A shared resource of The Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive
Rock and Gnosis web sites
by Mike McLatchey
- Symphonic Rock/Progressive Rock/"Prog"
- Forms Tangential and Peripheral to
Symphonic Rock/Progressive Rock
- Avant Progressive/Avant Rock
- On the Way to Jazz ...
- JAZZ / JAZZ ROCK / FUSION
- Jazz Pioneers
- Experimental, Free and Avant-Jazz
- On the Way to Folk ...
- FOLK / FOLK ROCK
- Styles of Folk and Folk Rock
- The Influence of Traditional and Ethnic Music
- On the Way to Electronic and Beyond ...
- Schools of Electronic Music
- APPENDIX (Heavy Metal)
Considering the problems inherent in merely agreeing upon a definition of
progressive rock, the task of identifying and describing its widely varied
genres is a difficult and somewhat arbitrary exercise. It is the very nature
of the music that ostensibly serves to move forward to leave behind the
familiar and become something removed from its departure point. Thus,
progressive rock, by definition, can be said to move beyond its origins.
In like fashion, this guide intends to follow suit and accompany progressive
rock as it moves forward without restriction.
However, progressive rock has now long grown past being an indicator of an
artist's forward-moving musical direction and has become tied down to stylistic
mannerisms, a fate antithetical to its central definition. Today, the definition
of progressive rock often signifies less about research and more about
recapitulation. It does not reflect the eclectic enthusiasms of its origins,
while seeking to pay homage to them nonetheless. As such, progressive rock has
gathered to itself an assimilative quality whose experiments remain part of the
pantheon even when current progress has left them long behind.
The Guide to the Progressive Rock Genres is designed to be inclusive of
the various lineages, expressions and influences found in and beyond progressive
rock. By seeking to accompany progressive rock as it moves forward, the guide
will begin with the familiar and often recreated and move to the unclassified.
In doing so, it will move from music rarely disputed as being "progressive rock"
to those genres whose inclusion reflects the spirit rather than the style. It
attempts to document genres and not to define or create (this is absolutely not
a canon), to allow even the most tenuous of relativity to be considered as
The idea of genres comes basically from the question "What does it sound like?"
In describing the indescribable, the music fan uses a number of mechanisms to
help identify traits that further elucidate connections between what is known
and what is being explored. Whether these traits can be considered valid or
otherwise, it is clear they exist, and exist as a trait of the consumer, rather
than the artist who often feels such labels to be limiting and corrosive. The
intent of this writing is not to create labels, but rather to document them and
explore their connections both legitimate and tenuous.
This overview of genres is split into five major categories. As the central
focus point for this document is progressive rock, the first section,
IV. Rock, will be the largest and most detailed.
As progressive rock drew in a varying degree of jazz, folk, and electronic
influences, these middle three categories (V. Jazz / Jazz
Rock / Fusion, VI. Folk / Folk Rock, and
VII. Electronic) are designed to consider
the overlap with the first section while moving farther away from the focus
as each section progresses. The final section, VIII.
Unclassified, moves to the intangible, trans-genre or genreless.
An IX. Appendix follows to cover the
progressive differentiation in the heavy metal genre.
Several terms are used to elucidate a given area in a genre. In this
document, the word school is used to indicate a group of artists
related to each other by a particular quality such as country, decade, or
record label. These schools are given as examples to show trends that
will describe and clarify a larger genre or category. Forms are used
to describe a style or genre through which a progressive expression is made
or that influences or fuses with other forms of the genre. When forms
are described, they are to be considered in the light of the larger
organization. For example, when hard rock or heavy metal is
discussed, they are discussed in light of the guide's attempt to explore
progressive rock without limits.
Also, each section is structured to take into account the influences that
sparked the genres discussed, to overview major features, to discuss
tangential and relative genres, moving to the frontiers of both the avant-garde
and the gray areas between. The idea is to present the areas of progressive
rock as something that disregards convention and boundaries and moves towards
a wide degree of separation. As stated earlier, the document is intended less
to be strict and definitive, and rather to explore the metagenre as a
Some band names are linked to their reviews in the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of
Progressive Rock and Gnosis web sites. The band names are followed by a colored
square to indicate where the link goes:
= Gibraltar Encyclopedia entry
= Gnosis Reviews page
[Adding these links has proven to be a herculean task. I'll continue to work on
it as time permits, but at this rate it will be years before I'm done. Sorry
about that. -- Fred Trafton, HTML transcriber]
The genres here will all have in common a foundation in rock music (as opposed
to just a peripheral aspect), mostly as inherited from the rock 'n roll of the
50s through its many metamorphoses in the 60s.
- Symphonic Rock/Progressive Rock/"Prog"
For many listeners, the vast world of symphonic rock in all its guises is the
be-all and end-all of progressive rock and thus deserves premier attention.
Symphonic rock is characterized, usually, by extended song structures or suites;
instrumental, symphonic orchestration (whether actually utilized or
approximated); and a tendency to draw in romantic period classical motifs as
well as smaller portions of jazz, rock, and folk. It must also be mentioned that
the subject matter in symphonic rock often tends towards topics revolving around
science fiction, fantasy and alternative religion.
- Early Symphonic Rock
Attention must be given here to early Moody Blues
and King Crimson
whose use of the mellotron approximated a backing string orchestra, but it was most
likely groups such as Yes
who popularized and more distinctly
defined the genre. Since symphonic rock has had a wide variety of faces, a
list of these schools by country and decade may be of assistance.
These are only a few of the more prolific schools of symphonic rock, a style
which is found in a number of countries from Argentina, Eastern Europe and
Sweden to Bahrain, South Africa, and Estonia.
- Great Britain (mid to late 60s/70s) - The stylistic pioneers - The
Moody Blues ,
Genesis , etc.
These bands influenced all symphonic progressive rock to some degree.
- Great Britain (early to mid 70s) - a lesser known school in Britain
influenced largely by or contemporary with the pioneers, include many often
mellotron-laden symphonic rock groups such as
(a similar theme ran through some of the mid-70s Australians and New Zealanders like
and Dragon ).
- Italy (approximately 1972-77) - Arguably one
of the most successful schools influenced by the stylistic pioneers of the mid
to late 60s/70s.
Premiata Forneria Marconi ,
Banco del Mutuo Soccorso
Latte E Miele ,
- France (70s-early 80s) - There are at
least two threads of the symphonic
school in France's impressive musical heritage. Some bands were influenced by
the British pioneers such a Yes
and King Crimson
while others were more influence by the "theatrical rock" of Genesis .
The former include Atoll , Pulsar ,
and Carpe Diem
. The latter,
categorized as such due to their use of costumes and stage presence, include Ange
- Germany (70s-early 80s) - Usually overlooked in the shadow of
Krautrock (see below),
Germany had a symphonic tradition also influenced by bands like
that was apparent in both the West and East Germany of the time. Bands of note from West Germany
include Grobschnitt ,
Anyone's Daughter and Novalis . From East Germany there were Stern Combo Meissen
and Electra .
- Spain (75-early 80s) - A late-starting school initiated by pioneering
groups such as Triana and Granada, who blended flamenco and other cultural
and regional styles with British influences. Later groups include Iman Califato
Independiente, Mezquita, Cai and Vega.
- Canada (70s) - Influenced by the original British and French pioneers,
Canada had a rich symphonic rock scene (particularly in Quebec), occasionally
folky, with groups such as Harmonium, Sloche, Maneige, Contraction, Et Cetera,
- United States (70s) - Geographically distributed around the United States
were a number of symphonic rock groups influenced by the British pioneers.
Besides a number of one-shots, some notable American examples include Happy
The Man, Ethos, Yezda Urfa, Starcastle and Fireballet.
- Modern Symphonic Rock
This section covers some of the more recent schools of symphonic rock.
