Odds & Ends: December 7, 2022

Band: Audio’m | Album: Godzilla | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

This album consists of just one 43-minute, kaiju-sized song. Though it doesn’t have the city-destroying fury of kaiju-themed thrashers Oxygen Destroyer, this French septet’s newest release is quite strong. The music is often swirling and otherworldly, with the band’s two keyboardists weaving together complementary moldies and textures. Hints of jazz and Baroque music are sprinkled throughout this release, and that diversity of influences keeps this opus interesting.

Score: 77/100

Band: The Bronze Horsemen | Album: IV | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

This is some solid, enjoyable progressive rock. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but rather than detracting, it adds a homespun charm to it. This allure is especially evident when considering the combination of certain folk and bluegrass elements. This band roots its sound in the 1970s, with particularly strong Camel flavors. While it’s not groundbreaking, there’s a lot of heart and creativity here, and it’s definitely worth your time.

Score: 79/100

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Album Review: Magma – K​ã​rt​ë​hl

Band: Magma | Album: K​ã​rt​ë​hl | Genre: Zeuhl, Jazz-rock | Year: 2022

From: Paris, France | Label: Seventh Records

Bandcamp

Magma returns with a new studio album and a frustrating set of diacritics that make writing about this album in Google Docs a hassle. K​ã​rt​ë​hl follows 2019’s Zëss, the conclusion of the Kobaïa mythos, so I have no idea where (or if) this fits into the story of the Kobaïans. (For more on that, check out my Magma Deep Dive!)

Where Zëss ended things on a bit of a somber note, K​ã​rt​ë​hl has a noticeably sunnier disposition. It’s distinct from Félicité Thösz, but it shares that same general uplifting hopefulness. Magma has always been good at conveying emotion, whether it be the doom-and-gloom of “De Futura” or the celebratory warmth of “Öhst”.

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Album Review: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Changes

Band: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard | Album:Changes | Genre: Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock | Year: 2022

From: Melbourne, Australia | Label: KGLW

For fans of: Traffic, Once & Future Band

Bandcamp

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are nothing if not prolific. Since debuting a mere decade ago, this band has put out twenty-three studio albums (plus an album of remixes, two sets of demos, and a ton of live releases), with Changes being their twenty-third overall, their fifth of 2022, and their third of the month of October, 2022. Not only have they been prolific, but their output has been consistently diverse. To call them genre chameleons would be underselling them; genre octopuses would better suit their radical stylistic shifts. 

(Note that a lot of my octopus comment is due to people overselling chameleons’ abilities to change color. I have a pet chameleon, and he certainly does change color, but it’s not for camouflage. They change color to express their mood or to absorb more or less heat. And it’s not like it’s a massive shift in color. It’s more like an adjustment in intensity and saturation. Be sure to come back next week when I change the name of this site to TheEliteHerpetologist.com.)

My chameleon Rufus

Where was I? Oh right, lizards! Specifically of the magical variety and the monarchs of certain digestive organs with which they associate.

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Album Review: Anarchÿ – Sentïence

Band: Anarchÿ | Album:Sent​ï​ence | Genre: Progressive thrash metal | Year: 2022

From: St. Louis, USA | Label: Anarchötic Audio

For fans of: Coroner, Vektor, Toxik, Superfluous umlauts

Bandcamp

Thrash metal is a genre I like a lot when it’s done well, but there simply don’t seem to be that many quality thrash bands nowadays. There’s plenty of amazing output from the mid ‘80s through the early ‘90, Vektor’s music is amazing, and Voivod is still doing respectable work, but prog-thrash isn’t exactly the most flourishing sound out there.

Anarchÿ is a two-piece based out of St. Louis, and their debut full-length album Sent​ïence does a great job of scratching that prog-thrash itch. The songs are propulsive and masterfully played, and the breakneck pace of the music keeps the listener stuck to their music-player of choice. Even the album art and extraneous umlauts do an incredible job of conjuring this micro-genre’s heyday.

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Lesser-Known Gem: Czesław Niemen – Niemen vol. 2 & Niemen vol. 1 (Marionetki)

Artist: Czesław Niemen | Album:Niemen vol. 2 & Niemen vol. 1 | Genre: Avant-prog, Jazz-rock | Year: 1972

From: Stare Wasiliszki, Poland (now Staryya Vasilishki, Belarus) | Label: Polskie Nagrania

For fans of: Van der Graaf Generator, Pink Floyd c. 1969-1970, Area, King Crimson’s ‘70s stuff, Miles Davis

Listen

Halloween is on a Monday this year, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to get spooky with a Lesser Known Gem. I compiled a short list of about ten albums from which to choose. Some, like Jacula’s In Cauda Semper Stat Venenum, were written to be as occultic and creepy as possible. Others, like Message’s From Books and Dreams, were considered more for their album art. In the end, I decided on a pair of Czesław Niemen albums, Niemen vol. 2 and Niemen vol. 1.

