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BIG BLOCK 454

RIO/Avant-Prog • United Kingdom


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Big Block 454 biography
Uk act BIG BLOCK 454 started out in 1988, founded by Colin Robinson and Pete Scullion. They made their debut with the single Know What This Is? in 1990, and five years later they made their next move, contributing with the music for the art installation Measured in Shadows by dada artists Russell Mills and Ian Walton.

A flurry of releases followed in the next few years, several of them official releases of productions previously available on cassette only. In 1998 this was the case for I Changed My Dentist... I Changed Him Into a Horse (first issued on cassette in 1995) and Three Lucky Boys (first issued on cassette in 1994), while the EP They'd Bought a Packard consisted of new material.

In 1999 the only compilation album by the band saw the light of day in the shape of Rough as Sausages, released on the at the time highly popular and influential website www.mp3.com, while the albums Strange Ululations and Fistula! both were film scores with brand new material.

In 2000 the EP That's a Nice Hat appeared, and in 2004 a new studio album appeared in the shape of Their Coats Flapped Like God's chops.

Throughout these first 14 years of the band's history a variety of musicians were involved: Colin Robinson (vocals, various instruments), Pete Scullion (guitars, vocals), Melissa Sinden (vocals), Emma Scott (vocals), Alex Stone (guitars, vocals, accordion), Mark Joell (keyboards, vocals), Robert Shaw (drums), Liam Robinson (guitars) and Neil Newsome (air-raid siren).

By 2007 they were reduced to a trio though, with Robinson, Stone and Joell remaining. This slimmed down version of the band issued the so far arguably best known production by Big Block 454: 2008's Bratislava.

Big Block 454 describe themselves as a semi-amorphous post-modern / situationist neo-dada cross-platform compositional construct from Manchester, England (featuring people from Liverpool, Leeds and Lincolnshire). They cite Faust, Can, Brian Eno, The Residents, the Bonzo Dog Band, King Crimson and the BBC Radiophonics Workshop as their main infuences.

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BratislavaBratislava
2008
Audio CD$15.16
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BIG BLOCK 454 discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

BIG BLOCK 454 top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
I Changed My Dentist... I Changed Him Into a Horse
1998
0.00 | 0 ratings
Three Lucky Boys
1998
0.00 | 0 ratings
Strange Ululations
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
Fistula!
1999
4.00 | 1 ratings
Their coats flapped like God's chops
2004
3.98 | 6 ratings
Bratislava
2008
3.69 | 5 ratings
Bells & Proclamations
2011

BIG BLOCK 454 Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

BIG BLOCK 454 Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

BIG BLOCK 454 Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Rough as Sausages
1999

BIG BLOCK 454 Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

1.00 | 1 ratings
Know What This Is?
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
Measured in Shadows
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
They'd Bought a Packard
1998
0.00 | 0 ratings
That's a Nice Hat
2000

BIG BLOCK 454 Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Know What This Is? by BIG BLOCK 454 album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1991
1.00 | 1 ratings

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Know What This Is?
Big Block 454 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
1 stars 'Know What This Is?' - Big Block 454 (2/10)

Over two decades ago, Big Block 454 made their first step in what would become an incredibly diverse career. A three song demo of sorts now ripped directly from a surviving 12" vinyl, Big Block 454 began off as a downtempo electronic group. Possibly the best way to define 'Know What This Is?' is by calling it trip hop, but rest assured, the music here is utterly banal, and even boring to the point of misery. Although there are three tracks here, they all seem to employ a slightly different variation on what is essentially the same idea; simple electronic beats, abstract spoken word verses and pop hooks. Sure, Big Block 454are not depraved of any artistic sensibility, but it is difficult to say anything good about a three song EP that has me annoyed by the end of the first track. Suffice to say, this band would go on to doing much better in the future.

