Valley of the Giants, “Back to God’s Country”: I mentioned Valley of the Giants a few weeks ago, as one of my favorite post-rock bands. A few weeks of listening to them incessantly hasn’t changed that. They’re absolutely brilliant. This track is very typical
of them; it’s got a slow start, with an almost droning main melody. And they take that,
and develop it, through rhythm and harmony, until it’s almost unrecognizable. And then
Hawkwind, “World of Tiers”: typical Hawkwind. If you like them, you’ll like
this. If you don’t, you won’t.
The Flower Kings, “Rumble Fish Twist”: a live track by the Flower Kings. Every time I go for a while without listening to tFK, I’m amazed when I turn them on. Roine Stolt and company are just so incredible. To me, there’s a kind of near perfection about the Flower Kings work that no one else comes close to.
Kruzenshtern and Parahod, “Focus Pocus”: Some of the strangest stuff I’ve ever
listened to. K&P are somewhere between progressive Klezmer, Jazz, and noise… They’re really amazing, but hard to describe or classify. If you can find a copy of one of their CDs, I highly recommend it, but they’re very hard to find.
Gong, “Infinitea”: This band is yet another example of the “How did I not know about these guys?” phenomenon. They’ve been around for quite a while, coming out of
the Manchester scene. They’re basically a spinoff of sorts from Soft Machine. They are
a really amazing progressive band, from the Jazzy side of things. They’ve been doing stuff
since the 70s, and are still making new albums now.
The Reasoning, “Dark Angel”: This is a band that I can’t make up my mind about. They’re neo-prog. They’ve got brilliant moments, and they’ve got a lot of moments that are rather dull. I can’t quite decide what I think on balance; I need to listen to them a bit more. On the good side, they’ve got three members with good (but very different) voices, and do a lot of really nice vocal harmony work, which is unusual.
Uriah Heep, “What Kind of God?”: A great disappointment. I’ve heard about
Uriah Heep for the longest time, and I finally got around to buying one of their albums. I find it just intolerably dull. Really profoundly mediocre music.
Sonic Youth, “Silver Rocker (live)”: old Sonic Youth. I really love SY, and I
think that their songwriter has gotten stronger over the years. But there’s still a raw
energy to their early stuff which the new can’t match. It’s still the same sound, and the
older songs can sometimes tend towards being a bit on the simple side, but there’s still
something really special in their older material.
Sylvan, “Strange Emotion”: And another mixed bag. I was looking at other reviews of Sylvan, and someone described them as “Emo Prog”. Not a bad description. It’s definitely neo-prog, with the kinds of sound and structure that you’d expect; but it’s got that mopey, self-absorbed feeling of emo-dreck.
The Wishing Tree, “Ostara”: And still another mixed one. This is Steve Rothery’s band. (Rothery is the guitarist from Marillion.) I’m a huge Rothery fan – he’s got both
fantastic technical chops, and also fantastic musical taste. He’s not just a loud fancy
guitarist; he’s a very musical guitarist. He’s got an extremely distinctive style,
and yet also manages to fit himself into whatever’s going on around him. This album has
some absolutely wonderful material; but it’s also got a lot of really dull
derivative stuff. The singer (Hannah Stobart) has a really beautiful voice, but she
doesn’t have her own style. She always sounds like she’s trying to be someone else. Mostly that’s Kate Bush, but at times, she sounds like she’s trying to be Tori Amos, or
Melissa Etheridge. But you can almost always listen to her and say “She’s trying to
sound like X”. On the whole, I like them, but think they’d be much better if Ms. Stobart
just figured out how to sound like herself.