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All posts for the month April, 2017

This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/compilations/progotronics-3-launched/
Progotronics 3

After almost a month and the release of Progotronics 2 sampler in March, we are back once again with the third iteration of the series and our biggest Progotronics sampler yet.

Progotronics 3 features 18 tracks in total, and with this one we think that we’ve made the best one. We are not saying that the previous samplers lacked quality, it’s quite the opposite actually, but with Progotronics 3 we succeeded in bringing the most varied compilation. Whichever Prog you enjoy mostly, we think that you will definitely find something that will satisfy your appetite with this sampler.

From the classic Prog-Power Metal, to Post Black Metal with Prog influences, Djent, Instrumental Jazz Fusion-driven stuff to Psychedelia and everything in between, Progotronics 3 is quite a joyful experience.

Stream, download and share if with your friends; let the music be heard. The submissions for Progotronics 4 are now open; the sampler will be released on May 26th. Download our Android app from Google Play Store here.

Progotronics 3 Track Listing:

1. Theory – Sea of Damnation
2. Breag Naofa – The Morning Of
3. Tone Puppets – A Place to Find
4. Sam Lenhardt – Tidepools
5. Oro Cassini – Blank Faces
6. From the Dust Returned – Echoes of Faces
7. Leviathan Owl – Everything Will Be Fine
8. Gloson – Fabulist
9. Lucid Lynx – Crystallized
10. shetz – Chameleon
11. Shaping Motion – Making the Best of It
12. Colombian Necktie – Untitled
13. The White Flies – Chaser
14. Abiogene – Satori
15. Donella Drive – Silence
16. Justin Enriquez – December
17. Centroid – The Divide
18. Lucerne – Lysithea

This news story was originally published here: https://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/headphone-dust-releases-fovea-hex-ep/
STEVEN WILSON's Headphone Dust Label Releases New FOVEA HEX EP

Steven Wilson has recently teased his upcoming fifth studio album, and while waiting for that to be released, the English musician also works as a manager for his own label Headphone Dust, which in the past mostly served as a home to some of his releases.

Last year Headphone Dust released its first non-Wilson release by a band called Fovea Hex, and now the label has announced the release of a new EP from the band titled The Salt Garden 2.

Wilson announced this via his official Facebook page, stating:

“‘The Salt Garden 2′ is the second in a series of 3 limited edition EPs released on Headphone Dust in conjunction with German label Die Stadt, and contains 4 brand new tracks, one of which is a collaboration with Brian Eno. The first EP was voted the best single of 2016 by influential website Brainwashed.com, and is now completely sold out.

The Salt Garden 2 comes as a limited edition 10″ vinyl which also includes a CD of the EP. If you pre-order the EP from the Headphone Dust webstore you can also receive a bonus remix CD. The items ship starting from June 21st.

About Fovea Hex:

Four years after the release of the critically acclaimed album Here Is Where We Used To Sing Fovea Hex return with The Salt Garden; a series of 3 EP’s to be released in ltd. edition 10″ vinyl via Steven Wilson’s Headphone Dust label.

Since the appearance of Fovea Hex’s first EP trilogy Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent in 2005, Clodagh Simonds‘ collective ensemble has attracted a genre hopping rollcall of A-list luminaries including Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Carter Burwell, Donal Lunny, and Steven Wilson, as well as a who’s who of the electronic avant-garde including Roger Doyle, the Hafler Trio, Colin Potter and Michael Begg. Regular contributors include Kate Ellis, Cora Venus Lunny, Laura Sheeran, and Julia Kent. They have performed at the personal invitation of David Lynch in the gardens of the Cartier Foundation in Paris, as well as in Austria, Italy, Spain and Ireland.

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Fovea Hex - The Salt Garden II

This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/headphone-dust-releases-fovea-hex-ep/
STEVEN WILSON's Headphone Dust Label Releases New FOVEA HEX EP

Steven Wilson has recently teased his upcoming fifth studio album, and while waiting for that to be released, the English musician also works as a manager for his own label Headphone Dust, which in the past mostly served as a home to some of his releases.

Last year Headphone Dust released its first non-Wilson release by a band called Fovea Hex, and now the label has announced the release of a new EP from the band titled The Salt Garden 2.

Wilson announced this via his official Facebook page, stating:

“‘The Salt Garden 2′ is the second in a series of 3 limited edition EPs released on Headphone Dust in conjunction with German label Die Stadt, and contains 4 brand new tracks, one of which is a collaboration with Brian Eno. The first EP was voted the best single of 2016 by influential website Brainwashed.com, and is now completely sold out.

The Salt Garden 2 comes as a limited edition 10″ vinyl which also includes a CD of the EP. If you pre-order the EP from the Headphone Dust webstore you can also receive a bonus remix CD. The items ship starting from June 21st.

About Fovea Hex:

Four years after the release of the critically acclaimed album Here Is Where We Used To Sing Fovea Hex return with The Salt Garden; a series of 3 EP’s to be released in ltd. edition 10″ vinyl via Steven Wilson’s Headphone Dust label.

