Posts Tagged ‘Prog’

Spencer Cullum

It’s always nice to see the sidemen get their due and 2020 has been a year of session players stepping up, especially within the realm of pedal steel — from Barry Walker to Luke Schneider, and now we can add Spencer Cullum to the list as well. Though unlike the others, Cullum isn’t bringing pedal steel to the forefront, rather he’s gathered his circle of Nashville players for an album that’s shot through with ‘70s Canyon AOR, UK prog, psych folk, and even a surprising touch of German Progressive coursing through its veins. Cullum slips from behind the bandstand to wind up an amiable, if subdued leader. Where others have tucked into Cosmic Americana and UK prog-folk with a flash, he’s ever the master of balance and shading, letting tracks simmer in their ambitions.

The impulses here swing from simple folk strains into lush works buoyed by strings, clarinet, sax and mellotron and pencer taps quite a few friends to add those touches. Sean Thompson, Luke Reynolds, Andrew Combs, Erin Rae, Annie Williams and James “Skyway Man” Wallace all pop up among the credits and their contributions help give the record definition. While he’s aiming for Matching Mole, Roy Harper, Caravan, and early Soft Machine, with so many local friends on board, the native Englishman can’t help inject just a touch of Nashville’s honeyed charms to the record as well. As the LP progresses he wanders further afield from the wooded confines of folk, letting a motorik murmur enter into view on “Dieterich Buxtehude,” and a soft jazz gauze fall over “Tombre En Morceaux.” The record does its best to embrace an out-of-time feeling, evoking an era of experimental folk that’s still reverberating today while bearing a few teethmarks of the kind of players who are pulled in for their perfectionism. It’s high concept prog from the best hired guns and while that means none of the ends are particularly frayed, I certainly enjoy its grand design.




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Prana Crafter

If it wasn’t readily apparent from the sidelong strechout that populated his half of a split with Tarotplane last year, Will Sol’s music is made for grander statements than a compact runtime can accommodate. His latest LP pushes that boundary even further, nudging the scope from one side to two. Though it’s split into six parts, the tracks on MorphoMystic are essentially all part of one long piece. Still strolling the verdant gardens of ‘70s kosmiche and bending the will psych to the whims of prog, the new album truly enjoys the spectral build and release of his German predecessors.

Even when the tempo is slowed to a Cluster-crawl, the new Prana is percolating with a heart-flutter rhythm that’s humid and hungry, yet hunted and wounded — siphoning the cosmic impulses into a dark heart. This is a more furrowed and fraught side of Sol than I’ve heard before. He’s usually threading the gauze, letting his folk strings pull gently at his prog side, but here synths and ambience assert their dominance over the guitar for the most part.

He can still wring wrath from the six, but for the most part he’s embodying the Göttsching persona well while dipping into the works of fellow Ra member Schulze’s works for good measure. Creeping into view with a tempered step, he arcs MorphoMystic into a dizzying psychological thriller by the time “Chalice of the Fungal Sage” hits the speakers. Though if things end with blood and bone, they also end with a somber relief by the time we lie into the weary homecoming of “Starlight, Sing us A Lullaby.” Sol’s been working at body high hits for the last few years, but he’s besting himself yet again with this cohesive platter.




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GÅS – Epitaph

An absolute shredder is handed down from Rocket Recordings today. The label has a knack for unearthing UK/EU heavies and GÅS fits in quite nicely with their stellar catalog. The Swedish band’s first single, “Epitaph” melds heavy fuzz, pounding at the heart with a slight lilt of English prog to it. Aesthetically they’re mashing a bit of Danish sludge rockers Moses with Sweden’s own Charlie & Esdor, though once those vocals kick in I’m getting some Wolf People nods as well. Those English psych-folk tones feel like they might be key here, as the band covers an old nugget, Philamore Lincoln’s “The North Wind Blew South” on the flip. It sets them apart from your average smoke shoveler. A huge debut single that begs to keep an eye on these guys. Get this on the table next to some Goat singles and that new hard hitter from Ball and you’re all set. Physical pre-orders are up tomorrow and the single lands Oct 3oth.



