The Progressive Aspect

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2020/03/27/luo-unspoken/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=luo-unspoken

People who go to gigs and deliberately choose to miss the support bands are very silly.

Yes, some supports can be dire, but the opposite is also true and over the years I’ve been startled by many bands I’d never heard of previously, even to the point of having to find out their names afterwards. Such a situation occurred last October when I went to see Battles in Bristol.

Luo were a brilliant support, in a similar vein to the main act, being an electronic duo with prominent drums, but sufficiently different to enhance the evening’s entertainment beautifully. They made quite an impact.

Luo began around 2015 as a project for Brighton-based electronic musician Josh Trinnaman, the first EP arriving that year with debut album Sleep Spindles in 2016. Drummer Barney Sage came aboard after another EP in 2017 and the current formation has been releasing singles over the last six months towards the upcoming release of Unspoken later this month.

And it’s a thoroughly entertaining listen, opening quietly as Testament expands majestically with drums and swathes of keyboards. Melody emerges, frenetic rhythms driving it forward as synths dance around them. There’s an epic quality against which the almost claustrophobic density of the drums fight, neither taking control, until the drums drop away, replaced in a dream-like section by a plaintive guitar figure. It’s a fine opening, dynamic and engaging to draw the listener in, ending with a further fusillade of drum pyrotechnics.

Eldritch Rhythm starts darkly, soaring keys lifting things beautifully before falling away, the tranquil yet sinister echoing drops and pops giving the feeling of being trapped in a cave, the ceiling eventually collapsing under the weight of drums. There’s a frenetic rush of electronically enhanced rhythms and synths, eventually stabilising. The opening sirens of Septa drag in a spectacular drum track to ground the piano and synths in an almost Ozric Tentacles way, the spaciness continuing with simple note patterns over driving rhythms, melody lines springing to life. It’s uplifting and energising stuff, repetitive phrases weaving around soloing melodies and the ever-shifting rhythms.

The variety is fascinating, Problem Ball, the latest single, exploring a heavier direction, more dissonant with almost metallic guitar working its way in to support the stop/start drums. There’s a calming section of picked out guitar lines before the mayhem returns, a soaring synth heading skywards as wordless vocals slide in. In contrast, The Gapper is tranquil and more spacious, the rhythmic outbursts more restained with the sedate lead line dropping off into free-form sounds, from which a delicate guitar melody emerges. It’s time to take a breath and step back from the intensity before the somewhat jazzier vibe of Boss Fight, keyboards searching for melody as the drums keep the forward momentum. It’s inventive and compelling as the theme subtly changes.

The two-part Pangolins is as enigmatic and curious as the scaly mammals of the title, the epic drive of Part 1 moving into the more introspective acoustic guitar-led and shorter Part 2, the two sides of the track complementing each other very nicely. This calming state of safety continues into Interval, another short track of chiming bell-like keys before Elegy, where forthright and structured drumming becomes more intense as the synths rise, eventually morphing into something of a showcase for the drums alone.

Finally, the longest track, Threnody, sees a slow build through keyboard melodies, drum attack and electronics. It doesn’t come across as the song of mourning that the title suggests, but there is an element of suggested loss in the hook lines. The various parts come together beautifully, stripping away in the mid-section before rising again to a sophisticated and calming close.

Josh Trinnaman and Barney Sage have built a compelling album, their key ingredients working together thoughtfully and with invention, the result being a highly dynamic and engaging listen that keeps you hooked. It uses rhythmic elements from dance music without straying too deeply into that zone, keeping the music interesting and free-flowing. Highly atmospheric, neither musician swamps the sound, each allowing the other free-rein at times but structured perfectly and well worked out within the demands of each piece.

The sound hovers within the realm of Battles and Three Trapped Tigers, but it is in no way a clone and offers a different experience that comes highly recommended from me. I’ll be making an effort to catch them live again this year, hopefully at the ArcTangent festival near Bristol in August.

TRACK LISTING
01. Testament (4:26)
02. Eldritch Rhythm (4:27)
03. Septa (4:42)
04. Problem Ball (4:24)
05. The Gapper (4:48)
06. Boss Fight (3:27)
07. Pangolins Pt.1 (3:51)
08. Pangolins Pt.2 (1:50)
09. Interlude (1:42)
10. Elegy (2:28)
11. Threnody (5:48)

Total Time – 41:59

MUSICIANS
Josh Trinnaman – Keyboards, Electronics, Guitar
Barney Sage – Drums, Electronics
~ with:
Adam Znaidi – Bass (track 2)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 27th March 2020

LINKS
Luo – Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Soundcloud | Bandcamp

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2020/03/26/hubris-metempsychosis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hubris-metempsychosis

One of the best things about following a label is being introduced to new bands. Metempsychosis is not the first album hubris. have released, but it is the first I have heard – and I’d likely never have heard it were it not released on Art As Catharsis. That was its first tick of my boxes. The second was the gorgeous cover art, the third was the track titles, as I’ve always loved classical history and mythology. So I’ve not even listened to a single note of the music, and I’m already in a terrific state of mind.

The first hurdle is to find out just what “metempsychosis” is. Turns out it’s a term from Ancient Greek philosophy, referring to the transmigration of the soul, especially its reincarnation after death, first coined in the set of religious beliefs and practices known as ‘Orphism’ (after its legendary founder, Orpheus). In a way, then, it’s interesting that hubris. have not given us a piece under that name.

Instead, we begin with Hepius, which may seem an oddity, but so wonderfully sequenced is this album that I am in no doubt it is deliberate. Hepius is a hero who became a god of medicine, better known by his later name of Asclepius. The twin snake-entwined staff of Asclepius remains a symbol of medicine today. In these days of the novel coronavirus, Hepius would be a handy person to have around!

In one of many links to other tracks (by name, if not always by music), Hepius/Asclepius was tutored by the centaur Chiron (Dionysus and Heracles were also tutored by Chiron, and Heracles ultimately was responsible for Chiron’s death). I can’t help but imagine the introductory beat to be Chiron’s hooves, as the music magically rises over it. The music is as peaceful and relaxing as you might expect from a healer, and continues to quietly build in power – just as Asclepius did.

Indeed, Asclepius became so proficient as a healer that he surpassed his father, the god Apollo. Ultimately he was able to evade death for himself and others, and also to bring the dead back to life. This wasn’t as great a thing as it might seem, as suddenly there was a huge influx of people, and Zeus resorted to killing Asclepius to restore balance. In my mind, this killing blow takes part approximately five and a half minutes into the track, and after this crescendo, we return to the initial calm to see out the track.

Next up is Dionysus, and just as Asclepius had his staff, so too did Dionysus – although his was of fennel, wrapped in vine leaves. Dionysus is a much more upbeat number than Hepius, as I guess you might expect from a god of revelry. It’s almost disco-like for the first two minutes, before the first of several changes, and I can’t help but think this is a reference to the Mysteries of Dionysus (if we head back to Orphism for a moment, Orphics revered Dionysus, and it was Orpheus who was said to have invented the Mysteries of Dionysus – rituals using dance, music and alcohol, to remove inhibitions and social constraints. Certainly the music here encourages the body to dance – or at the very least, the toes to tap).

