Posts Tagged ‘Prog’

InsideOut Music – 6th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s been a lot of beefing and bitching about ‘authentic’ indie bands and labels in circulation of late, particularly about bands who have been blasted into the collective conscious seemingly overnight and questions being asked of their ‘indie’ credibility.’ The sceptics question, ‘how can a band go from nowhere, not even a handful of local gigs, to emerging, fully-formed on a national level? Surely there must be finance and machinations behind the scenes?’ Every story is different, of course: Benefits have truly emerged – against the odds – by sheer hard work and grass-roots support via word-of-mouth promotion. The Lovely Eggs have done it 100% DIY, but it’s taken forever for them to achieve the cult status they now have that means they can sell out 50-capacity venues. Wet Leg got snapped up by a large-scale independent label early on, because it happens, just as historically bands would send a demo to a major label and get signed for big money by some A&R dude seeking to be the one who discovered the next big thing (but for every five hundred bands signed, only a handful would even release a single before being dropped). And so it was that Royal Blood weren’t quite the from-the—bottom grafters they may seem, and even Arctic Monkeys weren’t purely word of mouth viral in their ascendency, despite their legend. But is it fair to begrudge bands reaching the audience they deserve? So many great bands have failed to make an impression simply because they’ve not had the backing or exposure required to puh them up to the next echelon.

And what of labels being acquired by majors? Is that selling out? Not necessarily: it depends on the deal, and more than an independent brewery being bought up necessarily means its beer will be brewed under license elsewhere and become more supermarket piss. So InsideOut may be owned by Sony, but they’re seemingly left to do what they do as a channel for all things prog, while benefiting from major-label funding and distribution, which is a win for all concerned.

It’s highly unlikely that Sony would have picked up and given a home to the debut album from Chinese purveyors of progressive metal, OU. Not because it isn’t any good – it is – it’s just a long way from being overtly commercial, and all the better for it, of course.

One of the reasons it’s so far from having mass appeal is because it’s simply too ‘different’. ‘Travel’, the first song of the eight, has many elements of electropop and the darker side of 80s chart rock, but the vocals are bombastic, soaring, everything all at once, incorporating the quirkiness of Bjork with choral stylings and flying at times completely over the top, and the song’s unpredictable structure sees the segments shop and change in a blink. You need hooks to get on the radio, not oddball noodling shit like ‘Farewell’, where Lunn Wu sounds like she’s possessed by the spirit of Billy MacKenzie fronting Evanescence covering Captain Beefheart in a technical metal style. Or a drum ‘n’ bass take on Yes’ back catalogue. Or something. Point is, there’s a hell of a lot happening either all at once or in rapid succession, and it’s a lot to take in, and sometimes it’s too much.

It’s very much the kind of prog that blends math rock and jazz to froth up something that’s busy, to the point of being dizzying. There are some decent tunes and pleasant melodies in the mix here – but they’re in the mix with whirling chaos and some kind of cerebral explosion.

When they do slow things down and bring down the manifold layers of hyperactivity, as they do in the altogether gentler and magnificently mystical mid-album interlude, ‘Ghost’, they reveal a real knack for atmosphere and ethereality. Haunting and evocative, it’s a magnificent piece. In contrast, ‘Euphoria’ begins as a pleasant, rippling piano-led piece that quickly evolves into what sounds like about three songs all playing at once, which is difficult to assimilate.

The musicianship is outstanding, but it sometimes feels as if they’re trying too hard to showcase their technical prowess, and just because you have ideas doesn’t mean you should play them all at once. It’s good, but it’s busy, and the twangy slap bass on ‘Prejudice’ is a little flimsy in the face of the full-on crunch of ‘Light’.

One is indisputably well-realised, both in terms of composition and production. But despite it seemingly being too much in parts, some of it leaves you yearning for more.

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Venus Principle are premiering the melancholic and powerful new track ‘Drag Nets’ as the final single taken from the dark psychedelic rocker’s debut full-length Stand in Your Light, which has been scheduled for release on May 27.

‘Drag Nets’ makes subtle use of a wide range of instrumentation from sax to mellotron vibes and Mini Moog, and the stunning vocal chemistry between Daisy Chapman and Daniel Änghede comes into play again as well.

The band comment: “After the initial recording sessions for Stand in Your Light were postponed, we had a chance to write a few more songs”, guitarist Jonas Stålhammar tells. “The last one written was ‘Drag Nets’. It turned out to be by far the heaviest track on the album. ‘Drag Nets’ represents the waste and rejects of man. You can trawl the sea for food and treasure, but humankind will always carelessly discard all unwanted matter only for it to be rediscovered as flotsam and jetsam. The idea of adding saxophone was a last minute thought in the studio when I reached the conclusion that we had too many guitar solos on the album already. Our amazing guest on the saxophone, August Eriksson, copied my guitar solo note for note and then added some improvised sprinkles.”

