Album Review: Orange Clocks – Metamorphic

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Band: Orange Clocks | Album: Metamorphic | Genre: Space rock, Psychedelic rock | Year: 2020

From: Rushden, UK | Label: Bad Elephant Music

For fans of: Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Ozric Tentacles, Elder

Buy: Bandcamp | Apple Music

It’s often interesting to see acts evolve across successive albums. Even within the realm “progressive” genres, some bands don’t change their sound very much. Meanwhile, others engage in wild genre-hopping on the regular. More often, you find something like you do with Orange Clocks. Their 20-song 2017 debut album was chock-full of narration and brief interludes. The music was also somewhat unfocused, drawing heavily both from early Pink Floyd and the broader world of funk.

Metamorphic, the band’s second studio album, alleviates many of the issues of their debut. The sound is more consistent, and the distracting narration is gone, giving their sophomore release a more mature feel. The presence of stoner/desert rock is considerably more pronounced as well, and elements of krautrock and drone have begun to be worked in.

“Space Witch” opens the album on an ominous note. Wah-wahed guitar slowly twists upward as heavily-reverbed vocals swirl over it. The song’s middle section gets a shot of adrenaline before ending on a bluesier variation of the opening riff. Following this is the more laid-back “Eye of Psybin”, which sounds like a stoner rock version of a song off The Wall. And despite my frequent decrials of The Wall as a mediocre record, I mean it as a compliment in this instance.

“Miles Away” continues with David Gilmour-y guitar lines in its opening. The verses are mellow, and the vocals remind me a lot of Phideaux. The middle eight is pretty weird and sinister, but this song doesn’t do much to stand out on the whole. Following this is “Let Me Breathe”, a good song overall. It has an inversion of the weakness that plagues its predecessor, though. The verses are energetic and immediately draw you in, but the chorus falls flat.

The choppy vocal pattern on “Floating Temple” has the most unique feel of any song on the album up to this point, finally shaking free of obvious Pink Floyd influence and indistinct desert rock. Its second half takes on a nearly-meditative quality. Chanted vocals and steady, propulsive drums carry it forward to a slightly-cheesy-but-pretty-enjoyable guitar solo. “Ammonite”, despite its grating, honky synth tone, is my favorite song on the album. The first half is instrumental, but it’s the second half which really stands out. It’s highly melodic and synthesizes their space and desert influences in a great way.

“Noggy Pop” closes the album. On Bandcamp, it looks a 28-minute monster, but its real runtime is only about nine-and-a-half minutes. There are some vague Spanish flavors in the opening minutes, which is another welcome bit of flair. The song takes a few minutes to get going, but by the time it reaches its climax, it’s a maelstrom of astral guitar and Ozric Tentaclesque synthesizers. Once “Noggy Pop” ends, it’s followed by 30 seconds of silence and then 18 minutes of drone and synth textures.

Orange Clocks made some big strides on their sophomore release. The record sounds cohesive, and the band members have made more of an effort to establish their own unique sound. However, the current prog scene is swamped with sorta-proggy stoner rock/metal acts. They’ve got the potential to put out something great. They also need to better synthesize the Hawkwind and Pink Floyd influences into something more distinct.

Score: 72/100

Album Review: Vinyl Dial – The Flight of the Crown Hawk

vinBand: Vinyl Dial | Album: The Flight of the Crown Hawk | Genre: Progressive rock, Space rock | Year: 2009/2019

From: Bedford, UK | Label: Seaside Tapes

For fans of: Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Pulsar, Tool

Buy/Listen: Stream Bandcamp

Vinyl Dial has had an unusual creative trajectory. The Flight of the Crown Hawk was originally recorded and released on MySpace in 2009. However, in 2019 it got a remaster and was officially released on Seaside Tapes, a label focused primarily on DIY-electronica and vaporwave. In the intervening years, this one-man project has put out a handful of electronic and vaporwave releases, in addition to other space rock/prog rock releases.