Since the appearance of Fovea Hex’s first EP trilogy Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent in 2005, Clodagh Simonds‘ collective ensemble has attracted a genre hopping rollcall of A-list luminaries including Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Carter Burwell, Donal Lunny, and Steven Wilson, as well as a who’s who of the electronic avant-garde including Roger Doyle, the Hafler Trio, Colin Potter and Michael Begg. Regular contributors include Kate Ellis, Cora Venus Lunny, Laura Sheeran, and Julia Kent. They have performed at the personal invitation of David Lynch in the gardens of the Cartier Foundation in Paris, as well as in Austria, Italy, Spain and Ireland.

[embedded content]

Fovea Hex - The Salt Garden II

This news story was originally published here: https://www.prog-sphere.com/interviews/arcadea-interview/
Arcadea

Not long ago it was announced that Arcadea, a trio from Atlanta featuring Mastodon‘s drummer Brann Dailor, guitarist/keyboardist Core Atoms (Zruda, Gaylord) and keyboardist/guitarist Raheem Amlani (Withered, Scarab), will release their self-titled debut album on June 16th via Relapse Records. The recorded is heralded as “otherworldly psyche-electric, synth-driven, metallic madness led by Dailor.”

We talked with Core Atoms about the upcoming record. Read the interview after the break.

[embedded content]

Your self-titled debut album will be released on June 16th via Relapse Records. Tell me about the creative process that informed Arcadea and the themes it captures.

Core Atoms: Since we all have our own bands with more traditional instrumentation, we wanted to do something different but still rooted in our love of prog. We all share a love of 60′s-70′s psychedelia and that era where technology was bit by bit merging with punk, soul, rock and funk.

What is the message you are trying to give with Arcadea? Is there a concept story that feeds the music?

The world of this album is a post-human one, set at a time when our sun starts its burnout and Andromeda collides with the Milky Way. While life as we know it is long gone, the heavenly bodies have inherited consciousness, similar to the ones the ancient Greeks attributed to their gods. The album’s eleven tracks tell the tale of intrigue, shifting alliances and alien races, at a time of a great cosmic change.

Based on two tracks you released so far it seems like “Arcadea” is pretty dynamic release. Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

While a riff or two came out of jamming, all the songs were constructed beginning to end with sonic and thematic ideas in mind.

Arcadea album art

Describe the approach to recording the album. How long the album was in the making?

The album took a while on and off to record as the three of us stayed fairly busy over the past few years. 2 weeks stretched over two years. We would lay down all the music for a track, send them to Brann and when he was back in town he’d throw down his part, usually in a take or two. I remember Brann recorded one of my favorite drum tracks on Christmas Eve last year, during a crazy thunderstorm.

All three of you are listed as vocalists too. What was it like to distribute the vocal parts of the songs for the album?

Certain passages call for certain voices and between the 3 of us I think we were able to find the right voices while having a lot of fun recording them.

I am sure that many people would love to know specifics of the synths you used on the record. What can you tell me about it?

I have used the same battered Korg synth for years, despite some dodgy keys. I also used a 1987 Yamaha Pss-570 on a song or two. Raheem would bring different boards to the studio for us to experiment with all the time though. I also use my guitar pedals and did a lot of experimenting and sound manipulating.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release? I could definitely hear a lot of different influences threaded through your music, but I’m in particularly interested to hear which artists from the Prog Electronic spectre influenced the album.

I have always loved various genres of music. Brann and I share a deep, deep love of 70′s Genesis and 70′s Stevie Wonder. Stevie basically invented new sounds in the early 70′s that have fueled modern day hip hop, R&B and electronica ever since. He was using synths and vocoders when Kanye West was still pooping in a diaper. He’s not thought of as prog but listen to 1976′s, “Contusion” for just a taste. Genesis before Gabriel left is still near and dear to me. Brann and I have always tripped out on Wonder and Genesis and it HAS to have an influence.

What is your view on technology in music?

Since the advent of the computer, music has become more and more processed while the artist, less organic. It seems to me there’s a tight rope between talent and over-reliance on technology. Arcadea embraces a certain level of technology while retaining the human beat. I still cringe whenever I see a band with a computer on stage. To me, a computer is not an instrument.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

It would be nice to think like the Wyld Stallyns; our music will bring about world peace but… Original music for art’s sake is good enough for me. Maybe I will get the chance to shed some light on great music of the past. If anything, I think most people, even self professed music fans lack an understanding of music history. We all stand on the shoulders of past giants.

Do you have plans to tour in support of the album?

As of yet we have no tour dates but we do plan on playing, sometime in the next 5 billion years.

Arcadea is out on June 16th via Relapse Records; pre-order the album here. Follow Arcadea on Facebook.

[embedded content]

This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/interviews/arcadea-interview/
Arcadea

Not long ago it was announced that Arcadea, a trio from Atlanta featuring Mastodon‘s drummer Brann Dailor, guitarist/keyboardist Core Atoms (Zruda, Gaylord) and keyboardist/guitarist Raheem Amlani (Withered, Scarab), will release their self-titled debut album on June 16th via Relapse Records. The recorded is heralded as “otherworldly psyche-electric, synth-driven, metallic madness led by Dailor.”

