Touchstone are back with their first work since Kim Seviour and Rob Cottingham left the band. Four-song EP Lights From The Sky (Ministry Of Progression) introduces their replacements – singer Aggie and keyboardist Liam Holmes. There’s certainly a fresh spring in the musicians’ step here, as they regroup around a singer with a higher range and more intense delivery than her predecessor. The music is as epic as ever: Tangled Lines and Fear are operatic and earnest, and the uncompromising title track is here twice, in both English and Aggie’s native Polish. Losing crucial members would scupper other bands, but Touchstone in 2016 sound like they’re embarking on an exciting new leg of their journey. Good on ’em.
A few years back, Prog Towers rang to the sounds of Big Guys, the first album from Bristol oddballs The Brackish. David Elliott heard it too, and signed them up to his diverse prog label Bad Elephant. Follow-up album Liquid Of Choice is an even more refreshing instrumental trip for fans of Can, Tortoise and even Primus. The avant-garde/jazz intelligence of their twangy guitar improvisations is undercut by a salty, West Country charm.
So that makes them labelmates with the ever-welcome omnipresence that is the inimitable The Fierce And The Dead. They’ve just reissued their 2011 debut, If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe (Bad Elephant), remastered with five bonus tracks and proggy new artwork. Another listen to …Morecambe would certainly be recommended.
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To another seaside town now, where Southend guitarist Adam Loveridge draws on his heroes John Petrucci, David Gilmour and Joe Satriani on his self-released solo debut. Renatus is a nicely produced if ultimately formative set, but tunes like Eye Of The Storm and lovely string piece Serenity suggest that with the right band and material, Loveridge could be a player to reckon with.
And then there are artists so concussively convincing that you wonder why you’re not wearing some of their merch right now. Farnborough’s Rootwork have supported both proggers Black Peaks and pretty boy rockers Toseland, and here’s hoping the title of their new EP Some Of Us Will Never Bloom (Badge Of Friendship) isn’t prophetic. The downtuned riffs of Trust and Ozymandias are sludgy but melodic, and their modern harmony vocals veer from XTC to Mastodon, which can only be a good thing.
Finally, Therion’s Christofer Johnsson is back with his Luciferian Light Orchestra. The Black EP (Svart) follows the delicious darkness of their self-titled 2015 debut, once again mashing up the occult with Abba-esque female vocals (Where The Lilies Grow has more than a whiff of Summer Night City to it). Slick and satanic at the same time, it’s as if LLO have created their own musical niche and instantly cornered the market. Only seems fair…