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Prog Round-up: July 2012

Geoff Barton on new releases from Quidam, Cranium Pie, Syd Arthur, Coralspin and Frames

Quidam: Saiko

Poland’s Quidam are one of prog’s best-kept secrets. It looks like they’re going to remain that way, because they’ve reverted to singing in their native tongue on all but one of the tracks on this, their sixth full-length studio album. Beautifully packaged as always, Saiko sees Quidam cutting the clutter from their sound. “Sometimes a single sustained note can be more fascinating than hundreds of them,” they explain. The new approach is most noticeable on Obok Mam (aka I Don’t Give A Damn), which sounds – believe it or not – like Jethro Tull crossed with Coldplay. Frontman Bartosz Kossowicz has a fabulous voice; despite the language barrier, a chilling emotion is in evidence throughout. Roller, the sole track with English lyrics, is a bittersweet love song with the vocals of both Kossowicz and Natalie Grosiak. It begins gently and reflectively, then climaxes with a bout of Emerson-like keyboard frenzy. Quidam are entirely accurate when they say: “Saiko is mature, optimal, dynamic, sparing, atmospheric and, above all, beautiful.” (810)

Cranium Pie: A Visit To Newport Hospital

This single is a cover of a song from Egg’s 1971 album The Polite Force. Wiltshire-based pastry-proggers Cranium Pie say it’s “totally unfaithful to the original”. Not true, as some of Egg’s trademark tweeness remains intact amid the eccentric krautrock barrage. The B-side has another treat: a scrambled version of Queen St. Gang by Egg offshoot outfit Arzachel. (710)

Syd Arthur: On And On

Egg (see review above) were, of course, part of prog’s Canterbury scene. Syd Arthur are based in that same Kent cathedral city, and they’re steeped in its musical heritage. Charming, whimsical, wistful, light-headed… all the Canterbury quirks are here on a top-notch debut, with closer Paradise Lost sounding like a turbo-charged Caravan (if such a thing is possible for something that is generally towed). (710)

Coralspin: Honey And Lava

East Midlands-based Coralspin call their music ‘modprog’, but fear not, they don’t sound like Paul Weller meets Yes. Their debut gets off to a poor start with the jarring, directionless Sons Of The Sleeping Giant but improves greatly. The prog-funk of Sky’s End is especially enjoyable; shame that Ellie Blyth over-reaches herself vocally on closer Aching. (510)

Frames: In Via

Mosaik, German band Frames’ 2010 debut, was widely praised and this will likely receive similar accolades. Like its predecessor, In Via is all-instrumental (apart from some weird spoken-word stuff on Departure). Most tracks begin softly and then accelerate in intensity, spurred on by spiralling guitars. Reminiscent of Oceansize in parts (who, you might recall, released an album called Frames in 2007). (610)