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 Bells & Proclamations by BIG BLOCK 454 album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.69 | 5 ratings

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Bells & Proclamations
Big Block 454 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars UK band BIG BLOCK 454 has been around in one form or another for just over 20 years, and has a total of seven full-length productions to its name in addition to a handful of EPs and a compilation. "Bells & Proclamations" is its most recent effort, being self-released in early 2011.

If you enjoy experiencing the unexpected and take joy in listening to music that combines accessible and whimsical themes with challenging details and quirky unexpected twists and turns, Big Block 454 has made an album you should take a listen to with "Bells & Proclamations". Or as the band states matters itself: "Big Block 454's approach also encompasses using instruments they don't know how to play, and those that hadn't been invented before the band made them." Which says a lot about the band and their music, and those intrigued by this self-description will know what website to check out next presumably.

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 Bells & Proclamations by BIG BLOCK 454 album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.69 | 5 ratings

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Bells & Proclamations
Big Block 454 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by 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.

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 Their coats flapped like God's chops by BIG BLOCK 454 album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Their coats flapped like God's chops
Big Block 454 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

— First review of this album —
4 stars Well, when I thought I had heard everything, Big Block 454 comes around to my MP3 player and gives my face a good slapping.

This album is their third from last and the one before the excellent Bratislava album... which is the one before their excellent new album. I do not know, but hopefully the band knows. They are putting all their albums out as downloads on their Bandcamp site. A good choice for all parties. Both for them and for us, the listeners.

OK, so we are up for some eccentric British RIO/Avant garde again. Not quite........

Ever heard about the artist formely known as Prince ? Big Block 454 may have done that. It is very strange, and very funny for the listener, that a Manchester (from England) band emigrates to Prince's musical spheres. Not only that. More shocks are in store. Big Block 454 does a gospel track in the form of a pretty close to a commercial hit called Hull Is Full Of Grubby Slappers. I would had loved seeing and hearing a full gospel choir take on this song. The result would had been superb. No, I am not sarcastic/ironic. And no, I am both stone cold sober and not on drugs. I seriously mean it. Hull Is Full Of Grubby Slappers is actually a lovely gospel tune and a potential big hit for the band. OK, 7 years too late it is though. Anyway, it is an excellent song and a stand out track on this album.

The rest of the album is still somewhere in Prince's spheres with a lot of playful funky tunes and vibes. Most of the songs are also melodic. Did I somewhere in time mention RIO/Avant- Garde ? Well, not as in semi-intellectual pling-plong. There is nothing of that stuff here. Instead, the material here is very focused and.......well, melodic. Yes, Big Block 454 is still very eccentric on this album in the British way of eccentrism. Think Fawlty Towers. Think Little Britain. Think Monty Python's Flying Circus. Big Block 454 is in the same cultural sphere. But on this album, they are also very much in the artist formely known as Prince's world. I have listened a lot to Prince in my life. Both his stuff before and after he became "formally known as" and I find a lot of similarities between his albums Around the World in a Day, Sign O Times and what Big Block 454 has done on this album.

So put your dance shoes on and either stream or download this album. Or you can just listen to this album and wonder if there is anything left on this planet you have not heard. In any case; Their Coats Flapped Like God's Chops is a superb album where most songs and experiments comes off with flying lamb chops.

4.5 stars

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 Bells & Proclamations by BIG BLOCK 454 album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.69 | 5 ratings

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Bells & Proclamations
Big Block 454 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

4 stars Strange band, this British band.

I think it is fair to say that a fair share of the British people are eccentric. I have moved to Great Britain from another country and has lived here for almost two decades. For me and coming from a well organised sane society, most of the British society seems eccentric to me.

This British band Big Block 454 is mirroring the British eccentric man on this, their new album. It starts with some cathedral bells and continues out the door and into the British society. It is not a big sound madcap album like you would expect from an avant-garde album. Bells & Proclamations is much more a pastoral, tuned down album. To that extent, Bells & Proclamations has more in common with the Genesis albums Foxtrot and Trespass than anything from Univers Zero. Yes, Bells & Proclamations includes a fair share of avant-garde too. But it is not an all out avant-garde album. It also has a lot in common with the Krautrock scene. The basis on Bells & Proclamations is based on finding and presenting a good melody. ...........Which there is a lot of on this album.

