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6 October, 2010

Good SW news and, potentially, bad

Those interested in the music of Steven Wilson, but who don't frequent the associated discussion groups (as I no longer do), might be, er, interested to know about two recent releases, not least because they're both free downloads.

18 May, 2010

Changing times

I haven't watched broadcast TV since mid/late March, nor bought a CD within the past 6-7 months.  How did that happen?

17 May, 2010

Puppies in spandex

Given all I've said about NWOBHM and Iron Maiden in particular (pre-1991 Maiden, anyway), why have I suddenly started listening to their albums again?

11 March, 2010

That's... Uh The Deal

So EMI can no longer permit Pink Floyd albums to be sold as individually downloadable tracks, against the band's wishes.

18 February, 2010

Art or entertainment?

Tsk.  The compiler of today's Guardian Quick Crossword defines 'music' as "(pleasant) sequence of sounds".
I disagree.  Music doesn't have to be 'pleasing'.

2 January, 2010

Music of the year, 2009

Well.  Not a vintage year for new music, so far as I'm concerned.

15 September, 2009


There are people who claim music is "important" to them, and who apparently don't listen to, say, Porcupine Tree albums (whole albums, not individual tracks) on their audiophile equipment for "mere entertainment".

29 August, 2009

Shifting times

As a result of my recently-rediscovered interest in Baroque music, my iPod now contains as much music from before 1960 (before 1930, apart from two tracks) than from the Eighties, very nearly as many tracks as from the Seventies, and over three times as many as from the Sixties.  Not that any of that's difficult, as I overwhelmingly prefer post-1990 music.

20 August, 2009


My unexpected discovery of Imogen Heap on late-night TV in 2006 resulted in the purchase of one of my favourite albums, 'Speak For Yourself'.  Her third, 'Ellipse' is now available for preorder, for release on 24 August.

16 August, 2009


Anyone else notice that in the BBC's iPlayer applet, the volume goes to '11'?

11 July, 2009

New Sigur Rós-related happiness

If, like me, you appreciate the music of Sigur Rós but don't participate in discussion groups or other online activity relating to the band, you may be interested in but unaware of a forthcoming, closely-related release.

15 April, 2009

Essential kit

Spent tens of thousands on audiophile-grade sound equipment, including vibration dampers for your fridge, but finding the music still isn't quite right?

1 January, 2009


Live music is "dead" to Khoi Vinh:

31 December, 2008

Music of the year, 2008

First the disclaimer: I dislike ranked 'Best of' lists.  The idea of asserting that Album A is 'better' than Album B but not as 'good' as Album C is patently absurd and has no value.  I recoil from the activity of compiling such lists, too: far too anal and stereotypically male for my taste. 
That said, I am able to at least identify those albums released in 2008 that I have (and haven't...) particularly liked.

10 November, 2008

Taking on the 'canon'

I was interested to see that Squarepusher (Tom Jenkinson) had been invited to edit this week's Guardian music section, but it's been a busy day (and weekend, and week...) so I hadn't got round to reading any of the articles before encountering one via Tim's comments.

7 November, 2008


Alexis Petridis' newfound openness to complex music extends to him reviewing a box set of Gabriel-era Genesis albums.

7 November, 2008

You're just supposed to sit and listen

In today's Guardian, Alexis Petridis writes about an intensive 'crash course' he took into the appreciation of jazz.  I don't often agree with Petridis, (his name on an article is usually reason enough for me to skip it), but the subject interests me, particularly the need to acquire an appreciation of jazz, or indeed any other variety of truly progressive music.

7 October, 2008


Steven Wilson's latest solo album, the first to be released under his own name, is now available for preorder.  I don't recommend buying it.

28 September, 2008

Get the stars

'We Still Have All The Stars', the second 'album' from The Resonance Association (though far from their first release), is now out.  It's available on vinyl (why?), with a free CD-R if ordered from Burning Shed, or as a 'free' 256 kbps .mp3 download from the dedicated album website, where 'free' means 'please donate whatever you think it's worth'.

14 September, 2008


No hint of a release date yet, but Kevin 'Chroma Key' Moore has at least confirmed that his 'OSI' collaboration with Jim Matheos will release a third album at some point: they've been working on material "for several months now, slowly but surely".

9 September, 2008

Vivid right

Damn.  Do I have to stop loving Elbow's 'The Seldom Seen Kid' now they've gone all mainstream and won the Mercury Prize?

27 August, 2008

Post-rock band of the day

Anyone who likes the guitar-led post-rock of bands like Explosions In The Sky really needs to hear Pg.lost.

13 August, 2008



I'm a little uncomfortable around obsessives, most prosaically those who indulge an urge to list, rank and hence stultify their enthusiasms: the comforting categorisation becomes the activity, rather than enjoyment of the subject itself.

6 August, 2008

Stranger Inside

Richard Barbieri's Stranger Inside.
Well, yes, obviously; that's the miracle of human biology.

1 August, 2008

I have mine! (Review: Molotov And Haze (Bass Communion, 2008))

Several releases by Bass Communion have been limited editions, typically only available by Headphone Dust (a mail order firm once thought to comprise just Steven Wilson (SW) himself and a stack of padded envelopes).  One could argue that demand is correspondingly low (a subset of the subset of people who acknowledge it to be music), but each release sells out rapidly.

8 July, 2008

And I thought proggers liked extended instrumentals

Certain philistines have lazily dismissed the ongoing Halberstadt performance of John Cage's 'ORGAN2/ASLSP As Slow aS Possible' as 'pretentious'.

6 July, 2008

Who's counting: who?

iTunes' logging also allows me to say which artists are represented on my iPod, thereby repeating an exercise I first completed for my Creative Zen in 2005.

6 July, 2008

Who's counting: what?

Buying an iPod last October gave me access to far more information about my listening habits than was provided by my old (but otherwise perfectly adequate, apart from capacity) Creative Zen.  For one thing, it allowed me to hear the entire contents of my player, as I knew which had and hadn't been played.  Surprisingly, that took a full six months.

23 June, 2008

Inscrutable audibles

I'm torn.  Fovea Hex's 'Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent' is one of my favourite albums (actually a trilogy of EPs), particularly the closing third, 'Allure' (highly recommended).  I also kind of like Andrew Liles' remix of Bass Communion's 'Ghosts On Magnetic Tape'.  So 'Gone Every Evening', by Andrew Liles and Fovea Hex should be a safe purchase, right?

20 June, 2008

Bonus Bass Communion CD-R

If you didn't know the eighth Bass Communion album 'Molotov and Haze' (samples available here, at the time of writing) is due out in July, well, you probably don't care, but if you did, and do, you might also like to hear about an additional 3" CD-R release by Frans de Waard's 'MOLL' label.

16 June, 2008

People you look for

I'm not entire sure how new this 'news' is, but 'ambient/avant-garde improvisers' Darkroom have released pretty much an albums-worth of music as a free download. bills it as an 18-track release called 'Podcast', but I'm pretty sure that should be a description, not a title....

12 June, 2008

Sonic security-blanket

Pity the pop critic who has to review a Coldplay album, polluting his/her consciousness with aural kebab

4 June, 2008

Not all alright

Grudgingly, I quite like 'deluxe' editions of CDs: additional tracks accompanying an album (preferably on a separate CD, enhanced CD or DVD in order to keep the 'core' album distinct), presented in oversized or novel packaging with additional artwork.

30 May, 2008

Review: Blessed are the Bonds (The Pax Cecilia, 2007)

Fancy some free music for the weekend?

9 May, 2008

Far too old to rock/n'roll

The current Jethro Tull tour commemorates forty years of performing under that name.  Ian Anderson's last birthday was his sixtieth.  Their musical arrangements and album release schedule are correspondingly sedate, so I lost interest in their contemporary output about a decade ago.  However, ongoing fans have been kind enough to inform me about setlists for the Tull Tour History, occasionally including comments about the shows.

30 April, 2008

No ultimate happiness, thanks

Last October, Marillion announced that they'd be repeating the 'Marbles' preorder scheme for their fifteenth studio album, the since-named 'Happiness Is The Road' *.  Those willing to pay more than the retail price, several months before the music has even been recorded, will obtain the double-album later in the year, packaged within two hardback books themselves in a substantial slipcase.  The books will contain Carl Glover artwork and the names of all everyone who preordered before 1 March, 2008.

28 April, 2008

Couldn't give it away...

... Though they are trying: Coldplay plan to release a free single, apparently.

27 April, 2008

Spring music meme

A quick music meme, discovered via Tim:

23 April, 2008

1,000 'true fans' (an answer)

Last month, I linked to an article by Kevin Kelly in which he discussed the premise that an independent artist could survive on income from 1,000 'true fans' who'll buy everything the artist releases.

11 April, 2008

In the race to mediocrity

With Jethro Tull on tour in the UK, there's been the usual change in focus of visitors to the Ministry.

8 April, 2008

Round and round

Ever noticed that David Bowie's 'Ashes To Ashes' could be a Pulp song?  Listening on shuffle whilst working this morning, I genuinely wondered which I was hearing.

24 March, 2008

Sound and vision

David Bowie has been a staple of 'the soundtrack of my life' (ahem; horrible phrase) – I've been aware of the man for as long as I've been aware of any pop stars, and I 'properly' encountered his material at about the same time as I developed an interest in music.

21 March, 2008


If I hadn't discovered this via Bad Science's MiniBlog, I'd have presumed it to be a hoax (or maybe it is and I'm too tired to spot Ben G's humour): software which, it's claimed, can edit individual notes within chords in audio recordings.  That's impossible, isn't it?

9 March, 2008

Wondering which of the buggers to blame

It's always slightly puzzled me that so many Pink Floyd fans¹ cite 'Animals' as their favourite album, since it does so little for me; apart from the Syd-era psychedelia, it's my least favourite by far.

5 March, 2008

Small can work

Kevin Kelly discusses the economic implications of a niche artist maintaining a mere 1,000 'true fans'.

3 March, 2008

Own voice found

Visiting online forums related to British musicians, it's to be expected that I encounter Americans who describe themselves as 'Anglophiles'.  I presume the reverse happens in the fan communities of US bands, though I doubt that's as forgone a conclusion as it was in, say, the 1950s and 60s, when 'American' was automatically exotic compared to the rather austere post-war UK.

9 February, 2008

The Bowed Piano

My initial thought on reading about a new approach to piano playing, in which ten musicians crowd around the opened instrument to manipulate the strings directly, was that it was probably a gimmick, and that its repertoire would be pointless or, er, experimental (not in a good way).

6 February, 2008

Pacific Codex out!

'Pacific Codex', the long-awaited new album from Bass Communion is now available for pre-order from Headphone Dust*.  Despatch will be on or about 11 February.

