The Progressive Aspect - ADA#28

A Different Aspect #28

In this update we feature:

> MetaQuorum – Witchcraft Jazz
> Marvin B. Naylor – Bright Blinds
> The Samurai of Prog – Archiviarum
> Unstoppable Sweeties Show – Bring Kath Her Breamcatcher (The Musical)
> Vinyl Dial – Intergalactic Almanac [EP]
> Lucy In Blue – In Flight

MetaQuorum – Witchcraft Jazz
Jez Rowden
MetaQuorum - Witchcraft Jazz

I’ve been planning this review since before Christmas, life being what it is, but here’s a snapshot as this is an album that should be heard.

MetaQuorum is a project by classically trained composer, arranger, keyboardist and producer Dmitry Ermakov, Russian-born but now based in the equally sunny climes of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with drummer Koos van der Velde, bassist Viktor Mikheyev and singer Carol Ermakova.

This is their second album, it’s quirky and compelling, jazz-based but happy to welcome in elements of prog, classical and world music in an upbeat ride. The grooves and improvs often have a hot funky edge mixed with cool swing flavourings.

Largely instrumental, the playing is good and it’s different enough to bear repeated listening. It’s certainly jazzy, but not enough to scare the faint of heart. Well worth checking out.

Marvin B. Naylor – Bright Blinds
Jez Rowden
Marvin B. Naylor - Bright Blinds

The combination of Marvin’s tremulous voice and his trusty 12-string guitar is a thing of beauty. Having first come across him at Ian Fairholm’s Eppyfest a few years ago, it was an enchanting introduction, just the man and his guitar. Here the sound is expanded with bass, mandolin, piano (all by Marvin) and drums.

There’s something honest about Marvin’s music, from his regular busking adventures on the streets of Winchester (documented in his ‘Diary of a Busker’) to a steady string of albums of original material.

There’s a psychedelic airiness to this album, the songs varying between full-blown arrangements and the more typically stripped back, folky elements creeping into the instrumental Tilly Finn & Dancing Ledge, and hints of the ’60s and jangly early Genesis appearing here and there. Deep Blanket Day is as fluffy and warm as you might expect. It’s a relaxed and uplifting listen with a distinct band feel – even though there isn’t one.

Marvin is playing at Eppyfest in Cheltenham again this year on 20th July, and hopefully I’ll be there.

The Samurai of Prog – Archiviarum
Bob Mulvey
The Samurai of Prog - Archiviarum

Somewhat later than it should have been reviewed is TSoP’s Archiviarum. Released in early 2018, the album was duly sent to one of the TPA team members, who despite regular assurances, never quite got round to handing in his review before leaving the team, and sadly the album gradually slipped to the bottom of the marking pile. This oversight only surfacing when the band’s latest offering, Toki No Kaze, arrived in the post earlier this month. Toki No Kaze will be reviewed in due course, however a few words need to be said on Archiviarum.

Core trio of Bernard, Pörsti and Unruh, along with an strong supporting cast, have produced a series of impressive studio albums since 2011, most of which recall the halcyon era of progressive rock. With Archiviarum you need go no further than the instrumental album opener, and the Octavio Stampalia composition Keep The Ball Rolling. Stampalia’s over-driven organ, Bernard’s distinctive Rickenbacker bass and Kimmo Pörsti’s fiery drumming recall both Yes and ELP in equal measures. Multi-instrumentalist Steve Unruh embellishes with delightful violin and flute, bringing more delights to the table.

As mentioned The Samurai of Prog have an impressive roster of guest musicians for their releases, who not only add their playing skills, but also undertake the writing of some of the material. More so here, on Archiviarum, as much of the material is culled from various sources, including four new pieces, some older material revisited and some re-writes and re-jigs. This said the album remains cohesive, with influences shifting across album, although remaining steeped in the old school traditions – Jethro Tull, Focus, PFM, La Maschera di Cera, et al…

Archiviarum has two covers, firstly Camel’s Ice, and it’s a braver man than I that attempts to emulate one Mr Latimer’s finest moments, but kudos to saxophonist Marek Arnold who delivers some touching moments in this fine take. David Bowie’s Heroes remains fairly faithful to the original. Talking of covers, the album’s sumptuous artwork is by renowned graphic artist Ed Unitsky.

Because of the nature of the ADA reviews this is a brief glimpse into the album and the band. The review of Toki No Kaze will take a more in depth view…

Unstoppable Sweeties Show – Bring Kath Her Breamcatcher (The Musical)
Roger Trenwith
Unstoppable Sweeties Show - Bring Kath Her Breamcatcher (The Musical)

I think this band are from Liverpool, at least that’s what it says on their Bandcamp page. Their music is certainly individual and wacky enough to have originated from the city that sees itself as separate from the rest of England. They describe their music as “avant-garde punk/jazz-pronk”, which might give you an idea. Bring Kath Her Breamcatcher is a sprawling and possibly conceptual work that features a five-track mini suite buried in its midriff with the track titles She Wee, Shi Wii, Sidhe We, Xi Whee, and Shea Oui, which is musically baffling, but in a good way, being a winning combination of vocally zoological cacophony and pronk/Zeuhl excesses. Lovely!

Bring Kath Her Breamcatcher is an intriguing and varied work that features multifarious instrumentation, and an Indian singer, whose operatic whoops and huge range put me in mind of Koenji Hyakkei’s AH, and should appeal to that band’s fans and followers of any kind of adventurous music.

Vinyl Dial – Intergalactic Almanac [EP]
Roger Trenwith
Vinyl Dial - Intergalactic Almanac [EP]

Woozily squelching its way through the cosmic slop, opener Space Dragon is a collision of Gong and George Clinton at his most trippy. A good start to an EP of “psychedelic avian space rock” (it says here), and a fine introduction to these Bedford groovers, who have had two full-length albums out to date, plus an EP and a single. The last full-length was released back in January. Entitled Space Wizard, it included a multi-part 23-minute track entitled Bad Trip, a 3:41 remix/edit of which is on here. Well worth investigating further, methinks.

Looking at the Bandcamp link for their first album HYPER, I am no longer sure if this is/was a “band” in the traditional sense, or a crafty crew of remixers. Kids, eh? Whatever, as I sway gently to the rifftastic accompaniment of Polyhedral Cathedral, I have come to the conclusion, “Who cares, it’s all good, man” 🙂

Lucy In Blue – In Flight
John Wenlock-Smith
Lucy In Blue – In Flight

There is somewhat of a buzz around this album on the internet and among certain progressive rock websites, as In Flight has strong flashbacks to pre-Dark Side Of The Moon era Pink Floyd. Lucy In Blue hail from Iceland, and with its epic use of soundscapes to evoke that bygone progressive psychedelica era, this album clearly shows the band’s progressive influences worn on their collective sleeves, as it were. However this is more than a trip down memory lane as this band strive to use those same influences to drive their own music.

This is their second self-released album, coming three years after their very impressive debut album from 2015. In Flight is relatively short at just over 36 minutes, yet within that time frame there lie some very impressive and interesting music, very rich, both in atmosphere and in its organic sounds. The album opens with the two-part Alright, in which we find very Floydian grooves being laid down. Lots of moody keyboards and spacey echoey guitar lines and somewhat languid vocals support this brief opener. Segueing into Part 2 which features the fine bass playing of Mattias-Hilfar Mogenson whose instrument takes a central role at the 2.40 minute mark along with the solo guitar of Steinþór Bjarni Gíslason, delivering a fine solo that draws this song to a subtle close. Respire follows with another fine bass lead holding the song together.

This is a joy to behold and it really impresses.