Gentle Giant’s album ‘Three Piece Suite (The Stephen Wilson Mix) to be released 29th September 2017

Gentle Giant—’Three Piece Suite’ is a specially curated selection of songs and compositions from the band’s first three albums (Giant, Acquiring The Taste, Three Friends) presented in both 5.1 surround sound and stereo. There are nine tracks from the albums, plus a pre-debut song, remixed by Steven Wilson. The choices were determined by the limited availability of multi-track master tapes from the era. Only a few songs from each album are known to exist as multi-tracks, with the rest presumably lost.

‘Three Piece Suite’ is available in the following formats:
*A two-disc digipak containing 96/24 animated Blu-ray plus CD.
*A single disc digipak CD.
*A two-disc gatefold LP in180g high-end vinyl.
*A 95/24 digital download of the CD version.

Gentle Giant’s ‘Three Piece Suite’ includes the songs “Giant”, “Nothing At All”, and “Why Not” from the first album “Giant”. “Pantagruel’s Nativity”, “The House, The Street, The Room” from the second album “Acquiring The Taste”. “Schooldays”, “Peel the Paint”, “Mr. Class And Quality?”, and “Three Friends” from the album “Three Friends” completes the list of the original recorded material. The band and Steven Wilson are including a previously commercially unreleased song“Freedom’s Child”, taken from the first recording sessions with legendary producer Tony Visconti.

The liner notes by interviewer Anil Prasad include reflections from Gentle Giant’s members about the writing and recording sessions. Furthermore, Steven Wilson and Tony Visconti share their incredible observations about the early days of this unique collection of timeless music from one of progressive rock’s most influential bands.

Tony Visconti recounts:
“I was a very optimistic young man in 1970…I thought music like theirs would save the world from mediocrity. I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth in it. I championed their cause by becoming sympathetic to the point where I temporarily joined the band for both albums. I modified their arrangements and pulled off some stunning audio effects that gave their sound more depth and immediacy. The band knew I was on their side. I remember there being a great feeling of camaraderie during the sessions.”

Steven Wilson explains:
“To create the new mixes, I used Logic as the software and Universal Audio plug ins, which provide emulations of classic analog outboard effects, channel strips and old mixing desks…I used these tools to clean things up and bring out some more clarity, detail and definition in some of the instrumental interplay. There was never a question of trying to outdo the original mixes, but offer different perspectives on them.”

Tony Visconti continues:
“In our own way, we’ve touched the ears, minds and hearts of thousands of true believers.”

The band members, collectively, feel there are still good reasons its fans continue to enjoy Gentle Giant’s music and why it continues to be discovered by new generations. For fans of Gentle Giant, “Three Piece Suite” is a must have. For fans of great musicianship and progressive rock this is an incredible insight into the earliest days of this legendary band.

Watch the video for Peel The Paint here:

 

Steven Wilson releases new track ‘Song of I’, announces additional tour dates

“I’m truly sorry but/this is my addiction…”

Steven Wilson released a new track from his forthcoming fifth album To The Bone yesterday.

Song Of I is a story of unrepentant obsession set to a sharp-as-a-tack rhythm track and an orchestral sandstorm – the third track taken from ‘To The Bone’ (following Pariah and The Same Asylum As Before), it is another tantalising musical curveball thrown by the UK’s biggest underground artist.

The video for Song Of I features performance artist Maya Petrovna and has been directed by Steven’s long time visual collaborator Lasse Hoile and will be available on Vevo from Saturday 10thJune.

Steven Wilson plays a previously announced UK tour in spring 2018 – two extra dates have just been added due to huge demand. The tour dates are:

Thu 15th Mar                       Warwick Arts Centre (NEW DATE)

Sat 17th Mar                         Belfast Mandela Hall

Mon 19th Mar                      Dublin Olympia Theatre

Wed 21st Mar                      Cardiff St David’s Hall

Thu 22nd Mar                      Birmingham Symphony Hall

Sat 24th Mar                        Glasgow Clyde Auditorium

Sun 25th Mar                       Gateshead Sage 1

Tue 27th Mar                       London Royal Albert Hall (sold out)

Weds 28th Mar                    London Royal Albert Hall (NEW DATE)

Sat 31st Mar                         Manchester Bridgewater Hall (sold out)

Sun 1st Apr                          Manchester Bridgewater Hall (NEW DATE)

Tickets are on sale now from usual agents.

Steven Wilson website / online shop / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram/ Spotify complete discography

Steven Wilson – New album August 18th 2017… massive global 2018 tour announced…

Steven Wilson has announced details of To The Bone – his expansive, brilliant fifth album – and a major 2018 UK tour including a return to one of the country’s most iconic venues, the Royal Albert Hall. Pre-order the album here.

A gloriously dynamic modernist pop record as imagined by the UK’s biggest underground artist,

To The Bone is released August 18th via Caroline International on CD / 2 x 12” / Blu-Ray / super deluxe box set and all digital platforms.

