Posts Tagged ‘Prog’

Paul Marcano and LightDreams – 10,001 Dreams

Picking up on this gem that slipped out in 2016, but still remains available in double LP glory. Paul Marcano and his band LightDreams had one full album (as simply LightDreams) in 1982. The Beatles-esque pop was undercut with proggy new age keys for an album that doused itself in sci-fi trappings and psychedelic indulgences. Sadly, the record would pass through rather unnoticed, except by collectors with a keen eye for psych. It stands to reason then that this private press cassette that the band home recorded as a follow-up in 1983 only fell on fewer ears, but its sprawling, syncopated prog-folk approach makes it a gem of a time when the band’s psych-pop was horribly out of fashion.

The record is home-taped, though not scruffy, with a rather clear and present sound. Marcano, along with fellow guitarists John Walker and Cory Rhyon and keyboardist Andre Martin lay their rippling psych vision out without the aid of a rhythm section and the result brings this closer to a fuzz ball of psychedelic folk than the prog holdovers from the ‘70s they’re ostensibly looking to replicate. While they’re shooting for Pink Floyd, the band actually lands somewhere around Bobb Trimble fronting an expanded version of Fresh Maggots, which honestly makes for a dream idea in my book.

The one thing that gets in the way of LightDreams might be their own ambition. The original version of 10,001 Dreams was laid down to a 90-minute tape and the band went for it in every respect. Self-editing was not their forte, though squeezing this onto 2xLP and CD gives a bit of trim to a massive centerpiece suite (originally 30 min) that would give Olivia Tremor Control a run for their money. They excel when the tracks spread out, but don’t tip the scales – sprawling, but not overstuffed – and rambling into introspective trip territory. If you’ve previously missed out on this one and need to bump up the private press psych section on your shelf then this comes quite recommended.



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Bättre Lyss – Till Den Sträng Som Brast Än Att Aldrig Spänna En Båge

Sommor Records digs up a Swedish private press issue that delivers some excellent prog touches with heavy dips into the well of proto metal. The record began with English language focus but evolved into a monster of Swedish sung psych and prog with the band’s evolution to a core trio. They brought in several friends to help out on the record including Anders Nordh on guitar, who would go on to some acclaim in fellow Swedes, LIFE. The spell of Bättre Lyss mostly lasted the year or so that it was created, but even though it only found a few ears at the time, it’s a delightfully expansive record with it’s fair share of nuance that making it an excellent nugget to unearth.

The well of reissues is always threatening to grow barren, but something like this proves there are still boundless corners to explore. The record, with its embrace of flute and sax would certainly prove of interest to fans of Dungen, but its got plenty to love for fans of American and UK prog as well. Huge organ swells and driving riffs put have it exploring similar territory to ELP, ELO and Boston (a year prior to their debut as well) but the record’s lack of commercial ambition allows it to become one of those studio albums that’s more for the players than anything else. Still, as with Sommor’s issue of Swiss rockers Ertlif, they shine an international spotlight on a band that remained for years a homegrown secret.




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CB3

CB3, or less succinctly Charlottas Burnin’ Trio, hail from Stockholm and in the grand tradition of Swedish psych, they echo the the past smoke curls of prog while stoking the fire for a new generation of psych stormers. Heavy, but not dense, the record lays the rhythm section into a black hole pocket and lets the guitars sketch arcs across the listener’s conciousness. They find a balance between their clear pet loves for metal and jazz without wading into the kind of wankery that often bubbles up with bands who fancy themselves scholars of both classes.

Bookended by serene eddies, the band’s tape for UK psych outpost Eggs In Aspic aspires for a prog/space rock permanence and for the most part succeeds, though they could probably push the needle heavier and still retain their sense of agility. That phased pocket that they often suck the bass into could stand a little loosening, letting the rhythm chug whle the storm of drums and guitar unfold. Mid-point highlight “Beware The Wolf” is the band touching the specter of Space Rock with the firmest grasp and the look suits them, though they soon return to the noodling knots that mark their forte. The record shows promise and obvious skill, but also a little greenness that should only ripen on further releases.




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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Well, look at that, just in under the wire if you’re counting. Two digital albums with physical release dates in 2018 are on the docks but all in all the tally’s come in with the Gizz ringing in the new year five albums richer. Their latest is more of a mop up of sorts than an album with any prevailing theme, at least along the level that the band often maintains. It’s proof that they don’t have any true stumbles in their batch, but there’s definitely a sort of clearinghouse feeling to this one, like they might have had some bits that were kicking around waiting for a home. That’s actually self-admitted, with the band’s Stu McKenzie claiming that the album was more “song-oriented” than “album oriented,” which hasn’t really been the case for the prog-psych think tank since 2014’s Oddments.

Like that album, Gumboot Soup feels loose and without restriction. The songs are free to swerve through the band’s own psych swamp, touching on jazz-flecks and fuzz-cakes in equal measure. Sketches of Brunswick East aside, this is actually some of the lightest fare the band have approached this year, which is always kind of fun in my book. I’ve long been a fan of the band’s waterlogged take on psychedelia – swampy, cold, and clammy but without a match light in sight. They’ve spent several albums looking for the spark that would burn down this world and its nice to feel them lean back into their squirming weirdness for a spell.

