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Prog Round-up: June 2011

Geoff Barton on new releases from Presto Ballet, Lunar Dunes, Cryptex, Central Park and Bong

Presto Ballet: Invisible Places

Presto Ballet began as a simple side project for metal church guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof to indulge his love of 70s progressive rock – particularly the work of bands such as Yes, Kansas and Genesis. Now, after two albums – Peace Among The Ruins (’05) and The Lost Art Of Time Travel (’08) – PB have emerged as a fully fledged band. The guy who provides the magic is new keyboardist Kerry Shacklett, a towering talent who Vanderhoof discovered via YouTube. Shacklett’s playing elevates Invisible Places into the upper reaches of the stratosphere, with Kurdt taking a backseat at times. The contribution of vocalist Ronny Munroe shouldn’t be underestimated, either. His deep, sonorous singing style is at times reminiscent of Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson – which gives PB’s music an interesting emotional twist. Eschewing the use of digital instruments and wearing their 70s influences proudly on their sleeve, Presto Ballet have produced one of the most outstanding prog albums of the year so far. (810)

Lunar Dunes: Galaxsea

Prog, by its very nature, is challenging music. But if you occasionally tire of having your mind torn into tiny little pieces, you should check out Lunar Dunes. Mixing space rock, krautrock and electronica, this largely improvisational album will have you lunging toward the chill cabinet with indecent haste. No surprise that lD have strong links with Transglobal Underground. (710)

Cryptex: Good Morning, How Did You Live?

The debut album from Germany’s Cryptex can best be described as progressive folk metal – imagine Jethro Tull mixed with Tool and you wouldn’t be far off the mark. Star of the show is singer Simon Moskon, who – believe it or not – sounds like he’s been drafted in from 70s power-poppers Milk ’N’ Cookies. (710)

Central Park: Reflected

Hailing from Munich rather than Manhattan, Central Park combine Crimsonesque influences with symphonic and metallic sounds to intriguing effect. The jury’s still out on the operatic antics of new gal Jannine Pusch, however. Still, if you like the idea of Velvet Underground’s Nico singing with Amon Düül II, this could be the band for you. (610)

Bong: Beyond Ancient Space

This is what we want: an album made up of just a trio of tracks: two 25-minute offerings, and one that clocks in at nearly half an hour! With slow, chanting vocals and spooky spoken-word intros, this is like Hawkwind playing Sleep’s back catalogue. Stonehenge druids with electric guitars, Bong’s music is like a ritual sacrifice taking place in your eardrum. (610)