Godzilla Black – The Great Terror (avant-rock)

I wasn’t supplied with a lyric sheet when this album was submitted for review, so my assessment of its verbal content is a bit fractional, but there’s no mistaking the central thrust of things, as evident in the title, and in the baleful, malevolent eyes of the infant staring out at us from the cover. This is dark shit. I don’t know where Godzilla Black see themselves, in the grand continuum of not-mainstream rock music; there are certainly echoes of a great many interesting zones of creative practice, and given the great prog-thaw that has taken place in recent years, I have little difficulty in describing their music as …

Karda Estra – Mondo Profondo/ New Worlds (avant-prog)

It’s far from unusual for me to beaten to the scoop on the music I’m sent to review, for various reasons, but not least because I like to spend a good deal of quality listening time trying to get inside the music before I set dactyls to chiclets and start spouting off. Little surprise, then, that Classic Rock Presents: Prog beat me to the punch on the Mondo Profondo review, giving me the opportunity to rip off any pertinent observations they may have shared. ‘Unclassifiable’ isn’t a characterisation with which it’s hard to concur, nor is it news to me (or anyone with a functioning pair of ears) that Richard …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

We’ve all seen some pretty rough justice in the wake of global capitalism’s recent crises, but Greece has suffered worse than any other part of the developed world. The Figures Of Enormous Grey And The Patterns Of Fraud appears to be a response to these circumstances, although it’s too complex an album to be pinned down quite so glibly. Choral voices are layered with a complex variety of rock textures, ranging from post-rock atmospherics, through mathy convolutions to heavy prog riffing. It’s the big epic sweep of things that tends to predominate, rather than the individual voice or the…

Various Artists – Album Roundup

You’ll hear a lot of familiar echoes in The Executioner’s Lover, but I can more or less promise that you haven’t heard anything quite like it. It opens with a song, ‘Half Life’, that is mainly arranged for ‘orchestral instruments’, but which also incorporates a rock rhythm section, which comes and goes at strategic moments; the song is a melodramatic number, which while it is not a ballad, has a narrative feel to it, like a piece from musical theatre or light opera. This is more or less the course followed by the album as a whole, but within those approximate bounds there is a huge diversity …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

A combination of electro-acoustic and programmed sounds are used here to create a sound that pays clear homage to African polyrhythmic percussion music, unpitched attacks mingling with sounds similar to idiophones or lamellophones, although they might come from almost any source. Then there are the synths, guitars and lo-fi samples… No Security Through Numbers is far too complex to glibly summarise with a juxtaposition of stylistic labels or a list of other bands I think you might have heard of. Towards the end of ‘Super Symmetry’ a series of fusionesque stabs appear

The Inner Road – Ascension (progressive rock)

Steve Gresswell is a prog auteur of the old school, producing music that is not particularly progressive stylistically, but which makes use of a sophisticated and complex approach to composition and orchestration. I’m familiar with two of his projects, this one, and Coalition, a band with a similar sound that incorporates vocals; in both cases he is the principal actor, although he clearly prefers to work with collaborators, and all tracks on Ascension are credited to him and Jay Parmar, who plays guitar on the album. The previous record, Visions, was a collaboration with guitarist Phil Braithwaite on apparently similar terms. Despite his variety of collaborators, there’s a singleness of vision to all of the recordings I’ve heard featuring Steve Gresswell, probably aided and abetted by the fact …

Tom Slatter – Three Rows Of Teeth (avant-prog)

Tom Slatter likes steampunk; he likes it enough to have used it as the thematic touchstone for all three of his albums to date. Now steampunk is not a musical style (Abney Park notwithstanding) but a genre of fiction, and a large body of visual culture derived from it. If you want a watertight definition you’ll have to go and dig one up yourself, but science fiction based on Victorian technology is not a bad shorthand, and Slatter’s brand thereof tends to incorporate a powerful element of the macabre, as well as elements of fantasy. To write and record music that is ‘in’ a literary genre obviously suggests an unusual approach to songwriting; the compositions on Three Rows Of Teeth are not the usual explorations of commonplace situations and …

