Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Progressive Thanksgiving

I've had a soft spot for progressive rock from an early age. In my teens I discovered it, and through the years have followed it's famous originators to the present day. Certainly every holiday season, I find myself drawn back to it. It's my holiday music.

However, the aesthetic of the 1970's, however beautiful with those raw synth arpeggios, mellotron, and flute, timeless as some are, doesn't match us today. To play like Rick Wakeman would be, well, to play like him. It doesn't show us anything new, it is merely an acknowledgement of that legendary keyboardist.

I've explored contemporary prog in some detail. Mostly crunchy, endeavoring to keep some jazz elements alive with the same type of wonderful time and key changes. The best example I can think of is Matt Stevens. Check Oxymoron. Amazing musicianship, great production. This is really the state of the art in the direction of progressive rock oriented music.

But there are other directions as well. The strength of progressive rock was not the rock, not the sound even, but the ideas that were formed by those composers experimenting with new ways to put things together.

Today there are independent artists who work in this vein. Here some examples:

Helicopter Quartet's Off World
This duo creates wonderful long journeys. Interplay between the two musicians is finely honed, as these two have been working together for a very long time (in actual "prog" bands). Off World builds on the simple beginning to become something so much more.

Isotherme's Song of Sixpence
I'm often surprised by what can go relatively unnoticed by the masses. They certainly miss out on this incredible six part epic from Isotherme. I keep returning to it, and perhaps you will too.

Wolfgang Merx's Buried in the Past
I admit that I've collaborated with Wolfgang myself. That being said, his collaboration with so many other artists on his release Insecurity is a lot of fun. Buried in the Past is a good example.