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    Canterbury Scene definition

    With many other types of English progressive music developing mostly in London, it may at first seem strange that the old pilgrimage centre and relatively quiet cathedral city of Canterbury, became the centre of this very English form of progressive music and jazz fusion. Originally the Wilde Flowers, a teenage band of members living in and around Canterbury, playing a mix of pop, R'n'B and band members with a developing love of jazz, was formed in the 60's and became the seedling from which the Canterbury Scene grew. Australian beatnik Daevid Allen during a long stop-over at Robert Wyatt's parent's home, a refuge for many left field artists, was to catalyse the evolution of the Wilde Flowers into the fledging Soft Machine and the development of some avant music during the English psychedelic and underground period. From 1963 to 1969, the Wilde Flowers included most of the figures who later formed Canterbury's two best known bands, (The) Soft Machine (Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Hugh Hopper) and Caravan (Pye Hastings, David Sinclair, Richard Sinclair, Richard Coughlan).

    Canterbury was then to be the cradle for several of the more freewheeling British bands of the post-psychedelic era. While fans would suggest this is the home of an English musical quirkiness tempered with quite a bit of whimsy, within the Canterbury Scene's musical spectrum any similarities between Canterbury's major bands, (e.g. Soft Machine, Caravan, Gong, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Hatfield & the North, Egg, National Health), are not immediately obvious*. Most bands will be found employing a clever fusion of rock rhythms and jazz improvisation with intellectual song-writing and varying strengths of psychedelia - some would too include folk elements (e.g. Spirogyra), others blues (e.g. Carol Grimes and Delivery). In addition, a number of bands employed various elements from classical music, for instance those bands with Dave Stewart playing keyboards. Whilst there have been a handful of excellent and distinctly different guitarists to play with Canterbury bands (e.g. Andy Summers, Allan Holdsworth, John Etheridge, Steve Hillage, Phil Miller), the lead instrument of choice has been keyboards. One English peculiarity of Canterbury is what the late John Peel called the 'School of Anti-song' because of particular Wyatt, Ayers and Richard Sinclair's approaches to vocals and perhaps the whimsy. More recently Richard Sinclair's vocal style has perhaps accurately been labelled as 'English jazz singing' by Jazzwise (i.e. singing jazz with an English rather than the usual American accent). In addition Canterbury musicians have experimented as avant garde, free jazz players, e.g. instance Elton Dean, Lol Coxhill, Steve Miller.

    (*However, once you've heard some Canterbury bands the commonality becomes more obvious - chord sequencing e.g. Caveman Hughscore's electric piano opening on the tune 'More Than Nothing', the vocals, the lyrics etc.)

    Both the Soft Machine and Caravan were popular in England's psychedelic/ underground scene before releasing their first albums in 1968, with Machine completing on level footing with Pink Floyd. However, by the early 70's a series of fragmenting changes of bands' line-ups, (Soft Machine went through about 30) and the subsequent formation of new bands, rapidly broadened Canterbury's range, with many newer musicians with only loose and in fact, no previous Canterbury connections. Early Soft Machine member Daevid Allen formed Gong in Paris. Both Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt left the Softs because of musical developments they did not like, to begin their own solo careers. By the mid-70's, most the old and new Canterbury bands had progressed away from psychedelia, developing their distinct forms of progressive rock some embracing jazz fusion, many playing extended jams with now limited lyrical input (e.g. Hatfield and The Norths, National Health, Gilgamesh). Caravan became more folky. However, as the 70's progressed several Canterbury bands would lose most of the rock element from their music. Gong retained their psychedelic side longest, but with the departure of Daevid Allen and Steve Hillage in the mid 70's, the band evolved into the percussion-oriented, jazz rock group Gong, which eventually became the modern day Gongzilla. Daevid Allen regained Gong's name in the 90's and through his solo work and with his University of Errors, is still evidently producing psychedelia. Steve Hillage's form of psychedelia evolved into the glissando rock of his own band and then into electronica, by the end of the 70's. In particular, Hillage through his work as a successful record producer of new bands from the 80's, develop his form of electronica through other bands. This music lost much of its complexity e.g. few riffs played over and over, rather than dozens per tune that previously had often typified prog, into a very popular form that is the antithesis of prog, i.e. the various forms of house music, with associated remixing/turntablism. For instance, Gong's "You" got the remix treatment in the 90's - but then to reflect his range of activities, Hillage has also produced and played guitar for Algerian Rai singer, Rachid Taha for over 20 years.

