Prog spotlight: Touchstone and the Mad Hatter’s Song

The Mad Hatter’s Song is my favourite by Touchstone. They’re not a band I listen to a lot, but they’re very talented, and somehow they get so much feeling into this song it makes me weep for the city I used to live in.

It’s a dystopian song about London, about the apathy and desolate, crumbling landscape that could be past, present and future all rolled into one. It makes me sad because I love that landscape and it’s important to see the problems in the things that you love.

London Bridge is falling,
Carrion crows are calling,
Big Ben’s turned to rust.

The Cheshire Cat stopped smiling
‘cos the Queen of Hearts was crying,
their rhymes all turned to lust.

And they’re all mad hatters as their cockle shells shatter
and they don’t know who to trust…

My climate-fiction novel, Nimbus (volume 1 is currently under revision), is set in a post-apocalyptic London in 2030 which has been flooded and devastated by supercell storms. When I first heard the Mad Hatter’s Song, I immediately felt the emotions of some of my characters come through.

I don’t want to see a future like that for London but sometimes I feel it’s already there.

Anyway, here’s to a great song.

A releasekonsert with OAK and Airbag in Oslo

Last night I spent a fantastic evening watching prog band OAK perform for the second time. Since I saw them at Kolbotn’s ‘Progbotn’ festival back in January, they’ve been signed to Bergen-based record label Apollon Records, which is truly fantastic news. OAk have just released their first album, Lighthouse – and you can watch the trailer for it below.

Okay, so OAK are officially called an art rock band, but I digress… it’s amazing music, truly enrapturing and innovative. The lead singer also plays the keyboard, and has a beauty of a KORG that looks very much like a Stage Vintage (correct me if I’m wrong). What’s nice about this is being able to see the keyboard action more closely, as too often keyboardists are relegated to the sidelines.

This time they brought on a saxophonist for a few tracks, and the feel immediately plunged into something akin to the solemn atmospheric work of electro jazz groups like Hidden Orchestra. It was great to hear their new stuff, along with some of the classics from the first set I heard of theirs. The singer truly has a stupendous voice, and I got chills on more than one occasion during their set.

I really want to see this band evolve further and produce ever more work. For now, I’m just basking in the release of Lighthouse, which can be heard on Spotify in its entirety:

SUPPORT THESE GUYS, THEY ARE GREAT!

Also, at the end of their set: biggest applauding for a bass guitarist I’ve ever heard in my life! This makes me happy.

After OAK we had Airbag, a more established outfit who performed a very tight set with a more rocky vibe. They were celebrating the release of their fourth album, Disconnected, and performed a range of pieces from all their previous albums too.

While Airbag did not do anything overly structurally interesting to their pieces, they are a talented group of musicians and had a wonderful sound that was very immersive. A lot of their songs began in a dark and broody manner similar to that of Seigmen, rose to some rocking riffs, then descended into Pink Floyd style instrumentals. Oh, and also, their songs are looooong! Shine On eat your heart out! I feel as though I was listening to a lost Pink Floyd album, and with the moody and meditative, somewhat trancelike vibes, I know I need to listen to this music more when writing.

Midweek Music Picks: Pure Reason Revolution

Pure Reason Revolution are a band that caught my attention first as prog, but I soon realised they were inhabiting the prog genre at the most progressive, eclectic fringes of it – as you can tell upon listening to the song below, Blitzkrieg.

The music hovers between the electroclash rock of Justice, the fast-paced drum’n’bass rock fusion of Pendulum, and the chaotic soundscapes of electronica artist Hans Appelkvist: synthy guitar riffs and strong drumbeats are peppered with Eighties style Orchestra Hits, the odd house clap, before descending into broken rhythms and chopped-up blurts and bleeps, then building up again with polyphonic chorus into an insane fusion of sound, using noise as sculpture, painting crescendo onto seconds.

The slightly dystopian futuristic undertones of their themes (the intro samples of Blitzkrieg, for example, are from 1962 post-apocalyptic French film La Jetéesuggest something akin to Rush’s 2112, which makes sense considering the band’s first producer also produced Rush’s music.

Furthermore this band is from the town next to where I used to live in the UK (Reading – a wee bit north from the birthplace of Genesis). Nobody seems to know where to place them – they have been labelled prog, electronica, alt rock, new prog, and bizarrely ‘Astral Folk’, even garnering a good review from keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman. It’s a shame they’ve split up now, but one can always hope, because this music rocks.