Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Progressive Journeys

One of the wonderful things I like about Progressive music is the great variety there is out there. Even within the current crop of bands there are those who seem to channel the spirit of the 1970s, creating music that wouldn't have seemed out of place back in the heyday of Prog, but there are others who are carving their own particular Progressive niche too.

For music to be truly Progressive, I believe, it needs to take you somewhere new - somewhere that no other music has taken you. Two bands in particular have done that for me in recent weeks. Both are bands that have been around for a while, and that I have heard tell of, but had not, until recently, listened to, and both have opened my eyes to the further possibilities of Prog.

The first was The Enid, who I encountered at Sheffield's annual city-wide music festival, Tramlines. They are a band whose line-up has changed many times since their inception, under the constant guiding hand of Robert John Godfrey, and I had heard much praise for their release 'Invicta' last year - though I 'd not managed to hear it. Their set was simply spellbinding: full of consummate musicianship, energy, drama and pure emotion, it left me breathless and physically and emotionally transported - almost a spiritual experience. The music, combining elements of classical, rock, dance and electronic, was a revelation.

The other band was The Tangent. Again, I'd heard much about them, and had had their music recommended to me, but had never listened to them, until this last fortnight. Taking the plunge, I asked on the Facebook 'Big Big Train' group page which albums people thought I should particularly listen to as a new-comer to their music, and many of the replies pointed me towards their latest release - Le Sacre du Travail (The Rite of Work).

The work describes itself as 'An Electric Symphonia' and seeks musically to model Stravinsky's 'The Rite of Spring' while telling the story of a working day in England. Here again we see a cross-over between the classical and rock genres, and a very effective and engaging one it is too. The journey happens over five movements and takes us from the morning commute to the tedium of office life, the evening rush hour and the later evening in front of the TV. Lyrically and musically Andy Tillison ( the driving force of the band) has produced a fine piece of work, and having acquainted myself with his work, I am now immersing myself in his earlier material - all of it of an equally high standard. What I particularly like about his writing, across his albums, is his harking back to his formative years, growing up as I did in Yorkshire in the 1970s, hearing what we now consider to be Classic Prog for the first time - in songs like 'Muffled Epiphany' on the latest album, and 'The Sun in My Eyes' on the earlier release 'A Place in the Queue'.

I would warmly commend both of these acts as a way of stretching your musical understanding, taking music to a new level and rejoicing in the depth of creativity that is still present - albeit not in the mainstream - of British music.