    Many of Britain's better known avant-garde and fusion musicians of the 70's and 80's - including Fred Frith (Henry Cow), Allan Holdsworth (Gong, Soft Machine, UK, Bruford) and Peter Blegvad - were involved during their early careers playing in Canterbury bands. And still new musicians join the Canterbury Scene's ranks, Theo Travis being perhaps the most notable recently (Gong, The Soft Machine Legacy). The Canterbury scene was to have a major influence on musicians in Europe, especially France (e.g. Gong, Moving Gelatine Plates), the Netherlands (Super Sister)and Italy (Daedalus), and more belatedly in the USA (Hughscore). Caravan reformed in the mid 90's, while ex-members of Soft Machine could be found in various avant jazz and straight jazz fusion groups, e.g. Just Us, Soft Heap, Soft Works and most recently The Soft Machine Legacy. From the Canterbury Scene, RIO it its various forms has developed.

    FOOTNOTE: As indicated above, many Canterbury Scene bands are acknowledged as having played/are playing jazz rock fusion. However, because of their strong Canterbury affliations are listed under "Canterbury Scene" in Prog Archives.

    Dick Heath
    Based loosely in part on the source: http://www.allmusic.com
    (Edition 3, Aug 2009)

    Current team members as at 19/4/2020:
    George (historian9)
    Scott (Evolver)
    Phil (Man With Hat)
    Mike (siLLy puPPy)
    Maciej (HarryAngel746)

    Canterbury Scene Top Albums

    Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Canterbury Scene | More Top Prog lists and filters

    4.29 | 1748 ratings
    4.28 | 883 ratings
    Wyatt, Robert
    4.28 | 792 ratings
    Hatfield And The North
    4.24 | 1010 ratings
    4.24 | 1033 ratings
    4.27 | 718 ratings
    4.20 | 1004 ratings
    Soft Machine, The
    4.27 | 443 ratings
    National Health
    4.19 | 741 ratings
    4.21 | 576 ratings
    Hatfield And The North
    4.14 | 681 ratings
    4.26 | 266 ratings
    4.14 | 431 ratings
    Hillage, Steve
    4.14 | 417 ratings
    4.17 | 321 ratings
    Quiet Sun
    4.13 | 395 ratings
    National Health
    4.32 | 153 ratings
    Moving Gelatine Plates
    4.20 | 214 ratings
    4.09 | 361 ratings
    Soft Machine, The
    4.05 | 496 ratings
    Soft Machine, The

    Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new

    Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Canterbury Scene experts team

    Picchio Dal Pozzo
    Miller, Phil
    Jakszyk, Jakko M.
    Muffins, The

    Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews

     The Polite Force by EGG album cover Studio Album, 1971
    4.14 | 417 ratings

    The Polite Force
    Egg Canterbury Scene

    Review by friso
    Prog Reviewer

    3 stars Egg is a Canterbury group that is basically a trio (bass, drums, keyboards) that was left when Steve Hillage moved on after their sole Arzachel album - which some consider to be an early Canterbury and space rock classic. Keyboardist Dave Stewart would also play with Steve Hillage on Kahn's 'Space Shanty' album (a favorite of mine) and is one of the better keyboardist of the genre. On this album we get to hear two great psychedelic and jazzy Canterbury songs that are instantly enjoyable and recognizable as top notch genre classics. Mont Campbell's vocals (who also plays bass) don't stand out, but its clearly enough to cast that dopey English vocal jazz sound that fits the music so well. 'A Visit To Newport Hospital' is a jazzy hardrock song with distorted organs and some strong instrumental sections. 'Contrasong' with its amazing rhythms and wind-sections is another bright and energetic high-light. After that Egg goes fully avant-prog on the listener with the plain boring soundscape 'Boilk' and the formless summation of ideas called 'Long Piece No. 3' (which fills the second side). Perhaps without the nine useless minutes of 'Boilk' this would have still been a worthy addition to most prog collections, but as it is; this record sounds way too unfinished and random to be considered that worthwhile. I actually wanted to like this much more than I do because of the fantastic recording sound and the love I hold for 'Space Shanty'. Do add the first two songs to your digital playlist though!
     Rest Of The World by MANNA / MIRAGE album cover Studio Album, 2018
    4.02 | 9 ratings