Fusing driving futurist rock and spectral electronics to elegiac hyper-space ambience and dizzying, squalling guitars, To The Bone is Steven Wilson’s hat-tip to the hugely ambitious progressive pop records of his youth (think Peter Gabriel’s So, Talk Talk’s Colour of Spring, Tears for Fears Seeds of Love).

Lyrically, the album’s eleven tracks veer from the paranoid chaos of the post-truth era and the creeping self-loathing of the technology age to steely fly-on-the-wall observations of the everyday lives of religious fundamentalists with a welcome shot or two of wide-eyed escapism. Sonically and melodically stunning, To The Bone is a high definition snapshot of the disconcerting times we live in.

The follow up to 2015’s Hand. Cannot. Erase. (“a smart, soulful and immersive work of art” the Guardian 5*), To The Bone is Steven Wilson’s first album since signing with Caroline International (Iggy Pop, Underworld, Thurston Moore, Glass Animals). Formerly the founder and mainstay of outsider rock band Porcupine Tree, Steven released his first record under his own name – Insurgentes – in 2008. He has been resolutely independent throughout a three-decade career that’s made him the most successful British artist you’ve never heard of.

Listen to ‘Pariah’ from the new album here:

Steven Wilson has announced details of a huge global tour that takes in over one hundred shows across all five continents including a 25 date US tour that sees him return to the renowned Beacon Theatre, NY after last year’s sell out there. His European dates are:

Wed 31st Jan              Portugal, Lisbon, Sala Tejo at the MEO Arena

Thu 1st Feb                 Spain, Madrid, Wiznik Centre

Sat 3rd Feb                  Spain, Barcelona, L’Auditori

Sun 4th Feb                 France, Marseille, Silo

Tue 6th Feb                France, Lyon, Le Transbordeur

Wed 7th Feb               Switzerland, Zurich, Halle 622

Fri 9th Feb                  Italy, Milan, Teatro Degli Arcimboldi

Sat 10th Feb                Italy, Rome, Atlantico

Mon 12th Feb             Germany, Frankfurt, Alte Oper

Tue 13th Feb              Germany, Ravensburg, Oberachwabenhalle

Wed 14th Feb             Austria, Vienna, Gasometer

Thu 15th Feb              Germany, Berlin, Admiralpalast

Sat 17th Feb                Poland, Zabrze, House of Music and Dance

Sun 18th Feb              Poland, Poznan, Earth Hall

Tue 20th Feb              Germany, Hamburg, Mehr Theatre

Sat 24th Feb                Finland, Helsinki, The Circus

Mon 26th Feb             Sweden, Stockholm, Cirkus

Tue 27th Feb              Norway, Oslo, Oslo Concert House

Wed 28th Feb             Norway, Bergen, USF Verftet

Thu 1st Mar                Norway, Stavanger, Konserthuset – Zetlitz

Sat 3rd Mar                Denmark, Copenhagen, Vega Main Hall

Mon 5th Mar               Germany, Essen, Colosseum

Wed 7th Mar               The Netherlands, Amsterdam, Heineken Music Hall

Fri 9th Mar                  Belgium, Brussels, AB

Sat 10th Mar               Luxembourg, Rockhal Club

Mon 12th Mar             France, Paris, The Olympia

Tue 13th Mar              France, Lille, Theatre Sebastopol

 

Sat 17th Mar            Belfast Mandela Hall

Mon 19th Mar           Dublin Olympia Theatre

Wed 21st Mar           Cardiff St David’s Hall

Thu 22nd Mar           Birmingham Symphony Hall

Sat 24th Mar             Glasgow Clyde Auditorium

Sun 25th Mar            Gateshead Sage 1

Tue 27th Mar           London Royal Albert Hall

Sat 31st Mar             Manchester Bridgewater Hall

Tickets for the UK tour are on sale from 10am Friday 12th May (with a fan only pre-sale on Wednesday 10th May).

To The Bone tracklisting:

 

  1. To The Bone
  2. Nowhere Now
  3. Pariah
  4. The Same Asylum As Before
  5. Refuge
  6. Permanating
  7. Blank Tapes
  8. People Who Eat Darkness
  9. Song of I
  10. Detonation
  11. Song of Unborn

The super deluxe box set features the album, a CD of outtakes and demos, a Blu Ray, a DVD, a fully illustrated book and a one-sided 7” single featuring non-album track.

For more information, contact Robin at Turner Hall.

Steven Wilson website / online shop / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram/ Spotify complete discography.

 

Review – Tim Bowness – Lost In The Ghost Light – by Progradar

“Look around you. Everything changes. Everything on this earth is in a continuous state of evolving, refining, improving, adapting, enhancing…changing. You were not put on this earth to remain stagnant.”
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Yes, everything changes but, in music, sometimes that change either takes what seems like a lifetime or never happens at all. Some of the more established acts could be said to have congealed into their final selves. To be fair, they can often still produce great music but you always know what to expect and that means no more surprises and I for one like a few surprises in my musical journeys.

