Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cell 15 "Chapter One"

Hello once again fellow progheads and welcome to the final new music review for 2017! What a year it has been; the Concert Closet has logged countless miles, traveled to numerous countries, and crossed most of the continents in the search for all things prog.  The payoff has been more than worth it; so many bands, so much new music, and the privilege of speaking with so many great artists about their craft.  My intention is to wrap up the year on a high note, so The Closet Concert Arena is off to the holiday metropolis known as Pennsylvania to check out Cell 15...



Cell 15 identifies themselves simply as a prog rock band.  Admittedly that didn't grab me on the first drive by,  so I decided to take a second look behind the curtain and turn the volume up a bit...here is what I found.  The band's debut release is a concept album called "Chapter One."  The LP follows one man's journey through twenty years...if the name of the band is indicative of anything, it does not end well...

The title cut starts the carousel with a frenzy; the keyboards and drums seem to be leading a street chase and you feel yourself being pulled along like a rag doll in a pit bull's mouth.  There is no down time as guitars burst onto the scene; the manhunt is underway.  There are top notes of Liquid Tension Experiment in terms of fever pitch and hysteria, and I sense aromatics of Camel simmering just below the surface.  The week is shaping up to be a white knuckle ride...

The next serving on the buffet line is "Man With a Gun."  The adrenaline rush in this tune takes a much different route through your bloodstream; the inevitable tension usually attached to the climax of a horror movie.  I sense an Alan Parsons Project vibe permeating from this piece...think I, Robot with more cynicism.  The keyboards lead into vocals that at first seem strange and off trajectory, yet as the song progresses they are essential to the lifeblood of the music.  Cell 15 knows many ways to tell a story...



Liner Notes...Cell 15 is the brainchild of Robert Scott Richardson.  In 2011, with the concept of "twenty years in the life" embedded in his brain, Robert set out to turn his idea into reality; in 2014 "Chapter One" was released.  In addition to Robert writing the songs, playing keyboards and performing the vocals, the band is comprised of Shane Jones on lead guitar, Dan MacDonald on bass and vocals, and Kevin Thomas on drums and vocals.

Hailing from Mechanicsburg, PA, Cell 15 has released "Chapter One" independently although the band is affiliated with After 7 Records.  The album is the culmination of a life determined and dreams fulfilled.  Despite playing keyboards for several bands and performing alongside artists such as Derek St. Holmes and John Cafferty, Robert felt pulled toward the progressive side of the music spectrum.  Cell 15 was the outlet he needed to scratch that itch and the rest, as they say, is history...prog music history...

The last serving from this conceptual buffet is the song that closes the album out; "The Messenger." An upbeat lead-in to wrap up a glimpse into the life that was...and is about to be.  Cell 15 threw more color and mood at the canvas than Peter Marx on a coke high.  This piece is the culmination of a life not quite spent but rather beginning once more.  With top notes of Camel and Kansas wafting through the Concert Closet the mood runs on the high side while venturing toward the chaotic and frenzied...but just this side of the lunatic fringe.  Cell 15 brings everything full circle as the song reflects on a twenty year existence that was neither planned, dreamed, or imagined--but lived to the fullest.



Find out more about Cell 15 and purchase your copy of "Chapter One" at Cell 15.  The album is avaiable at cdbaby Cell15cdbaby as well.  Of course you can always follow or just check-in with
Cell 15 on Facebook at Cell15FB and Twitter @cell15band.  Cell 15 also has a YouTube Channel Cell15YouTube for those who prefer to never venture outdoors...😏

My choice for your listening pleasure this week is "Manny's Gone Home."  Smack dab in the middle of the album, this song is the turning point.  The mood is somber and almost seems lethargic if not despondent...you can feel the loss of self and (most) hope dripping from the lyrics like molasses from a spoon.  Cell 15 pulls you under with this song; and just when you think all is lost you start to get a sense of grit and determination pushing through clenched teeth...all is not lost even if I am the only one who believes in me...this is a tall glass of something that burns...


                     

And with that fellow progheads, the final curtain falls on 2017.  Cell 15 seems like a great way to close the prog garden for the season; a long journey ultimately bringing you home.  The search for all things prog has been nothing short of a perpetual joyride for me and I thank you for sitting shotgun across the prog garden on this splendid excursion.

2018 promises to be another bumper crop producing year...I have already been "inundated" with requests for reviews and interviews, and I hope to inject something different once again when the new year raises her head.  For now I simply thank you for reading, listening, learning, and enjoying.  The Closet Concert Arena will dim the lights as the holiday celebrations continue into the new year.  Of course I will present my final holiday post next week and from there join in on the revelry and hoopla that will take us all into 2018--safely I hope...until next time...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Edison's Children

Warm holiday greetings fellow progheads!  I know I've been saying it repeatedly, but the end of 2017 is creeping dangerously close to a foregone conclusion.  So before the hourglass runs dry, the Concert Closet takes the search for all things prog back to the UK for one last listen.  This week I check in with a band I have been enjoying as they fly low under the radar; Edison's Children.



Edison's Children is like the quiet kid in math class who dresses well and aces all the tests...good pedigree; just admirably humble.  Referring to themselves as "...Sci-Fi Prog with a Pink Floyd edge..." has definitely tweaked my listeners.  Time to sit under a set of headphones and dim the lights...

Starting the walk across the prog garden with "Stranger in a Foreign Land" I find myself stepping through acreage rich with an uptempo beat.  The bass flows seamlessly with the drums, carrying the vocals across the top like caramelized sugar on a creme brulee...once the shell is cracked, it all becomes the best part.  There are top notes of Crack The Sky and perhaps a touch of Nad Sylvan as well.  Edison's Children smacks the canvas with a wide array of colors...pale blue to bright red to scorching orange to sullen gray...as they blend together you get the impression this ride is quite the mood elevator...

Digging deeper into the band's resume, I come across "Light Years."  The dust on the stylus sound that opens the song is actually quite impressive; I feel like I am listening to George Harrison jam with that impressive all star band he used to call his friends...the dark clouds overhead are tempered with a gentleness and serenity that allow you to relinquish control, knowing you are safe so long as the music is playing.  Edison's Children emit a fragrance reflective of The Strawbs on this cut; soothing, mesmerizing, and a bit haunting...complete with candles burning brightly in the background...