Still, it is a pretty bizarre album with a lot of reference to britpop, the 1980s depressive pop/rock scene (New Order), some 1980s techno (Kraftwerk) and a lot of pastisj. It is........well, an eccentric album.

The overall quality though is great. Most of the material really creeps under the skin of the listener and stays there. The music is also well crafted and intelligently made. This band knows their craft and really maximise their skills. It is a strange album which leans both on the good melody and on all out avant-garde'ism. But it has found the perfect balance between those two worlds. I am really both intrigued and impressed by this album. Hence; my verdict.

4 stars

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 Bells & Proclamations by BIG BLOCK 454 album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.69 | 5 ratings

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Bells & Proclamations
Big Block 454 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

4 stars So, I added this album here because dammit, someone had to. I also wanted to review it as I was impressed with their last album Bratislava released eons ago in 2008. Still haven't heard any of the earlier releases yet, but I intend to. Bells & Proclamations seems like a natural follow up to Bratislava, despite the long gap between releases. The songs presented here are still accessible and sometimes even catchy. Don't let the RIO/Avant tag throw you off; even if you are not into the more experimental and avant side of 'prog' you may find much to enjoy here.

This is very British sounding music with a British sense of humour. The influences of Big Block 454 are very diverse. They make good use of those influences creating their own unique sound. "Pyjamageddon"(great title!) opens the album with an orchestral style intro. Then goes into a 1980s style hip-hop type beat. Cool altered vocals in places. Some funky guitar playing. Repeats the line "filled with dust...her eyes are filled with dust" throughout the song. "Blind Jack Of Knaresborough" has nursery rhyme type vocals. Nice electric piano sound in this song, sounds like a Wurlitzer. Good saxophone solo. Gets more dissonant and avant towards the end with some spoken word parts.

"Yockenthwaite" is a nice melodic, catchy song. The sound of birds can be heard throughout. The harmony vocals remind me of Brian Eno. Good piano. Sounds like some kind of organ over halfway. "Metal Trees" is a folky type song with interesting lyrics; I had no idea that trees are not made of wood and they don't grow. Gets more atmospheric and ambient sounding later on with some percussion. At the end gets folky again with some great accordion. "Blind Jack's Unicycle" is an interesting song but it's only a minute long.

"The Modern Architrave" reminds me of some British rock music from the 1980s. I mean that in a good way: it sounds like some of the *better* '80s rock music from the UK. Some odd marching band music at the end with some trombone. "Long Shore Drift" begins with a guitar part that reminds me of a song from Crimson's Discipline album. This continues in the background for the majority of the song. This is a laid-back, alomst minimalist type of song. Ends with a more sinister sounding guitar part.

Some TV and/or radio sounds open "Crossing The Bay." Nice punky beat on drum machine. Cool melodic guitars in this song. Good harmony vocals that again reminds me of Brian Eno. "The Sun Unconquered" has a good drum sound with wide stereo seperation. Sitar adds some atmosphere to the song. The female vocals go well with the male vocals here. Some symphonic synths playing a Far Eastern type melody to end it.

As with Bratislava, the sound and production here is great. I don't think there is a CD copy of this album yet, but you can listen to/download it from their Bandcamp page. For those of you who have some money to spare, pay for the download, they deeserve it. Me personally, I'm broke as hell right now but I greatly apreciate the fact that I can listen to and/or download it for free. In the future I would like to get hard copies of this and Bratislava. Great album, great band. 4 stars.

