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Prog Round-up: July 2013

Album Review

Geoff Barton on new releases from Ebony Tower, The Black Explosion, Cyril, Elora and Taylor’s Universe

Ebony Tower: The Magic Box Pt. 1

Guitarist Wilson Mcqueen formed Ebony Tower in 1996 with the intention of combining (and we quote) “classic strut and swagger, elements of gothic rock along with a healthy dose of prog and, at times, just plain ol’ rock’n’roll”. This four-song EP marks the debut of charismatic singer Zanda King, who has been compared to Sonja Kristina. Listening to her often overwrought performance here, however, and we’d be inclined to liken her to Kate Bush mixed with Cyndi Lauper. Mcqueen’s meandering, nerve-jangling playing style, meanwhile, makes you wonder if he’s been taking lessons from Montalo of Witchfynde! The first two tracks (The Passing and The Labyrinth) twist and turn like a hairpin ride to hell; LSD is positively punky; The Mirror has a loping, countrified feel. Ebony Tower are devilishly difficult to pin down but that’s central to their appeal. Plus they’ve come up with the Prog Question Of The Month for you to ponder: “Do the dead regret their passing, or peacefully accept the everlasting?” Answers on a postcard. (7/10)

The Black Explosion: Servitors Of The Outer Gods

The missing link between Hawkwind and The MC5, The Black Explosion is the brainchild of Dollhouse mastermind Chris Winter. He describes his new band’s music as “fuzzier, crazier and more psyched out” – and he’s bang on the button. Distorted and contorted, if someone told you this comprised outtakes from Vincebus Eruptum you'd likely believe them. (8/10)

Cyril: Gone Through The Years

Let’s face it, it’s difficult to resist a band called Cyril. Loosely based on H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, this tells the tale of a guy called (you guessed it) Cyril, who builds a contraption to travel back in time to try and stop his girlfriend’s death. At its best this recalls the melodic grandeur of Asia but unfortunately there are too many mawkish moments for comfort. (6/10)

Elora: Crash

France’s Elora credit Riverside as an influence and describe their music as “deep and melancholic”. If you’ll forgive the somewhat xenophobic comment, the fact that all lyrics are in French is a definite handicap. Comprehension issues aside, there are intonation and phraseology issues. It just sounds wrong for this form of music. (6/10)

Taylor’s Universe: Worn Out

Denmark-born Robin Taylor calls himself a composer, multi-instrumentalist, sound manipulator, arranger and producer. Loose-limbed and experimental, this jazzed-up offering has plenty to recommend it. Standout track Munich, with its duelling saxophones and grumbling Hugh Banton-style keyboards, is very Van der Graaf Generator – all it lacks is a mad glint in its eye. (7/10)

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