5 January, 2008

Joint headline bad idea

Every few months, in pretty much any discussion group dedicated to a currently-active band, one can expected to encounter a variant of the same old thread: "wouldn't it be great if our band toured with [insert name here]?".  My invariable answer is "absolutely not."  The ensuing argument is one I've made a few times in forums, but don't seem to have explained here.

25 December, 2007

Music of the year

I don't really like ranked 'Best of' lists – their compilation is too anal and stereotypically male for my taste, and the idea of asserting that Album A is 'better' than Album B but not as 'good' as Album C is patently absurd.  However, I thought it reasonable to identify those albums released in 2007 that I have (and haven't...) particularly liked.
It wasn't until that list reached fourteen albums that I really realised how productive a year this has been – most of my favourite artists have released something in 2007, and I've made a couple of worthwhile new discoveries.

19 December, 2007

Doing so well...

I'm still listening to 'back-issues' of the 'The Rogues' Gallery', the 'prog'-orientated podcast (I think there's another 42 hours in the archive), and finding that several tracks are pretty good.  Compelling rhythm, meaty guitars, nice keyboard textures, and then:

17 December, 2007

Names to conjure with

'Alcoholocaust' by Invisigoth.  That doesn't sould like overblown 'prog' does it?

Nah, 'thought not.

15 December, 2007

Review: Porcupine Tree, Academy 1, Manchester, 8 December, 2007 (w. Anathema)

Back to Manchester for my second Porcupine Tree concert of the year.

14 December, 2007

Discovery of the day

Whilst working this week, I've been streaming 'back-issues' of The Rogues' Gallery, Frans Keylard's 'prog'-orientated podcast for The Dividing Line, hoping to discover some new music.  The experience has largely reinforced my prejudices about the genre – there's a lot of derivative rubbish out there – but there are some promising bands, and I've ordered a couple of CDs.

21 November, 2007

New, free Anathema song available

... but they've hidden it.  Or rather, the official website's structure is somewhat eccentric, meaning that many people will miss the download link.  It's also frames-based, with Flash navigation, preventing my providing a direct link.

8 November, 2007

The Man sticks it back

I noticed a few days ago that the entire Radiohead back catalogue is about to be reissued in three 'bundles': a 7-album CD box set, a 7-album download of 320 kbps .mp3s, and a novelty USB stick containing the seven albums in full-resolution .wav format.

29 October, 2007

Better be worth waiting for

Bugger!  The new Bass Communion album, 'Pacific Codex' was rumoured to have been finished several months ago, for release in September/October, but SW has announced that it's "now coming out in January, sorry!"

26 October, 2007

Aural pheromones

I was quite enjoying Enigma's fourth album, 'The Screen Behind The Mirror' (lightweight entertainment with crap lyrics, but that's nothing new, and acceptable background whilst working) until I noticed the title of Track 4: 'Smell of Desire'.


22 October, 2007

At the end of the rainbow

Radiohead's release of their latest album as a 'pay-what-you-want' download gained them a lot of publicity (including here, admittedly) and generated breathless speculation about a future utopia controlled by artists rather than global corporations.  It seems the other shoe is dropping: it was all a promotional gimmick to sell CDs.

11 October, 2007

Quick review: 'In Rainbows' (Radiohead, 2007)

I've identified one disadvantage of Radiohead's download scheme: if one buys a CD and dislikes it, one can recoup some of the expense via eBay.  With a download, one can't.

4 October, 2007

Sharing the Wes

I've known of John 'Wes' Wesley for several years, first as guitar tech and support artist for Marillion, then lead guitarist (and co-writer of 'Fellini Days') for Fish, and most recently as second guitarist/vocalist whenever Porcupine Tree tours.  He also has a solo career; in 2005 he released his very impressive fifth studio album, 'Shiver'.

1 October, 2007

No really, it's up to you

The new Radiohead album, 'In Rainbows', is due out on 10 October.  Sort-of.

23 September, 2007

I'm asking too: is music taste innate?

Writing in the Guardian, Graeme Thomson wonders whether musical taste is innate:

16 September, 2007

Review: '13th Star' (Fish, 2007)

This is a 'grower'.

28 August, 2007

Declared the constitution of the walkways

Is it really a matter of national, even international interest that Fish and Marillion have performed together for the first time in 19 years (albeit only for one song, 'Market Square Heroes')?

2 August, 2007

New Anathema coming at last

Just spreading the word that Anathema seem to be getting back on track after a period in the wilderness (and other mangled clichés).

31 July, 2007

The (temporary?) reincarnation of Iron Maiden

When I was about 17, my favourite band was Iron Maiden.
There, I said it.

Hey; I was young and naïve.

22 July, 2007

Review: 'Continuum 2' (Continuum, 2007)

Four minutes and three seconds.

9 July, 2007


Heh.  In't musical taste weird, when one can play Opeth's 'Still Life' (sample track: 'Serenity Painted Death', 9:14) and Abba's 'Arrival' (sample track: 'Dum Dum Diddle', 2:54) back-to-back and enjoy them both?

23 June, 2007

Review: Free (OSI, 2006)

Soon after the release of OSI's second album, 'Free', I drafted a review, but somehow I prevaricated about filling-out and rewriting my rough notes, and a year has passed.  I think I'd better accept the inevitable and publish it almost as-is.

31 May, 2007

The thrill of the chase

In 1996, Steven Wilson expressed his negative reaction to the pervasiveness of the internet in Porcupine Tree's 'Every Home Is Wired'.  More recently, particularly with the release of the 'Fear of a Blank Planet' album, he's been similarly critical of the instant gratification afforded by mp3 players.

3 May, 2007

Too true!

The 101 rules of prog metal, as revealed by Metal Storm.

1 May, 2007

No thankyou whoever you are

Cheeky buggers.  Marillion are about to shut down their 'eWeb' e-mail list in favour of their online account system.

26 April, 2007

Review: Porcupine Tree, 53 Degrees, Preston, 20 April, 2007 (w. Amplifier)

One of my favourite bands, performing my 'album of the year' (to date) live, within cycling distance (well, 37 km) of my home?  Do you think I could have missed that?

[Looking for the album review?]

21 April, 2007

Review: 'Fear of a Blank Planet' (Porcupine Tree, 2007)

Porcupine Tree's much-anticipated ninth studio album was released on 16 April, so I suppose I ought to stop enjoying it long enough to write a review.

[Looking for the concert review?]

14 April, 2007

Review: 'Somewhere Else' (Marillion, 2007)

Meh.  Fifty-two minutes of blandness.

Officially released on 9 April, the pre-order special edition of Marillion's 14th studio album, 'Somewhere Else' reached me on 6 April, so I've had plenty of time to absorb it.  However, the following few paragraphs were written immediately after I'd heard the album for the first time.  Don't panic about some of it; as I say afterwards, I was mistaken on at least one point, but it's interesting to record my unalloyed immediate impression.

4 April, 2007

On call

I don't normally link to web videos which probably won't be archived for long, but this is fairly amusing.

2 April, 2007

Still ripping off t-shirts

Like Porcupine Tree, Marillion aren't performing in Manchester on the forthcoming tour, instead appearing in Liverpool on 7 June (Porcupine Tree are in Preston on 20 April).  Primarily, that's because their usual preferred venue, the Manchester Academy, is closing for refurbishment, but there's a specific reason why they didn't simply select alternative venues in Manchester.

1 March, 2007

Fear of a minisite

There's very little content present yet, but fans have discovered a promotional minisite for Porcupine Tree's forthcoming album, 'Fear Of A Black Planet'.

26 February, 2007


More on the Joyce Hatto scandal, which I summarised last week.

22 February, 2007


I've always been mildly impressed that one can put a CD into a PC's CD-R drive and have the audio player automatically identify the content via a global database.

17 February, 2007

Review: 'Blackfield II' (Blackfield, 2007)

After planning a collaboration for some time, Steven Wilson (Bass Communion, Porcupine Tree, No-Man and several other projects) and Aviv Geffen (Israeli pop star) released an album of intelligent pop songs in 2004, under the name Blackfield.  The follow-up to the eponymous debut album is cunningly entitled 'Blackfield II' and was officially released on 12 February, though pre-orders from Burning Shed and Headphone Dust were despatched slightly earlier; I've had my copy since 10 February so have had over a week to consider my reaction.

31 January, 2007

Pre-order 'Somewhere Else' somewhere else

In helping promote the availability of 'Blackfield II' by pre-order, I mentioned the dilemma of whether to support the band financially by purchasing from the band's 'own' web stores or whether to boost their public profile by buying from a mainstream retailer whose sales data contribute to the album charts.
Blackfield seem to prefer the former, but Marillion has adopted the opposite view, by characteristically novel means.

28 January, 2007

It'll be alright on the night

Only Fish would come up with an album title ('Thirteenth Star'), collaborate on designing the cover art and name the associated tour ('Clutching At Stars' – oh dear...) and announce these facts to fans before even bringing the band together to start the writing sessions.

22 January, 2007

Pre-order 'Blackfield II'

It's been announced at SWHQ, but I thought I'd pass on the message that the European edition of 'Blackfield II' is now available for pre-order, to be despatched to arrive on or before the release date, 12 February.  The N.American edition will be out on 6 March.

19 January, 2007

ничего сравнивает

Sorry if my squeal of delight disturbed you, but I've just discovered a techno(ish) rendition of 'Nothing Compares 2 U'.

In Ukrainian.

16 January, 2007

Opposite extremes

A member of the Porcupine Tree Forum happened to notice that the Virgin online music store offers downloads of recent Porcupine Tree albums, including a radio edit of 'Shallow' which was previously only available as a not-for-sale promo single.

17 December, 2006

Listening habits, pt.2

It's been 18 months (and 12 days) since I listed the artists which fill my 20 Gb Creative Zen mp3 player, so I thought I'd provide an update.

29 October, 2006

Review: 'Insider' (Amplifier, 2006)

That was curiously unimpressive.

20 October, 2006

Nostalgia vs. Progression

In a post primarily about the decline of e-mail based discussion groups, Hippydave discusses the alternative career routes of long-established bands: nostalia or progression.  Or a combination of the two, though polarity is undeniably more common.

2 October, 2006

I said populist, you idiot

Some ****wit misreading my review of Saturday's concert, specifically my criticism of the 'Deadwing' album's populist content, accused me of not wanting music to be popular.  I'm not sure why I'm bothering to explain the very obvious distinction again, but popular and populist are not remotely the same thing.

1 October, 2006

Review: Porcupine Tree, Manchester Academy, 30 September, 2006

Porcupine Tree performed at the Manchester Academy last night, as part of a short tour to promote the new DVD.  However, that description of a typical promotional concert understates a rather special event.  Uniquely, the entire first set was devoted to fifty minutes of brand new music from the next studio album, as yet unrecorded.  Only after a five-minute break did the band return to perform a further 45 minutes of music from the DVD, plus an encore.

