ALBUM REVIEW: Moon Letters – Thank You From The Future – What we have here is a big lump of classic prog, a just released album that sounds like it has one foot planted in those glorious days when bands like Twelfth Night and IQ were making their first exciting moves, proper stuff you might say. Maybe you could arguetheir feet are placed even further back there in the best days of Camel, Yes and Genesis? Right now on Sudden Sun, they’re sounding rather like early Pallas messing with the textures of late 70’s Rush and some of that guitar style that Eddie Van Halen pioneered. Classic prog rock is an acquired taste of course, not everyone’s cup of tea, the last musical taboo and all that and as much as guitar histrionics do tend to have these ears running a mile, this is rather good. Thankfully Moon Letters don’t have one of those guitarists who doesn’t understand the notions of less almost always being more, he knows when to do it and when not to, he has it just right, Dave Webb is his name and really the Eddie Van Halen bits are only obvious on the first track Actually the whole band know when to pile it on and when to let it breathe and quietly melodically flow, this is a a band who know what they’re doing. Plenty of that vital light and shade throughout this well paced album, plenty of the right kind of musical drama laced with just about the correct amount of restraint.
Moon Letters are from Seattle, they certainly bring a North American edge to the party, a touch of Styx in maybe? They could very easily have been thrilling people at the Marquee somewhere around 1983 though, it is that classic English (or Scottish) prog sound, we do keep hearing healthy hints of Pallas and yes we can safely name drop 70’s Genesis and intend it as a compliment – don’t be thinking this is dated though, this is very much a sound and album based right here in 2022, this is timelessly good modern prog rock rather than some kind of second division re-hash. Dynamic light and shade, plenty of colourful drama, Mother River certainly arrives alive, there’s some tasty keyboards illuminating Isolation and Foreboding and well I rather like this, proper forward looking old school melodic progressive rock, cool as flip. And yes, probably not for everyone, and okay, probably not that challenging in the way that the really truly forward looking current crop of progressive bands like Cheer Accident, Black Midi or the back for more Extra Life are, this is definitely in the “Prog Rock” pigeonhole. Thank You From The Future is full-on Prog and you get the idea they rather like it like that, that this is some kind of labour of love and that they’re not really bothered when anyone else might think. Everything under control, nothing under control, all in splendid isolation, nothing foreboding. There’s something gloriously defiant about this album, about this rather fine band, about the way they go about their chosen thing – something for secret radios and other rock shows. Find it on Bandcamp, prog is good for you, this is good prog. (sw)
Anyway, seeing as we’re here, taking prog and the like, let’s go down that prog rock rabbit hole we like to go down now and again. This page, I must confess, besides the Moon Letters bit up there, was being put together way way (way) back somewhere near the start of the year, it was somehow put to one side and forgotten about and well, it was jsut found again over there. Now I could just screw it up into a tight paper ball-like spherical object and carefully lob it into the wasre paper basket in the corner but then we never waste paper around here and there is no waste paper basket and well, better late than never. Here’s some prog favoured things we found down that rabbit hole earlier this year, we may as well share these things today, underneath the Moon Letters bit, here’s some more…
1: Sel Balamir – ( )rphans – From Brighton, this is a gem of a solo project, a new album that came out way back in the first week of February, a quietly beautiful album, is that really Theme (From Crocodile Dundee) opening things? Don’t ask me, never seen the film, it does sound rather lush, rather full bodied. tiny epics, big songs, grand ambition, excellent sound and production, sounds like a lot of things without sounding like anything obvious. Pink Bows is just glorious, goosebump music, beautifully detailed, clever without ever needing to show how clever it all is, Mannequin follows it perfectly, up in your sky, kite tales on power lines.