Similar to Hepius, there is a dramatic change in intensity about halfway through Dionysus, and just as in Hepius, in my mind, this is down to Zeus, for just as Asclepius was first known as Hepius, Dionysus was first known as Zagreus – although a key difference is that Hepius and Asclepius were the same incarnation, while Zagreus was the previous incarnation of Dionysus. Zagreus was the product of one of Zeus’s many infidelities, and as usual Hera wasn’t too happy. She was responsible for his demise, and Zeus retaliated in a fury.

And then we’re back to Apollo, because just as he was the father of Hepius/Asclepius, he was responsible for the reincarnation of Zagreus as Dionysus. After the fury, we have the calm, because as much as Dionysus has been characterised as a god of drunkenness in the post-Classical era, contemporaneously Dionysus was associated with only a moderate consumption of wine, which could ease suffering and bring joy. Even the “divine madness” of the Mysteries of Dionysus are quite distinct from drunkenness.

Now, I realise that I could be entirely wrong in my imaginings of what the music symbolises, but such is the power of instrumental music that imagery can be quite clear in a listener’s ear, even when it is not that which was intended. I have often believed that instrumental concept albums can convey a story far better than one with vocals. Rivendel’s recent Sisyfos album is another with a classical concept where I was able to easily envisage the story being told, even though there were no vocals. I was amazed by Rivendel’s accomplishment, and hubris. have provoked a similar reaction. I honestly do wonder how much difference it makes to listen to these pieces of music, fitting knowledge to the music, than if one knows nothing of the mythology?

I also wonder how I can be writing what is probably my most wordy review yet for an album largely without words. I would apologise, but all who were bored would have given up long ago, so I can only assume if you’ve read this far, you’re finding my wittering at least vaguely interesting. Or perhaps, you are no longer the same incarnation you were when you began?

Adonis is next, another classical being who visited the Underworld and survived. Raised by Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, once he reached adulthood he spent one-third of each year in the Underworld. This track is the most laid-back yet, and as dreamy as one might expect from the McDreamy of the ancient world (sorry, my wife watches Grey’s Anatomy, and I guess I can’t help but absorb some of the references). Well, at least until the gruesome death, as Adonis is gored by a wild boar. After this suitably dramatic and heavy section, we are left with two minutes of melancholy, as the tears of Aphrodite mix with the blood of Adonis, leaving us the beauty of the anemone flower.

Boars quite often feature in classical mythology. Our friend from the first track, Asclepius was among those who took part in the Calydonian Boar hunt. The brother of Heracles, Iphicles, also took part. Heracles, of course, vanquished a boar of his own – the Erymanthian Boar.

But before we get to Heracles, we have Icarus and Dedalus. Icarus is the only track on Metempsychosis to have vocals, though they are spoken, not sung as the tale of Icarus and Dedalus is narrated. It’s so well known that I don’t think I need to retell it, however it is worth noting that Icarus’ father warns him first of complacency (flying too low), and then of hubris (flying too high). I love the way the calmly narrated story matches the ambient nature of the music, each somewhat expressionless and monotonous yet beautiful.

When Icarus segues into Dedalus, it’s one of the most beautiful moments of the album. The music of Dedalus chops and changes like the pathways of his labyrinth, and provides one of the most breathtaking pieces on the album. A definite highlight, even though I’m not totally sure how the story of Icarus and Dedalus fits into the overall arc of metempsychosis. For my own peace of mind, the jigsaw piece that fits them together is that it was Heracles who erected a tomb for Icarus, and Heracles who killed the Cretan Bull (father of the Minotaur).

And this is where I feel, even if it is only by my own inference, that the sequencing is amazing. Not only does every track lead perfectly into the next musically, so that the album is one whole listening experience, so does everything in terms of the classical figures the tracks are named after. Just as Asclepius held a staff entwined by two snakes, and started us on our journey, we end it with Heracles, who when he was just eight months old killed two snakes – strangling one in each hand (the two snakes were sent by Hera to kill Heracles and Iphicles because, once again, Zeus had been up to his usual naughtiness).

As per the Bandcamp page for the album, Heracles “is divided into twelve parts alluding to both Heracles’ labours and the different stages of his life, the last two being musical illustrations of his rise to Mount Olympus and his place among the gods until the end of times.” This is clever in itself, as Heracles was originally given only ten tasks, and it was the additional two which not only saw him granted the immortality Asclepius was denied but also saw him have to visit the Underworld to do so. In so many ways, Heracles completes a circle for Metempsychosis (the album), just as life and death are a circle in metempsychosis (the theory). It’s a glorious way to end the album, but it’s not really an end, because you can go straight back to the start, and play it again…

I realise I’ve said less about the music than the figures named by the track titles, but that’s how vivid a story the music portrays for me. hubris. remind me at times of Long Distance and Sigur Rós (both bands I love), but they paint far more colourful pictures. The artwork for Metempsychosis doesn’t lie, and I can’t help but close my eyes and envisage the stories I studied at school to an entirely modern soundtrack. If you’re not such a classical fan as me, your experience may vary – but I’m sure it would be impossible not to recognise the beauty of the music.

TRACK LISTING
01. Hepius (11:25)
02. Dionysus (10:55)
03. Adonis (9:16)
04. Icarus (5:04)
05. Dedalus (8:51)
06. Heracles (9:23)

Total Time – 54:54

MUSICIANS
Jonathan Hohl – Guitars
Nathan Gros – Drums
Matthieu Grillet – Guitars
Lucien Leclerc – Bass

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Art As Catharsis
Country of Origin: Switzerland
Date of Release: 13the March 2020

LINKS
hubris. – Website | Facebook | YouTube | Bandcamp

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2020/03/25/that-joe-payne-ms-amy-birks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=that-joe-payne-ms-amy-birks

The Court Theatre, Tring
Saturday, 7th March 2020

This showcase at the Court Theatre in Tring is effectively the launch of That Joe Payne’s solo career. Although he has played a few shows since his time in The Enid, this is the real deal, a fully realised production with a full band. The few solo gigs and EP releases have hinted at what we might expect from Joe, but are we ready for the full immersion experience?

Well we should be of course, after all, did we not survive the shock of Joe’s first appearances with The Enid? His five-octave range and operatic flamboyance was such a contrast to the gentle romanticism we were used to, and yet those open minds who embraced this new direction were amply rewarded with riveting performances. So, fore-armed with the knowledge of Joe’s vocal abilities and power to shock, we won’t be too surprised at what happens next, will we?

The Court Theatre is apparently home turf for Joe, and it’s a compact and fairly modern theatre, well-appointed and intimate. Whilst this show isn’t a sell-out, it’s very well attended, and there are many familiar faces, all eagerly waiting in anticipation. The support slot tonight is a bit special, Ms Amy Birks from the Beatrix Players treats us to half a dozen songs from her forthcoming debut solo album, All That I Am and All That I Was. She is augmented by Moray Macdonald on keys and Oliver Day on guitar, who are both members of Joe’s band, and both complement her songs beautifully. Opening song and single Jamaica Inn is typical, a beautifully crafted song that beguiles and entertains with its folky feel. We know that she has a golden voice, rich with power and emotion, but also tender and gentle; what we learn here is that her songwriting prowess grows rapidly. She tackles difficult subjects, such as divorce, suicide, even assault, and sings with such honesty and integrity one cannot fail to be moved. When the album appears next month, it promises to be essential.

One might have expected a brief break between Ms Amy Birks’ set and the headlining act, but it rapidly becomes clear we will move seamlessly on to That Joe Payne and his band. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a headlining band begin before the dust has truly settled after the support set, but this is going to be a night of surprises it seems, so we roll with it.