Tim Bowness has admitted to me himself that he does have a signature sound and it is one that can be heard as the foundation on his previous three solo releases ‘My Hotel Year’ (2004), ‘Abandoned Dancehall Dreams’ (2014) and  2015’s ‘Stupid Things That Mean The World’. 2017 sees him return with a new album, ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’, and a new approach.

Here’s Tim’s thoughts:

“This new album, in some ways, it is quite a departure. There are lots of flutes on it and due to the nature of ‘the concept’, it’s definitely the most traditionally Progressive album I’ve made. It was very much a labour of love and like you say, it ‘felt’like a Tim Bowness album while taking the music into some uncharted places (for me).”

‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ is a concept album revolving around the onstage and backstage reflections of a fictional ‘classic’ Rock musician in the twilight of his career. It is a grand statement about a grand era of music making and an undoubted highlight of Bowness’s career.

Lyrically, the album addresses how the era of streaming and ageing audiences affects creativity, how a life devoted to music impacts on real / family life, and how idealistic beginnings can become compromised by complacency and the fear of being replaced by younger, more vital artists.

Though firmly focused on Bowness’s distinctive voice and musical approach, the album also draws inspiration from the period the concept covers and contains a notable 1970s Symphonic/Progressive Rock influence.

Mixed and mastered by Bowness’s No-Man partner Steven Wilson, ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ uses a core band comprising Stephen Bennett, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief), Hux Nettermalm (Paatos) and Andrew Booker (Sanguine Hum), as well as guests including Kit Watkins (Happy The Man/Camel), Steve Bingham (No-Man) and the legendary Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull). Andrew Keeling (Robert Fripp/Hilliard Ensemble/Evelyn Glennie) arranges for string quartet and flute on three of the album’s
songs.

Jarrod Gosling (I Monster / Cobalt Chapel) provides the fantastically detailed artwork, which includes a visual history of the career of the concept’s subject. Mixed and mastered by Steven Wilson, the special cd/dvd edition also features a 5.1 mix by Bruce Soord.

Tim certainly knows how to start things off with a bang. Opener Worlds Of Yesterday is hypnotic, immersive and mesmerising from the first note, a song that draws you into its soporific embrace to deliver its undoubted charms. The gentle background music has a plaintive guitar note overlaid before Tim’s distinctive vocals begin. His voice is calming and spell-binding at the same time and the beautiful strings that back the chorus work in perfect harmony. The music is full of refined grace and yet the probing guitar that you can hear throughout gives it a questing edge as well. The sedate, ambling keyboards are a delight and the flute just adds another layer of undoubted class, You just have to listen to the run out of this elegant track, it is a brilliant way to close out a song. One for late nights, lights turned down low and something full bodied and red to drink…

Moonshot Manchild opens with a laconic feel, typical Tim Bowness, all laid back vocals and subdued music that gets under your skin in an addictive fashion. There’s a subtle incisiveness running underneath though as the mellow and unhurried music washer over you. Classic 70’s keyboards give a real feeling of wistful nostalgia and a melancholy undertone to the ongoing tale. Tim’s voice has never sounded so good and he really has one of the most serenely relaxed vocal deliveries around. There’s a great keyboard interlude in the middle of the track, pensive and thoughtful asking you to reflect for a moment before the song blossoms out again with a wonderfully carefree and composed instrumental section. Once again we are treated to another impressive lead out, something that seems to be coming stock in trade for this great musician, it ebbs and flows brilliantly, demanding you follow it right to the end of the musical journey.

Wow! The next track is a real departure for Tim. All full of angst and pent up rage, Kill The Pain That’s Killing You opens with frantic drum beat and a caustic guitar riff. There’s a real nervous energy about this song, a pleading uneasiness that has a real catchy note to it. Tim’s vocal seems more direct and urgent and that acerbic guitar note really does make you sit up and take notice. The staccato chorus only adds to the offbeat tone, this is something very different and enjoyably so and, coming in at under four minutes, this frenetic song never outstays its welcome.

After that unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable onslaught, Nowhere Good To Go sees us return to the refined, simple grace of the first two tracks but there is definitely something evolved about Tim’s sound on this album. Soothing and tranquil, the music seems to lull you into a becalmed state and then open up into something just a little different with the dulcet tones of a Hammond organ combining with the strings to add subtle sophistication to what is already quite an imposing sound. Again the vocals are delivered with silken finesse and the ethereal flute adds a winsome feeling to this lissome song.

