Posts Tagged ‘Prog’

Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes – Box Set

Anthology is going above and beyond with a massive reissue of early ’70s albums from French progressive artist Catherine Ribeiro. The singular vocalist had an uncompromising vision of psychedelic folk that saw her progress over this three album arc from baroque, yet semi-grounded folk to a wildly experimental set that would send most Krautrock heads spinning. The artist began her trajectory on film, appearing in Spaghetti Westerns and, notably, netting a part in Jean Luc Godard’s Les Carabiniers. Acting put her in contact with creatives that started her down a musical path and by 1969 she was carving out a space with the help of Patrice Moullet, who backed her first record with his band 2Bis. By the time her follow up rolls around the band had morphed to become Les Alpes, and thus began this period of fruitful collaboration.

Ribeiro’s voice is truly the star of her albums, strong and unyielding, its a true force of nature. She’s often been compared to Brigitte Fontaine and shares similarities with Nico and Buffy St. Marie. Her work over the course of N°2, Ame Debout, and Paix wound darker and more complex with each year. N°2 is mostly just Moullet and Denis Cohen (percussion, organ) backing her up. With each ablum, as they gain confidence in their vision, Les Alpes begins to take on bigger and more varied forms, though. Ame Debout picks up some motorik steam, locking rhythms to anguished violin and wild flights of ambient sound. The band gets more of a role here, even taking on a couple of instrumental tracks that aren’t dominated by Ribeiro’s powerful sway. The album is the most in flux, shedding Ribeiro’s beginnings, but not fully in command of what would come next.

By the time the band rolls into ’73’s Paix they’ve left the normal constraints of folk behind, working into 15 minute lengths and pushing the idea of song further from the digestible single than ever before. Paix is truly the band’s Zenith, tough its remarkable to see how they built towards this exploratory sound over the past two albums. As a box set the trio works to dissect how Ribeiro and Moullet worked off of one another and pushed each other to get outside of the mindset of French pop music entirely. If you have the time for the deep dive, then all three are worth a visit, but if you must cut to the core, Paix is where Ribeiro makes her mark for the ages. This is an excellent collection of an artist truly deserving of a retrospective.



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Sungod

Holodeck Records has long stood as a purveyor of synth madness. They traverse the kosmiche highways as seasoned travelers release after release, and with the latest LP from Sungod, they’re still tapping deep into the cosmic well. Notably, though, Sungod have expanded their vision on Wave Refraction from the school of Goblin and Göttsching and the wider scope looks good on the Austin band. While the bedrock of analog keys remains, the band winds the expected synth strains through a psychedelic burner that’s burrowed in Prog – using those keys to reach ‘70s heights of power pomp and reaching for their inner Tangerine Dream. They skitter through the cross section of prog rock’s affiliation with jazz, peppering in mournful flutes, while breaking down into tumultuous drum workouts.

What makes the album work is that the band knows where to cut the stitching so that its not just a jumble of their pet indulgences bumping into one another. The album flows from the hard-edged Düül drop-in of opener “Little Gold Mouth,” back to their Goblin vamping Italo-horror sweep by the album’s close. The emotional heft moves from psych fury n’ fry to dosed Floyd numbness and into the good ol’ dystopian dynamics as they embrace the throttled glow of their tube-lit future. Its funny, as the prevalence of ‘70s soundtracks has exploded and in turn created an army of acolytes, the analog scene got a bit stale. There’s only so many times you can hear a band try to second hand Carpenter and spitball at Simonetti-Pignatelli-Morante’s unique dynamic. In that regard its great to hear Sungod strive for much more.

Wave Refraction’s strength is that its not trying to imitate or recreate anything. Sungod have absorbed the touchstones they tug at and have found a way to let their own synthesis vision of prog prevail. The record winds up hairier and heavier for their troubles and the cohesive through line they cast gives the album a broken soul that bubbles to the surface listen after listen. If you don’t think you can stomach one more bubbling Korg, be ready to open up to Sungod’s solid inversion of a genre gone mad.



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Simonetti-Pignatelli-Morante – Tenebrae Soundtrack

Waxwork has undertaken the task of bringing the definitive version of the soundtrack to Dario Argento’s Tenebrae. The film marked a return to Giallo horror following his two classic supernatural thrillers Susperia and Inferno. Notably the soundtrack too takes a shift from his previous films. Whereas Susperia (as well as ‘75’s Deep Red) was set against the frantic prog backdrop of Goblin, and Inferno utilized Keth Emerson’s over the top organ/opera insanity, Tenebrae drew on an amended form of Goblin, who began to update their ‘70s sound. The Italian auteurs made a name associated with Argento’s films but they’d disbanded in 1980. At Argento’s request he employed a three-piece version of the band, who, given the film’s “not too distant future” setting, embraced elements of disco and early electronic pop, then set them into their driving prog impulses. The soundtrack is credited to Simonetti-Pignatelli-Morante, owing to their drummer owning the Goblin name, but its pure Goblin in its construction, leaning on synths in brilliant ways and opening itself up as a slinking and slick addition to the film’s suspense.

The band’s earlier soundtracks often get the glory, and in Susperia’s case its well-deserved, but to discount Tenebrae’s score is to do the band a disservice. Critically it has been noted that the score ties so well into the movie it almost becomes another character rather than a passive bedrock. The soundtrack’s embrace of dance elements lead to tracks popping up in clubs and enjoying remixes. Waxwork has gone all out to embrace this, giving it lush packaging designed by Nikita Kaun that features a die cut sleeve. While the composers felt it was overshadowed by the success of their earlier works, this most recent reissue proves that it had as lasting an impact as Argento’s own innovations with film.



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ORB – “Space Between The Planets”

Must be something in the water, I was just thinking about ORB the other day and here we are with a new single on the docket and an album on the way. “Space Between The Planets” taps right into Zak Olsen’s holster of heavy psych weapons – crushing fuzz riffs, phased space-rock atmospherics and a rumblin’ rhythm section that pounds heavy and menacing as tank treads. The new song locks into this Hawkwind / Sabbath comfort zone and honestly, that’s just what I came for. There’s still room for the bong-rattling basics of prog-psych these days and if the formula’s solid, why shake it too much? The song will wind up the title track of an upcoming LP for Flightless, so keep an eye out because you know there’s some limited, splattered petroleum platters on the way soon.



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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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