Prog Round-up: August 2015

Geoff Barton on new releases from A Formal Horse, Nice Beaver, Rainburn, Magic Pie and Kes

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A Formal Horse: Morning Jigsaw

A Formal Horse are a dapper, sharp-suited bunch; why, even their equine mascot sports a top hat and tails, standing haughtily on its hind legs like a character out of TV’s Hector’s House. Morning Jigsaw, the Southampton quartet’s second EP, combines nervy, twitching rhythms – think XTC playing Voivod’s back catalogue – with pure-as-the-driven female vocals./o:p

The result is oddly intoxicating. The eight-minute title track somehow manages to be both dissonant and delicate at the same time, Francesca Lewis’s whimsical, waif-like singing falling somewhere between Sandy Denny and Jacqui McShee. The lyrics are bewildering – i.e. ‘A yawning unborn, I dined on chloroform’ – which is exactly as it should be.

Elsewhere, the jarring To The Beach segues spectacularly into pulsing instrumental (And Not Back), The King contains distinct hints of To-Mera, and Dim provides a jolting, jazzed-up finale. Saddle up – you’re in for a surreal ride. (810)/o:p

Nice Beaver: The Time It Takes

No relation to NWOBHM icons Split Beaver, Nice Beaver (their name is presumably Naked Gun-inspired) were last seen in 2004 when they put out second album Oregon. Their 11-year absence is explained thus: “Basically, life happened.” The Dutch band are at their best here on the Asia-like Rainbow’s End, and Erik Groeneweg has a booming, characterful voice. **(710) **

Rainburn: Canvas Of Silence

From Bangalore, each member of Rainburn resembles a heavily bearded tramp whose sole possession is a shopping trolley full of fetid bin bags. Surprisingly, their five-song debut EP is exceptional – imagine prog-tinged melodic hard rock with hints of Hindustani music, if you can. Seven-minute standout Fragments is like a masala-flavoured Dream Theater. (810)

Magic Pie: King For A Day

The fourth album from Norway’s Magic Pie is indebted heavily to classic Styx, right down to the hyperbolic Dennis DeYoung-like vocals and clunking James ‘JY’ Young-style guitar tones. This, of course, is no bad thing. The ridiculously ambitious 27-minute title track is the highlight, comin’ atcha like The Grand Illusion with extra steak, kidney and gravy. (810)

Kes: Kamlama

Inspired by the dark, jagged power of Meshuggah and Tool, Istanbul instrumental trio Kes come strongly recommended. Their go-for-the-jugular approach is summed up by their one-word song titles: Hak (Right in English), Dilenci (Beggar), Nevroz (Neurosis), Oda (Room) et al. These young Turks will surely make waves outside their home country soon. (710)/o:p

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.