"Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio is inducting rock group Genesis into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month."
Thursday, February 25, 2010
"To be involved in the documentary has been hard from that point of view, because they're making so much of things we've done in the past, and asking questions about details 25, 30 years ago — a lot of them have just gone out of my head," Lee told Walrus magazine.
"It's a bit uncomfortable dwelling so much on what has happened. I'm more comfortable looking forward and not being constantly aware of how long i've been in the same band.
"The very business of looking back — through archival footage and photographs — can feel self-indulgent. You want to spend your time thinking about things other than your own face."
Personally speaking, I think it's about time for one of Canada's most important bands to finally get a proper retrospective documentary made. I'll be looking out for future news on this and I'll post whatever I find right here.
"But that will change with Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen's aptly titled Rush: The Documentary, which could be released as early as May 18, according to Rush fansite Power Windows. No official announcement's been made yet."
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The High Voltage Festival to feature Emerson, Lake & Palmer amongst a slew of Progressive Rock bands
"High Voltage is the must-see rock event of 2010 – a two-day festival featuring the very best in classic rock, progressive rock and metal. Custom built by rock fans, for rock fans."
Monday, February 22, 2010
"Rock guitar legend Adrian Belew (Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Talking Heads, King Crimson) will introduce his new solo work during the festival.""The second Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee during the weekend of March 26 – 28, 2010 continues to expand with Sufjan Stevens, Adrian Belew, William Basinski, Liturgy, Konk Pack, Abe Vigoda, and Ches Smith now slated to join the lineup."
Sunday, February 21, 2010
"Chris Supranowitz is a researcher at The Insitute of Optics at the University of Rochester. Along with a number of other spectacular studies (such as quantum optics, trapping of atoms, dark states and entanglement), Chris has decided to look at the relatively boring grooves of a vinyl record using the institute’s electron microscope. Well, not boring for me.
From what I read, it’s not just a simple matter of sticking a record under a fancy microscope, as there is a lot of preparation (such as gold-sputtering the surface) and post-processing to be done. Having said that, the results are very cool:"
Friday, February 19, 2010
The Enid Home
THE ENID ARE ON THEIR OWN AND BEING BLED DRY BY MOUNTING LEGAL COSTS AS THEY TRY TO DEFEND THEMSELVES AGAINST THEIR PREVIOUS RECORD COMPANY WHO IS TRYING TO SPEND THEM INTO THE GROUND AND JEOPARDIZE FUTURE PLANS
Exclusive album preview | Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back | Music | guardian.co.uk
For his first studio album in eight years, Peter Gabriel came up with an audacious plan. He decided to cover the work of his favourite artists and, in exchange, they would do the same for him. Scratch My Back is the first instalment of this project, and sees the 59-year-old, ex-Genesis man cover the likes of Radiohead, Talking Heads and David Bowie. The artists whose songs you hear here will be returning the favour by performing Gabriel's songs on a forthcoming album, I'll Scratch Yours.
2theadvocate.com | Music | Yes keeps progressive rock relevant — Baton Rouge, LA
“So I flew back to London next morning and Jon Anderson and Chris Squire came around to my apartment. ‘We want you to join the band or we’re gonna throw you out this third-floor window.’ ‘OK, Chris you’re a big guy, so let’s see if we can make this work.’ ”
As Anderson and Squire were exiting White’s door, Squire added, ‘Oh, by the way. We have a show in Dallas, Texas, on Monday. Learn this stuff and we’ll be fine.’