We talked with Core Atoms about the upcoming record. Read the interview after the break.

[embedded content]

Your self-titled debut album will be released on June 16th via Relapse Records. Tell me about the creative process that informed Arcadea and the themes it captures.

Core Atoms: Since we all have our own bands with more traditional instrumentation, we wanted to do something different but still rooted in our love of prog. We all share a love of 60′s-70′s psychedelia and that era where technology was bit by bit merging with punk, soul, rock and funk.

What is the message you are trying to give with Arcadea? Is there a concept story that feeds the music?

The world of this album is a post-human one, set at a time when our sun starts its burnout and Andromeda collides with the Milky Way. While life as we know it is long gone, the heavenly bodies have inherited consciousness, similar to the ones the ancient Greeks attributed to their gods. The album’s eleven tracks tell the tale of intrigue, shifting alliances and alien races, at a time of a great cosmic change.

Based on two tracks you released so far it seems like “Arcadea” is pretty dynamic release. Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

While a riff or two came out of jamming, all the songs were constructed beginning to end with sonic and thematic ideas in mind.

Arcadea album art

Describe the approach to recording the album. How long the album was in the making?

The album took a while on and off to record as the three of us stayed fairly busy over the past few years. 2 weeks stretched over two years. We would lay down all the music for a track, send them to Brann and when he was back in town he’d throw down his part, usually in a take or two. I remember Brann recorded one of my favorite drum tracks on Christmas Eve last year, during a crazy thunderstorm.

All three of you are listed as vocalists too. What was it like to distribute the vocal parts of the songs for the album?

Certain passages call for certain voices and between the 3 of us I think we were able to find the right voices while having a lot of fun recording them.

I am sure that many people would love to know specifics of the synths you used on the record. What can you tell me about it?

I have used the same battered Korg synth for years, despite some dodgy keys. I also used a 1987 Yamaha Pss-570 on a song or two. Raheem would bring different boards to the studio for us to experiment with all the time though. I also use my guitar pedals and did a lot of experimenting and sound manipulating.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release? I could definitely hear a lot of different influences threaded through your music, but I’m in particularly interested to hear which artists from the Prog Electronic spectre influenced the album.

I have always loved various genres of music. Brann and I share a deep, deep love of 70′s Genesis and 70′s Stevie Wonder. Stevie basically invented new sounds in the early 70′s that have fueled modern day hip hop, R&B and electronica ever since. He was using synths and vocoders when Kanye West was still pooping in a diaper. He’s not thought of as prog but listen to 1976′s, “Contusion” for just a taste. Genesis before Gabriel left is still near and dear to me. Brann and I have always tripped out on Wonder and Genesis and it HAS to have an influence.

What is your view on technology in music?

Since the advent of the computer, music has become more and more processed while the artist, less organic. It seems to me there’s a tight rope between talent and over-reliance on technology. Arcadea embraces a certain level of technology while retaining the human beat. I still cringe whenever I see a band with a computer on stage. To me, a computer is not an instrument.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

It would be nice to think like the Wyld Stallyns; our music will bring about world peace but… Original music for art’s sake is good enough for me. Maybe I will get the chance to shed some light on great music of the past. If anything, I think most people, even self professed music fans lack an understanding of music history. We all stand on the shoulders of past giants.

Do you have plans to tour in support of the album?

As of yet we have no tour dates but we do plan on playing, sometime in the next 5 billion years.

Arcadea is out on June 16th via Relapse Records; pre-order the album here. Follow Arcadea on Facebook.

[embedded content]

This news story was originally published here: https://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/porcupine-tree-albums-worst-best/
Porcupine Tree

It’s been several years now since Steven Wilson decided to put Porcupine Tree on hiatus and work on his solo material. For some people that’s terrible, and it seems that it’s going to stay like that for a long time, considering that Wilson announced his fifth solo release for 2017.

Prog Sphere ranked Porcupne Tree albums from worst to best, although that sounds a bit harsh. Check the list below and make sure to tell us what are your favourite Porcupine records.

10. On the Sunday of Life (1992)

Before you look at this album as a Porcupine Tree album, understand that it can be better described as an hour-long experiment. Essentially, it’s Steven Wilson‘s science project, just for music. He explores many different aspects of progressive and psychedelic rock without committing to one particular idea or theme. Since the album is a primarily a compilation of songs that he recorded during the two years prior to the LP’s release, the record is far from cohesive and only scratches the surface of the band’s later styles. Nonetheless, On the Sunday of Life has a few notable and intrepid ideas.

One thing that detracts from the album’s quality is its conspicuous untidiness. Despite its very interesting moments, On the Sunday of Life is jumbled, confusing, and disorganized. Aside from a few strange musical bridges like “Hymn” and “Begonia Seduction Scene,” there is nothing really linking these tracks. The album quickly leaps from one idea to the next with no sense of handling. That would not be such a problem if the album wasn’t so long. However, it is formatted similarly to a progressive concept album when, in reality, it is simply a long trek through Wilson‘s various musical inclinations. As an experiment, On the Sunday of Life operates in a “trial and error” fashion; some things work, while others don’t.

