I’ve discussed the Canterbury sound on this site a number of times. Its heyday–like much of progressive rock–was back in the early 1970s, but even then it was somewhat niche. Despite that, there are a few acts still keeping this sound alive, and Zopp is one of the best ones.
Zopp’s 2020 self-titled debut wound up being one of my top albums for the year, though I never reviewed it before my year-end best-of list. It wasn’t some late-in-the-year surprise for me; I just never got around to covering it. But I don’t want to have that be the case again. The two pre-release singles for Dominion had both been great, so I went into this record with pretty high hopes. On their Bandcamp, the band describes this album as being closer to Yes or Marillion than any Canterbury act, but I have to disagree. If I’m looking for good comparisons, I’m still going to cite Soft Machine, Gong, and (especially) Caravan.
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.
Band: Devour Every Star | Album: Antiquity | Genre: Progressive metal, Trip-hop | Bandcamp
This is certainly one of the more distinctive genre fusions I’ve run across. Buzzy black metal merges with spacey instrumental hip-hop passages to forge a distinctive sound. It’s spooky and laid-back, and it’s definitely worth looking into. As a whole, it feels a little long; I think this style may be better suited to a 20-minute EP. Nonetheless, it’s quite unique, and this act shows ability beyond simply being a curiosity.
This instrumental piece was commissioned by the city of Melbourne to celebrate Melbourne Town Hall’s 150th anniversary, thus it prominently features the town hall’s grand organ as its primary instrument. Ephemera is grand and majestic in its harmonious marriage of reedy organ and lush, liquid synthesizers. The whole album is quite warm, and it feels midway between Mike Oldfield and Rick Wakeman. Elements of classical and electronic music are regularly incorporated, making this a surprisingly diverse record despite its limited sound palette.
Hello everyone! 2021 is rapidly drawing to a close, and with that, I’m diligently working on my year-end best-of lists. I’ll be posting two more full length reviews this month. In December, I will only be posting Odds & Ends in an effort to address as many albums as possible before I post my best-of lists. I currently have three posts scheduled for December (I will be on vacation one Monday), but a fourth may sneak in if I’m prolific enough.
I’ll be posting my best-of lists (Top EPs and Top Albums) in early-to-mid January. The music in these lists will only cover the span of January-to-November 2021, so as to not screw over strong albums released in December. Going forward, my annual best-ofs will cover December of the preceding year through November of the current year.
Band: Antinode | Album:The Canary the Named the Stars | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
The three songs on this long EP/short LP are solid, spacey progressive rock with subtle touches of jazz, metal, and indie rock. I’m a big fan of the instrumental tones and textures, and despite the songs’ lengths, they never feel like they’re dragging. There’s significant internal variation on all three tracks, and there’s a natural flow to the way the compositions evolve.
Band: Big Big Train | Album:Common Ground | Genre: Neo-prog, Progressive rock | Bandcamp
I have never understood the appeal of Big Big Train. They’ve got the occasional decent song here or there, but I’ve never enjoyed an entire BBT album. They often come off as saccharine and glossy, like a worse version of Spock’s Beard. Maybe I’m too much of a dour Debbie Downer to enjoy such unashamedly major-key music, but the opening “The Strangest Times” exemplifies my lack of fondness for this act. It’s bright, sunny piano-pop that doesn’t strike me as particularly proggy in any definition of the word. Successive tracks are significantly better, though it’s still not exactly my cup of tea. Much of this album comes off as soulless and plain, to say nothing of the bloat. The band sounds stuck in the mid-’90s’ prog scene, a sound which was fine for its time but was rightfully cast aside at the turn of the century. The lushness hobbles the band’s ability to make any real splash, and everything on here has been done much better previously by other artists, often half a century ago.
It’s a Monday, but I don’t have a review for you. I was absolutely slammed at work last week, but I should have a bit more breathing room now.
Considering how close we are to the end of the year, and considering how many records there are I haven’t reviewed but would love to touch on, I will be increasing the frequency of Odds & Ends posts between now and mid-December. I’m not sure how many I’ll wind up posting, but I’d expect at least 4 between now and the end of the year, as opposed to the expected two.
I’ll also be taking off the weeks of Dec. 21 and 28, to allow myself adequate time to finish my year-end best-of lists and to allow Kelci and Dan adequate time to proofread them. Those can be expected in early-to-mid January.
I’ll be on vacation for the next few weeks, so this site will be going on a brief hiatus. Posts will resume Monday, January 13, 2020 with my Top EPs of 2019 list. My Top 50 Albums of 2020 will be posted in two parts the following week, on January 20 and 23.
Stay tuned, and enjoy the holiday(s) of your choice!