Something which comes as no surprise is that there will be a theatrical element this evening, since the stage has a giant electronic back-projection screen of some sort, and a ramp from the stage floor to screen level. The screen looks very much like the one Joe used with The Enid on the Dust tour, and that show was pretty impressive. The band take to the stage and Joe enters draped in a cloak, all very theatrical, and very rock’n’roll. When Joe dispenses with the cloak, we get our first jolt. At first glance, he appears to be wearing nothing but a pair of trainers! Has he taken leave of his senses? Ok, it’s actually a skin-coloured bodysuit, but as he sings By Name, By Nature (Payne by name, pain by nature!), with the screen in overdrive and band in full swing, one cannot help but get the impression he’s naked. And in many ways, he is. This is That Joe Payne being himself, no camouflage, nowhere to hide, no half measures, just unadulterated personality. It seems as though having spent years facing down his demons, he is now confident and comfortable being himself. The effect is powerful and entertaining.

That Joe Payne - photo by Martin Reiman

Next song, Nice Boy, has more self-deprecating humour – and it’s disco! Joe goes for his full Freddie Mercury, leaping up and down his ramp, jumping, air-punching and grinning from ear to ear. I realise that I am grinning too; everyone is. Joe interacts wonderfully with the projection screen, taking the choreography used on the Dust tour to another level. The rehearsal required to appear to ’touch’ the images must have taken hours of patience. It’s an assault on the senses in many ways, totally over the top, overwhelming, and an absolute blast.

Having pinned us to our seats for several minutes of non-stop action and energy, we can now have a break, and images of sixteenth-century Venice appear before us, and an introductory narration tells the story of intrigue and rivalry between artists of the day Titian and Tintoretto. This is the prelude to a beautiful song, originally by John Holden, Capture Light, which Joe sang on John’s album. It is a great piece of prog storytelling and has us spellbound.

That Joe Payne - photo by Martin Reiman

Using images of recently flooded Venice, and clips of Greta Thunberg as a segue, we flow into the final song of the first set, What Is The World Coming To. Against a backdrop of environmental disaster, Joe has produced a song of power, a rallying call for us to meet the problem head-on. It’s the burning issue of the age, and the song burns suitably brightly.

One wonders how this momentum can be maintained after the break, but the second act is every bit as strong. Joe has changed into a glittering suit, and it looks like we are in for some cabaret. End of the Tunnel is a simple song of hope, and it is becoming clear that the quality of the songwriting for the forthcoming album is very promising. Who Created Me, the Enid song from Invicta, follows, and was always a crowd-pleaser at Enid shows, so no surprise that it goes down a storm here. It probably helps that the rhythm section of the band are former Enid players. Josh Green on drums and backing vocals has the right balance between delicacy and solidity and drives the band on. Nick Willes is masterful as ever on bass. He was something of a multi-instrumentalist during his tenure in The Enid, and always impressed, and is a very welcome sight tonight. In fact, it has to be said that, once you get used to the visual onslaught of the show, the tightness and musicianship of the band becomes more noticeable. They need to be spot on of course with such a choreographed presentation, but they find room to breathe life into the songs within the structural elements, and they are a fine unit. Oliver Day is a great guitarist I had not come across before, and he produces a quietly confident performance, making every note count. That leaves keyboardist Moray Macdonald who is something of a revelation, a great presence opposite Joe when he is playing keys, balancing the flamboyance on each side of the stage.

That Joe Payne - photo by Martin Reiman

It was a kind of open secret that Ms Amy Birks would make an appearance with Joe, so it’s not a surprise when she is announced, and what a duet this turns out to be. Love (Not The Same) is an outstanding piece, a show-stopping moment in a show packed with highlights. They incorporate a bit of It’s A Man’s World, and trade vocals, pushing each other to ever greater heights. It’s a brilliant interlude, proving that both are stunning vocal talents born to be on a stage.

The set concludes with I Need A Change, a song familiar to those who have followed That Joe Payne since he left The Enid, and a wonderful song it is, with a sentiment that seems both melancholy and yet hopeful at the same time. After that, it seems the whole theatre is on its feet giving this band an ovation they deserve. For the launch of a new project and phase in That Joe’s career, it is astonishing, and I suspect most expectations have been exceeded tonight. Of course, there’s no way they’re getting away without an encore, and perhaps unsurprisingly we are treated to another Enid song, and Joe’s signature piece, The One and The Many. It sounds as good tonight as it ever has, and I must have seen him sing it a dozen times before.

That Joe Payne - photo by Martin Reiman

As the band take their bows, soaking up the love from this enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd, it’s like a family occasion somehow, a room full of friends sharing a special moment. I can only say that if you get the chance to see this show, jump at it. Who knows when the scheduled tour will be rearranged in these tough times, but irrespective of that, one thing is for sure; That Joe Payne has arrived, and he’s going places.

[Photos by Martin Reijman, used with his kind permission.]

SETLIST
Act 1:

The Thing About Me Is (intro)
By Name, By Nature
Nice Boy
Capture Light (John Holden cover)
What Is The World Coming To

Act 2:
End Of The Tunnel
Who Created Me (The Enid cover)
The Origin Of Blame (Methexis cover)
Moonlit Love
Music For A While
Love (Not The Same) (feat. Ms Amy Birks)
I Need A Change
~ Encore:
The One and the Many (The Enid cover)

MUSICIANS
That Joe Payne – Vocals, Keyboards
Moray Macdonald – Keyboards
Josh Green – Drums & Percussion
Nick Willes – Bass
Oliver Day – Guitar
~ With:
Ms Amy Birks – Guest Vocals

LINKS
That Joe Payne – Website | Facebook

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2020/03/24/a-different-aspect-36/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-different-aspect-36

In this update we feature:

• Ikarus – Mosaismic
• David Helpling – Rune
• Lite – Multiple
• Rainburn – Resignify [EP]
• Sandro Perri – Soft Landings
• Alex Crispin – Watersending

Ikarus – Mosaismic
Bob Mulvey
Ikarus – Mosaismic

Zürich based quintet Ikarus released their truly captivating Mosaismic album, on the Ronin Rhythm Records label, in April last year. Ikarus describe themselves as a contemporary, groove, jazz quintet and their music as “continuously permutating polyrhythms, fluctuating grooves, organic improvisations” and “an enchanting blend of male and female vocals”.

Well, they’ve hit the nail on the head with those two succinct phrases, so a thousand words from me seem fairly superfluous, and be assured over the last 10 months I have written in excess of this to try and convey the wonderous joy of this album.

Often stark and somewhat desolate, Mosaismic lives up to its title, derived from the words “mosaic” and “seismic”, the intricately woven parts collectively bonding into a truly earthmoving outcome. The pumping heart of Ikarus comes from the rhythm section of drummer Ramón Oliveras and Mo Meyer on upright bass; the blood coursing through the veins is the piano of Lucca Fries, which in turn oxygenates vocalists Anna Hirsch and Andreas Lareida. Enough of the analogies.

Need to hear more? Then play the YouTube video below!

Meridian not only captures the essence of the band – engrossing via its intricate, choppy, polyrhythmic grooves, divinely caressed by the haunting, immersive, but oddly soothing wordless vocals.

David Helpling – Rune
Bob Mulvey
David Helpling – Rune

‘Serene’ fits, as do ‘tranquil’, ‘peaceful’ and ‘reposeful’. Words that so readily capture the mood conveyed on Rune, the latest offering from guitarist and keyboardist David Helpling, who specialises in ambient and electronic musics, as well as composing for film.