Gumboot sees the band get slinky, with Ambrose’s flute snaking as a through line for some true gems here. Song-wise there are some great downbeat moments here. They kick things the opposite direction as well, though, with “The Great Chain of Being” acting as one of the band’s most outright metal offerings, feeling like they might have something much heavier in the books at some future point. Tell you what, if the winds bid a Sleep/King Gizzard collaboration I’m all for it, and this might be the foothold to that reality. Similarly “All Is Known” is straight out of the Nonagon playbook, pulling off their usual tricks amiably. The record, for all its inconsistencies, houses no lack of essentials for the collector and curator of King Gizz’ house of psychedelic oddities. If you’re already in the clubhouse then this should feel like eleven new pieces of a puzzle that’s constantly unfolding in real time. Can’t wait to see what this year holds. Though maybe they should sleep.



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Oh Sees

Dropping an article doesn’t dampen the clamor that claws up from the very glowing soul of John Dwyer annually. His merry band’s evolved and mutated so many times that who could want to keep track at this point? We’ll shake it all out in the official biography at a later date, right? Down to four players, but using them with admirable precision, they even pull a cameo from longtime member Brigid Dawson on a few tracks here. The band’s taken a page from their kindred demons in King Gizz, kept the double drum attack and let it propel this album like a mechanical heart fed on coal fumes, nuclear fallout, and a bonfire constantly stoked with copies of Sleep’s Holy Mountain.

Last year’s A Weird Exits seemed a hard hill to top, but the band manages to dig darker, twist the knife further into the psychedelic wound and blow this out louder than Thee Oh Sees ever managed. Any lingering remnants of the garage phase of Thee Oh Sees are buried under the soil with Orc. They’re rummaging through the deepest end of the heavy psych costume trunk now and managing to make the squall take on a fresh finish. Bending German Progressive click tracks with metal rumble, breaking down into deep space eddies of calm, then sawing through them with a serrated slice of noise – everything you’ve loved about Dwyer and co. is here, but magnified and swollen to epic proportions and stuffed full of new tricks to boot.

JD has always felt like he’s processed his influences well, and it’s easy to pose that he’s cast a long shadow over several of today’s psych monsters. You’d be hard pressed to find a band working along the garage-psych spectrum that’s not as sick of the comparisons as we all are of hearing them water down John’s trademark Echoplex howl. Here though, he’s taking his own tour of heavy hitters and fitting them in a way that’s pushed this to the top of their 19-odd release stack. Weaving Groundhogs amp shredders through Amon Duul II and Hawkwind atmospherics, they graft the aforementioned Sleep bong-rattlers to towering psych-synth works that make this come off like a double-wide concept album whose theme is sonic destruction. Many have tried to knock the crown from his head, but essentially most just need to come to the conclusion that they’re not even on the same mountain.




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Dream Machine

Matthew Melton has proven nothing if not mercurial over the years. He’s always been a fixture of the kind of garage that’s beaten and bruised, though doggedly interested in the details. Emerging from the twin spires of smoke-choked garage – Snake Flower 2 and Bare Wires – he dove headlong into the pristine clean of Warm Soda’s power pop with occasional digressions back into garage in his solo work and with short-run stompers Pleasers. So here we stand again on the precipice of another change and this time Melton sheds a great deal of those garage pasts to embrace the blacklit arms of prog and proto-metal.

Along with his wife Doris, who steers the band’s distinctive organ sound, Melton and Dream Machine enter a black drape of dry ice and incense that’s dug deep into the prog mindset, snaking through the corridors of the ’70s on trills of organ that can’t help but bring to mind Iron Butterfly, Deep Purple or Rhinoceros. Doris’ vocals give Dream Machine a nice touch of soulfulness, and a dose of femininity that sometimes eludes Melton’s past projects. He’s often felt like a bastion for young men with record shelving conundrums and while this won’t necessarily scare that set off, it’s got a great deal to offer those that fall outside the devoted choir of believers.

The record even comes with a dive into heady human harmonics in the band’s insistence on re-tuning to accommodate brain-reactive frequencies. Check out their explanation on A=432 that swerves from Joseph Goebbles to The Four Yugas. All these trappings feel essential to their true progression to, well Progressive Rock. The album is, as with most Melton projects, a perfect encapsulation of genre. While there have been plenty of dogmatic psych albums made in the past couple of decades, this one feels like its filling a niche that’s been left behind. With the exception of Black Mountain, the bands that have embraced anything approaching organ-prog in later years get hung up in Rick Wakeman wankerisms that leave out the pelvic thrust at the heart of the original players. Dream Machine manages to ride the line between the dirty crawl of garage and the stadium-sized ambitions of the supergroup generation. You’re gonna want to grab the headphones and sink back in that beanbag for this one.