- Britain (80s to present) - After the "death" of progressive
rock in the 70s, the first major revival of the style was initiated by
the popular British symphonic rock groups of the early 80s, a generation
influenced by Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Van der Graaf Generator and, to
a far lesser extent, 70s/80s heavy metal, new wave and punk. These include
Marillion, IQ, Pendragon, Pallas, and Galahad, whose popularity and
influence later spawned a large number of European artists such as
Chandelier, Clepsydra, Leviathan, Deyss and others.
- Japan (80s) - The Japanese school of symphonic rock was largely
influenced by a revived interest in British and Italian symphonic rock of
the 70s. The scene includes Outer Limits, Kenso, Gerard, Teru's Symphonia,
Midas, Pageant, Providence, Bellaphon and others and is characterized by
the absorption of these romantic influences into a modern digital framework
with occasional hints of Japanese pop music.
- France (mid 80s to 90s) - There is probably a close correlation
between this modern symphonic school and its progenitor Musea Records. It
includes groups such as Edhels, Minimum Vital, Jean Pascal Boffo and Eclat
whose music is often bright, melodic, and textural. Even some of the later
reformations of 70s groups, such as Pulsar and Atoll, approached this sound.
An introduction to this school can be found on the Musea compilation
- Italy (late 80s-90s) - There is far less of a stylistic
commonality among modern Italian symphonic rock groups, but it must be
mentioned due to the prevalence of music available. The influences range
from the 70s Italian School to the 80s British school and include bands such
as Nuova Era, Ezra Winston, Calliope, Edith, Arcansiel, Moongarden etc.
- Sweden/Norway (90s) - A relatively small but very influential
school that borrowed heavily from the 70s (occasionally incurring the term
"retro"). Bands such as Anglagard, Anekdoten, White Willow and Landberk
were extremely influential in the revival of a 70s sound that included
vintage instruments, yet also incorporated more contemporary stylings,
some occasionally mainstream.
- USA/Europe (90s to present) - A more accessible and uncommonly
popular form of symphonic rock that is still very active, bands such as
Echolyn, the Flower Kings, Transatlantic and Spock's Beard combine
progressive influences and pop stylings for a musical hybrid of great
appeal and occasional derision from those who do not like the
- Forms Tangential and Peripheral to
Symphonic Rock/Progressive Rock
- Arena Rock (aka Pomp Rock, AOR)
In the United States in the 70s, several bands with symphonic rock
influences absorbed these influences into a mainstream and accessible
format. As a result, the bands grew quite popular, many of their albums
achieving gold and platinum status. Alongside pop rock acts like Journey,
Boston, REO Speedwagon, and Foreigner, were symphonic rock-influenced
acts like Kansas, Supertramp, and Styx.
- Art Rock
Another term often used interchangeably with progressive rock, art rock
implies rock with an exploratory tendency. Another definition of "art rock"
describes music of a more mainstream compositional nature, tending to
experimentation within this framework. Early Roxy Music, David Bowie,
Brian Eno's 70s rock music, and Be Bop Deluxe serve as examples of the
- Blues Rock
Blues rock evolved into more experimental permutations from John Mayall, Cream and
the Yardbirds to Steamhammer, Colosseum, Groundhogs, Tonton Macoute, and Bakerloo,
due largely to the incorporation of psychedelic and jazz influences into the music.
A similar evolution is encountered in the United States with bands like the Allman
Brothers and The Grateful Dead whose improvisational experiments on traditional
blues forms gave way to the later jam bands.
- Classical Rock
Often used interchangeably with symphonic rock, the term classical rock
most frequently applies to the approach of "rocking the classics" such as
approximated by The Nice, ELP, Ekseption, Trace, Canarios, Collegium
Musicum and others. A heavy Hammond organ is almost a prerequisite and
the classical influences often tend to the Baroque and/or Romantic.
- Hard Rock
The hard rock akin to Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath also had
its more elaborate, experimental permutations. The early Vertigo stable
that included Sabbath and bands like Clear Blue Sky, May Blitz, Warhorse
and Gravy Train specialized in heavier rock music with a penchant for
structural research. A vast number of exploratory and forward-thinking
hard rock groups were to both parallel and follow, including Atomic
Rooster, Lucifer's Friend, Flower Travelling Band, Host, Virus, Kin Ping
Meh, Frumpy and the early Scorpions.
- Industrial (Rock)
Industrial refers to music with sounds that correspond to those of an urban
nature, including noise and timbres often repetitive, atonal, mechanical,
and droning. It winds its thread from the rock section into the electronic,
trans-genre and metal fields. Rock groups known as industrial range from the
late 70s/early 80s to the present day in styles from the abstract and
experimental to dance and pop music. A number of important groups that
span a wide variety of styles include Throbbing Gristle (considered the
progenitor of the genre and the genesis of its name), Skinny Puppy,
Einsturzende Neubauten, Cabaret Voltaire, Nocturnal Emissions, Zoviet
France, Nurse With Wound, Chrome and Nine Inch Nails.
- Jam Bands
American bands with roots in Americana such as the Allman Brothers and the
Grateful Dead experimented with long-form jams in the late 60s/early 70s,
stretching the boundaries of these styles by incorporating jazz and psychedelia.
Today there is a sizable group of musicians creating music in this vein
including Phish, String Cheese Incident, the Derek Trucks Band and Gov't
A term that usually describes the highly influential German rock of the
early 70s, especially bands associated with the Ohr, Brain, Pilz, and
Kosmische music labels. The varying styles falling under this umbrella
were influenced by both German experimental electronic music and the
psychedelic rock and beat of the late 60s. These range from the Ohr
and Kosmische label's wild tangle of acid rock and electronica such as
Ash Ra Tempel
to the more rhythmically insistent, post-psychedelic experimentations of
Can . Krautrock
is often quoted as a major influence on popular artists as widely varied as
David Bowie, Radiohead and Sonic Youth. The term
krautrock is also occasionally used to mean German progressive rock in
its broadest sense.
The inclusion of Latin American styles into rock, psychedelic and blues
music was popularized by Santana in the late 60s. A number of artists
were to follow, all incorporating Latin percussion, jazzy instrumental
improvisations, and organ-led rock, such as Malo and Chango. The influence
of this style could even be found to have peripherally influenced European
progressive rock groups such as Satin Whale, Kebnekaise and Modry Efekt.
- Math Rock
Obliquely related to post-rock, math rock largely consists of complex,
interlocking instrumental lines over jagged, changing, rhythmic patterns
in a heavy, angular musical style. It is often described as the meeting
between punk, hard rock or heavy metal energy and the complexity of jazz
and classical music. Examples include Don Caballero ,
A Minor Forest and Atavin. A good starter list of groups in this style can be found at
While the face value of this definition means "new progressive," its
definitions have multiplied and evolved over the years. It is likely
the term's original meaning referred to a contemporary artist who
performed music in the 70s symphonic vein with an eye to modern stylings,
technology, and production. It has also been used as being synonymous
with the early 80s English symphonic rock revival. Nowadays, the term
"neo-progressive" is often used to indicate an artist's accessibility,
mainstream leanings and relative popularity. Unfortunately the term is
also used widely as a synonym for pop-progressive or, worse, bad symphonic
rock, despite its departure from the original meaning. This term is an
excellent example of how widely meaning can vary.
Not to be confused with "mainstream," "commercial" or "accessible" popular
music, pop is mentioned here to describe artists whose musical departures
still reside within a framework similar to conventional song structures
but incorporate an experimental tendency nonetheless. Many of the early
psychedelic groups worked well within pop structures reworking common
themes into new and unusual variations. After the psychedelic movement
there were a number of groups along the years keeping pop music in the
realms of the weird and innovative, including some of the new wave of
the 80s. Some artists who might be considered progenitors of a different
kind of pop music include Slapp Happy, the Residents, Talking Heads,
Stereolab, Devo, XTC, and Pere Ubu.
- Post Rock
Unlike many of the terms here, the moniker post-rock can be traced to its
genesis, which was an article by Simon Reynolds in
The Wire, Issue 123, May 94.
