Tag Archives: Riverside

Riverside return to playing live with Blue Horizon tour

Riverside 2017 TourPoland’s Riverside are to return to the live arena with an extensive European tour with an as-yet unnamed guest guitarist bringing them back up to full strength.

During “Towards the Blue Horizon Tour” we will play in a new live line-up with a guest guitarist who will make our music sound the way it should, not only because he’s a great musician but, most of all, because he’s got the kind of modesty and humility about him which has always been very important to us on stage. Additionally, we’re going to present a lot of compositions which we have not played live before. Our concerts will also be filled with emotions we haven’t felt before. Together with you, we want to dive into this and make each composition sound more mighty than ever.

We’re becoming a different band, more mature, more serious, more experienced. Piotr is gone, but he will always be with us and we are still a live band. Which we’re going to prove soon during our “Towards the Blue Horizon Tour”.

The band have announced 27 dates across April and May, including three in the UK, in Edinburgh (Liquid Rooms) on May 19th, Bristol (Beirkeller) on May 21st and London (Islington Assembly Hall) on May 22nd. A further tour will follow in the Autumn.

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Best Albums of 2016 – Not only but also

Under my own self-imposed rules, only full-length albums made up wholly or largely of new material quality for the album rundown. But amongst the live albums, EPs and records comprising largely of reworkings of older material can be found some gems that deserve better than being overlooked. It’s not in any way a definitive list, since there’s a whole slew of live albums released in the run-up to Christmas that I have yet to hear.

The Heather Findlay Band – I Am Snow

i-am-snowThe former Mostly Autumn lead singer’s second album of 2016 celebrates the semi-acoustic folk-rock side of her music, combining new songs with reworkings of older numbers, with arrangements emphasising flute and harp. There’s a beautiful cover of Sandy Denny’s “Winter Winds”, and the two new songs, especially the seasonal title track, are gorgeous.

King Crimson – Live in Toronto

king-crimson-live-on-torontoA live snapshot of the latest incarnation of the legendary progressive rock band from their 2015 tour with a setlist combining brand new material alongside classics from the 60s, 70s and beyond. The seven-piece band including Tony Levin, saxophonist Mel Collins and no fewer than three drummers creatively re-imagine the older material while remaining faithful to the spirit, and the largely instrumental new numbers are impressive too. A great document from a tour that was memorable for all the right reasons.

Riverside – Eye of the Soundscape

riverside-eye-of-the-soundscapePoland’s finest band released this ambient and largely electronic album to commemorate guitarist Piotr Grudziński, who died suddenly and unexpectedly early in the year. It’s a compilation of remixes and previously-released bonus material complemented by four completely new tracks, At times the shimmering electronic arpeggios and electronic pulsings are to Tangerine Dream what Riverside’s more guitar-based music was to Porcupine Tree, but as always they’ve far more than copyists.

Touchstone – Lights in the Sky

touchstone-lights-from-the-skyThis four track EP is first release by the new-look Touchstone with Aggie on vocals and Liam Holmes on keys. It’s a move away from the pared-back approach of “Oceans of Time”, with big guitars and soaring vocal lines, but the sound is still clearly identifiable as Touchstone, and they’re sounding like a coherent band in what is clearly a new beginning for the band.

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Riverside – Eye of the Soundscape

riverside-eye-of-the-soundscape Riverside are not only one of the best bands to come out of Poland, but they’re in the vanguard of the modern progressive rock scene, picking up the torch from Porcupine Tree when Steven Wilson put his band on hold and took off in a different direction. The tragic and sudden death of guitarist Piotr Grudziński in February put the future of the band in doubt, but band leader Mariusz Duda has since stated their intention to continue as a trio.

Released as a tribute to Piotr Grudziński, “Eye of the Soundscape” is something of a departure from the song-focussed rock of Riverside’s recent albums, taking the form of 100 minutes of ambient electronica. It’s actually a compilation, combining material previously released as bonus tracks on earlier albums with a couple of remixes of older songs, and some completely new tracks that were works in progress at the time of Piotr’s untimely death.

It’s not completely instrumental, as there’s an occasional ghostly vocal. Nor is it completely electronic; though not as prominent as on earlier albums there’s still room for some of the late Piotr Grudzień distinctive fluid guitar on a few tracks.

The album begins with the icy minimalism of “Sleepwalkers”, the sort of thing that might have caused a lot of excitement had it been made by a fashionable DJ rather than by a bunch of Polish prog-rockers. “Shine”, another new track, has more of a Riverside feel even though loops take prominence over guitars.