23 September, 2006

Review: 'Arriving Somewhere...' (Porcupine Tree, 2006)

Have you bought your copy of Porcupine Tree's new live DVD (their first, after over a decade of touring), 'Arriving Somewhere...', yet?

19 September, 2006

Should be special

An article in the Guardian, and more so the subsequent comments, reflects my dislike of concert encores.

30 August, 2006

Laced case

Laced caseInspired!  I'd be tempted to buy this CD/DVD box set for the packaging (if not necessarily for much of the music...), even if someone didn't have a birthday approaching in, er, nine months... make that a non-christmas present, then.

Don't read this entry, H.

24 August, 2006

Not-so-random Tull question

More of a FAQ, really, though I'm afraid the very limited information I have is negative:

new jethro tull album in 2007

18 August, 2006

Cosy covers

Forget platinum discs; a band has only really made it when someone adapts its music into lullabies.

10 August, 2006

Don't tell anyone - you'll ruin it

  • There's music I like, and music I dislike.
  • There's music that's popular with tens of thousands, and music that few have heard of.
The foregoing statements are not interdependent.

2 August, 2006

Anathema's simple mistake

Though for some reason their official website's homepage fails to mention it at all, Anathema have released the second of the original songs they intend to offer for download whilst they're seeking a new record label, as explained earlier.

31 July, 2006

Could be beautiful

I know virtually nothing about soldier-turned-singer James Blunt, but one line in an article about a royalties dispute caught my attention.

28 July, 2006

Five favourite bands

At BlogCritics, Eric Berlin challenges people to state their five all-time favourite bands.  With the caveat that I'm uneasy about the arbitrary restriction imposed by the very concept, these are mine, in no order, with the additional caveat that these are the bands I'd choose at the time of writing; though the list should be reasonably stable, I might change my mind tomorrow!

13 July, 2006

**** the crowd

A line from todays 'Count Your Sheep' web comic:

"What kind of artist sings whatever she wants instead of what the audience wants to hear?"

25 June, 2006

Courageously convicting

I was very nearly gratuitously rude to a stranger last night.

23 June, 2006

Torrents at the Ministry

If I publish an entry specifically about music torrents, mentioning the word 'torrents' a few times, perhaps those people who arrive via searches for 'Bass Communion torrent' or similar will find this page, and my view of those who distribute/download commercial releases by bittorrent and other p2p technology.

29 May, 2006

Crop circles in the carpet

I rarely watch music-related TV at one in the morning, but whilst channel surfing¹ a fortnight ago my attention was caught by an attractive woman² talking about interesting electronic pop.  The interview and her music were intriguing, and a few hours later, I ordered her latest album from Amazon.

20 May, 2006

Review: Stupid Dream reissue (Porcupine Tree, 2006)

It's here.  After having been out-of-print for about four years (blame Atlantic/Warner/Lava), Porcupine Tree's most highly-sought album, 'Stupid Dream' is back on sale, as a shiny new remix/remaster.

30 April, 2006

Same old

Last night, I saw a TV advert for some pop-rock band's second album.  I wasn't paying especial attention, so didn't catch the precise wording, but one quote from a music magazine could be paraphrased as "sounds like the hits you've known for years".

27 April, 2006

Remain Calm (When You're Ready)

Grr!  As a result of my ordering (not preordering – it's already out) OSI's new album 'Free' from Amazon, 'Amazon Recommends' numerous crappy neo-prog bands like Arena and Pendragon.
If there really is the vaguest similarity, I'll be astonished, and the album will be going straight to eBay!

24 April, 2006

Leave No Trace

One thing that won't exactly assist Anathema's attempts at promotion is the fact that when one searches for 'anathema' or 'anathema band' at, the band's own site doesn't appear*.  Searching for the specific term 'anathema official website' finds it as the no.3 result, but it should really have a high ranking for more generic terms, and for a range of terms.

20 April, 2006

Everything is energy

The first of the new Anathema songs mentioned earlier is now available for download from the band's website.

10 April, 2006

Sign o'the times

There was a time when concert-goers waved lighters.  It's reported that at the David Gilmour concert in New York last week, audience members waved mobile phones instead.

I suspect that's common nowadays, though I've yet to see it myself.

29 March, 2006

Random queries no.37

One of a series of genuine search engine enquiries which successfully brought visitors to the Ministry.  Can I help?

The Making of Anoraknophobia torrent

27 March, 2006

New Anathema soon

Anathema are in the studio this week, recording three new songs.  They're not for an album or commercial release (at present), but have a more promotional purpose, hopefully generating interest in record labels and fans.

1 March, 2006

OSI approaching freedom

Quite specific details of the forthcoming second album from OSI have been known for at least a month by those 'in the right places'.  However, nothing had been officially confirmed until now, so I've been avoiding saying much.

16 February, 2006

Living in the past pays

In March, Jethro Tull will perform a 19-date tour of the UK, their longest in this country since 1990.  A full month before the first concert, shows started to sell-out*.  At the time of writing, twelve are sold-out, with five more nearing that point.  They're large venues, too, in the league Tull were filling at the height of their career in the early 1970s.

14 February, 2006

Herd taste - or not?

This is a bit sad: a US study reported by the BBC found that music fans are more likely to listen to a song if they think other people admire it.  People who visited a new songs website gave higher ratings to tunes which had been frequently downloaded.

31 January, 2006

Review: Takk... (Sigur Rós, 2005)

There's an obvious influence from the 'experimental' 'Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do', and several songs include the same production style instrumentation (xylophone, 'musical box' and background crackle) amongst the more normal percussion and bowed guitars.  However, I'd agree with the recipients of advance copies who'd said this was a return to the feel of 'Ágaetis Byrjun', rather than a continuation of the darker, more abstract and consequently less accessible '( )'.

27 January, 2006

Advanced strategic information

Though there's nothing on the official websites yet, Kevin Moore has revealed that the forthcoming OSI second studio album, follow-up to my favourite album of 2003, has been recorded and mixed.  It's to be mastered this week, and a release on Inside Out has been set for the end of March.



12 January, 2006


If my Creative Zen's 'shuffle' mode is so (pseudo-)random, why have I heard next to nothing but Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and pre-1975 Genesis this morning?  Weird.

Ah; by writing this, I've broken the spell: Ian Anderson's singing about menarche (Jethro Tull: 'The Curse').

5 January, 2006

Great band, but not right now

I was going to say that I've really enjoyed rediscovering Anathema after not listening to them for a few months.  I suppose I still can say that, and recommend that others give them a try.

4 January, 2006

Who needs a hero?

Riverside are a Polish 'progressive metal' (if a label has to be applied, though it doesn't really fit) band occasionally likened to Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd (which band in the genre isn't?), Opeth and Anathema.  Their debut album, 'Out Of Myself' was by far my favourite album acquired in 2005, though it was released in 2003.  Unfortunately, their 2005 follow-up album, 'Second Life Syndrome' was disappointing.

3 January, 2006

Could do with a little chili sauce

Coldplay have a mildly inoffensive song.  It's not to my taste &ndash musically unadventurous and lyrically very trite – but not unpleasant.  I tend to describe it as easy listening for the under-fifties, or like a traditional English kebab.

30 December, 2005

Review: Mixed Company (Fish, 2003)

There's something I have to state up-front: Fish's voice was bad at these concerts (Muziekcentrum, Enschede, The Netherlands on 28 & 29 June, 2002); not only is it odd to hear an older voice performing songs made famous by a young voice, it's often quite painful to hear him struggle to sing at all.  On the 'Candlelight In Fog' 'official bootleg', similar vocal problems are easily balanced by increased spoken banter with the audience, but that's missing from 'Mixed Company'.  Whether his vocal problems disturbed the concentration of Fish and the band, or they were under-rehearsed, the recording includes a few rather severe errors, primarily Fish forgetting the lyrics.

8 December, 2005

Burning bridges: here; use my lighter

The current issue of 'Explicitly Intense', a US metal magazine, features an interview with Steven Wilson (SW), of Porcupine Tree (amongst several other projects).  One of the questions inspired a rather... forthright comment on regressive 'prog' acts such as Transatlantic and the Flower Kings (TFK), whose output is heavily based on the music of the early 1970s.  Surprisingly, Roine Stolt, of TFK and Transatlantic, felt the need to respond publicly (I don't know where, but the following quotes were republished at the Porcupine Tree Forum).

1 December, 2005

Betrayal of trust

It's well-known that there were major problems with Fish's web store and mail order business in 2004 and into 2005, which caused many people to lose confidence, which in turn has seriously affected his credibility and livelihood.  For legal reasons, it has been impossible for him to explain the situation, but that's been finalised, and Fish has made an announcement.

28 November, 2005

Another music meme

It's been a while since I last completed a music-related meme questionnaire, so here's one discovered via Neil.

26 November, 2005

Jumping into puddles

In case anyone who's interested hasn't visited 'eighteen seconds before sunrise' recently (why not?), Sigur Rós are releasing their first UK single on Monday 28 Nov., on CD and 12" vinyl.

11 November, 2005

Casual disdain

Last month I suggested that the 'internet revolution' of bands like the Arctic Monkeys achieving prominence through web-based self-promotion rather than via the manipulation of major record labels is nothing new – Marillion pioneered several major developments years ago.

In the Guardian, Alexis "Aren't I witty?" Petridis seems to address the point:

2 November, 2005

Self-promotion tip

I hadn't heard of the Finnish band 'Nightwish', but sacking the lead vocalist via an open letter on the band's website seems a remarkably good publicity stunt.

[Via Tim.]

28 October, 2005

New old EITS out

I've only made tangential references to them before, but one of my (several) favourite bands is Explosions In The Sky, from Texas.  Their music is post-rock: guitar-led (guitar/guitar/bass/drums), wholely instrumental and with an intricate, somewhat 'classical' structure.  There's an obvious comparison to Godspeed You Black Emperor, but omitting that collective's unconventional instrumentation and sampled field recordings.

17 October, 2005

Is this news?

The Guardian has finally noticed that the internet is a viable medium in which bands can promote themselves and build a substantial fanbase without having to begin via the conventional route of record companies, singles, press adverts, etc.
Amongst other examples, they cite the Arctic Monkeys, a Sheffield band which sold-out the London Astoria last week.  Those fans sang along fluently to a single which has yet to be released, because some 140+ live recordings featuring that song are already in circulation amongst fans, with the band's permission.

16 October, 2005

Just play yer guitar

Now playing: 'Eternity' (Anathema, 1996), specifically 'Hope'.  The first 80 seconds are spoken word; a male voice with an upper-middle class Merseyside accent intoning hideously pretentious... stuff.  As usual, I skipped it.
This reminded me that such extended spoken sections, sometimes even full tracks, are something I particularly dislike, often diminishing my opinions of otherwise good albums.

10 October, 2005

One song that sold an album

I suppose this question is of diminished relevance in the age of downloads, but assuming, like me, you don't participate in that activity, would you buy an entire CD album, just for one song?