Reynolds states, "Post-rock means using rock instrumentation for non-rock
purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbres and textures rather
than riffs and powerchords." Music under this moniker varies stylistically
from Cul De Sac and Do Make Say Think to Tortoise and Mogwai to Labradford
and Godspeed You Black Emperor.
Where late 60s psych ends and early 70s progressive rock begins is often
referred to as proto-progressive, due to the music's embryonic similarities
to the earliest progressive rock groups. While this is accurate as far as
the definition of "proto-" goes, another common definition of this term is
sort of as "almost progressive," artists which might bear some resemblance
to the genre, but are not commonly considered as such. Some widely varying
examples of what might be considered "proto-prog" are The Beatles circa
Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Peppers ..., Tommy and
Quadrophenia period Who, Procol Harum, Traffic, early Deep Purple
and Uriah Heep.
- Psychedelic (Rock)
A major precursor to the progressive rock of the 70s is the psychedelic
rock of the late 60s, which is too vast a field to cover in detail here
yet is intertwined inextricably with its musical offspring.
This genre/qualifier covers a large amount of territory in common with
progressive rock and mostly concerns itself with a mind-expanding approach
associated with hallucinogenic and surreal imagery and its equivalent
musical relationship. Bands falling within this style are often cross-genre
(see VIII. Unclassified for examples) and
vary from the early pioneers such as the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson
Airplane, Pink Floyd, Country Joe & The Fish, Small Faces, and Strawberry
Alarm Clock to those more experimental and obscure groups that hinted the
way towards future progressive music such as Silver Apples, United States
of America, Mandrake Memorial and Fifty Foot Hose.
The psychedelic impact was often felt later in other countries. In the 70s,
Japan also had a prevalent psychedelic rock scene including outfits such
as Cosmos Factory, Flied Egg, and Flower Travelling Band, all who often
dabbled in more progressive and symphonic modes. Brazil also had a
strangely active psychedelic scene at the turn of the 70s and beyond
including Lula Cortes y Ze Ramalho, Os Mutantes, Som Imaginario and
Modulo 1000. England's revival of psychedelic music paralleled the space
rock scene and included artists such as Sundial, Bevis Frond and Porcupine
Tree. Today there are countless variations of psychedelic music, and as
this guide continues, this is a strain that will continually follow the
music into the unclassified.
While often considered the antithesis of progressive rock, there were a
number of groups emerging from and after the late 70s punk scene whose
penchant for experimentation, often inspired by krautrock, was as
prevalent as its attempts to avoid sounding polished or corporate. Wire,
Dome, PIL, the Minutemen, Gang of Four, Fugazi and Nomeansno are among
the many groups operating around the punk spectrum whose music proved
how vital, experimental, and, occasionally, technical the genre could
- Rhythm and Blues/Soul
Just about everything in the late 60s went through the psychedelic blender
including those groups whose primary inspiration was with rhythm and blues
and soul. Artists such as Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, the
Temptations and the Isley Brothers left behind the conventions of the
Motown-dominated decade to incorporate rock and jazz into more exploratory
and cosmic versions of soul and R&B even within the single format.
- Space Rock
Space rock is largely an extension of psychedelic rock (and/or krautrock)
and shares many of its similar mind-altering and atmospheric features. Its
main features include the recreation of atmospheres that correspond to
images of both outer and inner space. Pioneers in this field are largely
Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, and Gong, and the field is alive today led by Ozric
Tentacles and including bands like Tribe of Cro, Quarkspace, Ship of Fools,
Melting Euphoria, Hidria Spacefolk and Escapade. Some of the modern groups
in this style also incorporate influences of reggae/dub.
- Stoner/Desert/Retro Rock
While metal has evolved from its late 60s origins into a wide variety of
forms, the genre known as "stoner" rock, one term for a riff worship
inspired closely by Black Sabbath, goes back to the 70s and recreates the
vibes, often with long droning jams based on heavy guitar/bass riffs and
psychedelic moods. Although the inspirations for the music are 70s, the
music is also generally informed by death, doom and occasionally math
genres, giving it a luster that differentiates much of it from its 70s
forbearers. Some examples of the style include Electric Wizard, Kyuss,
Orange Goblin and Spirit Caravan. This is a genre that often crosses over
with space and psychedelic rock a la Hawkwind to create hybrids such as
Monster Magnet and 35007.
- Why Genres Don't Always Work. Other Schools by Country
So far in this section, we've been able to identify similarities along a
number of lines, but once a series of schools have been delineated you
are, of course, left with the vast number of artists that do not fit
comfortably in any of them. The above classifications serve to identify
common threads between artists in terms of stylistic similarities, but
there are many variations of experimental/progressive rock that fit even
less comfortably into areas of similarity and whose only point of reference
in common is a rock that leaves the conventional behind. This section is
here to show the other side of the story before departing even farther
into the lands of the extremely experimental.
The following demonstrates why the concept of "progressive rock" as a style
(read: equivalent to symphonic rock) is inherently flawed given the amount
of material covered up to this point.
- Britain (late 60s to mid 70s) - There were many groups
considered "progressive rock" at the dawn of the 70s which probably do
not fit at all into most of the above schools. Many of the groups were
associated with pioneering labels like Vertigo, Deram, Dawn, Transatlantic,
Neon, Harvest, Charisma and Island. There were rock groups exploring eastern
stylings such as Marsupilami, Samurai, Jade Warrior and East of Eden and
heavy post psychedelic rock like High Tide and Jody Grind. Some of the more
guitar jam oriented groups like Man and Wishbone Ash explored lengthy rock
ruminations without succumbing to the highly structured music of the time.
Bands such as Jethro Tull, Van Der Graaf Generator and Family were defined
by their vocalist's signature, some of them achieving great success
especially in mainland Europe. Other important groups of the era include
the Strawbs, Raw Material, Second Hand, and Gnidrolog. Identifiable
throughout are the similarities in structural experimentation, instrumental
experimentation (tone and timbre), and the incorporation of musics
heretofore alien to the fields of rock.
- Holland (early 70s) - Dutch musicians
also exhibited strong
tendencies towards new forms of rock, influenced immediately by the
psychedelic rock from across the channel and the Atlantic. The country's
rock scene had a head start with one of the earliest psychedelic/progressive
groups Group 1850. Focus became quickly notable for its combination of
rock, classical, and ancient music. Other important Dutch progressives
of the era included Golden Earring, Alquin, Solution and Finch, all of whose
stylistic tendencies don't verge overwhelmingly in any one direction.
- Denmark (70s) - Denmark had a very fertile but continually
ignored underground whose progressive variations rarely fit comfortably
into any particular style (fusion greats Secret Oyster are one exception).
Denmark's rock groups often fused a bewildering display of rock, jazz,
psychedelic and R&B styles such as on albums by Ache, Culpeper's Orchard,
Dr. Dopo Jam, Burnin' Red Ivanhoe and Day of Phoenix. Perhaps the most
unrecognized scene in progressive rock.
- Sweden (70s to present) - The Swedish rock underground has
always produced a wide variety of high-quality music. There were several
bands in the 70s that paralleled that of Germany's Kosmiche music, such as
Algarnas Tradgard, International Harvester, Flasket Brinner, and Trad Gras
och Stenar. The Silence label in Sweden was notable for introducing many
rock bands (including several of the above) who displayed a certain
traditional touch such as early Samla Mammas Manna, Kebnekaise, Ragnarok,
and Triangulus. A noteable modern practitioner of this notably Swedish
rock style is Grovjobb. Sweden's relevance in jazz, folk, classical and
unclassified music will be apparent as this guide continues outside of
- France (70s) - Almost like there was a delay on the influences
from overseas, France developed a surprisingly innovative rock scene in
the early 70s that still remains a separate entity from all the various
styles of music the French have added to over the years. Perhaps it was
the influence of Gong and some of the Canterbury groups that gave Ame
Son, Couer Magique, Herbe Rouge, and Nyl the impetus to start, yet these
groups remaining strongly individualistic in the face of their influences,
creating music beginning with the psychedelic and ending with the
The intent here is not to be exhaustive in revealing every example of
influential progressive rock that doesn't fit into or relate to one of
the above categories, but to at least demonstrate in a general sense the
nebulous nature of the field even before taking steps outside of a strong
rock base or to an artist-by-artist level of detail. It could be said
that musicians such as Frank Zappa and Mike Oldfield have created styles
of rock music that change dramatically outside of their large and
influential purvey and that the music created by both is unclassified
at least within the constraints of rock music. Such a level of detail is
beyond the scope of this document.
