling of class and quality shining through. Guy has one of those voices that speaks to you through and beyond the music, a familiar cultured tone that puts you at ease immediately. The music itself is impressively stylish and smooth and just adds to the feeling of sophistication. The guest guitarists add even more sparkle and inspiration, this is going to be one enjoyable journey. Oooh, jazzy piano and percussion, the opening to Skyboat is joyful and upbeat and, as the track opens up with gusto, we are sent on a rollocking musical ride. Funky guitar and edgy percussion, along with an ever so cool hammond organ, add to the feel-good factor and the grin spreading across your face. This is music at its inspiring best and music that brings joy to your soul.
The Crawler opens with a deliciously dark melody and feel, a mature and sophisticated aura permeates the song with Guy’s distinguished vocal adding layers of class. The captivating chorus with its elegant sax sends shivers down your spine. Sean’s production can be felt most here, giving us a stand out piece of music on what is becoming an evidently impressive album. There’s a levity to Moon Catcher, a lightness of soul and featherlight touch to the music. The sparsity of the production and laid back approach to the vocals, along with the meandering sax, leaves a whimsical feel, a really classy piece of music.
Catchy, addictive and upbeat from the first note, The Crossing is a jazz-infused delight, the carefree tinkling of the ivories a particular highlight. Add in some more of the impressive sax and Guy’s vocals and you are onto a winner. The 3 part epic Big Eastern closes the album, taking the listener on an emotive journey from East to West: from the poorest rural lands of China to the West Coast of the USA. Grand in conception, and inspired in execution, it’s a journey that you become deeply involved in and one that takes you across the whole galaxy of progressive music, visiting every nuance on its way. At just shy of thirty minutes it is a true epic but never outstays its welcome, every note and every word is there for a reason and that reason is to give the listener the best and most joyous experience ever when it comes to music.
‘In Flight’ is an album I haven’t remotely got bored of, even after multiple listens. A compelling, engaging and stimulating listening experience that leaves you high on music and life. Every absorbing minute of music is a minute that will bring a smile to your face. This year there have been some fantastic releases, releases that are finally bringing the joy back to music and Damanek’s ‘In Flight’ should be considered up there with the best of them.
The Tangent, the progressive rock group led by Andy Tillison, will release their 10th studio album ‘Proxy’ on November 16th, 2018. Recorded during the band’s tour with Karmakanic in 2017/18, which saw them with more chances than normal to work together on the record – hotel writing sessions, van discussions, soundcheck ideas – all of which have allowed the band to make an album that is as organic as they have achieved since their formation 15 years ago.
Andy Tillison comments: “Our belief is that Progressive Rock music is still a valid and viable musical form in 2018 and will continue to be so. Our band has always sought to take on board things from the present and add them to that magical mix. We don’t claim to be offering the FUTURE. We just claim to be offering one set of possibilities. Ours. Now.”
‘Proxy’ is a riot of juxtaposing styles, presented in a really direct manner and despite being firmly rooted in the stylistic traits of the Progressive Rock Genre takes some unexpected turnoffs and a major swerve. The albums kicks off with a trademark Tangent prog fantasia based around growling Hammonds, shrieking Synths, whirling guitars and sharp percussive bass – influences of ELP, Egg, Hatfield & the North, Caravan and Camel proudly worn on their sleeves. This 16-minute title track eventually becomes a protest song about the continuing wars that share their name with the song.
But this album features no overall concept. The second track is a sun-drenched Mediterranean fusion instrumental, more Chick Corea than Che Guevara. And the third track is referred to by the band as an attempt to find the missing link between Porcupine Tree and Jamiroquai. By the time we reach the centrepiece epic track ‘The Adulthood Lie’, the rulebook has been left behind and the band are trying to fix the car with whatever is at hand. The Tangent came of age some time ago now. After 15 years with a constant presence on the periphery of the scene, this album is the next step on the road from a band who have painstakingly revered and recreated the past, with one eye on the future.