9 October, 2005

Rip off t-shirts

There was a time, long ago, when I thought that bands didn't do particularly well from the sale of albums, most of the cover price going to retailers, record companies and production costs, but that the real money was in touring and selling merchandise.  Foolish me.

25 September, 2005

Review: Ghost Reveries (Opeth, 2005)

For some reason, I always seem to write with a presumption that the reader will be aware of Opeth already.  If not, I'd better mention immediately that that Opeth are a credible death metal band, definitely not a standard 'kiddie-Satanism' act, but instead displaying a maturity of composition and technical ability unfamiliar within the genre (there are no verses and choruses, for one thing).  'Progressive melodic death metal' might sound odd, but it's an accurate description for Opeth's unique sub-genre.

9 September, 2005


Those visiting the main Opeth (and Porcupine Tree) discussion forums may already know about this, but others might be interested to know that Mikael Åkerfeldt collaborated with Dan Swanö on a non-metal, Swedish-language 'prog' project some time ago (I'd guess it was 2001 or 2002), named Sörskogen.  Despite the professionalism of the entire project, no album has appeared (yet), but one track has been released for free distribution on the web: 'Mordet i Grottan' (5.9Mb .mp3).

5 September, 2005

Sigur Rós 'Takk...': fréttir

You do know that the new Sigur Rós album, 'Takk...' is released on 12 September, right?

You mightn't be aware that a limited edition of the album will be released in Europe on the same day.  Amazon doesn't explain on the linked page, but it comprises the standard album in a "rigid casebound book with a 24 page booklet of additional artwork, and a floating die-cut wallet for the cd".  So, no additional music, but I'll certainly be buying the book version.

26 August, 2005

Shut up or stay at home

Paul Stokes, writing in The Scotsman, shares my annoyance at concert and cinema audiences who talk throughout performances.  The article ought to be summarised and printed on the back of concert tickets, or encoded into a text message automatically sent to anyone entering a venue with his/her phone switched on.

26 August, 2005

Takk, Guardian

A pretty good article about one of my favourite bands, Sigur Rós, is currently given encouraging prominence on the Guardian homepage.
Ostensibly promoting their forthcoming (12 September) album 'Takk...', it's a useful introduction for those new to the band, whilst providing something for those with an existing interest, and doesn't sensationalise the band's slight oddities.

22 August, 2005

Run like hell

What's worse than a tribute band?  How about a tribute band comprising dinosaurs of 1970s 'classic' prog rock?

25 July, 2005

Review: Shiver (John Wesley, 2005)

The executive summary:  I like this album*.  It's not a major departure from Wes' earlier albums (thankfully), and the material isn't the most challenging (to the listener), but so what?  Wes' heartfelt delivery is well-suited to his own slightly melancholic rock and his playing is as good as always.

20 July, 2005

Greatly exaggerated reports of its demise

I rarely read the 'comment' pages of the Guardian, as they either exhibit a political bias I don't share, or the unsubstantiated opinions of people which whom I don't identify.  In today's, there's an opinion piece which alleges that in the age of downloading individual music tracks, the recording industry is facing the demise of the album format – fact.

Sensationalist rubbish, and lazy, cliched journalism, which fails to sustain its central argument for more than six over-written paragraphs.

5 July, 2005

Not in it for the money

One of my somewhat cynical criticisms of the Live8 concerts is that I believe many artists appearing were motivated primarily by self-promotion.  Indeed, the BBC reports figures from HMV which showed that sales of certain artists' albums on the day after Live8 were between double and over ten times those recorded on the previous Sunday.  They mightn't have been paid directly, but the publicity and extra sales are going to be invaluable to some bands and particularly record companies.

1 July, 2005

Experience more Beethoven

If you acted on my earlier mention of BBC Radio 3's offer, you'll already have free downloads of Beethoven's first five symphonies, as recently performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

This repeated notification is to say that the remaining four symphonies are now available.  If you want all four, you only have until Monday 4th.

8 June, 2005

Experience Beethoven

As part of its 'The Beethoven Experience' season, BBC Radio 3 is offering free, unrestricted downloads of all nine of Beethoven's symphonies, for a limited time.

5 June, 2005

Listening habits

This is a bit self-referential, but now that virtually all 20Gb of my Creative Zen Touch mp3 player are accounted for by 2282 tracks from 248 albums, the following is the complete list of artists represented, some by a single track, others by a couple of hundred.

How many have you even heard of? ;)

4 June, 2005

New new Pineapple Thief album

Almost a full year ago, I mentioned that the new Pineapple Thief album, at that time still untitled, was available for preorder.  A little later, the title was revealed as '12 Stories Down', and I received my limited edition copy, not realising how limited it was to be.

28 May, 2005

Performance is the Product

I keep meaning to spread the word about a band I particularly like, and of which readers are unlikely to have heard, for reasons which will become obvious!

30 April, 2005

Review: Parachutes (Coldplay, 2000)

Well, that's 42 minutes I'll never get back.  I won't compound the error by writing a long review.

Dull.  Whiny.  No.  Just no.

26 April, 2005

Are you local?

Severe problems with the administration of US visas in recent years have imposed virtually overwhelming restrictions on non-US musicians wishing to perform there.  Many have ceased even trying to arrange tours there, as all too often one or more members of a band/troupe will have a visa application refused at a late stage, effectively forcing expensive, disappointing cancellation.  It hasn't been specified, but it seems that was the reason the recent full-band Blackfield tour was abbreviated and replaced by concerts by just SW and Aviv as a duo.

It's a disgraceful situation, which I've mentioned before.  David Byrne's interpretation of the causality behind it comes across as a little paranoid, but he may have a point.

26 April, 2005

Copy this

One aspect which motivates many people to buy CDs rather than download, apart from superior sound quality, non-proprietory format, ability to own the product outright, etc. (why do people download, in fact?) is the fact that a CD is an inherently attractive object.  It's shiny (black and shiny would be better, but iridescent silver's pretty good too) and usually features the added value of artwork.  I wouldn't say I'm materialistic, but I'd make a partial exception for CDs and CD artwork.

22 April, 2005

Some prize

Via the Porcupine Tree Forum, I've heard that the 'Nine Inch Nails' UK website recently ran a competition (prize draw) to win a 'Limited Edition 9" Vinyl Box'.

When one of the winners received his prize, he was slightly surprised to find it was just the empty cardboard box – he'd still have to buy the 9" singles, like anyone else.

20 April, 2005

More slime

Another eBay parasite is selling one of the unofficial concert recordings I put into free circulation.  This one's even less subtle than most, as the auction is accompanied by an image of the back cover artwork (the original of which I can produce on demand), prominently displaying my signature and, in block capitals, 'NOT FOR SALE'.

12 April, 2005

Concert photography

I've frequented online discussion groups dedicated to various bands for a long time; approaching a decade, which is more than enough to be aware that there are only so many topics to cover, combined in rather more permutations according to specific events but still fundamentally the same, irrespective of band, music or circumstances.

9 April, 2005

How not to promote a band

It's only natural that fans of 'Band A' will wish to share the discovery of a similar band, 'Band B', with fellow 'Band A' fans.  A brief mention in a discussion forum frequented by 'Band A' fans is fine. However, when that expands to repeated mentions, in terms that feel more like dispassionate marketing than genuine fan enthusiasm, one becomes suspicious.

17 March, 2005

P2P's bad, 'kay?

One of the more common types of search term bringing visitors from Google to the Ministry is for music downloads, so I'd better address the subject directly.

I've mentioned that Porcupine Tree released a download-only single of 'Shallow', but a statement that such a thing exists is as much as you're going to get.  Personally, I have absolutely no interest in downloading music, especially that which will be available soon on CD and DVD-A.
No music is offered for download from this site.
I used to trade unofficial concerts recordings on CD-R, but I never participated in bit torrent or other p2p communities, and I couldn't direct people on to more appropriate sites even if I wished to.

6 March, 2005

Uncensored shuffling

I haven't mentioned (yet) that I bought a personal mp3 player a couple of weeks ago – a 20Gb Creative Zen Touch, emphatically not an iPod!  I'll probably comment further once I'm more used to it, but in the mean time, a fairly common meme is now open to me; it's a blog cliché, but so what?  Think of it as a snapshot insight into my personal taste.

28 February, 2005

Drone working again

Several months ago (Oct-November?), Steven Wilson released a new piece as part of his Bass Communion solo project.  The 20-minute 'Droneworks 6' was the best since 1999's Bass Communion II, in my opinion.  It was released on the independent Twenty Hertz label, but for unspecified reasons was withdrawn in December, with a promise that it would return on SW's own Headphone Dust label in 2005.

24 February, 2005

Blackfield blocked

Blackfield, the collaboration between Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen, have been obliged to abbreviate their planned US tour in March.  Shows featuring the five-member electric band have had to be replaced with a smaller number of concerts given by just SW and Geffen, playing acoustically.  The reason?  Unexpected overwhelming difficulties in obtaining visas to work in the USA.  The band have said that if they'd known, they wouldn't have booked a tour at all.

11 February, 2005

Porcupine Tree singles availability

There seems to be some confusion about the singles supporting the forthcoming Porcupine Tree album, 'Deadwing'.  If I post a summary of the situation (as currently understood) here, presumably Google will pick it up ;)

10 February, 2005

It's a miracle

Out-Gabrieling Peter Gabriel (whose 'Up' took a decade to make), Roger Waters has finally completed Ça Ira.  The premiere of his opera about the French Revolution was originally intended to coincide with that event's bicentenary in 1989.
The Guardian reports that French and English versions are due to be released next year, though the journalist's parting shot about 'dabbling in the world of opera' is just cheap.

9 February, 2005

Fitter happier

Listening to 'Pablo Honey' and 'The Bends' today, I remembered that when I first encountered Radiohead in the mid-Nineties, I thought they were really 'heavy', and that their sound was predominantly 'wall-of-noise' discordant guitar feedback.  I suppose it was quite a contrast to Jethro Tull and the folk-rock I liked at that time, so I was particularly conscious of the unfamiliar elements in their material.

2 February, 2005

Classical: the new rock'n'roll

Writing an opinion piece in the Guardian, Martin Kettle argues that modernism removed new classical (orchestral/operatic) music from public awareness, becoming primarily restricted to academics.  He suggests that this decline coincides with the growth of rock'n'roll and 'pop' music, though I don't think he's making a causal link; even if he is, I'm sceptical.

He further suggests that there may be an imminent resurgence in more populist new classical music (note the distinction: we're talking about new music, not the 'back catalogue' of established greats), though this may be unproven optimism; it's notable that he doesn't cite any such new composers/compositions.  Classical music may regain a place of significance in contemporary culture, but it doesn't follow that it will.

1 February, 2005

Not so shallow, after all

I wonder if fan feedback has had an effect.

