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Nick Prol and The Proletarians - Loon Attic CD (album) cover


Nick Prol and The Proletarians


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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl & Eclectic Team
4 stars Nick Prol and The Proletarians are a very welcome addition to the wonky avant pop scene. This is the debut album from the group put together by Nick to play his particular style of catchy pop with experimental sounds, found sound and avant-prog element, along with bucket loads of humor. This is really Pop In Opposition. The songs are typically 1 to 3 minutes long with 23 on the album. This clearly reminds one of Bob Drakes style of short punchy high energy pop that doesn't stick around to overstay its welcome. Other clear influences are XTC, Mr Bungle, Cardiacs while it has a personality of its own. Clearly the rest of the band and guest musicians have also added their creative touches to make this a collaborative effort.

In addition to Nick on guitar and vocals the band is made up of saxophonist Dave Newhouse of classic avant- jazz rock group The Muffins, who has collaborated with the likes of Fred Frith and Sun Ra's Arkestra as well as bassist/multi-instrumentalist Ben Spees and drummer Connor Reilly of adroit progressive/experimental rock group, The Mercury Tree.

The guest list is a literal who's who of the avant scene, including but not limited to, Bob Drake (solo, Thinking Plague, 5uus, etc), Thymme Jones (Cheer-Accident), Moe! Staiano (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), Matt Lebofsky (Secret Chiefs 3, Mirthkon, MoeTar), Dave Willey (Thinking Plague, Hamster Theater), Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth (Bent Knee), Paul Sears (The Muffins). All ably pulled together by the producers Ian Beabout & Ben Spees.

A funny, bouncy, punch peach of an album.

Report this review (#1710444)
Posted Thursday, April 13, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Good, non-pretentious art-pop. Album of the year for me thus far. It's really grabbed me; I've listened to it at least six times since purchase, and it continues to dazzle and reveal layers upon layers of inspiring awesomeness. Some of the songs seem to have an over-arching story, but whether there is a concept at work is mere speculation on my part. Great cast of musicians, including R. Stevie Moore, Bob Drake, members of the Muffins, Bent Knee, and Mercury Tree, and more! If you like Zappa, Beefheart, Cardiacs, Beatles, or XTC, or if you just like good music in general, give it a listen. You may be surprised.
Report this review (#1710837)
Posted Saturday, April 15, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars After having this project on my radar for many months, in which time I tried not to give it too much attention, rather waiting to hear the finished work, nothing quite prepared me for the diversity I encounter on this collection of songs and... pieces by Nick Prol.

A huge part of the pleasure here is the excellent musicianship. A quick look at the personnel involved in this project may very well reveal some familiar names from other notable projects. The roll call alone would be enough to whet my appetite. Another is the adventurous recording and mixing, by main collaborators, bassist Ben Spees and Ian Beabout.

The playing is nonetheless loose enough to veer off into accident, or apparent accident. The ghost of Trout Mask Replica seems to haunt several pieces, and there's a real RIO-improvisational feel about some parts. As for the actual songs, just when some notion that a genre has begun to be expressed (even if ironically), completely new figures are likely to invade the ground, sometimes like jesting streakers, sometimes like viking hoards.

At these moments, the sense that 'the wheels will fall off at any moment' comes urgently, channeling the spirit of Bob Drake who even makes a kind of hallucinatory cameo at one point. I'd like to say "he was there in person" but the sound space at that moment is so outlandish that it would be impossible to say quite where "there" might be.

And then before the inevitable breakdown or runaway happens it's over, and we pass on to the next exhibit in this bewlidering cabinet of curiosities... or what is it? A menagerie? A pick-n-mix counter of thorned fruit? A frieze of grotesques? A garden of heterogeneous vignettes? What else to call it but a "Loon Attic"!

There's a lot of humour in this set. Nobody could accuse the Proletarians of taking themselves too seriously. And amongst all of the zany racket, are a good handful of really great new-wave type art-rock songs, with flavours of 10cc, XTC, Cardiacs, and many others. Some of these are as beautifully melodic as the best work by those artists, which makes the digressions into dissonance all the more awesome.

The humour does not detract in any way from the strength of the performances, the sense of adventure, and the evident attention to sonic detail. What could be a bunch of unrelated experiments seem to be working together, like circus sideshow people, apparently unaware how deliciously creepy they all are.

Report this review (#1711113)
Posted Sunday, April 16, 2017 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars In the world of progressive rock, it seems more likely than not that you will encounter the more serious side of the musical world with only smatterings of humor scattered about however as the late great Frank Zappa demonstrated long ago, you can craft some killa tunes while existing in your own zany world of humor! While a few bands like Mr Bungle and of course the English Canterbury Scene were instrumental in adding heavy doses of whimsy to their complex musical smorgasbords, it still seems like the exception rather than the rule. So what a wonderful day when i discover a newer band that excels in marrying these two aspects of serious compositional fortitude with the utterly absurd and may i present to you NICK PROL & THE PROLETARIANS!

