The Inner Road – Visions (progressive rock)

Rock music is such an integral part of our audio culture that it has almost become invisible as a thing in itself: it doesn’t sound like rock music to many ears, in many contexts, but just like music. Furthermore, because of the way in which it is usually experienced, as a currency of mass culture, and thus a vehicle for a whole raft of subtly differentiated associations, those associations tend to obscure the physical ‘aurality’ of the music. The song is heard, with all its lyrical denotations, and the points of identification around which a listening subject may construct itself, but because that listening subject is typically alert to the…

Various Artists – Singles & EPs

Marley Butler makes music of remarkable clarity: his soundscapes are usually clean, open affairs, in which the boundaries between sonic elements are clearly defined; his rhythms are regular, precise and simple; ideas have room in which to breathe, and although he does not overuse spatialising effects such as reverb and delay, the worlds he creates are three dimensional ones. He’s not bucking the trend with this two track release, and why should he?

Matt Stevens – Relic (acoustic post-rock)

Matt Stevens is an artist whose work I have followed closely, for several reasons, since I started regularly writing about music. Whatever reason I first came across his work, the reason I have continued to pay attention is that I really like what he does (so far so good, anyway). I have to admit that I’m not usually a fan of ‘prog’ per se: although I like music to be progressive in some way, there is a historical tendency for instrumental guitar rock to suffer from either tedious noodling, empty pyrotechnics, or both.

Awooga – V Column (progressive rock)

Long songs (by the standards of popular music) are often casually referred to as epics: obviously the idea of an epic refers to more than duration, and although such commonplace coinages pretend to nothing more than a disposable shorthand, I think it’s worth examining that idea in relation to V Column, an album the best part of which is occupied by three tracks in excess of seven minutes. In critical theory the ‘epic’ is distinguished from ‘narrative’ and ‘lyric’ forms, all of which are given meanings somewhat different from those usually ascribed to them…

Tom Slatter – Iron Bark (progressive rock/ steampunk)

It’s rare that something truly original comes my way, something that I can’t really put in a box with anything else. Tom Slatter presents me with music for which I can find some comparisons, certainly: there’s a nuanced, psychedelic experimentalism to his compositions, reminiscent of some twentieth century classical music, that relates to some artists that I’ve previously reviewed here, such as Knifeworld, or Karda Estra. But as an artistic totality, I can safely say I’ve never heard the likes of Iron Bark before.

Matt Stevens – Live In Blackpool (progressive/ post-rock/ acoustic)

What’s the point of live albums? As music fans, we usually hope for a number of things, but they mostly revolve around an anticipated sense of greater authenticity. This is the musician doing it for real: you can hear whether or not they really know their stuff, or whether it was all studio trickery. If you’re a real geek for a particular artist, you’ll want to hear how they vary their performances, both from their studio recordings and from other live shows; it’s also an opportunity to hear how much they improvise; to hear how the band interacts on stage…

Another Dead Hero – Children Of The Witch (metal)

Ominous, dissonant, powerful, and employing a vocabulary that predates any form of extreme metal, it would be easy to class Another Dead Hero’s music as epic doom, for its atmosphere and for its approach, but it’s not so easily pigeonholed stylistically. It sounds like Another Dead Hero, which is to say that it doesn’t sound immediately unlike anything you’ve heard before, but on closer examination it sounds remarkably little like anything you’ve heard either.

Heavy Ethics – Rhubarb (jazz/ fusion/ prog)

It says prog up there at the top, and that’s both a nod to the band’s self-identifications, and because this music is decidedly progressive, although, to be honest, if you’re looking for something that sounds like archetypal prog-rock this will probably sound like jazz to you. It has dissonances aplenty, and frequently hazy tonality, although it is never quite atonal, but for all Heavy Ethics’ avant-garde tendencies, these elements are contextualised by the vocabulary, and tend to read (to my ear at least) in the same way as the dense chromaticism of…

Karda Estra – New Worlds (psychedelic/ progressive/ chamber music)

This album opens with a strummed guitar chord, and an oboe. The oboe is an instrument not often featured in rock, jazz, popular or folk music, and it signals with its presence that we should prepare ourselves for a variety of ‘not often featured’ elements. There are some sounds of rock in here, electric bass, distorted guitar, drum sounds and synthesisers: but these elements take their places in a broader soundworld, as seats in the orchestra pit rather than swaggering stage performers.

Knifeworld – Dear Lord, No Deal (psychedelic rock)

Kavus Torabi, Cardiacs guitarist, among many other things, originally pursued Knifeworld as a solo endeavour, but this EP marks the beginning of the project’s recorded life as a six piece band with a permanent membership. The initial release, Buried Alone: Tales of Crushing Defeat, had a particular sound, and a coherent one, from which this release is quite distinct, texturally at least. Dear Lord, No Deal has a denser, fuller sound, but it still pursues the same general aesthetic and formal agenda.