Listen to ‘Drag Nets’ here:

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After a five-year wait for new music, Ruby the Hatchet are premiering the track ‘1000 Years’ from their new EP Live at Earthquaker, their first outing for Magnetic Eye Records. The three-track set is scheduled for release on April 22, with pre-sales commencing today.

Live at Earthquaker features early organic and raw versions of two brand-new songs recorded entirely live at EarthQuaker Devices headquarters in Akron, Ohio during the band’s US tour with KADAVAR, with the cherry on top being the physical format debut of their raucous version of URIAH HEEP’s 70s anthem ‘Easy Livin’’.

The EP’s two new songs will reappear in fully-produced recordings on the New Jersey riff-rockers’ new studio album that has been announced for 2022.

The video clip for ‘1000 Years’ was recorded live and produced at EarthQuaker Devices, and you can watch it here:

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Pic: Mike Wuthritch

Prog icons The Flower Kings recently announced the release of their 15th studio album By Royal Decree, set for 4th March 2022.  Now, the band are pleased to share the second single from the album ‘A Million Stars’. Watch the video here:

Roine comments: “Never to shy away from simple melody, this is The Flower Kings at their more accessible end, but still with a trademark TFK sound and symphonic textures.”

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Photo Credit: Lilian Forsberg

The band are back at their most creative, flowery and playful – mirroring the 70’s melting pot of folk, symphonic, electronic, jazz, blues, funk & prog. On the new album they have looked for more organic and vintage sounds, still centered around the foundation of drums, bass, guitars and the iconic Hammond, grand piano, mellotron & Moog synthesizers.

The album also sees the return of founding member Michael Stolt, who takes up bass guitar and vocals, alongside the line-up of Mirko DeMaio on drums, Zach Kamins on keyboards, Hasse Fröberg on vocal & guitar and Roine Stolt on vocal & guitars and Jonas Reingold on bass. The band convened in the middle of 2021 at Fenix Studios in Sweden to record through the fully analogue Rupert Neve mixing desk. The album also features beautiful cover art, once again created by Denver-based artist Kevin Sloan.

This year’s tour will also see the band revisiting their early years, performing tracks from ‘Retropolis’, ‘Stardust We Are’, ‘Flower Power’, ‘Space Revolver’ and ‘Back In The World Of Adventures’. This will coincide with the release of newly remastered editions of The Flower Kings albums on CD & Vinyl later in 2022. The first confirmed live dates are as follows:

30th March 2022 – Katalin, Uppsala, Sweden

31st March 2022 – Musikens Hus, Gothenburg, Sweden

1st April 2022 – Södra Teatern, Stockholm, Sweden

1-7th May 2022 – Cruise To The Edge, USA

11th May 2022  – TBA, Quebec City, Canada

12th May 2022  – TBA, Montreal, Canada

14th July 2022  – Rootsfestival, Notodden, Norway

4th Sept 2022  -  HRH Festival , UK

Having announced details of their debut album Fragments and revealed the first single “Pavlov`s Dog Killed Schrodinger`s Cat”, Trifecta are premiere a new track and video for “Have You Seen What The Neighbors Are Doing”.

Nick Beggs explains how the track came about “The track, ‘Have You Seen What The Neighbors Are Doing’, was written after hearing a song by Ween titled ‘So Many People In The Neighbourhood.’  We liked the song so much we decided to construct a reply. “ the video he continues “was shot on location while on the planet of the prehistoric women. However the trip was fraught with problems after Craig and Adam both realised they had failed to pack a tooth brush. Luckily I was on hand to share mine with them.”

Watch the video here:

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Trifecta, features 3 of the contemporary music scene’s most lauded and revered musicians – bassist and songwriter Nick Beggs, keyboardist extraordinaire Adam Holzman and completing the line-up, Craig Blundell – one of the world’s most celebrated drummers. 

Having performed together as part of Steven Wilson’s band, the three would jam together after soundchecks, forming what they referred to as “jazz club” and from these sessions the fledgling ideas for Fragments were born.

The record primarily leans toward a fusion of jazz rock, imaginatively described by Beggs as “Fission! It’s like Fusion but less efficient and more dangerous ..with fall out.” and being mainly instrumental with the exception of one track, the wonderfully titled and first single “Pavlov’s Dog Killed Schrodinger’s Cat”. The lyrics of which, Beggs states “are written from the perspective of a layman trying to understand quantum mechanics…and failing”.  The track also features drum programming from Russell Holzman. 