It is this tendency to the dramatically unconventional and avant-garde
that brings us to the next section.
- Avant Progressive/Avant Rock
This general category seeks to cover bands exploring unconventional
territory, generally within or related to a rock framework. The vast
number of stylistic variations that fall under the rubric of "avant rock"
are difficult to group adequately, although there are some common threads.
- Rock In Opposition (RIO)
Chris Cutler, original member of the British musical collective Henry Cow
and the man behind the scenes at Recommended Records in England, had this
to say about RIO: "RIO short for Rock In Opposition was named to give some
identity to a festival we (Henry Cow) ran in London in the Spring of 1978
... The only groups ever involved were: Henry Cow, Samla Mammas Manna
(Sweden), Etron Fou Leloublan, (France) Stormy Six (Italy), Univers Zero
and Aqsak Maboul (Belgium), Art Zoyd (France) and Art Bears."
- Beyond RIO
The term RIO has evolved over the years and is often used to describe
groups in the lineage of the ensembles listed above, despite an
authoritative definition. The outfits of the original RIO list were
forward-thinking ensembles influenced by 20th century avant garde, jazz,
folk and other music and were concerned with stretching the boundaries
of the rock form in both compositional and, occasionally, improvisational
settings. Groups influenced by the original RIO groups, and occasionally
including members from them, are as sundry as News From Babel, The Muffins,
Massacre, Thinking Plague, Von Zamla, and Volapuk.
- A Myriad of Avant-Rock
Avant-rock is another nebulous term that tends to describe music in the
rock format that is farthest from its base while still remaining clearly
identifiable as rock. Its expressions are so widely varied as to contain
few common threads among year and country, while inclusive of all. Artists
often described as avant rock include those in Italy (Deus ex Machina),
Japan (Bondage Fruit, Happy Family, Tipographica), Britain (The Work,
This Heat), US (Biota, 5uus, Motor Totemist Guild, Doctor Nerve, Idiot
Flesh), and Switzerland (Debile Menthol, Nimal). The similarities among
these groups only exist in their complete lack of conformity to convention.
At this point, further elucidation on the rock genre is virtually
impossible without bringing attention to where rock becomes much more than
rock and begins its interplay with the rest of the field of music to a
level where the strong rock element becomes more and more diluted with its
- On the Way to Jazz ...
This genre, named by the town in Kent, England where the musicians in the
mid-60s group The Wilde Flowers hailed from (a band which was progenitor
to both the Soft Machine and Caravan), drew on varying elements of classical
architecture, the influences of American jazz, whimsical and humorous
lyrical imagery, and the prevailing psychedelic atmosphere of the times to
create a variant and exciting school of complex rock. Although the Soft
Machine and Caravan were the only groups to originate from Canterbury
itself, the familial nature of the ever-changing line-ups of these groups
created a school by affiliation, especially after the Soft Machine relocated
to London. The styles of the artists adopted under the Canterbury genre
varied from the psychedelic whimsy of Caravan, the increasingly jazz-rock
Soft Machine, and the sly song structures of Kevin Ayers onto some of the
most intricate rock ever created in Hatfield and The North and National
Health. Canterbury music also overlapped with British jazz-rock (see below),
space rock pioneers Gong, classical rock in Egg, RIO forefathers Henry Cow
and melodic progressive group Camel. Canterbury music was so popular in
mainland Europe in its heyday, it spawned numerous stylistically influenced
ensembles such as Supersister, Moving Gelatine Plates, and Brainstorm. It
has also continued to influence a generation of modern groups such as
Rascal Reporters, French TV, Volare and Bablicon. For more information on
the genre check out the Calyx website at
The term Zeuhl came from the genre's progenitor Magma as part of the band's
invented language meaning "celestial." Magma brought in a wide number of
influences from Orff, Stravinsky and Bartók to Coltrane and R&B to create
one of the most influential and original progressive rock styles of the
time. Their strong influence on many French jazz-rock bands of the 70s and
beyond has caused these bands to be labeled as Zeuhl. Bands that fall under
the Zeuhl rubric vary from offshoot bands such as Weidorje and Zao, those
with contemporary influence such as Eskaton, Potemkine and Eider Stellaire,
to modern groups such as Xaal, Koenji Hyakkei, Ruins and Happy Family. An
excellent introduction to this school can be found on the Musea compilation
Enneade. A site with a list of Zeuhl artists from several countries
can be found at
V. JAZZ / JAZZ ROCK / FUSION
The word fusion commonly refers to a music fusing jazz and rock together,
a style that grew out of the jazz scene in the late 60s through Miles
Davis and many of his musical contemporaries of the time. This section
will cover the common definitions of jazz rock and fusion as well as
moving on to other unique meetings between the two styles of music.
It will also demonstrate other ways jazz evolved in the late 60s and
early 70s to parallel the course of progressive rock in its experimentation
with psychedelia and world fusions.
- Jazz Pioneers
The influence of jazz up to its head-on collision with rock in the late
60s deserves a quick mention here. While it is not the intent of this
document to go into detail, suffice it to say that the legacies left by
luminaries such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Pharaoh
Sanders, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk, and many others were
influential to a significant number of genres that fall under the
The term "fusion" is often considered a synonym for "jazz rock," although
some critics make a distinction between them. For example, Stuart Nicholson,
in his book Jazz-Rock, A History (page xiii (Preface), Canongate
Books, 1998) states, "I have stuck to the old fashioned term jazz-rock
because first of all I liked it and secondly I wanted to make a distinction
between it and fusion (and its latter-day equivalents, variously marketed as
smooth jazz, quiet storm lite-jazz, hot tub jazz or yuppie jazz)."
For the sake of simplicity, this document roughly equates the two terms.
- Schools by Label (Examples)
Other jazz and fusion labels of interest are Prestige, Impulse, Blue Note,
Sonet, Japo, Vanguard, Milestone and CTI, although many of these have
thorough histories and less homogeneity from period to period with large
portions of their catalogs outside of the focus of this document.
- Columbia - The pioneers of the fusion genre were largely released
on Columbia during this period and included many international musicians.
Bitches Brew era Miles Davis and beyond, Weather Report, Return To
Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Herbie Hancock are some examples of
American fusion artists that were on this label at some point in their
careers. Columbia was also the home label for many of the artists in Section
2 below including Soft Machine and Michal Urbaniak's Fusion.
- ECM - The German label ECM is responsible for some of the most
avant-garde and widely-traveled jazz, fusion and music beyond. Through its
long tenure, the label has included Terje Rypdal, Jan Garbarek, John
Abercrombie, Keith Jarrett, Ralph Towner, and many other prestigious and
influential musicians working in all forms of jazz, while largely moving
away from convention and predictability, with an eye to the mergings of
and experiments with stylisms.
- MPS - Although not quite as distinctive as its previously
mentioned cousin, MPS, the descendant of jazz label SABA, was the home for
a number of musicians from Germany and beyond including the Dave Pike Set,
Charlie Mariano, Volker Kriegel, Sun Ra, Freddie Hubbard, and Michael
- Schools by Country or Region (Examples)
- Britain (70s) - There were a vast number of English musicians
influenced by the jazz and fusion of the United States. Fusion in England
started with Soft Machine and Nucleus, gave birth to Brand X
and Bill Bruford's late 70s band, and is quite prevalent today, with many
artists still actively recording and/or touring such as Hugh Hopper,
Percy Jones, Keith Tippett, Network and the aforementioned Bruford. Many
of these artists also share time with the country's large free jazz and
improvisational scene, from the Chitinous Ensemble and Centipede to
Mujician and Elton Dean.