    Rest Of The World
    Manna / Mirage Canterbury Scene

    Review by Sagichim
    Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

    4 stars I was wondering if this Muffins offshoot band gonna have a follow up to their excellent debut. If Blue Dogs showed Dave Newhouse taking a big role in the album/band it is more evident here, a quick look at the album's credit will point out that this looks like more of a solo album from him. Billy Swann (Ex The Muffins) appears only on one track, Paul Sears (Ex The Muffins) which played drums on the debut is not on board this time instead we have about ten more musicians participating in the album including Bret Hart (not the wrestler...) Jerry King and William Jungwirth on which he collaborates with them on the excellent band Moon Man. I'm glad to see Newhouse does not follow the debut footsteps but continues to explore his ideas further more. While the debut was leaning more towards jazz this one is more progressive overall with an emphasis on Canterbury and avant garde, like a cross between Henry Cow's LegEnd, Caravan and Soft Machine. Dave Newhouse certainly knows how to make an album to sound so beautiful, his array of woodwinds like clarinet, tenor/alto/baritone and soprano sax, keys and piano complimented with bass and drums sounds so fresh and lively which is the canterbury music's trademark.

    Catawampus, Zed He Said and That Awful Sky are three tracks designated for a Muffins album before the band dissolved. The album opens with Catawampus their progiest tune in the album, this is quite an eclectic ride as the song holds a few surprises and bears an interesting progression. Sean Rickman on drums really shines here, he's all over the place with an unexpected rock attitude giving those jazzy horns a real kick, as the contrast between jazzy horns and an angry fuzzy organ is built. Mark Stanley is doing a great job here with a cool quirky electric guitar solo and his acoustic noodling on the song's final part topped with beautiful keyboard chords, a canterbury heaven! Zed He Said is an acoustic piece said to be dedicated to Robert Wyatt. There's a quiet disturbing psychedelic touch here like an early melody by Caravan, soft keyboard sounds and acoustic guitar strumming lead the way with female vocals, it gets more upbeat later with drums. Alchemist In The Parlor is quite a weird piece, Carla Diratz from the band Diratz (which is another project of Dave Newhouse) writes the lyrics and performs heavy accented narration on this weird folk tune with minimalistic woodwinds rhythm, a violin, bells and percussion, it actually suits the vibe of the album in spite of feeling out of place at first. Except for those two tracks containing vocals the rest is instrumental. 30 Degrees Of Freedom is my favorite piece here along with the opener and Mini Hugh, piano and noisy distortions gets the ball rolling, it settles for Newhouse to have some fun with woodwinds, piano, keys guitars and a deep fat bass, this is good and it gets even better when it picks up and gets more intense with Sean Rickman's busy drumming and Stanley's guitar solo. Gonzalo's Paints is dedicated to Gonzalo Fuentes the man behind their album covers (yep haha) It's a short pastoral theme with serene atmosphere. Miracle Walking adds to the album's diversity, no drumming no bass only multiple layers of woodwinds and an accordion, very nice. Mini Hugh is dedicated to Hugh Hopper and for a good reason, it sounds like something out of Soft Machine's kitchen. The calm atmosphere wraps you up as you enter that pool but becomes much more beautiful once you dive in, Guy Seger's bass, Newhouse woodwinds and Rickman stunning drumming doesn't let you wanna leave the water, fantastic really! That Awful Sky is a unique spacious piece with a disturbing atmosphere played only with electric and acoustic basses, guitar and soft drum patterns, a beautiful ending to the album.

    As much as I love the first album I think this is a little bit better, I guess it's something to do with the album being more canterbury oriented plus Rickman's drumming which kinda steals the show here. I sure do hope Mr. Newhouse comes up with another album soon because as of now it doesn't look like his out of ideas. His brilliant songwriting, arrangements and playing makes this beautiful sounding album a real winner. Easy 4 stars.