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Ellis/Munk Ensemble

The folks at El Paraiso rarely miss, and this week another great LP rolls out of the gate. This time label co-head Jonas Munk (Causa Sui) heads Stateside for a collaboration with Brian Ellis (Astra, Silver Sunshine). The duo met up in Brian’s environ of San Diego along with a rotating cast of SD musicians from local psych and jazz circles. Members of Astra, Psicomagia, Monarch, Radio Moscow and Sacri Monti all chip into the sessions and the result is prime ‘70s psychedelic jazz with a touch of cosmic chaos from within German borders. Munk’s leads waver from supple and intricate to beset with a bombast of fuzz that burns down any slink he may have left behind. Ellis pushes the keys towards the prog axis, giving the record that grandiose sense of ‘70s self-aggrandizement that let ELP make gatefold albums about mythological creatures in extended suites. The pair singe the ends of that vibe, letting this filter through electric Miles territory (if only the backing band, eschewing any otherworldly horn transcendence).

Their songs ride a tempest of drums and percolating heat through wormholes that radiate in double vision. The El Paraiso set, and Causa Sui themselves, tend toward the outer edges of psychedelic fusion, but this one’s pacing recent works from Mythic Sunship in terms of letting improvisation take hold and push them through uncharted cosmic territory. Personally, when I was first lapping up jazz in younger years the crossover into psychedelic excess came as a flood of new possibilities and this record brings the feelings swimming back. The sense that the edge is visible but never obtainable ripples through this record. It’s hard to pin down and that’s exactly the point. Drop into this and wander around a while.



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Tarotplane

A split last year with Prana Crafter brought Baltimore’s Tarotplane further into the light, at least around here, but PJ Doresey’s been issuing deep-tissue cosmic platters for a couple of years on labels like Aguirre and Lullabies for Insomniacs. He debuts on hometown outpost VG+ with an LP split into two side-long excursions into the outer reaches of crystalline headspace. The Feedback Sutras was conceived mid-winter freeze and the isolation and cold feed into the windswept desolation that scars the album’s surface. There’s something both macrocosmic and microcosmic at work here. Dorsey’s voluminous riffs and synth burble tug at the tundra like an ice core drill down through a glacier. The album leeches out the gasses and grit of eons packed in cold compress, refracting light off the crystal structure to create an earthbound cosmos in compact.

The first side is tenuous and trembling, with a slight tinge of danger lurking beneath the surface. While the coldness is at its core, something in Dorsey’s delivery sidles his work up next to the underwater explorations of Sven Liabek or the watery prog of Dominique Guiot. Like those soundtracks to the deep, there’s something of a descent into the abyss to Tarotplane’s latest. There’s a weightlessness, but also a force pulling the suspended listener further into the depths of shadow and light that flicker through the liquid lines of his playing. The second side sets aside some of the wonder to let the feelings of danger grip tighter. Its hard to fight the pull downward to the frigid waters that grow ever darker, even as the lights of the first track dance in glances back to the surface above. Last year’s split positioned Dorsey to take a hight place on the list of cosmic players filling up the ranks, and with The Feedback Sutras he leaps ever higher. Isolation just got a new soundtrack. Not a minute too late, either.



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Tapiman – S/T

Always good to see some of the crucial reissues I picked up 15-20 years ago making a new round for those that still can’t find those originals anywhere below scandalous prices. This ’72 LP from Spanish trio Tapiman is one of those rediscoveries from the early ‘00s that still resonates today. Lit on the savage burn of guitar by Max Sunyer, the album trades heavy, powerful riffing (that woulda made the Sabbath crowd proud) with nimble prog touches pushing the album beyond mere proto metal curio. Pinned to a rhythm section that keeps Sunyer’s guitars from floating into the bilious clouds of smoke, the band’s songs were a masterclass in heavy-bottomed yet smart runs.

They fill the second half out with spaced organ and and a stab at Thin Lizzy frizzle meets post-Canturbury noodling from later period Soft Machine. As a whole, the record rounds itself out to embrace a wider palette than the average thunder cruncher from the time period. The band could embrace softness, power, and prog flights of fantasy. The Spanish scene often gets shorted at the time, but this along with Truck and Storm always feel like lost classics to me. Plus, that cover is a damned selling point if you ask me. The pink skull is definitely one of the reasons it founds its way into my hands in the first place. New issue has expanded liners and pics.



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Kedama – The Complete Collection

Castleface jumps into the reissue game with a damn treasure-trove of music from Swiss-German prog vets Kedama. They issue their ‘live in the studio” record, the aptly titled Live At Sunrise Studios alongside a wealth of material that never made it to wax. The debut was released in ’76, originally on the Sunrise label, which would notably release early recordings by Kleenex just a couple of years later. The debut was, rather admirably, recorded live in the studio with a binaural microphone and the band passed between different instruments in silence in an attempt to flesh out the record to a huge sound. The technique at the time was always a bit of a gimmick that only really takes shape in headphones (don’t tell Lou Reed), but having pulled it off as long takes its an impressive move.