Liner Notes...Edison's Children is the determined collaboration between Pete Trewavas and Eric Blackwood.  The band splits home turf between Sugar Loaf NY, and Aylesbury, England--since these are Eric and Pete's respective hometowns.  You may recognize these two as card carrying members of the prog garden who gained entrance prior to joining forces.  Undoubtedly you know Pete Trewavas from Marillion and Transatlantic; Eric Blackwood was  a member of Crimson Steele, Blackwood, and Sunblister.  For a time Eric left the music world to work in the "movie biz" (east coast version) and explore his passion for photography.  Fortunately for us mere mortals, he ultimately joined forces with Pete, breathing life into Edison's Children for our enjoyment here in the prog garden.

Pete and Eric are accompanied by many special guests, all of whom are well known in their own right.  They include Ian Mosley, Mark Kelly, Steve Rothery, and Steve "h" Hogarth--all Marillion alums.  Also appearing are Robin Boult, Henry Rogers, Chris Mack, Andy Ditchfield, and Rick Armstrong...you know, son of the "first man on the moon" Neil Armstrong.  Besides crowding a well-built stage, it almost appears to be Marillion 2.0, but that would be an injustice--and an
inaccuracy--all around.

Rather, Edison's Children is an extension of two artists who needed an outlet for the other stuff floating in their head and auspiciously they found it.You can learn much more about Edison's Children at Edison's Children and their Facebook page Edisons Children FB.  Their music can be purchased directly from their website and/or on Amazon.  With three albums on their resume you will definitely find something to satisfy your auditory canals.  Don't forget to follow Edison's Children on Twitter @edisonschildren



My third selection for review is feasibly a bit more on the ominous side; "Final Breath."  The piano/percussion opening sends a chill up your spine; the notes strike like hammer blows...deliberately and haltingly.  When the song reaches its climax you are pelted with hailstones seemingly from nowhere.  While there is a strong Marillion feel to this piece, it is tempered with top notes of early Pink Floyd and a dash of Gentle Giant.  Edison's Children changes the aura in the room with the finesse of a fine sherry; so subtle you cruise right through.

Have a listen to "Spiraling" from the band's 2011 release "In the Last Waking Moments."  Edison's Children opens the door just enough to let their inner Spock's Beard out.  The acoustic guitar carries the vocals like driftwood gently to shore while the keyboards build a gentle cocoon around the entire piece holding it all together.  Might as well dim the lights and relax...


And with that another seven days fades from the 2017 calendar.  Edison's Children may have come about through equal parts chance, happenstance, and determination, but that does not make the band a lesser part of the prog whole.  Artists finding an avenue of escape for work that doesn't fit the constraints of their existing band are part of what makes the prog garden the beautiful labyrinth that it is.  Every once in a while the search for all things stumbles across a gem hiding in plain sight, and Edison's Children is one such pearl in the oyster bed.

Now the journey moves on, winding down its 2017 run while gearing up for what lies in wait behind the curtain that is 2018...until next time...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Notice Grace

Hello once again fellow progheads and welcome back to the warm and spacious Concert Closet!  As 2017 continues her spiral into the ever after, I thought it a great time to leave the cold tundra behind and spend a mild seven days down south.  Escaping the snow flurries, frost, and biting wind,  I made my way to Georgia for the chance to listen in with Notice Grace.


Notice Grace walks a bit of a different path through the prog garden; self-described as "...progressive rock that blends the heavy with the melodic..."  The holiday season is upon us which usually leads to music and sounds that are joyous and thankful, happy and upbeat...but when did I ever take The Closet Concert Arena down the obvious path?  Let's walk this tangent trail and see what happens when heavy blends with melodic...

Opening the review is a tune that throws dark colors at the canvas with a gentle glove covered fist, "City on a String."  The piano opening peels back the curtain on a rainstorm; the song tumbles down around you with a mild mannered thump as guitars bleed through the drums luring you toward a small light in the center of your vision.  There are top notes of Kansas and Transatlantic floating through this piece.  Picture a concert thrown askew while the band plays everything except  their
hits--much to the crowd's approval.  Normalcy is tossed aside just long enough for Notice Grace to alter your perception of preferred music...


To keep the melodic carousel revolving I run down a song with a bit more kick, "Protect This Sacred State."  A quick percussion-led intro takes the listener down a rabbit hole that echoes with a
metal-tinged cacophony of sound, much like Psicolorama and Violent Attitude If Noticed.  Notice Grace even gives off a Gungfly vibe here; perhaps a bit of the Moody Blues from their Seventh Sojourn album?  The metal overtones are actually subdued a bit as the piece comes together more like that hard-edged rock song your parents hated simply for the guitar riffs.

Liner Notes...Notice Grace hails from Snellville, Georgia and consists of Zachery Kinsaul and Gib Heuett on guitars and vocals, Dennis Svela on bass guitar, keyboards, and vocals, Mark Pruitt on keyboards, and Howard Williams on drums.  The band has one EP on their resume, "Movements" which came out in 2014.  This was followed up with two single releases; "Abandonment" and "City on a String"  both hitting the airwaves in 2015.

Notice Grace occupies acreage in an area of the prog garden set aside for bands with roots more in line with The Aaron Clift Experiment and Seven Second Circle.  As advertised; moments of pure rock are tempered with the softer melodic side...much like 10cc jamming with Jethro Tull.

The final offering for review this week is the title cut from the "Movements" album.  More "theatrical" than previous songs from the disc, this one lays a foundation with percussion and bass that allows the guitars to slice through at just the right moments.  There is a haunting vocal wending its way throughout  that takes the listener on a journey through an albeit short-lived dark cloud, much like driving with your headlights off--just for a moment--down the interstate.  There is a controlled adrenaline rush; you govern your own destiny with the flick of a switch.  Learn more about Notice Grace at their website Notice Grace. You can purchase their music at this site or on iTunes, CD Baby, and Amazon.  Follow the band on Facebook at NoticeGrace FB and keep up with the latest on Twitter
@noticegraceband .

My selection for your listening pleasure this week is the June 2015 release "Abandonment."  This song immediately picks up as if you were six songs into a live set; no need for warming up.  Notice Grace builds layers of music without coming off as ornate or ostentatious.  I find myself waiting for what I call the "Blue Oyster Cult" moment; when the smoke from the dry ice machine gives way to that ear-piercing guitar blowout.  Although it never materializes, Notice Grace doesn't necessarily disappoint; they simply find other ways to grab your attention.

