Genres and Sub-Genres (Dancing about Architecture part 2)

Man: “So, what type of music do you play?”

Me: “Er… It’s heavy, but not Metal; it’s Prog, but very far from Yes; sometimes it’s Ambient, but dark, not like Eno.”

The guy stifles a yawn. You too, probably.

Me: “It’s a bit like King Crimson, but not the Crim most people know, more like the Power to Believeversion of the band, you know, but very different…”

Of course, you have to shout the end of your answer because the guy is already very far away.


Let’s try some other way. Genres.

That’s a tool often used to say you’re as cool as band Y and mostly, not as lame as band X. Neat! But to be able to do that, you have to be able to define yourself properly. Not easy as it sounds.

In the same way we choose an album cover (remember previous blog post?), a genre should be a short and convenient way to describe the music we make. Right now, the music business is so fragmented it seems each band has its own genre. One can use the example of those Mandelbrot set fractal images to illustrate. One can zoom in indefinitely and discover new sub genre to a sub genre. One has to read this Wikipedia entry about Heavy Metal Subgenres to appreciate infinitesimal differences …and its humorous variations. I mean Crust Punk?!? GoreGrind?!?

So, where do we stand? “What type of music do you play?”

Okay, we’re probably Prog, why not? We have Trey GunnTony LevinPat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter on these recordings! These guys define the genre. We all agree that “Progressive Music” is a bit daft as far as genre names go, but its shortened version, “Prog”, may be a neat way to avoid ridicule. But if you only use Prog, people might think you sing about Bilbo the Hobbit in an alto voice which is far from what we do. I guess a sub genre is needed.

We’re no scholar on Prog sub genres, so we did what most people do in times of crisis: we used Google. And once we looked around, it became clear …that it all was a confused mess! The most intriguing name we found in there was New-Prog or Post-Prog.  Ok, the description sounds forward thinking and brings back the idea of “progression”. That should be right for us until you find out what those bands sound verrry different from Specimen13. To top it off, there’s a risk of being passé in a week and how do you call the next sub genre twenty years from now? Post-Post-Prog? And how will people make the difference between New-Prog and Neo-Prog? Isn’t Neo-Prog already passé?

I also love Avant-Garde for its exploratory aspect, but it’s often shortened to “Avant” and it just doesn’t sound right to french ears. “Avant” in Avant-Garde  means “in front of”, but it can also means”before”.  It probably wouldn’t sound right when added to Prog and even worse in front of New-Prog. What? Avant-New-prog? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Next, we checked No New-Prog or Post-Prog in there. Oh well…

Looking deeper,  Prog-Archives has Heavy -Prog  and it features Porcupine Tree, Rush, Anekdoten and the Mars Volta. Cool bands, but no, that’s not it.

Then, there’s Cossover-Prog. It includes Peter Gabriel 3 (Melt), Peter Gabriel’s the Passion, and …Mart’s old band Talisma under the section “overlooked and obscure gems album”. Their description: “The defining characteristics of Crossover Prog are a pop music influence that is largely vacant in typical prog rock.” That’s not it either.

Then they include King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator under the Eclectic-Prog umbrella. And  I’ve also seen Stick Men (Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto & Markus Reuter) under that banner somewhere else. Cool, some of my favourites, but Eclectic is kind of a mixed bag of indescribable stuff.

Not the best way to describe us (or anyone else), but at least, Eclectic-Prog is not as stupid and nondescript as “Alternative” (Groan)

So, back to our poor fellow who asked the fatal question: “So, what type of music do you play?”

Me: (proudly) “It’s Eclectic-Prog!”

Man: “Say what?!?”

Me: “Well, you know, it’s a bit like King Crimson, but not the Crim most people know, more like…”