29 January, 2005


I suppose it's a consequence of having a taste for non-mainstream music* that when I get a song lyric stuck in my head, it's not something cheery like "... I should be so lucky..." but "... my inamorata died...".

Which is just as embarrassing, really.

*:  Not because it's non-mainstream; it just works out that way.

29 January, 2005

Deadwing delayed

It hasn't been confirmed officially, but it's looking like Porcupine Tree's new album, 'Deadwing' will be delayed for a month in N.America.  The revised release date seems to be 26 April.  The previously announced UK/European release date of 21 March remains unchanged.

29 January, 2005

Shallow's out

Shallow coverSlightly contradicting an earlier statement that it would only be a radio promo in the USA, unavailable for retail there, Porcupine Tree's single, 'Shallow' is now available to download from US online retailers Sony Connect*, BuyMusic and Napster.  It'll also be on iTunes shortly.

Note that this is the radio edit, with a running time of 3:34.  When 'Shallow' was leaked' by a US radio station a couple of weeks ago, it was heavily criticised by existing fans, but some suggested that the full, album version would be better than that radio edit.  However, it had a running time of 4:15 - I presume that was the album track.

26 January, 2005

Review: A Fine Day To Exit (Anathema, 2001)

I reviewed Anathema's most recent album, 'A Natural Disaster' ('AND') last week, and had been underwhelmed by it, but the recommendations of others, particularly Adam, suggested that it was atypical of their earlier output, and I ought to try another.

I'm very glad I gave them the second chance (which, I have to admit, I mightn't have done if H hadn't seen me looking at it in HMV on Saturday and bought it for me!), as I was much more impressed by 'A Fine Day To Exit'.  As Adam had said, it's slightly closer to the feel of Porcupine Tree album.  I suspect I'll play this quite frequently, whereas I doubt I'll bother with 'AND' more than annually, if indeed ever again.

25 January, 2005

****! No!

I suppose ProgAID might have the beneficial effect of making disaster victims realise it could all be so much worse.  I'd certainly pay this lot to shut the **** up.

More seriously, I do have to question the motivations of minority-interest artists band(wagon)ing together to release a neo-prog charity single (a what!?) over a month 'late' - self-publicity, anyone?

18 January, 2005

New OSI album!

Wahey!  I've just discovered that Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) will be producing a new album this year.  This has blown Porcupine Tree's 'Deadwing' out of the water as my most anticipated album of 2005.

OSI's eponymous debut album was my favourite album of 2003, by a long way.  It also helped me to discover another of my favourite artists, Kevin Moore (working as Chroma Key) and another of my all-time favourite albums, his 'Dead Air For Radios'.

17 January, 2005

Of course you want some

The Ugly Jug Band - Do You Want Some?  Image © NRT 2004I'm pleased to say that the charity concert by The Ugly Jug Band last Saturday (8 Jan.) at The Whittle (Golden Lion, for incomers and foreigners), Lancaster (UK), as reviewed by Cliff, raised an astonishing £300 for the tsunami relief fund.  Well done Andy, Steve and in particular, audience!

Everyone who attended fully deserves to see the band again, basking in awe (and maybe a little shock) at their frequent appearences in The Whittle and the John O'Gaunt.  In some small way, you'll never be quite the same again.  Lancaster has a number of good bands, but The Ugly Jug Band are something else. 

You could even buy their very reasonably priced CD, 'Do You Want Some?' (or a copy of it, anyway).  Laugh, cry, and stamp your feet until it stops.

16 January, 2005

Review: A Natural Disaster (Anathema, 2003)

An advantage of the 'PT-Trans' Porcupine Tree discussion group is that other bands are occasionally mentioned which may be of interest to fans of Porcupine Tree*.  One such band repeatedly cited favourably has been Anathema.  Their having been the support band at Blackfield's London debut concert on 10 September boosted my mild curiosity, (though I hadn't particularly enjoyed a recording of their set), as did the inclusion of a track from their latest album, 'A Natural Disaster', on the October 2004 'Classic Rock' magazine cover disc, a sampler of 'contemporary prog'.  I liked that track, 'Closer', so bought the album, even though a couple of brief (20-30 seconds) online samples of other songs at the band's website had failed to impress.

15 January, 2005

Musically agnostic

A bit of feedback on discussion at Dark Matter of Porcupine Tree's forthcoming single 'Shallow', mentioned on Thursday:

I'm amazed by the negative reaction to this song - and am a bit worried by the lack of faith and the extremely premature, cold and blunt criticism by some people.
No, I have no 'faith' in any artist - that's fundamental to my character. A band needs to prove itself afresh each time. That's in the nature of being progressive. Concepts such as 'faith' and 'loyalty' have no place in my listening habits.

14 January, 2005

BC no-no

If you've wandered over to the other departments of the Ministry (links at the foot of each page), you'll know that I, or rather, we, trade unofficial concert recordings, like-for-like, never for money.  These are covert recordings made by audience members, or preferably taken directly from the mixing board (soundboard) or from radio/TV/web broadcasts.

13 January, 2005

'Shallow', well, is

Though we still have a while to wait until the 21 March release of the new Porcupine Tree album, 'Deadwing' (the special edition will be available by preorder before that date), their record label included one track, 'Shallow', on a sampler CD issued to radio stations.  Possibly breaking some sort of embargo, WWUH FM, in Hartford, Ct., broadcasted it last Sunday.  P-Tree fans being what they are, the simultaneous web feed was recorded and made available unofficially, so the 'hardcore' fans (for once, I'm including myself in that clique) have already heard it.  I won't offer a link, as the download has already been removed, understandably.

2 January, 2005

Not me too

When I hear an unfamiliar album, I can usually discern the aspects which attract others, even if it's not to my personal taste.  However, I've listened to my sister's copy of a U2 'greatest hits' album today, and just don't get it.  It's entitled 'Pop', though it isn't the 1997 album of that name but an unauthorised (i.e. pirate) compilation made (and bought) in Malaysia.  K. tells me that some of the tracks have been transferred from the original albums at the wrong speed, which won't help, but still, material and performances as good as they're alleged to be should be apparent even in an imperfect copy.  The 'The Joshua Tree' tracks are familiar, and the distinctive guitar sound of that album does add something unique (though that too becomes repetitive), but the remaining majority of this tracklist* is, well, ordinary. 

U2 is reputed to be one of the most popular bands in the world - so what am I missing?

25 December, 2004

Slime on weed

I'm a little surprised it hasn't happened before now, but one of the 'Ministry weeds', the unofficial concert recordings I 'remastered' (cleaned up the audio and indexed into separate tracks) and distributed for free amongst CD-R traders, with artwork prepared by a professional graphic designer (er, me), is being sold on eBay by some parasitic ****.
Thankfully, it hasn't received any bids yet.  The asking price is £17.95, or $34.72 - as I said, I made it available for free, and continue to do so.

15 December, 2004

Deadwing not left wing

Since it was confirmed that the forthcoming (retail edition: 21 March, 2005; special edition: earlier, by pre-order) Porcupine Tree album will be entitled 'Deadwing', and that it seems the probable cover image will be an eagle with a broken wing (its right), there has been bizarre speculation that the album will be an attack on the US political right wing i.e. the Republican party and Bush presidency.

There is absolutely no reason to believe this.  In interviews dating back at least a year, Steven Wilson (SW) has said the content will be material associated with a film he'd like to make/collaborate on, with the stated theme of a ghost story.  The track titles of the album have been well-known since June (see the 'news' page at and suggest no apparent political references.

14 December, 2004

Deadwing site open properly

The working version discovered by fans last week has been replaced by the real thing: a promotional website for the forthcoming Porcupine Tree album 'Deadwing' *.

8 December, 2004

Deadwing arriving (somewhere but not here)

The more... avid fans of Porcupine Tree have discovered a teaser website [link removed - see update] promoting the forthcoming Porcupine Tree album, which will indeed have the expected title of 'Deadwing', it seems, rather than the fans' preferred 'Arriving Somewhere But Not Here'.

17 November, 2004

Pop quiz

This morning I participated in a 'missing lyrics' quiz about 1980s pop songs.  My score was 24 (is that a percentage?), and that's with a 5-point bonus for saying where I saw the quiz.

13 November, 2004

Just good music

Talking to K. last night, I happened to mention that I prefer to buy music CDs from musicians' websites whenever possible, and never from high street shops, as I'd rather see the retailer's portion of the cover price go direct to the artists.  Besides, some of the artists I particularly like don't have mass-market distribution deals.
In response, she laughed, "you said it."

The inference was that a band with the financial approval of a global megacorporation is artistically superior to a band promoting and selling its own music independently.  That's obviously a hideous generalisation, with which I disagree.

28 October, 2004

Marillion at no.2

With Marillion's 'The Damage' at no.2 in the new UK official downloads chart last week, the Guardian gives them a little coverage today, including a (old) photo and prominent story on the Guardian Online home page (not archived; no point linking).  The article includes BBC Radio 1's 'explanation' for their refusal to play the no.2 download single ("we don't have to") and a recap on Marillion's pioneering role in internet-based self-promotion independent of major label record companies, and concludes with predictable speculation on the future of singles charts.

24 October, 2004

This is the story

The first 35 seconds of 'Some Might Say', from Oasis' 1995 album 'What's The Story (Morning Glory)?'.  Sublime.  Over the last couple of hours I've listened to this intro at least twenty times, (obsessive, me?), and the whole song three times.

For a long time, I was put-off this album and Oasis as a whole by media hype, but I finally bought it in a sale about a year ago, for 'Don't Look Back In Anger', one of my all-time favourite songs.  Hype aside, it's just a damn good album, with quality writing and musicianship, and overflowing with attitude.  It's a powerful contrast to the more intricate, occasionally even clinical music (no, that's unfair - it's emotive, just differently) I usually choose to hear.

14 October, 2004

New Tull discussion forum now open

Just spreading the word about the new Jethro Tull discussion board at  Despite the er, non-intuitive URL, it looks promising, just needing a critical mass of members to sign up and establish a community.
There are forums for general (Tull-related) discussion, albums, unofficial recordings, concerts, past members, and other bands, but I'm pleased to see there's no 'off topic' forum or provision for arguments about international politics, which ruined the discussion forum at the official Tull website.
If anyone else was disillusioned by that snake pit (I stopped visiting about 18 months ago, but hear it's only worsened since then), you might like to try the new one - it seems you (we) are the target market.

14 October, 2004

Review: Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do (Sigur Rós, 2004)

This EP (mini-album?) has been mentioned frequently in a number of music discussion groups I visit.  Typical conversations might be summarised as:
"I understand this is different to their earlier albums; what's it like?"
"It's... different."

I thought I'd better elaborate on that!

12 October, 2004

Flashy Creep

The acoustic version of Radiohead's 'Creep' accompanied by a stunning Flash movie.  Watch.  Repeatedly.

