Reviews Column 53: And last but not least...

Progressive music’s pioneering figures continue to hold sway over generations of musicians across the world.

Often this inspires soundalikes, clones, but sometimes their influence percolates through in an interesting way. Garden Music Project are based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and their debut album is Inspyred By Syd Barrett’s Artwork (AR Garden Records). The songs here are written by one Adriana Rubio, with the aim of creating a ‘synaesthetic connection’ to Syd’s paintings (presumably certain tones and notes correspond to his colours and strokes). Put like that it sounds highfalutin and pretentious, but the actual songs (Squares Lines And Polygons, Isolation, Transformation, Self Portrait) work well. The band here draw on psychedelia, power pop and prog’s jazzier climes, and while of course there’s a flavour of Syd’s own music in here, it succeeds as an affectionate tribute to, rather than a glib pastiche of, the Crazy Diamond himself.

Then we have Italian pianist Francesco Gazzara’s project, _Play Me My Song: Gazzara Plays Genesis _(Irma). Over a double album he tickles the ivories in loyal homage to the prog legends’ back catalogue. I must admit to having misgivings before playing the music. Was this going to be some god-awful mangling of some truly revered music, more Bobby Crush than Tony Banks? Not a bit of it. Coloured with Hammonds and Mellotrons where needed, Gazzara’s technically adept, sparklingly well produced renderings of A Trick Of The Tail, Mad Man Moon, One For The Vine, Firth Of Fifth and Dancing With The Moonlit Knight only remind you of the band’s gorgeous, complicated musical logic. It’s a tribute to Banks in particular perhaps, though Gazzara’s piano arrangement of Steve Hackett’s brief gem Horizons further reveals that piece’s own baroque brilliance. Credible work, this.

However, if it’s some freshly minted leftfield music you’re after, then you can always rely on the All Tomorrow’s Parties label to sniff out something completely different. Their latest signing Vision Fortune formed in 2012 and have since developed a passion for Brian Eno’s music. There’s certainly a strand of his DNA on their new album Country Music. Don’t let that ironic name fool you - these experimental electronic arrangements see sparse beats underpin droning squalls of static and both artificial and concrete sounds with hip, hypnotic vocals in the mix too. This is niche stuff, but if Scott Walker’s recent dalliance with Sunn O))) appealed, then this daring troupe will heat those same pleasure centres in your brain.

Cristobal And The Sea purvey a moreish brand of tropicalia that might be on the outer limits of Planet Prog’s atmosphere, but it’s hard not to be beguiled by their debut EP Peach Tree (Drag City). Flutes and dreamy guitars usher in opener Garden, lush with Gilberto-esque harmonies and vaguely bossa beats that persist across the five tracks. The swirling closer Zorro hints that there’s much prog promise here.

Finally Looking Glass Lantern, aka Dr Graham Dunnington, returns with The Hound Of The Baskervilles. Another self-released, Sherlock Holmes-inspired selection it’s sweet, retro and atmospheric; Alan Parsons on a bedroom budget.

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.