As you watch the video you realize Notice Grace is grounded enough to not take themselves too seriously; this is the prog garden after all.  Music--even that which lies on the darker side of the spectrum--doesn't need to furrow your brow constantly.  It is actually a bit refreshing to find a band that can paint with dark colors and still crack a smile...


Once again fellow progheads I find myself at the end of a week wondering where the time went and realizing there are only so many grains of sand left in the 2017 hourglass.  Notice Grace takes their rock 'n' roll pedigree and hits it with hues from the progressive rock pallet...another corner of the prog garden cultivated.  Listening to Notice Grace unfold all around me I realize their music is more suited to an artisanal beer than a single malt; nothing wrong with that...

So the search for all things prog enters the home stretch for 2017..and of course there is always uncultivated acreage in the prog garden waiting for the tiller to unearth another gem and expose it to the light.  So the journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Kaprekar's Constant, "Fate Outsmarts Desire"

Greetings from the tail end of 2017 fellow progheads!  It won't be long before this year fades into our memories...and what a year it has been.  Deciding on some last minute travel, this week I took the Concert Closet to England to listen in with an incredible band that is a newcomer to the prog garden; Kaprekar's Constant.

  

Describing their sound as "Pastoral English music with a tale to tell..."  Kaprekar's Constant  has pulled hard enough on my earlobes that I just gotta take a walk through the delicate back corners of the prog garden and immerse myself in what promises to be a most satisfying and entertaining seven days...

Old habits die hard as once again I open the review with the first track on the album,
"Hors d'Oeuvre."  A splendid piece of music that sets the bar high for the remaining cuts on the LP...of course the opening is a bit of a teaser as random words are spoken/sung a cappella in what feels like a wave of anxiety.  Just as randomly the channel changes and a floodgate of emotions pours forth.  Saxophone as slick as bourbon poured over ice flows freely through this tune while vocals are intertwined with a plethora of passion...the canvas is splashed with colors the spectrum hasn't even recognized yet.

The music spills into the next cut, "Bluebird," as Kaprekar's Constant continues their free fall through your mind... top notes of It's A Beautiful Day and Van der Graaf Generator flow through the headphones, with aromatics of latter day Roxy Music melting like caramel into a flaming bananas foster; simple, elegant, and oh so delectably rich...


Liner Notes...Kaprekar's Constant is what happens when childhood friends stick together and wander into the prog garden.  The creators of the band and lifelong friends of whom I speak; Al Nicholson on acousitc, classical, and electric guitars, mandolin, and keyboards, and Nick Jefferson on bass, fretless bass, electric guitar, and keyboards, are joined on the record by Bill Jefferson on vocals, Dorie Jackson on vocals and backing vocals, Mike Westergaard on piano, keyboards, and backing vocals, David Jackson on saxophone, flute, whistles, and G# bell, and Phil Gould on drums, percussion, and 'dube.'  Paul Gunn is the person behind the spoken voice...yeah; about that "spoken voice..."

Paul "narrates" the songs with a tone that is at times soothing, startling, mesmerizing, and authoritative.  His voice can coat the song like the hard outer shell of a candy apple or wrap itself around with the finesse of chocolate ganache...

Alhough Kaprekar's Constant is new to the prog garden, the members are not.  Certainly my fellow progheads recall David Jackson from Van der Graaf Generator, Phil Gould from Level 42, and Dorie Jackson from her work with Francis Dunnery; prog veterans all, and one key to Kaprekar's Constant sounding like a stalwart on their debut release.

Go behind the curtain to learn more about Kaprekar's Constant  at Kaprekar's Constant.  "Fate Outsmarts Desire" was released on Uranium Club Records; you can purchase the album at their website Uranium Club or the group's Bandcamp website Kaprekar's Constant Bandcamp.  As is the standard these days, there is a Facebook page Kaprekar's Constant FB and Twitter @kaprekars to keep up on tour dates, music news, and other social events. 


My final selection for review from this delectable buffet is "Houdini (King of Cards)."  A mysterious opening befitting the subject and title, Kaprekar's Constant brings the Victorian abundance of Big Big Train to this cut.  David's flute is Ian Anderson-esque as Dorie's vocals meld with guitars and percussion to transcend even the highest expectations.  This song moves through so many time changes and moods yet remains as calm and in charge as a traffic cop in Times Square on New Year's Eve...

My choice for your listening pleasure is "Pearl of the Lake."  Kaprekar's Constant  fills your head with ornate sound despite the semi-dark overtones...I am taken back to early Moody Blues and perhaps a touch of the Italian prog band Pandora.  The music flows through the headphones smoothly and effortlessly; like a scimitar slicing through a wheel of brie.  A song to listen to whilst relaxed by the fire...oh yeah....


Once again a week spent strolling peacefully through the prog garden comes to an end.  Kaprekar's Constant was a delight; their music soothing and refreshing like a summer sun shower.  Realizing this is their debut album was as surprising as it was reassuring; the prog garden is definitely in good hands.

The search for all things prog enters the final turn as the race through 2017 begins to wind down...so much left to discover and so little time.  Of course, the journey will continue into 2018 (knock on vinyl) as the prog garden promises yet another bumper crop.  No need to rush things; enjoy the moment with Kaprekar's Constant...until next time...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Gaillion "Renewal and Release"

Cool, crisp, "blowing-on-my-hands-to-warm-them" greetings fellow progheads!  Autumn (remember her?) seems to be making a hasty getaway as the mercury falls deep into the well of the thermometer.  As we here in the good ol' USA start to plan the holiday festivities that will wrap up 2017, I thought it might be appropriate to stay on domestic soil and keep the search for all things prog focused on the local scene...

I took the Concert Closet on a coast-to-coast journey this week...perhaps the best time to search the prog garden for hearty bounty; something that can stand up to--and raise the heat on--the cold weather creeping in.  A visit with Gaillion was just the remedy and all the warmth I needed for these past 168 hours.  The band's latest album, "Renewal and Release" made its debut in October.  Gaillion recorded one new song while remixing and remastering four previous single releases and putting them together on one EP.  The result is some very polished music and a most outstanding waltz through the prog garden.  But enough talk; headphones on...