There is one of the best openings to any recent progressive song on You’ll Be The Silence. All pastoral with a lovely piano sound and the delicate heavenly flute, it really did impress me on first listen and left me transfixed with its rarefied quality. Tim’s voice has a little catch to it, an almost sentimental regret at the heart of it and it gives the song a dreamlike atmosphere when combined with the simple charms of the wistful music. The longest track on the album at nine minutes long, you are enraptured throughout this unapologetically sentimental and yet slightly rueful piece of music. You have to take the time to listen to this song (and, indeed, the whole album) with a decent pair of headphones on and just become immersed in its spellbinding orchestral reverence. Music as good as this can take you to a place of calm reflection, where the world cannot harm you and everyone needs that now and again, an utterly captivating song that ends every bit as brilliantly as it begins, the guitar and flute leading you on a seductive voyage home…

Lost In The Ghost Light is quite a dark interlude with a menacing undertone. Tim delivers his vocal in a spoken word fashion and that adds even more suspense and uncertainty. The music is atmospheric and bleeds tension directly into your system.

That slight feeling of doubt can be felt at the start of You Wanted To Be Seen and adds to a cautionary tone to deliver a deliberately pensive and sombre tone to the song. Tim’s vocal is thoughtful and sad and the music has a plaintive and pensive edge to it. The violin that can be heard in the background is a fine touch and adds a longing, surreal edge to the track before things change tack with a restless and skittish air that adds tension and a disquieting unease. Another great song that has an imposing end with some great guitar playing.

Onto the final track of the album, Distant Summers, a mournful violin opens this mellow and cultured song and imbues it with a really plaintive plea for days gone by, Sepia tinged nostalgia drips from every wistful note and the exquisite flute playing is tempered by a trite ennui. The vocals have a touch of anguish at the core of them and the whole song has a fragile dignity deep at its core, one that is made up of beauty and remorse in equal quantities. Despite the forlorn mood that runs throughout the song, I still feel that there is hope emanating from Tim’s expressive voice and that is the overriding feeling that I will take away with me.

I’ve always been a fan of Tim Bowness and this new album has only exacerbated that. He has added something different and distinct to his music to evolve and progress it to something that, while recognisable as his work, has seen him mature into one of the best and most involving progressive artists that we have. There are added layers and nuances that just lift this album above similar fare on offer at the moment and I can see this being on my playlist for a long time to come.

Released 17th February 2017

Order ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ from Burning Shed

 

 

BE PROG, MY FRIEND! 2016 part 2 (t-shirt wars) – by Kevin Thompson

KF_Amorphis_PosterA1.eps

Day two arose to bright sunshine and we ate an ample breakfast in the hotel before a morning in the wonderful Museum of Art, with so many treasures to see. But enough of that, I am not here to talk about the wonderful historic sites in Barcelona, the colonnades  lining the street to the museum, waterfalls and twin towers replicating the style of San Marco Campanile in Venice. Nor am I about to tell you of the excellent Spanish guitarist delighting a crowd in front of the museum, on his ‘silent guitar’. No, we shall leap forward to our much needed early afternoon siesta from which we woke abruptly, making haste to reach  the Pobel Espanyol and the beckoning sounds of day 2, at Be Prog My Friend.

Unfortunately the second day started an hour earlier and we joined the queue of latecomers as we fed into the square just in time to catch the last three songs from the ravishing Anneke Van Giersbergen and The Gentle Storm. This lady’s voice as those who have heard her will know, is a tour de force and her powerful vocals tore through the tracks with gusto engaging with the slowly swelling crowd in some grand Prog Metal. Her energy was infectious and warmed the audience up nicely as did the mid afternoon sun and we watched from floor level partaking of much needed liquid refreshment.

Anneke

Buoyant from the night before and with a rousing first act to start the day we were feeling rather pleasant and whilst we waited for the next band we wandered round and checked out the t-shirts. No contest as I have to say the lovely Sarah Ewing’s artwork conquered all comers. I thought I had done well in the t-shirt battle yesterday but Big Big Train’s ‘Grimspound’ drew so many admiring glances it felt like being on a catwalk.

Grimspound

We briefly met the gang from yesterday for a chat, but they wanted to go down the front and we decided we would hang back and find a seat somewhere with a decent view, if we were lucky.

And so to the second band, whilst I had only heard a couple of tracks from Between the Buried and Me which sounded promising. They appeared to be attracting favourable attention from the media recently and I was looking forward to being impressed as they had travelled over from the US of A. I’m still waiting I’m afraid. The sound wasn’t brilliant, louder than clearer and Konnie and I agreed it was like listening to an extended promo reel, with clips from songs cobbled together.

Konnie said she was unable to decipher when one track ended and another began as it sounded so disjointed. Despite an enthusiastic following nearer the stage and you may read differently elsewhere, we didn’t seem to be the only ones and for me the guttural vocals only added to my disappointment, sorry guys I’m sure there are many disagree with us including those at the front, but here’s a photo.

Between

I was a child of the 70’s it was the blossoming of my teenage musical years and the awakening of my eyes and ears to Prog. Now I’m sure many will agree, some records are timeless and transgress all era’s without ageing badly and some you raved about then, you find hard to reconcile why in the present day. I would not have bought the next band’s albums then and wouldn’t now as I will happily tell you, ‘it’s not my sort of thing’. So on an increasingly hot and sunny, Spanish afternoon surrounded by a sizeable crowd of MAGMA t-shirts, what happened?