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
To start, a quick apology: if you feel that the posts have slowed somewhat here at the Prog Rock Blog, you'd be correct. The fact of the matter is that the Vancouver winter Olympics are well underway and most of my time has been dedicated to keeping an eye on the Canadian TV coverage for my Canadian media blog. Fear not though, while the Olympics are on for a few weeks, the world of Prog never sleeps. I'll post as often as I can here and will resume to full-tilt Progland once the closing ceremonies are over. Prog On! (hahaha that's a silly thing to say)As much as I adore what Porcupine Tree has done over the last couple of decades, my favorite album by Mr. Wilson probably has to be the one he released under his own name. Steven's first solo album is not just another Porcupine Tree album. There are hints of the PT sound to be found for sure, but what makes Insurgentes so special for me is that it's really a compendium of everything Steven Wilson. Take a dash of Porcupine Tree, add some No-Man, sprinkle a bit of Bass Communion and heap in a health dose of Blackfield. This album features just about every aspect of the man. We often mention about how diverse and prolific the guy is, but I'm not sure we've ever considered what it would sound like if he brought all of his masks to the same ball. That really is the essence of what makes Insurgentes what it is: a work of art unique to one man. There is always a question of how much of the artist should be apparent in his art. This album is pure Steven Wilson.
Frankly, I have no idea why I haven't presented this album earlier in this series. The great thing about it is if you own it, you have the DVD-Audio. As far as I'm able to tell, every CD comes bundled with the DVD. That means that if you're even remotely into contemporary Progressive Rock, you probably already own it. And wow, what a disc it is to own. In fact, looking over my fairly large collection of surround sound music discs, this album probably ranks amongst the all time best. What I mean by this is that never has there been a better 5.1 music release in the history of the format. (It's likely that The Incident may take the crown once it comes out in a month or so, but for now Insurgentes is king) Everything about this disc is perfect: the music, as previously mentioned, is amongst the most diverse and interesting of Wilson's long career. When it comes to mixing music for surround sound, there are simply none better than Steven Wilson. He's taken what could have been sheer novelty and elevated it to level of beautiful art. Every track on this album creates a 3D sound-field that will envelope and surround you.
The album starts off with what I consider to be the least interesting track. Harmony Korine will probably remind you of Blackfield. This automatically means a focus on the pop song structure. It's a good pop song for sure, and the surround mix is excellent, but compared with what's to follow it seems tame and bland. Things start to get very interesting with the next track: Abandoner. As soon as it starts you are immersed in a world of vinyl crackle and analog warmth. Steven's voice takes to the centre channel with a chilling dry delivery of cynical verse. The first instrumental break occurs when one acoustic guitar plays a Spanish flavoured line in the front left speaker and a second responds in harmony in the rear right. Second verse (well if you can call it that, this is hardly standard songwriting here) comes with a chorus of Wilsons backing up the initial lone voice from the rears. Then we enter a state of quiet suspended animation. The delicate glockenspiel in the left rear doesn't prepare you for what's happening next. Suddenly a wall of white noise and distortion surrounds you like a veil of evil descending creating a thick fog of sound. It's an amazing effect that has to be heard to be believed. If you're familiar with this song in stereo, you aren't getting the full effect of this section.
Veneno Para Las Hadas. If the opening guitar chords remind you of Porcupine Tree's Sky Moves Sideways, you're not alone. What really makes this song unique and special is just how much better Wilson has gotten at creating lush atmosphere. This is a great track to play to anyone who is convinced that digital is incapable of the warmth of analog vinyl. The bounding bass and lush harmonies surround you and fill your body with warmth. This is a delicate track and the surround mix is ripe with soft detail. It'll send a shiver down your spine. And then there's the woodwind. You can hear the reeds vibrating! This is a master recording engineer at his finest.
No Twilight Within The Courts of the Sun is definitely the hardest rocking piece here. Fans of Porcupine Tree are going to see (hear) plenty to like. Check this out: Tony Levin on bass and Gavin Harrison on drums. What an out of this world rhythm section! The Fripp-like screeching and searing guitar that permeates this track is some of Wilson's most interesting. If there was any track you could use to show off the extended dynamic range of DVD-Audio, this would be it. It goes from ear bleeding loud to whisper quiet. A couple of moments will surely make you leap out of your flesh. Fantastic production. Check out the cool moment when Wilson's whispering vocal first enters: it's a cool effect that really sounds like he's inside your head.