- Germany (70s) - Jazz rock was also very prevalent in Germany
in the 70s from Klaus Doldinger's successful Passport, Volker Kriegel, and
Association P.C. on to Missus Beastly, and Toto Blanke/Electric Circus.
Many of these artists were influenced both by American jazz and the
contemporary scenes of the 60s.
- Italy (70s) - There were a few notable fusion artists playing
in Italy in the 70s including Area, Perigeo, Agora, Il Baricentro and
Cincinatto. These groups were strongly influenced by the early American
pioneers and cover most fusion expression from the conventional to the
- Spain (70s) - Mediterranean-flavored jazz rock was prevalent
in the 70s in Spain, from Zeleste label groups like Orquestra Mirasol,
Companyia Electrica Dharma, and Secta Sonica to the groups that bore
more similarity with fusion and symphonic rock like Iceberg, Alameda
- East European (70s) - There were a number of well-respected
jazz musicians from East European countries such as Joe Zawinul, Miroslav
Vitous, Michal Pavlicek, and Michal Urbaniak. Jazz-rock has since been
prevalent in the various countries of East Europe producing ensembles
such as Fermata, Jazz Q, Mahagon, Energit, Leb I Sol, and Michal Urbaniak's
- France (70s, 80s) - Some of France's most prominent jazz
musicians were violinists such as Stefan Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty and
Didier Lockwood. Transit Express, Coincidence, Abus Dangereux, Chute Libre
and Erik Truffaz are several of the many French jazz rock artists that
have been in existence since the 70s.
"Kozmigroov is a transgressive improvisational music which combines
elements of psychedelia, spirituality, jazz, rock, soul, funk, and African,
Latin, Brazilian, Indian and Asian influences. At its most accomplished,
Kozmigroov is both expansive and highly rhythmic, and simultaneously finds
connections with the mind, soul and body." -
Kozmigroov is one of the more recent genre descriptions described in this
body of work, and it is fundamentally described as a cosmic vibe that ties
a number of jazz and fusion artists together with world music. As a
fundamentally spiritual music it parallels the evolutionary patterns of
rock and jazz in great detail. Among the "A List" of kozmigroov albums
http://www.jahsonic.com/Kozmigroov.html) are artists such as Alice
Coltrane, Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders, Herbie Hancock, Eddie Henderson
and Sun Ra.
In itself, funk was a development from the rhythm & blues/soul of the 60s,
often evincing influences from jazz and fusion. As a style developing in
the psychedelic era, it crossed over frequently with rock and jazz music
to create a number of inventive hybrids. Early groups whose tendencies
towards psychedelia and improvisation brought them closer to the rock of
the time include Funkadelic, Mandrill, Oneness of Juju, and Earth, Wind
and Fire. There are also a large number of examples that overlap with
jazz and fusion styles.
- Experimental and Avant-Jazz
There is a gigantic field of experimental and avant-garde jazz that rode
parallel to the jazz and fusion schools from the 60s to the present day,
whether associated by label (such as ECM) or musicians. A wide variety of
notable forward-leaning artists, besides many of the artists mentioned in
the introduction to this section, include Anthony Braxton, Art Ensemble of
Chicago, Cecil Taylor, John Zorn, Peter Brotzmann, Sonny Sharrock, Archie
Shepp and Albert Ayler. A few of these artists even brought rock into their
sound, although in a way unrelated to the fusion schools mentioned earlier.
The modern European jazz schools have also brought out a number of obscure
but talented and extremely modern artists whose stylistic mergings with
rock and folk stylings tend to blur any sense of boundaries. Some of these
artists, such as German clarinet player Michael Riessler and hurdy gurdy
virtuoso Valentin Clastrier, have created music from a totally unrelated
school with occasionally serendipitous similarity to RIO and avant rock.
Primarily, it's the spirit that is important in this section as this is an
area largely away from rock influence. However, the experimental and
adventurous leanings of this music cause it to find thematic similarities
in much of the psychedelic and free rock already spoken of as coexisting
with progressive rock.
Whether one ascribes the first fusions of Western music with rock and
fusion to Ravi Shankar or Shakti preeminently, both must be mentioned if
one is talking about the meetings of western and eastern music in a fusion
context. Indo-fusion generally operates in a musical sphere far beyond the
eastern tinges that give a lot of rock music an exotic flair. The
difference here is between a true fusing of Indian music and jazz/rock
and a rock with Indian instrumental accompaniment. Often, Indo-jazz fusion
inseparable from a melting pot of other oriental cultures including
Japanese, Chinese, Asia Minor, and Africa. An excellent guide to the
east meets west can be found at
- On the Way to Folk ...
Down this far, it is interesting to see what are largely fusions of jazz with
both Western and Eastern ethnic/traditional styles. The following groups
all operate in a no-mans land that introduces jazz to the varying world
styles of its progenitors. The resemblances to rock music are all but minor
here, although the power of the fusions often resemble it in spirit. Some
examples are Piirpauke (Finnish jazz/folk), Archimedes Badkar (Swedish
jazz/folk/trans-ethnic), Oriental Wind (Swedish jazz/folk/traditional led
Turkish drummer Okay Temiz), Embryo (German jazz/rock/multi-ethnic) and
Baba Jam Band (jazz/rock/folk/trans-ethnic).
As jazz disseminates by way of fusion, that is, by it's merging with, at
first, conventional styles like rock and folk, and later with its
encounters with both Western and Eastern styles and modes of music, it
also leaves its base for waters uncharted. At its complete meltdown the
style generally is noticeable by its folk/traditional/ethnic stylings.
VI. FOLK / FOLK ROCK
Folk music is, by definition, music handed down and created by the common
people. And in hundreds of world cultures, folk music has varied
extensively, although it can safely be said that folk was originally a
music of acoustic instrumentation with traditional ancestry. This section
is primarily interested in the point where folk meets rock (and other
styles) and the surrounding territory.
- Styles of Folk and
- American Folk / Folk Rock
The history of traditional American folk music played a large part on the
burgeoning beat and psychedelic movements, led in the mid 60s by songwriter
Bob Dylan. A number of American groups soon began to incorporate the strains
of the music into the pop and rock formats of the day, including Crosby,
Stills and Nash, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and Tim Buckley. Many of
these artists were influential on similar attempts to fuse rock and folk
across the Atlantic.
- British / Irish / Celtic Folk Rock
Parallel to American attempts to merge folk and rock styles, there were a
number of groups across the Atlantic adapting traditional folk songs to
rock stylings. Leaders of the English folk rock movement include Pentangle,
Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Incredible String Band, and Fotheringay.
The genre has continued through the years and taken up by a number of bands
both at home and abroad, a few of which include the Horslips, The Morrigan,
Tempest, and Iona.
- Acid Folk / Folk Rock
Following close to the heels of the psychedelic pioneers like Jefferson
Airplane and The Byrds were those groups fusing folk rock and
acid/psychedelic rock, a bridge that spans from west coast 60s rock to
English and Celtic folk rock. A few notable, albeit obscure examples were
Brits Trees, Spriguns, Spirogyra, the South Africans Abstract Thought
and the Australians Extradition.
- German Folk Rock / Kosmische Folk
The Germans also left the boundaries of traditional folk to come upon a
number of cross-genre experiments, from the Kosmische folk (particularly
on the Pilz label) that ran at a parallel to the krautrock movement
(Emtidi, Witthüser & Westrupp, Hölderlin, etc.) to the varied
stylings of bands who incorporated elements of rock and other genres
(Parzival, Ougenweide, Emma Myldenberger, etc).
