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Prog Round-up: August 2015

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

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