Album Review: Light – The Path

Band: Light | Album: The Path | Genre: Progressive rock, RIO, Chamber music | Year: 2023

From: Toulouse, France | Label: Independent

For fans of: iamthemorning, Van der Graaf Generator, Univers Zero

Bandcamp

Years ago, I ran across a poll on the ProgArchives forums asking what the most important instrument in a (progressive) rock band is. It’s obviously not guitars or keys, as ELP and mid-career King Crimson demonstrate, respectively. Neither Van der Graaf Generator nor Atomic Rooster had a bassist in their classic lineups. So that’s why I ultimately chose “drums” in that poll. What makes rock music rock music is its rhythm. Ditch the percussion, and it’s difficult to make something feel like rock music.

I bring this anecdote up because for about the first twenty-ish minutes of Light’s debut album, The Path, there is almost no percussion. (Side note, the generic nature of the names of both the band and the album made this a bit of a challenge to find.) This album opens in a manner which feels more like classical or chamber music. As the record progresses, though, more traditional prog influences are brought in.

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Odds & Ends: December 14, 2022

Band: Ahleuchatistas | Album: Expansion | Genre: Math rock, RIO | Bandcamp

Ahleuchatistas are something of an outlier when it comes to bands I like. I’m often not a fan of improv-heavy acts that sound like they’re constantly on the verge of falling apart, but this trio always manages to thread the needle of tight, complex riffs and wonky, off-kilter meters with loose improv. Expansion feels a bit more composed than some of their past work, and that pays dividends here. The riffs are weird and wild and wiry, and the songs have an odd, shambolic energy to them. This is a bizarre and rewarding album.

Score: 81/100

Band: Fren | Album: All the Pretty Days | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

Had I known Wiosna was a single off an upcoming album and not an EP, I wouldn’t have reviewed it. But alas! All the Pretty Days is Fren’s second full-length album. Much like their debut, it’s melodic and dramatic instrumental prog. The songs are engaging and attention grabbing, and despite their length, there is very little bloat here. This reminds me of Änglagård’s best work while also being distinct. Hints of jazz pop in from certain piano lines, giving flashes of Magma’s lighter moments.

Score: 78/100

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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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Odds & Ends: September 6, 2022

Band: General Admin | Album: techno techno techno techno | Genre: Math rock | Bandcamp

Leave it to a math rock band to have such an odd album title. (Then again, I might be disappointed by a math act giving a record a straightforward name.) The four tracks on this EP are energetic, anxious, yet also fun. The riffs are flashy, of course, and many of the melodies are surprising. It’s a to-the-point release that comes in, makes a statement, and does its job well.

Score: 77/100

Band: Gospel | Album: MVDM | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

MVDM is made up of just the titular 21-minute song (which actually has a much longer full title). The song was originally written back in the mid-2000s but lay unfinished for over a decade. This epic features lush, languid synths, technical, mathy riffs, and impassioned hardcore punk-style vocals. The song is exhilarating and features a ton of raw intensity.

Score: 91/100

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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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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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