The album will be available as a limited CD digipak, Vinyl LP + CD & as digital download. The full track-listing is as follows:
2.The Melting Andalusian Skies
3.A Case of Misplaced Optimism
4.The Adulthood Lie
6.Excerpt From “Exo-Oceans” (Bonus Track)
The album features the following players: Andy Tillison – Vocals, Lyrics, Keyboards, Composer Jonas Reingold (The Sea Within, Steve Hackett Band) – Bass Guitar Theo Travis (Soft Machine, Travis-Fripp) – Sax & Flute Luke Machin (Maschine, Francis Dunnery Band) – Guitar Steve Roberts (ex Magenta, Godsticks) – Drums
With special guest: Goran Edman (Karmakanic) – Vocals
Welcome to another edition of Progradar Recommends and this time I’ll talk about new releases from Tangekanic, That Joe Payne, Toundra and Flicker Rate…
Tangekanic – Hotel Cantaffordit
I didn’t know what to expect when I went to the Summers End Festival in Chepstow last October with the Prog Guru™ himself, Mr David Elliott. It was a blast, a real home grown, family friendly festival with superb acts and a brilliant atmosphere. One of the highlights was the set from Tangekanic, a touring unit that plays the music of both The Tangent and Karmakanic and features members of both, working together in one collaborative set.
Well the guys took the show to the USA and, luckily for us, decided to record at the New Jersey Proghouse and release it as a live album – ‘Hotel Cantaffordit’. What a stunning release it is, Jonas Reingold – Bass Guitar, Andy Tillison – Keyboards & Vocals, Göran Edman – Vocals, Luke Machin – Guitar and Steve Roberts – Drums deliver a rip-roaring set full of good natured humour and enough energy and vibrancy to power a small village in deepest Yorkshire!
Opening with an incendiary version of The Tangent’s Spark In The Aether and then a spirited interpretation of the instrumental Dr Livingstone (I Presume?)from the band’s latest long player ‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’, this hybrid band play as if they’ve been together for many a year.
There’s a real camaraderie between them and a fun feeling to their energetic and lively set, the dry asides from Jonas are a particular highlight as is the wonderful version of the Swedish band’s God, The Universe And Everything Else Nobody Cares About, the closing track, Steer By The Stars with a hugely entertaining performance of the uplifting Send a Message From the Heart segued on closes the album in style.
‘Hotel Cantaffordit’ also includes the emotive Sanctuary In Music and Two Rope Swings.
I’ve met Joe a few times and he is a lovely and personable young man so it was with some concern that I heard he had left his role as front man for the legendary prog unit The Enid in September 2016. He was open about his issues with anxiety and depression and thankfully, like the proverbial Phoenix, Joe has risen from the flames and reinvented himself as a solo artist with this first single release, I Need A Change.
The music, written and arranged entirely by Joe, was brought to life in the studio with the help of three other recently retired Enid members; Max Read (singer and producer), Nic Willes (drums and bass) and Duncan McLaughlan (guitar).
I’m sure Joe would be happy with my description of him and his music as being very dramatic and he is almost operatic in his vocal delivery, the lush harmonies that abound throughout the track are a beautiful highlight. I Need A Change is a musical triumph and sees this remarkable front man back where he belongs. There is real melodrama to the powerful music and there is no doubting the breathtaking emotional performance that Joe delivers on his first solo outing.
If this were a vinyl single we would call Moonlit Love the ‘B’ side and it is another superbly theatrical piece of music that shows off Joe’s talents to perfection. If you buy the single you get another five different versions of I Need A Change including piano, strings and choir arrangements which certainly give excellent value for money.
I am really excited to see what this outstanding performer comes up with next!
I was very impressed by Spanish instrumental band Toundra’s last release ‘IV’ so it was with heightened anticipation that I awaited the promo of their new album ‘Vortex’, the enigmatic cover certainly helped too!
Their sound blends powerful riffs, beautiful deep melodies and intricate atmospheres, all wrapped up in elongated electric songs that emphasized their dangerous flammable live potential. ‘Vortex’ tales that as a base and then builds on it with repeated layers of powerful and in your face instrumental rock.
Monstrous riffs abound, just check out Cobra to see what I’m getting at, and the rhythm section seems like it was hewn out of solid granite. If you like your music in-your-face, direct, dynamic and, well, bloody loud then you have come to the right place. Touareg is an eight minute monster (as well as a Volkswagen 4×4), the eleven minute brilliance of Mojave does show that band can craft an excellent tune as well and is worth the entry price alone.
