Another three, and there were another three, three albums we’ve been meaning to mention, the never ending battle to keep up with all the music we need to keep up with before another couple of hundred albums arrive in the inbox and what with the paint that needs throwing and no explanations needed and going for the one and the beginging of. Here you go three more good ones, prog as flip and we are very picky about who we choose to cover…
Bubblemath – Turf Ascension (Cuneiform Records) – Five years on and a rather quick follow up to 2017’s rather fine Edit Peptide (the one before that, Such Fine Particles of the Universe, came out back in 2001), I’m guessing this is everything those who are already fans of the Minneapolis band want? Precise, crafted, clever forward-looking fluidly complex modern progressive rock and an impressive opening track that’s just a handful of seconds short of eighteen minutes long. Turf Ascension may well be technically demanding on multiple levels, it never falls into that pit of boringly proficient technical widdle-wankery that tends to bore the hell out out of anyone other than other (boring) musicians though., No guitar shop attitudes here, Bubblemath have a soul.
As an album of fullbodied pieces, wher it so easily could, Turf Ascension never disconnects, it never feels cold, Bubblemath are that rare thing, a technically clever, ‘perfectly” crafted band who have a heart, a welcoming warmth, a clever skip and just a little bit more to them. This is a very fluid album, an album that never feels too awkward or too difficult, it may well be complex in terms of both the construction and the detail (both musically and lyrically) but this an album that flows in that warm inviting way that modern so-called progressive rock so often doesn’t. That bit there sounds like Hatfield And The North, that should be taken as the compliment it is intended to be.
This is a good album, “solid ground” as it were. if there is one major flaw this time around it is that things stay on the same level with only a glimpse here and there of something daringly different, the pace, on the whole, remains the same, there a limited dynamic this time around, their use of colour is somewhat restricted and you really are needing them to change gear in a more dramatic way like they did on their brilliant previous dare we say Cardiacs-flavoured 2017 album Edit Peptide. Some people might like that Bubblemath are a little more restrained this time around, some might complain that last time it was all too much, it is a point of view and a valid one, I have to admit I prefer the extremes. This latest release is an album that really does need a little bit more of a hint of a different texture now and again, a bit more light and shade, a bit of dirt, a touch of danger maybe? What we have here is soemthing very fluid, something very modern, this is complex jazz-edged clean cut progressive rock, Bubblemath are doing it warmly well again, they’re maybe just a little too polite and a little lacking in terms of the dynamic this time around, they are a fine fine band though, this is a very (very) good album, it isn’t quite as magically brilliant as Edit Peptide but hry, this is a fine fine (fine) album. (sw)
Pure Reason Revolution – Above Cirrus (Inside Out) – And talking of very modern progressive rock, not that we want to stick these things in neat little boxes – this is as much a pop album as a prog rock album – it is good to hear this new Pure Reason Revolution album. There’s just a real joy to their now rather distinctive sound, a sound that revolves around those delicious, almost Fleetwood Mac-ish vocal harmonies of Jon Courtney and Chloë Alper. it really is just good to see and hear them thriving, flowing, flying (and yes, we do have a very small slice of history with the band, we did put a single out for them back in the days of ORG Records, we do rather like them, we rather like to sat told you so!).
This is that big sound that they were always striving for, that ambitious vision they always had, that crisp sense of cool deliverance, those layers they’ve always built in such a deliberately crafted refreshingly clean-cut way. That bit there sounds like early 80’s Mike Oldfield, there’s all kinds of hints of things in that rather expansive Pure Reason Revolution sound, someone said something about Astral Folk, not sure what that means but that’s at least three lazy pigeonholes we’ve put the band who originally came out of the indie rock world of Alan McGee and plays on the then relevant XFM and Steve Lamacq’s Radio One show into. Pure Reason Revolution have a long and colourful history (and that’s before you take in the Riot Grrrl chaos of Chloë Alper’s shambolically brilliant Period Pains – yes, we have long memories, live tapes and a bruise or two). Their route hasn’t been the obvious one, we’ve seen them play many a fine gig along the way, shows with Mew, Oceansize, they’ve released some fine fine recordings, they are very very much a band for now though, this is their time and Pure Reason Revolution have never sounded better,
This is their time, they’ve never sounded so rounded, so complete, so right there, so full of musical belief. Well no, Pure Reason Revolution have always had that belief in themselves, maybe not the belief in the business that revolves around the music, but they’ve always known they were good, they may have felt they were screaming sideways now and again and quite honestly we never expected them to still be here making such fine albums in the 2020’s – Pure Reason Revolution have always sounded good, they’ve always sounded like no one but themselves, they’ve always had those delicious harmonies, that grandiose feel, that gorgeously affirming uplifting sound, that harmonic sense. Their recordings have always been rather good, they’re a band who have maybe been under appreciated and here they are sounding bigger and better than ever, as distinctive as ever, as boldly ambitious as ever, this is probably their finest release to date, a crisp clean modern progressive album and a lot lot more besides, yes! This feels like a victory for the right team, nice one Pure Reason Revolution (sw)
OU – One (Inside Out) – The vital thing here is the awareness that, ever though at times they cram absolutely everything in there with several kitchen sinks and all the utensils besides, the vital thing here is that less can so so often be far far more, OU are aware of their space, the power of quiet, that stripping it all down and that taking things out is an art. In amongst the progressive onslaught and the hints of very modern metal there are genuine slices of crafted quiet reflective beauty, there’s something genuinely different here, properly progressive in the real sense of the word.