My award for best-of-the-best surround (that is the best track on the best album) would go to Twilight Coda. This soft and beautiful instrumental is definitely a demo piece. Turn off the lights and crank up the sound. The rich guitars and piano (by Dream Theater's Jordan Rudess no less) creates the perfect audio replica for that eerie feeling you get at twilight. This is 5.1 bliss right here. (That's no over exaggeration my friends). Get All You Deserve is as creepy as creepy gets. Wilson's voice is so delicate and soft, at yet for some reason I feel it's subliminally threatening. The song ends with what Wilson dubs "Total Fucking Noise". I suggest you listen to it yourself to see exactly what he means by this. (Hint: it's very loud)
As we've come to expect from Mr. Wilson over the years, the album comes to an end with a beautiful and moving piano ballad. This track was apparently recorded in a church and the 5.1 recreates the cavernous space perfectly. It's a subdued and emotional way to conclude the disc. (Did I mention the koto? My oh my: the koto!)
I could really go on and on (and on and on and on...) about how great this album is. This is the perfect work of art and one of the best examples of artistic rock we've had in decades. It's completely original. Steven Wilson has put just about every other modern rock artist to shame. This is miles away from what you're going to hear on mainstream radio. You can't say that there aren't any original things being done in rock after listening to this masterpiece. This album came out early 2009 and completely blew out anything else created around the same time frame. Why do the majority of people continue to listen to what the mainstream rock stations are oozing out when there is such real creativity going on under the radar? The fact that this work, and pretty much everything Wilson's done in the last few decades, has been largely ignored by most rock critics and fans just goes to show you how miserable the mainstream has become (at least here in North America).
Do yourself a favour, if you don't already own this, you have to pick it up today. Keep in mind that if you buy the CD you are also getting the DVD-Audio. If you don't own a surround sound system but know a buddy who does, then ask to borrow it for an hour or so. It is the best mix I've ever heard coupled with some of the most original and dynamic rock music produced in the last decade. The Incident is about to come out on DVD-Audio very soon so expect me to review that as soon as I get my hands on it. There is no doubt in my mind that it's going to be fantastic.
Now, if you don't mind I have to get back to watching the Olympics. There's an exciting curling match underway.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
In the end, "Scratch My Back" doesn't break new ground, and it is unlikely to win new fans--unless we count some of the folks Gabriel has covered. But it ultimately is a much richer and more satisfying effort than his last studio disc, "Up" (2002), and it shows that he is still willing to stretch, take chances and challenge our vision of the singer we think we've known for more than four decades.
If anything, these reissues are allowing people to reconsider what I've always thought of as one of Crimson's most underated albums of all time. Steven Wilson has taken an album that most dismissed (Fripp included) and transformed it into the audio treat that it always (really) was. Check out the review, and if you have the chance pick up these sets.
King Crimson '40th Anniversary Series' reissues: Apocalypse wow in seminal guitar rock
More than four decades after the band began - in the Spring of 1969 - the young leader of a modern prog act, Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson, took it upon himself to not just re-master Crimson's great works but to refigure them for cutting-edge 5.1 sound.
If you haven't yet realized, I adore listening to music in 5.1 surround sound. Every Porcupine Tree album going back to Stupid Dream has been released in this format and each one count amongst the best surround mixes of rock music ever. Simply amazing stuff. You can now pre-order The Incident on DVD-Audio exclusively on the PT store starting today. If you have a decent stereo system and love listening to music on the couch, then this is a must have. Not only is there the entire album mixed in high-resolution 5.1, but also a higher quality version of the regular stereo mix. Count all that in with a photo gallery, music videos and exclusive instrumental versions of Black Dahlia and Flicker and surely you have a winner. Steven Wilson's mixing of the King Crimson catalogue has been just excellent and you can be sure he treats his own music with as much skill and respect.
Porcupine Tree - Official Website
This edition features the 5.1 mix of the album in advanced resolution/MLP lossless 5.1 surround, DTS 5.1 digital surround sound, and 24 bit stereo, and also includes the videos for Time Flies and Octane Twisted, a 30 second TV spot, and a photo gallery set to exclusive instrumental mixes of Black Dahlia and Flicker.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
This interview with Alan White doesn't really get into this debate in the way I was hoping, and you wouldn't expect him to say anything bad about Jon since he's a nice guy and all that. What do you think? Are Yes snubbing Jon?