‘Rune’ itself has a number of interpretations, however perhaps most apt here would be ‘a symbol with mysterious or magic significance’. Regardless of elucidation, David Helpling’s blank canvas is first drenched in cavernous reverbs, after which equally grandiose swathes of subtle, sonic layers, are added. The final touches to his aural picture are the delicate interwoven melodies which add colour, depth and context to the tracks.

Whether or not the music transports you to ancient times, vast oceans, sprawling desolate landscapes, flickering aurorae or perhaps celestial wonderment is entirely down to you, the listener. What David Helpling provides is the perfect vessel to take you there.

“Hard day at the office?” Then let David’s ambient electric guitar explorations return your inner karma…

Lite – Multiple
Bob Mulvey
Lite - Multiple

Unlike my review David Helpling’s Rune album (see above), the words serene, tranquil, peaceful and reposeful do not apply to Lite’s Multiple release. No, a whole new set of words are required here – catchy, quirky, edgy and complex; that’ll do for a starter.

Hailing from Tokyo, this inventive, energetic combo go straight for the jugular with Double, the opening track from their sixth album. The heady pace is augmented by the breakneck modulating metering and incisive polyrhythmic structures that literally draw you into their rollercoaster ride. And there’s little respite as they plough into track two, the heavier, bluesier but still totally gripping Deep Layer.

As I remarked in my review of their previous album Cubic, Lite’s music may be complex and demanding, but it never – ever – loses sight of being listenable. It’s not overtly heavy, a blessing, so the subtlety of their complexity is not lost in an onslaught of distortion. There’s also plenty of variation on Multiple, so yes, we have the obvious Math elements, along with funk, electronica and rock (in its many guises). And throwing in the unexpected, take a listen to rather hip-hoppy Ring, or the wonderfully hypnotic, percussive vibe of 4mg Warmth or the splendiferous Clockwork (below).

Lite they are NOT, however if you like your music complex, but still structured and with an innate sense of groove, then this could well be the album for you.

Multiple (6th album) by LITE

Rainburn – Resignify [EP]
Bob Mulvey
Rainburn – Resignify [EP]

Resignify, according to the accompanying press release, is a companion EP to the band’s debut, full length, album Insignify, released in late 2018. It would also appear that this is the closing of one chapter and the beginning of a new one for Rainburn.

The EP contains five tracks, two live cuts and three studio makeovers. The live cuts are Suicide Note: Alive In Black and Someone New: Another Night, both from Insignify and with the exception of a gentler opening section on the former and some atmospherics on the latter, both tracks remain fairly close to the originals, demonstrating that the band are more than capable of performing their material live. Of the “re-dressed” tracks Veil: Recanvased – from the band’s debut EP, Canvas of Silence – features a new guitar break and some re-tweaked drumming.

It is the two remaining tracks, however, that are the most interesting. Gone are the harmony vocals which originally opened Elusive Light: Resignified, and there is little semblance of the heavier version from Insignify. The new version is re-modelled with acoustic guitar, tablas, violin and of course those splendid harmonies in the choruses. Nice to see this new version embracing more of the band’s culture, something of an oversight and as mentioned in my review of Insignify.

The final track, Suicide Note: Fading Into White, is fundamentally a piano and vocal, with a few guitar embellishments thrown in for good measure, take on the original track. A great arrangement encompasses a jazzy feel and Vats Iyengar’s rather unique voice. Reminded me of Chris Farlowe…

Interesting to see where Rainburn go from here…

Resignify by Rainburn

Sandro Perri – Soft Landings
Tony Colvill
Sandro Perri – Soft Landings

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this album, good musicianship, pleasant enough tunes that defy genre, but it fails to ignite any flame. There are touches of Prince, oodles of John Martyn, and hints of others too. It’s nice. It’s more chill than prog with jazz embellishments, but despite this, I can’t remember anything beyond the track I am listening to. There could be greatness, but I’m not finding it.

Sandro Perri is a much-loved artist, just look around at his reviews. These tunes have been gestating for some 16 years, and this is his first solo in seven years. I wish I could love it, I absolutely do not hate it, and in the background, it has been, pleasant. From other reviews I think I am missing something; I will explore further, but Soft Landings does not thrill. However, I won’t write him off.

Alex Crispin – Watersending
Nick Hudson
Alex Crispin - Watersending

Cobblers Records continues to treat us. Last year Diagonal made a triumphant return with the wonderful Arc. That was followed up by a release by Muscle which is definitely worth checking out. Alex Crispin and Nicholas Whittaker have released Irian Jaya which is shimmering, lush and gorgeous, and last month, seemingly out of the blue, this EP from Alex Crispin appeared. I’m running out of superlatives, but damn, this is good!

The opening track is playful and upbeat, almost evoking a Talking Heads vibe. It does perhaps give a false impression of the remainder of the EP, though, as the title track is more mournful and languid, but also more beautiful. It reminds me of some of Crispin’s work with Baron. The final track, Effert, is quite amazing. It’s a fairly minimalist affair, but less is certainly more in this case, and when Joe Hollick turns up on guitar, his playing is highlighted more so because of this. It’s a beautiful end to an EP well worth checking out. A full-length album would be nice, please!

Watersending by Alex Crispin

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2020/03/23/joyfultalk-a-separation-of-being/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=joyfultalk-a-separation-of-being

JOYFULTALK is Nova Scotian musician, composer, and visual artist Jay Crocker, here augmented by string arranger Jesse Zubot. With JOYFULTALK’s third album A Separation of Being they have fused elements of ambient music, world music, found sounds using homemade instruments, and minimalism through the medium of electronica, accompanied by a classical string arrangement to form a sealed whole that grows into an alien lifeform as it pulses and breathes before you on your living room carpet, ever-changing multi-hued colours shifting in a seemingly natural, yet hitherto unknown fashion.

This short yet compelling adventure into odd time signatures and strange arrangements removes the listener from the here and now and transports them to a thoroughly weird and rhythmically unsettling environment.

The visual element of Crocker’s work is something called The Planetary Music System, a “methodology for visualised composition”, which has been under development since 2012. The visual score for A Separation of Being is “a 5’ by 10’ mural that features geometric multi-dimensional cycles of brightly coloured, finely detailed sound notation”.

Highly cerebral in nature, this music, as you might guess, sits in the same universe as the more esoteric and iconoclastic composers of our time, with the influential presence of the minimalist icons never far away. There is little doubt that one has to be in the correct frame of mind to fully appreciate it.

Crocker has been ploughing a lonely furrow with his own version of systems music for some 15 years, and sees this as a pinnacle of his endeavours to date. Be warned, it is rather arid up here, and you may need an oxygen mask to cope with the rarefied atmosphere, but I have to admit that the music is thoroughly hypnotic, none more so than the final part which weaves Gordian knots of kaleidoscopic rhythm and pulsing music through one’s neural pathways, music one can easily get totally lost within. To that extent, A Separation of Being more than accomplishes its goal.