     Blue Dogs by MANNA / MIRAGE album cover Studio Album, 2015
    3.97 | 7 ratings

    Blue Dogs
    Manna / Mirage Canterbury Scene

    Review by Sagichim
    Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

    4 stars If you can't get enough of The Muffins this is a great offshoot band. Named after their debut album, Manna/Mirage consists of 3 members from The Muffins, Dave Newhouse plays keyboards, woodwinds and drums in about half the tracks here, his son George plays the other half. Billy Swann on bass and Paul Sears appears only on one track Muffin Man Redux playing the drums, the only one missing is Tom Scott. This is very close to what The Muffins were doing in their early period and of course Soft Machine also come to mind. Their fantastic blend of Canterbury, jazz and some avant guarde shines throughout this very short album, only 35 minutes of music. Although the songs are relatively short about 4-5 minutes they sound complete and don't wander off. The playing is of course superb, Dave Newhouse is the main man here, with his masterful arrangements of multiple woodwinds, piano and keys being complemented with bass and drums.

    The album opens with the aptly titled Canterbury Bells, this is all Newhouse, keys and horns lead the way on this buoyant journey on top of jazzy piano chords progressions, what a beautiful sound. Duke Street is some sort of a tribute to Duke Ellington so this one goes into jazzier territories, sonds like something out of the 50's with a better production, Newhouse really nails this one with a couple layers of woodwinds. Muffin Man Redux is one of the most diverse tunes in this album, it continues the jazzy mood and welcomes Mark Stanley with his Bireli Lagrene like jazzy guitar runs, Newhouse's piano work goes hand in hand with his multiple layers of horns which sets the ground for some Ratledge fuzzed out keyboard solo. The melancholic Lost In Photograph again derives from its title is a slow contemplative piece, with woodwinds takes the center. Blind Eye probably my favorite tune here adds a few more spices to the mix and goes into Zehul realms, it sounds like something out of the first Magma album as woodwinds sets the ground to a deep pulsating bass, sinister guitar licks and a blaring anguished sax, great stuff and a bit too short maybe. Shwang Time swings like another 50's big band tune where woodwinds again takes center stage, very cool. Rovian Cue is another melancholic tune full of emotion and melodic flair, a beautiful finish to this album.

    A very promising debut indeed and a great addition to any Canterbury/Jazz fan. Although a very short release but it's more than rewarding, I sure hope more people will tune in to this great work. Rounded up a bit to 4 stars.

     Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
    4.20 | 1004 ratings

    The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

    Review by Zoltanxvamos

    1 stars Ok, I am in the lower amount of fans who enjoy Soft Machine. I do not enjoy this album, I found that this album was very messy, didn't have a solid atmosphere, and it shared elements of First Circle by Pat Methany... and I'm talking about Forward March. I apologize but I was not a fan of this overly experimental and non-structured album, it didn't show much emotion and it just seemed more like a huge mess of an album to me. Nothing here stood out, for me, If I want to listen to a Soft Machine album, I'll turn elsewhere, such as Bundles. Sadly, this just didn't do anything for me.

    Ok, for those who are upset about this review, please site my review on Larks for this review to make me sense. I made sure that I was more clear, and hopefully it will clear things up.

     Zopp by ZOPP album cover Studio Album, 2020
    4.27 | 67 ratings

    Zopp Canterbury Scene

    Review by steelyhead

    5 stars What a year is this! We are at home on lockdown and God bless the good new music We have. This is the year of the excelent new album by Pure Reason Revolution (check it out) and now We have a strong contender in the category of best album in 2020. I have never heard of Zopp before or Ryan Stevenson but I am real amazed of what I found here. One of the sub genres I like most in Prog music is Canterbury Scene why? because You can put an album and have a pleasant breakfast or a good evening drink, what the heck! even sex is better with a side of Canterbury, but it was all in the past, but wait a minute! this guy is here making the past present. This is a surprise because is revamping the genre with classical tones and soundtrack type of music and You won't find a better album to have breakfast with, this year. I raise my glass of Orange Juice to You.
     Zopp by ZOPP album cover Studio Album, 2020
    4.27 | 67 ratings

    Zopp Canterbury Scene

    Review by Soul2Create

    4 stars This album is definitely the best of the year so far. Zopp has managed to create an exceptional work of Canterbury rock, full of inventiveness, energy and warm melodies that perfectly could have been composed back in the 70s. Among the main influences, hints of Caravan, Hatfield, National Health, Khan and Mainstream can be heard, but this album does not try to replicate those sounds, in fact it still feels fresh and original.

