This past week, I discovered a new digital music download site, called Bitmunk. It’s less expensive
than iTunes or Amazon, and has a fantastic selection of obscure bands. Through Bitmunk, I found
a couple of terrific new neo-progressive bands, which has me on a serious prog kick. So for today, I’ve
narrowed the domain of the randomization to just the progressive stuff, and I also cheated a bit to make
sure that the two best of the new bands I found are included in the list.
Just to be clear, I’ve got no connection with Bitmunk, they’re not giving me anything to mention them, etc. I found them by way of a comment in the last FRT here. Someone pointed me at the Bayprog website, which I followed to find a link to Metaphor’s website; after listening to a sample there, I decided to buy their album, and they linked to Bitmunk for digital purchases.
- The Mars Volta, “Inertiatic ESP”. The Mars Volta is a recent discovery for me, but not
via the new site. They’re a sort of hyperkinetic neo-progressive group. The best I can do at describing them is to say that they sound like a cross between King Crimson and Dream Theatre, hopped up on too
much caffeine. They’re very good – wonderful when I’m in the right mood, but they’re not the easiest
listen. There’s so much going on, so many fast twists and shifts that it’s easy to get lost. This is a very typical one of their tracks. Weird rhythmic shifts, incredible density. Very cool stuff.
- The Flower Kings, “Pioneers of Aviation”. I love the Flower Kings. They are, in my opinion,
the very best of the neo-progressive bands. Their music is brilliantly written – deep, complex, but still
melodic, and they’ve got the chops to really pull it off. This is one of my favorite instrumental tracks
off of their second most recent album. There’s just no way I can say enough about how great the FKs
- Elegant Simplicity, “Time to Breath”. This is one of the two great bands that I discovered
through Bitmunk. This is the opening track off of their album “The Architect of Light”. I think it’s
a good introduction to them. The opening is wonderfully strange; a capella voice singing the melody
that will become the main theme, placed over a strange King Crimsonesque background of tape loop
and selected noise – with the vocals in a different key than the background, creating a dissonance
out of what will turn out to be a very smooth melodic theme. They’re clearly very influenced by
the Flower Kings – they’ve got a very FKish sound; but not derivative, just clearly influenced.
Very good stuff, I highly recommend it.
- Marillion, “Ocean Cloud”. You can’t talk about neo-prog rock without mentioning Marillion. During the dark days of the 80s, they were one of the only bands keeping the progressive flame
alive. This track is an 18 minute opus off of the “Marbles” double-album, and it’s a great example
of what I think makes Marillion so great. What they’ve always been best at, to me, is transitions: the best moments in their music are always in the points of change, where they’re shifting between themes or moods. “Ocean Cloud” really shows this off, as it shifts back and forth between gentle, almost lullaby-like delicacy, and roaring intensity.
- King Crimson, “FraKctured”. You can’t talk about any kind of progressive rock without mentioning King Crimson. In my opinion they’re just the best progressive group ever, period. They’ve
gone through many incarnations over the years, from the days when they started off as “The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles, and Fripp”; to the original King Crimson; to the Red era, to the quartet
with Fripp, Belew, Bruford, and Levin; to the fractalized ProjeCKts; to the current quartet group. Each
era has been different, all have been amazing.
- Spock’s Beard, “Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go”. One of the first really great
bands in the current wave of neo-progressive. A good track off of their latest album.
- Metaphor, “Wheel of the World”. The other of my Bitmunk discoveries. This is from a
great album, “Entertaining Thanatos”, which the group describes as “Seven lighthearted songs about death”. Metaphor isn’t quite up there with “Elegant Simplicity”, but they’re very good. They’ve got
some pretty clear influences: there’s a strong sense of King Crimson and the Flower Kings about
their style. But there’s also some very distinctive and unique stuff. Very good, definitely worth
- King Crimson, “Requiem”. More King Crimson. You can never go wrong with more Crimson!
This is from the second album with Adrian Belew on vocals, but the track is dominated by Fripp’s
- Porcupine Tree, “The Sky Moves Sideways, Phase 2”. The only neo-progressive group with
a chance of competing with the Flower Kings for the title of “Best Neo-prog”. I don’t think that
they quite manage to beat out the Kings, but they come closer than anyone else. This is from their
most “out there” album. A must listen album.
- Pink Floyd, “Astronomy Domine”. And we finish off with something very much not
Neo. A track from Pink Floyd’s debut album in the 1960s. The version that I’m listening to is the
1969 live performance from Ummagumma. This version just gives me chills. A mediocre quality recording that’s nearly 40 years old, and it manages to not sound dated at all.