Via Green Fairy

(The Radiohead website is pretty good, too, if you didn't know)

27 September, 2004

So you think you know Marillion

When the plane carrying Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens, as was) was redirected from Washington DC to Maine for him to be refused admission to the USA, Marillion were on the same flight, a fact their marketing manager is still trying to milk.
I can't help finding it a little distasteful to exploit a chance non-involvement in a serious example of an alleged democracy equating criticism with terrorism: "it's none of your business, your clients aren't the story, shut up".

16 September, 2004

Marillion error at Amazon

Marillion have just confirmed that the 'Marbles On The Road' DVD listed at Amazon UK (and .de) is not a 2-disc set, as Amazon had claimed.  The double-disc version will only be available direct from Racket Records i.e. the band.

15 September, 2004

Review: Out There (sampler CD, 2004)

The October 2004 issue of Classic Rock magazine included a free CD, entitled 'Out There - the future of prog rock'.  Note that this was supplied with retail and subscriber copies in the UK, but only subscriber copies abroad.

10 September, 2004

Blackfield T-shirts

Special T-shirts have been made for tonight's Blackfield show in London, featuring the album cover artwork on a sewn patch stitched onto a plain black shirt.  Last night, Steven Wilson HQ announced that a few are also available to buy by mail order.  See that site for ordering details (it's PayPal only).

I'm never quite sure whether it's worthwhile to repost such news.  Firstly the number of readers who might be interested is regretably small, and secondly those who would be interested probably visit SW HQ anyway.  Any thoughts?

8 September, 2004

Critical admiration

I posted the following at the official Porcupine Tree discussion forum a few minutes ago, but there's a wider relevance, summarising my attitude to music as a whole, so I'll repost it here.
It's in response to someone who expressed a degree of guilt at 'failing' to find the debut Blackfield album absolutely wonderful (good, but not great), unlike more 'loyal' fans.

1 September, 2004

Win albums!

Regular readers of the blog might have caught occasional offhand mentions of a rather good band called Blackfield.  Some might have followed my recommendations and are now enjoying the 2-CD international edition of the album (not the 'inferior' (SW's words!) single disc Israeli domestic release).
Others might be curious (if you regularly read the blog, you're probably downright odd, never mind curious).  Try the audio and video samples at the official Blackfield website.

Alternatively, have a go at winning a copy.  To celebrate the release of the debut, self-titled album, the Ministry, in association with Snapper Music, is hosting a prize draw for copies, including limited-edition vinyl. [NOW CLOSED]

31 August, 2004

New Porcupine Tree album on the horizon

A few days after it was announced at the official web site, I'm pleased to pass on the news that recording and mixing of the next Porcupine Tree album (as yet untitled) is finished!
Selecting 10-11 of the 14 songs recorded is the next stage, followed by sequencing and mastering in time for a worldwide release in January 2005.
A 5.1 mix ought to be available by the same date.

27 August, 2004

Review: Blackfield - international edition (Blackfield, 2004)

I reviewed the album itself in February when it was first released in Israel, so won't discuss it again here, other than to highly recommend it!
Those familiar with SW's work on Porcupine Tree's 'Lightbulb Sun' (but not really 'In Absentia') will notice obvious similarities, though Aviv Geffen's (remarkably similar) style has resulted in drastically shorter, more radio-friendly songs.

16 August, 2004

Ooh; a music meme!

The following are the answers at the time of writing - if you were to ask again tomorrow, I might answer differently.

14 August, 2004

PT for PF - back online, here

Back in April, I recommended an article by Patrick Keller at 'Spare Bricks', the Pink Floyd webzine, which provided a good introduction to Porcupine Tree, specifically directed at existing fans of Pink Floyd.
Unfortunately, when the next 'issue' of 'Spare Bricks' was released, a new Patrick Keller article took over the same URL, displacing the Porcupine Tree one with an equivalent introduction to 'the other PT', Pineapple Thief.

I'm pleased to say both Patrick and the 'Spare Bricks' editor, Mike McInnis, have granted permission for the Ministry to host a copy of the Porcupine Tree article, at least until 'Spare Bricks' incorporates its own archive of 'back issues'.

12 August, 2004

DIY without A&R

Read this article in the Guardian, about Groovelily, a band thriving without a record company by organising everything themselves with the considerable assistance of dedicated and internet-literate fans.

3 August, 2004

Limited editions limit

Over the past few days, the official forum at porcupinetree .com has seen a discussion about the nature of 'exclusive' collectors' editions of albums.

22 July, 2004

Tuneful techs

A survey reported at The Register (found via Neil) correlates IT professionals with their musical tastes.  I'm not quite sure whether the stereotypes overlap for those of us who don't fit into the quoted categories.  For instance, my role might be described as web design/admin/support, whereas my musical taste is for contemporary (not 'classic'!) prog, (some) death metal, and dark ambient.

21 July, 2004

Bass Communion InteractiveDJ Mix in circulation

At the start of March 2000, Steven Wilson combined several excepts from his ambient projects (primarily Bass Communion) into a single 60-minute mix for the (now defunct) InteractiveDJ website.  Material was drawn from 'Bass Communion', 'Bass Communion II', 'Bass Communion Vs. Muslimgauze', 'IEM' and the IEM EP 'An Escalator To Christmas', plus unreleased material which subsequently appeared on 'Bass Communion III' and 'SW Unreleased Electronic Music v.1'.  A couple of further pieces remain unreleased and hence unique to this mix.

20 July, 2004

That's not alright

Reuters report that copyright is imminently due to expire in the UK on seminal rock'n'roll recordings.
Elvis Presley's 'That's All Right' was arguably the first example of the genre, and coincidentally entered the UK singles chart at no.3 this week, but it will also enter the public domain on 1 January, 2005.

"I regard this week's anniversary as a wakeup call and a call to arms to step up a gear or two in our campaign to lobby for a similar term in the EU," said Peter Jamieson, executive chairman of British Phonograph Industry, in a recent speech.

Jamieson added, "The end of the sound recording copyright on the explosion of British popular music in the late '50s and '60s, not just the Beatles, but many other British artists, is only a short period away. If nothing is done they will suffer loss of income not just for their sales in the UK but their sales across the globe."

20 July, 2004

You have to see/hear this

Neil Gaiman mentioned this in his blog, but I have to, too.

Fredo Viola has published a Quicktime video (35Mb) for his 'The Sad Song', entirely composed of 15-second .jpg movies from his compact digital (stills) camera, reconstructed in AfterEffects.

More than just a technical exercise, this complements an excellent piece of music, itself quite a discovery!

There's also an audio-only (9Mb .mp3) version.

NP: Fredo Viola - The Sad Song

19 July, 2004

'The Pineapple Thief 4' coming soon

Bruce Soord of Pineapple Thief has just confirmed that the fourth album (seemingly still untitled, unless 'The Pineapple Thief 4' (TPT4) really is the title!) is very nearly ready for release.  To maximise exposure by avoiding the congested pre-christmas market, the official worldwide release is scheduled for January 2005.  However, a special edition will be sold on a pre-release basis in September.

16 July, 2004

Back in the top ten?

According to Marillion's eWeb, it seems the second single (or pair of singles, really) from 'Marbles', 'Don't Hurt Yourself' would have been at number 9 in the UK singles chart on Wednesday, if the charts were officially published on Wednesdays.  That seems a somewhat spurious statistic, on reflection, but I suppose it was intended to spur people to buy more in time for the official chart on Sunday.

As is this posting, I suppose, though personally I'm buying from Amazon (1,2) which probably isn't a chart-return retailer.  There's always HMV - yeah, right.

[Update 20/07/04: They reached no.16 in the official (Sunday) chart.]

15 July, 2004

Review: Ozric Tentacles studio albums

I've just written a series of very brief reviews of the Ozric Tentacles' studio albums at Rate Your Music, so I might as well post them here too.

7 July, 2004

Review: Marillion, Manchester Academy, 1 July, 2004

Though I'm very familiar with all of their official albums and have heard over sixty unofficial concert recordings (not bootlegs!), this was the first time I'd seen Marillion live, in person, so I was understandably excited.

6 July, 2004

Bootlegger prosecuted

The Guardian reports that a CD 'pirate' has pleaded guilty to fraud, specifically the commissioning, manufacture and sale of thousands of illicit CD recordings, netting £4-6 million over a decade.  At the time of his arrest in 2002, the police seized more than 28,000 illicit CDs from his premises, with an estimated retail value of £500,000.

3 July, 2004

Busy with his money games

Interviewed by the Sunday Herald at the end of May, Ian Anderson gave some insight into the financial side of Jethro Tull.

The article is primarily concerned with another of his well-known interests, salmon farming (not salmon fishing, as is typically misquoted by journalists with preconceptions of how an aging rock star should spend his time), mentioning that he has recently reduced his involvement in the industry.  His revenue from salmon farming and processing fell from £2.4 million to £278,382 over the year.  However, as the final third of the piece discusses, touring and recording with Jethro Tull (and 'solo') has always been his priority.

30 June, 2004

Review: Unreleased Electronic Music Vol.1 (Steven Wilson, 2004)

As mentioned in April, Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Bass Communion, IEM, Blackfield, No-Man, etc.) has released a special album of his more beat-driven electronic music, previously unreleased but mentioned in interviews.  Overall, this has several of the elements I like in the Bass Communion and IEM projects, but the inclusion of catchy, almost danceable rhythms renders this more immediately accessible than those albums.  I already rate it as one of my favourite non-Porcupine Tree SW albums.

24 June, 2004

Preordering Marillion? Not this time

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Marillion are releasing a second single from the 'Marbles' album (featuring a track mixed by Steven Wilson), in another attempt to appear in the UK singles chart.  Again, Marillion are encouraging people to buy from specific stores, the sales from which feed into chart statistics.  Hence, the single (actually two versions, to double contributing sales figures) isn't available from (not a chart return store), whereas it's possible to preorder from HMV (which is).

Amazon it is then, and forget about chart position.

22 June, 2004

The other PT for PF fans

Following his introduction to Porcupine Tree in the April 'issue' of 'Spare Bricks',  the Pink Floyd webzine, Patrick Keller does the same for the other PT, Pineapple Thief.

12 June, 2004

California Dreamin'

Isn't this a dark song?  Perhaps because of the title, I'd equated it with the lyrically-vacuous surf music of the mid-sixties, but I listened to it properly today, and was surprised.

11 June, 2004

Another Marillion single

In another assault on the UK charts (heh), Marillion will be releasing a second single from 'Marbles' on 12 July, or rather there'll be two, which will both contain the single edit of 'Don't Hurt Yourself'.
One of them will also include a video and two 'Marbles' tracks performed live, but it's the other that's intriguing, as it will feature 'Angelina (Steven Wilson Mix)'.