Moving away from my usual way of doing things, I open the buffet with the final slice from this gem, "The Focal Point."  This is the new single Gaillion put on the album and it is brilliant.  The song opens as though the sound is coming through a poorly tuned AM radio--deliberately and just for a few seconds.  Gaillion then picks up the tempo and hits you with strong guitar and drum work.  There are top notes of Dreadnaught mixing with The Aaron Clift Experiment wafting through the headphones.  The vocals lay on top, riding on a heavy foundation and cutting through with the finesse of a jackknife slicing through rope...as Goldilocks would say, just right...

Scanning the balance of the buffet laid out before me, I sample a remix of "Letters From the Skipper."  This time around the drums seem cleaner, much more succinct as they draw the piece together.  Todd's vocals are once again the unpolished diamond this music needs to bring out the oomph...wrapping this music in silk would be akin to applying the proverbial lipstick to a pig; a mismatch that improves nothing.  Gaillion heats the branding iron and then applies it in doses just long enough to leave a mark but not a scar...soothing and penetrating.


Liner Notes...Gaillion the band is as much a testament to perseverance and determination as is this newest EP.  The band consists of Todd Howard on vocals, bass, and keyboards, James Vasquenza Jr. on guitar, and Don Gunn on drums and percussion.  Three bandmates, three hometowns; Seattle, NYC, and Ventura CA.  I detailed the specifics in a previous blog (June 2015), but suffice to say this trio has spent a lifetime building this band.

Having gone to school together in CT, they released their first full length album "Admit One" in 1989.  Traveling in separate circles but always keeping in touch, Gaillion reunited in a technological sort of way and has been releasing singles since 2015...hence their latest project.  "Renewal and Release" brings all their work from the past two years together, allowing you to purchase it as one EP.  The name alludes to their thought process, in a prog sort of way...

One last listen and I want to make it count...so of course I laser up "Lorelei."  The opening mood is almost sinister, as though someone is about to come up from behind and cut you off at the knees.  Quickly the tempo picks up as one more time smooth drum work leads the sound parade right down into your auditory canals.  James' guitar work is stellar as this remixed version has smoothed out the rough edges and left the listener with a clean firm sound.

Learn more about the journey Gaillion has taken at their website Gaillion.  The new album can be purchased at Gaillion iTunes and Gaillion Bandcamp.  For those so inclined, Gaillion can be found on social media at Gaillion FacebookGaillion Instagram, and Twitter @gaillionband.  You will find their full music library so take your time and walk slowly through the aisles...you wouldn't want to miss anything...

I chose "Backslide" for the clip-of-the-week to give you musical insight and a glimpse inside the remix/remaster work Gaillion has done.  Three people working in two time zones provides its own challenges, but Gaillion makes it seem elementary.  The bass on this song leads the guitar and drums through a labyrinth that spins you 'round and just before you lose your sense of direction, lands you firmly on your feet...well done...

                  

And as per usual, our time here in the prog garden this week has flown by much too quickly.  Gaillion is a bright spot in a multi-layered arena as they hit hard and fast but never seem to lose sight of their desire to enjoy themselves.  The band moves through the prog garden deftly, focusing on the acreage where the sound is full and the colors thrive.  Gaillion attempts to fill each five minutes of music with ten minutes of sound...every song bursting with energy.

And even more as per usual, the search for all things prog continues on.  The end of 2017 is beginning to appear on the horizon and before you know it will be in the rear view mirror.  So The Closet Concert Arena marches onward in the never ending attempt to bring as much new and as-yet-undiscovered prog music to light...until next time...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Vuur, "In This Moment We Are Free - Cities"

Hello and welcome to the middle of fall fellow progheads!  Now that the US has caught up with the rest of the planet and set her clocks back one hour, the race to bring down the curtain on 2017 has officially begun...which puts the search for all things prog into overdrive...

Vuur is a band that while new to the prog garden, has members with rich prog soil running through their veins.  Anneke van Giersbergen is name not unfamiliar to many a proghead, having been vocalist for The Gathering and performing with Devin Townsend among others.  Vuur recently released their debut album "In This Moment We Are Free - Cities" on the InsideOut label.  Here Anneke sets out to cut her metal chops as it were, so let us queue up this latest and listen in...



The album opens with the cut "My Champion - Berlin."  There is an immediate keyboard/guitar energy burst that rattles around inside your head like pinballs pushing the machine into "tilt."  Anneke's vocals come through almost too smooth to partner with the mayhem that surrounds...much like an aria accompanying Dream Theater.  The canvas is pelted with paint balloons of every hue--mostly the bright ones that eliminate shadows. Vuur emerges from the smoke and fire with a mad rush; should be an interesting show...

My second helping from the buffet is "Sail Away - Santiago." The adrenaline rush is still on as Vuur continues to thrust themselves at you with all the gusto of a typhoon...I pick up top notes of Curved Air and After Forever crashing through my headphones.  The guitars strike fast and hit hard but do leave time for breathing (albeit intermittently) as the song carries on.  Meanwhile the drums keep up a frenetic pace that leaves you gasping but still standing as the music winds down.

Liner Notes...hailing from the Netherlands, Vuur, or "Fire" in Dutch, has the appropriately coiffed, red haired Anneke van Giersbergen on lead vocals.  Rounding out the band is Jord Otto and Ferry Duijsens on guitars, Johan van Stratum on bass, and Ed Warby on drums.  This may be Vuur's debut album, but their roots run deep in the prog garden.  Anneke has not only released solo projects, she has performed with Ayreon, Gentle Storm, and Danny Cavanaugh.  Coupled with my earlier mention of her work with The Gathering and The Devin Townsend Project, you realize Anneke knows her way around a sound studio.  The other members of the band have fairly extensive resumes as well so rookies they ain't...

My third selection is a more somber slice; the final cut "Reunite! - Paris."  A soft opening belies the adrenaline rush brought on by earlier servings.  The mood elevator does climb a bit as the song progresses.  Jord and Ferry manage to work up a lather--just not quite as frenzied as they had been previously, allowing Anneke's vocals to become the focal point.  Fear not my prog metal friends; Vuur seems unable or unwilling to slip a ballad into the mix.  The sound still tests your headphones, Vuur is just trolling another section of the prog garden before the stylus rests in its holster...