Background check first. NICK PROL currently resides in Tucson, Arizona but originates from Maryland, the state where he pays homage on this album's final track "O Merry Land." NICK has been inspired by many an artist from the way back machine but found the most love in the world of the RIO / avant-prog camp with bands like Cardiacs, Henry Cow and Frank Zappa topping the list. Having crafted a wily batch of demos for further development, NICK got the wild idea to reach out to some of his favorite musicians in the biz and politely asked them to record various tracks for his debut album LOON ATTIC. To NICK's surprise the various members accepted the challenge and thus NICK PROL & THE PROLETARIANS was born!

NICK's musical tastes cast a wide net and the various lineups on LOON ATTIC reflect that quite well. Of the 23 tracks included each has a completely different array of musicians adding their personal stamp and thus LOON ATTIC has an extremely eclectic feel as it mutates from one track to another. The core band known as THE PROLETARIANS consists of NICK PROL (vocals, guitar, compositions), Ben Spees (bass and plays in The Mercury Tree), Connor Reilly (drums and also plays in The Mercury Tree) and Dave Newhouse (woodwinds and plays with The Muffins) and some of the many guests involve include:

-Charlie Cawood of "Knifeworld" played bass on Carvings On the Wall. -Moe Staiano of "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum" played misc. percussion on multiple tracks. -Dave Willey of "Thinking Plague" and "Hamster Theater" played accordion on 8th Wonder. -Paul Sears of "The Muffins" played drums on 8th Wonder. -Mohadev of "Stop Motion Orchestra" played guitar solos on multiple songs. - Thymme Jones of "Cheer-Accident" played drums, trumpet, and moog on Shiny and Round. -Bob Drake of "5uus/Thinking Plague/Solo work" sang (and spoke) on Box of Flies. -Matt Lebofsky of "Secret Chiefs 3" provided keyboards on multiple tracks. - Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth of "Bent Knee" played drums on Another Groan -Rob Crow of "Pinback/Heavy Vegetable/Thingy/etc" sang and played guitar on Beekeeper's Suit. -R. Stevie Moore of DIY pop music fame sang, played guitar, drummed, and added the sad pitiful trumpet to Beekeeper's Suit. All guests are listed for each track on the Bandcamp page.

LOON ATTIC isn't just a random album of scattered ideas floating around but as PROL himself describes it: "The album's concept was a cabinet of curiosities of sorts, with songs about old, strange, broken things. It was also inspired by the film "The Hourglass Sanatorium" by Wojciech Has." If you're not in the know, that film follows a young Jewish man who visits his father in a mystical sanatorium where time does not behave normally. It won the Jury Prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival. So how's that for a concept? Weirdness awaits! Despite the wacky concepts and the avant-garde inspirations, LOON ATTIC is a fairly accessible listening experience by typical RIO / avant-prog standards as it also incorporates ample servings of progressive pop elements to make it all so addictively accessible. Detectable influences include XTC, Prefab Sprout, Brian Eno, Sparks and even The Beach Boys! The style has been self-described as Pop In Opposition!

Despite 23 tracks on board of this wild roller coast ride, LOON ATTIC just misses the 50 minute playing time and most tracks hover around the 2 minute mark. Only "Carvings On The Wall" and "Beekeeper's Suit" exceed the 4 minute mark and then just barely. Musically LOON ATTIC is an excellent mix of jittery angular avant-prog but smoothed out with the quirky pop characteristics of 70s Brian Eno's art pop phase and the zolo quirkiness of 70s Sparks. With a veritable mix of modern avant-prog talent joining in, each guest musician brings their own idiosyncratic playing style to the work table but yet somehow despite all odds, LOON ATTIC comes off as a fairly linear albeit jittery quirked filled run from beginning to end. While the album ranges from off-kilter avant-pop to over- the-top RIO dipping into Henry Cow territory along with Zappa-esque silliness and psychedelic cuddliness, the wacky yet strange album never strays into the chaosphere or too far from the gravitational pull of emotional connections.

Generally speaking, the tracks all have an indie pop / rock sort of vocal delivery with dissonant guitar chords / riffs and although steeped in pop hooks still retain that good old-fashioned avant-prog feel with quirky stop / start time signatures and hairpin turns into strangeness. Certain tracks like "It Bodes Well" even dive into metal territory for brief moments but overall the album has a rather jocular circus vibe to it despite not exuding circus music per se. When all is said and done, NICK PROL & THE PROLETARIANS deliver a solid album of wickedly wild avant-pop laced with progressive rock and indie rock sensibilities. Dripping with humorous touches and esoteric references, LOON ATTIC can be entertaining as a light-hearted no nonsense listening experience or taken on a deeper level if you want to find hidden meanings in all these tracks and lyrics. I prefer the former! Definitely for fans of Cardiacs and Bungle related projects but will certainly appeal to the Zappa crowds as well.

Report this review (#2245572)
Posted Wednesday, August 21, 2019 | Review Permalink


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