I have always been a big fan of instrumental rock (see the Flicker Rate review that follows this) and Toundra have just elevated themselves to the top of my recommendations with “the most straight-forward, heart-stopping, earth-shaking album of the year.”
I know the exact moment when Spencer Bassett stepped out of the shadow of his illustrious father John and became a bona-fide artist in his own right. It was when I stopped considering him to be the son of John Bassett and took the merits of Spencer’s instrumental musical project Flicker Rate on their own standing.
Unlike the monstrous riffage of Toundra ‘Skylight’ has a much lighter vibe, wistful and with a easygoing vibe. The title track has an almost world music feel to it and Cloud Drop and Shimmer take that and add a lazy jazz influence to give it real sophistication and maturity.
Final track Grow has a post-rock vibe at its core and adds even more of an easy going feel to this delightful EP. With his third release and its contemplative and emotive atmosphere, Spencer has proven himself to be a songwriter and musician of some repute and not a little skill, it’s a bout time we got a full-length album from him (are you listening Spencer?).
In the sleeve notes for the comprehensive new package that comes with this remix of Cosmograf’s 2011 critically acclaimed release ‘When Age Has Done Its Duty’,Robin Armstrong writes,
“I sometimes think about all the people I once knew that are now gone and I very much struggle to come to terms with their collective struggles, joys and achievements in life coming to an end. It’s an enduring theme in a lot of what I write. I decided some time back that it would be a tragedy to leave a life with no legacy left behind and it’s a driving force for me to leave as much music as I can with the hope that someone will remember…”
Robin is the man behind Cosmograf and is an extraordinary musical storyteller. His involving concepts and often personal historical narratives take you, the listener, directly to the centre of the story and envelop you in a whole gamut of emotions, all invoked by his remarkable songwriting.
Following the brilliant ‘The Hay Man Dreams’, released last year, Robin has taken it upon himself to revisit ‘When Age Has Done Its Duty’ to completely remix and master it and, in his own words,
“…address some of the issues that were less than perfect on the original recording. Many of the original guitar, bass and vocal parts have been re-recorded, new string arrangements added and a more dynamic low volume level master produced…”
I’ll confess, I have never heard ‘When Age Has Done Its Duty’ before so I can’t give a ‘before and after’ review but, as a big fan of Cosmograf, I’ll tell you what I think of this release as a whole.
The concept of the album is based around Robin’s personal experiences as a boy, visiting his Auntie Mollie and Uncle Harry at their home, Pear Tree Cottage, in a tiny village called Cleobury North in rural Shropshire and he has expanded the concept to cover the emotions and experiences we feel through the ageing process from birth to death. The stunning, original artwork is done by Graeme Bell.
Into This World is a an eleven minute piece that sets the scene with ‘Birth’ as the theme and is instantly recognisable to any fan as a Cosmograf track. Slow building and slow burning with a fragile piano note and Robin’s distincive vocal, the clever lyrics are used to convey the hopes, fears and aspirations that follow the bringing of a child into the world. A powerful and edgy song where the stylish drums of Bob Dalton are used to very good effect. As always, this excellent musician has you gripped from the first note with a moody and atmospheric song that asks questions and, while there is always a feeling of venturing into the unknown, deep down it is hope and optimism that is at the core. The elegant bass of Steve Dunn joins us for Blacksmith’s Hammer, a tribute to his Uncle Harry who worked the forge, shoeing horses right up to his death, age 73 in 1987. It’s an uplifting piece of music, an ode to a modest life where simple pleasures (like smoking a pipe) were enjoyed to their full. An almost spiritual song, there’s a superb (if short) guitar solo that burns with a humble honesty and the lyrics literally describe his demise; he sat back from shoeing a horse and drew his last breath.
