Album Review: Louison – Magnetic Feel

Artist: Louison | Album: Magnetic Feel | Genre: Jazz-fusion, Math rock, Progressive electronic | Year: 2022

From: Paris, France | Label: Independent

For fans of: newer Ozric Tentacles, Return to Forever

Bandcamp

Louis de Mieulle is a multi-instrumentalist and composer I’ve previously covered twice on this site. Since his last outing, there have been a few changes. He’s moved from the US back to France and rebranded as “Louison.” His new album, Magnetic Feel, is much more electronic and synth heavy than either of his Sideshow albums. He also performs (almost) all the instruments, whereas those two prior releases were recorded with bands. This solo approach has also forced him to be more structured in his songwriting, and considering some of my comments on Sid€show 2, that’s probably a net good.

Not everything is different on Magnetic Feel. Though de Mieulle bills this album as “cyberprog” and “retrofuture,” there is a grounding in jazz-rock, math rock, and the contemporary prog scene. Like the two Sideshow albums, this is entirely instrumental, and there’s a strong sense of sonic continuity across the ten songs here.

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Album Review: black midi – Hellfire

Band: black midi | Album:Hellfire | Genre: Avant-prog | Bandcamp

From: London, UK | Label: Rough Trade

For fans of: Frank Zappa, Magma, Cardiacs

Bandcamp

Last year, black midi made a fairly big shift in their sound. They moved away from the post-punk sounds of their debut and instead  dove headlong into progressive and avant-garde rock. Cavalcade is a fantastic record that brims with anxious energy, and Hellfire feels like a natural evolution. 

The music on this record is powerful and befits its title perfectly. The band has described their new album as an “action film,” and the songs here are exhilarating enough to match that description. The lyrics are action-packed as well, often presented as  hellish or dystopian narratives. Tight riffs full of jazz and math-rock touches permeate this album alongside odder inclusions, like country and showtunes.

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Album Review: Porcupine Tree – Closure/Continuation

Band: Porcupine Tree | Album:Closure/Continuation | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2022

From: Hemel Hempstead, UK | Label: Music for Nations

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After years of waffling back and forth over whether or not he’d ever revive the band, Steven Wilson has brought Porcupine Tree back to life. While Porcupine Tree remained in limbo, Wilson remained in regular contact with both drummer Gavin Harrison and keyboardist Richard Barbieri. However, Wilson lost touch with bassist Colin Edwin, so he does not appear on this album. Instead, Wilson handles all the bass parts himself.

The title for this album is quite fitting. I honestly doubt Porcupine Tree are going to record another album together. Wilson’s increasingly poppy solo career belies that heavy progressive rock probably isn’t what he wants to focus on now. And Harrison has stated that his style of drumming is very physically demanding, and he’s unsure how much longer he can continue playing this style of music. The band’s ambiguous position following The Incident left pretty much everyone unsatisfied, so this album feels like a way for Wilson to close the book on Porcupine Tree on his own terms.

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Odds & Ends: July 11, 2022

Band: Artificial Brain | Album:Artificial Brain | Genre: Technical death metal, progressive death metal | Bandcamp

I remember there being a lot of hype around this band’s last album–2017’s Infrared Horizon–but it just never quite clicked with me. Their new self-titled album, though, is great. The riffs are blistering, dizzying, and mind-bendingly dissonant. The songs are well-built and feature some wonderful hairpin turns. Amid the mucky morass of gurgling vocals and growling guitars, lead guitar lines are often surprisingly melodic.

Score: 78/100

Band: Bess of Bedlam | Album: Dance until the Crimes End | Genre: Psychedelic folk, Canterbury sound | Bandcamp

This album varies between idyllic folk with psychedelic tinges and some Canterbury-leaning prog-pop. There’s a lot of good music here, but unfortunately, there’s also a fair amount of unspectacular indie-folk-pop. The weak moments are never bad, per se–just dull. And it’s usually quickly counteracted with a good song. If you’re looking for something arty but light, this isn’t a bad option.

Score: 68/100

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Album Review: Ben Craven – Monsters from the Id

Artist: Ben Craven | Album:Monsters from the Id | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2022

From: Brisbane, Australia | Label: Desert Comb Music

For fans of: Yes, Pink Floyd

Bandcamp

Yes casts a very long shadow over progressive rock. Their influence isn’t just obvious in the music, but also in the visuals frequently deployed on album covers. Roger Dean-style artwork has become a cliche of the genre, and I have developed something of an apprehension about acts that use this visual style. I’ve harped on about acts that just uncreatively wallow in the mid-70s, and flashy album covers do not make up for bland, uninspired music. Thankfully, this is not one of those albums.

Monsters of the Id is the fifth full-length release from Australian multi-instrumentalist Ben Craven. It follows in the long prog tradition of albums made up of just two long songs. (Though for all the obvious Yes-isms on this album, that band never released a record with fewer than three songs.)

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Album Review: Moura – Axexan, espreitan

Band: Moura | Album: Axexan, espreitan | Genre: Progressive rock, Galician folk | Year: 2022

From: A Coruña, Spain | Label: Spinda Records

For fans of: Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Traffic

Bandcamp

Moura’s self-titled debut album was my album of the year for 2020. It was an exceptional release which blended dark psychedelia, progressive song structures, and the folk music of Galicia (the bit of Spain that dangles over Portugal; not to be confused with Eastern European Galicia). Two years later, the band has returned with another outing that blends those aforementioned influences, as well as some new inclusions.

Axexan, espreitan (Eng. Lurking, Peeking) is a strong successor to Moura while also having its own unique character. The songs are terser on this album; both records are roughly the same length, but this has twice as many individual tracks as their debut. The folk influences are prominent, and that helps Moura stand out in the current progressive rock landscape.

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Album Review: Knekklectric – Alt blir verre

Band: Knekklectric | Album:Alt blir verre | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2022

From: Bergen, Norway | Label: Apollon Records

For fans of: Once and Future Band, Beardfish, PFM

Bandcamp

I have repeatedly raised the point on this site that Scandinavia (or the Nordic countries, or however you want to define Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland) punch above their weight in the world of rock music. Based on their populations, those five countries (though less so with Denmark) comprise a disproportionately large chunk of my library. Today I’m specifically focusing on the Norwegian act Knekklectric.

Alt blir verre (Eng: Everything Gets Worse) is their first new full-length since 2017. The brand of music they play is fun, clever, and overall relatively sunny, especially when compared to some of their compatriots. Their lyrics are also in a non-standard dialect of Norwegian (the sociolinguistics of Norwegian are quite complicated), so I had to make some slight guesses when translating song titles.

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Album Review: Daniel Rossen – You Belong There

Artist: Daniel Rossen | Album:You Belong There | Genre: Progressive folk, Chamber folk | Year: 2022

From: Santa Fe, USA | Label: Warp Records

For fans of: Comus, Univers Zero, Jens Carelius

Bandcamp

I will be the first person to admit I’m a bit out of my depth when it comes to folk music, especially of the one-guy-with-an-acoustic-guitar variety. It’s normally not my sort of thing. I have repeatedly discussed my deemphasization of lyrics, so lyric-focused genres often fail to resonate with me. Every now and again, I’m able to find something in this field which I like. Such releases, though, always feature inventive, original music, which is what draws me in.

You Belong There is the first full-length solo release from Daniel Rossen, lead vocalist of the indie rock band Grizzly Bear. I listened to a bit of Grizzly Bear’s output before writing this review, and there are certainly some common threads. This takes a much more somber and introspective route than the band’s output, though, with the instrumentation being nearly entirely acoustic.

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