Album Review: Custard Flux – Oxygen

cfBand: Custard Flux | Album: Oxygen | Genre: Progressive rock, Progressive folk, Psychedelic folk | Year: 2020

From: Detroit, USA | Label: Independent

For fans of: Comus, Van der Graaf Generator, Jan Dukes de Grey

Bandcamp 

Custard Flux is the brainchild of Detroit-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Gregory Curvey, and this is one of the more unique acts currently active in the progosphere. Custard Flux is a (almost) fully-acoustic band, with electric instrumentation being limited to a small number of guitar solos on this band’s first two albums. Acoustic guitar and harmonium have been the primary instruments this act’s sound has been built around.

Oxygen is Custard Flux’s third album in as many years, and it’s their best and most diverse yet. While the sound is still primarily acoustic, it’s been augmented with ample saxophone and violin. Electric guitar—in its rare appearances—feels more integral to the compositions, rather than being a solo laid on top of a fully-acoustic piece. The compositions are also the most daring and progressive they’ve recorded yet. Continue reading “Album Review: Custard Flux – Oxygen”

Album Review: Alcàntara – Solitaire

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Band: Alcàntara | Album: Solitaire | Genre: Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock | Year: 2020

From: Italy | Label: Progressive Gears

For fans of: Pink Floyd, Roger Waters

Bandcamp | Spotify

Pink Floyd is one of those bands with no shortage of imitators and near-clones. Less-blatant aping and influence are nearly inescapable in modern psychedelia and prog. Pink Floyd had many distinct sounds throughout their career, though, giving modern acts plenty of material to draw inspiration from. Alcànatara—a quintet hailing from Italy—is one of those acts that doesn’t try to hide their Floydian roots.

I tried to think of other acts to list in the “For fans of” section of the review header, but this band draws from late-70s Floyd so clearly, I couldn’t think of a more apt recommendation. This is not to call the music here derivative or unoriginal, though. Pink Floyd is a heavy, heavy influence, but I’d never mistake any of these recordings as some discarded track from The Wall’s recording sessions. Continue reading “Album Review: Alcàntara – Solitaire”

Album Review: Louise Patricia Crane – Deep Blue

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Artist: Louise Patricia Crane | Album: Deep Blue | Genre: Progressive rock, Art-pop, Psychedelic rock | Year: 2020

From: UK | Label: Peculiar Doll Records

For fans of: Kate Bush, ‘80s and later King Crimson, Pink Floyd

Bandcamp | Spotify

I’ve been indulging in the lighter side of progressive rock lately. I’ve got a big backlog of black and death metal I need to cover, but progressive folk and art-pop have been scratching my musical itches lately. While not strictly a pop album by any means, Louise Patricia Crane’s solo debut, Deep Blue, draws heavily from acts like The Cocteau Twins and Kate Bush. The music is rife with psychedelic Pink Floyd-isms, and folk influences are liberally scattered throughout this record. King Crimson guitarist and vocalist Jakko Jakszyk was recruited for this project, and his distinct playing style and backing vocals augment the music. Continue reading “Album Review: Louise Patricia Crane – Deep Blue”

Album Review: Jargon – The Fading Thought

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Artist: Jargon | Album: The Fading Thought | Genre: Progressive rock, Art rock, Chamber music | Year: 2020

From: Athens, Greece | Label: Independent

For fans of: Phideaux, Genesis, Peter Hammill, Steven Wilson

Bandcamp 

The Fading Thought is the debut solo album of Greek keyboardist Jargon. Prior to this solo effort, he was one of the founders of the progressive rock band Verbal Delirium. There are some obvious sonic overlaps, but he’s managed to differentiate his solo sound from that of his band. The band’s efforts hew heavily toward certain prog-rock clichés; organ and bombast permeate the music. Jargon’s solo album, though, borrows extensively from chamber music and film scores. Piano and strings are given prominent roles throughout The Fading Thought.

The opening track, “The Film”, lacks traditional rock arrangement altogether. It’s a quiet, bittersweet instrumental led by piano with lush string backing. This flowing composition serves as a strong introduction to this record’s overall tone. Continue reading “Album Review: Jargon – The Fading Thought”

Album Review: Once and Future Band – Deleted Scenes

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Band: Once and Future Band | Album: Deleted Scenes | Genre: Progressive pop, Jazz-rock | Year: 2020

From: Oakland, USA | Label: Castle Face Records

For fans of: Steely Dan, Electric Light Orchestra, Roxy Music, The Alan Parsons Project

Bandcamp | Spotify

Deleted Scenes is the second album from Oakland prog-pop outfit Once and Future Band (hereafter called OAFB). I was introduced to them via their self-titled 2017 album, which was their first full length release. Their self-titled is a sunny slice of prog-pop with ample jazz and folk touches. However, almost every song on that album felt one to two minutes too long.