Saying Yes to change - pressofAtlanticCity.com : Article Ee8421da-168a-11df-9b01-001cc4c002e0.html
Question: Let's get some personnel business out of the way. With Benoit David now an official member, where does Jon Anderson stand with the band?
Answer: Jon is doing a one-man show these days. Benoit David is doing an excellent job - he sounds almost like Jon and looks slightly like Jon, as well. Oliver Wakeman, who is Rick Wakeman's son, is the same thing - he looks just like him and plays just like him. If you close your eyes, the band is virtually the same.
Q: Jon made some negative public comments when the band first went out on tour with Benoit. Has there been a need to smooth over any ruffled feathers?
A: I don't know if I'm out of place saying this, but it seems like Jon just likes doing his solo shows. These long arduous tours do take a lot out of you. We just carry on. Who knows about the future? It's hard to say right now.
Yes, they can - BostonHerald.com
“Heart of the Sunrise” and “And You & I” came with their graceful tunes, dramatic soft-to-loud shifts, and David, Howe and Squire nailing the essential three-part harmonies. For fans there were a few rarely played numbers, including the ballad “Onward” and two from 1980’s “Drama” (the only Yes album that didn’t include Anderson). Another rarity, “South Side of the Sky,” sported a tricky, a cappella-like midsection and built to a guitar/synthesizer exchange between Howe and Wakeman: a grand, very Yes-like moment.
Yes proves it's no Tribute Act - MassLive.com
The latter track was one of several in which the thin and professorial Howe mesmerized the throng, locking into thick power riffs with his rhythm section, later spinning just as easily through highly intricate quieter sections. He played various stringed instruments, including pedal steel guitar on a very melodic "And You and I," sparkled on a couple of brief acoustic guitar solo instrumentals, and frequently locked in with Wakeman for perfectly synchronized spins such as during "Machine Messiah."
Just For Kicks Music - ANGLAGARD:Epilog
Release Date: 05/03/2010 Revised edition of the grandiose second album by the Swedish ProgLegende Anglagard from the year 1994! [If necessary there is a limited edition with bonus material - we'll keep you up to date] The successor of hubris, "and I really do not know which of the two is the better record." Epilogue "has a similar basic sound, but this time entirely instrumental, more quiet and still a good bit of melancholy, gloomy as "hubris". An incredibly dense atmosphere is created that persists for the entire disk. Moreover, there are few real tunes
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Have you listened to one of Phillip's multi-million selling Pop albums from the 80s recently? Sure, catchy tunes aplenty. But really, these are dated artifacts so full of cheese and corn you could feed your livestock with them for decades to come. Quite frankly, after the marketing hype has died down and the radio stations stop playing them over and over and over again, those albums stink. They have dated worse than Chris Squire's hair circa 1986. Yugharchbleachhhh.
Now, plop this little plastic disc onto your turntable. As the first track, Nuclear Burn, takes off you immediately realize what Phil's legacy really is. That drumming is simply out of this world! It's so full of tricks and twists and precise speed that you have to wonder why the guy isn't hailed as one of the all time greats behind the kit. Probably because he spent the vast majority of his career dancing around the front of the stage acting like a stupid deranged lunatic on drugs. This album, the first by the Collins founded Brand X, is a major statement from one of the Prog world's great talented drummers.
The most incredible thing to me is, that despite how impressive his drumming was in Genesis around this time (Lamb Lies Down, Trick of the Tail, Wind and Wuthering) he was clearly holding back. Brand X is Collins unleashed. Untethered from the chains of tight structure that is a Genesis song. Just listen to the way he handles the tricky time changes in Born Ugly. Not only does he play them with a smooth, almost smug confidence, he also finds time to add all sorts of complex jaw-dropping fills seamlessly into the mix. Why this album isn't required listening for an aspiring drummer is way beyond me. Smacks of Euphoric Hysteria indeed! That's another track with simply inspired playing by Collins. In fact, the rhythm section here with Percy Jones on bass, is one of the best I've heard in all the many Jazz Fusion albums I own.