It's already fairly well-known that SW was responsible for the vocal mix of 'Angelina' for the album, but this certainly implies he did a mix of the entire song, too.

One to investigate further....

[Update 23/6/04:  At his own website, SW explains that his mix takes a different approach to Dave Meegan's (on the album), in particular emphasising the rhythm track much more.]

1 June, 2004

Which one's Ozric?

This is an unexpected, though not entirely bizarre, crossover between two of my favourite bands: Harry Waters, eldest son of His Rogness, has joined the Ozric Tentacles for their UK and USA tours, replacing Seaweed on keyboards.  That's a big pair of vegetarian leather shoes to fill, but I see he already has the requisite dreads.
I didn't even know Roger had an adult son, never mind that he's a musician who has toured with his father.

I wish I'd made it to the Ozrics show in Manchester last Saturday, but it wasn't really practical.  I wonder whether anyone recorded it....

14 May, 2004

Oh, very clever

I'm told Total Guitar magazine (useless website) has a brief interview with Steven Wilson in the current issue, which includes:

Q: What would you play to someone to show off your skills?

SW: The piano.

Kind of missing the point there, Steven... ;)

9 May, 2004

Misunderstanding 'Marbles'

Over the last week or so, I've been hearing criticism of Marillion from those who thought that the 2CD edition of 'Marbles' was to be exclusive to pre-orders, and that those who failed to pre-order would only be able to buy the 1CD version, missing out on several tracks.

That certainly isn't the way I remember the deal when it was first announced, and I signed-up for it.
The deluxe campaign edition, in a hardback 128-page book mentioning the names of those who pre-ordered before the end of December 2003, was indeed exclusive to pre-orders (though I believe a few spare copies are still available).  After the official release date, a second 2CD edition containing the same CDs in cut-down packaging (a standard jewel case) was made available to everyone, though is only being sold from the band's own web store.  There's also a 1CD edition, which is available from any CD retailer, but which obviously omits some of the music (4 tracks, or 34:40 mins).

8 May, 2004

Very limited edition - update to update

As previously mentioned, Steven Wilson released a special new album, 'Unreleased Electronic Music Vol.1', in April, limited to 100 handmade copies, which obviously sold out within a few hours (in the middle of the night, UK-time).  Three days later, SW announced that he'd be producing a second and final batch to meet the (naïvely?) unexpectedly high initial demand, and that it'd be possible to reserve a copy in May.  That time has now arrived.

5 May, 2004

Guess the song

Found at

1. Grab the nearest CD.
2. Put it in your CD Player (or start your mp3 player, iTunes, etc.).
3. Skip to song 3 (or load the 3rd song in your 3rd playlist).
4. Post the first verse in your journal along with these instructions.  Don’t name the band, nor the album title.


3 May, 2004

Marillion still in the top forty

Though has, ahem, forgotten to mention it, after a week at no.7 in the UK singles chart, 'You're Gone' has dropped to no.32, still a respectable position in a volatile market in which the band is virtually unknown.

26 April, 2004

Marillion on BBC News home page

Steve Hogarth on the BBC News home page
They really do have a gift for finding odd angles for promotion.

h even has his face on the BBC News home page, the day after Marillion registered their first top ten (no.7) single in the UK since the Fish era, 16 years ago.

However, that's not the angle: h is featured in the children's news section.  Under the headline 'Rock Dad', h's children, Sofi and Nial are interviewed about him.
This article is part of the BBC's 'Press Pack' scheme, whereby children can submit their own articles for consideration by the BBC's editors; not exactly aimed at bands wanting publicity, but all credit to them for ingenuity!  Also shamelessness, but whatever works....

NP:  A Perfect Circle, 'Thirteenth Step' (2003).  New favourite album.

25 April, 2004

Very limited edition - update

As a result of much greater interest in Steven Wilson's 'Unreleased Electronic Music Vol.1' than anticipated, and fairly vocal criticism from even the more sycophantic fans regarding the tiny initial release, SW (sorry, 'Headphone Dust') has announced that a second batch will be made available over the summer.

"This time we want to make sure everyone who would like a copy will have the chance to get one, so the size of the second and final batch will depend on the number of reservations. There will be an announcement in May about how to reserve one, so please don't try to do so now. Thank you!"

Okay, I'm impressed.

23 April, 2004

Be like that, then

A certain band with a talent for self-promotion has a discussion forum on its official website, as do many other bands.  From my server logs, I see that a posting at the forum must have commented on something in this blog, as there was a sudden slight increase in traffic (~30 visitors) from the same source.  Curious, I tried to sign up to the forum.

I've been a member of several such groups over the years, so am accustomed to sign-up procedures.  I'm also accustomed to this band's marketing tactics, so knew to offer only the barest minimum of personal details.  Typically, there'd be registration page, a verification e-mail to ensure that some joker wasn't signing me up without my knowledge, then I'd be admitted to the group immediately.

22 April, 2004

Very limited edition

Last night, Steven Wilson HQ announced a new album release from the Headphone Dust label.  By this morning, it had totally sold out.

Steven Wilson's 'Unreleased Electronic Music Vol.1' is an 11-track, 65-min compilation containing exactly what the title suggests; more precisely, music created since 1990, somewhat similar to that of SW's ambient project Bass Communion but "more rhythmic and mostly in a dark-hop [?] or electronic vein".  Some pieces were created for television commissions, but none were ever fully developed.

19 April, 2004

New downloadable Chroma Key album

This news is a week old, but it's new to me:

Kevin Moore has a new Chroma Key album out, exclusively available for (paid) download from his website.  Unlike the earlier releases, 'Memory Hole' is a 80-minute radio programme broadcast in 2003 by Radio For Peace International in Costa Rica.  Rather than a number of songs or instrumentals, this features original music accompanying spoken word, largely content sampled from peace activist radio, far-right shortwave radio, mainstream television, and various spiritual/evangelical audio sources.

13 April, 2004

Review: Marbles (Marillion, 2004)

Okay; having dealt with the lavish presentation, does the music match it?

In general, I'd say 'Marbles' is the most consistently satisfying Marillion album of recent years, with fewer (if any) weak tracks than it's predecessors.  Yet the converse also applies: while the low points aren't so low, the high points possibly aren't so high.  I'm listening to the album for the seventh or eighth time whilst writing this and the music is still growing on me, so perhaps it's too early to say.  Right now, I doubt I'd play either of the CDs specifically to hear one particular track, but I am highly likely to play the whole album without skipping tracks, which has to be a recommendation!

12 April, 2004

Review of Marillion 'Marbles' artwork, pt.2

Continued from here, this is the other half of my review of the artwork on the deluxe campaign edition of 'Marbles':

10 April, 2004

Out-floyding the Floyd: review of Marillion 'Marbles' artwork

The latest Marillion album, 'Marbles' has just come through my letterbox.  Wahey!

It'll take me a while to assimilate and review the music, and I'm sure several other people will be offering reviews too, so I'll start with a different aspect: the artwork and packaging design.  [Update: the music review is here.]

7 April, 2004

Review: Life For Rent (Dido, 2003)

I really enjoyed Dido's debut album, 'No Angel' (2000), her ethereal voice combining with unexpectedly complex trip-hop rhythms, particularly on such tracks as 'Hunter' and 'Thank You' (as sampled by Eminem) and carrying lyrics with at least a hint of substance.

5 April, 2004

Blackfield: news on international release

Steven Wilson's own purchasing advice, as posted in the discussion forum at

"Maybe I'm a bit late but I would urge people outside of Israel not to waste their money on the Israeli edition of the Blackfield album by buying it from this jazzis website or ebay.  The international edition is going to be out soon and will feature a lot of extra material - perhaps it will be a 2 CD set, we are still finalising things.  Though I recognise that some fans were not prepared to wait, complaints about the fact that they bought an inferior version on import will get no sympathy from me!  We even made a point of not selling it through the PT store to discourage people outside Israel from buying this edition."

5 April, 2004

PT for PF fans

Patrick Keller of 'Spare Bricks', the Pink Floyd webzine, presents a good introduction to Porcupine Tree and an overview of their career to date, presenting the band to existing fans of Pink Floyd.

[Update 22/06/04:  The new 'issue' of 'Spare Bricks' is online, with a new article displacing this Porcupine Tree one at the same URL.  I'm hoping to make it available myself, at a later date.  Follow the link anyway - Patrick offers the same sort of introduction to the other PT of potential interest to Floyd fans, Pineapple Thief.]

[Updated update 14/08/04:  As advertised, the Ministry is now hosting Patrick's article, at least until Spare Bricks incorporates archives of its own.]

4 April, 2004

Review: Spirals In Hyperspace (Ozric Tentacles, 2004)

This is probably going to be a common comment in reviews of 'Spirals In Hyperspace': if you're already an Ozric Tentacles fan, you'll probably like the new album.  The obvious subtext is that this is 'more of the same', and adds little to the band's existing catalogue.  It's one of their best, but mightn't draw in many new fans.

In theory, this should be radically different to all foregoing releases, as it's an Ed Wynne solo album in all but name.  Of the current nominal lineup of the band, Zia and Seaweed only appear on one track, John only on that same track and one other, and Schoo only on those two plus a third.  In terms of writing, three tracks are credited to the band, one to Ed and Merv, and the remaining five to Ed alone.  As always, Ed was also the recording engineer and producer, working from his own studio (I think) in Somerset.  The artwork isn't explicitly credited, but includes five Erpman doodles by... guess who.  Breaking from this trend, Ed doesn't play glide bass on 'Chewier', nor 'spikes' (techno sounds) on 'Plasmoid'.  No, they're provided by a totally different person, Brandi Wynne... er, Ed's wife.

10 March, 2004

Link to review: 'In Absentia' DVD-A (Porcupine Tree, 2004)

Porcupine Tree's 'In Absentia' DVD-A is due out today (though my copy hasn't arrived from Burning Shed yet*...).  I may offer my own review after I've heard the DVD, but I know next to nothing about the technical issues of surround mixes and I'm not a musician, so my comments would be purely as a listener.  For a more detailed review, try this one at, which also features an extended interview with Steven Wilson on the project and future plans for Porcupine Tree.

*: Having just checked the Burning Shed site, I see the release date has been moved to 16 March!  Waa!  Several other retailers have already been despatching it; it's even no.2 in the DVD-A chart. (Update: 11/03/04: No.1!)

6 March, 2004

Review: Mezzanine (Massive Attack, 1998)

From the album cover onwards, there's something slightly unsettling about this album; the beetle on the cover is sleek and shiny, but also heavily distorted, and when the booklet is opened, is much larger than originally thought; somewhat daunting.

4 March, 2004

SW News

There's a good interview with Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) at Studio M, discussing the 'In Absentia' DVD-A, the role of that format in future releases, and progress on the next album.  There's also mention of SW's work with Marillion, and the international release of 'Blackfield'.