Each band member completed the recording and engineering of their own contributions in their various home studios which helped in bringing their individual production ideas to each track. Adam Holzman mixed the record at his New York home studio and the mastering was handled by Andy VanDette (Rush, David Bowie, Deep Purple, Porcupine Tree, Beastie Boys) in New York.

Fragments will be released on 20th August via Kscope on CD, black vinyl LP, ltd edition neon orange vinyl LP (exclusive to www.kscopemusic.com/store ) and digitally.

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Pennies By The Pound present classic/psych-rock-imbued ‘Indigo Screams’ ahead of new LP, mastered by Ride’s Mark Gardener. 

With comparisons to Bob Mould, And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Marillion, and Jethro Tull being tossed around – and not wrongly – there’s a hint of early 90s Dinosaur Dr in the mix, too. Check ‘Indigo Screams’ here:

Hailing from Helsinki, Pennies by the Pound was formed in 2016 by Johannes Susitaival as a solo project, but it quickly became a three-piece involving musicians from his past bands.

While still part of a punk rock band, Johannes began exploring some quite different musical avenues, which led to the self-produced ‘Bloodshed and the Blinding Sunlight’ EP in 2018. Having found their ideal producer after several years of searching, they began recording demos in 2019 for what would become this album. Due to the pandemic, they were finally able to record these tracks in autumn of 2020.

Pennies By The Pound’s sound blends ’80s prog rock and ’90s-early ’00s alternative rock – essentially heavily guitar-driven with a touch of keyboards… Big choruses, quite a few guitar and keyboard solos and grandiose arrangements.

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Magnetic Eye Records

Christopher Nosnibor

This is my first encounter with Swedish psychedelic doom-riffers Domkraft, and it must be something to do with the power of three, given that this is the third single from the forthcoming third single by the trio.

And when a band puts out a nine-minute track as a single, you get a sense of where they’re coming from. This clearly isn’t a band going for radio play here, the no-compromise approach of a lack of an edit demonstrating a solid anti-commercial aesthetic. But then, how would you do justice to an absolute epic like this by cutting it down to three, four, or even five minutes?

No, you need to hear – and feel – the full thing, from end to end. Build? Yeah, you, might say it builds. After a couple of minutes or so that are a welter of guitars and a monster wall of riffage, it really takes off, before it simmers down into a lumbering, soaring expansiveness that’s even vaguely proggy. No criticism, but a sense that certain parts don’t quite deliver on the threat of the band’s bio or commentary on the single. If anything, this is very much for the better, because ‘Audiodome’ is so much more, and transitions between passages of varying tempo and weight to outstanding effect. Around the right-minute mark, they really slam in with some eight, and it thunders hard.

It feels less like a single than an album condensed into a single track. Epic is indeed the word.

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Golem 202020 is a 10-track recording synthesis curated from the full soundtrack of the classic silent horror film ‘Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam’ created by the Italian avant/post rock band STEARICA.

The soundtrack was originally commissioned by The Italian National Museum of Cinema and the Traffic Free Festival and was performed in the Museum’s cinema as a live soundtrack to the film as part of the MiTo Settembre Musica in September, 2011.

The ten tracks, which cover the five chapters into which the film is divided, were recorded live in 2014 during a studio session organised to immortalise the work, with further embellishments added in 2019 while still maintaining the original arrangement.

’How He Came into the World’ is the latest single to be shared from the soundtrack with the band commenting,

‘Entrust fate to your own hands and immerse them in clay to give shape to the Golem.
Follow instructions alchemical up to challenge God, planning to bring inanimate matter to life.
This is where the weight of responsibility of those who hold the sacred role of salvation can lead.
The frustration against the emperor, who wants to take over the village, pushes the Rabbi to alter the universal order to create a colossus defender of the People.

A creature of death and life, able to frighten the enemies and bring security, but all this has a cost for those who alter, even for a noble cause, disposition, natural and inscrutable things.’

Listen to ‘How He Came into the World’ here:

Cruel Nature Records – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Aiden Baker’s releases have become a regular feature here at Aural Aggravation. His prodigious output, not only as a solo artist, but through innumerable collaborations, often released through Gizeh Records, have given us no shortage of material to contemplate and ruminate over. It’s often hard to keep up with his output,

Stimmt was first released digitally back in 2015 on Broken Spine Productions, and has been was remixed and remastered for its first physical format outing via Cruel Nature in a limited edition of 60 cassettes (as well as digitally again).