[embedded content]

09. The Incident (2009)

It is noticeable to those familiar with Porcupine Tree‘s discography how there is a lack of anything especially ‘new’ about The Incident. Whereas the previous nine Porcupine Tree albums each added something to the band’s sound this does not, preferring instead to focus on blending sounds to create something close to the definitive Porcupine Tree record.

What is truly remarkable about the album’s first disc, consisting entirely of the fifty-five minute song cycle The Incident is that the songs are so memorable. The likes of “Blind House” and “Drawing The Line” are catchy enough to be radio favourites, they won’t of course because commercial radio only plays things from the Top 40 but that’s not the point. Even short interludes such as “Great Expectations” and “Your Unpleasant Family” etch themselves into the brain on first listen. Wilson has always been a fantastic songwriter above all else and he really does prove it here with the epic eleven minute “Time Flies” sounding accessible enough for the mainstream audience of today to not have a heart attack while listening to it. Wilson‘s skills are further emphasised on the second disc which, despite being slightly weaker than the rest of the album, features four very decent songs with “Flicker” and “Remember Me Lover” being the highlights.

The overall tone is a huge factor ensuring the albums success. PT have always excelled in keeping with the darker elements of the human psychology through the use of creepy samples and keyboards, this album is no different. The opening track creates imagery of a dark forest full of mystery and repressed trauma; the song exemplifies the whole concept of The Incident perfectly before delving into the perfect blend of hard and soft rock that is “Blind House.”

Sure the album stumbles in the lyric department and there aren’t many standout tracks to be found, but this album demands your undivided attention. It is best heard from start to finish, makes sense really.

[embedded content]

08. Signify (1996)

This is the first Porcupine Tree album with a full band to perform with Steven Wilson. Right from the opening of the surprisingly heavy title track, there’s a strengthened sense of unity and focus in the material; while the trippy arrangements and vast soundscapes of previous records return here as well, they aren’t always the main focus this time around. As suggested by the shorter running times of the songs, a lot of musical fat is trimmed and the psychedelic aspects are a bit toned down, but instrumental tracks like “Idiot Prayer” and “Intermediate Jesus” play with the group’s spacey side with extended atmospheric jams. One of the best things about this album (one thing that plagued previous records by the band) is that there’s a great stylistic balance; the album combines multiple genres and sounds, but distributes them all very well. You’ve got the first real song “Signify” (the first track is just an intro) which kicks things off with a hard-hitting riff and gets the listener pumped, only to be followed by a beautiful ballad in “Sleep of No Dreaming” as well as multiple improvisational jams and other ballads. “Sever” is the track in which the harder-rocking sound comes back into play, and it’s brilliantly placed in the middle as a good way to kick up the volume at just the right time.

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07. Up the Downstair (1993)

There is no denying that Steven Wilson‘s chops, his talent especially shines through on this record, him being the sole songwriter and playing the majority of the instruments. His guitar work especially is extremely impressive and at the top of its game on this record, his heavily Gilmour inspired leads blend magnificently with the dark brooding rhythm section. His lyrical output is also vastly superior to his later conceptual offerings. The production is also more pleasing than the bands later outputs, being less harsh and overblown which gives the subtle samples, synths and instruments room to breathe.

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06. Stupid Dream (1999)

Stupid Dream is basically Wilson‘s first foray into more commercial pop and alternative rock music, complete with shorter songs and much cleaner musical arrangements. The instrumental work is incredibly tight and crisp, but many of the songs are much more uplifting in tone (especially “Stranger by the Minute” and “Piano Lessons”) despite some very depressing lyrical themes. Traces of the old Porcupine Tree sound are definitely present, especially in longer tracks such as “Tinto Brass” and “Don’t Hate Me.” The lyrics also happen to be a strength of the record despite Wilson‘s unfortunate track record of having consistently weak lyrical work in other records, ranging from subjects such as survival (“A Smart Kid”), tragedy (“This is No Rehearsal”), complacency (“Stop Swimming”), and multiple other subjects throughout the experience. Interestingly enough, however, the atmosphere of the record usually remains pretty sunny and light, making the whole thing a comfortable entry for newcomers to progressive rock music in general. However, just as with most Porcupine Tree albums, there are still many complexities and inner-workings that serve to make Stupid Dream a compelling listen; Richard Barbieri in particular has wonderfully layered keyboard work that melds wonderfully with Wilson‘s melodic guitar lines. The production is also a strong reason for this, being exceptionally lush while highlighting every instrument perfectly; it’s clean, but has enough edge during the heavier and more distorted moments.

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05. Fear of a Blank Planet (2007)

Fear of a Blank Planet rests in a perfect balance between a sense of cohesive flow and distinction between songs. The title track gives a dense blast of dark art rock and introduces the subject matter. “My Ashes” and the spacey piano-driven “Sentimental” are a more relaxed slice of Porcupine Tree, toning down the energy and heaviness without losing any of the feel. “Anesthetize” is the album’s seventeen-minute cornerstone, an absolute monster of a track that summarizes everything the album is about, featuring both the album’s most mellow, and most aggressive moments all within one composition. “Way Out Of Here” is possibly the most immediately appealing track, with the melancholy now amped up to 11. Finally, “Sleep Together” ends the journey on an ambiguous note, with exotic string sections blazing and dark electronics filling up the sound. The album ends with Wilson singing about relieving the pressure, and burning his possessions. Has he found enlightenment and broken through his apathy, or killed himself? These things are left up to the mind of the listener, and makes Fear of a Blank Planet the greatest statement from one of today’s most impressive rock groups.