TRACK LISTING
01. Part I – I’ve Got That Trans-Dimensional Feeling Again (7:43)
02. Part II – Pixelated Skin (8:49)
03. Part III – Liquefied Then Evaporated (16:48)

Total Time – 33:20

MUSICIANS
Jay Crocker – All instruments (written, arranged and performed)
Jesse Zubot – Strings

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Constellation Records
Country of Origin: Canada
Date of Release: 13th March 2020

LINKS
JOYFULTALK – Facebook | Bandcamp | Facebook – Constellation Records

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2020/03/22/the-folsom-project-the-wolf-and-the-skull/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-folsom-project-the-wolf-and-the-skull

I don’t know that I’ve ever struggled as much with a review as I have with The Folsom Project’s debut release, The Wolf and the Skull. I have listened to the album so many times since receiving it for review. I have listened to it with every intention to be paying attention, in order to write about it. Every time, I get lost in the music. I realise we are nowhere near the end of the year yet, and yet this feels like a contender for album of the year for me. The Folsom Project is essentially Romsam Malpica, who has composed, played, programmed and produced everything you hear on The Wolf and the Skull. Well, almost everything, as the piano on the second single from the album, Iceland, came from a collaboration with Sam Maraton.

So what can you expect to hear? Well, the press release states that The Wolf and the Skull is “an audible action thriller” mixing orchestral rock, trap and trip-hop, and while that might sound a little intimidating or even a recipe for disaster, it all comes together remarkably (even, incredibly) well. There’s more trip-hop I don’t like than I do – but when it’s done well, it’s a thing of beauty. Trap? No, I had no idea either, but upon investigation it’s a form of rap. Again, there’s more hip hop I don’t like than I do, but I have never dismissed an entire genre, and never would. I own quite a few hip hop albums (though most are from New Zealand artists, who to me sound noticeably different to the usual suspects from the US). The first single released from the album, Dr. Schmidth, had me hooked, and it’s far from the best track on the The Wolf and the Skull.

Ultimately, this album comes across as more cinematic than almost any other album I’ve seen given that label. The use of cinematic as an adjective has become so overused as to become a cliché – and that’s a shame because it means albums like this that deserve it are left looking for some other way to be described. But stuff that, this sounds like a soundtrack to a film (an action thriller, go figure), and it works brilliantly in that regard. I guess I am a bit of a sucker for soundtrack sounding releases as my favourite run of Ulver albums is that from Themes from William Blake to Blood Inside – and The Wolf and the Skull reminds me of these Ulver “soundtracks” (and even soundtracks, as Lyckantropen Themes and Svidd neger come within that wonderful run of albums). Given that Ulver is Norwegian for wolves, it is quite appropriate, I guess, that The Wolf and the Skull reminds me of them. However, as dark as the album can be, it never sounds quite so cold and bleak as the Scandinavians can.

Perhaps that is because Romsam Malpica is from Mexico and living in the US? Regardless, this is really not an album that sounds like it comes from North America at all. Already, I’ve compared the album to Norwegian band Ulver, and by Malpica’s own admission, trip-hop plays a big part in the sound. Ulver utilised elements of trip-hop in their era of making soundtracks, and it makes a lot of sense as trip-hop usually has a particularly melancholic sound, which fits neatly with the soundscapes Ulver, and now Malpica, created. I’m sure there are famous trip-hop artists from outside Europe, but none come to mind. Trip-hop is almost intrinsically associated with England, and more specifically Bristol. Of the big three, The Folsom Project remind me most of Tricky and Portishead. The former I’m not so much a fan of, and the latter I love. Indeed, Portishead, too, came from a desire to create soundtracks (first for a film they made themselves, and then – like Ulver – as soundtracks to imaginary films).

Musically, the album is awesome. It never really sticks to one style, but the transitions are never jarring and the different styles really help to convey the mood and carry the story. There’s enough going on that were this album to be purely instrumental it would still be impressive, and I know I would still love it (in fact, I’d love to have an instrumental version, and perhaps one day one might be released? Hint, hint!). So, where does that leave the vocals? Well, as the icing on the cake, I guess. I absolutely love Romsam Malpica’s voice, which has a real warmth to it. It’s emotive and engaging, and incredibly easy to listen to. Although saying this may well put some people off, the closest approximation I can make is to compare Malpica’s voice to Dave Matthews (I like Dave Matthews, so this is meant as a compliment). Whether sung or rapped, the vocals are always the perfect accompaniment to both the music and the mood.

My only gripe with the album is that it is over far too quickly. This is not because I like albums to be long just because they can be. Sometimes an album is perfect at 30 minutes, and sometimes it’s perfect at 60 minutes. The 43 minutes of this album would be more than sufficient for most releases – but sometimes it feels some of the shorter tracks could be developed upon a little more. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to the album through only once, I’ve always put it back on to play again. And despite so many repeated listens (and there have been a lot) I’ve not yet come close to being bored. But by the time Chapter 5: Year Zero ends, I’m forever lamenting the short length of such a magnificent piece of work.

I can’t wait for the next instalment, because surely there will be one. With a debut this impressive, there can only be greater things in store for those who choose to follow The Folsom Project…

NB: The Bandcamp link below features The Wolf & The Woods EP and not the The Wolf And The Skull full album:

TRACK LISTING
01. Chapter 1: The Wolf And The Woods (2:26)
02. Awaken (2:28)
03. Dr. Schmidth (4:41)
04. Ali (2:30)
05. Iceland (4:05)
06. Chapter 2: The Lady in White (3:42)
07. The Red Room (2:18)
08. The Storm is Coming (2:28)
09. Just a Boy (4:11)
10. Chapter 3: Lamb Or Wolf (1:44)
11. Last One (2:27)
12. The Wolf (3:06)
13. The Skull (2:02)
14. Chapter 4: Ballad Of The Death (1:48)
15. Chapter 5: Year Zero (2:36)

Total Time – 43:00

MUSICIANS
Romsam Malpica – All Instruments

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Wolf’s Skull Records
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 13th March 2020 (Physical) | 21st February 2020 (Streaming)

LINKS
The Folsom Project – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2020/03/21/a-different-aspect-35/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-different-aspect-35

In this update we feature:

• Le Grand Sbam – Vaisseau Monde
• Doctor Nerve – Title
• Cosmo Sheldrake – LOUD
• WorldService Project – Galápagos (Original Soundrtrack)
• Robin Saville – Serve
• Crömëlin/Du Bose/Kedrub/with Colin Robinson – Build A Diorama


With pestilence raging all around us, what better way to forget the woes of the world than to disappear down the Bandcamp rabbit hole once again…

Le Grand Sbam – Vaisseau Monde
Roger Trenwith
Le Grand Sbam - Vaisseau Monde

Everything about this album is wilfully obscure, right down to the near-unreadable dark text on a black background on their Bandcamp page. The music of Lyon band Le Grand Sbam is deeply complex and bears an obvious Henry Cow influence, but one that the band transcend with their own brand of manic Gallic intensity.

“Le Grand Sbam is a collective of creation, research and musical experimentation which defends living music in all its richness, its complexity and its universality”, says the blurb, and for once the PR hasn’t veered into the inevitable hyperbole beloved of a certain breed of writer.

Sauntering over the line, smoking Gauloises and reading Proust, Vaisseau Monde (“Vessel World”) just passes the 37-and-a-half minute barrier, making it an album of the old skool variety. The dual female vocals go through all manner of expressions, and the structured cacophony of the first part of the album is surprisingly supplanted by a more spacious and open last two tracks that shine a light on another dimension of this rather fine band’s capabilities. They must be quite an experience in the live environment!

The longest track here, translated from French, reads as “The lotuses have bloomed, I’m sitting next to an elephant with worn ears”. That elephant, being a wise creature will persevere and reap the myriad delights to be found in this perfectly formed collection, knackered ear-flaps or nay. Recommended.