- French Folk Rock / Breton Folk & Folk Rock
Harp player Alan Stivell may be said to have single-handedly revived or
at least popularized Breton folk music, and he was quick to experimentally
merge these roots with rock and cross-cultural folk styles. 70s label
Hexagone published albums with a similar musical ethic including those
by Malicorne, Dan Ar Bras, and La Bamboche, some of which incorporated
symphonic rock, jazz and a capella styles. Other French artists combing
folk and traditional music with rock and other stylings include Emmanuelle
Parrenin, Ripaille, Avaric, Gwendal, Ys, Gwerz and Keris. There is a vast
amount of Breton folk music in existence, although only a small percentage
of them deviate from strong traditional roots.
- South American Folk Rock / Symphonic Folk Rock
The traditional music of countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile also
proved to be fertile ground for fusions with rock and classical musics.
Chileans Los Jaivas are a long running group melting together rock, folk,
jazz, classical and Andean music. Congreso, another long-running Chilean
group is possibly the most avant-garde of the field, experimenting far
and widely with rock and folk motifs. Argentine groups such as Horizonte,
Aucan, Anacrusa, and Lagrima all incorporated classical music and rock
into a traditional framework.
- Scandinavian Folk / Folk Rock
There has been a large trans-Scandinavian return to folk and folk-rock
roots in the 90s, a genre often represented in the United States by
releases on the label Northside. It's perhaps Swedes Hedningarna who lead
this field, a prime example of a group starting with folk and incorporating
modern dance and rock influences to an impressive end. Other groups include
Vasen, Den Fule, Gamarna, Gjallarhorn, and Varttina.
- VIA / Vocal Instrumental Ensembles
This is a term used to describe Russian ensembles that operate in a mode
where the lyrical/vocal impact (whether a musical adaptation of literature
or a more overt patriotic statement) is of primary importance. The tendency
to long form pieces and musical orchestration draws the style's comparison
with symphonic rock. Examples of VIAs include Epos, Pesniary, Folk Opera,
Siabry, and Tzvety.
- Renaissance and Medieval
Although these categories could as easily fall with the classical rock
groups, the periods of music that bands like Gryphon and Amazing Blondel
drew from to modernize is close enough to ancient and folkloric musics
(see below) to be as comfortable here. Drawing on a wide variety of
acoustic instrumentation, including ancient and esoteric, bands often
brought such motifs to bear on symphonic or folk arrangements. Featured
is the heavy use of counterpoint.
- Avant Folk
As in both the Rock and Jazz Sections, Folk music also had its share of
avant-garde innovators, taking the music into completely uncharted
territories. Some widely and geographically dislocated examples of the
liberal side of folk music include Canzoniere del Lazio, Claudio Rocchi,
Carnascialia, Bittova & Fajt, and Conventum.
- The Influence of Traditional and
It is not the intention of this document to cover varying ethnic musics in
depth, although this section is set aside to elucidate one concept. There
is a tendency for the exotic natures of ethnic fusions to approach in intent
a similarity to progressive music. Whether Greek like Ross Daly, Hungarian
like Kolinda, Portuguese like Madredeus, or Nigerian like Fela Kuti, a
strong traditional element can be the starting point for a variety of new
stylistic experiments on tradition.
- On the Way to Electronic and
The fusing together of a number of traditional and ritualistic musical
elements has created a wide variety of innovative and groundbreaking folk
"fusions" that can often be described as trans-genre or pan-ethnic in that
the musical styles incorporated are wide and very difficult to quantify
separately. Probably the earliest was Britain's Third Ear Band who combined
raga, trance, tribal, and medieval influences into a vibrant and mystical
music. Italy's Aktuala threw everything into the pot to create three albums
of eastern and western influenced acoustic music with a plethora of levels.
Poland's Ossian created a heavy psychedelic acoustic trance music with
African and European influences and later incorporated jazz and continued
for decades changing their name to Osjan and being a prototype for a similar
modern group Atman and its offshoot the Magic Carpathians. Similar, but
geographically separated ensembles include Spain's Babia, France's Clivage
and Babel, Japan's Taj Mahal Travellers and Germany's Emma Myldenberger and
Radio Noisz Ensemble.
The addition of electronics into this blend is a common feature of many
trans-ethnic musics. Between worked parallel to the krautrock schools
bringing together ritualistic and Third Ear Band-influenced raga structures
with electronic soundscaping. Even Third Ear Band themselves left their
original path in the 90s for fusions with electronic and space music.
Undoubtedly, music blending folk and traditional musics with the electronic
bring us once again into the sphere of psychedelic and space music, however
a sphere with almost no relationship to rock music at all. Here we leave
traditional and ethnic musics behind completely.
The evolution of electronic music, from tone generators to oscillators and
analog to digital, paralleled the fields of rock, jazz, classical and folk.
In many ways it combined with elements of these musics to create new genres,
many that leave the beaten path of melody and rhythm into abstract areas
where the movement is on the timbral level.
Early on, twentieth century academic music incorporated experiments with
evolving electronic techonology, and there were several musicians who can
be said to be among the pioneers in electronic music and/or musique-concret.
While it is not the express purpose of this guide to document in detail the
history of electronic music, a number of pioneers in the field of electronic
music should be mentioned as setting the stage for the number of hybrids to
come. Notable names are Morton Subotnik, Charles Wuorinen, Milton Babbitt,
Karlheinz Stockhausen, Otto Luening, Mario Davidovsky, Vladimir Ussachevsky,
Edgard Varese, Tod Dockstader, Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer.
- Schools of Electronic
- Schools by Country
- Germany (70s) - The advent of electronic music in Germany,
especially through the work of Stockhausen and the influence of the
psychedelic era, was largely a product of the krautrock legacy. The most
famous progenitors of purely electronic rock music are Edgar Froese
(Tangerine Dream, solo), Conrad Schnitzler (Tangerine Dream, solo),
Klaus Schulze (Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, solo), and Manuel
Gottsching (Ash Ra Tempel, Ashra, solo), all who began their formative
careers on the genre's preliminary label, Ohr. These musicians evolved
with the burgeoning technology of the era to become four of the most
prolific and influential artists of their time, all changing face over
the course of time to cover an unequalled amount of territory. This
primary school of electronic music was the dominant influence for most
of the other schools in this section.
- United States (70s) - There were not many well-known American
electronic artists from the 70s, but three artists are prominently
influential - Wendy Carlos, whose Sonic Seasonings is one of the first
ambient albums (not to mention her vast contributions to the development
of electronic music in general); Michael Stearns, whose late 70s albums
foresaw the wave of ambient, tribal and space music to come; and Mother
Mallard, whose all-electronic formation was one of the earliest. All
three followed a parallel track in the 70s to the German pioneers without
any significant cross influence.
- France (70s) - There were a number of electronic musicians
from France in the 70s that were heavily influenced by the German pioneers
who were very popular in the country. These range from the extraordinarily
popular music of Jean-Michel Jarre to a lot of lesser knowns such as Zanov,
Bernard Szajner, Serge Ramses, and Didier Bocquet.
- England (80s to present) - Also strongly inspired by the Berlin
school, there was a contingent of electronic musicians from England who
kept alive this genre of music at festivals and on cassettes in the 80s
such as Ian Boddy, Mark Shreeve, Mark Dwayne, Kevin O'Neill and Ron Berry.
A second wave of artists influenced by the German schools has also arrived
in the 90s with a combination of retro and forward stylists such as Radio
Massacre International, Redshift and AirSculpture.
- United States (80s to present) - A contingent of Western
musicians, some influenced by the early 70s German groups and arising as
one part of the nebulous new age genre, make up the majority of what is one
of the most prolific areas for electronic music in the world. Steve Roach,
Robert Rich and Constance Demby are perhaps the most prominent, although a
great deal of up and comers from all over the country have appeared in
recent times such as Vir Unis and Saul Stokes. The influence of these
musicians on artists in Europe such as Alio Die, Matthias Grassow and Amir
Baghiri is immense.
- Electronic Schools by Description
- Ambient - Ambient music was coined (although
not invented) by Brian Eno in the 70s as an attempt to create background music
with the type of musical integrity that would set it apart from the type of
environmental music pioneered by Muzak Inc. In the liner notes for his
album Ambient #1 Music For Airports, Eno writes, "An ambience is defined
as an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint ... Ambient music must
be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing
one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting."