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04. The Sky Moves Sideways (1995)

The Sky Moves Sideways is the band’s first masterpiece, and arguably one of the finest examples of a band establishing their presence in their genre early into their tenure. While it may not be the best album by Porcupine Tree, it definitely s way up there and is a clear display of just how talented, and maybe even mad Steven Wilson is, and also shows how well he works when given the right musicians. At 65 minutes, never is a single second wasted, and it also serves as a great tarting point for future PT fans and even prog-rock newbies.

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03. In Absentia (2002)

As Wilson‘s influences grew and Porcupine Tree began to have more full-time members, and quit being a Wilson solo project, the band slowly changed towards a more rock and progressive sound that would dominate their later releases.

In Absentia is one such release and it showcases a lot of variety. The Pink Floyd influences are not altogether gone from the scene, they definitely have remained, in such pieces as “Lips of Ashes” or “.3,” but Steven Wilson‘s genre has become more refined and explored different types of music. In Absentia truly has metal riffs, which can be attributed to his work with Swedish metal giants Opeth, and some other riffs (like the one in “Blackest Eyes”) are very reminiscent of Tool‘s staccato guitar techniques as well. Many bass lines in songs seem to fit in very well with Awake/Falling Into Infinity era Dream Theater, parts of “Strip The Soul” being very reminiscent of “New Millenium.” The band somehow manages to combine those harder influences, with the Pink Floyd sound already mentioned, and mixes in some Oasis and Radiohead touches for good measure.

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02. Deadwing (2005)

A lot of the songwriting elements that made In Absentia such a fan favorite are still here in spades, but there’s a bit more emphasis on metal here than on their previous records. “Shallow,” “Halo,” and “Open Car” are all songs that one could imagine getting airplay on alternative metal radio stations; hell, “Shallow” actually made its way into the action movie Four Brothers! But despite the presence of intense and almost grungy riffing, the same old Porcupine Tree we all know and love is still on this record. Even the heavier songs have softer and more atmospheric portions to even them out, such as the beautiful piano-driven pre-choruses of “Shallow” or the drumless outro of “Open Car” which features some nice harmonized vocals from Wilson. Speaking of “piano-driven,” Richard Barbieri was really given the chance to shine on Deadwing. He was always widely regarded as a great keyboardist, especially when he was in the new wave band Japan, but he was often reduced to just providing background atmosphere with his layered effects and sampling. But here, there’s much more of a balance as tracks such as “Lazarus” and “Start of Something Beautiful” (mainly the second half of the latter) showcase much more traditional piano playing in which Barbieri displays his virtuosity a bit more. Bassist Colin Edwin and drummer Gavin Harrison are fantastic as usual, providing a very solid and proficient rhythm section for Wilson to work with.

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01. Lightbulb Sun (2000)

I strongly believe that this is Porcupine Tree‘s best work. Bridging the gap between the band’s spacey progressive past and their metallic, riffy future, Lightbulb Sun handpicks the best things about Signify and Stupid Dream and melds them into one jaw-dropping, life-changing package. Utilizing the unsettling soundscapes and tight instrumentals of Signify (“Last Chance To Evacuate”, “Hatesong”, “Russia On Ice”) and the bright, poppy melodies of Stupid Dream (title track, “Shesmovedon”, “The Rest Will Flow”) this album is an amalgam of influences, and a melting pot of ideas that begs to be heard.

Most songs here have strong hooks, quite poppy choruses, most of them don’t exceed five or six minutes (with two exceptions), the use of acoustic guitars is liberal, and there is an almost obsessive reliance on vocal harmonies and layering.

In fact, this album has less in common with Atom Heart Mother or even Close to the Edge than it does with OK Computer. “Lightbulb Sun,” “Shesmovedon,” and “The Rest Will Flow” are all conventional pop/rock songs, very subdued and mellow, with a sparing blast of power chords here and there to get a head slightly nodding, but nothing mind-boggling; it might be one of the easiest Porcupine Tree albums to get into (which, on the whole, is a bit nicer than the artistically fantastic but damn-the-conventions approach of Fear of a Blank Planet).

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This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/porcupine-tree-albums-worst-best/
Porcupine Tree

It’s been several years now since Steven Wilson decided to put Porcupine Tree on hiatus and work on his solo material. For some people that’s terrible, and it seems that it’s going to stay like that for at least two more years, considering that Wilson announced his fourth solo release for 2015.

Prog Sphere ranked Porcupne Tree albums from worst to best, although that sounds a bit harsh. Check the list below and make sure to tell us what are your favourite Porcupine records.

