Reviews Column 52: And last but not least...

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Judy Dyble, Hawkwind’s Nik Turner and Henry Cow’s Geoff Leigh are just some of the guests on the latest work from Norwegian psych/pop band Sleepyard.

_Black Sails__ _(Global Recording Artists) showcases the elegant talents of composer Oliver Kersbergen, a man whose gaze rests on prog’s distant ambient shores, as on the mesmeric, Eno-esque Milk And Honey and Rainy Day Vibration, or the beautifully sweeping 1000 Year Vacation, featuring Jessamine’s Dawn Smithson. Kersbergen can ratchet up the tempo all the way to medium too if required – Chocolate River could be a Supertramp B-side (in a good way). Factor in that classy guest roster, the tasteful blend of organic instruments with electronic washes and the superior production job, and there’s an unmistakable air of quality about this.

You might recognise the name Twombley Burwash from our covermount CD on the last issue (Prog 51). If you enjoyed the poppy prog blast of ZZZVV then do check out their self-released album Grak. Together Bingley duo Kevin and Bruce McDade bring together strands of synth-laden post-punk and an art-rock sensibility. At times they’re like XTC doing Comfortably Numb, or even Granddaddy interpreting the more frantic moments of Brain Salad Surgery, to a disco beat. It’s a homemade product for sure, but there’s much promise in the trademark high-pitched vocals and big, nimble electric guitar, and A Sense Of Texture proves they know how to hold together a composition for a respectably proggy 22 minutes.

We receive so many albums that even some of the most worthy titles end up sliding down the side of the _Prog _sofa. That was the case with The Contortionist’s brilliant third effort _Language _(eOne), released in September. The Indianapolis band have toured with Protest The Hero, Between The Buried And Me and the Deftones, and the album shows that, with new singer Michael Lessard, they might really be onto something at the dawn of 2015. An easy comparison would be Tool, but there’s an Archive level of cool, arty sophistication to their contemporary blend of prog and metal, which hints at rare, symphonic-level compositional intelligence. At times plaintively ambient, at others Cookie Monster-bellicose, the beautifully produced _Language _is the real deal, so if you like your prog state-of-the-art you should bend over backwards to check this band out.

Sweden’s own A Secret River bring a more vintage, Moog-friendly, neo hue to their modern-day prog palette. Much of the gentle charm of their self-released _Colours Of Solitude _is down to bassist Andreas Ålöv’s sweet, easy-going vocals and drummer John Bergstrand’s mellifluous harmony parts. Hints of Neal Morse’s DNA in here, later-era Marillion perhaps, along with that duck-to-water approach to melody that many Swedes seem to be blessed with.

Just room for the ace second album by Leonie Evans’ off-the-wall Bristol quartet Rae. Awoke (raemusic.co.uk) is a spare yet harmonically progressive selection of songs. Jazz and folk flirt en route to New Orleans via Canterbury, with Evans’ slinky, supple vocal the constant. One slot on _Later With Jools Holland _is all it would take…