Like a rabbit in headlights or with myxomatosis, I stood rooted to the spot as MAGMA took the stage. They seemed quite the perfectionists and had taken some time to set up which may have explained why they couldn’t play as long as they wished, but as they strode on to the stage and the music and chanting of the first song began I was transported to Summerisle. I was transfixed as if drugged and the tune grew like some creeping, Dario Argento film soundtrack as it swelled most disturbingly. I forced myself to look away from the stage and those around me seemed entranced and swayed to the the throbbing rhythms. I’m glad there was still daylight to bring me comfort.

Magma

As the music continued the young man in his twenties standing in front of us took up the song. A cherub faced middle aged man, with rosy cheeks and glasses, clad in walking gear with a backpack, wandered through the ranks of the audience singing the lyrics in a deep resonating tone, an angelic smile spread across his face, arms wide in subjugation. Had I stepped into a pagan festival? Konnie stood on my left enraptured and I glanced to my right and the terrace above. A boy of no more than twelve stood in front of his father, chanting in the knowledge of every word, his small hands air drumming without missing a beat.

And then they finished , disgruntled they could not extend their set, with a shorter tune (over 10 minutes) and the veil lifted from everyone’s eyes. Konnie talked enthusiastically and I tried to figure out what had just happened. Would I buy the music, no. Would I travel and pay to watch them, I don’t think so. Would I be able to resist the lure of their unique performance if they were on a festival bill again, probably not and they have a new disciple in Konnie. Strangely watchable, if you have never seen them and happen upon them, watch, you may be enchanted but rest in the knowing you don’t have to weave flowers in your hair and there are no human sacrifices required during the performance.

Opeth 1

It’s worth mentioning at this stage that the transitions between bands was not as smooth as the previous day. Whether the crew were different or more likely the bands on the second day were more demanding, either way the wheels were not as well oiled. This gave us more time for food and liquid sustenance and to soak up the atmosphere. A couple of large tattooed Scandinavian  bikers asked we take their photos and they kindly reciprocated snapping the ‘Grimspound’ shots of Konnie and I. They also gave some of their stone step space so we could sit for a while which was most welcome until we found seating a little further back with a better view.

Opeth 2

It was time for the main acts of the day, first came Opeth. I am a late convert and up until now only have ‘Pale Communion’ and still feel some of their older material may not be to my liking. But I have since ordered a couple of older CD’s to try and Lamentations DVD on the strength of their performance and what a show. The sun descended as the atmosphere grew, Michael Akerfeldt and the band striding the stage as giants of the prog metal genre, rousing the crowd who need little encouragement. With acknowledgement to the long faithful that the newer material has not always received favour, they pulled old favourites from their earlier albums to rapturous applause and drove them like giant machines crushing any doubters under the sound, loud and clear with the lighting matching the moods. It is well known Michael and Steven Wilson have become firm friends and you can catch elements of influence in the work, enhancing the massive production here.

Opeth 3

Revelation of the day was Konnie’s response, she has never taken interest in Opeth before and had neglected to listen on the occasions I have played ‘Pale Communion’, fearing they weren’t to her liking. By the end of the first song she was hooked, loving every minute, extolling the virtues of their live performance and on completion she was grinning like a kid at Christmas. Had they been the only head-liner, the day would have finished on a tremendous high. As it was, we were to be spoiled further…..

Opeth 4

We knew what to expect from Steven Wilson as we have seen him on his last three tours, but this did not lessen our excitement, merely settled us in the privy we bestowed upon our Spanish friends, eager to watch a man who verges on deity status in the genre and learn all they can about him. Mr Wilson has developed and perfected his style with such precision he holds all in his sway and has carefully honed his stage craft since we first saw him. Again I feel his friendship with Michael has influenced and benefited him especially in performing as he seems more at ease talking to and joking (yes, joking), with the crowd. His live sets are always louder these days, the tracks played are heavier and rockier than the album versions. We always pack our ear defenders, but that could be our age, yet he balances the delicate, ‘Lazarus/Routine’ finely, gently sprinkled like fairy dust on the sounds emanating from his current band.

Steven 1

All masters in their own fields, with none finer on the drums than Craig Blundell, as readily recognised by the work he has done as an international clinician for Paiste, Premier, and RolandAdam Holzman is a rare keyboardist, having moved from the jazz fusion field to his current position in the band, he consistently earns critical acclaim as one of the most daring and best contemporary keyboardists alive.

No one could have predicted back in the Kajagoogoo days that Nick  Beggs would go on to be such a luminary in Bass guitar and Chapman Stick, his mighty presence up front ably bookending Steve with current guitarist Dave Kilminster. Having spent the last few years as principal guitar player in the Roger Waters band, Dave brings his own, skillful style to the well renowned tracks and my only regret is that they didn’t play Drive Home, as I would like to have heard his take on the beautiful guitar solo.

steven 2

It’s a commanding show and a fitting end to a wonderful couple of days though the fuzzier lighting employed for the majority of the set prevented my getting many photos.