10. On the Sunday of Life (1992)

Before you look at this album as a Porcupine Tree album, understand that it can be better described as an hour-long experiment. Essentially, it’s Steven Wilson‘s science project, just for music. He explores many different aspects of progressive and psychedelic rock without committing to one particular idea or theme. Since the album is a primarily a compilation of songs that he recorded during the two years prior to the LP’s release, the record is far from cohesive and only scratches the surface of the band’s later styles. Nonetheless, On the Sunday of Life has a few notable and intrepid ideas.

One thing that detracts from the album’s quality is its conspicuous untidiness. Despite its very interesting moments, On the Sunday of Life is jumbled, confusing, and disorganized. Aside from a few strange musical bridges like “Hymn” and “Begonia Seduction Scene,” there is nothing really linking these tracks. The album quickly leaps from one idea to the next with no sense of handling. That would not be such a problem if the album wasn’t so long. However, it is formatted similarly to a progressive concept album when, in reality, it is simply a long trek through Wilson‘s various musical inclinations. As an experiment, On the Sunday of Life operates in a “trial and error” fashion; some things work, while others don’t.

[embedded content]

09. The Incident (2009)

It is noticeable to those familiar with Porcupine Tree‘s discography how there is a lack of anything especially ‘new’ about The Incident. Whereas the previous nine Porcupine Tree albums each added something to the band’s sound this does not, preferring instead to focus on blending sounds to create something close to the definitive Porcupine Tree record.

What is truly remarkable about the album’s first disc, consisting entirely of the fifty-five minute song cycle The Incident is that the songs are so memorable. The likes of “Blind House” and “Drawing The Line” are catchy enough to be radio favourites, they won’t of course because commercial radio only plays things from the Top 40 but that’s not the point. Even short interludes such as “Great Expectations” and “Your Unpleasant Family” etch themselves into the brain on first listen. Wilson has always been a fantastic songwriter above all else and he really does prove it here with the epic eleven minute “Time Flies” sounding accessible enough for the mainstream audience of today to not have a heart attack while listening to it. Wilson‘s skills are further emphasised on the second disc which, despite being slightly weaker than the rest of the album, features four very decent songs with “Flicker” and “Remember Me Lover” being the highlights.

The overall tone is a huge factor ensuring the albums success. PT have always excelled in keeping with the darker elements of the human psychology through the use of creepy samples and keyboards, this album is no different. The opening track creates imagery of a dark forest full of mystery and repressed trauma; the song exemplifies the whole concept of The Incident perfectly before delving into the perfect blend of hard and soft rock that is “Blind House.”

Sure the album stumbles in the lyric department and there aren’t many standout tracks to be found, but this album demands your undivided attention. It is best heard from start to finish, makes sense really.

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08. Signify (1996)

This is the first Porcupine Tree album with a full band to perform with Steven Wilson. Right from the opening of the surprisingly heavy title track, there’s a strengthened sense of unity and focus in the material; while the trippy arrangements and vast soundscapes of previous records return here as well, they aren’t always the main focus this time around. As suggested by the shorter running times of the songs, a lot of musical fat is trimmed and the psychedelic aspects are a bit toned down, but instrumental tracks like “Idiot Prayer” and “Intermediate Jesus” play with the group’s spacey side with extended atmospheric jams. One of the best things about this album (one thing that plagued previous records by the band) is that there’s a great stylistic balance; the album combines multiple genres and sounds, but distributes them all very well. You’ve got the first real song “Signify” (the first track is just an intro) which kicks things off with a hard-hitting riff and gets the listener pumped, only to be followed by a beautiful ballad in “Sleep of No Dreaming” as well as multiple improvisational jams and other ballads. “Sever” is the track in which the harder-rocking sound comes back into play, and it’s brilliantly placed in the middle as a good way to kick up the volume at just the right time.

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07. Up the Downstair (1993)

There is no denying that Steven Wilson‘s chops, his talent especially shines through on this record, him being the sole songwriter and playing the majority of the instruments. His guitar work especially is extremely impressive and at the top of its game on this record, his heavily Gilmour inspired leads blend magnificently with the dark brooding rhythm section. His lyrical output is also vastly superior to his later conceptual offerings. The production is also more pleasing than the bands later outputs, being less harsh and overblown which gives the subtle samples, synths and instruments room to breathe.

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06. Stupid Dream (1999)

Stupid Dream is basically Wilson‘s first foray into more commercial pop and alternative rock music, complete with shorter songs and much cleaner musical arrangements. The instrumental work is incredibly tight and crisp, but many of the songs are much more uplifting in tone (especially “Stranger by the Minute” and “Piano Lessons”) despite some very depressing lyrical themes. Traces of the old Porcupine Tree sound are definitely present, especially in longer tracks such as “Tinto Brass” and “Don’t Hate Me.” The lyrics also happen to be a strength of the record despite Wilson‘s unfortunate track record of having consistently weak lyrical work in other records, ranging from subjects such as survival (“A Smart Kid”), tragedy (“This is No Rehearsal”), complacency (“Stop Swimming”), and multiple other subjects throughout the experience. Interestingly enough, however, the atmosphere of the record usually remains pretty sunny and light, making the whole thing a comfortable entry for newcomers to progressive rock music in general. However, just as with most Porcupine Tree albums, there are still many complexities and inner-workings that serve to make Stupid Dream a compelling listen; Richard Barbieri in particular has wonderfully layered keyboard work that melds wonderfully with Wilson‘s melodic guitar lines. The production is also a strong reason for this, being exceptionally lush while highlighting every instrument perfectly; it’s clean, but has enough edge during the heavier and more distorted moments.