Bandcamp is where you find out more
2: Craft – First Signs, Definite Edition (SKU) – The long deleted album by cult 80’s instrumental Progressive Rock band Craft has just been remastered and reissued (well it had just been whe nwe originally wrote this) Craft, who featured two escapees from the Enid madhouse in the shape of William Gilmour, and Martin Russell (who was and maybe still is a big part of Afro Celt Sound System) along with Grant Gilmour (Pride Of Passion). only made one album back there in 1984. With artwork by William Gilmour and liner notes by Martin Russell (detailing the history of the band and the making of the album), the original 1984 recording is supplemented by eight bonus tracks, although four of them are the 1989 remixes of the same tracks at the start of the album along with two two previously unreleased tracks Despina and Dmitri’s Lament. At the time back in 1984 the original album was self-titled, it originally featured six tracks, based on one half of the signs of the Zodiac. A much-rumoured follow-up never materialised. Craft were never as bombastic as The Enid could be, they were very much along the instrumental/classical lines of The Enid though, and The Enid were always a rather acquired taste. Looks like Craft and their label don’t do Bandcamp, you can listen to it all on Spotify if you do the Spotify thing, here’s the link and well if you do so the Spotify thing there are some Organ playlists and such up there now. The Enid still bring on nightmares, thoughts of the unreasonable madman knocking on our window at 3am ot rant about girraffes and gigs and leave equipmentm never off to help out a band. Here’s where you can buy the album should you wish to.
3: Vast Conduit deal in guitar driven neo-prog favoured ear food, some of it is very very melodic, some of it rather too polite for our tastes, they are worth a mention and a listen though, they’re from Livermore, California. Okay, in all honrsty they’re probalby far too ‘nice’ and polite about it for these filthy unwashed ears, they talk of “smooth prog” and smooth is the last thing we need, prog needs to bite, it needs to crunch, it needs to offend people. Hey, you might like it? The debut album, Always Be There, came out earlier in the year and if melodic neo-prog instrumental noodle is you’re thing you might well love it. Here’s what they have to say – “Through a Vast Conduit, the universe provided an opportunity for the individuals in this band, Bill Jenkins (keys), Will Jenkins (drums), Michael Harris (guitar), Jeff Plant (bass), Friel (vocals) and Jim Hurley (violin) to come together and create what they fondly refer to as “smooth prog” music”.
4: Vasilis A. – From Athens, Greece, comes “an instrumental soundscape of a possible and not so distant dystopian future. What will happen when humanity passes the Earth’s tipping point? This 30 minute long composition follows our civilisation’s advancement steps from healthy progress, to arrogant and greedy exploitation, to uncontrollable demise, to a hopeful mutual understanding and redemption”. The album came out in the last week of January 2022, back whe nthe earth was still functioning… Bandcamp
“”Cardiff-based Progressive Rock band Retreat From Moscow gigged extensively from 1979-1981 only releasing one single during its lifetime. 40 years on, the band re-emerges with a powerful debut album, The World As We Knew It. Core members Andrew Raymond, Greg Haver (a well-known producer for the likes of Catatonia and The Manic Street Preachers), Tony Lewis and John Harris reformed in 2019 recording old and new material influenced by the Progressive giants of the 1970s but with some nods to the 1980s new wave of Prog-Rock.”
Here it is then, very melodic prog rock that really does taste of that 80’s new wave. Way too politely melodic for us but hey, here it is….
6: Pencarrow – Live at San Fran – From New Zealand with some very (very) warm, well hang on, in their own words, “Pencarrow is a four-piece progressive rock band from Wellington, New Zealand, combining diverse musical backgrounds and influences to create adventurous and thought provoking music”. They’re playing a full-bodied hand, a rich instrumental mix of melodic Floyd-like warmth with hints of things like Twelfth Night or IQ, just classic full-bodied rich instrumental old school prog really. A live album, hang on, fourth track in and the vocalist has turned up, where’s he been, he’s adding to it, did he just get over the wall with the help of some pigs on a wing or something? Bandcamp is your place again, we do all this searching so you don’t have to. Find them on the aforementioned Bandcamp thing or on Facebook
And oh look, there’s the film of that Pencarrow gig that became the live album as well….
6: National Diet – “Portland prog rock nerds Jake (Rainbow Face) and Connor (Mercury Tree, Rainbow Face, Nick Prol), create songs that are melodic and complex”. Their rawness has something to it, slightly hectic, an edge of mystery, epic ambitions, all rather hopeful…
Previously on these fractured pages –
ORGAN THING: So who are all these bands on the Cheer-Accident tour? Who are Zap Black and the Sixth Century Future Recovery Group or Planchette or Savage Knights or Star Period Star or Green Comma or Meob or Rabbit Rabbit Radio or…
And isn’t this a rather satisfying thing to look at…