But not quite an end: it was by now 02:00, weariness took hold and with an early start the next morning we elected to leave with the majority and head for our hotel. Which leaves me to apologise to metalcore band Textures, who bravely came on after we left and played to a greatly reduced crowd, so I cannot comment on their performance.

It only remains to say ‘Gracias’ to the organisers of BPMF, everyone who helped make it possible the bands themselves and the Spanish people we met along the way. Watch for next year’s line up, take the leap, make the trip and revel in what Barcelona and Be Prog My Friend have to offer, you won’t be disappointed.

Adios, hasta pronto………

Progradar – 2016 – Best of the First Six Months

David

(Yours truly and Prog Guru™ himself)

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

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

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

Emma

Emma Roebuck (Progradar reviewer)

Cover 2

Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

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

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

Aftermath

Preacher – Aftermath

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

Stand out Tracks

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

Cover

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.

Jump Over The Top Cover

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.

Cover-500K

Kiama – Sign of IV

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

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

Stand Out Tracks  Muzzled and Slip away.

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Leo Trimming – (Progradar and TPA reviewer)

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Red Bazar – Tales From The Bookcase

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

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

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

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Matthew Parmenter – All Our Yesterdays

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

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

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Nine Stones Close – Leaves

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

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

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Big Big Train – Folklore

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

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Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

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

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Gary Morley – (Progradar reviewer)

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Hawkwind – The Machine Stops

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

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Preacher – Aftermath

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

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I Am The Manic Whale – Everything Beautiful In Time

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

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Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

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

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

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

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Steven Wilson – 4 1/2

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

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Shawn Dudley – (Progradar reviewer)

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Messenger – Threnodies

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

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Haken – Affinity

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

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Purson – Desire’s Magic Theatre

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

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Big Big Train Folklore

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

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden

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

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

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Bent Knee – Say So

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

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David Bowie – Blackstar

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

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden

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

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Body English – Stories of Earth

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

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

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

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Kevin Thompson (LHS) – (Progradar reviewer)

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Big Big Train – Folklore

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

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Long Distance Calling – Trips

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

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Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

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

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Iamthemorning – Lighthouse

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

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Downriver Dead Men Go – Tides

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

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

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Lazuli – Nos Âmes Saoules

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

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Bent Knee – Say So

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

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The Dowling Poole – One, Hyde Park

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

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden

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

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Frost* – Falling Satellites

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

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

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Big Big train – Folklore

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

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Anderson/Stolt – Invention of Knowledge

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

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Southern Empire – Southern Empire

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

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out of Eden

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

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Mothertongue – Unsongs

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

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

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Mothertongue – Unsongs

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

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Big Big Train – Folklore

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

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Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

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

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Iamthemorning – Lighthouse

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

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Tilt – Hinterland

A superb album by a cast of very accomplished musicians. Brilliant vocals, burning guitar solos, a thunderous rhythm section and songwriting of the highest quality combine to deliver one kick ass release that I keep returning to again and again. By the way, three of these guys are better known as Fish’s backing band but, oh my god, have they risen well above that soubriquet now….

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Opeth – Deliverance and Damnation (remixed) – by Shawn Dudley

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2015 has been a retrospective year for Opeth. Their 25th anniversary tour was celebrated by adding a full performance of the 2005 album ‘Ghost Reveries’ in addition to their regular ‘Pale Communion’ set and the year closes out with a deluxe remixed reissue of their classic albums ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Damnation’.

Two albums that were recorded during the same sessions and intended for release together, but their record label at the time (Music For Nations) split them up and issued them 6 months apart. This reissue fixes that mistake and the new mixes from Steven Wilson (‘Damnation’) and Bruce Soord (‘Deliverance’) offer up a fresh perspective on this material, which was so important to the evolution of the band and what they’ve been able to accomplish in the ensuing years.

The creation of this double album was far from a painless process however…

Opeth was coming off their breakthrough release ‘Blackwater Park’, an album that finally opened the doors to the US market so expectations were very high.  Mikael Akerfeldt remarks in the liner notes: “I remember that even though I was determined to write the heaviest record to date, I kept coming up with these beautiful snippets of acoustic music. It was disturbing. My muse wasn’t cooperating. Where’s the fucking metal?”

Mikael’s best friend Jonas Renkse (Katatonia) suggested that the answer was to record two albums; one heavy, one softer. Mikael latched onto the idea immediately but their record label took some convincing. The only way the label would agree to a double album was if the record only counted as a single release against their contract and if they recorded it in the same amount of time and on the same budget as a single release.

Despite only having three completed songs ready and a month to record the entire project, Mikael dove into writing and recording on the fly, often staying up all night writing and then recording the next day. To add to the stress of the situation, the first studio they booked was not well maintained and frequent equipment breakdowns quickly put them behind schedule.