Like many of the genre descriptions described in this article, ambient music
has evolved over the years. It is now often used as a descriptive to cover
all music in the general field, while also specifically being used to
describe electronic music with dance beat tendencies (see techno). While
Eno's (inclusive of Fripp & Eno) early music in the field was influential,
it was the musical tendencies in the 80s of Steve Roach and Robert Rich
that gave birth to what is generally known as "ambient music." Other
artists in the style include A Produce, Vidna Obmana, Alio Die, Vir Unis,
and Saul Stokes.
- Berlin School - Music typified as Berlin School is inherited
from the 70s German pioneers in the style, especially that of Tangerine
Dream and Klaus Schulze. It is recognizable by its prevalent use of
sequencers to give the music a rhythmic pulse behind a layering of
electronic atmospheres. Berlin School music is the dominant European
style even today, from its roots through its myriad of modern progenitors,
from the completely derivative to the far removed. Early Berlin School
artists include Wolfgang Bock and Albert Von Deyen. Modern masters of
this style include Red Shift, Radio Massacre International, Cosmic Hoffman,
AirSculpture, and Ron Boots.
- Dark Ambient - This label tends to describe music in the
ambient field that tends to a starker, bleaker, less overtly melodic
sound. A primary innovator in this field would be Lustmord, although the
likes of Roach, Rich, Stearns and Alio Die have all created music that
would fall into this category. It is less a new genre than a shading of
an old one.
- Desert Ambient - A term coined by Steve Roach to describe music
in the genre with a direct influence from the environmental ambience of the
open spaces of the desert. Other artists operating with similar tendencies
include Michael Stearns, Ron Sunsinger, and Jorge Reyes.
- Electronic Rock - The merging of electronic music and rock is
frequent, including the more active side of the early German pioneers such
as Tangerine Dream, Moondawn-period Schulze, Ose, and early Wolfgang
Bock, as well as distinguished innovators such as Richard Pinhas, Peter
Frohmader and Mark Shreeve. There are few stylistic similarities among the
various artists incorporating electronics into rock music, and this term
refers more to the instrumental nature of the music than a stylistic one.
- Ethereal / Darkwave - The merging of gothic and ambient styles
possibly dates back to 4AD label artists such as the Cocteau Twins, Dead
Can Dance and This Mortal Coil. The style is prevalent today and is often
called Darkwave particularly in regards to Projket label artists such as
Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Lycia and Unto Ashes.
- Industrial Electronic - Industrial electronic music basically
deals with textural music on a largely amelodic level, incorporating the
sound or sonic equivalents of urban and mechanical sounds to approach music.
Asmus Tietchens, Merzbow and Cranioclast are a few examples of artists
who have created electronic music that resembles organized noise(s).
- Minimalist - The groundbreaking work of the minimalists must
be mentioned here especially in terms of its influence on electronic music
(as by nature it is not necessarily electronic) in the vein of some of
Terry Riley's works or Peter Michael Hamel. Riley, John Cage, Philip Glass
and Steve Reich are often mentioned as seminal artists in this field and
all have had a great impact on electronic music.
- New Age - The resurgence of electronic music in the 80s was
partly due to its inclusion in the vastly expansionist, catch-all genre
of new age (or, later, contemporary instrumental), not to mention the
retroactive classification of 70s music under the same moniker. There
were several artists producing a widely varying electronic-based music
that had its ties with new age whether they had a similar spiritual
philosophy/outlook or just a musical similarity to others more commonly
identified as being a part of the genre (a widely varying group of solo
and ensemble artists many of which had their homes on labels such as
Windham Hill, Celestial Harmonies/Fortuna, or Narada). Some widely
varying examples of this would be Kitaro, Emerald Web, Aeoliah, and
Deuter. The inclusion of acoustic elements with the electronic is a
common feature of this general niche.
- Post-Industrial - This merging of the Gothic/Darkwave genres
with the industrial and a touch of metal is best exemplified by the Cold
Meat label and groups such as Arcana, Ataraxia, Deutsch Nepal and
Shinjuku Thief. See
- Sombient - "Sombient," defined in the liner notes of The
Throne of Drones, "portrays a nocturnal, less blissful approach to the
"chill out" underworld. This somber bearing on the outskirts of ambient
noir inhabits the haunted interzone between classical electronic
plunderphonics and the desolate, environmental tundras of isolationism."
Perhaps the best introduction to the sound would be Asphodel's series of
Drones anthologies which include contributions from artists such
as DJ Spooky, Naut Humon, Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Jeff Greinke, Francis
Dhomont, and Michel Redolfi.
- Space Music - Overlapping many of the other genres and
indicators is the genre of space music. Its aim is similar to that of Space
Rock in that its main features include the recreation of atmospheres that
correspond to images of both outer and inner space, although in this
context through an electronic medium. One must also mention the long-running
tradition of electronic acts playing in planetariums as part of the origin
of this reference. One will see artists as far removed as Steve Roach,
Klaus Schulze, Lightwave, David Parsons, Wavestar, Spacecraft and Michael
Stearns described as such.
- Static/Drone - The term drone tends to be indicative of the
more static end of the ambient field, where all movement in the style is
on the timbral level, often with only single notes or chords held while
their tonal qualities are manipulated in a slow and gradually unfolding
manner. This term also applies more as a shading than a distinct genre.
Several classic albums of this niche of ambient electronic music include
Robert Rich's Sunyata and Trances/Drones and Alio Die's
Password For Entheogenic Experience.
- Techno - There is a wide variety of music that falls under
the house, rave or techno monikers that is also considered ambient music.
The earliest forms of this music probably got its origin in the later music
of Kraftwerk. This tends to include heavily atmospheric and often
psychedelic electronic music with an emphasis on rhythm and beat. Artists
in this genre (or operating from it) include Orbital, Autechre, Aphex Twin,
The Orb, System 7 and Eat Static.
- Tribal - The term "tribal" usually refers to a style where
the percussive impetus comes from hand percussion and other indigenous
instruments or implements. A major influence on the tribal genre comes
from Jon Hassell's important "Fourth World" music (which in itself came
from the mid 70s fusions of Miles Davis). Other important musicians
operating in this style include Steve Roach, Jorge Reyes (both in
Suspended Memories), Alquimia and Jeff Greinke.
VIII. THE UNCLASSIFIED
As the boundaries continue to crumble and the identifiably rock, jazz,
folk and electronic begin to blur into a lack of distinction, we long
leave behind the realms of the familiar and even the fleetingly describable.
There are such a wide variety of musics on the fringe that do not fit
comfortable in any of the above categories that one can't possibly hope
that all of the frontiers are covered. Of course, it is not the intent
of this document to be completist, however a few elucidations ought to
at least identify the scope of what seems to be progressive music's
destination - the undefineable, the Unclassified.
Several roads from the previous sections lead to the Unclassified. In
rock, jazz, folk and electronic, the groups considered avant-garde
(avant-rock, avant-jazz and avant-folk) verge in the direction of the
unclassified as the conventions of the operative music are thrown aside.
Some excellent examples of the Unclassified where all these musics meet
include Pierrot Lunaire's Gudrun, a place where no particular style is the
mainstay and elements are juxtaposed in unusual ways in a strange, alchemic
cocktail. Älgarnas Trädgård's Framtiden Är Ett
Svävande Skepp, Förankrat i Forntiden is a similar hybrid,
although resulting from the psychedelic school years earlier and covering
enough influences to make any single reference point invalid by default.
Italian pop artist Franco Battiato spent a long number of years in the 70s
creating an unparalleled stream of albums that seemed to flirt with just
about every genre mentioned here so far, from the strange electronic and
folk experimentations of Foetus to the later minimalist electronic works
of the mid to late 70s.