The multi-movement “Finale” sees the band work their way from dense, smoke-thick riffs to concert-hall piano workouts. They find footing in the rhythm-heavy progressive textures that would befit their German roots coupled with a guitar flash and willingness to add technical piano in an era when most of their peers were leaning into early synth work (there are synths though as well). They up the stakes on this 3xLP set with the addition of live and studio tracks that fall outside of the previously released LP, stretching as far back as ’72 and into the end of ’76. The extra material, while naturally less cohesive than the Sunrise cuts, show a band with a head for experimentation that should light the coals of any fan of Tangerine Dream, Gong (or Steve Hillage’s solo work for that matter), and Manuel Göttsching happy. Nice set from Castle Face and hoping that this leads to some more from the deep record shelves of Dwyer.



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Dhidalah

Back in 2017 Tokyo power trio Dhidalah signed up with GuruGuru Brain and cut a crusher of an EP. Two sides, one song per side and each one a heavy amalgam of space rock and psych with some German Progressive overtones. It was a perfect little pocket universe that dangled the promise of more to come. The band and label seemed a perfect fit and it lit the fuse of expectation. Two years later, seemingly out of thin air the band touches down their debut LP with a whiff of ozone and engine oil. The record, like that EP is packed with lengthy cuts, fleshing this out to four heatseekers, besting the EP’s pervious two side-long kickers. The feelings remain the same from those early days with the air around the record is dense and acrid, swirling with noxious gases like something out of a mockup from ‘70s sci-fi pulp covers. The band eases into the scene with the cosmic creep of “Neuer Typ” before kicking the afterburners into high through the scorch-skidded “Adamski.”

They toggle back and forth between the creosote char of amplifier fry and the Zen of sensory deprivation hallucinations. While the heady excursions into the ether bring solace, their sunburn blasts are lethal and might just take the edge for the band’s more welcome face forward. Sons of Hawkwind that they are, though, there’s no constant crush. The band explodes into atomic particles and bounces signals between them in cooling winds before amazing strength once again. They’ve cracked the code on earthquake DNA and brought seismic rumble to each new terra firma they touch down upon. This kind of release snagging a late-November slot is exactly why the rush to year-end judgment should be avoided. You never know when an album’s going to shake the moorings this hard, and when it does, reverence is owed.




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The Hecks

Chicago art-punk experience The Hecks have been laying down a solid revue since 2012, stepping up to the long player party with their 2016 eponymous record for Trouble in Mind. While that was a solid shot at shoving pop on its ass, the band finds their full groove on this month’s My Star. Wedding the pocket pop reactions of new wave and post-punk to the prog that preceded it, the band invigorates the past by folding fractured glass sounds onto themselves – letting their torqued hooks repeat like Krautrock gone glycerin and snap steadily in plastic precision. They capture that moment when the collection of sounds seeping into post-punk felt fresh. The Hecks bend the freakishness and experimentation of the early ‘80s into a whirlwind of light and sound and we all come out better off for it.

Standouts like “Flash” stretch and contort their sound through cracked mirror caverns, taking the normal pop song into a headier direction. They’re quick to compact it back into a plush and prim box when needed, though. They run a Prince flexidisc through the hot n’ warbled presses on “So 4 Real,” going for full sweat cycle and making it sound easy. Like fellow Trouble albums Omni they know how powerful tone can be, and the band nails the core of their sound to guitars that oscillate from metallic to plasticine, keys that shimmer and shine like mall lights off of plexi displays and drums so crisp they threaten to shatter if pushed any further. The record walks the line of nostalgia forward – there’s so much familiar about what The Hecks are doing but it’s all been jumbled and shuffled to obscure their source material. It’s disorienting and thrilling, making for one of the year’s more compelling pop pieces.



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Je Suis France – “I’ve Got The Look”

Georgia’s Je Suis France have amassed a fairly admirable catalog over the past few decades, keeping their output locked in short format EPs, a handful of albums, and a split with Acid Mothers Temple along the way. They’ve cooked up a new LP and it sees the band refining and re-ingesting their sounds for a new age. On the album they utilize the same set of lyrics and drop them against vastly different backgrounds. “Looking For Someone Like Me” takes the punk palette, while “I’ve Got The Look” slows those lyrics down and covers them in a miasma of sound – German-gelled bass, squalls of sax, hazed keys. Side by side they’d barely register as cousins, let alone twins in different garb. “I’ve Got The Look” wins the day for me, locking into some of the signals that give the band legs on stage. The new LP Back To The Basics of Love is out November 5th from Ernest Jenning. Lock into “I’ve Got The Look” below.


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