    01. Swedish Love - 7.5/10 02. Before The Light - 9/10 03. Eternal Return - 9.5/10 04. Sanger - 8/10 05. Sellanra - 7.5/10 06. V - 9.5/10 07. Being And Time - 8/10 08. Zero - 8/10 09. The Noble Shirker - 9.5/10

    Four solid stars. Highly recommended to all fans of Canterbury scene and challenging progressive rock.

     Zopp by ZOPP album cover Studio Album, 2020
    4.27 | 67 ratings

    Zopp Canterbury Scene

    Review by siLLy puPPy
    Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

    5 stars Once upon a time when the Canterbury Scene referred to a specific cast of players who crafted a distinct improvisational style of progressive music that blended disparate doses of jazz, rock and psychedelia embellished with clever technically infused tight-knit rhythms along with a healthy dose of satirical whimsy. These artists emerged from the English city that gave name to a distinct subset of prog but after the initial 70s roster of artists had played itself out, the style quickly went out of fashion. Despite prog's decline as the 70s ended, the Canterbury Scene sounds provided enough inspiration for various musicians all over the world to adopt its unique musical approach. While several Canterbury bands continued the style on as solo artists, not much was heard of this absurdist sect of jazz-rock. Slowly but surely as the 80s churned on, bands like Mr. Sirius and Stubbs from Japan as well as The Muffins in the USA kept the spirit alive but even though a few bands like Moom and Tanger joined the party in the 90s and a few more such as Planeta Imaginario, Six North and Earth Wind Pot took on the complexes of Canterbury in the 2000s, the style didn't really make a true resurrection of the past until the 2010s with bands like Spain's Amoeba Split, Italy's Homunculus Res and Japan's DeLorians giving this unique form of comfort prog a much needed renaissance.

    While the Canterbury Scene was making a comeback so to speak, most of the newer artists no longer English except a few outliers such as Magic Bus and Lapis Lazuli but that is changing as the newer generations seem to be catching the Canterbury bug. One of the newest artists to fall into this addictive situation is the Nottingham based ZOPP and after ten years of crafting its debut album has finally emerged onto the international scene to bring back all those warm feelings associated with the greats such as Hatfield and the North, National Health and Soft Machine. ZOPP is the brainchild and musical outlet for Ryan Stevenson who discovered the wonderful world of Canterbury sounds back in the early 2000s when he ran across a few Egg tracks on his dad's computer. Having been immediately smitten, his fascination led him to all the wonderful sounds that made the beloved style of prog so warm and inviting. Add to that the love of the jazz-fusion era of Frank Zappa, a fondness for Porcupine Tree and seeing a live performance of Anekdoten in Bergen, Norway and Stevenson was well on his way to his own obsession of crafting unique musical visions. Hmmm, could the moniker ZOPP be a sly reference to Zappa?

    This debut ZOPP album was a labor of love that started all the way back in 2010 and what began as a musical pastiche of sections from Zappa's 'Uncle Meat' and 'Hot Rats' albums, slowly transmogrified into a major solo project that became much more eclectic as elements of not only Canterbury jazz but also electronic, minimalism, hard rock and various strains of prog slowly found their way into the compositions. After a few years off with an attempt at playing in the band scenario, Stevenson returned to the solitude of his visions that began the ZOPP project except that the time had come to take it all to the next level. With his Korg CX-3 and Nord Electro 5d synth organ rearing to go with the help of various fuzz pedals and wah-wah effects, Stevenson solicited the help of others which resulted in a collaboration with drummer Andrea Moneta of the Italian neo-prog band Leviathan but it wasn't until he met fellow keyboardist Andy Tilliison of The Tangent that he received some lessons in how to mix and produce an album that trims the fat and allows all the cream to rise to the top. The results were spectacular!

