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Big Block 454 - Bells & Proclamations CD (album) cover


Big Block 454



3.69 | 5 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Bells & Proclamations' - Big Block 454 (5/10)

When it comes to the weird and wonderful realm of avant-prog, there are two general ways a band can go. The first is that of incredible darkness and disconcerting chaos, and the other being that of playfulness, tongue-in-cheek delivery and quirkiness. With a title like 'Pyjamageddon' given to the track that opens this album up, one can probably guess what route British art rock trio Big Block 454 takes with their 2011 offering 'Bells & Proclamations'. Taking a quirky, undeniably British approach to rock music in the style of the Cardiacs, the band is sure to appeal to fans of other likeminded acts, although from my own perspective, the band doesn't deliver the sort of dynamic and challenging experience I was expecting to hear from a band like this.

As is evident from the fairly structured songwriting heard here, Big Block 454 seem to be attempting the same deconstruction of pp music that the Residents boasted on several of their albums, although the weirdness here is in no such degree. Although there is a great degree of variety here- possibly the album's best trait- Big Block 454 generally adopts a weird style of post-punk and 80's pop, placing a proggy rendition upon these genres. In fact, many of the songs here are fairly straightforward in their instrumentation; Peter Gabriel's solo material comes to mind.

Much of the weirdness is conveyed through the vocal presentation of the band, which is inconsistent, for the most part. Mixed over every other aspect of the music, the vocals here warble, whisper, speak and sing their way throughout the whole thing, and like the rest of the work on 'Bells & Proclamations', a listener can expect a very varied delivery. The singing is something akin to that of Roger Waters or David Bowie, but sadly never reaches the strength of either. 'Bells & Proclamations' undoubtedly shows that the band are innovative instrumentalists, but in general, the vocals I have heard here leave a little to be desired.

The album is incredibly diverse from song to song, ranging from an incredibly mellow ambient piece like 'Longshore Drift' to a psychedelic raga excursion in 'The Sun Unconquered' or pastoral folk song with 'Metal Trees'. Each of these styles are done fairly well, but the variety comes at the cost of the album having very little flow to speak of.

While Big Block 454 certainly gets the charm of their isle across with 'Bells & Proclamations', I feel myself rarely emotionally stirred by the work they have done here. A rather lukewarm reception from me, although it is certainly not a listen without its merit.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


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