You can purchase "In This Moment We Are Free - Cities" at Vuur's website Vuur and
InsideOut Music where you will also find the rest of the InsideOut stable of prog artists.  Vuur boasts a Facebook page Vuur Facebook and Twitter account @vuur_band if you are so inclined.  As is seemingly the thing to do at the moment, Vuur also has a YouTube channel Vuur YouTube so you can keep up with new video releases and look behind-the-scenes at the making of "In This Moment We Are Free - Cities."

I chose "Your Glorious Light Will Shine - Helsinki" for your listening pleasure this week.  A song from the darker side of the garden, the headphones fill your auditory canals with a cacophony of sound from  the onset, and once again Anneke's vocals rest solidly on the shoulders of stellar guitar and drumming.  This song doesn't peel the curtain back; it tears it from the overhead rigging system to reveal a stage beset with a band more than happy to fill the arena with boisterous commotion.  Go ahead and turn the volume up...

                   

And as the sand drips slowly through the hourglass, so too another week in The Closet Concert Arena has slipped past like a ship in the night.  Vuur added a bit of Red Bull to the punch bowl this week...just enough to arouse your senses and awaken the nocturnal throng roaming the prog garden.

Prog has many facets, moods, and styles.  I believe it was best stated as "...a lifestyle--not a genre."  Progressive rock really is so much more because it has so much more; sights as well as sounds and  darkness as well as light.  For those who prefer not to stray far from the edge, contemplative as well as penetrating music.  Prog comes in many shapes and sizes and one need not prefer them all...like a connoisseur of the finer things in life, prog too can be subjective.  Vuur calls the progressive section of the garden home and yet they reach across the acreage to draw from many subsections as well.  Enjoy the amalgam; it's what makes prog so desirable...

Off now to continue the journey...tapping another vein as the search for all things prog winds through the remains of 2017...until next time...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate; "Broken But Still Standing"

Prog rock greetings from "across the pond" fellow progheads!  Two weeks in Italy was fascinating and mesmerizing, but as always the search for all things prog continues on.  This week I take the Closet Concert Arena over to the UK for a visit with Malcolm Galloway and his band, Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate.  It seems Malcolm & Company have put together a new album titled "Broken But Still Standing," a concept LP dealing with evolution.



Knowing Malcolm like I think I do, this album is sure to be an adventure. Since discovering Hats Off Gentlemen almost two years ago, I have found each new release to be distinctive and exceptional in its own right.  His music runs the gamut of the prog garden and dabbles in the ambient as well...truly an artist with a vision...and to the headphones I go...

With Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate, the best option is to enter the music realm with absolutely no pre-conceived notions about what to expect...so with a clean slate behind my forehead, I hit the "play" button.  As "Vent" fills the headphones I am immediately transported to another place in time...the mood is somber as a flute smooth as a sunset reflecting lake cuts through you gently. Vocals pick up the ambiance; darkness seems to set in quickly as the rest of the band circles around you.

Top notes of Gentle Giant and Traffic fill the room while the music takes you down a rabbit hole straight into "Almost Familiar."  Malcolm tends to fill the canvas with grays and assorted dark hues and that is true here.  There is something about his vocals though; their edginess slices through the gentle layer of guitar like an X-Acto knife cutting through cardboard...smooth, but just a tad rough around the edges.  This is not a knock--it's the rough edges that give the song credibility.


The ambient section of the prog garden is well represented, so moving down the playlist a bit I find a tune with a little more oomph if you will; "Let Me Out."  Continuing to use the darker crayons in the box, Hats Off Gentlemen creates an image filled with tension and a burning desire to rush forth...I kept waiting for something to grab my ears through the headphones.  The flute on this piece is nothing short of splendid; you can almost feel the flames roaring at your back.  Suddenly a bootlegger's turn into "Under the Skin" leaves you floating above the chaos and mayhem much like  Syd Barrett might be while staring down at Pink Floyd on stage today; a bit ethereal I imagine...

Liner Notes...Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and song writer Malcom Galloway, who may or may not be joined on stage by flautist Kathryn Thomas, guitarist Ibon Bilbao, bass player Mark Gatland, and Rudy Roo sitting behind the drum kit.  I say may be joined because Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate is an overly informal project...and that is part of the draw for me.

Malcolm puts words together to create marvelous lyrics and the accompanying music is refreshing and unleashed...there are no hard boundaries; the parameters seem almost fluid.  Combine that with Malcolm's generosity of spirit--the band plays more charity gigs than some bands play gigs period--and you get the sense that Hats Off Gentlemen is more like a band's band...playing for the adrenaline rush that performing generates.

If you are still on the fence about Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate, do yourself a favor and explore deeper at the band's website Hats Off Gentlemen.  You can access and purchase "Broken But Still Standing" as well as the band's other releases.  You will also discover their music at
Hats Off Gentlemen cdbaby and find out more about the band at Hats Off Gentlemen Facebook and Twitter @itsadequate.

Closing out the review with the final cut from the album, "Close My Eyes."  While staying true to the darker side of the garden, this song does breach daylight a tad.  Drums and keyboards burn through the clouds as the song opens and the vocals share a somewhat poignant moment...a bit unusual for Malcolm perhaps, proving once again the prog garden is filled with surprises.



This week I offer you a glimpse into the making of the album as well as the mind of the artist.  The  clip below involves music from five of the first six cuts on the album; there are seventeen in total.  As with  a band such as Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate, the visuals in the video are as meaningful as the audio they interpret.  Let this entire clip wash over you like a warm shower after running a marathon...so welcome, relaxing, and invigorating...

The album opens on the ambient side of the garden, leaning toward aromatics of Eno and Pink Floyd.  As you listen you notice your pulse slowing down and everything around you becoming less significant, as if you are but a spectator viewing the world from stage left--much like Ebeneezer Scrooge as he floated through his own life with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.  Simply sit in your treasured comfy chair with a favorite beverage and relax...


So as we move further through the calendar watching October fade in the rear view mirror, it is but a matter of time when a blanket of snow covers the prog garden.  However, until that moment
arrives--and even after--the search for all things prog has miles to go before 2017 plays her swan song.

Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate is an ideal example of what prog is; music that does not follow a traditional pattern or path but rather evolves.  Hats Off Gentlemen manages to evolve both with every new album and every time you listen to the same album...there is so much there you can't take it all in on the first go-round.  So as the search for all things prog continues on, The Closet Concert Arena picks up the torch...until next time...