Doctor Nerve – LOUD
Roger Trenwith
Doctor Nerve - LOUD

From the title to the music to the cover, this gloriously untrammelled racket ain’t subtle, oh no!

Barely EP-length at under 18-minutes long, perhaps this objet d’art is the commencement of the revival of the Maxi-Single. Remember them? You do?! You must be at least as old as me then. There are four tracks on this thing, plus a couple of odd bookends entitled Meta 01.C (trio) at eight seconds, and a two seconds longer “quartet” version.

LOUD features music that manages to mix avant-thrash metal with a Mariachi jazz band from the Seventh Ring. There’s a full brass and reeds section on here, plus bass and drums, and leader Nick Didkovsky’s raging guitar, and all combine to make a feral, and it has to be said quite jolly, if somewhat skewed, noise assault. Special mention must be made of the muscular rhythms of drummer Leo Ciesa, who manages to stop this whole thing flying apart like an interstellar rust bucket at the end of a hard-working life.

The inherent impish lunacy in these zeros and ones is also reflected in the lysergic associations given to the players. Soprano sax player Yves Duboin, as well as blasting away on the trusty instrument, also gives “telepathic wrap-up”, and Leo Ciesa is as adept at “time reversal”, but the best extra-curricular activity is reserved for bass clarinet player Michael Lytle who indulges in “demonology, contempt for human sacrifice”, as you do.

Cosmo Sheldrake – Galápagos (Original Soundrtrack)
Roger Trenwith
Cosmo Sheldrake - Galápagos (Original Soundrtrack)

A young-looking 28, Cosmo Sheldrake is something of a one-off. The son of a biologist father, himself descended from a long line of church organists, and a mother who amongst many other musical things spent four years working with Karlheinz Stockhausen, and is a world music teacher and researcher, the young Sheldrake grew up surrounded by truly creative music making and a burgeoning interest in the natural world.

This explains the wonderfully eclectic recording featured here, where the multi-instrumentalist supplies a soundtrack for a film about the Galápagos Islands. This was his second album release in 2019, and earlier in the year saw his debut album The Much Much How How and I see the light of day. As an album proper, it is obviously more dynamic than this soundtrack album, but no less quirky and interesting.

Comparisons are moot, but Sheldrake occupies an undefinable niche in much the same way as Sufjan Stevens, although the two are not in the slightest comparable, if that makes any kind of sense! Whatever, the splendid music Cosmo Sheldrake makes seems to come from an ancient folk tradition, that doesn’t actually exist, for it is not quite of this world.

Baroque sci-fi, anyone? Cosmo is definitely one to watch!

WorldService Project – Serve
Roger Trenwith
WorldServiceProject - Serve

I came across this one on Cardiacs’ FB page, so it’s bound to be rubbish, innit?

A fruity mash-up of Cardiacs-inspired lunacy, Mr Bungle, music hall slapstick, and Pythonesque anarchy, this is the sort of thing you should play in your car in the middle of summer, as loud as possible, with all the windows open, while queuing at traffic lights.

I take no responsibility for the consequences.

 
 

Robin Saville – Build A Diorama
Roger Trenwith
Robin Saville - Build A Diorama

Robin Saville is one half of ambient electronica duo Isan, who have been ploughing an esoteric furrow for around 20 years now. Here, he has crafted a wonderfully calming suite of tunes, perfect for the storms of various hues raging all around us in these ends of days.

While being completely cerebral, this music also connects to emotions with its meditative effects, conjured by just the right balance of circuitry and natural sounds, be they from percussion, instruments, or from field recordings. Build A Diorama evokes in me a similar sense of oneness with Nature as Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, while being vastly different in construction.

The album was crafted from Robin’s love of perambulation, and as a fellow walker, I can get right into the rhythm of a long stroll, and the album takes that inner beat and… walks with it. I think Build A Diorama is the perfect album to soothe the frazzled nerves whilst undergoing self-isolation, although it obviously wasn’t recorded with that in mind!

Crömëlin/Du Bose/Kedrub/with Colin Robinson – Freaks
(A Fervent Send Project)

Roger Trenwith
Crömëlin/Du Bose/Kedrub/with Colin Robinson - Freaks (A Fervent Send Project)

On the other hand, you wouldn’t play this as an antidote to angst, oh no.

Fervent Send is a pan-global collective of experimental and avant-inclined musicians assembled by American guitarist Jon Du Bose. Freaks is an album assembled by a four-man splinter group of the collective. It is dark, compelling and noisy (very noisy), in equal measure.

There are influences here from all across the left-field end of the vast prog spectrum on display, the whole being at least the sum of its parts. Opening track Bull Nosed Man lurches along like a beast with a target in mind. There is no messing about here, no wasted moments.

Heavy in every aspect of the word, the band comprises a drummer of considerable power (he needed to be), AND a percussionist, and Jon plays bass, as well as lead guitar, along with the multi-instrumentalist Lobsang Kedrub who as well as the aforementioned percussion contributes synth bass and something called “Forced Sounds and Object Mutations”. This makes for a rhythm-heavy combo that batters your head in just the right way.

Witness the deconstruction of speeding beats on Toltecan Grave, and Colin Robinson’s wailing sax on Bogwalker, and then consider what’s for tea. You might want something hot and fiery.

Freaks by Crömëlin / Du Bose / Kedrub with Colin Robinson (A Fervent Send Project)

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2020/03/20/extc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=extc

The Vic, Swindon
Monday, 9th March 2020

I’d been looking forward to this.

It all started for me with a Facebook Messenger message from an extremely excited Ken Wynne, swearing me to secrecy about a new band led by Terry Chambers, the original drummer for XTC who played on all their albums up until 1983’s Mummer. Terry Chambers has been described as:

“Terry, the chap that is still one of the most influential drummers Britain has ever produced.” [Neil Barlow]

EXTC 4

Terry went on to drum for Dragon and released an album in 2017 with Colin Moulding called Great Aspirations under the name TC&I. Now Terry drums for EXTC, whose mission, it seems, is to carry the music of XTC into the 21st Century.

EXTC 3We should all know who XTC are (is?) but who else is (are?) in EXTC? Steve Tilling and Matt Backer from CIRCU5, the latter ex of ABC’s live touring band, are involved. Ken Wynne from the symphonic progressive metal band Spiral Key is on bass and Gary Bamford, with half a dozen albums and 300 musical compositions under his belt, plays keyboards and guitar. EXTC would be playing XTC and TC&I songs, and I had the absolute privilege of being put on the guestlist for a special gig for family and friends of the band in early March as a warm-up for further dates.

Well worth a few days off work. I could travel even further west and see family! How could I not go? In fact, in for a penny… I also bought tickets for the public version of the gig that was to take place in the same venue the following evening.

Right then! Why should you care that a band is doing XTC music? Isn’t it just another tribute act? Is Steve Hackett a Genesis Tribute band? Is any band with Terry Chambers in it an XTC tribute band? Are the tens if not hundreds of people who go and see Hackett concerned as to whether this is a tribute act? If you are asking these questions, you’re in the wrong review. Or at very least, you’re over-thinking it. Brass tacks: The music of XTC deserves to be played live.