Baker is to guitar what John Cage and Reinhold Friedl were / are to piano, with the ‘prepared’ guitar being a prominent feature of his musical arsenal, along with an array of other ‘alternative’ methods of playing, across a genre span that incorporates elements of rock, electronic, classical, and jazz, within his broadly ambient / experimental works

Stimmt sits at the more overtly ‘rock’ end of Baker’s stylistic spectrum, launching with the heavy riffology of ‘Dance of the Entartet’ that’s got a prog vibe but comes on with a heavily repetitious throb that owes more to Swans than Pink Floyd or Yes. The percussion crashes away hard but it’s almost buried in the overloading guitar assault that’s cranked up to the max and is straining to feed back constantly throughout, before it wanders off into ‘Atemlos’, where it’s the strolling bass that dominates as the guitars retreat to the background and sampled dialogue echoes through the slightly jazz-flavoured ripples. It’s here that things begin to feel less linear, more meandering, and the chiming post-rock sections feel less like an integral part of a journey and more like detours – pleasant, appropriate detours, but detours nevertheless – and it culminates in a climactic violin-soaked crescendo.

Veering between hazy shoegazey ambience that borders on abstraction, and mellifluous post-rock drifts, Stimmt is varied, and, oftentimes, rich in atmosphere. ‘Mir’ is very much a soporific slow-turner that casts a nod to Slowdive, but with everything slowed and sedated, wafting to an inconclusive finish.

The lumbering ‘Staerken’ stands out as another heavy-duty riffcentric behemoth: it’s low, it’s heavy, and finds Baker exploring the range of distortion effects on his pedal board, stepping from doom sludge to bolstering shred and back, and there’s a deep, crunchy bass that grinds away hard, boring at the bowels and hangs, resonating at the end.

After the full-on overloading ballast of ‘Quer’ that really does go all out on the abrasion, with squalling guitar paired with a nagging bass loop that’s reminiscent of The God Machine (the track as a while, calls to mind ‘Ego’ from their debut Songs From the Second Story), closer ‘Resolut’ is eight minutes of semi-ambient prog.

It’s a lot to digest, and it’s certainly not an easy pigeonhole, but it’s an intriguing album that stands out as being quite different both musically, and in the context of Baker’s output. Unusual but good, and offering much to explore.

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5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Inspired by a passage in the novel White Teeth by Zadie Smith, NYC’s Charlie Nieland describes the lead single, ‘Land of Accidents’ from his new album as ‘a dark anthem to not-belonging’. Divisions certainly presents an eclectic mix that doesn’t really belong anywhere, and perhaps encapsulates that sentiment of unbelonging most perfectly within its very fabric. Traversing between a host of styles spanning post-rock, neo-prog, folk, indie, and further afield, if any one genre has an overarching influence, it’s 70s prog.

A stuttering, jittering rapidfire drum machine snare jolts like an electric current through the easy strumming clean guitar that leads the instrumentation on ‘Always on Fire’, the first song on the album. He’s gone all out for the grand curtain opener with this expansive, emotive, cinematic effort that lures the listener into a spiralling, psychedelic experience, and it’s effective – there’s a lot going on and a lot to explore. The same is true of the album as a whole, as it reveals more with every track.

A swell of sweeping strings add layers to the rolling drums and mid-pace melancholy of ‘The Falling Man,’ which contrasts with the uptempo punk-tinged indie drive of ‘I Refuse’ which comes on a like a blend of The Wedding Present, The Fall, and Mission of Burmah.

Aforementioned single cut ‘Land of Accidents’ packs it all in, and has the twists and turns and explosive dynamics of Oceansize at their best and builds into a muscular wall of sound, with dense waves of guitar dominating. ‘Tightrope’ is pure REM, only it’s probably a better take on REM than many of the band’s own later years work, and spins into a soaring shoegaze climax that is nothing short of absolute gold. It’s one of those songs you could easily play on repeat for hours – but then that would be to underexpose the broody magnificence of ‘Skin’ which immediately follows. ‘Some Things You Keep to Yourself’ has hints of Mansun but also later Depeche Mode about it with its dark brooding and also its soulful feel, not least of all the backing vocals. Things continue to get darker and starker on the synth-led closer ‘Pawns’ that goes all weirdy as it stretches and twists out of shape.

Neiland sustains the interest and the variety throughout, and there’s no let-up in quality either: there’s not a throwaway or duff song on Divisions, and with thirteen tracks, that’s no small achievement. That Divisions is almost impossible to pigeonhole is no issue: after all there are only two kinds of music – good and bad. And this is most definitely good.

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