CD Reviews

Published on 24th December 2015

TPA Pick of 2015

2015, as with most years I suppose, has been a year of highs and lows in the world of progressive music. From the peaks of the return home of King Crimson to the troughs of the sad loss of Chris Squire the year has also provided the usual tsunami of releases, crashing on to the desktop shores of the TPA Massive. Here, we give you…a list! You know you like lists, and this one is what we at TPA reckon are the best progressive releases of the year. We have all nominated our favourites, but the rest is in no particular order, so sit back, crack open a sprout and enjoy…

MEL ALLEN

Anekdoten - Until All The Ghosts Are Gone

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Mel’s Album of the Year:-

Anekdoten – Until All The Ghosts Are Gone
I find it hard to explain why but this release just seems to hit the right chord with me. There appears to be a distinctive way that bands from Scandinavia can produce music which can be powerful, dramatic, brooding but also melodic. All of which and more is on show here, with swirling Mellotron, driving drums and bass, topped with guitar that cuts through it all. Add to that lyrics which just get into your head. This band is high on my must see live list, let’s hope they don’t leave it so long to their next album.

Beardfish - +4626-COMFORTZONE

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Beardfish – +4626 Comfortzone
This was my first review for TPA. On this album Beardfish have matured their own distinctive sound which has been crafted using their many influences to present what is an excellent album. This is a concept album of sorts, with excellent song writing, ideas and performances. I stated in my review that this would probably be in top five albums this year, and so it is.

echolyn - i heard you listening

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echolyn – i heard you listening
I eagerly awaited the release of this album, wondering if it could match the previous one. I need not have been concerned. Echolyn have delivered an excellent piece of work which appears to be a natural progression from the last. There is excellent song writing throughout, and on vinyl it has a great sound.

Thieves' Kitchen - The Clockwork Universe

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Thieves’ Kitchen – The Clockwork Universe
I first discovered this band from their appearance at Summer’s End festival a few years ago, and I have been a firm fan since then. They have produced an excellent piece of work here, blending Scandinavian and British styles of progressive music to create something unique in my opinion. From Amy’s vocals to Phil’s guitar work, it is an album that has class, and with an appearance from Änglagård’s bassist, what more could you ask for?

Tim Bowness – Stupid Things That Mean The World

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Tim Bowness – Stupid Things That Mean The World
A wonderful study in the art of song craft delivering great songs and performances in what I think is Tim’s best work so far. There are some truly beautiful moments on this album, and I am pleased that I purchased it after reading Roger’s review. This has become one of those albums that I have continually returned to.

STEVE BEDFORD

Steven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. EraseSteven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. Erase

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Steve’s Album of the Year:-

Steven Wilson – Hand.Cannot.Erase
Many people have said many things about this. Why should I think I can add any more? I can’t. Album of the Year, obviously!

Riverside - Love, Fear and the Time Machine

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Riverside – Love, Fear and the Time Machine
Different. If you were expecting a follow on from their last be prepared for a different direction. But if you have invested in Lunatic Soul, you’ll get the direction pretty quick.

David Gilmour - Rattle That Lock

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David Gilmour – Rattle That Lock
The maestro singing songs and playing guitar. Sounds so simple.

Gavin Harrison - Cheating The Polygraph

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Gavin Harrison – Cheating the Polygraph
Guess the Porkys song and be amazed at the different instruments you don’t normally listen to.

Muse - Drones

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Muse – Drones
Let these boys off on a long leash. Let them get ahead of you and then run to catch up. Muse are going places not many have been before.

TONY COLVILL

Syndone – Odysséas

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Tony’s Album of the Year:-

Syndone – Odysséas
My first Italian prog of the year, and still getting re-visits. Think big sound, operatic and, even when your limit of the language is spaghetti, dramatic. It is strong musically, and the passion comes through in the songs for me. A hidden gem for those who can stretch themselves to another language.

Tiger Moth Tales - Story Tellers, Part One

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Tiger Moth Tales – Story Tellers, Part One
Peter Jones’ talented and irreverent take on the genre. Humour when it is done well should always be welcome, and here it is done well. Not as strong as his Cocoon, but for an album recorded in 28 days a remarkable achievement.

Riverside - Love, Fear and the Time Machine

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Riverside – Love, Fear and the Time Machine
I resisted the hype, expected to be disappointed, and was agreeably surprised. It spends a lot of time in the car.

Gazpacho - Molok

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Gazpacho – Molok
Dark, brooding but slowly draws you in. Took more than a few listens, but a worthwhile album.

Gentle Knife – Gentle Knife

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Gentle Knife – Gentle Knife
Another one that grows in the listening with interesting reference points to the past, but as is more and more often the case, its own beast.