Written about Pear Tree Cottage, a special place in Robin’s childhood, On Which We Stand was originally a poem which he wrote to read at his Aunt’s funeral and has become the lyrics to this beautiful song. A wistful and nostalgic opening courtesy of Simon Rogers’ guitar opens into a sublime vocal where Robin reminisces of all the happy times he had in the cottage, the games and the fond memories of he pastimes that made it such a wonderful place. Sit and listen to the words, let the music wash over you and you can almost imagine being there, a sentimental musical journey down memory lane. An old light switch that Robin remembers triggers flashbacks to previous memories and dramas, this is the essence of Bakelite Switch, sounds or smells we experience that snap you back to a previous event in time. On my first listen to the album, this was one of the songs that immediately stood out, the compelling , almost mysterious opening that erupts into a forceful and dynamic guitar riff catches your ear straight away. Bob’s drums drive the track along and you’re hooked as soon as Robin’s vocal begins, “We had electric light in the 70’s, flick the heavy switch, lights up all our lives.” A very involving song that speaks about the novelty of going back to a house that is very much ‘back in time’ and the emotive guitar solo from Luke Machin combines with some swirling keyboards to add even more drama to the visceral memories that Robin is invoking.
Huw Lloyd-Jones adds a poignant vocal to the emotive background of Memory Lost. The song is about an old lady battling on as best as she could after the death of a partner, and living alone with her memories. The title referring to hanging on to the only thing you have left when someone dies…your memory of them. A pared back and sincere track that really hits you hard and makes a mark on your heart and soul, a single tear rolls down my cheek as I listen to the intensity of Huw’s voice, Robin adding a wonderful harmony. I challenge you not to be moved by this seven minutes of Robin trapping history so he would never lose the detail as the years passed, the guitar solo that closes the song is just superb. Documenting Mollie’s last days at the cottage, title track When Age Has Done Its Duty opens with a wonderful recital of ‘Growing Old’ byTom O’Bedlam spoken over an eloquent piano and keyboards and then Steve Thorne lends his stirring vocals to this bitter-sweet tale. In the 20 years after harry’s death, Mollie always seemed to just be waiting to be with him and in the days leading to her death she just huddled against the Rayburn in the kitchen refusing to eat or move. A sad but elegant song that documents the passing of this proud woman. Robin’s songwriting skills really come to the fore on this track and his choice of Steve Thorne as the vocalist is perfect, the pathos and sentiment he brings to every word is perfect. Just when your emotions are as strung out as you think they can be, Robin fires another stupendous guitar solo at you, leaving you utterly drained.
White Light Awaits takes on the question that has been asked through the ages, what happens after you die? Written as if Robin was having an ethereal conversation with Mollie, asking her what it was like to die and did she experience anything after death. Being a devout Methodist, she would have been appalled by this idea. There’s a bitter, angry tone to the song and the edgy guitar of Lee Abraham adds to the almost cynical, questing tone of Robin’s vocals. Drums are, this time, provided by Dave Ware and their dynamic feel just adds to the challenging aura. The album closes with the heartwarming Dog on the Clee, an inspring song which tells the story of Robin forging a privileged bond with Mollie’s Border Collie ‘Laddie’, a dog that didn’t really like many people at all. The graceful acoustic guitar and Robin’s ethereal vocal bringing a sense of wonder and inspiration to the final chapter in this utterly captivating story.
It may have been originally released in 2011 but this completely remixed and mastered version of ‘When Age Has Done Its Duty’ feels as fresh as if it was recorded yesterday. Possibly the most emotional journey that Cosmograf has ever taken me on, I feel it is Robin at his most open, a wonderfully involving musical journey with a narrative very close to his heart. There’s nothing quite like a Cosmograf album and this could possibly be the best of them all.
‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’ by The Tangent succeeds at every level, from the incredible depth and texture of the colours in Mark Buckingham’s arresting album art to the pacing of the expansive musical compositions. Band leader Andy Tillison has talked about working to recover his ‘mojo’ after a long hospital stay, and ‘Slow Rust’ makes clear that he’s found it, perhaps in greater quantity even than before. In particular, the album comfortably engages an intriguing dialectic between global politics and individual relationships; broad social commentary and hyper-specific lyrical descriptions; fury and compassion; and the musical energies of seasoned and youthful collaborators. Along the way, Tillison & Co. play jazz, funk, punk, prog, techno, ambient, and heavy rock to great effect.