Review Of The Year 2012, Part 2: 12 EPs

In previous years I’ve assembled my annual review solely from album length releases; it’s interesting to note that the vast majority of music I come across, whether I actively discover it or somebody sends it to me for review, is in something resembling album format (notwithstanding that most of it reaches me as a sequence of ones and zeros). However, I do receive EPs and singles, and some of the very best music I’ve heard this year has come my way in shorter releases. It’s clearly time I reflected this in my end of year review, and as it would seem strange to compare two track singles with seventy minute albums, I’ve decided to assemble my favourites in two parts …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

Why do I write reviews? Largely so that I can blag free music instead of buying it like everyone else, and so I can kid my conscience that my inane ramblings are an adequate substitute for paying musicians their due. Of course I can (and will, given half a chance) list any number of more high-minded motivations, but I always feel that the transaction is balanced in my favour; so when this CD was pressed on me by guitarist Simon Rollo, and a review requested with the circumspection of a man asking me to clean the diarrhoea off his sofa, I was amused, embarrassed and confirmed in my impression of Three Thrones, which is that whatever they’re full of, it’s not themselves.

Thumpermonkey – Sleep Furiously (progressive rock)

Injunctions to sleep in a particular manner crop up from time to time as album titles. Hope & Social’s last album length release was called Sleep Sound, which is perhaps the kind of sleeping to which most of us are accustomed; either that or badly. Furiously is another matter altogether: normally, a high fever is a prerequisite for such an approach to somnolence, although once, when I was eighteen, I dropped a tab of transcendentally strong acid immediately before going to sleep, and I have to say my repose was, if not precisely furious, decidedly frantic. Is Sleep Furiously a comparable sort of experience? Well, it’s definitely disorientating, and I don’t get the impression that helping their listeners to orient themselves is one of Thumpermonkey’s central priorities

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Given its title, its cover, and Quak’s avowed intention to make ‘dusty’ albums, we might expect a taste of nostalgia, of painful distance about this recording; it begins with thunder. This doesn’t presage any protracted exposition of sturm und drang however; it seems rather more like the thunder heard through the windows of childhood, the thunder that tells you a rainy day will be keeping you indoors for the foreseeable future. Quak employs elements of conventional tonal practice to establish emotional conditions, and makes use of technological or human noise and natural ambience to evoke more experientially specific states of being. The sounds have an unsettling character, leavened with some notes of optimism, all filtered through a distancing …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Being able to afford soap is the new bling. That’s not necessarily a satirical conceit most artists would consider hanging an entire album off, let alone their group identity, but BIG $OAP MON£Y CR£W are not ‘most artists’, and that’s exactly what they do. Not that this is overtly a concept album, despite its consistent use of all caps and currency symbols, but the identities adopted by its creators are maintained scrupulously throughout; it’s not pure comedy from start to finish, but WA$H YO FAC£!‘s unbroken satirical undertow betokens a refusal to take themselves too seriously, or to ape the street pomposity of the self-obsessed, machismo fetishising mainstream. This is funny, sometimes eye-wateringly so, and it pokes plenty of affectionate fun…

Coalition – In Search Of Forever (progressive rock)

I felt an overwhelming sense of familiarity when I first saw this album, but I couldn’t work out why. The first thing I thought of was Return To Forever, but that band’s album covers had very little in common with this one. It was several days before it came to me: the fantasy artist Rodney Matthews published a book of his work by the same title in 1985, and although the album art itself doesn’t resemble his pictures, he was a prolific typeface designer, and the one used here looks very like his work. I don’t propose to labour this coincidence, but I think it’s inevitable that such associations colour our perceptions to some degree, and the strange visual worlds I explored at Matthews’ hands as a teenager may have an influence on my imaginative response…

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

In recent years the avant-garde fringes of metal have become one of the most fertile sites of musical creativity and invention; while my central musical inclinations might be towards other areas, such as jazz or folk, and while those areas certainly harbour some radically creative minds globally, the majority of music produced and performed locally to me is pretty conservative. Earthmass is one of several bands I have the opportunity to engage with directly (attending gigs, meeting the members, building an ongoing relationship as a music writer, etc.) that pursue a radical formal agenda, and really keep their eye on the ball creatively. There is no uncritical regurgitation of the tropes of heavy music here, no taking the language as given …