North Atlantic Oscillation
A Post-Prog revival already? Where are the years going?
For those who think that noodles should be confined to pots, I would imagine that the thought of a return to the pre-punk British musical and hair values would have them shrinking back into their Jam shoes, but for a whole new generation, the prejudices of yore are an unknown. The death of the tribal system of the 70’s and 80’s means that to anyone under 25, rock is rock, innit?
My own Prog affliction was contracted in the bedrooms of the elder brothers of my punky school friends. Lack of money and parental guidance meant that we saw nothing wrong in listening to ”ËFoxtrot’ by Genesis as well as ”ËFoxhole’ by Television. Johnny Rotten may have famously worn an ”ËI hate t-shirt in 76, but he didn’t stop flying pigs returning to Battersea some 35 years later, did he?
You can blame who you want, but the obvious lip service providers over the last 20 years (that’s ”Ërecent’ in Prog-years) are Radiohead , for making long form rock and ”Ëexperimentation’ (maan) acceptable, and Stereolab, for opening up the eyes and ears of a generation to Brit-Progs Germanic cousins. Stereolab were formed in my bedroom, my entire input lasting for one glorious afternoon, but I like to think that I set them off on (or pushed them away from) the Prog path. Add in Bill Baileys Prog endorsing shows , Stuart Maconie’s superb ”ËFreak Zone’ shows and give Mark Riley an early evening slot with carte blanche to play anything he god-damn-likes, and Prog is spawning all over the place. But for tonight Matthew, Prog is alive in the once forgotten East London hamlet known as Shoreditch.
When Prog was in its 70’s heyday, you literally couldn’t give buildings away in Shoreditch. Brown buildings, still war damaged 25 years after the war ended, inhospitable; dark streets deserted after 6pm; dangerous. The East End has always been the first stopping point for the immigrant influx de-jour for the past few hundred years, but no-one stayed in Shoreditch for longer than they had too. Even property developers, for the most part, left it alone, which is why it is the bastard place it is today. Smart money moved into dumb hovels, added dÃÂ©cor, put a quid on the price of a pint, and before you can say ”Ëapples and pairs, guvnor’, a new party is started. Even on a Tuesday night in late September, the place is alive. I don’t have a problem with Shoreditch. Empty buildings are no good to anyone. It also means that I can get to some decent venues without having to get a Tube to the West End. But with change comes a price, and tonight’s price, at a venue called Cargo, is apparently that a pint of lager goes from ÃÂ£4.50 to ÃÂ£5 when ”Ëthe band are on’! I don’t recall that rule at The Falcon? The bearded ones in the audience were not amused.
In reality, you could no more club together the three bands who played tonight as a defined ”ËProg-sound’ than you could safely call two tomatoes and a cucumber an arrangement of fruit.
Progressive revival? Nah. Music progressing? Bring it on.
First up are ”ËMouth Of Ghosts’. Drum machines were a thing of the future back in the early 70’s, but if you imagine Jason Pierce playing ”ËSet The Controls To The Heart Of The Sun’ over a few different, simplistic beats you wouldn’t be a million miles away. The excellent harmonies explained the otherwise redundant need for a second rhythm guitarist (either one could stay or go), but the lack of keyboard meant that Prog points were lost. ”ËSet The Controls To The Heart Of The Sun’ is actually a pretty good metaphor; it’s a brilliant idea that desperately needs a crescendo, but ultimately never quite takes off. Set the controls for the heart of the ground. Get a drummer, boys, and the worlds yours.
”ËEat lights; Become lights’ have a nice line in pretty lasers that flash and have their own smoke machine. Massive Prog points for the light show. It was a shame no one mentioned it before they started, as it would have saved my epileptic brother from having to leg it outside before he had a kiniption fit. Musically, they are a mash of Mario and Sonic themes, 1970’s Schools TV programs, Vision On, Stereolab (read Can, Neu etc”Â¦) and, of course, everything else in between. A joyous blast of the present mashed up in a whirl of technology, guitars, drums, bass and laserbeams. The lasers took me right back to watching Genesis with Peter Gabriel at Milton Keynes in the rain in 1982, but that’s where that unnecessary (and probably unwise to admit) comparison ends. Blinding stuff, literally, and deafening, and possibly in the past, as the singer said that this was their last show ever in the UK, which if true would be a shame. Most enjoyable.
North Atlantic Oscillation have all the constituent Prog parts that are legally allowed in 2011.
Keyboards? Check. Singer who sounds like Peter Gabriel? Check. A shed load of effect pedals, Vocoders and micro synths that take an entire table to lay out? Check. Rigid song structures resulting in the drummer having to wear headphones to tap along to loops? Check. Big yellow flower masks? Sadly not. I first heard them on a Mark Riley 6Music session, bought the album, and to be honest, was a tad disappointed. On the session they sounded like The Nice gone nasty. The album is a bit too ”ËNice gone nice’ for me, but it is 2 years old and the new songs aired sounded fine. A wash of noise and energy, never overly long, and a very colourful use of technology. Who knows where they could end up?