The Flight of the Crown Hawk is not shy about just how much of the music is inspired by Porcupine Tree’s early work. The first proper song, “Shapes in the Clouds”, begins with spare acoustic guitar, airy synth pads, and murky, effects-laden vocals. It slowly slithers along for its first half, and the guitar solo sounds like it’s straight off Porcupine Tree’s Signify. The song’s second half plays with stranger rhythms, heavier guitar tones, and cosmic synth leads. Continue reading “Album Review: Vinyl Dial – The Flight of the Crown Hawk”

Deep Dive: Porcupine Tree & Steven Wilson

pt deep diveWelcome to the third installment of Deep Dive, where I take an in-depth look at the studio discographies of some of the giants of progressive rock and progressive metal.

For those who don’t feel like reading this massive entry, I’ve included a TL;DR and ranking of albums at the end. I’m opting to explore albums chronologically, as opposed to a ranked-list format. The context in which albums were made is important, and this is an element often missed in a ranked list.

My first two entries in this series focused on some of the giants of progressive rock’s 1970s heyday. For this entry, I wanted to focus on something heavier, which means someone more modern. After weighing a few options and starting Deep Dive entries on a couple other artists, I settled on Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson.

Porcupine Tree covered a wide style of music until their disbandment in 2010, ranging from space rock to art pop to progressive metal. Wilson has maintained that experimental spirit in his solo career, covering similar ground across his five solo albums. The early-21st Century progressive rock renaissance we’re currently enjoying may not have happened at all, had it not been for the wide success of Porcupine Tree, which opened the door for many, many other acts.

As a disclaimer, this essay does not cover all of Steven Wilson’s myriad musical projects. The man is too prolific for me to reasonably address all those projects in this one essay. I am solely focusing on Porcupine Tree and his solo material. No-Man and Bass Communion don’t fit this site’s purview; and while Blackfield and Storm Corrosion may fall under the margins of progressive rock, I simply don’t like their output and would not enjoy reviewing them in-depth. I also do not plan to discuss his remastering work on classic prog albums. I do highly recommend his King Crimson remasters, though I’d avoid his work on Too Old to Rock n Roll: Too Young to Die!, as mentioned in my Jethro Tull Deep Dive. Continue reading “Deep Dive: Porcupine Tree & Steven Wilson”

Album Review: Diagonal – Arc

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Band: Diagonal | Album: Arc | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2019

From: Brighton, UK | Label: Cobblers Records

For fans of: Gong, Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant, The Soft Machine

Buy: BandcampAmazon 

Diagonal’s 2008 self-titled debut is one of the strongest progressive rock records of the ‘00s. And the ‘00s were the best decade for progressive rock since the ‘70s, so that’s saying something. It was an enthralling blend of folk, prog, jazz, and Canterbury sounds presented with a fresh and modern energy. Their 2012 follow-up saw the band going almost fully instrumental after a personnel shake-up, much to their detriment. Alex Crispin’s vocals were one of my favorite elements of their debut, being far more soulful than most other vocalists in the genre.

I wasn’t even aware Diagonal were still together—it had been seven years since their last album. So, it was a pleasant surprise when I learned about their forthcoming third album, Arc. I was even happier when I listened to the first pre-release song and found they’d decided to reintroduce vocals to their music. The jazz influences on Arc loom large, in both the rhythms and the textures. The drumming is deft and often light, while organ and electric piano tend to be the lead instruments. Continue reading “Album Review: Diagonal – Arc”

Odds and Ends – February 18, 2019

Odds and Ends is a segment where I do brief reviews of albums I either didn’t prioritize for longer-form reviews, or ones for which I don’t have that much to say.

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Band: Cosmocracy, Inc. | Album: A Ride Across Your Mind | Genre: Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp

This is a delightful album. It’s a high-energy, progressive garage rock piece, and it’s a ton of fun. The guitars have a distinctly bluesy twinge, and the keyboards lend a wide, galactic atmosphere. The bass tone used here comes across as downright funky. The vocals are a little rough and weak, but I’m hoping that’ll be improved on future releases. This band have some room for improvement, but they’re starting off strong.

Score: 80/100 Continue reading “Odds and Ends – February 18, 2019”