ROB FISHER

Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion - HFMC

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Rob’s Album of the Year:-

Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion – HFMC
Combining musical talent and virtuosity with an extraordinary force of passion, this is unashamedly happy, inventive prog.

T - Fragmentropy

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T. (Thomas Thielen) – Fragmentropy
This is music which supplies food for the soul as well as the mind. Here is a musician really grappling with questions of meaning and expressing it in music which is organic and bewitching.

Riverside - Love, Fear and the Time Machine

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Riverside – Love, Fear and the Time Machine
This album is an exemplary exercise in musical nostalgia which is both creatively new and brilliantly instinctive. Superb production values cap it off.

Yak - Quest for the Stones

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Yak – Quest for the Stones
Simply because this just *is* the very definition of prog. You know exactly what you’re getting but it’s no less for that at all. Understated, there is a presence about this which is instantly likeable and even comforting. Not many records can do that. A joy to listen to.

Seven Steps to the Green Door - Fetish

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Seven Steps to the Green Door – Fetish
Fetish is one of those albums which quite unexpectedly gets under your skin. Good music sometimes demands you wrestle with it; this one is a good example of that. Once you do – Wow!

PHIL LIVELY

Steven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. EraseSteven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. Erase

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Phil’s Album of the Year:-

Steven Wilson – Hand.Cannot.Erase
Yes, maybe an obvious choice but I have not tired of listening to it and the Moog and guitar solos on Regret #9 are just beautiful. On first listening I was genuinely moved by this album. I still listen with the concept behind the album in mind. It continues to move me. There is a reason that Steven Wilson is successful and that success should not be a reason to preclude as my personal Album Of The Year award. Pretty sure Mr. Wilson will never know I chose it!

Emmett Elvin - Emmettronica 1998-2012

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Emmett Elvin – Emmettronica 1998–2013
He is a unique talent. Nothing on this album “sounds like”. I think it might be the way he puts notes together. I can’t wait to hear his next studio album. If you have not listened to this yet then I think you should. Properly progressive music, in my opinion.

Simon Godfrey – Black Bag Archive (Volume 1)

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Simon Godfrey – Black Bag Archive (Volume 1)
This may be amongst the best stuff I have heard from Mr. Godfrey! Just a peachy little collection and it has Ghost Train and Papaya Whip which actually remind me of some of Emmett Elvin’s work. I really did play it in a loop for a week in the car and my review just fell out of my brain onto the page.

Dean Pascarella – Running With Scissors

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Dean Pascarella – Running With Scissors
Because I feel like I have discovered Dean and brought him to your attention even though he is a well-established, much respected musician in the world-wide Chapman Stick community. If you haven’t bought his album I’d recommend that you do. I think Mr Pascarella deserves your $7.00 donation to his musical endeavours.

The Afro Circus - Journey to the Center of the Ear

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The Afro Circus – Journey to the Center of the Ear
Another album from a World-class Stick player, and all-round wonderful chap Josh Goldberg. This is the album I reviewed as my audition piece for The Progressive Aspect so it occupies a soft spot for me, plus it is really rather good. Jazzy, technical, tuneful, surprising, tidy.

BOB MULVEY

In demand session bass player, composer, arranger and also an integral part of the Gong family, Dave Sturt released his first solo album towards the end of 2015. Rather than a display of virtuosity, the album captured the more contemplative side to the musician, resulting in an absorbing and intriguing release.  Primarily an instrumental album, the music allows the listener to take on a personal journey. As mentioned in the review the first twenty minutes of the album are worthy of the entry fee. Shame that Dreams and Absurdities is not on some form of listening platform as it really is an album to be heard and enjoyed.

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Bob’s Album of the Year:-

Neil Campbell – eMErgence
With such a wealth of releases this year and for fear of an obvious oversight, this is less of “best of” and more of a seasonal “Five Golden Rings”. For over a decade now Neil Campbell has produced an impressive catalogue of solo, collaborative and band releases. 2015 was no exception and following on from the reflective and absorbing, Tabula Rasa Suite, released in late 2014, came the companion, eMErgence. In some respects eMErgence brought together many of Neil’s previous releases in one consolidating album. It encompassed elements of the excellent Bulbs project along with earlier references to his more ambient, audio visual works, solo classical guitar pieces and the successful pairing with vocalist Perri Alleyne-Hughes.

Al Di Meola - Elysium

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Al Di Meola – Elysium
The first Al Di Meola album I bought was Casino, swiftly followed by Elegant Gypsy, Land Of The Midnight Sun and pretty much everything else ever since. A fanboy I hear you shout – granted, but even the most devout will have experienced a lull in quality across recent years. With the re-emergence of Return To Forever in 2011, his solo album of the of that year, Pursuit Of Radical Rhapsody, which was to be applauded, whilst 2013’s All Your Life (a tribute to The Beatles) was an enjoyable excursion. Elysium however was a return the fiery signature ADM sound, ranking favourably with his 70s output. No bass player, but you can’t have everything.

