The Progressive Aspect

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/11/20/ulver-stian-westerhus/

Islington Assembly Hall, London
Wednesday, 15th November 2017

Islington, long since gentrified by incremental Hipster Creep, is the sort of place where, if so inclined, Tarquin and Jemima could waste their ludicrous salaries from Perfect Curve* in sundry branches of I Saw You Coming* on hand carved salt cellars chiselled exclusively from old Welsh Methodist church pews by ex-miners’ wives, or maybe on sewing thimbles crafted from lacquered Mongolian yak fur, or on sundry other daft fare on offer at stupid prices in the locality.

Highbury & Islington also happens to have perhaps the highest concentration of decent small to mid-sized music venues in a square mile anywhere in the capital, one of which is the splendidly appointed Islington Assembly Hall, so it ain’t all bad. After a pre-gig meet up with a couple of friends in the pub opposite the venue, we eventually trooped over the road and into the hall a few minutes into Stian Westerhus’s set. Just his oddly angelic voice in stark contrast with the howls, barks, and moans he extracted from his guitar, it was certainly left-field but enjoyable. My mate Pete was unconvinced, although he did admit that Stian had a good voice. Me, I knew what to expect having reviewed his Amputation album roughly a year ago.

Stian Westerhus 1 - photo by Dominic Hatton

As the last death gasp of Stian’s guitar faded into electronic ambience provided by Tore Ylwizaker, the rest of Ulver took up their positions on stage, and the wash of sound morphed into Nemoralia, and the Norse longship set off on its Viking raid into the drinking hall of our temporary Valhalla here in N1. Playing the entirety of the new album, the perversely typical dark synth-pop curveball that is The Assassination Of Julius Caesar, but in a different order, with altered sections and lengthy improvised instrumental passages, Ulver turn the place into a laser-lit dance floor for the varied audience present. The venue has a capacity of 890, and I would guess it was almost full. We were certainly at the older end of the age spectrum present, hence our “dancing” was limited to a bit of jigging about and head nodding.

The light show was superb, with highly creative use of lasers and backdrops. Credit is due to whoever designed it. Being backlit, the band cut mysterious shadowy figures in black on the stage. Kristoffer Rygg’s between song audience interaction was limited to the occasional “Thank you”, or sometimes just silence and a humble prayer-bow. Wearing a hoodie, he looked like a monk on the deck of a spacecraft up there on the stage, crammed as it was with all sorts of electronica and exotic audio ephemera.

Ulver 8 - photo by Chris Parkins

Although the sound tonight largely originated from synths and keyboards, the human element supplied by the muscular rhythms of drummer Anders Møller and percussionist Ivar Thormodsæter leant proceedings the necessary organic feel that can so often be lacking in this kind of music. It took me a while to get into the groove, and the band too seemed to warm up as the set progressed. A highlight was the long improvised section in the much extended Coming Home, played over a nailed down back beat that turned the song into an entranced dark beast of great power.

Ulver 6 - photo by Veronika FrydlovaUlver also played the “leftovers” EP Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, and another highlight was the song Bring Out Your Dead, the dance groove weirdly set off by the song title sung in the chorus. As soon as I heard their version of Frankie’s The Power Of Love a few days before the gig, I thought to myself that it had “encore” written all over it. I was not disappointed. A collective smile was raised when Krystoffer introduced it with “And now, we will play a proper song”. The gig promptly over at the 10:30pm curfew, the audience leave, tired and elated.

Ulver are a band that never repeats itself, and no two albums are the same. Their younger audience seems far more receptive to constant change and, dare I say it, progression, than the older crowd attracted to the endless recycling of well-worn tropes from the ’70s offered by other bands that ally themselves with the “P” word. Despite their longevity, Ulver are at the vanguard of true progressive music making and some of their contemporaries could do worse than take a lesson or two from their ever questing muse.

[*Non-UK readers, these are Brit TV references – Google them and you will understand!]

[With photos by Dominic Hatton, Veronika Frydlova, Chris Parkins and Roger Trenwith, all used with kind permission.]