    While technically ZOPP is a duo that consists of Ryan Stevenson (keyboards, mellotron M4000D, Hammond organ, Arturia analogue synthesizer, Korg CX-3 organ, piano, Hohner Pianet T, Nord Electro 5d, bass and electric guitars, voice, field recordings, percussion) and Andrea Moneta (drums and percussion), the album is really a band effort with the additional sounds coming from Andy Tillison (additional piano, additional Hammond organ, Leslie processing, synth, effects), Theo Travis (flute) Mike Benson (tenor saxophone) and the extra voice from Caroline Joy Clarke. While the sounds are retro enough to take you back to the golden years of the Canterbury Scene, the music is eclectic, original and dynamically diverse as well as graced with all the modern production wizardry that makes every sound crisp and clear.

    The opening collage track may be called 'Swedish Love,' but with organ sounds right out of the 70s followed by the placid heavenly sounds of Hatfield & the North's diva section The Northettes immediately followed by some ominous feedback fuzz, it's apparent that the track's choice reference to nationality was of sure contradictory whimsy as the sounds clearly evoke the Kent Downs or the white cliffs of Dover just a stone's throw away! As the intro cedes into 'Before The Light' it becomes apparent that another major Canterbury force is at play and that is the love of National Health with strident display of dualistic keyboard effects, those familiar jazzy chord leaps into that undefinable yet unmistakable Canterbury style. Fortified with a heavier prog guitar heft more akin to bands like Anekdoten and Porcupine Tree, it's immediately clear that ZOPP is not about retro fro retro's sake. This confident eponymous debut is quite serious in taking the CS into ever expansive terrains beyond the English channel into the greater world at large however except for the few examples of wordless vocals, this one is entirely instrumental.

    With nine tracks that are just shy of a 45 minute playing time, ZOPP keeps the classic feel of a 70s album but benefits from the professional experience from a seasoned prog veteran such as Moneta as well as a modern seamless production job by Andy Tillison. The tracks are well paced ranging from energetic rockers such as 'Eternal Return' and 'Sanger' to the lugubrious piano ballad 'Sellan'.' Mid-tempo tracks like 'V' offer all the delectable Canterbury complexities with time signature rich piano parts, varying keyboard tones and timbres as well as a nice jazzy romp through varying processions of those familiar Hammond organ and mellotron excesses that evoke all those warm and fuzzy feelings of yore. Think early Egg, a little Supersister and a whole lotta National Health and Hatfield and you're on the right track. This is a stunning debut that proudly revives the fiery passionate of the classic Canterbury years with lots of juicy extra touches to keep this from being a hero worshipping folly. This is the real deal as far as cleverly crafted musicianship goes and perhaps one of the best Canterbury albums i've heard in modern times. Is it time for a scorpion or time for some tea? Listen to ZOPP and set yourselves freeeeeeeeeee!

     Zopp by ZOPP album cover Studio Album, 2020
    4.27 | 67 ratings

    Zopp Canterbury Scene

    Review by Bill65

    5 stars For those of us who were around in the 1970's, growing up listening to progressive rock music, among the plethora of bands,were a small group of artists emanating from the Canterbury area of England. Collectively,these bands and artists were labelled as being part of the Canterbury scene or sound.

    Two of these bands in particular, namely Hatfield and the North, and a few years later Bruford, were at the forefront at producing some innovative music and pushing the boundaries in terms of compositions and sounds. Fans of the Canterbury scene, have been largely starved, in terms of new artists producing quality material, until now that is.

    The year 2020, sees the emergence of a new and exiting band , namely ZOPP.

    The central figure of the group, Ryan Stevenson has referenced the past, but more importantly, has updated the Canterbury sound to include influences from other styles of music including classical elements. In addition to writing and co producing the album, he is also credited for playing keyboards, guitar and bass, with his co partner Andrea Moneta from Italian prog band Leviathon , providing the drums and percussion.

    There are nine excellent pieces of music on this album, carefully crafted,with intricate layer's that reward the listener with repeated visits.

