Prog Round-up: April 2015

Geoff Barton on new releases from Pendragon, Lawrence’s Creation, Jeff Green Project, Cailyn and Markus Neuwirth

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Pendragon: Men Who Climb Mountains

“Enclosed is a copy of our new album,” prickly Pendragon mainman Nick Barrett informs us in a hastily written note, adding: “Someone sometimes has just gotta write some songs when we’re all drowning in a whirlpool of prog twaddle.”

The CD cover depicts a wretched, bloody-knuckled, old-school mountaineer, and sums up perfectly the spirit of the music Barrett has created. These caustic, guitar-driven songs celebrate the courage of daredevil adventurers but suggest that a mad-eyed quest for glory can also provide a cowardly escape from the mundanities of everyday life. The double-edged message comes into stark focus on sprawling centrepiece Explorers Of The Infinite, which focuses on one man’s blinkered hankering ‘to climb the jagged peaks… to flirt with danger and the criminally insane’.

From spectral opener Belle Âme to the smouldering intensity of closing track Netherworld, this is edgy, barbed, precarious stuff. Although they formed in 1978, Pendragon are no archaic throwbacks. Rather, they’re at the very forefront of contemporary prog – quite an achievement. (810)/o:p

Lawrence’s Creation: Drop Zone

Philadelphia-based multi-instrumentalist Lawrence Wallace promises “10 tracks of progressive instrumental ecstasy once thought beyond the capabilities of human imagination”. Sadly, what we have instead is the Great Kat playing Hawkwind’s back catalogue. (Album not to be confused with Flouncy Sleeves & Flock Wallpaper by Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen’s Creation.) (410)

Jeff Green Project: Elder Creek

This deeply affecting album was inspired – if “inspired” is the correct word – by guitarist Jeff Green’s late grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. You’d have to be a hard-hearted soul not to be touched by these gauzy, mournful musings. Twenty-minute closing track A Long Time From Now cleverly name-checks Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory and remembrance. (710)

Cailyn: Voyager

Inspired by the Voyager space missions and including snippets from The Planets suite by Gustav Holst, this instrumental album is full of prodigious musicianship but fails in its aim to take the listener on “a sonic tour of the outer solar system”; it simply isn’t cosmic enough. Cailyn Lloyd is an adroit guitarist à la Steve Morse, so if you enjoy the Purple man’s solo stuff then this might be for you. (610)

Markus Neuwirth: The Der Knabe Im Moor

This tells the tale of a young boy making his way across a haunted moor and the “engulfing horror” and “haunting anguish” he experiences during his harrowing journey. Imagine, if you can, a Bo Hansson album with vocals by Tom G. Warrior of Celtic Frost. A genuinely hair-raising piece of work, veering between prog, dark folk music and black metal. (710)/o:p