So while I wouldn't recommend this sucker to those who think Phil's No Jacket Required album is the next best thing to rubbing his bald little head in person, this is required listening for anyone who wants to hear what Collins was really capable of behind the drum kit. It's sitting on the drummer's throne that he is really most at home and put to most use. Sadly, Phil's drumming skills seemed to decline as his rank of Pop star rose. With all that ails the man today, I doubt we'll see him drum ever again. As for me, I'll do all I can to remind folks that Phil Collins' name should be mentioned along side the likes of Bill Bruford and Neil Peart and not with Michael Jackson and Prince. If you like your Jazz Fusion with catchy hooks and complex rhythms you will adore Brand X's Unorthodox Behaviour.
Also of note, critics continue to cite Jon's respiratory problems as the cause for his continual absence from the touring lineup. Since we know that Mr. Anderson has been out doing quite a few solo concerts in the last few months, this isn't the reason any longer. You'd think a paid journalist would be responsible for figuring this out, but why should a mainstream critic care about the nuances of a Progressive Rock band? That, and she refers to Chris as "an ogre-sized man". Ha!
Classic Rock Act Yes Finds Its Way at Calvin in Northampton - Courant.com
Equally impressive was Squire, an ogre-sized man whose trademark bass lines, such as the ones on the set closer, "Roundabout," are a defining part of the Yes sound.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Live Review - Porcupine Tree, Brisbane 2010 - Music | thevine.com.au
Though song lengths can be used as a fair marker of an act's pretension - that is, the longer the song, the larger the sense of self-infatuation - when you're making music this beautiful, one might see little point in conforming to convention. Porcupine Tree hope to create music whose attraction crosses boundaries; the wide array of humanity assembled at The Tivoli tonight reflects this. Emotive, considered and dramatic, this is music that demands your full attention if you're to begin to reciprocate.
Mike Portnoy loves playing in South America. Check out this interview on the Silver Tongue blog:
Dream Theater - The Official Site
The Mike Portnoy-endorsed BIGELF will continue their trek across the globe under Dream Theater's wings by joining DT as their Special Guests for their March 2010 shows in Mexico and South America.
Date Location Venue
Thu Mar 11, 2010 Santiago, Chile Movistar Arena
Fri Mar 05, 2010 Monterrey, Mexico Esenica
Sun Mar 07, 2010 Mexico City, Mexico National Auditorium
Mon Mar 08, 2010 Guadalajara, Mexico Diana Theater
Sat Mar 13, 2010 Buenos Aires, Argentina Luna Park
Tue Mar 16, 2010 Porto Alegre, Brazil Pepsi On Stage
Thu Mar 18, 2010 Curitiba, Brazil Master Hall
Fri Mar 19, 2010 Sao Paulo, Brazil Credicard Hall
Sat Mar 20, 2010 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Citibank Hall
Mon Mar 22, 2010 Lima, Peru Jockey Club
Wed Mar 24, 2010 Caracas, Venezuela Poliedro
Monday, February 08, 2010
There is an album that came out right around the same time that shows the other side of what Progressive Rock could be. Apostrophe(') has just as much musical skill on display as Tales, but instead of the serious 'high-art' that Yes were presenting, Zappa brought his silly sense of humour and irreverent satirical style to the table. When people are quick to harp on Prog's excessiveness and cite Topographic Oceans as example, I quickly 'whip-out' this sucker as counter argument. It has everything that any Prog fan wants: insanely jaw-dropping instrumental and compositional creativity, a complex and surreal concept and even an extended suite of continuous songs. What it lacks is the self-important arrogance that some listeners perceive when they dismiss Progressive Rock. (I have a hard time picking up on such things personally, Tales is pure fun to my ears) Zappa brings so much excitement to his compositions that an unknowing listener may not even realize just how complex things are instrumentally.