XTC are much loved. You might say they have acquired cult status. And this is their home turf. Under the circumstances, I wondered whether it might be at all daunting to perform these deceptively convoluted, sometimes jagged pop songs, from such a highly revered band. I mean, Andy Partridge is hailed as a genius, right?! But then, with this line-up how could it fail to be good?

EXTC 7

From note one of This Is Pop, this was a band whose love for the music of XTC transcended any potential apprehension they might have had about playing it (even with Dave Gregory in the audience). In reality, I don’t think there was any apprehension in the first place, and if there were it had dissolved by note two. Or perhaps note three.

It’s an intimate little venue, the Vic. The stage is tiny; so small that Matt had his guitars on racks off to the side of the stage on the punters’ floor, if you will, where I stood for the first set. I say “floor” – there was more electrical and audio leads than floor. The sound seemed great from where I was standing, despite standing, effectively, on the artists’ side of the monitors. I had a great view of the whole band and Steve Tilling, the consummate showman, was evidently revelling in his part.

EXTC 1EXTC 2

It was mostly all roses, but one small gripe: Matt Backer’s harmonica didn’t work well in the opening bars of The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead. I wonder whether this was due to it being a tricky thing to put through the right signal chain to his wireless in-ear monitors. Nevertheless, I found myself singing along loudly to that one as it felt very much like a joyful close to the first half of what turned out to be a mammoth set.

After a short break, I’d moved to the front of the stage to get a more “what it’s like for the audience” feel for the sound. EXTC opened the second part of the show with a much more toned-down song; the poignant and lovely Dear God. It made me realise just how much of the subtlety of the musicians’ playing can be lost in the excitement of a full band performance. Steve Tilling made no attempt to emulate Andy Partridge, and showed that his voice was different yet still perfect for this and the more Partridge-heavy songs. But when it came to them all strapping on their Fenders, including Gary Bamford, they showed just why there is no substitute for a crisp, strong, live band, backed by a tight, confident drummer who oozes feel for the songs and drives them along in a way that simply must be experienced. Sgt. Rock was as heavy as fuck.

EXTC 5

By now the crowd were even more involved than they had been in the first half. Properly involved’ there was much fist-pumping and lots of singing, even from this timid little chap. Generals and Majors became a sea-shanty of a sing-along. They closed the second set with Making Plans for Nigel, which is driven by the rhythm of the drums. Leaving the stage was little more than a formality. You could tell that the band was buzzing and EXTC wasted no time in getting on with the encores and they were just splendid. Then, suddenly, it was all over! 27 songs done in what seemed like a flash! And I was buzzing.

 EXTC 8

The following day I went along to the “punters” gig. Weirdly the room was full of the tallest audience I’d ever stood nose to knee with. Despite trying to squeeze my way around I just couldn’t see a thing. So full was the little venue that it felt as if it could burst. There should be no problem selling out more gigs! This was possibly the most over-sold gig I’ve ever attended! But those tall people in attendance and the odd short person were all overjoyed at the occasion, at the performances, at the music… and even though I caught but fleeting views of the top of Steve’s head, Matt Backer’s nose and left eye and didn’t see Terry or Ken or Gary once, the gig filled me with joy. In any case, I was more than compensated by having the best of all views the night before, and in any case, I could hear the music, and once again, EXTC nailed it.

I tell a lie… I think I saw Gary once. He wore a woollen hat.

I strongly recommend trying to get to see EXTC.

EXTC setlist

EXTC lyrics

SETLIST
First Set:

01. This Is Pop
02. Statue of Liberty
03. No Language in Our Lungs
04. Towers of London
05. Wonderland
06. Sacrificial Bonfire
07. Scatter Me
08. Big Day
09. No Thugs in Our House
10. Standing In for Joe
11. Ball and Chain
12. The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead

Second Set:
13. [Bungalow/instrumental intro]
14. Dear God
15. King for a Day
16. Sgt. Rock.
17. Earn Enough for Us
18. Ordinary People
19. Grass
20. Meeting Place
21. Mayor of Simpleton
22. Respectable Street
23. Generals and Majors
24. Making Plans for Nigel
~ Encore:
25. Senses Working Overtime.
26. Stupidly Happy
27. Life Begins at the Hop

MUSICIANS
Matt Backer – Vocals, Guitars
Gary Bamford – Keyboards, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Terry Chambers – Drums
Steve Tilling – Vocals, Guitars
Ken Wynne – Bass, Backing Vocals

LINKS
EXTC – Facebook

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2020/03/19/cheer-accident-chicago-xx/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cheer-accident-chicago-xx

It was way back in the early 2000s that I first heard about Cheer-Accident (deliciously and legendarily named after retail get well card descriptor labels, for cards for those recovering from a mishap, I understand), and they had already been going for some years even then. Their Not A Food album intrigued me with its angular semi-metalloid pronkery, whilst Enduring the American Dream and Introducing Lemon cemented their cherished place in my musical world, drawing comparisons to Rock In Opposition heroes the likes of Henry Cow, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and label-mates Thinking Plague. Comparisons are tentative and vaguely suggestive at best, however, as Cheer-Accident are ultimately indefinable and un-categorisable in any real meaningful sense. They are a band which has to be fully experienced in an aural immersive experiential sense.

So, fast forward 20 or so years, and here we are at Cheer-Accident’s 20th album, Chicago XX, and I have to say that I have almost struggled to keep up with them recently. Whilst Enduring The American Dream was almost five years in the making, the last four years have seen no less than three Cheer-Accident albums emerge, Putting Off Death in 2017, Fades the following year, and now Chicago XX (by my reckoning, their twentieth album, excluding early cassette releases and one compilation). The title and artwork clearly (presumably) a tribute, or reference anyway, to fellow Chicago band, erm, Chicago (!). Not sure if this is an in-joke, but anyway (I guess that means I don’t quite ‘get’ this element, but somehow love the oddness of it…). Whilst relatively prolific in recent years then, there is definitely no letting up in terms of quality from the band, who have once again turned in a sterling opus in terms of creativity, compositional flair and execution. Long time fans, I predict (myself included) will surely not be (and, in the case of me, aren’t) disappointed with this album.

All of what I have come to expect, including the blind-siding twists and turns, are present and correct in this release, by my estimation (nay, conviction!). Cheer-Accident manage to straddle the golden line between commerciality and dadaist avantism in many places throughout this fabulous release. Like Something To Resemble, with its ’60s feel, strongly reminding me of Ween’s White Pepper “tribute” to the Beatles, building on a relentless infectious riff and adding beautiful trumpet flourishes. My absolute favourite track (albeit amongst many) has to be Life Rings Hollow, which again evokes late ’60s to early ’70s musical sensibilities, redolent of West Coast bands of the era (sounding almost uncannily like prime time Spirit in places), the repeated chorus refrain of the title of the track somehow turning an apparent despairing notion into one of the most life-affirming spirituals I have heard in many months. I Don’t Believe constructs a fabulous multi-layered polyrhythmic omniverse of sonic sensibilities, which sounds so simple at first listen, but reveals more and more complexities (presented so simplistically) the more the listener unfolds and explores the musical onion. In fact, if there was a conceptual theme (in terms of getting your head around the music, rather than any meaning as such) for this album (and probably many other Cheer-Accident releases), that would probably be it – everything is much more complex than it at first seems. The listener eases open a musical door which yields creakingly yet readily, and at first seems like it has only one additional entrance leading off it, but when the aperture is nudged open, a multiplexed rhythmic and sonic hall of mirrors gradually yet imposingly, though compellingly, unfolds like a peacock’s wing splaying and reflecting aural iridescence throughout the listening space.