The songs on Deleted Scenes are more focused than on OAFB’s self-titled, much to this record’s benefit. Rich electric pianos and synthesizer tones take center stage for most of the album, and vocalist Joel Robinow has just the right tone and timbre to complement it. Continue reading “Album Review: Once and Future Band – Deleted Scenes”

Album Review: Louis de Mieulle – Sid€show 2

Artist: Louis de Mieulle | Album: Sid€show 2 | Genre: Jazz fusion | Year: 2020

From: New York, USA | Label: Dalang Records

For fans of: Return to Forever, Brainticket

Bandcamp | Spotify

Last year, New York-based bassist and composer Louis de Mieulle released Side$how, an instrumental, improvisation consisting of himself, a drummer, and two keyboardists. That album was one of my most pleasant surprises of 2019, given my usual leeriness about instrumental records. He deftly blended a jazzy backbone with proggy flourishes and touches of krautrock, zeuhl, and even electronic music.

On Sid€show 2, de Mieulle follows the same general template. Himself, a drummer, and two keyboardists improvise over a preconceived structure, employing the musical vocabulary of both jazz and progressive rock. Despite the similarities in how these two albums were composed and recorded, they have vastly different characters. Side$how had a bright, sunny atmosphere, but Sid€show 2 has a colder feel to it. Continue reading “Album Review: Louis de Mieulle – Sid€show 2”

Album Review: JG Thirlwell & Simon Steensland – Oscillospira

jgtArtists: JG Thirlwell & Simon Steensland | Alubum: Oscillospira | Genre: Avant-prog, Zeuhl | Year: 2020

From: Melbourne, Australia (Thirlwell) & Sweden (Steensland) | Label: Ipecac Recordings

For fans of: Magma, Univers Zero

Bandcamp | Spotify

JG Thirlwell is an Australian-born, Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist best known as the man behind the industrial act Foetus. He also acts the composer for the TV shows Archer and The Venture Bros, the latter of which is one of my absolute favorite shows. (It also made progressive rock a central plot element in one episode.) Simon Steensland is a Swedish multi-instrumentalist and composer with a long history in modern avant-garde rock music.

In addition to avant-garde and progressive rock influences, this duo makes extensive use of orchestral music. Much of this album sounds like it could have been the score for a creepy arthouse film. Atonal strings and minor key woodwinds dominate on this record, filling up most of the space not occupied by traditional rock instrumentation. Continue reading “Album Review: JG Thirlwell & Simon Steensland – Oscillospira”

Album Review: Elder – Omens

elderBand: Elder | Album: Omens | Genre: Progressive rock, Stoner metal | Year: 2020

From: Boston, USA (Originally); Berlin, Germany (Currently) | Label: Armageddon (US), Stickman (EU)

For fans of: Mastodon, Tool, Pink Floyd

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

Over the last few years, Elder have established themselves as one of the most interesting acts in progressive rock. Their albums Lore and Reflections of a Floating World deftly blended prog and psychedelia with a stoner metal backbone, and their 2019 EP The Gold & Silver Sessions saw heavy incorporation of krautrock and jam band influences.

The recording of Omens, Elder’s fifth full-length release, marked several major changes for the band. The most obvious of which was that the band underwent their first-ever lineup change to introduce a new drummer and guitarist/keyboardist. The band also relocated from Boston to Berlin, and the press for this record leading up to its release emphasized this state of change. Sonically, the most obvious change over previous releases is the widespread incorporation of synthesizers. Overall, though, Omens doesn’t stray that far from Elder’s typical sound; all in all, they’ve just added a few baubles. Continue reading “Album Review: Elder – Omens”

Album Review: That 1 Guy – Set the Controls for the Heart of the Buttnoggin

t1gArtist: That 1 Guy | Album: Set the Controls for the Heart of the Buttnoggin | Genre: Experimental rock, Electronic, “experimental ‘earthshaking future funk’ from the future maybe” (as per his Facebook) | Year: 2020

From: Las Vegas, USA | Label: Independent

For fans of: Buckethead, Primus

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon

That 1 Guy is one of my favorite musical acts. I’ve seen him live over a dozen times since I first saw him open for Porcupine Tree in 2009. He tours relentlessly (or at least he did prior to this current COVID-related lockdown), and I would strongly recommend going to see him live if you get the opportunity. As his name implies, he’s a one-man musical project who plays the Magic Pipe, an instrument of his own invention. The Magic Pipe is depicted on this album cover, but here is some footage of it in action.

As much as I love That 1 Guy, I wouldn’t label him as progressive rock. He certainly has an experimental flair—what with the homemade instrument and all—but most of his songs are, structurally, pretty straightforward. His previous album, 2014’s Poseidon’s Deep Water Adventure Friends, was his most ambitious to date, featuring surprisingly complex compositions and highly varied textures. So, when he released this album, I saw how long the songs were and the fact that he had tagged himself as “progressive rock” on Bandcamp, and I decided to stretch my definition of the genre to write about this release. Continue reading “Album Review: That 1 Guy – Set the Controls for the Heart of the Buttnoggin”