Tag Archives: Esoteric Recordings

Esoteric Showcase 2013

Esoteric Showcase 2013

Following on from their very successful showcase event at The Underworld in 2012, Esoteric Recordings put on another event at The Borderline in London, again featuring Sanguine Hum and Tin Spirits, who’d played at that earlier show.

Esoteric Showcase 2013

Opener was Esoteric’s most recent signing, solo looping maestro Matt Stevens. He’s made quite a name for himself supporting the likes of Panic Room and Barclay James Harvest over the last couple of years, as well as playing lead guitar for The Fierce and The Dead. His distinctive instrumental act sets him apart, using a single acoustic guitar and and a set of looping pedals to build a big, layered sound far richer than you’d expect one man to produce on his own. He’s an innovative and talented musician, and a larger-than-life character with a strong stage presence. It will be interesting to see how his career develops now he’s “signed”.

Esoteric Showcase 2013

At last year’s showcase event, Sanguine Hum didn’t really impress. Though by all accounts they were a great band on record, their live act needed a lot more work, though to be fair the running order, which saw their set sandwiched between The Reasoning and Panic Room didn’t do them any favours.

A year and a bit on, and they are much, much improved. No longer like rabbits in the headlights, they’re orders of magnitude better, far more self-confident, far tighter, and playing with a lot more energy. With a set largely drawn from their new album “The Weight of the World”, they showed good use of dynamics and atmospherics, with touches of Porcupine Tree, Pineapple Thief and mid-70s Zappa. The stagecraft and presentation still has room for improvement, but they’ve come a long way in a short space of time.

Esoteric Showcase 2013

Tin Spirits, featuring one-time XTC and current Big Big Train guitarist Dave Gregory are always an entertaining live act, and their set was no exception. Unusually for a prog band they don’t have a keyboard player, relying on the twin lead guitars of Dave Gregory and Daniel Steinhardt for all the atmospherics and textures. Bassist Mark Kilminster makes an engaging frontman, supported on vocal harmones by the rest of the band. They display a love of vintage guitars, with Dave Gregory’s Rickenbacker and Daniel Steinhardt’s Gibson Flying V alongside the more common Les Pauls and Telecasters.

The set drew largely from their début album “Wired to Earth” with a couple of new songs thrown in for good measure, some material with a laid-back jazz-rock mood reminiscent of Steely Dan, other moments recalling early Wishbone Ash, though despite the awesome virtuosity of the musicians they never descended into self-indulgent noodling. Every time I’ve seen this band they throw at least one classic prog cover into the set, this time it was a mesmerising take on King Crimson’s “Red”. They ended with a progged-up version of XTC’s “Towers of London” to end a great evening.

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Matt Stevens signs to Esoteric

Support act Matt Stevens

Guitar looping maestro Matt Stevens has signed a deal With Esoteric Antenna, home of Panic Room and a great many other modern progressive artists.

When Panic Room signed their deal last year I was a little apprehensive, and hoped they knew what they were doing. But it seems to have worked very well for them so far, with the band playing to noticably bigger audiences than a year before. Hopefully the same will happen with Matt Stevens. He’s really quite unique in what he does; using looping technique as a means to an end rather than an end in itself, and making music anchored in solid tunes.

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Panic Room’s “S K I N” now available for pre-order

Panic Room’s new album S K I N is now available for pre-order. As stated on Panic Room’s website:

We are taking pre-orders through our official website SHOP, and in the coming weeks the album will also be available directly from Esoteric Antenna at the Cherry Red Records website.

The first 2000 orders placed will receive the stunning ‘digipak’ version of ‘S K I N’ – an exclusive special edition with extended artwork and a beautiful fold-out design. A true collectors’ item.

After these first 2000 copies, the album will be available in standard jewel-case format. All pre-orders will be despatched first in line, when the albums are ready to send.

If you like great music with a real singer and real musicians, go and order this now. You won’t regret it.

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Prog-gate “The Prog Corruption Blog”

I really try to steer well clear of backstage politics in the Prog world. But sometimes things happen on public forums that leave me no choice.