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Premiata Forneria Marconi "Emotional Tattoos"

Ciao, fellow progheads!  A wild October it has been, and the fun is never ending here in the Closet Concert Arena.  This week I chose to continue the search for all things prog while extending my stay in Italy enjoying the sounds of ornate, orchestral prog.

While relaxing in the land of my ancestors, I happened upon a band that has been in the prog garden for quite some time, though I must somewhat ashamedly admit I had not heard their music until recently.  Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) opened for Yes in Milan 1971 and has enjoyed worldwide acclaim since.  Thankfully InsideOut Music offered me the opportunity to review the newest release from the band, "Emotional Tattoos," an offer I jumped at because...well, because this is why I occupy the Concert Closet in the first place.




"Emotional Tattoos" has an expected release date of October 27th--this Friday for those sans calendar-- and there are multiple packages available, including the 2CD set with the second disc being the Italian version.  Personally I prefer the Italian translation so as to be able to delve deeper into the emotions and feelings of the artist.  Of course you can whet your appetite right here in the Concert Closet as I prepare the buffet table and apply the headphones in anticipation of a most intense review...please to enjoy...

I open this celebration with a cut called "We're Not an Island."  A fitting title; the song opens as though you are lounging at the seashore during low tide...cerebral, relaxing, and washing over my auditory canals like velvet earmuffs.  The keyboards open gentle enough as vocals with just enough grit to catch your attention filter through.  Top notes of Marillion and a touch of Wishbone Ash seem to carry across the room as the momentum picks up.  The guitars mesh with violin strings beautifully as the drums hold steadfast throughout.  As the song starts to fade I am reminded of an inner peace that comes when the raucousness dies down...and the candle still burns...

Moving further along the disc I discover another song that sails delicately across the inner lining of the mind, "There's a Fire In Me."  PFM fills the canvas with lighter colors--not necessarily pastels, but nothing ominous and threatening; although there is nothing to fear, you're not being coaxed to sleep either.  I sense a Transatlantic vibe in the headphones...like a hot air balloon testing the grounding tether, it pulls enough to grab your attention yet you know you're safely on terra firma...



Liner Notes...although the core of the band started playing together in the late 1960's, Premiata Forneria Marconi originated in Milan in 1970 so they're not exactly new comers to the prog garden.  Covering music from King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and even early Chicago, the band continued to grow and expand their sound.  Winning several awards on the Italian prog scene, PFM took to the worldwide stage, making their first mark on the Billboard chart in 1973.  Move through several line-up changes, being "discovered" by Greg Lake of ELP fame while touring Japan, collaborating with Peter Sinfield, and the myriad of baggage that comes with being a band, and here we are in 2017 anticipating the release of "Emotional Tattoos."

The current line-up for PFM is Franz Di Cioccio on lead vocals and drums, Alessandro Scaglione on keyboards, Hammond, and Moog, Marco Sfogli on guitars, Patrick Djivas on bass, Alberto Bravin on keyboards and backing vocals, Lucio Fabbri on violin, and Roberto Gualdi on drums.  Two drummers one of whom also sings...hmmm...where I have I seen something similar?

PFM has walked the width and breadth of the prog garden, releasing albums in the experimental and classical sections as well as keeping that one proverbial foot in the Italian prog scene.  This album takes PFM back to its roots as they travel the melodic, ornate, guitar driven, jazzy road that winds through the entire prog garden.  PFM may be a lot of things, but predictable and complacent are not two of them.

Take a journey through time and discover for yourself all that Premiata Forneria Marconi has to offer.  You can pre-order "Emotional Tattoos" as well as look deeper into the PFM catalog at
PFM World.  Follwo the band on Facebook PFM Facebook and Twitter @pfmufficiale where you will find tour and music info as well as specifcs about the band.


Tapping into one more song here, I find myself getting lost in "It's My Road."  An example of what I spoke of earlier, this one cuts deeper when played in Italian.  An upbeat tune, the keyboards take center stage along with those semi-gritty vocals.  PFM truly does travel back in time with this album as the canvas seems covered with Peter Marx art and a mellow mood that washes over like the smell of fresh linen drying on the line in a cool spring breeze.  Scents of lilac and open fields are as real as the jazz piano bouncing around inside my head... 

For your listening pleasure this week I chose the cut "Central District."  This gives you a fairly good perspective of the style PFM has burned into this disc.  The vocals come through a bit stronger as the keyboards and drums unite to surround the entire piece in rugged lace.  Violins get their say as well, complementing the guitars throughout but taking center stage just enough to command attention.  PFM has intensified their own top notes here; the new is reminiscent of the old...you can go home again...
                                      

So fellow progheads, the search for all things prog this week has unearthed a gem lurking in the prog garden for quite some time.  Premiata Forneria Marconi has been making progressive rock music for over 40 years, and despite garnering world wide attention and accolades, somehow managed to fly low under the radar.  "Emotional Tattoos" should change that trajectory and move the band to a more prominent place in the prog garden...

...and once again the time has wound down.  The search for all things prog continues on, and thanks to PFM that search has now been widened to include those bands that have been here a while yet somehow eluded the masses.  I for one appreciate the gates opening wider, allowing me to find such a graceful album.  Until next time...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Revisiting Sir Chronicles

Good evening fellow progheads and thanks for coming back to the Closet Concert Arena!  This week the unofficial "random whirlwind" search for all things prog continues its ramble through the prog garden as I journey back to Italy for a slice of deja vu.  Last summer  I discovered an
up-and-coming prog band that I believed showed signs of an ascending trajectory...turns out I was right...

I am happy to report that Sir Chronicles continues to mature and asked me to reprieve my earlier review of their music now that they have gone back to the studio and  re-worked their songs into a complete album.  More than happy to go back for a second helping when the first offering was so delectable...


Let's get the party started with "Tears of Love."  A quick stormy opening lead is the backdrop for a rather dark instrumental piece...the mood is fitting as the music rains down the inside of your skull like an all day spring shower, complete with gloomy skies and and a punishing wind.  The guitar picks up the tempo but the canvas remains dark; the penetrating drums serving mainly to exacerbate the downtrodden ambiance.  Sir Chronicles waves a dark brush across the underside of the listener's eyelids and a powerful mood is born...