As well as marvelling at the crafted musical construction and execution of Cheer-Accident releases, I am also frequently intrigued, fascinated and challenged by the lyrical imagery. This is an opus of textural presentations of concepts from seemingly Dada obscurantism to developed meaning unfolding to the listener mirroring the musical sensibilities afore-described. Each listener should reveal their own interpretations, but to me I Don’t Believe describes the quest to find meaning in a seemingly meaningless world, whilst musing the concept of the transmutation of energy matter beyond corporeal existence. But whatever.

I’m not sure if this review will really put across how amazing this album is, and how essential it is for this to be in your musical world, but if only one person is interested enough to check this out and add it to their musical pantheon, that’s good enough for me. Cheer-Accident deserve a much wider audience than they currently enjoy. Put it this way – I wasn’t even halfway through my first listen before ordering my own personal advance copy via Amazon.

TRACK LISTING
01. Intimacy (2:10)
02. Like Something to Resemble (4:39)
03. Diatoms (2:57)
04. Life Rings Hollow (5:38)
05. I Don’t Believe (7:37)
06. Plea Bargain (4:09)
07. Things (5:50)
08. Slowly for Awhile (4:22)

Total Time – 38:22

MUSICIANS
Thymme Jones – Guitar, Drums, Vocals, Synthesizer, Backing Vocals, Trumpet, Keyboards, Piano (track 7), Autoharp (track 8), Moog, Glockenspiel (track 8), Found Sounds
Carmen Armillas – Vocals
Amelie Morgan – Oboes (track 1), Backing Vocals (track 4), Electric Piano (track 6), Bass (track 6)
Dante Kester – Bass, Keyboards
Greg Beemster – Vocals
Jeff Libersher – Guitar, Vocals, Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Bass, Ersatz Cello (track 7)
~ with:
Todd Rittmann – Ersatz Mellotron (track 4)
Sophia Uddin – Viola (track 5)
Mike Hagedorn – Trombone (track 5)
Maxx Katz – Flutes (track 8)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Cuneiform Records
Catalogue#: Rune 476
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 28th February 2020

LINKS
Cheer-Accident – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2020/03/19/cheer-accident-chicago-xx/

It was way back in the early 2000s that I first heard about Cheer-Accident (deliciously and legendarily named after retail get well card descriptor labels, for cards for those recovering from a mishap, I understand), and they had already been going for some years even then. Their Not A Food album intrigued me with its angular semi-metalloid pronkery, whilst Enduring the American Dream and Introducing Lemon cemented their cherished place in my musical world, drawing comparisons to Rock In Opposition heroes the likes of Henry Cow, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and label-mates Thinking Plague. Comparisons are tentative and vaguely suggestive at best, however, as Cheer-Accident are ultimately indefinable and un-categorisable in any real meaningful sense. They are a band which has to be fully experienced in an aural immersive experiential sense.

So, fast forward 20 or so years, and here we are at Cheer-Accident’s 20th album, Chicago XX, and I have to say that I have almost struggled to keep up with them recently. Whilst Enduring The American Dream was almost five years in the making, the last four years have seen no less than three Cheer-Accident albums emerge, Putting Off Death in 2017, Fades the following year, and now Chicago XX (by my reckoning, their twentieth album, excluding early cassette releases and one compilation). The title and artwork clearly (presumably) a tribute, or reference anyway, to fellow Chicago band, erm, Chicago (!). Not sure if this is an in-joke, but anyway (I guess that means I don’t quite ‘get’ this element, but somehow love the oddness of it…). Whilst relatively prolific in recent years then, there is definitely no letting up in terms of quality from the band, who have once again turned in a sterling opus in terms of creativity, compositional flair and execution. Long time fans, I predict (myself included) will surely not be (and, in the case of me, aren’t) disappointed with this album.

All of what I have come to expect, including the blind-siding twists and turns, are present and correct in this release, by my estimation (nay, conviction!). Cheer-Accident manage to straddle the golden line between commerciality and dadaist avantism in many places throughout this fabulous release. Like Something To Resemble, with its ’60s feel, strongly reminding me of Ween’s White Pepper “tribute” to the Beatles, building on a relentless infectious riff and adding beautiful trumpet flourishes. My absolute favourite track (albeit amongst many) has to be Life Rings Hollow, which again evokes late ’60s to early ’70s musical sensibilities, redolent of West Coast bands of the era (sounding almost uncannily like prime time Spirit in places), the repeated chorus refrain of the title of the track somehow turning an apparent despairing notion into one of the most life-affirming spirituals I have heard in many months. I Don’t Believe constructs a fabulous multi-layered polyrhythmic omniverse of sonic sensibilities, which sounds so simple at first listen, but reveals more and more complexities (presented so simplistically) the more the listener unfolds and explores the musical onion. In fact, if there was a conceptual theme (in terms of getting your head around the music, rather than any meaning as such) for this album (and probably many other Cheer-Accident releases), that would probably be it – everything is much more complex than it at first seems. The listener eases open a musical door which yields creakingly yet readily, and at first seems like it has only one additional entrance leading off it, but when the aperture is nudged open, a multiplexed rhythmic and sonic hall of mirrors gradually yet imposingly, though compellingly, unfolds like a peacock’s wing splaying and reflecting aural iridescence throughout the listening space.

As well as marvelling at the crafted musical construction and execution of Cheer-Accident releases, I am also frequently intrigued, fascinated and challenged by the lyrical imagery. This is an opus of textural presentations of concepts from seemingly Dada obscurantism to developed meaning unfolding to the listener mirroring the musical sensibilities afore-described. Each listener should reveal their own interpretations, but to me I Don’t Believe describes the quest to find meaning in a seemingly meaningless world, whilst musing the concept of the transmutation of energy matter beyond corporeal existence. But whatever.

I’m not sure if this review will really put across how amazing this album is, and how essential it is for this to be in your musical world, but if only one person is interested enough to check this out and add it to their musical pantheon, that’s good enough for me. Cheer-Accident deserve a much wider audience than they currently enjoy. Put it this way – I wasn’t even halfway through my first listen before ordering my own personal advance copy via Amazon.

TRACK LISTING
01. Intimacy (2:10)
02. Like Something to Resemble (4:39)
03. Diatoms (2:57)
04. Life Rings Hollow (5:38)
05. I Don’t Believe (7:37)
06. Plea Bargain (4:09)
07. Things (5:50)
08. Slowly for Awhile (4:22)

Total Time – 38:22

MUSICIANS
Thymme Jones – Guitar, Drums, Vocals, Synthesizer, Backing Vocals, Trumpet, Keyboards, Piano (track 7), Autoharp (track 8), Moog, Glockenspiel (track 8), Found Sounds
Carmen Armillas – Vocals
Amelie Morgan – Oboes (track 1), Backing Vocals (track 4), Electric Piano (track 6), Bass (track 6)
Dante Kester – Bass, Keyboards
Greg Beemster – Vocals
Jeff Libersher – Guitar, Vocals, Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Bass, Ersatz Cello (track 7)
~ with:
Todd Rittmann – Ersatz Mellotron (track 4)
Sophia Uddin – Viola (track 5)
Mike Hagedorn – Trombone (track 5)
Maxx Katz – Flutes (track 8)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Cuneiform Records
Catalogue#: Rune 476
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 28th February 2020

LINKS
Cheer-Accident – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp