ProgBlog

Most people have heard of progressive rock (or prog rock, or simply prog) but the great majority of them treat it with mild disdain (at best) or outright hatred (at worst). Most of the criticism is a mindless rejection based on current trends and a misunderstanding of the genre; “dinosaur” is a common term of abuse, neatly parodied by Adrian Belew on King Crimson’s 1994 album Thrak

 

There is an increasing quantity of literature on the subject, ranging from the analytical or academic (Edward Macan, Rocking the Classics; Kevin Holme-Hudson, Progressive Rock Revisited) to the fairly straightforward lists (Charles Snider, The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock.) There are also thousands of fans out there who not only continue to attend concerts, but also contribute to a growing network of fanzines and on-line forums. Fans are even served by Prog, a glossy magazine from Future Publishing now in its tenth year, entirely devoted to prog in all its forms

 

The ProgBlog has been put together to encourage discussion about progressive rock music illustrated by personal observation

 

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The Night Watch are a four piece instrumental/progressive/metal band based in Ottawa, comprised of guitarist Nathanael Larochette, drummer and percussionist Daniel Mollema (who also adds piano), bassist Matthew Cowan and violinist Evan Runge. They blend folk, metal, jazz, swing and post-rock musical influences along with an immense range of emotions into dynamic and cinematic soundscapes; an embrace of dynamic possibilities with the spirit of exploration of the progressive rock bands of the 1970s.

The Night Watch release their third full-length album An Embarrassment of Riches on November 15th 2019. Read Stefano Amadei’s review here 

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ProgBlog DISCovery

The original aim of the blog was to promote discussion about all and any facet of progressive rock but from time to time, bands and musicians contact ProgBlog with new prog-related material that they want to expose to a wider audience; ProgBlog's album of 2017 An Invitation by Amber Foil was one such approach. The DISCovery section has been introduced to better serve the requirements of musicians who contact ProgBlog with the aim of increasing the audience for their music; without music there can be no discussion of music

 

Moon Letters is a quintet from the US Pacific North West who coalesced from a number of other Seattle bands and is comprised of John Allday (keyboards, vocals, trumpet), Mike Murphy (bass, vocals, trumpet), Kelly Mynes (drums), Michael Trew (vocals, flute) and Dave Webb (guitar). They have recently released their first album Until They Feel the Sun, a concept album presented in the form of a song cycle, inspired by seal-human shape-shifting Selkie folklore from the north east Atlantic. Lovers of early classic-era progressive rock should like this album but the broad range of styles incorporated into the music make it unique Moon Letters. Read about it here

The ProgBlog Diary

A list of recent past, present and future happenings in the prog world

06 - November 2019

 

 

 

2/11/2019 Live report - Big Big Train, Hackney Empire

Remarkably, for a group that has been releasing material since 1991, 2019 marked Big Big Train's first UK tour, a 'grand tour' complete with a five-piece brass band to mark 2019's Grand Tour album. David Longdon explained that their normal modus operandi was to set up somewhere and let the punters go to them but their continued success, itemised in the expansive, good value-for-money tour programme, allowed them to put together the 13 piece ‘prog collective’ (a description coined by The Guardian) to cover six UK venues. Having been late to catch a ride on the Big Big Train phenomenon, I thought I’d better go along to see them at the Hackney Empire.  

The set list spanned back to the English Electric duo of albums which meant that despite a band history marked by frequent personnel changes, the protagonists on stage were all well acquainted with the original material. Up to that point my BBT collection consisted of Grimspound and Grand Tour, though I had listened to other selective compositions, story-telling cameos of unsung heroes from the industrial revolution onwards. Perhaps more so than on the recorded works, the live arrangements highlighted the layers of each composition, thanks in no small part to the excellent sound which was crystal clear even up in the gallery. This was an immensely enjoyable gig, though for anyone thinking of booking Hackney Empire tickets late or cheap for a future event, the seating in the gallery is uncomfortable and there is a very limited view of any back-projections

 

 

Prog100 (1)

Latest additions to the ProgBlog collection, predominantly acquired in Genoa (the LPs and CDs pictured): Alphataurus by Alphataurus (Vinyl); Babylon by Babylon (CD); English Electric (Part Two) by Big Big Train (V); Un Vita Migliore by La Coscienza di Zeno (V); Autumnsymphony (CD) and Springsong (CD) by Höstsonaten; Fate Outsmarts Desire by Kaprekar’s Constant (V); Fugazi by Marillion (V); La Maschera di Cera by La Maschera di Cera (V); Destinazioni by Melting Clock (CD, V); Purgatorio by Metamorfosi (V); For You the Old Women by Mirthrandir (CD); Out of the Abyss by Pentwater (CD); Hieros Gamos by Pholas Dactylus (V); Atlantide by The Trip (V); The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking by Roger Waters (CD); The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony by Patrick Woodroffe and Dave Greenslade (V); Angels in the Architecture - EG sampler (V); Progressive Italia vol.2 (6CD); In the Court of King Crimson An Observation over Fifty Years by Sid Smith (Book);  Musical Guide to In the Court of the Crimson King 10/50 Edition by Andrew Keeling (B)

 

 

16/10/2019 Live report – ESP Project, Half Moon, Putney

Though ESP has had a wide-ranging cast of musicians in its brief history, Tony Lowe still manages to skilfully steer the band ever onwards and upwards. This gig, with an acoustic duo incarnation of Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate providing the support slot, was to promote the launch of the latest ESP Project release The Rising. I’d urged prog fans to get to see ESP after the performance marking the launch of their debut, Invisible Din in November 2016, highlighting them as new standard-bearers for 21st century symphonic prog; three full-length albums and one EP in, I stand by my words. Though 2018’s 22 Layers of Sunlight deviates from full-on symphonic with a post-rock feel, the writing, execution and production all remain first-class and this is retained through the EP Three and The Rising, two releases with a stabilised line-up. The show included material from all ESP releases and was warmly received. Consummate professionals, the performance was delivered almost perfectly - a brief interlude was required to reboot a patch, allowing Damien Child time to interact with the audience and there was a degree of lack of Child's vocal clarity when the musicians were in full flow. As much as I like the Half Moon, I suspect that a more forgiving space would better suit the cinematic nature of their material, but I’m aware of at least two converts present on the night who had never previously heard the band

 

 

22/11/19 Il Segno del Comando + Runaway Totem, Black Widow Progressive Night, La Claque, Genova. For anyone near the Ligurian capital, this is a chance to see some classic Genoese dark prog as Il Segno del Comando celebrate the repressing of their self-titled debut from 1997 and Zeuhl-romantic-symphonic Runaway Totem present their new album Multiversal Matter

Coming up:

 

18/11/2019 Jadis, The 229 Venue 2, London. The ideal chance to catch up with a band I’d missed during their 80’s heyday. Jadis first came to public attention supporting IQ on their Nomzamo tour, and subsequently supported Marillion when they were promoting Clutching at Straws

Prog metal - Dream Theater

29/11/2019 Steve Hackett, Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith. The final date of Hackett‘s 2019 Genesis Revisited tour, playing Selling England by the Pound in its entirety, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Spectral Mornings and including highlights from this year’s release At the Edge of Light

 

 

Archive ProgBlog playlists can be found here:

 

2018

2019

An Embarrassment of Riches by The Night Watch Until They Feel the Sun

The recent past:

 

9/11/19 Live Report – Höstsonaten + Finisterre, La Claque, Genova

Finisterre and Höstsonaten are both Fabio Zuffanti projects, the former a more experimental outfit covering prog, post-rock, jazz and electronica and celebrating the 25th anniversary of their self-titled first album, reissued this year as XXV, the latter performing lush symphonic prog. For what could have been Zuffanti’s 2019 Z-Fest (the event wasn’t held in March this year) Höstsonaten performed first, running through their 2012 album The Rime of the Ancient Mariner aided by a small chamber orchestra comprised of long-term collaborators. Höstsonaten performed some of the music at the 2018 Z-Fest but I’d missed the last part of that performance having left to catch public transport back to my hotel; this time it was only a twelve minute walk back to where I was staying. The score, conceived as a theatrical piece, is full of drama with great melody lines and the lyrics stick to Coleridge’s poem, for the most part effectively delivered by the four vocalists – I’ve always thought Alessandro Corvaglia also looks the part! There were moments when the flute and the violin were lost in the mix but overall this was an immensely enjoyable performance, encompassing the whole gamut of prog styles: full-on symphonic; jazz; prog-metal; Celtic folk.

Finisterre, despite Genoa being their home city, didn’t perform there between 2004 and 2017. I happened to be at the 2017 gig, also at La Claque, three months after I’d first seen them in Milan. I’d describe the first album as being experimental prog, notable for its cross-genre influences and dialogue from classic Italian films (this latter feature absent at this show.) Sticking to one album made the set seem more coherent than when I saw them in Milan and other than an extended period of extemporisation which became a little directionless this was a very satisfying gig

ESP Half Moon, Putney 161019 (21)

ESP Project, Half Moon, Putney 16/10/19 (L-R: Tony Lowe; Damien Child; Pete Clark; Andy Wardley; drummer Greg Pringle is hidden)

Steve Hackett 2019 UK tour Black Widow Progressive Night 221119 Jadis 229 The Venue 181119