    For prog rock fans ,and in particular for those people who loved those instrumental masterpieces from the aforementioned bands, then this album will undoubtedly give you hours of enjoyment.

    Go on, indulge yourself.

     Zopp by ZOPP album cover Studio Album, 2020
    4.27 | 67 ratings

    Zopp Canterbury Scene

    Review by Rivertree
    Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

    4 stars Wow! Here we are getting close to a genuine canterbury sound, while showing strong roots back into the 1970s. This is the first ZOPP outing, hopefully not the last. More of a solo project initiated by United Kingdom based award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Stevenson. He provides the arrangements, guitar, bass, and a really wide range of keyboard instruments. It's not a big surprise actually that Andy Tillison has his hand in here too, as he's quite open to such stuff with his band The Tangent. He will offer some additional piano and organ input, and is noted as the album's co-producer as well. And then, time will tell maybe, making a very good impression, drummer Andrea Moneta can be considered as the second constant concerning this project. He's also known for playing with the Italian neo prog band Leviathan by the way.

    The musical result somehow, to sum it up, I would say combines the spirit of Alco Frisbass, the trickiness of National Health, and the charming manner of Caravan also. Typically genre styled, I'm including Zeuhl as well here, some rare vocals are provided by Caroline Joy Clarke. Though generally we have a strong focus on the instruments to consider. Classical and ambient/space ingredients are occasionally given too, just take the stirring Sellenra by way of example. Manifold keyboards expectedly rule the album. I dig this. The songs in general are providing a charming relaxed atmosphere, entertaining all the way through. 'This will be a can't miss album ...' the associated Bad Elephant Music label insists. Yep, I fully agree. And there is nothing more to say.

     F黵 Ein ?St黱dchen by TORTILLA FLAT album cover Studio Album, 1974
    3.92 | 28 ratings

    F黵 Ein ?St黱dchen
    Tortilla Flat Canterbury Scene

    Review by siLLy puPPy
    Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

    5 stars Germany was filled with some of the most creative musical artists in the late 60s and early 70s with many of them delving into the extremes of psychedelic rock, electronic experimentation and proggy hard rock but there were a few independently minded acts that decided to go the jazz-rock direction instead and while some engaged in a crossover Krautrock sort of jazz-fusion, others completely avoided the psychedelic leanings of the majority of German bands altogether. Even rarer was the influence of the Canterbury Scene on Germany's jazz-rock fusion scene but that's exactly where TORTILLA FLAT which took its name from a John Steinbeck novel decided to go.

    Having formed in 1972 in Geilenkirchen near the Dutch border not far from Aachen, TORTILLA FLAT emerged from the ashes of a previous band called Nothing around brothers Herman Josef Basten (flute, guitar) and Hans Friedlich Basten (drums, glockenspiel) aka Jacky. The original lineup was a quintet that included flute, violin, guitar, bass and drums and the band played a busy live circuit which would eventually find an archival release in the form of the SWF Sessions from 1973 but shortly thereafter violinist Werner Knauber left the music business altogether and was replaced instead by a keyboardist named Franz Brandt. After the addition of the second percussionist Albert Schippers who offered the more exotic percussive flair, TORTILLA FLAT set out to record its one and only album F'R EIN 3/4 ST'NDCHEN (For 3/4 of an Hour) which was released in 1974.

    This now sextet crafted a fiery mix of stellar jazz-rock fusion workouts with complex arrangements and beefy improvisational interplay that found tight-knit complex rhythms fortified with acoustic guitar pastoral moments, heavy distorted rock heft, groovy bass slams and an extra helping of diverse percussive sounds. While similar in tones and timbres to bands like Brainstorm and Tomorrow's Gift, TORTILLA FLAT adopted the extreme sounds that came right out of the Canterbury playbook obviously influenced by the neighboring Dutch band Supersister with excellent keyboard virtuosity. Add to that the Jethro Tull inspired flute (and lots of it) along with excessively restless energetic drive that could at a drop of a pin resort to lush medieval classical folky guitar and back.