SETLIST
Nemoralia
Southern Gothic
1969
So Falls the World
Rolling Stone
Transverberation
Angelus Novus
Coming Home
Echo Chamber (Room of Tears)
Bring Out Your Dead
~ Encore:
The Power of Love

MUSICIANS
Kristoffer Rygg – Vocals, Drum Pads, Programming
Jørn H. Sværen – Programming, Electronica
Tore Ylwizaker – Keyboards, Programming, Electronica
~ With:
Stian Westerhus – Guitar
Anders Møller – Percussion
Ivar Thormodsæter – Drums

LINKS
Ulver – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
Stian Westerhus – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/11/20/mike-porcel-echoes/

CDBaby.com is a real treasure trove to find great contemporary music and while searching one day recently I discovered Cuban born American musician Mike Porcel and his latest album, Echoes.

Echoes is a musical expression of a life journey and Porcel uses progressive rhythms and instrumentation, accentuated with classic orchestrations to highlight this adventure; from departure, through the voyage to reaching the ultimate destination of life. Along the way, he provides several wonderful original compositions of musical prowess, which underscore his deep experience and diverse composition and performance background.

Porcel is the co-founder and musical director of the Cuban progressive-rock band Síntesis, in addition he has successfully performed, scored, and composed some of the best music of the 1960s and ’70s Cuban theatre scene. Porcel began learning guitar at the age of three and he has continued to pursue his dream of composing music to the present day. He started his work as a band member with one of Cuba’s most famous and innovative bands in the 1960s, Los Dada, and he indeed has a rich past that should be explored in more depth, but this present Echoes production is a rich culmination of all his experience and cultural knowledge.

Echoes is an epic exploration of life’s richness, set to music. Piano, flutes, drums, guitar, keyboards, synthesizers, trumpets and orchestration all help to re-create the many mysteries of life’s experience. This is a wonderful trek through time, with spacey passages, overwhelming epochs and chasms of music. The woodwind, choral and orchestral passages are extravagant and lively with surrounding sound.

This is complex music which will take you away from life’s everyday nature and transport you willingly to a place of adventure for the mind. Every twist and turn in the journey is full of wonderful musical surprises, of instruments you may not have heard in a long time.

Get this album, put on some headphones, close your eyes and the rest will unfold harmoniously within your mind. Enjoy!

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TRACK LISTINGS
01. Echoes, Act 1: The Departure (17:17)
02. Echoes, Act 2: The Voyage (14:58)
03. Echoes, Act 1: The Arrival (13:56)

Total Time – 46:11

MUSICIANS
Mike Porcel
[Other musicians appear but details are unavailable]

ADDITIONAL INFO
Label: Independent
Catalogue#: n/a
Date of Release: 24th August 2017

LINKS
Mike Porcel – Website | Facebook | Soundcloud

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/11/20/yes-to-release-topographic-drama-live-across-america/
Featured

Published on 20th November 2017

Yes announce the release of Topographic Drama – Live Across America, recorded during the summer of 2016 and features, for the first time Drama. in its entirety, plus sides one and four from Tales From Topographic Oceans. The release date will be 24th November 2017 and availbale in the following formats: Double-CD and a Triple-LP along with special edition signed copies. Both versions feature detailed cover art designed by the band’s longtime collaborator Roger Dean.

“The new collection features live performances from 12 dates recorded on the tour in February 2017, by the current Yes line-up: Steve Howe (guitars), Alan White (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Billy Sherwood (bass), Jon Davison (vocals), and additional drummer for this tour Jay Schellen.

TOPOGRAPHIC DRAMA – LIVE ACROSS AMERICA highlights the best performances from the 2017 leg of the 12-show tour and mirrors the set list from those concerts. Each night, Yes opened with all six songs from Drama (1980), the band’s tenth studio album, which peaked at No.2 on the U.K. Album Chart. Standouts include ‘Machine Messiah’, ‘Tempus Fugit’ and the album’s only single ‘Into The Lens’.

After ‘Drama’, the band shifted gears for songs from two of its best-selling albums: ‘And You And I’ from 1972’s ‘Close To The Edge’ (UK Platinum) and ‘Heart Of The Sunrise’ from 1971’s ‘Fragile’ (UK Platinum).

Next, the group played the opening and closing tracks of its concept album, ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ (1973). Howe’s exceptional guitar work on ‘The Revealing Science Of God’ and White’s propulsive drumming on ‘Ritual’ have always been regarded as ground-breaking. The album concludes with two live staples: ‘Roundabout’ from ‘Fragile’ (1971) and ‘Starship Trooper’ from ‘The Yes Album’ (1971).”