The shimmering arpeggios of “Where The River Flows” and the electronic pulse of “Night Sessions part 1″ with its lead synth line and spooky background guitars recall mid-70s Tangerine Dream. “Night Sessions part 2″ even features some evocative mournful sax, and the album ends with eleven minutes of ghostly ambient soundscape of the title track.

It all amounts to very different record from “Shrine of the New Generation Slaves” and “Love. Fear and The Time Machine”, at times referencing Tangerine Dream in the same way as some of their earlier work recalled Porcupine Tree. But it’s always their own take on things, never a derivative pastiche, and there are plenty of reminders that there always was an electronica side to their music. It will be very interesting to see where they go next.

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Riverside: And The There Were Three

Riverside have made a statement on the future of the band after the tragic untimely death of guitarist Piotr Grudziński.

We have decided that we are not going to do a casting for a new guitarist. Thus we have ceased to be a quartet and have become a trio. In this line-up we will prepare our new studio album. Both in the recording studio and on tour – if we get back to touring – we will be playing with session guitarists, who are our friends, whom we know and like. But the line-up of Riverside will be as shown in the picture.

Yes, we do realise that this is not going to be the same band. We know that for many of you the story of Riverside ends here, this year, and that “Eye of the Soundscape” might be the last Riverside album you’ll buy. We know that some of you can’t imagine this band without the characteristic guitar of Piotr Grudziński and for you Riverside has ceased to exist. But our story is not over yet; with a flaw, with a scar, with a wealth of new experiences, we have decided to go on.

The band will be working on a new album, which may be “heavier and more intense”. In the meantime there’s the instrumental album “Eye of the Soundscape” combining music previously released as bonus material for earlier albums along with some brand new tracks,

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RIP Piotr Grudzinski

Terrible news posted on Riverside’s Facebook Page.

In our deepest pain and disbelief we would like to inform you that our dearest friend and brother Piotr Grudzinski has passed away this morning. We kindly ask you to respect the privacy of his family and friends.

Sad and shocking. Riverside are one of the best contemporary bands in progressive rock to emerge in recent years. One of the highlights of last years’ Ramblin Man festival, and their album “Love, Fear and The Time Machine” was my album of the year for 2014. Piotr Grudzinski distinctive less-is-more style was a key part of their sound, with more than a hint of Rush’s Alex Lifeson about his playing

A terrible, tragic loss.

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2015 Album of the Year

Riverside – Love, Fear and the Time MachineIt was extremely hard to choose just one single record as album of the year. Even after I had begun publishing the first few instalments of this rundown I hadn’t been able to make the final decision of which record out of at least three was the best of them all. Karnataka and Amorphis in particular have both made astonishingly good records this year.

But in the end, there can only be one, and it’s from Poland’s finest band.

Riverside – Love. Fear and The Time Machine

Riverside get compared to Porcupine Tree a lot. That’s both a fair comparison and an unfair one. They are the ideal band for anyone still missing Porcupine Tree, it’s true. But they are far more than a derivative copy. Imagine, if you can, a Porcupine Tree with Jon Lord on keyboards, Alex Lifeson on guitar, and a rhythm section with a sense of groove that few bands under the progressive rock banner can match.

Love, Fear and The Time Machine might just be their best album to date. They’ve taken a step back from the dense hard rock sound of the preceding “Shrine of the New Generation Slaves”, taking a pared-back less-is-more approach that gives everything more space to breathe. There are a host of 80s rock references; a guitar figure evoking early Marillion here, a post-punk bass riff or a bridge recalling The Stone Roses there. But it’s all anchored in Mariusz Duda’s distinctive understated approach to melody, Piotr Grudzińsk economical guitar work and and Michał Łapaj’s evocative keyboard playing. One highlight is the shortest and most minimalist song on the record, “Afloat”, which sees Mariusz melancholy vocal accompanied by a simple guitar figure and some atmospheric organ chords. But the whole album is superb, with restrained instrumental virtuosity and masterful use of dynamics.

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Riverside – Love, Fear and the Time Machine

Riverside – Love, Fear and the Time MachineWith their blend of atmospherics, emotional depth and superb musicianship, Riverside are one of the best bands to have come out of Poland in recent years. Their last album, 2013′s “Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” was a major step forward for them, with a dense hard rock sound with strong echoes of 70s Deep Purple.