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05. Fear of a Blank Planet (2007)

Fear of a Blank Planet rests in a perfect balance between a sense of cohesive flow and distinction between songs. The title track gives a dense blast of dark art rock and introduces the subject matter. “My Ashes” and the spacey piano-driven “Sentimental” are a more relaxed slice of Porcupine Tree, toning down the energy and heaviness without losing any of the feel. “Anesthetize” is the album’s seventeen-minute cornerstone, an absolute monster of a track that summarizes everything the album is about, featuring both the album’s most mellow, and most aggressive moments all within one composition. “Way Out Of Here” is possibly the most immediately appealing track, with the melancholy now amped up to 11. Finally, “Sleep Together” ends the journey on an ambiguous note, with exotic string sections blazing and dark electronics filling up the sound. The album ends with Wilson singing about relieving the pressure, and burning his possessions. Has he found enlightenment and broken through his apathy, or killed himself? These things are left up to the mind of the listener, and makes Fear of a Blank Planet the greatest statement from one of today’s most impressive rock groups.

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04. The Sky Moves Sideways (1995)

The Sky Moves Sideways is the band’s first masterpiece, and arguably one of the finest examples of a band establishing their presence in their genre early into their tenure. While it may not be the best album by Porcupine Tree, it definitely s way up there and is a clear display of just how talented, and maybe even mad Steven Wilson is, and also shows how well he works when given the right musicians. At 65 minutes, never is a single second wasted, and it also serves as a great tarting point for future PT fans and even prog-rock newbies.

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03. In Absentia (2002)

As Wilson‘s influences grew and Porcupine Tree began to have more full-time members, and quit being a Wilson solo project, the band slowly changed towards a more rock and progressive sound that would dominate their later releases.

In Absentia is one such release and it showcases a lot of variety. The Pink Floyd influences are not altogether gone from the scene, they definitely have remained, in such pieces as “Lips of Ashes” or “.3,” but Steven Wilson‘s genre has become more refined and explored different types of music. In Absentia truly has metal riffs, which can be attributed to his work with Swedish metal giants Opeth, and some other riffs (like the one in “Blackest Eyes”) are very reminiscent of Tool‘s staccato guitar techniques as well. Many bass lines in songs seem to fit in very well with Awake/Falling Into Infinity era Dream Theater, parts of “Strip The Soul” being very reminiscent of “New Millenium.” The band somehow manages to combine those harder influences, with the Pink Floyd sound already mentioned, and mixes in some Oasis and Radiohead touches for good measure.

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02. Deadwing (2005)

A lot of the songwriting elements that made In Absentia such a fan favorite are still here in spades, but there’s a bit more emphasis on metal here than on their previous records. “Shallow,” “Halo,” and “Open Car” are all songs that one could imagine getting airplay on alternative metal radio stations; hell, “Shallow” actually made its way into the action movie Four Brothers! But despite the presence of intense and almost grungy riffing, the same old Porcupine Tree we all know and love is still on this record. Even the heavier songs have softer and more atmospheric portions to even them out, such as the beautiful piano-driven pre-choruses of “Shallow” or the drumless outro of “Open Car” which features some nice harmonized vocals from Wilson. Speaking of “piano-driven,” Richard Barbieri was really given the chance to shine on Deadwing. He was always widely regarded as a great keyboardist, especially when he was in the new wave band Japan, but he was often reduced to just providing background atmosphere with his layered effects and sampling. But here, there’s much more of a balance as tracks such as “Lazarus” and “Start of Something Beautiful” (mainly the second half of the latter) showcase much more traditional piano playing in which Barbieri displays his virtuosity a bit more. Bassist Colin Edwin and drummer Gavin Harrison are fantastic as usual, providing a very solid and proficient rhythm section for Wilson to work with.

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01. Lightbulb Sun (2000)

I strongly believe that this is Porcupine Tree‘s best work. Bridging the gap between the band’s spacey progressive past and their metallic, riffy future, Lightbulb Sun handpicks the best things about Signify and Stupid Dream and melds them into one jaw-dropping, life-changing package. Utilizing the unsettling soundscapes and tight instrumentals of Signify (“Last Chance To Evacuate”, “Hatesong”, “Russia On Ice”) and the bright, poppy melodies of Stupid Dream (title track, “Shesmovedon”, “The Rest Will Flow”) this album is an amalgam of influences, and a melting pot of ideas that begs to be heard.

Most songs here have strong hooks, quite poppy choruses, most of them don’t exceed five or six minutes (with two exceptions), the use of acoustic guitars is liberal, and there is an almost obsessive reliance on vocal harmonies and layering.

