Monday, September 3, 2012

Who Said Progressive Rock Died in 1976?!

Contrary to popular opinion, interesting, creative, complex music has continued to be produced since 1976. And I'm not just talking about the post-Peter Gabriel-Genesis/Marillion-led Neo-Prog offerings. Nor am I referring to the hydra of metal sub-genres that came out of the Black Sabbath/Led Zeppelin-Iron Maiden-Queensryche vein of music.

While music historians like to refer to the 1967 through 1976 years as the "Classic" era of what we now call "progressive rock" or, less formally, "prog" (but which we listeners at the time called "rock" or maybe "album rock" or, later, "art rock"), I posit that several other eras of this particular type of electrified classically- or folk-influenced music have passed since 1976. There is the period of 1976 to 1988 in which new electronic advances and the video physical image came heavily into focus. This is the era which I shall call the "Midi-evil Farlight Ages." During this period there were interesting musical experiments going on with the plethora of rapidly advancing electronic and computer-generated equipment coming available to consumers. Most of this music has not stood up well over time as the recording and computer technologies make them seem quite dated. Also, the physical image with its wild clothing and crazier hairstyles seem a bit laughable now. Duran Duran, Peter Gabriel, Trevor Horn, Kate Bush, Flock of Seagulls, Thomas Dolby, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Phil Collins may have had talent and good intentions but . . . that hair!

Then there is what I call the "Renaissance Period" in which the likes of David Sylvian, The Cardiacs, The Cure, Ozric Tentacles, Talk Talk, Anglagard, Cynic, Death, After Crying, Collage, Roine Stolt, Sigur Ròs and others tested new waters of non-commercial, album-oriented music. From the wave of these creative artists and that of the burgeoning Neo-Prog and morphing Metal scenes, a new generation of artists were born . . . as well as a closet full of old-timers found new life in the new light.

With the rise and evolution of the likes of Toby Driver, Omar Rodriquez-Lopez, and, to a lesser extent, Steven Wilson, Mariuz Duda, Devin Townsend, Richard Wileman, and the Internet, I believe that a new "Golden Age" of Progressive Rock music has ensued. In fact, it is this author's opinion and belief that the music made in the year 2011 not only equalled but surpassed that of 1972, the year many people believe to be the greatest year of prog music.

2011 had more high quality memorable albums, more enduring masterpieces, more polished music, a far vaster bandwith of music to choose from, and a far greater volume of albums to choose from than 1972. Because of the enormity of the volume of music released around the world in 2011 it may take years for listeners to hear much less weed out the cream from the skim, to declare the masterpieces from the dross. But, then, the same can be said of the Classic Era: many of us are still discovering "new" masterpieces from the Sixties and Seventies that we never heard of much less heard before.

Until I got hooked into the World Wide Web I had never heard of Magma and Zeuhl, Caravan and the Canterbury Scene, Henry Cow, Univers Zero and the RIO/Avant scene, and I had most definitely never heard of Rock Progressivo Italiano. So, I have only recently had the great privilege and delight of  discovering the wonders of Ange, Aphrodite's Child, Area, Ash Ra Tempel, Asia Minor, Atlas, Babylon, Bacamarte, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Brainticket, Caravan, Celeste, Cherry Five, Comus, Conventum, Cos, Curved Air, Deja Vu, Dun, Eden, Egg, Eider Stellaire, Eloy, The Enid, Eskaton, Fermata, Fruupp, Gentle Giant, Gnidrolog, Gong, Grobshnitt, Gryphon, Guru Guru, Harmonium, Hatfield and the North, Hawkwind, Heldon, Herbie Hancock, Hölderlein, Hugh Hopper, Itoiz, Jan Dukes de Grey, Junipher Greene, Kayak, Khan, Klaus Schulze, Le Orme, Locanda della Fate, Maneige, Metamorfosi, Moving Gelatine Plates, Museo Rosenbach, National Health, Neu!, Opus-5, Osanna, Pekka Pohjola, Pererin, Pichio dal Pozzo, Pollen, Popul Vuh, Potemkine, PFM (Premiata Forneria Marconi), Procul Harum, Quiet Sun, Sammla Mammas Manna, SBB, Sloche, Soft Machine, Solaris, Steve Hillage, The Strawbs, Supersister, Tim Buckley, Van Der Graaf Generator,Weidorje, Robert Wyatt, Yezda Urfa, Zamla Mammaz Manna, Zao, and Zyma.

