Prog Round-up: June 2016

Geoff Barton on the latest releases from Big Big Train, Jade Vine, Axon-Neuron, Jump and Amphetamin

Big Big Train band photograph

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Big Big Train: Folklore

Unlike the 08:41 to Waterloo that your frazzled scribe endures every weekday, we can’t get enough of Bournemouth’s brilliant Big Big Train. Their music was once described in these very pages as “the prog equivalent of the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony”. That’s because BBT embody everything that’s great about this sceptred isle; it’s de rigeur to listen to their albums while consuming a quart of cask ale and swotting up on Donald Campbell’s high-speed heroics in a dog-eared copy of The Eagle. Their songs are pastoral, elegiac and unashamedly, soul-stirringly patriotic.

For proof, look no further than Winkie, a ripping yarn about (we kid you not) a pigeon that won a medal for assisting in the rescue of an aircrew forced to ditch in the North Sea during World War Two. The Transit Of Venus Across The Sun is inspired by the life of eccentric monocled astronomer Patrick Moore, while Brooklands takes its title from the iconic motor-racing circuit in Surrey – now sadly defaced by a Tesco superstore, which is a Big Bloody Tragedy in anyone’s book. (910)

Jade Vine: Mind Of A Man

London-based Jade Vine bill themselves as a “rock band with an alternative/prog twist”. That’s a pretty accurate description, their drifting, mellifluous melodies mixing it up with moments of searing Radiohead-style intensity. Songs such as Corpus Callosum and Would You? manage to be simultaneously soothing and unsettling; no mean feat. (710)

Axon-Neuron: Metamorphosis

Due to failing eyesight we initially thought this to be a surprise new album from The Neutrons, an obscure 70s offshoot of Welsh wizards Man. Turns out Axon-Neuron hail from Akron, Ohio and purvey a fidgety, female-fronted hybrid of traditional prog and jarring math-rock. This double-album features a 21-piece orchestra on many tracks; it’s nothing if not ambitious. (710)

Jump: Over The Top

This, astonishingly, is the 13th studio album from Buckinghamshire-based Jump. It marks a return to full electric format following the acoustic setting of 2013’s The Black Pilgrim. The band’s wandering minstrel style evokes memories of the Canterbury scene and Tull; there’s a sinister side to their music too, akin to being mugged by a maniacal Morris Dancer. (710)

Amphetamin: A Flood Of Strange Sensations

Amphetamin are a French post-prog/art-rock project, the brainchild of a man known only as Sebastian. There are ghosts of Gallic shoegazers Alcest but Seb’s high-pitched singing is hard to take seriously. Nevertheless, tracks such as The Threshold pack an undeniable punch. (610)

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.