In fact, this album has less in common with Atom Heart Mother or even Close to the Edge than it does with OK Computer. “Lightbulb Sun,” “Shesmovedon,” and “The Rest Will Flow” are all conventional pop/rock songs, very subdued and mellow, with a sparing blast of power chords here and there to get a head slightly nodding, but nothing mind-boggling; it might be one of the easiest Porcupine Tree albums to get into (which, on the whole, is a bit nicer than the artistically fantastic but damn-the-conventions approach of Fear of a Blank Planet).

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This news story was originally published here: https://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/prog-scene-report-iceland/
Prog Scene Report: Iceland

Last weeks we wrote about the best Prog bands from the Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Iceland, being one of the Scandinavian countries, has been on the map in recent years with a few bands standing out as representatives of the scene. Check out our Prog Scene Report on Iceland below.

Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós

Björk, who is considered as one of the biggest music stars coming from Iceland, is occasionally brought into a connection with Progressive genre, mostly because of her unique, avant-garde approach both to composing and performance.

Sigur Rós from Reykyavik has been active since 1994, and with seven studio albums are definitely one of the biggest music “exports” from Iceland. Their take on the post-rock genre usually includes various influences from art rock, experimental, ambient, and more.

Sólstafir, formed in 1995, are a trio from Reykyavik who has been releasing music since 1996. The band started as a black metal band but during their career they’ve shifted their sound embracing different styles and forms ranging from viking metal, experimental, ambient, post-metal, progressive metal. Their new album Berdreyminn is out on May 26th via Season of Mist.

Below is a list of bands that are among the strongest representatives of the Icelandic prog scene.

Prog Scene Report: Iceland

Heralded as “one of the most exciting new bands in the world today” by UK’s Independent, Agent Fresco emerged in 2008, and since 2008 they release an EP titled Lightbulb Universe, and two full-length albums A Long Time Listening (2010) and Destrier (2015). The last release is an incredibly dynamic continuation of their previous album that manages to double down on many of its best traits and surprise listeners at every turn.

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Originally from Álftanes, The Vintage Caravan was formed in 2006 with an idea of releasing music influenced by psychedelic, stoner, blues and progressive rock. The band released three studio albums: 2009′s self-titled self-released debut, followed by Voyage in 2012 and Arrival in 2015.

Throughout the music you hear influences from Led Zepplin to Black Sabbath, appropriated and applied in the classic blues rock tradition. Because of the nature of the music, it’s unfortunate that Vintage Caravan won’t be spoken about all that much, except for in praise of how well they ape their influences. Because this is third time around for this heavy nostalgia, the early nineties are also an obvious touchstone for the young band, Spiritual Beggars and Grand Magus lurk in the exhuberant riffery.

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Female-fronted desert rockers Black Desert Sun released their self-titled debut in January last year, which displays their love for bands such Kyuss and Black Sabbath, but is also all over the place. The band has big potential, which will hopefully be brought to perfection on the next releases.

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Dynfari plays black metal influenced, heavily atmospheric music. Since its formation as a duo in 2010 this now fully formed Icelandic band has made four albums. Armed with candlelight and incense, the band’s hypnotizing live performances elevate all senses into another world. Dynfari‘s lyrical themes deal with the philosophy of life, death, the universe, loss, hope and sorrow.

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Since 2010, the Icelandic technical death metal ensemble Ophidian I have cut a swathe through the Icelandic metal scene. Fusing together a myriad of influences such as Necrophagist, Obscura and the Faceless, Ophidian I has crafted an intricate yet ferocious breed of death metal, combining sophisticated songwriting with lyrical themes such as eschatology and the darker sides of human history.

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Show Me Wolves is a solo project which was created in February 2015 by Hörður Lúðvíksson. Show Me Wolves does not think much about following a specific music genre but tries to stay within the black/death/prog metal genre. The project released two albums: Between Man, God and False Idols in 2015, and The World They Took Over last year.

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Eldberg was founded in late 2008, and they released two studio albums, 2011′s self-titled and Þar er heimur hugans in 2015. The band plays 1970s-inspired progressive rock with lyrics in Icelandic, heavily relying on keyboards and organs.

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Momentum is a Reykjavik based band that started back in 2003. With roots in black/death metal their music is best described today as progressive doom, surreal and psychedelic metal. The trio released four studio albums so far, with their latest being called The Freak is Alive, out via Dark Essence Records.

The trio says about themselves: “The music of Momentum can not be pinned down to a single description, to each his own. The music speaks in different ways to the audience and that is exactly how we want it. Although we are a metal band that is in no way descriptive of the music as it explores so much more. There is only one way, listen to it and come to your own conclusion.

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Kontinuum were conceived with the aim to create hypnotic and spiritual musical noise in Reykjavik in 2010. They released two albums: Earth Blood Magic in 2012, and Kyrr in 2015. The band is currently signed by Season of Mist. The band is not bound by a single genre, but they rather blend elements such progressive metal, post-rock, alternative rock, post-punk, gothic into a very cohesive mix that works out great.

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With a name like that, and a self-coined genre, Godchilla is possibly a most intriguing band coming from Iceland these days. Surf-sludge, a mixture of surf rock and sludge, is what the Reykyavik-based trio is thriving for in their music. The band released excellent debut album titled Cosmatos in 2014, and earlier this month they released a new single “Sparkling Void.”

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