With their sixth album “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” they take something of a different direction. The opener, the strangely-titled “Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By A Hat?)” begins gently, Mariusz Duda’s vocal backed by keyboard drones and chiming 1980s-style guitar, building into a groove-led rocker before ending with a superlative less-is-more solo from guitarist Piotr Grudziński. The following “Under the Pillow” feels like mid-period Porcupine Tree crossed with Second Coming-era Stone Roses.

They set the mood for the album, a step back from the sound of the last album, with far more space in the mix. There are moments of hard rock with lead guitar recalling Alex Lifeson, but there are also moments with a post-punk feel, all dominant basslines and understated guitars. “Saturate Me” is a particular highlight with its masterful dynamics, alternately rocking out then dropping out to an impassioned vocal over rippling keyboard arpeggios. Another high point is the minimalist “Afloat” towards the middle of the record, Mariusz Duda fragile vocal melody backed by a repeating guitar figure and a simple but effective organ line.

One thing that stands out across this album is strength of the rhythm section; giving the band a sense of groove that so many of their peers lack. Michał Łapaj is less prominent on keys than on their last record, adding subtle colour rather than dominating the sound. Piotr Grudziński’s guitar work is exemplary, weaving textures around the grooves, his solos eschewing unnecessary flash or showboating. Finally Mariusz Duda’s strengths as a vocalist can’t be ignored; he’s no chest-beating rawk frontman, but neither is he the muso who ends up fronting the band by default. There’s a lot of Steven Wilson in his understated style.

Riverside often get likened to Porcupine Tree, and while that’s a fair comparison, it doesn’t do them justice, for Riverside are far more than that, and have their own identity. Imagine, if you can, a Porcupine Tree with Jon Lord on keys, Alex Lifeson on guitar, and a rhythm section of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman.

The result is not only the best album of Riverside’s career, but a strong contender for album of the year.

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Best Gigs of 2014

Chantel McGregor at the 2014 Cambridge Rock Festival

Unlike almost everyone else, I didn’t get to see Kate Bush’s already legendary shows at Hammersmith in the summer. But I did get to see plenty of other bands, from festivals to free-entry pub gigs, so many in fact that I lost eventually lost count. I do remember nine in thirteen days in December, after which I collapsed in a heap.

These are ten of the best of the year, listed in chronological order save for the gig of the year. Several of them are from festivals, where I’ve highlighted individual sets rather than the festival as a whole.

The Pineapple Thief, HRH Prog, March

The first day of HRH Prog was somewhat patchy, with rather too many rather one-dimensional acts. The Pineapple Thief were the exception, with a magnificently intense set that stood head and shoulders above anyone else on Friday’s bill, including headliners The Flower Kings.

Riverside, O2 Academy, April

Poland’s finest proved they’re every bit as good live as they are on record, the perfect band for anyone still missing Porcupine Tree, but with enough of an identity of their own to sound like any kind of pastiche.

Panic Room, Gloucester Guildhall, April

2014 saw Panic Room back firing on all cylinders again after a somewhat shaky 2013, with the new lineup with then-new guitarist Adam O’Sullivan fully bedded it. They kicked off with an impressive performance at HRH Prog in March, and were on consistently good live form thereafter. It’s hard to single out any one show, but this early one in Gloucester was as good as any.

Magenta, Trinity Live, May

Magenta were only added to the bill of the all-day charity gig very late in the day when Christina’s cancer treatment was progressing well enough to allow her to perform. It’s always remarkable how good Magenta are live considering how infrequently they perform; but this time they completely stole the show. And they deserved it.

Jeff Lorber, Swansea Jazz Festival, June

Most of this years gigs have been prog and metal, so the Swansea Jazz Festival was a change of pace. Among others it featured the veteran trumpeter Dick Pierce, the violin-driven gypsy jazz of Sarah Smith, and the jazz-rock of Protect the Beat. But the highlight of the weekend was Friday night’s set of jazz-fusion from pianist Jeff Lorber. The world of prog contains plenty of virtuoso musicians, but jazz can be on another level.

Mostly Autumn, The Box in Crewe, July

Mostly Autumn have bounced back very strongly after a hit-and-miss 2013, touring to promote the best album they’ve made in years and for the first time playing the new album in full on tour. Despite a fluctuating lineup in the early part of the year due some members’ prior commitments, which saw former flautist Angela Gordon standing in for a couple of gigs, they were back to the sort of live form they displayed in 2011 and 2012. An early highlight was their long-overdue return to Crewe in July.

Mr So and So, Resonance, August

Resonance was a strange festival, with an eclectic mix of bands playing across multiple stages, including a small room tucked away at up at the top of the building. One of the bands in that small room, Mr So and So, were an unexpected highlight, a band who have improved immensely over the past couple of years, with Charlotte Evans coming into her own as a singer.