The album starts with the infamous tale of Nanook the Eskimo. The suite of four tracks that starts things off is really so bizarre and funny that it really couldn't be by anyone except Frank Zappa. I won't get into the details because, well, frankly (heh) it's hard to explain. Just know that you must "Watch out where the huskies go and don't you eat that yellow snow". As absurd as that line is, you only really realize the true silliness of it all when you find out that the backup singers are Tina Turner and the Ikettes. No foolin'.
But the Ikettes are hardly the main attraction of this album. The gigantic lineup assembled to play here is quite amazing. Who else but Frank Zappa could bring names like George Duke, Jack Bruce, Don 'Sugar-Cane' Harris, Sal Marquez and Jean-Luc Ponty to play on an album with songs titled "Nanook Rubs It" and "St. Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast"? The level of musicianship on display is simply mind-boggling. Ruth Underwood's percussion alone is worth the price of admission. Please watch this video:
So while you are laughing away at the silly lyrics, keep in mind that there is really serious complex music happening here. Zappa's compositional skills were out of control by this point of his career. Take Cosmic Debris for example, a fairly simple and straight forward attack on the 'self-help' gurus that were popping up around that time in the States. Not only are there beautiful backup harmonies by the Ikettes, but the constant shifting rhythm section is superbly tight. The guitar solo is one of Frank's most classic and the tempo shift is so well executed that it almost appears seamless. The instrumental title track is a super professional jam session with Jack Bruce and Zappa on bass and guitar respectively. Imagine Cream but with Zappa taking the lead. Bruce's fuzzy bass tone goes so insanely well with Frank's lightning fast yet completely melodic lead guitar solo.
George Duke co-wrote Uncle Remus with Zappa. The gorgeous piano underlying the song is probably a direct result of this collaboration. The Ikettes are again very prominent here as Zappa's lyrics take on racism and civil rights. The final track "Stink-Foot" is probably an attack on advertising agencies who make up "imaginary diseases" to push products you don't really need. It features more interesting time changes and ends with one of Zappa's most explicit explanations of "Conceptual Continuity". We'll get into that whole subject in another post, on another day.
This is an album that works on so many levels. From the instrumentation to the silly and yet often poignant lyrics, this is Zappa at the peak of his abilities and is required listening to anyone who like Prog and Zappa - best served together.
Found Link: Neil Peart says Rush may abandon the 'album', but might follow Porcupine Tree and write longer material
I went to see a band called Porcupine Tree not long ago. And I was talking with (singer-guitarist) Steven Wilson. They just put out a 55- minute piece. That's a finger to the whole iTunes shuffle thing, and he intended it as such. And I thought, 'Yeah, that's another way of rebelling against it -- by just saying no.' There's too much lost in giving up the integrity of an album -- what it represents to you as a musician, and as a human being, for that matter. So I like that approach. That's very possible for a band like us. So there are no limitations; we might go big or we might go small.This makes me very happy. Steven Wilson is a guy that clearly understands the power of the extended musical journey. It's almost ironic that after being influenced by Rush's albums of the past, he now is having an influence on their future songwriting. What goes around comes around.
Rush Blog - Rush is a Band Blog: New Neil Peart interview with the Belleville Intelligencer
Yes, we get no respect - BostonHerald.com
“This was a band interested in progressing music, not one just looking for hits,” White said. “We played music that was influenced by jazz and classical as much as rock with very, very picky fans. When I replaced Bill Bruford there were fans who analyzed everything I did.”
From Fripp's mind to yours:
"A fabbo lunch with Adam covering a wide range of common interests & experiencing, among which: the possibilities of continuing our album, begun in Los Angeles some 5-6 years ago; and go out speaking together."It would make sense, considering Tool's last album was in 2006 and Maynard James Keenan is far too busy with his vineyard and other projects to bother with fronting another Tool album at the moment. I for one think a collaboration between these two guitarists would be a match made in Prog heaven.