Theo Travis Double Talk - Transgression

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Theo Travis Double Talk – Transgression
Transgression is an album that just clicked into place from the first few bars and then grew from there on in. A great amalgam of Canterbury infused prog with lashings of jazz, rock, blues and much, much more. It’s strength lies in the compositions and although there’s plenty of room for improvisation it never comes across as self-indulgent.

Godsticks - Emergence

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Godsticks – Emergence
Emergence is a far cry from the self-titled EP that first caught the ear back in 2008. Those ear friendly songs have gradually been replaced by darker, meaner and distinctly heavier songs – equally as engaging but a different animal altogether. I was saddened to hear that Steve Roberts had departed the band as his contribution to Godsticks is immeasurable. A great closing statement and here’s wishing all concerned a bright and creative future.

Dave Sturt - Dreams and Absurdities

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Dave Sturt – Dreams and Absurdities
In demand session bass player, composer, arranger and also an integral part of the Gong family, Dave Sturt released his first solo album towards the end of 2015. Rather than a display of virtuosity, the album captured the more contemplative side to the musician, resulting in an absorbing and intriguing release. Primarily an instrumental album, the music allows the listener to take on a personal journey. As mentioned in the review the first twenty minutes of the album are worthy of the entry fee. Shame that Dreams and Absurdities is not on some form of listening platform as it really is an album to be heard and enjoyed.

JEZ ROWDEN

Anekdoten - Until All The Ghosts Are Gone

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Jez’s Album of the Year:-

Anekdoten – Until All The Ghosts Are Gone
I got a genuine frisson of excitement when this release was announced and it hasn’t disappointed in the slightest – massive and delicate, stunning and enticing, the songs work beautifully and the performances from both band and guests are superb. My Album of the Year. Now, about playing in the U.K….

Agent Fresco - Destrier

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Agent Fresco – Destrier
I’d never heard of them before but Agent Fresco have completely blown me away. This Icelandic band tick all manner of boxes with exquisite vocals, intricate melodies, wistful atmospherics spiced with a metallic edge when required. As unique as the landscape and culture that forged them.

Thieves' Kitchen - The Clockwork Universe

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Thieves’ Kitchen – The Clockwork Universe
Over the course of their last few albums Thieves’ Kitchen have emerged as a band of staggering depth and versatility. This latest release is intricate yet focused, spinning an intriguing web that traps the listener. Crafted with care to produce a result unlike anyone else this band are a treasure.

William D. Drake - Revere Reach

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William D. Drake – Revere Reach
As eccentrically English as The Ministry of Silly Walks and Morris Dancing, Bill Drake does his own thing and provides his audience with stunning vignettes of quirky nourishment that are guaranteed to raise a smile. Often odd but always intriguing, if WDD doesn’t appear in the New Year’s Honours List soon there’s more wrong with this country than I thought.

echolyn - i heard you listening

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echolyn – i heard you listening
Masters of the lower case, echolyn have again released an album of songs to knock you back on your heels. That’s right, songs. SONGS. The word itself is often maligned in the Wacky World of Prog where instrumental self-indulgence is worn like a badge of honour. But at the heart of everything should be the song and this collection is of immense quality and meaning that rewards repeated listening.

LEO TRIMMING

Steven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. Erase

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Leo’s Album of the Year:-

Steven Wilson – Hand.Cannot.Erase

Riverside - Love, Fear and the Time Machine

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Riverside – Love, Fear and the Time Machine

Public Service Broadcasting - The Race For Space

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Public Service Broadcasting – Race for Space

Gazpacho - Molok

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Gazpacho – Molok

Bruce Soord - Bruce Soord

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Bruce Soord – Bruce Soord

And finally, I suppose I better cash my chips, eh?

ROGER TRENWITH

Guapo - Obscure Knowledge

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Roger’s Album of the Year:-

Guapo – Obscure Knowledge
I’ve done a comprehensive thang on my blog (which you can read HERE), as ever, so, briefly…

…this is my 2015 “bees knees”

William D. Drake - Revere Reach

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William D. Drake – Revere Reach
Mad as a donkey’s arm.

King Crimson - 2015 Tour Box

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King Crimson – 2015 Tour Box
As fresh as a daisy, crushed by a jackhammer.

Loomings - Everyday Mythology

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Loomings – Everyday Mythology
An album of massive and peculiar scope. Review coming soon…

Gavin Harrison - Cheating The Polygraph

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Gavin Harrison – Cheating The Polygraph
Porkyjazztastic!

It just remains for me to say, have a great Festive Season, and may 2016 bring you all you wish for. See you on the other side, and keep reading our Wonderful Wibble! 🙂



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