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Dream Machine – “All For A Chance”

Matthew Melton’s shift to fog machine ’70s prog is perfected on Dream Machine’s upcoming LP The Illusion. Second video out of the gate follows the simple live band floating in color aesthetic, but it’s a perfect fit for the band’s brand of flashback psych. Feeling good about him retiring Warm Soda for this slice of family band FM groove. You can now nab the LP from Castle Face on Boysenberry Swirl, which sounds more like an ice cream flavor than a vinyl pressing, but looks just as sweet.



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V/A – Follow The Sun

While the new crop of Australian indie is being etched and codified presently, US archive house Anthology has been doing their best to begin to dig into the independent ’60s and ’70s past of the country, mapping out some of the Nuggets-era fodder that’s been long overshadowed. The label has explored bands that mapped the country’s surf culture through reissues of Tamam Shud and Tully and now they’re teaming up with Aussie luminary in his own right Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Total Control, mastering on every essential new Oz release) to scour the bins for a collection that encapsulates not just a sound, but the sound of Australia in the ’70s.

The collection, like Lenny Kaye’s now iconic roundup of garage, cherry picks gems that were consigned to local fan culture rather than world shaking hits or hints of things to come from artists in their infancy. Unlike Nuggets’ ranks though, they twist the dial from loner folk to psychedelic fizz, prog-jazz glints to lush singer-songwriter territory. The only real consistency seems to be that each track feels like an instantly necessary addition to your life. It’s full of faded sun melancholy and a feeling that inside the bubble of Australian pop, the outsider could be king.

The double LP set is a perfect companion to the relatively recent Down Under Nuggets release, which scratches a much shallower surface of the ’60s and gives the overview of acts that found their way out (see: The Bee Gees, The Easybeats) alongside some gems that would stretch the pocket book. In a way, using the ’70s as their touchstone lends itself to much less homogeny and much more experimentation. Follow The Sun winds up a dream classic rock station set to sink into the sea. It’s getting harder these days to do these kind of comps right, but this is hitting all the marks.



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Harmonium –
Si on Avait Besoin d’une Cinquième Saison

In deference to most overlooked acts from the past, Harmonium doesn’t even have the sob story of poor distribution and in fighting to topple them from their horse. In fact, if you’re from Canada the band may even be a household name. Elsewhere though, its not necessarily on your parents’ shelf, due in large part to the Quebecois band’s delivery in their native French. The band had three very worthwhile albums to their name, the most intriguing of which is their sophomore LP, Si on Avait Besoin D’une Cinquième Saison, translating to “If We Needed A Fifth Season.” The album wraps a suite of songs around the transition of the seasons and adds a fifth, epic closer for their imaginary “fifth” season.

The band began as a small guitar trio and hit early on with their song “Por Un Instant” in Canada. They migrate towards a much more progressive sound on this second LP, adding in swells of strings and stretching the lengths of songs to ambitious lengths over the course of the album’s five tracks. They’d go on to record a follow-up which fully embraced the prog aesthetic, growing into a true rock band and finally adding in drums. The absence of drums makes this one all the more interesting, though. It’s steeped in acoustic guitar, mellotron and flute; a true pastoral prog album if there ever was one.

After their third album, L’Heptad, with even core member Michel Normandeau bowing out during its recording, they decided that they’d said all they needed to say and went their separate ways, with minimal animosity. They even played on each others’ solo albums in the coming years. This one though, stands as a gorgeous bit of soft psych and prog for those who want to indulge in the hazy Canadian sunshine. Sadly its not been reissued on vinyl proper, but its pretty easy to find a second hand copy, so maybe its for the best. There are, however CD and digital versions that capture the band’s romp through the mellow meadow.


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The Myrrors

The Myrrors have crept up slowly into the ranks of high desert warriors of psych and on their third album they’ve solidified their position as ones to watch in the lysergic pantheon for 2016. Entranced Earth comes on with less force than their previous endeavor, but builds strong, breaking into a heavy percussive toil for “Liberty Is In The Streets” and stretching out in endless expanses on the title track. The band mixes a bit of Eastern roil with the open skied, laid back ramble of luminaries like Brightblack Morning Light, whose desert aura they emulate here. They lace tracks with a meditative, shamanistic thrum, bubbling calm in some places that that’s balanced by an uneasy, disorienting tide on the namesake centerpiece and closer “Surem Dervish.”

The clash of flutes and churn of dissonance breaking into peaceful pools brings to mind another high pillar of modern psychedelia, and there’s more than one instance where this album reminds me of Ghost’s catalog, in particular the expansive Lama Rabi Rabi. In a year built solidly on great psychedelic records, this one has a slow growing capability that’s pushing it steadily to the front. Its not as burn-it-to-the-ground as King Gizzard or as lush as Kikagaku Moyo, but instead its built on a platform of creeping calm and slow menace that’s played out in precised measures over the folds of its two sides. This seems to be the tipping point for The Myrrors, from here on our eyes should be on them to keep up the momentum.




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