Czesław Niemen (pronounced roughly Chess-woff Nyem-en) is an artist I’ve wanted to talk about for a while. Sort of like Guruh Gipsy were a big deal in Indonesia while remaining obscure elsewhere, Niemen is a major figure in the history of 20th Century Polish music. The National Bank of Poland has released three commemorative coins with his likeness, multiple streets around Poland bear his name, and his childhood home in modern-day Belarus has been converted into a museum.

After starting out playing straightforward rock and soul in the 1960s, his 1970 album Enigmatic saw him radically shift his style to the emergent genre of progressive rock. From 1971-1973, his backing band was the Silesian Blues Band, who eventually shortened their name to SBB and became another highly-influential prog act in their own right. (They are also a band I’ve considered for a future Deep Dive, though that’s far from imminent.)

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Album Review: An Abstract Illusion – Woe

Band: An Abstract Illusion | Album:Woe | Genre: Progressive metal, Melodic death metal | Year: 2022

From: Boden, Sweden | Label: Willowtip

For fans of: Opeth, Edge of Sanity, Cynic

Bandcamp

There are a lot of proggy melodic death metal bands from Sweden. Many can run together or simply sound like Opeth clones, but there are some acts that manage to stand out from the crowd. One such band is An Abstract Illusion. In addition to all the genre hallmarks, this band does an excellent job of integrating bits of non-metallic styles to keep their songs fresh and interesting.

Woe, the band’s second full-length release, is a massive hourlong piece subdivided into seven more-digestible tracks. The sound palette of this album ranges from archetypal melodeath guitar leads to hints of dark jazz, dashes of electronica, and classic prog flashiness.

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Album Review: Custard Flux – Phosphorus

Band: Custard Flux | Album:Phosphorus | Genre: Progressive rock, Folk rock | Year: 2022

From: Detroit, USA | Label: Independent 

For fans of: Phideaux, Van der Graaf Generator, Jan Dukes De Grey, Hawkwind

Bandcamp

Mostly-acoustic Detroit band Custard Flux is back with their fourth full-length album (and their third to be named after an element), Phosphorus. Following 2020’s fantastic Oxygen, Phosphorus doubles down on some of the band’s previous innovations. The songs are longer and more complex, and electric instrumentation is integrated fluidly.

This is also Custard Flux’s longest release to date, and by a wide margin. At 80 minutes in length, it’s nearly 20 minutes longer than their debut and almost twice as long as either of their last two records. And though the melodies and overall ideas remain as strong as ever, this album isn’t without its excesses. There is a lot of bloat, with certain ideas being repeated over and over for much too long.

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Album Review: The Mighty Orchid King – Mycelium Music Volume I: “Pinedemonium Awakes”

Band: The Mighty Orchid King | Album:Mycelium Music Volume I: “Pinedemonium Awakes” | Genre: Progressive rock, Folk rock, Psychedelic rock | Year: 2022

From: Saint Albans, UK | Label: Independent

For fans of: Yes, Phideaux, The Beatles, King Gizzard

Bandcamp

I’ve run across a lot of quirky genre descriptions on Bandcamp. Mellow Beast bill themselves as “wizard rock;” Louison’s latest album was described as “cyberprog;” and That 1 Guy has called his music “experimental ‘earthshaking future funk’ from the future maybe.” Despite their oddness, I could vaguely imagine what those might sound like. The UK-based quintet The Mighty Orchid King,on the other hand, dubs their music “mushroom-prog.”

Reading the phrase “mushroom-prog,” my mind immediately went to psilocybin and psychedelics–a not-unreasonable leap, if you ask me. However, reading the band’s description of this album, they intended that phrase much more literally. This album tells the story of a mushroom king and the spirits of the dead things he has consumed. It’s quite a clever concept which explicitly draws inspiration from John Milton’s Paradise Lost and carries a strong environmentalist message.

The band says they aimed to create “an entangled musical ecology,” and Mycelium Music Volume I is a veritable clonal colony of amazing music. The album has an impressive degree of sonic cohesion and continuity, and the individual songs flow together in brilliant, creative ways.

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