Prog Round-up: September 2012

Geoff Barton on new releases from Big Big Train, Beautify Junkyards, Autumn Whispers, Retrovati and Telergy

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Big Big Train: English Electric Part One

When Big Big Train’s previous full-length, The Underfall Yard, came out in 2009, we called it ‘an Anglo-prog masterclass’. That’s because the Bournemouth band are steeped in the tradition of this sceptre’d isle. You could almost say they’re the prog equivalent of the Olympics opening ceremony. The eight songs on English Electric Part One take us on an elegiac journey through the English landscape, from the mining towns of the north to the chalk hills of the south. Musically similar to early Marillion, BBT’s tales of times-gone-by are delivered with a melancholy passion. Most of the tracks are of an epic nature, but we really enjoyed the shorter (sub four-minute) Uncle Jack, a jaunty ‘song of the hedgerows’ full of bucolic references to rose hips, honeysuckle and haw berries… plus the inevitable mug of tea. Elsewhere, Winchester From St Giles’ Hill conjures up the titular vista perfectly, while A Boy In Darkness is a dark tale of exploitative coal-mining ‘in the awesome stillness of the deep black’. The sequel to this will be released in March 2013. (810)

Beautify Junkyards: From The Morning

We don’t often review singles here at the Prog Column, but we simply must bring this to your attention: a superb rendition of the Nick Drake song by a new Portuguese combo. Recorded in a field (twittering birds and everything), listening to Drake’s winsome lyrics being interpreted in a foreign accent is different, to say the least. B-side is Fuga No.2, originally by Brazilian psychedelic rockers Os Mutantes. (710)

Autumn Whispers: Cry Of Dereliction Vol. 1

Multicultural proggers Autumn Whispers comprise musicians from Norway, Greece, Malaysia and England, and describe their music as ‘poetic rock with progressive/ classical elements and enigmatic lyrics’. Soothing and stately, although rather sparse-sounding, if someone told you this was an early Mike Oldfield demo you’d probably believe them. (710)

Retrovati: Mechanical Love

Here’s a first: a prog release from the Central American republic of Panama. The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Jose Pimental, this recalls Vangelis or Jean-Michel Jarre. Standout track is No More where twinkling keys are offset by gruff guitar. Says Pimental: “recording this was like cooking a French dish – the details are what make the difference, and the result is amazing.” If you say so, squire. (610)

Telergy: The Exodus

Here’s another multi-instrumentalist for you: the delightfully named Robert McClung. Here he’s accompanied by ‘dozens of top-notch musicians from around the world’ and, er… his missus, Melissa McClung. This is a clumsy retelling of the Biblical story of the Exodus, and the spoken-word parts (a grandmother relating the tale to her curious grandson) are am-dram in the extreme. (410)

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.