Lesser-Known Gem: Barış Manço – 2023

Artist: Barış Manço | Album: 2023 | Genre: Anatolian rock, Progressive rock | Year: 1975

From: Istanbul, Turkey | Label: Yavuz Plak

For fans of: Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues

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Barış Manço (pronounced roughly BAR-ish MAHN-cho) was a Turkish composer and musician. He was one of the founders of the Anatolian rock movement, along with guitarist Erkin Koray and the bands 3 Hür-El and Moğollar. I’ve mentioned Anatolian rock a few times on this site, but I haven’t given it its own entry before now.

Anatolian rock blends the sounds of psychedelic and space rock with Turkish folk melodies and instrumentation. There was a lot of variation in this field, with Moğollar being on the folkier end of things and 3 Hür-El remaining rooted in fuzzy psychedelia. To this day, Anatolian rock persists as a micro-genre, though it had its heyday in the late ‘60s and through the ‘70s.

I’ll be the first to admit that 2023 isn’t exactly the least-known entry in this series, but it’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up! (For those of you reading this in the future, check the date this review was published.) Manço was the spaciest and most overtly proggy of the major Anatolian acts. His lush keyboards and wind instruments call to mind acts like The Moody Blues and late-’60s Pink Floyd.

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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: Phaneronaut – Anabasis

Band: Phaneronaut | Album:Anabasis | Genre: Zeuhl, Post-rock, Progressive electronic | Year: 2022

From: Munich, Germany | Label: Independent

For fans of: Magma, Pink Floyd c. 1969, Dreadnaught, Faust

Bandcamp

Phaneronaut is a one-man project out of Germany with an inclination for weird, experimental electronics and sharp contrasts in tone. In the three years the project has been active, they have been quite prolific, so I have not listened to their whole back catalog. What I have heard, though, is strongly reminiscent of early krautrock acts, often landing somewhere between Neu! and The Cosmic Jokers.

This album, then, marks something of a shift in Phaneronaut’s sound. Originally envisioned as having two contrasting halves–a “wood” side and a “metal” side–the project evolved into something else, though the “metal” concept remained. Thus, where previous works are synth heavy and quite electronic, Anabasis features sounds (synthesized or otherwise) that use metal in their production. So the celestial synths of earlier works are reduced, and now there are much earthier tones, meant to portray a (possibly hallucinatory) journey to heaven.

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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: Path of Might – Deep Chrome

Band: Path of Might | Album:Deep Chrome | Genre: Progressive metal, Sludge metal | Year: 2022

From: St. Louis, USA | Label: Encapsulated Records

For fans of: Mastodon, Baroness, Hawkwind, Elder

Bandcamp

Path of Might’s self-titled debut was one of my earliest purchases on Bandcamp. I loved the intelligent song structures and the visceral intensity of their playing. I apparently missed their 2017 sophomore album, but now it’s 2022, and they’ve got a third full-length release for the world.

The overall sound I remember from their debut is still here in this new release. The music is powerful and unrelenting, often evoking early Mastodon. But they have also become more refined. They’ve added keyboards to their music, and that addition has brought new richness.

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Odds & Ends: March 7, 2022

Artist: Stewart Clark | Album:Journeys | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

Stewart Clark draws noticeably from the classic prog giants, most obviously Yes and Genesis. The music is rich and grand, and though the playing is hardly flashy, the songs are creatively and thoughtfully structured. The folk elements are especially nice. Some cuts do drag on a bit, but this is an overall enjoyable release.

Score: 77/100

Band: Cyril | Album: Amenti’s Coin – Secret Place Pt. II | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

If you’re looking for some well-made progressive rock in the vein of acts like Transatlantic or The Flower Kings, these guys aren’t a bad choice. It’s highly melodic with a lot of strong instrumental performances. The band does occasionally veer into overwrought balladry, and I can’t say there’s anything particularly novel being said here. Despite that, sometimes you just want some lush, classic-style prog.

Score: 71/100

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