Welcome to 2011 – the year of prog

So it’s been a while since I last blogged you but it’s for good reason – in that time the Bird’s Robe label has been set up and what with 50+ shows, a multitude of releases and publicity… it’s been hard to find the time to chat!

Anyway – over the past few months it’s become apparent that 2011 is the most exciting year for progressive music in recent memory. And it’s really VERY exciting.

First, let’s take a look at the outstanding depth and quality of the post-rock scene, even just here in Sydney – in 2011, we’ve already seen amazing releases from post-rock heavyweights SLEEPMAKESWAVES and MENISCUS; GRUN have poured their hearts into their first full-length since their Greenland days; newcomers SOLKYRI have burst onto the scene in style and what’s more, PANZER QUEEN and LANDER CONFIGURATIONS both have long-overdue releases on the way.

That’s not to mention the fact that Perth’s TANGLED THOUGHTS OF LEAVING have already dropped a superb full length, as well as Brisbane’s NIKKO, Melbourne’s LAURA, THESE HANDS COULD SEPARATE THE SKY and THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING all set to unleash new music later this year. Brisbane’s MR MAPS also have a fantastic bunch of material circulating.

They may not squeeze it in before year’s end, but work has already begun on recording for CAPTAIN KICKARSE AND THE AWESOMES, HAZARDS OF SWIMMING NAKED, DUMBSAINT, ADRIFT FOR DAYS and SCREENS’ forthcoming releases. CLOSURE IN MOSCOW also have a new album on the way, with a new lineup. Their debut album ‘First Temple’ is one of my all-time favourites so I have high hopes for their second. Let’s hope that their regular touring partners SECRETS IN SCALE finally release their long-awaited debut soon too. Their track Monkey Island is catchy as. BREAKING ORBIT and TWELVE FOOT NINJA continue to work on their albums as well.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg!

PIRATE will finally drop their debut ‘Left Of Mind’ this September, after a nearly year-long wait that suffered many setbacks, including bassist Ben’s surgery and recovery.  I’ve had to keep the long-finished albums in a secret compartment under my desk this whole time, but the select few to have heard the album know that this will be one of the best in a packed year.

Perth’s INJURED NINJA released Vs Skylazer earlier this year after blowing minds at SXSW and their buddies ELEVENTH HE REACHES LONDON have begun work on their next release too.  They are all packing out shows in Perth’s ever-impressive live scene.

The Melbourne prog underground is also threatening to explode – and this is the real deal folks.  Anon Islet Records (dare I call them a sister label??) have collected the works of a number of up and coming local heroes including XENOGRAFT, A LONELY CROWD, FRITZWICKY, JUSTIN ASHWORTH/GLASFROSH and ENNIS TOLA – who together have been selling out the Evelyn Hotel on a regular basis for their series of launch shows. We all know Melbourne is the king city for live music and sure this helps, but serious props have to go to these guys for consistent high quality shows – and to the fans for supporting great music.

Seriously though, there is MORE – one of my personal favourite musicians Mike Mills and his TOEHIDER project has joined BRR and will release the first Toehider album with us this September (yes, it’s really only their first album, following 12 EPs in 12 Months).  Everyone who is familiar with Mike’s work with Toehider, Template and solo will know this is going to be crazy good. No pressure dude. Plus, his killer live band featuring Ricky Evensand, Amy Campbell and Lachlan Barclay is probably one of the most fun prog bands you will ever see.

Fellow proggers ANUBIS will release the follow up to 2009’s critically lauded 230503 with a their second album ‘A Tower of Silence’. These guys have been working their tails off to top their last record – and they will do it.  They take their show on road to Melbourne in September – I challenge anyone not to be affected after seeing them perform ‘The Collapse’.

Another huge release on the way is the debut album – indeed, the debut anything – from Brisbane’s THE KIDNEY THIEVES. These guys have been flying the funk-prog flag high for over 7 years and I’m drooling over the possibility that I’ll get to finally figure out the breakdown section from that song (you know the one?) so I can air-drum with precision. Speaking of funk-prog FUJI COLLECTIVE and ROCKETHEAD have also put out new releases this year! And the SICARIA EP is finished and hopefully out soon too.

In metal land, MISH finally drop their long-awaited debut album in October – and NEOBLIVISCARIS may well have their debut done soon, as soon as JENS BOGREN finishes the mix. Internationally, DREAM THEATER, HAKEN and OPETH also have new toons on the way, whilst MECHANICAL BLACK’s video for ‘Speed Spider’ freaked us out a bit – and they have now begun work on their second album.