Chantel McGregor, Cambridge Rock Festival, August

The Cambridge Rock Festival was another highlight of the year, with strong sets from Mostly Autumn, Mr So and So, The Windmill, Cloud Atlas and others. One of the highlights was the guitar-shredding set on Friday from Chantel McGregor, who simply owns the main stage at that festival.

Fish, Reading Sub89, December

Fish had planned to tour the UK in May but was forced to cancel due to Guitarist Robin Boult’s injury. The rescheduled shows in December looked in doubt at one point when the man himself went down with viral laryngitis on the continental leg. But in the end all was fine, and the band were on fire, with a completely new setlist compared to last year, with old favourites like “Big Wedge” and “Incubus” as well as the powerful High Wood suite from his newest album played in full.

It’s hard to narrow things down to just ten, so honourable mentions to Touchstone and IOEarth’s Christmas show in Bilston, The Tangent’s mesmerising performance at Celebr8.3 in Islington, Tarja rocking out the O2 Academy, Steve Rothery at Bush Hall, Opeth’s oldies-heavy set at The Roundhouse, and Alestorm’s booze and piracy in Reading.

It’s even harder to pick the best of the lot, but there can only be one, and this came towards the end of the year.

Marillion, The Forum, December

Even after more than 30 years in the business, Marillion never disappoint live, and their sell-out December Christmas shows were no exception. What was surprising was the number of real oldies they haven’t played for years; “Slàinte Mhath”, “Warm Wet Circles/This Time of the Night” and even “Garden Party” from the Fish era, and several song from “Seasons End” including the magnificent title track. It gave the impression of a band comfortable in their own skins and reconciled with their own past in a way they weren’t a few years back.

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Riverside – Islington O2 Academy

Riverside at The O2 Academy Islington

Poland’s Riverside came to Islington O2 Academy as part of their brief UK tour. having established a strong reputation in prog-metal circles. Their highly-acclaimed fifth album “Shrine of the New Generation Slaves”, appeared on a great many people’s album-of-the-year lists, making their tour a highly anticipated event.

Fellow Poles Votum began their support set at the ridiculously early time of 6:40pm, a consequence of the venue turning into a nightclub after the gig. Unfortunately this resulted in a sparse crowd at the beginning. The six-piece played a short but very entertaining set of highly melodic prog-metal, complete with a small amount of cookie-monster vocals.

But by the time Riverside came on the O2 Academy was heaving.

Riverside have sometimes been compared to Porcupine Tree, and seeing them on stage the comparisons don’t end with the sound. There’s a lot of Steve Wilson in Mariusz Duda’s appearance and stage manner. And just like Porcupine Tree, their often complex and atmospheric music comes across very powerfully live.

Not that Riverside could be described as any kind of derivative copyists, they’re a band with their own sound, built around spiralling bass riffs and swirling keyboards. Mariusz Duda’s bass came across the main lead instrument with Piotr Grudziński’s guitar in a supporting role providing textures and colour when he’s not soloing. Michał Łapaj’s keyboards were prominent in the mix, with big walls of Hammond with the occasional spectacular moog solo. Some of the heavier moments featuring a lot of Hammond were more that a little reminiscent of Deep Purple in their pomp.

Riverside at The O2 Academy Islington

With the sort of complex bass parts typical in modern prog-metal, it’s rare to see someone combine the roles of bassist and lead vocalist, and it’s even rarer to see someone combine them as well as Mariusz Duda does. His melancholy but melodic vocals have a lot in common with the clean vocals of Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt’s.

The lengthy set drew heavily from their newest and strongest album “Shrine of the New Generation Slaves”, opening with “New Generation Slave” and ending with the epic “Elevator Shrine”. Songs from “Second Life Syndrome” also featured heavily with the title track making a strong final encore. You could tell this was a prog gig by the way an extended bass solo in only the second song earned a round of applause.

With their combination of dense, swirling sound, great musicianship, and very strong songwriting, they’re a band who manage to combine being very prog yet remain powerfully rock’n'roll at the same time. They are indeed an ideal band for the many people still missing Porcupine Tree, but on the basis of performances like this, they’re far, far more than that.

Poland’s best band? Quite possibly.