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 Bratislava by BIG BLOCK 454 album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.98 | 6 ratings

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Bratislava
Big Block 454 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

4 stars This is such a great album. Very British and very accessible, with great sound and production. Sometimes poppy, sometimes folky, usually quirky and eccentric. Different styles and instruments used as well as different singing styles. This is the only album by Big Block 454 to be rated/reviewed here on PA. From what I've read, the band plan to put all their albums up on their Bandcamp page. All PAers should go to their Bandcamp page and listen to/download their latest two albums. There is a lot worse music out there you could be hearing for free.

"Motorcycle Au Pair Boy" starts off almost baroque with guitar before going into post-punk/New Wave territory. Nice melodic scat-singing at the end. "Hi, Lax Old Medic!" is some excellent dub reggae. Great production on this song. "I Was Arthur Brown's Health & Safety Advisor (On Power Lines)" has some Floyd-like delayed bass near the end. Great title. "Lush Ulan Bator" is a really good catchy pop song which you can listen to here on PA.

"Foreign Aeroplanes Upset Sleeping Tirana" has some backwards vocals in places. The chorus is very Brian Eno sounding. Good piano playing in this song. The most avant-garde part of the album is the end of "Three Sevens Clash" with the skronking saxes during a spoken word section. "Upside-Down & Dirty" has very loud '80s sounding gated drums. Muffled vocals and some post-punk guitar. Cool spacey synth sounds in the middle. Love how the drums are changed to full stereo at the end. "Ouspensky's Cellar" has cool drum machine programming and nice synth. Vocals consist of "many old men" sung in harmony with a single voice responding different lines. Like the vocal samples of some woman speaking another language other than English.

The music in RIO/Avant Prog is some of the most diverse music you will ever hear. Sometimes RIO/Avant can be more eclectic than Eclectic. Along with the more noisy and complex bands you get groups like Big Block 454. Zappa and Samla aren't the only artists listed under RIO/Avant with a sense of humour, as this album shows. This album is very accessible and sometimes catchy avant-prog. Highly recommended to those will an open mind and a sense of humour. 4 stars.

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 Bratislava by BIG BLOCK 454 album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.98 | 6 ratings

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Bratislava
Big Block 454 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

4 stars This is not an easy album to review...... or even listening to.

The attitude of this album is wacky British eccentrism. It is like Monty Python, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers and other British humour sitcoms. Total wacky in other words.

How do I describe the music on this wacky eccentric album ? The songs is very varied from Beatles like pop to folk music, some light hearted singalong punk like Madness, rockabilly like Darts, ska, funk and avant-garde jazz. The vocals on the top of the music is wacky. The lyrics is very much down the British wackiness road. The instruments and the arrangements are very good and fitting for the tunes.

The quality is good throughout and this album is enjoyable. But there is no denying that this album is perhaps on the wacky side of wackiness. I have never heard anything like this album before in my life. But I still likes this album in all it's wackiness as much as I like Fawlty Towers and Monty Python. I am searching for words though to describe my opinion, but I cannot find them. I am therefore landing somewhere between three and four stars. But since this album is an excellent purchase for those who want to push their envelope to the maximum, I am landing on a four star just to trigger your consuming impulses.

4 stars

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 Bratislava by BIG BLOCK 454 album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.98 | 6 ratings

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Bratislava
Big Block 454 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Now, this is music from the wacky side of weirdness.

British trio Big Block 454 - naming themselves after a brand of car engines - seems to have read the big book of rules on how to make music, and collectively decided to disregard all written in there. Instead we get a weird and wacky mix of Krautrock, Beatles and Madness - with a punk approach and leanings towards psychedelia and spacey textures.

Regular song structures for whimsical, wacky and non-standard songs, or non-regular song structures for more regularly performed tunes. Tongue in cheek avant-garde music with a distinctive English sound to it, in what sounds like a deliberately produced low-fi sounding atmosphere.

Not for the feint of heart this one, but if you're into experimental and rather unique music this one might be your cup of tea.

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Thanks to windhawk for the artist addition.

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