The album opens with the “pocket symphony” Two Rope Swings, which packs the musical and thematic expanse of a 20 minute epic into a mere 6.5 minutes. Each member of the band turn in lovely performances here, including newcomer Marie-Eve de Gaultier, whose vocals emphasize the mournful aspect of realizing our ignorance concerning those who live in a different skin from our own—whether human or otherwise. Tillison’s wonderfully detailed lyrics express the global import of the song through their very specificity:
“And we think Africa is like some fairyland/Like in the picturebooks we read when we played on the swings/Lions and tigers and wildebeests and zebra…Kilimanjaro”
What do we expect from each other, when we make our adult choices with the naivete of a child reading picture books on a rope swing? When we can’t even place an entire species of animals on the right continent, imagining African lions as living side by side with Asian tigers?
Doctor Livingstone (I Presume), besides possessing the perfect, playful title for a long instrumental, showcases the band’s seemingly limitless musical muscle. Leaping right over the gate with lithe bass, rolling organ, and a melodic synth lead, the track quickly sets the stage then shines the spotlight on guitarist Luke Machin’s searing but instantly accessible soloing. Theo Travis provides plenty of nuanced saxes and flutes along the way, while piano and acoustic guitar occasionally accent the trading off between bass, synth, guitar, and sax solos. What begins as a relatively mellow jazz exercise rolls to full boil midway with some heavier riffs and shredding from Machin; not content to climax at its most intense moment, the track slides into a more classically jazz section that highlights even further the god-level bass genius of Jonas Reingold. Taken all together, this instrumental melds early 70’s jazz-influenced prog with mid-60’s Impulse! Records jazz experimentation. It also succeeds as a test for a new addition to The Tangent’s line-up: if you want to prove the mettle of your new drummer, how better than with an extended jazz work-out? The spry young lad taking over drum controls makes a great showing here that matches but never overwhelms the contributions of his bandmates, and it’s quite the surprise that this talent has not been tapped by the band on previous outings.* Perhaps the snare could have been a bit punchier to better complement Reingold’s monster tone, or the crash treated with less decay, but those are minor differences of production opinion that don’t detract from a stellar debut performance.
On an album replete with highlights, title track Slow Rust is clearly the centrepiece. All the righteous indignation, cynical wisdom, and nimble musicality of the album are placed on full display for 22 intense minutes. On the face of it, this song is inspired by the same series of recent events that prompted A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road, namely, the horrendous slandering of “migrants” by the UK press in the wake of 2016’s Brexit vote. But Slow Rust is this and so much more. Rooting around behind the mere occurrence of such hateful news reporting, Tillison explores the contributing factors. How is it that celebrity gossip, local events, and national politics coexist on equal footing in the papers? We all know that this paper has this party bias and that one another, but how do the potentially myriad perspectives of numerous writers and editors fall out along such neat lines, and why must we find a ready group on which to place the blame for our perceived problems? When there’s profits to be had, and fear and hatred turn a profit, any story becomes about the insecurities of the reader; the actual story of another person’s hardship gets twisted into the story of how an influx of persecuted refugees affects my life:
“Ah, when the helpless are a threat/What does that say about the rest of us?”
Furthermore, when only binary choices are on offer, the rejection of one point of view becomes the ready adoption of another, and either way someone will be waiting to accept your payment. Even Education, the great salvation of the Enlightenment, is implicated. If schools are just an ideas factory for “Corporate automatons,” then the same principle of profit and binary choices will drive all learning:
“Become a teacher and bow your head/To the passing fashions where you get led/Recite your mantras, but say your prayers/’Cause what else have you done? The future’s theirs/To sell textbooks/That’s all they’re here to do”
Even for a Prog Epic, this is an incredibly expansive track, though it never feels stretched or repetitive. There’s no thesis, but it’s focused polemic more than angry rant. It also seriously rocks. Tillison turns in a number of noteworthy synth and vocal performances, especially in the funky and heavy “Binary Choices” section that includes effected spoken word vocals and a reference to President Biff. Reingold is, again, a force-beyond-nature on bass throughout the song, though de Gaultier is the key ingredient that lifts everything above the sum of its parts. Here and elsewhere on the album, the soft timbre of her voice pervades every open space, simultaneously smoothing, undergirding, and highlighting whatever else is happening musically. Depending on Tillison’s role at any moment, this includes supporting the more mournful notes in his voice or providing the comforting sweater counterpoint to his angry grandpa affectation.