Robert Fripp's Diary for Thursday, 21st January 2010
Friday, February 05, 2010
openPR.com - Press release - Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH - Frankfurt Music Prize 2010 for Keyboard legend Keith Emerson
The Frankfurt Music Prize 2010 goes to Keith Emerson, keyboard player and founding member, with Greg Lake, of the progressive-rock band, Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
In other news, Mr. Robert Fripp and Mr. Wilson have been busy remixing King Crimson's back catalogue in stereo and surround sound. They've released three titles thus far, including: In The Court Of The Crimson King, Lizard and Red. Unlike the Genesis remixes of a couple of years ago, I have no complaints about the quality of the Crimson releases thus far. Here's a link to Robert Fripp's diary from last week when he payed a visit to Steve who was in the middle of mixing In The Wake of Poseidon into 5.1 surround. Cheers Mr. Wilson. You are doing excellent work.
Also in Fripp's diary entry, he payed a visit to Jakko Jakszyk's studio. Jakko is doing the latter Crimson albums in 5.1 (from Thrak through Power to Believe). The highlight of the diary entry includes the following quote:
"VROOOM VROOOM, the only metal instrumental I know which features retrograde inversion & contrary motion as major thematic elements."
-Robert Fripp, 2010
Porcupine Tree - Official Website
This video has been used as the default educational film on the net for explaining the loudness wars:
That video was made in 2006. Since that time, things have only gotten worse. If you look at almost any modern release, the waveforms no longer have any shape to them at all. They tend to look more or less like this:This scary looking beast is from the much beloved modern Prog Rock supergroup Transatlantic's newest album released last year. As you can see, even an album where you have to sit down and listen to the whole 77 minute thing in one go is compressed to the max. If you enjoy listening to music on a set of decent speakers and headphones this can really cause some extreme hearing damage. I find it nearly impossible to sit through this album in one go, and if you have read my other posts here, you know how much patience and love I have for long continuous albums.
Now, many of you may think I'm crazy. You might say "But Paul, I listen to this album all the time and it sounds fine". Well, maybe. If you listen to it on cheap iPod earbuds or on a tiny stereo while making diner it might be ok. But if you really love listening to music like I do, and love to sit down on the couch in front of the stereo and focus on the music, you'll not only find it a painful tedious listen, but you might even catch some distortion or 'clipping'. You see, when digital audio is maximized in this manner, it tends to peak over the limit of loudness and cause distortion. It is one thing that any audio engineer is taught to stay away from. The record labels tend to ask mastering engineers to unlearn this basic principle.
Why are record companies doing this? Well, when the average music listener is judging music, they tend to automatically assume that louder sounds better. The last decade has seen the rise in average volume of CDs in what seems to be a competition: The Loudness Wars. These loud CDs may serve a purpose for those who like to listen to music in the background at low volumes, but if you want to focus on an album and crank it up, you're liable to loose your hearing. While I can see the 'louder is better' model having some merit for the distracted pop music listener, it really has NO purpose in the world of Progressive Rock.
Take the recent Genesis remasters for example. Genesis' music is clearly meant to be dynamic. There are parts of a song that are quiet and then a loud powerful part comes in. Take the section in the Musical Box where Peter sings: "And I want, and I feel, and I know, and I touch...". This part is clearly meant to be quieter than the powerful next line: YOUR WARMTH
Here's how that section looked on the original CD release of Nursery Cryme from the 80s:
It gets completely whisper quiet and then blasts through with a wall of loud. Notice how, despite it being loud, there is plenty of room before it reaches the top and never comes close to distorting.
Now here is the same section from the 2008 remix and remaster:
Not only are the quiet parts louder, but the loud thunder goes right to the top, turning Phil's once powerful drumming into a plastic-sounding distorted mess. The sad thing is this is one of the better sounding new releases. Just take a look at this example from Trick of the Tail:
Here's Squonk in the 80s:
Here's 2008's LOUD Squonk:The difference is night and day. You don't need to look at waveform images to discern this. If you have the two versions on CD do a comparison yourself. Use your volume control to match the levels and you will not believe how much better that old rusty unremastered 80s disc sounds.