There has been something of a ruction in the community over a mysterious blog calling itself the “Prog Corruption Blog”, which claimed to “try to address corruption, scamming, vote canvassing and poll rigging in the world of Progressive Rock Music as dedicated and professional artists are forced out of popularity polls and charts by PR driven outfits“. There was but a single post, which made the claim that the reader’s poll in Classic Rock Presents Prog had been rigged in favour of Panic Room and The Reasoning, two bands recently signed by Esoteric Antenna. The whole thing reeked of an agenda, and read like the work of someone with an axe to grind against either the bands, the label, or both.

I learned of this blog from a link posted in the comments on another post in this blog, I immediately bought it to the attention of CRPP and two of the bands because I felt they needed to know. To say that there was then a significant sewage/ventilation device interface incident would be an understatement. Certainly some of those parties considered the contents of that blog libellous, and there was talk of lawyers.

A few hours later, after a number of angry comments including some from a member of one of those bands, the entire site disappeared.

If you read the whole thing before it got taken down, it was less an attack on the CRPP Poll, and more a direct attack on the professional integrity of two bands and their record company. There was also an implied personal attack on Panic Room’s frontwoman Anne-Marie Helder, suggesting that she did not deserve the Best Female Vocalist of 2011 award because the band “had played no more than half a dozen pub gigs”. (Obviously untrue, we’ll get to that later)

It’s now being suggested that the author writing under the false name of “Beverly Myers” is in fact male. I’m not going to argue with someone with a Master’s degree in psychology on that point. It’s notable that the (probably male) author adopted a voice that read like a crude caricature of 1980s hairy-armpit feminism to make his dubious points. I now believe he has a misogynistic agenda – not only are two of the bands female-fronted, but the record company is also run by a woman.

Given that the author has lied about his identity, nothing else can be taken at face value. The whole thing is full of distortions, half-truths and outright lies which cannot be put down to mere poor research. It should certainly not be dismissed as “a bit of harmless internet fun” – it’s a clear and deliberate attempt to damage several people’s means of earning a living. It’s already diverted a lot of their time and energy away from creating and promoting their music towards countering these malicious lies.

One of the bands has also dropped hints that they have strong suspicions as to the identity of the perpetrators (note the use of the plural here). While I don’t want to speculate on their specific identity, it does feel like the work of a fan or maybe even a member of a prog band made up of ugly blokes who’s bitter that the record label had passed over their dated 80s-style neo-prog in favour of two bands in question. That would put the sneering references to “bands fronted by pretty girls”, “beauty contests” and “they aren’t proper prog” in to context.

Somehow I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this by a long way.

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Panic Room and The Reasoning sign to Esoteric Recordings

Major and completely unexpected announcements from both Panic Room and The Reasoning. Both bands have signed record deals with Esoteric Recordings, and imprint of Cherry Red records.

Panic Room’s album, which they will be recording in January and February is slated for an early Summer release, while The Reasoning’s is due in November.

Both bands have put in a lot of hard word slogging round what is euphemistically known as “The toilet circuit”, steadily building a fanbase and honing their acts to the point where they’re capable of giving far higher profile bands a run for their money. They’ve probably got as far as they were going to get as independent artists, and signing with a label is what needed to happen if they were to get to the next level.

I’ve followed both bands from their very first gigs (The Uplands Tavern in Swansea, and The Town Hall in Lydney), and it’s exciting to see where they’re going to go next. While I don’t expect them to be headlining enormodomes just yet, being signed to a label will open a lot of doors, whether it be prestigious support slots or support for overseas tours.

While I’ve heard too many horror stories in the past of labels interfering in the creative process to the detriment of an artists long-term future, I’m confident this isn’t going to happen here. It’s not like either band is a bunch of fresh-faced innocents just out of The Brit School about to be chewed-up and spat out by the major label sausage machine. Given their artist roster (including prog veterans Hawkwind and Van der Graaf Generator), Esoteric Recordings don’t sound like that sort of label.

Does rather make a mockery of the ridiculous claim that Panic Room don’t want to “dirty their hands with commerce”, doesn’t it?

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