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2013 Albums of the Year – Part One

It’s end-of-year list time again, when every music blogger is compelled to go back through the year’s record releases and try to pick out the best of them,

Let’s get the obvious disclaimers out of the way first. This is not intended to be a definitive list of the very best albums released in the year. For starters all preferences are personal and subjective. And secondly and more importantly, it’s restricted to those records I’ve actually had the chance to hear. There are no doubt a great many awesome releases I haven’t heard yet.

After many repeated listens I’ve managed to whittle the list down to 21 (Why 21? Why not?). The fact that it turned out to be very hard to restrict it to just 21 speaks volumes about how great a year it’s been. One or two big names ended up not making the cut.

So, without further ago, here’s the first half of my list,  Had I not abandoned trying to sort them all into meaningful order as an impossible task, they would be 21 down 11. As it is, they’re sorted alphabetically.

Big Big Train English Electric Part Two

English Electric Part 2The second half of English Electric follows in a similar vein to the first, with their very evocative and very English brand of pastoral progressive rock. The storytelling lyrical focus shifts to northern England and the twentieth century with tales of railwaymen, coal miners and shipbuilders, and it all sounds far more authentic than much 80s-style neo-prog.

Black Sabbath13

Black Sabbath 13Neither quite the masterpiece some hoped for nor the trainwreck some feared, the reunion of Ozzy Osborne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler still delivers a very solid piece of work that proves they still have something to say after all these years. If this does prove to be their final album, it’s a worthy addition to their legacy.

The Computers Love Triangles, Hate Squares

The Computers Love Triangles Hate SquaresThe best no-nonsense old-fashioned rock and roll record I’ve heard all year, by a band who sound as as though they have one foot in 1958 and one in 2013, full of short and punchy tunes that hit you right between the eyes. The end result somehow ends up reminding me of some aspects of very early Blue Öyster Cult.

CosmografThe Man Left In Space

Cosmograf - The Man Left In SpaceAn evocative and atmospheric album from multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Robin Armstrong. Though there are guest appearances from Matt Stevens and Nick D’Virgilio amongst others, Robin plays most of the instrumentation from guitars to drums to keys. The haunting title track is a standout, perhaps one of the songs of the year, and there’s a lot to like across the rest of the album.

The Fierce and The DeadSpooky Action

Spooky ActionMatt Stevens and his band in full electric mode mixing progressive rock, post-punk, indie/alternative and metal resulting in the instrumental record of the year. Narrow genre definitions cannot contain this record; it’s the sort of thing that ought to have a huge crossover appeal way beyond the narrow confines of the Prog world.

King BathmatOvercoming the Monster

KingBathmat - Overcoming The MonsterA powerful combination of grungy guitar riffs with progressive rock textures and melodies, sounding like what you might get if you combined Black Sabbath with Spock’s Beard. The end result is a record with a very contemporary feel despite its use of organic 70s sounds, old-school progressive rock reinvented for the 21st Century.

MaschineRubidium

Maschine - RubidiumThe long-awaited début from Luke Machin’s band combines some stunning instrumental virtuosity with a very mature approach to composition. Their complex and ambitious songs are a seamless blend of metal, jazz and rock into, with great use of dynamics and an ear for a good melody. This is the sound of a band from whom we can probably expect great things over the coming years.

Mr So and SoTruth & Half Lies

Mr So and So - Truth and Half LiesThe fruit of a successful Pledge Music project, Mr So and So’s fourth album is by far their most impressive to date. It’s a hugely varied record with some strong songwriting that uses their distinctive dual male/female lead vocals to great effect, and the harder-edged guitar-driven sound strongly captures the power and energy of their live performances.

RiversideShrine of the New Generation Slaves

Riverside - Shrine of the New Generation SlavesRiverside have always been one of Poland’s finest bands, and with the combination of 70s Deep Purple style hard rock riffs and Porcupine Tree style atmospherics they have delivered what might be their best album to date. They may wear their influences on their sleeves to some extent, but they have more than enough creativity of there own to be any kind of pastiche.

Rob Cottingham Captain Blue

Rob Cottingham - Captain BlueA solo album from Touchstone’s keyboard player, aided and abetted by a strong supporting cast including Touchstone guitarist Adam Hodgson and former Mostly Autumn vocalist Heather Findlay. It’s a concept album with a Gerry Anderson flavour, with music reminiscent of Touchstone’s early days, plus the occasional excursion into disco-pop.

Thea GilmoreRegardless

Thea Gilmore – RegardlessAn album of Americana-tinged songs with stripped-down arrangements that emphasise the fragile beauty of the Thea Gilmore’s heartfelt vocals, enhanced this time by a string section to add some extra colour.

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