TODO alt text

The best new prog albums you can buy this month

Jo Kendall on the latest releases from Wolf People, Jean-Michel Jarre, Shaman Elephant, James McArthur and Mike Keneally

Wolf People - Ruins

It’s No More Mister Nice Guy(s) for intellectual Brit psych-rocker types Wolf People. Months of on-the-go production – drummer and engineer Tom Watt making use of his portable recording kit, capturing takes in all places, at all times – has resulted in the quartet going one louder on their third album. From the get-go they sound decidedly fucked off, frontloading Ruins with a trio of dirty, Vertigo-style garage-rock belters, exclaiming ‘Tear it down!’ on Rhine Sagas, before lead guitarist Joe Hollick attempts Tony McPhee-levels of eardrum-rupturing splitter work on the densely groovy Night Witch.

We’re back on a familiar pastoral folk footing for the wistful centrepiece Kingfisher and its two reprises (one spectral, one funky), the sturdier grooves of Thistles, Crumbling Dais and the raga-twanging, woodblock-banging Belong balancing the delicacy of Salt Mill as their love-letter to a fast-fading rural heritage stretches out like Mighty Baby’s Egyptian Tomb. In a nutshell: fuzzily fierce. (810)

Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygène 3

Since Netflix’s 80s sci-fi drama Stranger Things took over the world, synths are back, back, back. That’s lucky, cos so is the Pierre Pan of ‘la scène’, following up 1976’s futuristic smash Oxygène and 1997’s Oxygène 7-13. There’s a theme, numbered from 14; dramatic, cinematic, dark but (disappointingly) modern-dancey. 18 hits an ambient spot, though, and 20 is the big ole cosmic epic we really crave. (510)

Shaman Elephant - Crystals

Take no notice of the Random Psych Band Generator name. The Bergen quartet’s debut is a polished affair blasting hard rock/jazz prog/improv grunge with assurance and verve, akin to fellow countrymen Motorpsycho, but with lashings of bubbling keyboards throughout. Scintillae of Zep, Cream, Pretty Things and Yes get a peep in, too. This is one effervescing animal. (710)

James McArthur - Burnt Moth

The second LP from Londoner McArthur (and his band, the Head Gardeners) is 10 tracks of soft-sung, autumnal folk with tinges of country and just enough Nick Drake/Bert Jansch expansion (What The Day Holds, Lonely Oak) to fit a proggier remit. Syd Arthur’s Joel Magill guests on Evens On Green, a Beta Band-like roots rondo with jazzy touches that a modern-day Pentangle might pilfer. (610)

Mike Keneally - Scambot 2

Here’s the sequel to 2009’s Scambot, a concept involving a mass consciousness experiment, mutants, divine interference and a hapless test subject. Keneally’s Mensa-level musicality, penchant for the absurd and grounding as Zappa’s side-man make this one incredible, avant-jazz eruption, teeming with towering rock tunes and rich in silliness. A CD of high quality offcuts, Inkling, comes free. (810)

The 20 best prog albums of 2016