At the same time, I am equally impressed and enamored with modern artists like Advent, After Crying, Airbag, AKT, Aisles, Alcest, Algernon, The Amazing, Amplifier, Amarok, Anathema, Anekdoten, Anglagarde, Anubis, The Appleseed Cast, Aranis, Areknamés, Argos, Astra, Autumn Chorus, Bark Psychosis, Battlestations, Big Big Train, Birds and Buildings, Björk, Blackmore's Night, Bondage Fruit, The Box, Brother Ape, Camembert, Caspian, Cicada, Ciccada, Cirrus Bay, The Clientele, Clint Mansell, Coldplay, Collage, Collapse Under the Empire, Cynic, The D Project, Dargaard, Dark Sanctuary, Dean Watson, The Dear Hunter, DeeExpus Project, Delirium, Deluge Grander, Devin Townsend, Devotchka, Diablo Swing Orchestra, Diagonal, Din Within, Dirty Three, Discipline, Disconnect, Diversion Voice, Djam Karet, Domina Catrina Lee, Don Caballero, doves, Dream Theater, dredg, Druckfarben, Dungen, Dunwich, Echolyn, Edge of Sanity, Edison's Children, Eider Stellaire, Electric Orange, Elephant9, Elvenking, Emilie Autumn, Ephemeral Sun, Epica, Eris Pluvia, Factor Burzaco, Fauns, Fen, Finisterre, First Band From Outer Space, Fjieri, Flamborough Head, The Falming Lips, Fleet Foxes, floorian, The Flower Kings, Fourteen Twenty-six, French TV, Frequency Drift, Frogg Café, From.UZ, Frost*, Funin, The Future Kings of England, Garbage, The Gathering, Gazpacho, Gifts from Enola, Glasshammer, God Is an Astronaut, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Gösta Berlings Saga, The Gourishankar, Grand Stand, Greenwall, Gregor Samsa, Greylevel, Groovector, Guapo, Steve Hackett, Haken, Hammock, Hands, Hannah Fury, Hiromi Uehara, Hostsonaten, Humble Grumble, Huong Thanh, Hypnos 69, If These Trees Could Talk, Ihsahn, Il bacio della Medusa, Il Castello di Atlante, Il tempio delle Clessidre, Illuzjon, Indukti, Introitus, Intonaut, IOEarth, Iona, IQ, Isuldur's Bane, Isis, Izz, J'accuse..., Jaga Jazzist, Jannick Top, Jelly fiche, John Zorn, Jonathan Wilson, Joy Wants Eternity, Junius, Kaipa, Kaki King, Karda Estra, Karmakanik, Karnivool, Kayo dot, Khatsaturjan, King Crimson, Knight Area, Koenjihyakkei, Kotebel, Lagartija, Landberk, Lebowski, The Lens, Leprous, Long Distance Calling, Lost World Band, Lunar Dunes, Lunatic Soul, Mad Crayon, Magenta, Magic Pie, new Magma, Mägo de Oz, Manning, Marconi Union, Mars Hollow, The Mars Volta, Maserati, Massive Attack, Matryoshka, Matthew Parmenter, maudlin of the Well, Mediaeval Baebes, Memories of Machines, The Mercury Program, Mew, Minimum Vital, Miriodor, miRthkon, Mogwai, Mono, Moon Safari, Moongarden, Morte Macabre, Mostly Autumn, Mr. Gil, My Brother the Wind, My Education, Mystery, Neal Morse, Negurã Bunget, Nemo, New Trolls, Nexus, Nightwish, Nil, No-Man, North Sea Radio Orchestra, NoSound,  Nox Arcana, Nuova Era, Oblivion Sun, The Ocean, Oceansize, Olive, Omar Rodriquez-Lopez, On the Virg, Opeth, The Opium Cartel, Opus III, øresound Space Collective,Orphaned Land, OSI, Outerlimits,  Overhead, Ozric Tentacles, Päatos, Pain of Salvation, Panzerballet, Parzival's Eye, Paul Cusick, Perplexa, Petrograd in Transit, Phideaux, The Pineapple Thief, Planeta Imaginerio, Porcupine Tree, Present, Primus, The Psychedelic Ensemble, Pure Reason Revolution, Puscifer, Quantum Fantay, Quidam, Radiohead, Ragnarok, Rational Diet, The Reasoning, Red Sparowes, Retrospective, Rishloo, Ritual, Riverside, Robin Guthrie, RPWL, Russian Circles, Samsare Blues Experiment, Sanhedrin, Satellite, Say Hello to My Kids, Scarlet Thread, Sean Filkins, Senogul, Sense, Seven Reizh, Shaolin Death Squad, Siddhartha, Sigur Rós, Silhouette, Simon Says, Sinkadus, SKE, Sleepmakeswaves, Sleepytime Gorilla, Slychosis, Solus 3, Soma Planet, The Spacious Mind, Spock's Beard, Stereolab, Steve Jansen, Steven Wilson, Stick Men, Subsignal, Sunchild, Sunwrae, Sylvan, T, Tame Impala, Tarja, Taylor's Universe, The Tea Club, Tempano, Thieves' Kitchen, Thinking Plague, This Will Destroy You, tinyfish, To-Mera, Tool, Tortoise, Trey Gunn, Trion, Tristeza, Tune, Ulver, UneXpect, Unitopia, Universal Totem Orchestra, Vespero, Vienna Circle, Viima, Volare, Von Herzen Brothers, The Watch, West Indian Girl, White Willow, Willowglass, Within Temptation, Wobber, Xang, XII Alfonso, Xing Sa, your ten mofo, Yugen, Zubi Zuva, and 65daysofstatic.

Music marches on. Progressive rock is alive. The artful side of the the classic rock explosion of the late 1960s and 1970s has been resuscitated--much to the chagrin of the purists who cling to analog recording, less treated and synthesized instruments and recording techniques, and, of course, more spontaneous, live, whole-band playing and recording (as opposed to single track performances computer perfected and treated, sampled, sequenced, and made "pitch perfect" before being all spliced together into a song--sometimes by musicians who never see or perform together in the same room--just emailing tapes of their contributions from their corner of the planet to the composer/editor/engineer). Even the complaint of so much digitized and "compressed" music in today's music doesn't seem to bother me. I still get strong emotional and intellectual reactions to today's music. The difference for me is that virtually all of my music listened to and collected from the past 25 years has come in the form of CD and MP3 formats. Gone are the days in which I would set my ideal listening station seated between my Polk Audio speakers

Maybe its the writer in me: I now prefer the studio recordings, the worked and re-worked, polished and "perfected" representations of an artists ideas and desires. I am very seldom in the presence of live musicians--though I am still of the opinion that live performance gives the listener the fullest psycho-spiritual experience of music. Parenthood did that, I guess. My schools' and children's concerts and performances served quite adequately to feed my soul.

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