26 February, 2004

Review: Arcadia Son (IEM, 2001)

The IEM, or 'Incredible Expanding Mindf**k' is one of several side projects of Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, No-Man, Bass Communion), exploring SW's interest in experimental music, specifically inspired by cosmic jazz and krautrock.  Overall, the  music is almost entirely instrumental, but as one would expect from SW, heavily textured, with odd production effects and samples.

24 February, 2004

Review: several albums by Fairport Convention

I discovered Fairport Convention in the mid-90s via the Jethro Tull connection, which was particularly strong at that time.  All but one member of Fairport had also recorded and appeared live with Tull in recent years (Dave 'Peggy' Pegg 1979-95, Martin 'Maart' Allcock 1988-91, Ric Sanders 1991, Dave 'DM' Mattacks 1992).  Fairport had also supported Tull on tour in 1987 and '88, whilst Ian Anderson and Martin Barre had appeared with Fairport at their Cropredy Festivals in 1987 & '89.

14 February, 2004

Review: Field Of Crows (Fish, 2003)

It's arrived!  I said I was going to wait for reviews and audio samples before buying Fish's latest studio album, rather than buying it 'blind' on the release date, as I have in the past.  The fan reviews have been favourable, and it's been encouraging to note that they specifically mention that the aspects of 'Fellini Days' (2001) I disliked haven't been repeated, so I went ahead and ordered a copy from Fish, having not heard the samples after all.

The following review is being written as I listen to the album for the very first time; it'll be interesting to see whether my views change after repeated plays.

13 February, 2004

Update: Blackfield

Just after I posted that review, it was announced that the record company, Helicon/Universal, will not be exporting any copies of the album from Israel.

13 February, 2004

Review: Blackfield (Blackfield, 2004)

Having repeatedly listened to the entire album at Walla! *, I really like what I hear, and will definitely buy it when released in the UK.  Though the online tracks are in a fairly low-resolution format, with significant digital distortion, the quality is certainly sufficient to showcase excellent music.

13 February, 2004

Steven Wilson mixes Marillion

There's been a bit of speculation about this since SW made a comment at the Porcupine Tree website that he'd be working with an established UK band, but this morning's progress report from Marillion, regarding the forthcoming double album 'Marbles' confirms it: SW is collaborating with long-term Marillion sound engineer/producer Dave Meegan and Michael Hunter (who created and mixed 'River' for Marillion and now produces bands such as Mansun) to mix 'Marbles'.

12 February, 2004

Is some music 'superior'?

This topic came up in a moderately heated discussion recently: discounting outright poor playing, accidental bum notes, etc., are some styles of music 'better' than others?  The following is a transcript of my views, slightly edited for clarity.

11 February, 2004

Is 'prog' progressive?

This is a distinction of which many 'prog' fans will be aware, and particularly Porcupine Tree fans, but the subject came up in conversation at a Jethro Tull discussion group today, so I thought I'd mention it here too.

28 January, 2004

Radical guitar design

Ulrich Teuffel, German luthier (guitar-maker) discusses the evolution of the electric guitar at his website.  Some fascinating observations.

26 January, 2004

More on US Immigration

The Prog Palace has an interesting interview with Martin Orford, of IQ and Jadis.  They're not bands I particularly like, but the interview offers some insight into the experience of 'part-time' bands being prevented from working in the USA.  The relevant section is buried about halfway through the transcript, so I've reproduced it here; I've edited out the interviewer's side of the conversation, without distorting the context.

23 January, 2004

Jumping The Shark

I don't know the origin of the phrase, but it defines the point where a series (TV, novels, films) peaks, the episode after which it's all downhill into mediocrity or self-parody.  As Tim shows, the concept also applies to album releases and musicians' careers.

10 January, 2004

Review: Liquid Tension Experiment 2 (Liquid Tension Experiment, 1999)

Another band sampled because it was mentioned favourably at the PT-Trans discussion group, this album
wasn't quite what I expected.  I'd anticipated something fairly structured and 'heavy', essentially an instrumental version of Dream Theater, since the line-up was three members of that band, plus Tony Levin.  If it wasn't for the vocals & lyrics, I might appreciate Dream Theater more, so this seemed a safe purchase.

4 January, 2004

Matt Pegg interviewed

Matt Pegg, stand-in bassist for Jethro Tull on a number of occasions in 1992-94, and son of Dave Pegg, driving force of Fairport Convention and Tull's bass player 1979-95, is now a member of Procol Harum.  Matt was interviewed by John Collinge for Progression in Spring 1996, when his experiences with Tull were fresh in his mind (or what might be described as 'raw').  The interview is at least as much about that time as about Procol, and offers an interesting, and distinctly unfavourable, view of life on the road with Ian Anderson.

31 December, 2003

Music of 2003: the bad

2003 has been a particularly good year for my musical taste.  I've really liked some albums released in 2003, plus older albums by bands new to me this year; I'll probably post reviews of them, eventually.  But it hasn't been uniformly wonderful: I've bought a few albums I haven't liked, and previous favourite bands have disappointed.

30 December, 2003

Review: Jethro Tull/Ian Anderson 2003

Some would say I didn't give Ian Anderson's 'Rupi's Dance' and Jethro Tull's 'The christmas Album' (both 2003) a fair chance, but sometimes I know I won't like something from the very first time I hear it.  I also have a lot of experience of other Anderson/Tull albums, so have a head start on judging something new.

30 December, 2003

Review: Entering The Spectra (Karmakanic, 2002)

Fan reviews of this hard-to-find solo album from TFK's Jonas Reingold were largely favourable, generally describing it as a heavier version of the Flower Kings; indeed, most members of TFK appear on various songs, amongst other guest musicians.  This sounded like something I'd particularly enjoy, so I managed to obtain a copy; it took something like two months for Amazon to order one for me.

30 December, 2003

Review: Dead Air For Radios (Chroma Key, 1998)

After hearing the excellent 'Office of Strategic Influence' album by OSI, I was interested in the music of each of that project's members.  I'd already tried, and not particularly liked, Dream Theater, and came to much the same conclusion when I finally heard a couple of Fates Warning concert recordings, but Kevin Moore's 'Chroma Key' was a real find.  'Dead Air For Radios' (1998) is now one of my favourite albums.

26 December, 2003

Review: Unfold The Future (The Flower Kings, 2002)

This was actually a late 2002 release, but I bought it at the start of 2003, so think of it as a 2003 album.  I've liked virtually all earlier TFK albums; not every track on every album, but each has had 2-3 outstanding songs I've played repeatedly.  'Unfold The Future' has nothing like that.  There's far too much 'freeform jazz' for my taste, and insufficient accessible, riff-led rock; the combination of the two had been excellent on previous albums, but I don't think the balance is quite right this time.

25 December, 2003

Review: To Watch The Storms (Steve Hackett, 2003)

As usual for a Hackett album, I found this very mixed - some tracks I liked immensely from the first play, others I didn't, and still others have emerged on repeated listening.  One of the many favourable aspects of Hackett's work is that each time I play one of his albums, the experience is different - I fix on some aspect I'd missed the last time; often that same aspect doesn't sound so special the next time, but that keeps things fresh too!

23 December, 2003

Cover bands - not here, thanks.

We've been asked to help promote a Jethro Tull tribute band, by mentioning it at the Ministry.  Whilst I intend no criticism of a band I haven't heard, that's an important point - I don't think it's reasonable to ask us to recommend a band without having heard them first.
A more significant reason is that I just don't like the very idea of tribute bands.

12 December, 2003

Nurture your CD-Rs

It seems 'mainstream' CD-R users are finally catching on to info long known by those of us who trade concert recordings on CD-Rs: that CD-Rs aren't remotely 'permanent' and need careful treatment. The claims of manufacturers (10 years lifespan, even 100 years) aren't realistic; artificial aging tests don't seem to simulate typical use & storage conditions adequately. Three points highlighted by recent online press articles are fundamental to audio trading:

20 November, 2003

New musical discovery

I've heard a few mentions of a band called 'Pineapple Thief' at Porcupine Tree-related discussion groups. Initially, I though it was an in-joke nickname for P-Tree itself, but I gradually realised that it's a band in its own right, and that the mentions by P-Tree fans were unfailingly positive; someone cited the latest album, Variations On A Dream this morning as his album of the year. I had to follow up that lead. The band's website has audio samples and an online shop offering better prices than Amazon, with free delivery worldwide.

23 October, 2003

Opeth's first official DVD due soon

On 25 September, 2003, Swedish death/prog metal band Opeth played a concert at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, UK, consisting of the entire 'Deliverance' and 'Damnation' albums, supplemented by further material from 'Blackwater Park'. The two 'D...' studio albums were recorded in the same sessions as a matched pair, one heavy-only, one non-metal, so this was a unique opportunity to hear them together, live.
Unique until 24 November, 2003, that is, when the band's first official DVD is released by Music For Nations! Featuring both hour-long sets, additional material also includes interviews with the band and the albums' producer, namely Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree.

NP: King Crimson, 'Masque', on LAUNCHcast. Argh! No skipping! Reboot! I can't bear KC.

10 October, 2003

LAUNCHcast at Yahoo!

Just found LAUNCHcast web radio (at Yahoo!). I've never really listened to web radio before, due to a combination of having to pay for internet access from home and having musical tastes that aren't exactly compatible with standard radio playlists! I get free better-than-broadband internet access at work, and this station allows a lot of customisation, so I get to hear artists I choose to hear. Importantly, I don't get to choose the running order or specific tracks, so there's an element of surprise, and additional artists are thrown in which I haven't selected, so I get to hear music new to me.

9 October, 2003

eighteen seconds before sunrise

Isn't that a wonderful name for the official Sigur Rós website?

NP: Opeth, 'Morningrise'

7 October, 2003

New Fish songs

Earlier, I was listening to a recording of Fish's 31/05/03 show in Tranent, UK, which included two new songs, presumably intended for his next album, 'Field Of Crows'.
Sorry to say, I wasn't particularly impressed by the unofficial preview. The new pieces, 'Numbers' and 'Zoo Class' sounded very much like tracks from a 'Fellini Days Part 2' album i.e. they have a very similar feel to the 2001 album, which itself seemed to be missing some 'spark' that could have elevated it from 'not bad' to his earlier 'very good/excellent'. A weakness of the new material is an apparent over-reliance on just repeating the title. I really hope it's only because he's still working on the lyrics!

[Update 14/2/04: See my review of 'Field Of Crows'.]

NP: Marillion, Geleen, The Netherlands, 04/05/02

5 October, 2003

NP: Enigma - MCMXCaD

Heh. I have happy memories of this one, which I'm not about to share with the world ;)

I picked up the 'Limited Edition' CD in a sale yesterday. It includes four 'bonus' remixes of tracks from the standard album, but I'm not convinced that they add much to what is already a nicely self-contained package.

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