De Gaultier’s vocals are also essential to the emotion of The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine, as she permeates the very pretty and hopeful chorus to an otherwise sad tale. Her reassuring suggestion for a repaired relationship sharpens the sadness of the song once you realize that of course, as per the song’s title, this advice will be ignored in favour of doubling down on prideful posturing. As such, this track provides the personal counterpoint to the album’s finale: in the microcosm, destructive pride and redirected fear can lead a person, as well as a country, a few steps down the wrong road. Musically, The Sad Story leaves plenty of room for jazzy solos, including some gorgeous flute work by Travis, a healthy dose of flittering piano, a classic drum solo, and more arresting guitar shredding from Machin.
‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’ culminates in the Prog-Punk Theatre of A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road. The punk elements are noteworthy, but the spirits of Emerson and Lake are as strong here as that of Johnny Rotten, Tillison playing some particularly nice analogue synths to punctuate the story. Like Slow Rust, this song is about the post-Brexit rise of hatred toward those of ‘questionable origin’, but it’s also about the historical recurrence of inhumane attitudes, and serves as a cautionary tale of the dangers in not learning our history lessons already. Alternating between spoken word narration, explosive rock bombast, proggy excess, jazzy swagger, and punk aggression, this epic competes for “most quintessential Tangent track” as well as “most timely political commentary by a musical artist.” If ever a polemic needed pressing to a side of vinyl, it’s this one. When the album reaches its depressing conclusion, be sure to immediately start it over again. The opening strains of Two Rope Swings, with de Gualtier’s call of “halcyon days,” take on an elegiac character when placed immediately following A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road.
With ‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery (or, Where Do We Draw the Line Now?)’ The Tangent have progressed by retaining everything that made their previous work great while seamlessly integrating these elements with new musical contributions that hold up to the weighty subject matter. The album burns with all the conscience and compassion called for by our times. It simultaneously maintains a spirit of joy and playfulness in the performances. A clear contender for Album of the Year, ‘Slow Rust’ is wonderfully immediate while reserving unfathomable depths to be explored across repeated listens for years to come.
*This reviewer is simultaneously sincere and facetious: yes, I’m aware that the drummer is Andy Tillison himself. It is genuinely a surprise that Tillison’s drumming was not previously featured, because he’s quite good.
The Tangent, the progressive rock group led by Andy Tillison, have announced the release of the first new music since 2015. Their new ninth studio album ‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’ is set for release on 21st July 2017. The line-up for this album once again features Tillison on keyboards, vocals (and for the first time on a Tangent record – drums), Jonas Reingold on bass, Luke Machin on guitars and vocals, and Theo Travis on sax and flutes plus new member Marie-Eve de Gaultier on keys and vocals. There are also guest appearances from author/playwright and Chumbawamba founder Boff Whalley on vocals, and upcoming DJ/producer Matt Farrow.
Band leader Andy Tillison had this to say: “Roger Waters did prove the ability of Progressive Music to act as a vehicle to communicate ideas about the current world scene. In both Pink Floyd’s “The Final Cut” and his “Amused To Death” albums, Waters set a challenge to others in the genre. A challenge which has not been frequently accepted.”
The album sees The Tangent in political commentary mode once again – this time often focussing on the horrendous plight of refugees from war torn parts of the world – and the way in which they are treated by the West, and in particular by the tabloid press. The album laments the new trend in building walls and defending borders across the world yet takes time to look at the breakup of friendships and other more personal issues – along with a song about the fate of wildlife in the modern consumer world.
And it’s a Progressive Rock Record. Full of intricacies, long developed pieces, challenging arrangements and virtuoso playing from all members. New sounds and styles (the band have brought a DJ on board for some sections) – new voices and techniques (first female vocals in The Tangent since the “Not As Good As The Book” album 10 years ago). A new producer in the form of Luke Machin whose open and deep/clear sound is a major factor of this album, a new drummer in the form of Andy Tillison who decided at long last (after drumming for 30 years) to let his own performances guide the rest of the band rather than adding another musician later. And after 13 years of asking, Jonas finally agreed to play some double bass in a song where Luke also plays some Scat guitar and Andy does a full on drum solo.