They soldiered on, changed studios and completed recording of the basic tracks, but Mikael was utterly exhausted and called on his friend Steven Wilson (who had co-produced ‘Blackwater Park’) to assist them with finishing the project. Wilson would help to put the finishing touches on the ‘Deliverance’ half and then him and Mikael worked together to craft ‘Damnation’.

Steven contributed keyboards and backing vocals for both albums in addition to writing the lyrics for the song Death Whispered A Lullaby.

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“Deliverance was always meant to be a dark and heavy record. I can’t remember why I wanted it to be, to be honest. At the time of writing the songs, I wasn’t listening to any music like that. I only played soft singer/songwriter stuff or progressive rock. 

I can’t remember listening to any extreme forms of metal at all. In retrospect, I think I might have been afraid of losing touch with the form of music that had shaped the band in the first place.”  – Mikael Akerfeldt

Based on the finished result, any fears Mikael may have had about losing touch with their heavy side were utterly unfounded. ‘Deliverance’ is one of their heaviest and most intense records; probably made even more so by the stressful circumstances that birthed it. It’s the perfect mirror image to ‘Damnation’; the stylistic breadth of Opeth’s ‘from a whisper to a scream’ approach on full display.

‘Deliverance’ is a fairly uncompromising listen for the most part, but it also contains many moments of beauty and progressive rock sophistication. A Fair Judgment is my personal favorite track from these sessions, a multi-layered epic that begins with Steven Wilson’s plaintive solo piano intro and then ebbs and flows in dramatic intensity for the remaining 9 minutes. Mikael sticks to his clean voice throughout (at this stage getting more assured with each album) and the song also features some fine guitar solos and a nice doomy outro.

The title track deserves special mention as well as it’s arguably the best prog-metal arrangement in their discography. If I could only pick one song to demonstrate their breadth of sound it would be this one. Military-precision death metal and delicate acoustic passages flow effortlessly into one another creating dramatic tension and release throughout the 13 ½ minute composition. The wonderfully hypnotic repeated rhythmic figure during the ending segment is thrilling, I can think of few bands that could pull it off. It may be a cliché but this song is definitely a jaw-dropper.

Bruce Soord’s meaty remix of the album really brings out the dynamics of the original recording and is quite different in character to the original mix. The most noticeable difference is in the drums and the low end. Bruce removed the triggered “clicks” on the kick drums that were omnipresent during that era and that suddenly allows the bottom end to breathe, the kicks now push massive amounts of air. The original mix had very little low-end definition, now it will rattle the rafters.

He has also used a wider stereo spread and more three-dimensional positioning of the vocal tracks and lead and acoustic guitar parts, giving the entire album increased depth and presence. While it’s still a fairly compressed sounding recording this version is a dramatic overall improvement and sounds fantastic in the 24bit/96khz stereo mix on the DVD. It can be cranked loudly with no discernable distortion.

 

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“Damnation” is a happier memory, even if it really shouldn’t be, as its writing and recording was almost equally difficult. I guess it was a more interesting album to make, since the music/direction/everything else about Opeth was moving and progressing in actual real time. In the same pace as the music was created. Quite odd, when you think about it now.” – Mikael Akerfeldt

It’s going to sound like hyperbole but I honestly believe ‘Damnation’ is one of the most unique and beautiful albums of the past decade. Opening track Windowpane was my first exposure to Opeth and it just sounded utterly timeless and classic from that very first listen. It’s not often that I hear a single song that starts an obsession, but that’s exactly what happened in this case.

‘Damnation’ is 44 minutes of melodic progressive rock perfection, one that acknowledges Mikael’s many musical influences while still sounding unmistakably like Opeth. The band responds brilliantly to the new challenges introduced by these arrangements and each member puts in a career-best performance. Special mention goes to Martin Mendez (bass) and Martin Lopez (drums) for their deft rhythm section work, I can think of few metal bands that could so convincingly alternate from the delicate swing of a track like To Rid The Disease to the full-on metallic assault of Master’s Apprentices.

Steven Wilson provides an array of classic prog keyboard sounds to the recording and would inspire Mikael to expand Opeth’s lineup to feature a full-time keyboardist from this point forward.

Steven Wilson’s remix stays true to the character of his original mix from 2002 while bringing out even more depth and detail to the intricate arrangements. It’s not quite as dramatic of an improvement as ‘Deliverance’, but ‘Damnation’ was a good sounding album to begin with; now it sounds phenomenal. It’s an essential upgrade.

Being able to experience both of these albums together, as they were intended, really helps illustrate what an important stylistic step they were for the band. ‘Damnation’ allowed Mikael to fully explore his progressive rock side without being restricted by stylistic concerns and that freedom carried onto his writing on subsequent albums. ‘Deliverance’ would simultaneously close one chapter of their career (the 4-piece lineup) while pointing toward the expanded creative direction they would follow on ‘Ghost Reveries’, ‘Watershed’ and beyond.