2CD TRACK LISTING
Disc One
01. Machine Messiah
02. White Car
03. Does It Really Happen?
04. Into The Lens
05. Run Through The Light
06. Tempus Fugit
07. And You And I
08. Heart Of The Sunrise

Disc Two
01. The Revealing Science Of God
02. Leaves Of Green
03. Ritual
04. Roundabout
05. Starship Trooper

3LP TRACK LISTING
Side One

01. Machine Messiah
02. White Car
03. Does It Really Happen?

Side Two
01. Into The Lens
02. Run Through The Light
03. Tempus Fugit

Side Three
01. And You And I
02. Heart Of The Sunrise

Side Four
01. The Revealing Science Of God
02. Leaves Of Green

Side Five
01. Ritual

Side Six
01. Roundabout
02. Starship Trooper

SOURCE: Yes

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/11/20/within-temptation-announce-european-tour-dates/
Featured

Published on 20th November 2017

Within Temptation have announced an extensive European tour schedule for late 2018, visiting 18 counties during October, November & December.

This run of dates ends the longest break we have ever taken from touring. Sharon den Adel explains, “When our last tour finished, I was having a rough time. I realized I needed take some time out with my family to deal with things and to rediscover myself. It took much longer than expected, but 2 years on, things have changed for the better. I created my solo album (“My Indigo”) which helped me deal with my issues. And afterwards I suddenly found myself with an aching hunger again for more heavy, epic music. Then the music started to come by itself. I knew for sure that our seventh album was coming after all.

So here we are… presenting our seventh tour and luckily it’s not going to take so long anymore because we are all more than impatient to get out there again!”

October
11/10/18: Grand Hall Siberia, Krasnoyarsk, Russia
13/10/18: House Of Culture, Novosibirsk, Russia
15/10/18: Kosmos, Yekaterinenburg, Russia
17/10/18: Milo Club, Nizhny Nivgorod, Russia
18/10/18: Stadium Club, Moscow, Russia
19/10/18: A2, St. Petersburg, Russia
20/10/18: Metro Arena, Espoo, Finland
22/10/18: The Annex, Stockholm, Sweden
23/10/18: Sentrum Scene, Oslo, Norway
24/10/18: Valby Hallen, Copenhagen, Denmark
26/10/18: Sala Ziemi, Poznan, Poland
27/10/18: Torwar, Warsaw, Poland

November
09/11/18: O2 Academy, Birmingham, UK
10/11/18: O2 Apollo, Manchester, UK
11/11/18: O2 Academy, Glasgow, UK
13/11/18: O2 Academy Brixton, London, UK
16/11/18: Le Zénith, Paris, France
17/11/18: Lotto Arena, Antwerp, Belgium
19/11/18: Palladium, Cologne, Germany
20/11/18: Rockhal, Luxembourg, Luxembourg
21/11/18: Samsung Halle, Zürich, Switzerland
24/11/18: AFAS Live, Amsterdam, Netherlands
25/11/18: MartiniPlaza, Groningen, Netherlands

December
08/12/18: Columbiahalle, Berlin, Germany
09/12/18: Mehr! Theater, Hamburg, Germany
11/12/18: Forum Karlin, Prague, Czech Republic
12/12/18: Tüskecsarnok, Budapest, Hungary
13/12/18: Gasometer, Vienna, Austria
15/12/18: Fabrique, Milan, Italy
16/12/18: MHP Arena, Ludwigsburg, Germany
17/12/18: Zenith, Munich, Germany
18/12/18: Jahrhunderthalle, Frankfurt, Germany
22/12/18: 013, Tilburg, Netherlands

Tickets are on sale now via the band’s website. General presale for the tour will start on Friday 24th November 2017.

SOURCE: Within Temptation

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/11/19/michael-mcgear-woman/

For a few years now, Esoteric has been widening its furrows, letting in much more than what the average fan might consider “progressive rock”. I sometimes worry that they are straying too far from their original grounds, but the results are nonetheless interesting. One of the latest such additions is Michael McGear’s Woman, an exploratory album and a melting pot of many styles and instrumentations.

The opening title track is quite untypical of the album but is certainly the best choice as the opener, a simple yet unfamiliar chord sequence, with McGear’s angelic voice rising through and grabbing the listener by the ears. Enthralling stuff.