“The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery” also features stellar artwork from Marvel / DC Comics artist Mark Buckingham. The sleeve of the album is totally based on the music it contains and was especially created for this project.
The album will be available on limited digipak CD, gatefold 2LP + CD, and digital download, and you can find the full track-listing below:
Two Rope Swings
Doctor Livingstone (I Presume)
The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine
A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road
The band will head out on tour in support of the new record, once again joining forces with Sweden’s Karmakanic to present albums by both bands. The full list of dates is as follows:
Aug 26th 2017 – Bierkeller, Reichenbach, DE
Sept 1st 2017 – 2 days of Prog +1 Festival, Veruno, Italy
Sept 9th 2017 – The Boerderij, Zoetermeer
Oct 8th 2017 – SUMMERS END Festival, Chepstow, UK
Oct 21st 2017 – Progtoberfest, Chicago, USA
Oct 22nd 2017 – Shank Hall, Milwaukee WI, USA
Oct 24th 2017 – Token Lounge, Westland MI, USA
Oct 26th 2017 – Roxy & Dukes, Dunellen NJ, USA
Oct 27th 2017 – The Regent Theatre, Arlington MA, USA
Formed around the nucleus of insanely talented guitarist Luke Machin, and bassist Dan Mash (both of whom have played with artists like The Tangent) their debut album ‘Rubidium’ was released in 2013, and in an unrelated interview with Andy Tillison; he told me that I needed to listen to that album. Now when Andy Tillison recommends something you listen to it, and you know what, it didn’t quite grab me initially where it should have done. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great debut album and Maschine are an insanely talented group of young musicians, but, for whatever reason whilst I enjoyed it, I never ‘got’ it.
However, this, only their 2nd album (and by some of the music on here, and the intricate blends of sound, would make you think they have been playing together forever) got me from the start, (so much so that, time permitting, I will be revisiting ‘Rubidium‘).
This 5 piece, formed at the Brighton Institute of Music in 2008 feature, as mentioned earlier, the talents of Luke Machin on guitar & vocal, Dan Mash on bass, James Stewart on drums, Elliott Fuller on guitar and Marie-Eve De Gaultier on vocals, flute and keyboard.
With a diverse range of influences across the board, and playing styles throughout the band, their real skill is pouring all these un-distilled musical ingredients into their crucible and creating a striking and original sound.
The 6 tracks on here, (the shortest clocking in at over 5 minutes!) all relate to natural events and the interaction between nature and all it can throw at us. This isn’t a concept album as such, but more connected events around which the songs are allowed room to breath and develop.
Boy do they develop, the opening 11 minutes of Resistance, mixes in the beautiful guitar work that both Luke and Elliott bring to the branch, the whole gamut of musical styles and influences creatively held together, with more ideas to spare in these 11 minutes than a lot of bands have in 11 years. The most effective weapon Maschine have is the contrasting vocals of Luke and Marie-Eve, which works together in creating some beautiful harmonies and interesting, counterpoints. And that’s just in the first 11 minutes!!
One of my favourite songs on the album, Make Believe features some amazing vocals from Marie-Eve, with a wonderfully slow build up, whilst the keyboard textures and powerful drum and bass combo of Mash and Stewart hold the piece together allowing an astonishing solo from Machin to burst forward.
The other epic on the album, the closing 11-minute Megacyma recounts the story of the Japanese Tsunami of 2011 through one mans eyes. What a mighty storm of sound they create as the song builds to its climax. They pull out all the stops here, with hints of 70’s classic prog keyboards, heavy riffing and some intense electronic walls of sound, whilst the two voices combine to create a fantastic sound, and the symphonic edge to this mighty finale is absolute perfection.
