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Prog Round-up: May 2013

Geoff Barton on new releases from Big Big Train, Cosmograf, Retrospective, The Minstrel’s Ghost and Godsticks

Big Big Train: English Electric Part Two

Bournemouth’s Big Big Train are big big news these days. For proof, look no further than our sister mag Prog’s 2012 readers’ poll: BBT’s English Electric Part One was the No.2 album, kept off the top only by Marillion’s Sounds That Can’t Be Made. With Part Two the steam-driven things continue their elegiac journey across the English landscape – and there’s not a points failure in sight. The aural equivalent of TV’s Countryfile (or, for older readers, Jack Hargreaves’s Out Of Town), here be seven stiff-upper-lipped songs that soar like a squadron of Spitfires on a serene summer’s day. Stories are told of the shipbuilders in Neptune’s Yard, of a Keeper Of Abbeys and (our personal favourite) a Curator Of Butterflies. With David Longdon’s voice recalling Peter Gabriel at his most highly charged, it’s hard to judge whether this mood-laden piece is solemn, or uplifting, or both. What is for sure is that Part Two is another stunning achievement. (810)

Cosmograf: _The Man Left In Space _

Cosmograf is a project led by Hampshire-based multi-instrumentalist Robin Armstrong. As its name implies, the album deals with the Major Tom-esque theme of intergalactic solitude. Reminiscent of Tinyfish with brutally heavy guitars, it also highlights how mankind’s increasing social alienation is caused by single-minded, success-driven lifestyles. Cleverly done. (710)

Retrospective: Lost In Perception

The Polish band are keen to distance themselves from fellow countrymen Riverside but they’re actually very similar: same agonised vocals; same bleak, bass-driven songs. Or as the press release says: ‘The sextet is able to make guitars howl thunderously and make them weep in a dreamy Frippertronics way.’ Now if we had a Zloty for every time someone told us that… (610)

The Minstrel’s Ghost: The Road To Avalon

This retelling of the Arthurian legend is a brave failure. Arizona’s The Minstrel’s Ghost have the commitment but not the Wakeman-sized grandiosity to do their subject justice. It all sounds rather lame, like an am-dram Styx. Camelot even has a drum solo, fer Chrissakes. They probably blew all their budget on swords and robes for the publicity photo. (510)

Godsticks: The Envisage Conundrum

Existing in a mysterious prog netherworld somewhere between Van der Graaf Generator and System Of A Down, Godsticks are damn difficult to pigeonhole. This, their second full-length, showcases a harsher, heavier sound and is by no means a relaxing listen. The album climaxes with a fraught three-part epic titled Borderstomp, by which time your nerves are in shreds. (710)