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Ahead is a hodgepodge of ideas, some fully formed, like the David Brentesque Benna/Roamin’ a Road, and others less so, like the minute-long verbal graffiti Edward Heath. But the album has immense beauty and melancholy in places. Bored as Butterscotch sticks out as a highlight, with a delicious arrangement featuring a gospel choir and lovely rolling toms in the drum fills. The final track, a medley of sorts, lasts eight minutes, and could be viewed as the most ‘progressive’ thing on the album, but only because of the unusual structure. The ideas are disjointed, the execution fun but unmemorable.

The reissue itself is perfectly decent, the booklet featuring interviews with McGear himself. I’m particularly fond of the booklet’s casual note on McGear’s family connections, only once mentioning that his brother “was in a band called The Beatles”. Confusingly, however, the listed tracklist features two crossed out bonus tracks, Kill and Kill (Rock Version), with the curious note “Censored by Mike (McGear) McCartney”. Scanning the notes, it seems that whatever this Kill song was about (and it apparently wasn’t very nice) McGear didn’t want the same angry sentiment being repeated in 2017, afraid he might inadvertently cause some malicious act of violence. This has only gone to serve my curiosity – how bad was it? Unfortunately, nobody with the original 45 Woman/Kill single has been to YouTube to upload it yet, so we may never know. This will surely irritate many completists, myself included.

That being said, I do admire McGear’s decision to change his stage name to avoid riding on some very famous coat-tails. While he may never completely shake the connection, he goes a long way towards establishing his own name and his own sound, although quite what that sound is supposed to be is not very clear on this record. Keep an open mind, and you may quite enjoy the fruits of this labour.

TRACK LISTING
01. Woman (3:08)
02. Witness (4:09)
03. Jolly Good Show (3:08)
04. Benna/Roamin’ a Road (2:39)
05. Benna/Sister (3:25)
06. Wishin’ (3:28)
07. Young Young Man (Five Years Ago)/Young Man (Five Years Later) (3:50)
08. Edward Heath (0:59)
09. Bored as Butterscotch (2:54)
10. Uptowndowntown (2:29)
11. Black Beauty/Tiger/Strawberry Jam (8:17)
~ Bonus Track:
12. Sister (alternate version) (3:13)

Total Time – 41:31

MUSICIANS
Michael McGear – Vocals & All Instruments

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label – Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #: ECLEC 2569
Date of Release: 1st April 2017

LINKS
Cherry Red Records – Info

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/11/19/papir-v/

Three years after the heady sounds of IV, Danish metronomically precise, but altogether human instrumentalists Papir return with V, unsurprisingly their fifth studio album. The titular minimalism continues into the track titles, which are simply numbers, continuing a tradition from their previous releases. You can call instrumentals anything and this band don’t waste their imagination in that department, oh no. That is all saved for the music. Spotless Danish efficiency in action!

Steered by Christoffer Brøchmann’s driving rhythms, Papir construct joyously intricate instrumental labyrinths from fragile beginnings where the listener can get lost in the maze of interlocking guitar, bass, and drums. What starts out as a deceptively simple motorik exercise on II slowly builds through its 12-minutes into a cosmic parabola of precise trajectory. These pieces are jams played to a strict plan, but at the same time develop a celebratory spontaneity and intensity that can only leave you feeling better about life at the end of the trip than when you started out.

A gorgeous solo bursts from a sludgy oil slick of guitar grumble on II that takes the tune over the bridge and away along the autobahn, and onwards into the setting sun. Marvellous! This cultured beast must be spellbinding live!

Usually an album outstays its welcome when it passes the hour mark, but the 95 minutes of V seem to fly by with no trouble at all. This is made even easier to digest on the LP and CD versions, which are both double albums, so you can take a break should you want to. All seven excursions here are given the time they need to develop their own personalities. After the Deutschrock headrush of II, III goes for a more considered and less intense approach. It still builds, but in the manner of a gently rising tide, and is altogether more organic in tone, ending by disappearing into a sonic whirlpool that bears all the hallmarks of classic psychedelically tinged post-rock influence. The album was mixed by John McEntire of post-rock pillars Tortoise, and the airy, spacious feel of the mix lends V a natural grace.

And so it goes, expansive guitar adventures and subtle intricate drumming is the order of the day. V is the aural equivalent of lying on your back on a grassy hillside on a sunny day, watching incalculably high up irregular fluffy white clouds drift by in the blue, occasionally interrupted by low-flying screaming lysergically tinted dizbusters on a mission. Dreamy and intermittently insistent, V is never dull over the passage of its lengthy discourse.