Sure, I'm a bit of an audio nerd. The difference in between myself and the average audiophile is thousands and thousands of dollars. I don't have the money to buy fancy speakers and fancy cables and all that sorta stuff. I don't think that this is a matter of audiophillia. Even if you don't know anything about the art of sound recording and reproduction you're going to be able to hear this difference. It might be subconscious but you can surely hear it. I have a theory that the decline in music listening in the past decade is a direct result of the loudness wars. The CDs released in the past ten years, whether they be new albums or remastered classics, are all very tiring to listen to. Your ears are met with a deafening wall of sound. No wonder people get tired after one three-minute song.
This brings me to vinyl. There is no secret that I love the vinyl LP. Just check out my Thick as a Brick video. While most people claim that vinyl sounds better than CD, they really have no scientific explanation as to why this is so. The secret may lie in the format's limitations. Vinyl records have a much smaller dynamic range than CDs. The fact of the matter is you could not make a vinyl record as loud and distorted as a modern "loudness war" CD. It's physically impossible. This is why, even with brand new releases, the vinyl tends to sound much more alive than the CD counterpart. Vinyl records are more or less immune to the Loudness Wars.
While it's one thing to make a brand new album as loud and dry sounding as Transatlantic's The Whirlwind, taking classic Genesis albums and killing them like they did with the new remix/remasters should be considered a crime. In the 1970s, the role of a mastering engineer was to squeeze as much excellent sound as they could out of those limited vinyl grooves. Most original vinyl LPs sound terrific as a result of this. Today, the mastering engineer has been reduced to someone who makes music as constantly loud as possible while trying to keep the distortion as unnoticeable as possible. We live in very dark times my friends. Thankfully there are heroes like Steven Wilson. The King Crimson remasters that they have been releasing recently are so much better than the crap job done to the Genesis albums. Mr. Wilson understands the Loudness War and how negatively it affects the listener's ability to appreciate music. Good guy!
For more information, I highly recommended the Wikipedia article on this subject.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Squire laughs off the Prog epics of the 70s as foolish juvenile excessiveness. I doubt they would have got that quote from Steve Howe, whom is still quite proud of the work that Yes were able to accomplish in the glory years.
Express Night Out | Arts & Events | Affirmative Action: Yes
The band's 1972 pair of albums — "Fragile" and "Close to the Edge" — form the foundation of prog rock, a divisive genre whose musical, sartorial and narcotic excesses would inspire a backlash that led to humbler DIY styles like punk rock. "It was a wild ride back then," laughs Squire. "We were young, and it was a great time to be excessive."
"Subdivisions: In the high school halls, in the shopping malls; conform or be cast out. Subdivisions: In the basement bars, in the backs of cars; be cool or be cast out. Any escape might help disprove the unattractive truth, but the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth."
Anyone who grew up in the suburbs, southern Ontario or otherwise, can certainly identify with this statement. Neil Peart captures the feelings perfectly.
The article linked to below goes on to try to explain Rush, or rather, explain how unexplainable they are. Regardless, it's a mainstream outlet musing on the importance of things like virtuosity in Rock. You might guess the conclusion they draw, but it's fun to read nevertheless.
The ABC12 Listening Room | 'Subdivisions': Listening Room chief learns Rush holds the key to life - 2/01/10 - Flint News and Saginaw News - abc12.com
"Subdivisions" is an exacting look in the mirror for all of us even at middle age and beyond, and it speaks volumes about having the guts to chase your dreams and claim your identity and truly live free, and not live up to anyone else's expectations or judgments.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
What do you think? Considering how long Gabriel takes to record new material of his own, wouldn't you rather see the man putting his time into original work? He surely isn't getting any younger, and the clock is ticking. I would deeply love a new Peter Gabriel album of original material before time runs out.
Scratch My Back is going to be released on the 15th of February.
Louis Rentrop (Focustheband) on Twitter
Bobby just rehearsed 4 new Focus songs of him with Niels for Focus 10. Yes we are busy.
Focus- Hocus Pocus (live '73)
Sigur Rós on indefinite hiatus after scrapping new album | Music | guardian.co.uk
Sigur Rós have scrapped their new album, binning recordings described last year as "near completion". Frontman Jonsí Birgisson has revealed that the Icelandic band are on indefinite hiatus, as they are busy "having babies" and releasing solo albums.