Of the other tracks on the album, Night & Daywith it’s aural soundscapes and WWII story is contemporary prog storytelling at it’s finest. Hidden in Plain sight combines many disparate influences into the nearest they get to a pop song, with some fantastically funky drumming from Stewart and more of those wonderful vocals and Whilst A New Reality is Maschine’s sound in microcosm, featuring some wonderfully fluid guitar, fantastic symphonic keyboard work, and the sound of a band firing on all cylinders.
It’s absolutely fantastic that nearly 50 years into the genre we call prog that there are immensely talented creative musicians of this calibre who are prepared to take risks and imprint their musical vision on the genre instead of being held back by the genres self imposed limitations and sounds.
Maschine truly are the future, and this album will firmly cement their reputation as one of the finest bands in this (or any) genre.
A last minute ball over the line for album of the year? Got to be a contender…
Maschine – ‘a progressive rock band without boundaries’ is the bands tagline and ‘Naturalis’, the second album from Luke Machin, Daniel Mash, Marie-Eve De Gaultier, Elliot Fuller and James Stewart, definitely pushes the envelope beyond ‘Rubidium’ which was a cracking album in itself and one that showed much promise for the future.
This album is primarily a vehicle for Luke’s compositions and stretches his writing in variance and styles as well as having a core concept to the album that speaks of mankind and how we sit uncomfortably alongside the earth and nature as a species. ‘Naturalis’ is grand in its aspiration and design and I believe that Maschine achieve those goals very well.
We are introduced to the album with Resistance, a full-on epic of traditional Prog proportions in what can only be called a ‘classical 70s’ style. It begins with analogue keyboard sounds and a tension creating guitar riff reminiscent of Jimmy Page which then goes on a full musical journey reflecting the uncomfortable fit man has with his environment. There is much light and shade here designed to mirror how humanity is trying to come to terms with something he cannot control and, yet, still believes he can have authority over. Coming in at a tad under 12 minutes this epic alone would satisfy any progger but this is just the start.
Night and Day is the story of Robert Cain and his experiences of the Battle of Arnhem. His story is of finding unnatural resources fighting beyond human limits long into the battle. This as close to a ‘sound’ for Maschine as you could get, as you could say it combines all the elements of the band in a perfect balance.
A personal favourite of mine on this album is Make Believe, it istands out as being quite an ethereal song and Marie-Eve comes out into the spotlight with a haunting voice that reflects a cynical back story of the political exploitation of resources. It is a genuinely beautiful track.
The finale and closing epic Megacymais a modern epic, the other end of the musical time line from Resistance. Production and writing that fits 2016 so well, you can smell the ozone of the electricity used during the recording. This is the tale of one man’s experience in the centre of a huge Tsunami fighting for survival through every second of the 12 minutes of the song. It is a very powerful song that looks at how small one man is in relation to the planet and the forces it has at its disposal.
This album has taken 4 years to write and record and it is interesting to see how Luke has developed as a writer and composer and his desire be a strong writer of songs. Being a virtuoso guitar player in demand in various places (be it The Tangent, Damenek, Kiama, or Karmakanic) or guesting on numerous albums must surely be an asset, giving him a chance to experience a variety of styles and other musicians.
If you like “Rubidium” then get this, it’s a guaranteed winner for you. ‘Naturalis’ has good quality songs with a good level of complexity but not at the expnse of structure. The album as a couple of live tracks as a bonus which are not on my pre-release download. The artwork looks excellent and there are the usual extras with pre order.
Young British progressive rockers MASCHINE have announced the release of their second studio album ‘Naturalis’ for the 18th November 2016 on InsideOutMusic. The follow-up to the band’s debut ‘Rubidium’, this is the first to feature drummer James Stewart ( Vader) & keyboardist/vocalist Marie-Eve de Gaultier.
The album will be released as a special edition digipak CD & digital download, both featuring two bonus tracks recorded live in 2015 at Veruno Prog Festival in Italy. The full track-list can be found below:
1. Resistance (11:52)
2. Night And Day (5:08)
3. Make Believe (7:10)
4. Hidden In Plain Sight (7:01)
5. A New Reality (8:45)
6. Megacyma (11:46)
7. Eyes Pt.2 (Live in Veruno) (8:55)
8. Rubidium (Live in Veruno) (8:47)