OU are from Beijing, their people talk of progressive metal – “progressive metal quartet OU (pronunciation: “O”)”, that metal tag is going to mislead you, although in there with the calm reflection they can be bombastic in that very modern Devin Townsend way, OU are not another of those dreadful so-called progressive metal bands, and if they flirt with the idea that they are then they’re flirting lot lot more besides and this debut album is way too good to be stuck in some tediously convenient pigeonhole
Apparently formed by American drummer and songwriter Anthony Vanacore, who moved to China more than eight years ago, grabbing people from local bands, people who were “seeking new challenges in their growth as musicians”. Vanacore pulled in guitarist and house band veteran Zhang Jing, “as well as highly sought-after” bassist Chris Cui, the three of them laid the initial groundwork for the song structure and the creative approach while a singer was sort. The band eventually recruited vocalist Lynn Wu to front the project, she brings with her a rich blend, a soaring delivery. As Vanacore says himself, “the contributions from Wu add a whole new dimension to the dynamics of these songs”. She’s certainly powerful, certainly dynamic, never overbearing though, never too out there, if a band and a singer can be bombastically subtle and at times quietly composed then this is the band, it all fits together perfectly.
Let me be up front here, I really can’t stand most technical progressive metal, I can’t stand all that squeaky clean onslaught of what mostly sounds like soulless “stuff” or “product”, it feels contrived to me, heartless, artless muso show off wankery. OU are graceful, they flow in so many beautiful ways, there’s a rhythm and a feel here. For instance, there’s a beautiful piece called Dark that flows in that way the Genesis classic Watcher of The Skies flows, Lynn Wu’s delicious vocals counterbalance the playing on Dark in a beautifully delicate way before they launch again or before that flow in yet another way without ever losing the sense of the whole. The vital thing here is the light and shade, the counterbalanced construction and the vital vital ingredient, the songs. Counterbalance really is a key word here, that and the fact they have actual songs, proper melodies, real tunes. The thing here is that they have proper tunes, tunes that know where they’re going, that really do progress rather than mindlessly revolve and repeat, tunes that take you with them, tunes that engage.
You really do need to listen to One as one whole, this is not an album to dip into, you need to listen to it properly as an album, the light and shade of it all, the ups and downs, the loud and quiet of all eight pieces as one significant body of work. Yes, each song does have its own voice, each piece stands up, there is no filler here, but it is the counterbalance within each song and the way the songs work off each other, rather like a set of paintings in a well curated exhibition, you need to spend time with them all together, get to know the whole remarkable album in one go, stick with it. yes, OU are bombastically over the top when they need to be, they’re baroque, they’re also graceful, majestic, powerfully quiet when they know its right to be. One is a perfectly balanced album, an ambitious album, a clever album, a peaceful album, a dynamic album, an exciting album and yes, a full-on intense modern progressive rock album, properly progressive. (sw)
of course all three of these bands have been reaturing on recent Other Rock Shows, here’s the most recent of those show, last Sunday’s Broadcast on London’s rather unique arts radio station Resonance 104,4fm, FM in London, worldwide on line…
Marina Organ presents an hour of music that uses unconventional structures and ‘other’ time signatures – gathered from the worldwide undergrounds of math rock, avant prog, weird electronica and strange pop. This week features a track from the unexpected new album by Extra Life, a new release from Filibuster Saloon, plus Cardiacs, Ring, Sea Nymphs, Redbus Noface, Gryphon, and Fastfast.
Marina Organ presents an hour of music that uses unconventional structures and ‘other’ time signatures – gathered from the worldwide undergrounds of math rock, avant prog, weird electronica and strange pop. This week’s show includes new music from Black Midi, Bess of Bedlam, Yang, 5UUs, Cheer-Accident, Enablers, and Ruins.