    This album of seven tracks that skirts past the 48 minute mark displays a diverse range of jazz-rock technical fusion chops tamed into highly melodic passages that somehow find a truce between the two extremes. Starting much like Faust's debut album with sounds of a radio switching stations, the immediate reaction is to expect some super freaky album that takes you to planet lysergia, but surprisingly a softly spoken flute slowly ushers in the overall mood of the album and then goes into hyperdrive. The tempos are generally fast paced with a rather Latin musical delivery only graced with Canterbury electric piano tones and those indescribable jazz-rock workouts that are right out of the Supersister and Hatfield & the North camp. The album is completely instrumental but adds the extra sounds of a glockenspiel, congas and once again i must add - LOTS of flute!

    This is one of those satisfying albums that delivers some of the most demanding time signature workouts, hairpin turns, angular nosedives and still comes out maintaining a ridiculously melodic flow throughout it all. The interplay between the bass, electric piano and myriad percussive sounds is off the chart outstanding and the occasional outbursts into hard rock add the perfect contrast to the flute dominated soundscapes that keep this one airy and free floating through the majority of its run. The album not only engages in unpredictable compositional constructs but also offers repetitive grooves upon which the various instruments take turn improvising around. Needles to say that the musicians in TORTILLA FLAT were all extremely talented and played in tandem flawlessly.

    This is one of those true obscurities from the 70s that deserves wider appreciation. Having never been re-issued since its initial release, F'R EIN 3/4 ST'NDCHEN has finally seen a proper re-release in 2019 on CD as well as a new vinyl edition on the Long Hair label. It's albums like this that consistently make me realize how many gems are lurking out there that have gone relatively unnoticed. Unfortunately the band experienced little response to this outstanding music and folded the following year. If you are seeking some Canterbury influenced jazz-rock from Germany that takes the complexities of Supersister and adds a bit of John McLaughlin guitar heft, Ian Anderson flute wizardry along with some ethnic percussive magic of bands like Santana then you can't go wrong with TORTILLA FLAT. This band delivered an extremely well performed set of seven tracks before disappearing into the prog ethers never to be heard from again but WOW what a dynamic and dramatic gem this sole album is!

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    Canterbury Scene bands/artists list

    Bands/Artists Country
    DAEVID ALLEN Australia
    KEVIN AYERS United Kingdom
    BIG HOGG United Kingdom
    THE BOOT LAGOON United Kingdom
    BRAINVILLE United Kingdom
    CARAVAN United Kingdom
    CLEAR FRAME United Kingdom
    COS Belgium
    DELIVERY United Kingdom
    EGG United Kingdom
    THE GHOULIES United Kingdom
    MICHAEL GILES United Kingdom
    GILGAMESH United Kingdom
    GONG Multi-National
    JOHN GREAVES United Kingdom
    GRINGO United Kingdom
    STEVE HILLAGE United Kingdom
    HUGH HOPPER United Kingdom
    JAKKO M. JAKSZYK United Kingdom
    THE KENTISH SPIRES United Kingdom
    KHAN United Kingdom
    THE LODGE United States
    DE LORIANS Japan
    MAGIC BUS United Kingdom
    MANNA / MIRAGE United States
    MASTER CYLINDER United States
    MATCHING MOLE United Kingdom
    MILLER & COXHILL United Kingdom
    PHIL MILLER United Kingdom
    MOOM United Kingdom
    MR. SIRIUS Japan
    THE MUFFINS United States
    NATIONAL HEALTH United Kingdom
    OCARINAH France
    PANTHEON Netherlands
    PAZOP Belgium
    JOHN G. PERRY United Kingdom
    PIP PYLE United Kingdom
    QUANTUM JUMP United Kingdom
    QUIET SUN United Kingdom
    SHORT WAVE United Kingdom
    RICHARD SINCLAIR United Kingdom
    SOFT HEAP United Kingdom
    SOFT MACHINE LEGACY United Kingdom
    THE SOFT MACHINE United Kingdom
    SOFT MOUNTAIN Multi-National
    SOFT WORKS United Kingdom
    STUBBS Japan
    SUPERSISTER Netherlands
    VOLAR?/a> United States
    THE WILDE FLOWERS United Kingdom
    ROBERT WYATT United Kingdom
    ZOPP United Kingdom
    ZYMA Germany

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