Folk-prog is expanding wildly too – THE CROOKED FIDDLE BAND’S ‘Overgrown Tales’ is certainly at the forefront of bringing this to the masses, along with their hardworking brethren THE BARONS OF TANG and DAVE CARR’S FABULOUS CONTRAPTION. Not really folk, but the Japanese operatic-circus-metal merchants VAMPILLIA have not one, but TWO new albums, which have the Pitchfork seal of approval and will see an Australian release soon!

Collaborations are running hot – BEN WEINMAN of DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and THOMAS PRIDGEN of THE MARS VOLTA announced they are working together on a studio progject; and after the success of last year’s Musodynamics, THE BIRD’S ROBE COLLABORATION BAND will release a full length album this year, entitled STILL SCORES and produced by Nick Soole of SLIMEY THINGS fame. Oh and of course SLIMEY THINGS have also begun work on their next album already!  Furthermore, an improv collaboration between CAPTAIN KICKARSE AND THE AWESOMES and SUPER FLORENCE JAM is currently being polished by MIKE MILLS (TOEHIDER/TEMPLATE) and will surface later in the year.

Whilse we don’t get to dabble in it as often as we’d like (because the bigger indie labels keep their acts close to their chests) the experimental pop scene is exploding at the moment – not only have PVT and SEEKAE both dropped new records and gone onto to even greater success, but the hard-working MY DISCO have finally started blowing up and those kids from GHOUL keep kicking goals… or scoring dunks… you know. MEGASTICK FANFARE finally released ‘Grit Aglow’ and consistently land choice supports and glitch bros. KAROSHI are following in their footsteps, methinks, whilst KYU just dropped a brand new video for ‘Pixiphony.’

Which reminds me of another band beginning with ‘K’ – check out Canberra kids KASHA (how’s that for alliteration?) – whose math-indie-rock stylings place them as firm FBi favourites but also all-round good dudes. Yes, they just dropped a new EP too. BRACKETS also have a new single out and seem to finally garnering much-deserved attention, whilst JOSH GIBBS will release another home-produced gem soon.

Even as I write this I realise there is yet more – MOUNTAIN STATIC’s debut album RESEARCH arrived mid-year, featuring Simon Gibbs (ex-TTT) and I had the pleasure of joining him on drums for his Sydney launch. His live band featured Oliver Hunter from O+O and Daphne Shum from RAT VS POSSUM. RVP have also completed a new album, recorded with NAO ANZAI and promise to enchant us all with their indie-prog jams.  Although the press considers them ’in’ with the indie scene/crowd (and look), frankly they are much more interesting and they give a good interview too.

Speaking of prog with tight jeans and fashion sense, whatever happened to FOVEAUX? I liked those guys.

Noise-improv-churners FORENZICS released their third album ‘Build Ruins’ with the excellent support of NEW WEIRD AUSTRALIA which is run by STU BUCHANAN of FBi, whose radio support of the experimental scene is superb and much appreciated – as is FENELLA KERNEBONE’S championing of everything from electronic experimentalists to post-rock artists on TRIPLE J SOUND LAB and ANDREW HAUG’s sneaky prog spins on THE RACKET.

The gorgeous wafting of VALAR’s new release will hit in August.  I know many have been waiting for this for a while.

SEX ON TOAST launched their Live at the Toff EP recently and CODA drummer JARED UNDERWOOD has a new project BATTERIE which will be revealed soon. And we’re still waiting for more new news on projects from SHANGHAI and GODSWOUNDS but with luck, they will be done this year too.

SQUAT CLUB will re-issue Corvus through BRR (remixed by Josh Head) and up and their pining fans can further rejoice with the news that supergroup SERIOUS BEAK will drop their debut full length in November.

Seriously – can you believe this? It’s utterly ridiculous BUT SO SO SO AWESOME.  If you’re not excited by now, go listen to ‘(hello) cloud mountain’ again and come back and you will be.

And that’s just the releases – the gigs have been better than ever -

Already we’ve had the classic HAWKWIND and JETHRO TULL tour, plus PRIMUS, COHEED AND CAMBRIA and THE MELVINS for Soundwave – as if that wasn’t enough, RUSSIAN CIRCLES, MONO and ALCEST are all coming this Spring.

Plus, WATER TEMPLES toured in Feb, PERIPHERY have sold out their short tour in July and MOGWAI and THE MARS VOLTA swang by for Splendour in the Grass.