And where to classify the collage-like works of Nurse With Wound, Current
93, Pierre Henry, Stock Hausen and Walkman, Runzelstirn & Gurglestock,
John Oswald, etc? Having influences from musique-concret, krautrock and
other psychedelia where music leaves the world of melody and harmony as
it does in some of the industrial forms of electronic and beyond, there
seems to be little consensus as to what one calls these musics. And it's
particularly this area where description breaks down where one can call
an end to the attempt.
At first, I planned to include this section under II.B as a style peripheral
to symphonic rock, but as it grew, I realized that the genre itself was far
too differentiated to fit comfortably there, not to mention, as a style of
hard rock, the section moved perpendicular to the outline of this document.
Thus this section is added as an adjunct to the overall organization.
The field of heavy metal has been cross-influential with progressive and
psychedelic rock since its heyday, giving birth to a host of differing
stylistic variations that have multiplied and evolved for over 30 years. The
following is an extremely condensed and very cursory look at the evolution of
heavy metal, a genre whose progression, at least in the underground, has
spawned a mighty number of acts whose creative outlooks run parallel to
those of the progressive rock schools.
Vertigo stalwarts Black Sabbath are often considered the father of heavy metal, and
thus the scope of heavy metal starts a little further back as an ancestor to the
later exploratory forms of the genre. Black Sabbath and Judas Priest were a large
influence on what became the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal), who was the
precursor to the heavy metal of the 80s and 90s and included groups in its lineage
such as Saxon, Iron Maiden and Diamond Head. This school of increasingly harder rock
was the primary influence on cutting edge, diverse metal artists like Mercyful Fate,
Candlemass, Voivod, Metallica, and Bathory who began to expand the limits of the genre
with more elaborate musical arrangements in varying areas of heavy metal.
Some variations of heavy metal incorporated multi-thematic and grandiose elements
into their music in the 80s, most notably Queensryche, Fates Warning, and finally
Dream Theater. Others, like Watchtower and Sieges Even, concentrated on rhythmically
and harmonically complex compositional work. These bands are often considered close
to the genesis of progressive metal or prog-metal due to their more overt inclusion
of 70s symphonic rock influences in their style. The influence of the band Rush, who
are acknowledged fans of bands such as King Crimson and Yes, was also a looming
influence on many of these groups.
However, despite "prog-metal" becoming as stylistically tied to one particular
strain of the genre as "prog rock" is to symphonic rock, the act of innovation,
advancement and change has acted on numerous variations of heavy metal not normally
considered part of "prog metal" per se. A sampling of genres with examples relevant
to this document follow.
It's not a very useful term, but as a catch-all for those groups operating in the
metal scene who know no allegiance to any one style, avant/experimental will have to
do as it does in rock, jazz and folk. Widely varying examples of metal that particularly
incorporates stylisms uncommon to the genre, include Mr. Bungle, Fantomas,
Pan-Thy-Monium, Painkiller, Düreforsĝg, and Fredrik Thordendal. The diversity in
styles here is immense and beyond the scope of this document.
A style of music whose early influences include Venom, Sodom, and Bathory, black
metal concerns itself with pagan and/or Satanic/anti-religious imagery and usually
includes a raspy/screeching vocal style sometimes called "troll vox." At its
purest, the sound tends towards the raw and underproduced, razor-sharp guitar
lines, and a tendency to the bleak and darkly melodic. Black metal itself has
evolved from the original groups such as Darkthrone, Burzum, Graveland and
Immortal to incorporate outside styles (often deemed heretical to purists).
Many black metal or post-black metal groups have in common with progressive rock
a tendency to the epic, and crossovers between styles are common such as
latter-day Emperor, Borknagar, Sigh, and Enslaved.
An evolution of thrash metal that incorporated what is often called gruff or
"cookie monster" vocals and a tendency to anti-Christian/religious lyrical imagery.
Innovators in the genre include Morbid Angel, Deicide, Suffocation, Entombed and
Cryptopsy, and the style tends to the unrelentingly heavy, often with rhythmically
and harmonically complex song structures.
A style related to death metal due to the frequent similarity between vocal styles,
doom metal is usually very slow, heavy, dark music whose structures often tend to
long, epic lengths. Doom itself varies from Black Sabbath-influenced pioneer
Candlemass to the early British groups such as Anathema and My Dying Bride to
heavily experimental and atmospheric groups like Disembowelment and Esoteric to
strains with more classical touches such as Shape of Despair and Skepticism.
Gothic metal generally comes in various strains, but the music tends to the romantic
and symphonic, often with a lead female vocalist or a combination of melodic female
vocals and male death vocals. Some examples of this style include The Gathering,
Tristania, Theatre of Tragedy, Lacuna Coil and 3rd and the Mortal
Grindcore was a combination of the metal sound and punk energy that tended towards
short songs, dissonance and controversial lyrics. Progenitors Carcass, SOB,
Repulsion, Terrorizer and Napalm Death were to influence a host of groups whose
attraction to the extreme would end up incorporating wild experimentation to give
way to the likes of Brutal Truth, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Cephalic Carnage,
Discordance Axis, and Melt Banana.
- Industrial Metal
Industrial metal is similar to and influenced by industrial rock, mixing heavy
riffing with electronic sounds for an often violent and texture-oriented style.
Some examples are Godflesh, Ministry, Pitchshifter, Rammstein and Red Harvest.
- New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM)
As above, this "genre" was largely the precursor to all 90s metal styles and
beyond as bearing the influences forward from Black Sabbath and Judas Priest.
Most NWOBHM groups such as Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Diamond Head took 70s hard
rock and heavy metal and mixed it with the melodic guitar leads of progressive
rock and the energy of punk.
Helloween is largely considered the founder of power metal, a melodic/accessible
form of heavy metal that owes its influences to some of the NWOBHM groups. There
are many crossovers between power metal and prog metal, largely due to the melodicism,
epic song lengths and concepts. Some examples include
Blind Guardian ,
Rage and Gamma Ray.
The pioneers of the genre prog-metal were mentioned above - Queensryche, Dream Theater
and Fates Warning. The genre has grown to include dozens of groups taking much of their
influence from these three including Vanden Plas, Symphony X, Pain of Salvation,
Evergrey, Threshold, and Angra. Even groups from other metal genres cross over into
this area, most notably Opeth who have incorporated progressive rock stylings into
a death metal hybrid, Mekong Delta who have fused classical stylings with thrash
metal, and Enslaved who meld their epic black metal with psychedelia and 70s
Technical metal applies less to a particular style than a particular intricacy and
it crosses with just about every metal genre. The diverse nature of bands like
and Spiral Architect
attest to a large differentiation of bands whose similarity lies in complexity.
Thrash metal tends to be an extremely heavy, fast, unrelenting metal genre close
in some ways to punk music. However, since the early days of Metallica, there have
been a number of experimental and unusual thrash-based groups of which Voivod,
Coroner, Anacrusis, and Forced Entry are but a few.
Written by Mike McLatchey
I'd like to give thanks to a number of people without whose contribution this
genre guide would be even more incomplete than it is. Special thanks to the points
of contact on the project - Fred Trafton (GEPR) and Dirk Evans (Gnosis). The patience
and support of both individuals made such a difficult task ineffably easier.
I also can't thank enough the following people who reviewed various draft versions
of this document and supplied immeasurable help in critiquing: Mike Borella, Jason
Ellerbee, Steve Feigenbaum, Ken Golden, Tom Hayes, Øystein Holm-Olsen, Sjef
Öllers, Zach Shea, David Tohir, and Fred Trafton. And to all the people who
provided important bits and pieces and contributed their insight, support, and
intelligence, I also thank thee profusely: Mac Beaulieu, Joe Fischer, Rob La Duca,
Legion (Post-Rock), Aymeric Leroy (Canterbury), Eric Lumbleau, Alan Mallery,
Jeff Melton, Mike Prete and Peter Thelen.
HTML Transcription: Fred Trafton
Updated 3/23/06 (link squares in Technical Metal)
Updated 9/29/06 (link squares in '70's Italian Sympho and Krautrock)