Moving farther along the serving line, I am struck abruptly by "Genova City."  The opening bass line clashes with a lead guitar/drum cacophony that leads to an instrumental rumba sauntering through your mind.  Strong top notes of Seven Impale and Under the Psycamore permeate the room with perhaps a hint of Beardfish floating on top like so much foam on a mug of ale...


Liner Notes...Sir Chronicles is currently a two-man operation made up of Alessandro Bordino on guitars and bass, and Efrem Nota on drums.  This "dynamic duo" have done quite a bit since first appearing in the prog garden.  Their initial recordings earned them early praise, several awards, and the start of a loyal following; the decision to re-work and fine tune their music into an EP puts the emphasis on a commitment to their craft.  Many bands go through the growing pains of personnel changes, identity issues, and just plain attracting an audience...but talent, skill, and aptitude tend to outweigh chance...

Sir Chronicles is that lesson in determination, grit, and talent.  Today it seems almost anyone can release music to the masses and set up a YouTube or Spotify account. What separates the contenders from the pretenders is a desire to do what it takes and the refusal to give up and go home--along with the ability to back it up.  Sir Chronicles invites you the listener into their world...where they tend acreage in the dark, brooding, introspective section of the prog garden.

One more cut to review tonight; "Metronomy."  Opening with a bit of a funky bass line, this piece is much more uptempo than what I have been exposed to thus far...and it is a nice rabbit hole to wander down.  With top notes of a Jaco Pastorius/Narada Michael Walden jam session, the jazz fusion club is in full swing.  Sir Chronicles puts on a display here that peels back the curtain a bit, exposing their ability to change direction and cruise across the prog garden in funky style.

Hopefully your curiosity has been aroused...your intrigue spiked.  The urge to get the debut release from Sir Chronicles can be scratched at iTunes, Sir Chronicles iTunes and Soundcloud,
Sir Chronicles SC.  You can also follow the band on Facebook Sir Chronicles FB and Twitter
@AlessandroRiche.  Sir Chronicles even has a YouTube channel Sir Chronicles YT so you can not only catch their music, but dial into what inspires them as well.

This week I decided on the song "Sbrigidi" for your listening pleasure/temptation.  The sound is definitely crisper and cleaner this go 'round, and Alessandro's and Efrem's affinity for the jazz side of the prog garden is once again on display.  Of course on this cut the duo "takes it up a notch" as it were, bringing the ornate Italian flare so many bands from that area are known for.  Sir Chronicles hits you right from the get-go and gets your adrenaline racing...there is an Al DiMeola vibe crawling through the headphones as Sir Chronicles peels back yet another layer of the onion...

 

So fellow progheads, as we creep ever closer to the finish line of 2017 I am deeply pleased by all the new music I have heard this year and sincerely appreciative of the opportunity to bring it all to you.  Sir Chronicles has been an especially fun week in The Closet Concert Arena as I have been afforded the chance to listen to the band's refined sound.  Having heard them come full circle, I can say with absolute certainty that Sir Chronicles should be a name to remember...and a band not to forget.

And as we say every seven days in the prog garden, the search for all things prog continues on...until next week...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Naryan

Hello once again fellow progheads and welcome back to the Closet Concert Arena.  Autumn continues her trek across the calendar this week as the search for all things prog travels to Finland to see how others handle the changing seasons.  With relatively similar temperatures in both locales, now seems as good a time as any to find out what the far reaches of the prog garden are producing.


 Naryan, a band originating in Tampere, Finland, has released two albums on the Progressive Gears label.  Their eponymous first album came out in 2013, and their follow-up "Black Letters" hit the streets in January 2016.  The band describes their sound as "melancholic" and "atmospheric" which leaves a lot to the imagination.  Images of an ornate stage draped in black crepe and lace complete with glowing candelabras fills the mind...so straight to the buffet for what promises to be a sumptuous extravaganza as I get this review started...

With two albums being served up this week, I will play along logically and start with the first release;  cuing up "Ungettable."  As the song peels back the curtain you feel as though you are ocean-side watching a piano recital, the tide lapping at the pedals while the mood begins to slowly build...and then the crescendo erupts as the remaining players emerge on the surf.  Naryan comes straight at you with raw emotion dripping from every note...

Naryan emits top notes of Anathema and Porcupine Tree on this tune...a mesmerizing piece that bounces around the inner workings of your head like a frenzy of pellets in a Pachinko machine...

Next up from the same album is a more complex cut, "Never Give Up."  Naryan once again goes straight for the heart strings as passion pores out like nectar from a honeycomb, sticking to everything in its path.  Vocals start to pour forth as the tendrils of a flute flirt with gentle guitar work laying a path that gets a bit rocky while the tempo begins to pick up the pace.  Once you're inside the labyrinth the walls begin to close in; you feel pressure from all sides...and "Never Give Up" becomes a mantra that leads you through the eye of the storm.

Moving across the aisle to Naryan's second release, I immediately immerse myself in the title cut, "Black Letters."  Tommi Niemi's vocals are deep and dark as they waltz across some intricate violin work.  Once again Naryan takes you down a gentle path only to toss you into an abyss and watch you fall--but the landing is "almost-soft;" as though  you were thrust onto a pile of floor exercise mats.

Liner Notes...as I mentioned above, Naryan hails from Tempere, Finland and is  a member of the Progressive Gears family of prog artists. The band consists of the aforementioned Tommi Niemi on vocals, Lauri Kovero and Raino Ketola on guitars, Eveliina Sydanlahde on bass, flute, keyboards,and backing vocals, Nona Onnela on violin, and Tommi Tanhuanpaa on drums.



Started in 2009 by Lauri as an instrumental project, Naryan has gone through several line up changes and additions. Couple that with a maturation  in regard to arranging, writing, and performing, and the result is an amazing version of Naryan confidently leaping through my headphones today.  Working with the Progressive Gears team sets the expectations bar high as the bands builds its album library...

Staying with the "Black Letters" album, I serve up a platter of "764."  Clever guitar work introduces the cut as top notes of Anathema once again waft through the air.  Dark colors start to run down the canvas, streaking randomly while an ominous cloud settles over the mood.  Eveliina's piano saunters off toward the Radiohead section of the garden--and suddenly the bottom falls out as you tumble toward chaos a la Katatonia...only to land safely once again in the warm embrace of Eveliina and her keyboards.