Plus plus – UNITOPIA’s first Australian tour has got followers of InsideOut and epic prog fans in a general tizzy that there is finally a seriously awesome prog tour happening.

Add to that the fact that the legendary TATSUYA YOSHIDA (RUINS/ZENI GEVA) headlined FEATHERFEST with UMLAUT then enjoyed a packed club tour with Captain Kickarse and the good times keep rolling.

Locals sleepmakeswaves, Pirate, Anubis, Toehider, Meniscus, Solkyri, The Kidney Thieves and Shanghai have all completed (or are in the midst of) successful tours that continue to build upon their past successes and the juggernaut that is PROGFEST continues to expand with an east coast run this year as well.

Even despite the torrential rain in Sydney the past month, both Meniscus and sleepmakeswaves packed out Tone in Surry Hills – as well as Dan from Meniscus providing one of the best quotes of the year that tugged at our collective prog-heart strings:

“”When we started this band, people would say, ‘it was good but where’s your vocalist?’
And I’d reply ‘that’s our sound…it’s just us’.
Then they’d say, ‘well, why would you do that?!’
Well, it’s because… in the middle of July, when it’s freezing and pissing down rain and you can still fill a room with 4 instrumental bands… I’d say it’s worth it.”

- Dan, Meniscus, July 15th 2011.

*fist in the air, the other clutching shirt* yeah!

So in summary, the releases already out or due to arrive in 2011 (I’ll add titles later):

A LONELY CROWD ‘User Hostile’

ANUBIS ‘A Tower of Silence’

BATTERIE

BATTLES ‘Gloss Drop’

BIRD’S ROBE COLLABORATION BAND ‘Still Scores’ and ‘Panda Diplomacy’

ENNIS TOLA

EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY ‘Take Care, Take Care, Take Care’

FUJI COLLECTIVE

JOSH GIBBS

KAROSHI

GHOUL

GRUN ‘Greenland’

LAURA

LANDER CONFIGURATIONS

MEGASTICK FANFARE ‘Grit Aglow’

MENISCUS ‘War of Currents’

MOGWAI

MOUNTAIN STATIC ‘Research’

PANZER QUEEN ‘When All Our Fathers Worshipped Stock and Stone’

PIRATE ‘Left Of Mind’

PVT

RAT VS POSSUM

ROCKETHEAD

SEEKAE ‘+Dome’

SEX ON TOAST ‘Live at the Toff’

SOLKYRI ‘No House’

SLEEPMAKESWAVES ‘…and so we destroyed everything’

TANGLED THOUGHTS OF LEAVING ‘Deaden The Fields’

THE CROOKED FIDDLE BAND ‘Overgrown Tales’

THE KIDNEY THIEVES

THESE HANDS COULD SEPARATE THE SKY

THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING

TOEHIDER ‘Toe Hide Her’

VESSELS ‘Helioscope’

XENOGRAFT ‘Exit’

Works in progress:

ADRIFT FOR DAYS

BREAKING ORBIT

CAPTAIN KICKARSE AND THE AWESOMES

CLOSURE IN MOSCOW

DUMBSAINT

GODSWOUNDS

MECHANICAL BLACK

SECRETS IN SCALE

SHANGHAI

SLIMEY THINGS

TWELVE FOOT NINJA

WEINMAN/PRIDGEN ETC.

Needless to say – competition for a spot in our year-end favourites list will be VERY tough!!

In the meantime, do yourself a favour and start packing home lunches so you can afford to purchase and see live as many of the aforementioned releases and shows as possible.

New BRR releases are up as always at www.birdsrobe.bandcamp.com and shows are on the gig guide.

Seriously, did I miss anything?

Rather than embarassing me publicly, let me know and I’ll edit this thing to include it:  birdsrobe@gmail.com

33 Responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Adam on 29.07.11 at 3:16 pm

    Great post. Absolutely love where this site is coming from and will continue to read up on your blog.

  2. Posted by Amy on 29.07.11 at 3:16 pm

    WOW

    just wow.

    what a year this is…

  3. Posted by Luke on 29.07.11 at 3:16 pm

    There is also a two piece instrumental band on the Gold Coast called The Sea Shall Not Have Them. Had an ep out in 2008 called “Traces” which had them touted as one of Brisbane’s “must watch” bands. They have been very quiet over the last 12-18 months, but a friend close to the band tells me they are locked in the record & release their long overdue album before the year is out.
    Check them out: http://soundcloud.com/theseashallnothavethem/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cg6uYL0wlX0

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