We awake from reverie as VI builds to a by now expected but no less triumphal climax, guitars chiming in a campanologist’s practice session, proof that instrumental music can indeed put a smile on your careworn features. While we are up here, the first ten minutes or so of the quarter hour long VII takes us on a tour of sonic heaven, guided by reverberating shimmering chords and swoops from still higher above. Then a contemplative calm gradually descends until a backbeat is established by the bass guitar that awakens the seraphim from slumber to lead us all into eternity.

V has been an album of considered elation, if such a thing is possible. Give it a listen!

TRACK LISTING
01. V.I (12:45)
02. V.II (11:50)
03. V.III (9:06)
04. V.IV (14:59)
05. V.V (10:03)
06. V.VI (11:03)
07. V.VII (25:01)

Total Time – 1:34:50

MUSICIANS
Nicklas Sørensen – Guitar
Christian Becher – Bass
Christoffer Brøchmann – Drums

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Stickman Records | Facebook
Catalogue#: Psychobabble 092
Country of Origin: Denmark
Date of Release: 18th August 2017

LINKS
Papir – Facebook | Bandcamp

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/11/18/rick-wakeman-piano-portraits/

The Forum Theatre, Billingham
Wednesday, 15th November 2017

One man, a grand piano and some Wonderous Stories!

Rick Wakeman concludes 2017 with a lengthy series of intimate, one man shows under the title of Piano Portraits and in support of the album of the same name released a little earlier this year.

A rare event in two ways for me, firstly my wife was to attend the concert with me, and secondly it was to be held in my home town of Billingham. The Forum Theatre, which coincidentally celebrates its official 50th anniversary this year, is an excellent venue and built in the tradition of live theatre. We booked early and decided on a box seat. Unfortunately we chose the wrong side of the theatre for the box, so sadly Rick had his back to us during his piano performances.

Now I had a reasonable idea of what to expect, however the evening turned out to be rather more special than my expectations. The obvious attraction was the opportunity to see Rick playing the piano, however what was unexpected was what an accomplished raconteur Rick is and how quickly he absorbed the audience into the evenings performance. His wry sense of humour quickly imparted on a couple who were slightly late arriving to their seats at the front of the auditorium.

As mentioned the tour is in support of his “chart topping” solo album Piano Portraits and he played ten pieces from the album. Spanning classical, jazz, pop, rock and blues, I wonder how many musicians could have pulled off such a diverse cross section of music and made an evening that flowed so effortlessly. A programme that included Yes, the aforementioned Wonderous Stories, children’s nursery rhymes, George Gershwin’s Summertime, David Bowie, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and The Beatles.

If the musical programme sounds a little implausible, Rick’s anecdotes were equally disparate, with tales of life on the road with Yes and The English Rock Ensemble, to his prostate examination, along with an insight into his early recordings with David Bowie and Cat Stevens.

So how do the nursery rhymes fit in? Well sadly as no photography was allowed during the performance – here’s a video clip of Rick performing the Nursery Rhyme Concerto from 2010.

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The Les Dawson section was greeted with thunderous laughter…

I should mention the rather special rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Life On Mars which was truly sublime. And although I have several recordings of Rick playing Eleanor Rigby, his versions of The Beatles’ Help! and Eleanor Rigby in the style of Saint-Saëns and Prokofiev respectively closed the evening wonderfully.

A wonderful evening and one thoroughly enjoyed by a packed house.

SET LIST
After The Ball
Amazing Grace
Morning Has Broken
The Dance Of The Thousand Lights
Wonderous Stories
Summertime
Nursery Rhyme Concerto
– Baba Black Sheep (Mozart)
– Hickory Dickory Dock (Ravel)
– Three Blind Mice (Debussey)
– Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Dawson, Les)
– Pop Goes The Weasle (Rachmaninoff)
~ Interval ~
Swan Lake (excerpts)
Sweet Georgia Brown
Space Oddity/Life On Mars
Help!/Eleanor Rigby (Saint-Saëns/Prokofiev)
~ Encore:
Clare de Lune

MUSICIANS
Rick Wakeman – Grand Piano

LINKS
Rick Wakeman – Website | Facebook

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