For a deeper understanding of this material and the circumstances surrounding the recording sessions I highly recommend picking up the DVD set ‘Lamentations’. It features a documentary film made during the recording of the albums with interviews of the band and Steven Wilson.  The concert recording features 2 sets, the first set including the entire ‘Damnation’ album and the second set featuring tracks from ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Blackwater’ Park. The concert was filmed at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2003.

The Box set was released on 14th September 2015

Buy the box set direct from the artists webshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progradar’s – ‘Best of 2015 So Far’ – Edition

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Don’t be put off by the scary picture, that is actually me getting ready to tell you what albums have made my ‘Best of 2015’ list. These lists are always subjective and incredibly hard to compile. Let’s be honest, at the end of it all, it is only my opinion which can agree with or differ from, all it is meant to be is a guide to what music has really inspired me this year so far.

Firstly a self-imposed rule that I won’t include any Bad Elephant Music releases because, as you know, I attempt to be the Head of PR for this rather special record label and it could be seen as bias.

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To be honest, all the BEM releases this year are as excellent as ever and would probably have made my list anyway so please do go to:

The BEM bandcamp site

And check out this years releases from Audioplastik, jh, We Are Kin, Tom Slatter, Emmett Elvin and The Fierce and the Dead, superb, eclectic and downright brilliant.

Right, that’s the advertising out of the way now on with the main course…..

In no particular order, here are my top 15 releases so far for 2015.

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Sylvium – Waiting for the Noise

Superb progressive rock with tones of Porcupine Tree and Riverside. A musical experience that emphasizes emotions rather than the eternal quest for a perfect pop song.

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The Tangent –  A Spark in the Aether

A return to traditional progressive rock, incredibly addictive, flippant and irreverent and, well, just darn good fun!

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The Wynntown Marshalls – The End of the Golden Age

Scottish tinged Americana with powerful and haunting songwriting and outstanding musicianship.

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Karnataka – Secrets of Angels

The first album written specifically for vocalist Hayley Griffith’s voice, a symphonic prog- rock masterpiece with towering anthems and delicate ballads concluding with the epic twenty-minute plus title track.

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Tiger Moth Tales – Storytellers Part One

An album that is even better than the delights of ‘Cocoon’. My inner child is brought to the fore by the magic, charm and allure of ‘Story Tellers Part 1′, it takes me away to an inner nirvana where nothing can touch me or spoil my mood.

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Hibernal – After the Winter

Mark Healy’s cinematic and evocative soundscapes waft over a post-apocalyptic spoken word storyline to deliver an immensely visceral listening experience.

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Transport Aerian – Darkblue

A deeply dark, disturbing and highly original work of art from this talented, serious musician. Well worth a listen but, be afraid, very afraid!

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Echolyn – I Heard You Listening

Storytelling by music, getting to the heart of the matter and opening up small town America, sometimes a band can come very close to perfection with a new release and this album is as close to a must buy album as I’ve heard this year.

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The Aaron Clift Experiment – Outer Light, Inner Darkness

An excellent new release full of sophistication and depth and powerful, thoughtful songs that resonate deeply with you. An album about duality, darkness and light and imbued with intricate compositions, complex arrangements and virtuosic performances, you will want this delight in your collection, trust me…..

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Glass Hammer – The Breaking of the World

Let’s get the Yes comparison out of the way, these guys do traditional progressive rock so well they have transcended that to stand in their own circle of praise. A highly impressive effort once again.

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Built for the Future – Chasing Light

All sorts of influences combine in this impressive melting pot to deliver a debut album of sheer beauty. I was so surprised by the quality and heartfelt emotion of this album, it is that good!

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Maddison’s Thread – self-titled

Folk is rooted at the core of Maddison’s Way but this album is all about the music and the way Lee can diversify with aplomb is very impressive. A contender for album of the year for me and one that will stay with me for a very long time.

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Kingcrow – Eidos

Progressive metal that is more prog than metal. I will probably upset some people here but, to me, this is the thinking man’s Opeth, much more accessible and quite deeply, darkly moving.

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Barock Project – Skyline

An unexpected highlight of the year so far, hopefully the fourth album by this extremely talented and still relatively young band will see them break into the mainstream of the progressive rock market. I for one think that, with music as deeply enjoyable and illuminating as this, that they definitely deserve it!

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Kinetic Element – Travelog

An album of ‘opulent ear candy’ featuring 5 tracks of classic progressive rock that harks back to the 70’s. Superb musicianship featuring everything from jazz basslines, intricate guitar work and soaring keyboards combine with delightful vocals to deliver something that every prog fan will like.

I chose not to include E.P’s but there have been a couple that have stood out for me this year so far Big Big Train’s ‘Wassail’ and Progoctopus’ ‘Transcendence’ are both excellent and well worth catching up on.

Like I have already said, lists like this are very subjective and other albums could have made it so here is a selection of ‘honourable mentions’ that have really struck a chord with me this year so far……

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So there we have it, just over half of 2015 has passed and we have so much more new music to look forward to. Let me know your thoughts, there will be albums you expected and some you didn’t no doubt and I’ll see you at the beginning of 2016 for the year end awards!