You can purchase both of these albums at Naryan bandcamp and Progressive Gears.  Social media provides several options for connecting with and learning about the band; their website, Naryan,
Facebook, Naryan FB, and Twitter @Naryanband.  Naryan also has a YouTube channel
Naryan YT so you can experience the music for yourself before making that ever important purchase...

To entice you into increasing your music collection, I chose "Sad to Listen."  This is a bonus clip of sorts as it is not found on either of their albums...you're welcome...🎶  Naryan enjoys toying with the listener; the gentle opening lures you in like a siren call until the clouds roll back, dark skies open, and Naryan rains down with emotions that bleed like an open wound.  The violin tears right through you like a fine-edged scalpel, the drums hit you with a steady thump, and the bass keeps everyone's pulse on an even keel.  The aromatics you detect have a Metallica hue, with perhaps a twinge of
Porcupine Tree making the air heavier still...


Naryan hits hard, heavy, and fast.  There is a Jekyll and Hyde feel to the music as they start out of the gate with a genteel air--only to drop the facade and deliver a wallop to your emotions that pushes the envelope.  Naryan doesn't blast you like Opeth; they prefer the slow, deliberate crawl inside your mind so as to seep into your subconscious...bursting out like a great white attack...and then slinking back to reload...

Naryan straddles different sections of the prog garden; drawing from the melodic and blending it with metal that isn't too sharp or piercing and tying it together with the gentle strings of a violin.  Naryan brings you a full basket of fervor to accompany you on your journey...

And as quickly as it began, the week draws to a close.  Naryan is a dark jewel sparkling in the shadows of the prog garden. Not to worry--the Concert Closet is on a mission to search those shadows and unearth more prog that hits with absolute sincerity.  The journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday The Sky, "Drift"

Another grateful thank you to everyone returning to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Mother Nature seems to have finally gotten it right, much to my chagrin, as there is now more chill in the night air than my evening drink.  So to warm the Concert Closet up a bit I took the search for all things prog over to the InsideOut Music section of the prog garden to check out a fascinating release from a band/side project created by prog guitarist Jim Matheos; Tuesday the Sky.


For those familiar with Jim's day job--guitarist for Fates Warning--a spoiler alert of sorts...Tuesday the Sky is by no means an extension of that band.  Rather it seems an outlet for Jim's inner Brian Eno; the master of ambient music.  Tuesday the Sky is apparently the place Jim goes to allow his alter-ego an opportunity to come out and play...a section of the prog garden separated from the rigors and demands of progressive metal.  Tuesday the Sky flows through the prog garden like fudge rolling across a marble slab; just watching makes you want more...

Starting out with the first cut "Today the Sky" is akin to having an Eno/Fripp flashback; the sounds wash over you like slow motion 8mm home movies...lots of emotion mixed with a twinge of longing and inner peace.  The opening is much like an old Victrola that wasn't cranked fast enough; the sound is equal parts eerie and fascinating.  Tuesday the Sky takes you on a journey that gets more exciting note-by-note.  The dripping irony is the lack of a thunderous metal backdrop...




Following along the grooves in the vinyl I am captivated by the song "Vortex Street."  There is no missing the ambient mood...that dream-like "falling through the air" feeling as if the entire world were in slow motion...truly captivating.  I sense Abstract Aprils as much as Fripp from his Soundscape days; the atmosphere is soothing; the mood serene.  Tuesday the Sky actually takes the listener on an adventure with this piece...close your eyes and feel the tension flow from your body much the way coffee spills from a cup in zero gravity...

Liner Notes...Tuesday the Sky is of course the brain child of Jim Matheos, who plays guitars and bass on the album.  Joining Jim is Lloyd Hanney on drums; additional guests on the record are Kevin Moore playing  keyboards on "It Comes in Waves" and "Drift," and Anna Lynne Williams on vocals for "Vortex Street" and "Westerlies."  Tuesday the Sky may simply be an ethereal side venture for Jim, but don't let that cause you a moment's hesitation as to whether it is worth listening to--it is.

One needs to approach instrumental music from a different vantage point, whether you are the listener, the performer, or the writer.  Here in The Closet Concert Arena, it is more than just going "voiceless."  The mood is usually more somber or reserved...the mood elevator is often stuck between floors.  The canvas illustrations tend to be larger as the colors run from soft, obscured hues to bright patches that fade away behind darker, more ominous tones that tend to overwhelm if left to their own devices.  However; Tuesday the Sky fills the album with distinct a passion that carries you across the threshold of emotions like so much salt spray crashing over driftwood on the shore...



Learn more about Tuesday the Sky at Tuesday the Sky and InsideOut Music.  This album, along with others in the Inside Out catalog are available and well worth adding to your vast and varied prog collection.  You will also find the band on Facebook at Tuesday the Sky FB.  For those inclined to dig deeper ((the Concert Closet is cavernous) you can also find Jim Matheos at Jim Matheos and
Jim Matheos FB .

For the listen-in this week I chose the second cut, "Kite."  Opening like raindrops running across a windshield, the song captures what I consider the essence of what Tuesday the Sky attempts to convey throughout; music, especially of the prog variety, flows naturally and needs no preconceived
pattern to follow.  Ambient music--while not an entirely different animal--does offer an alternate perspective from which to view the prog garden.   



How far this project goes has yet to be determined, so enjoy the present and wrap yourself in the cocoon that is "Drift" and let your mind sail away...Tuesday the Sky is a splendid way to spend time while wandering through the prog garden...so be sure to avoid a strut that would prevent you from enjoying the music and the surrounding scenery...

And thus another week falls from the calendar. Tuesday the Sky is a rare (and hopefully not one-off) gem Jim Matheos has put together outside the Fates Warning realm.  The ambient section of the prog garden tends to be under appreciated and perhaps even a bit overlooked.  While  Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Harold Budd, Robert Fripp, Cluster, Moebius, and a select group of others walk this section of the prog garden extensively, the following and appreciation has always been underwhelming.  Ultimately this is what makes bands like Tuesday the Sky the remarkable, precious nuggets they are...the lack of concern for the mainstream and pure desire to make music that appeals to themselves as artists.

Which means of course that while this stop is complete, the journey continues...The Closet Concert Arena moves forward in the search for all things prog...until next time... 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Tangent, "The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery"

Welcome once again to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Sit down and relax; now that autumn is officially here and you feel the urge to reach for that hoodie, rest assured there is plenty of heat here in the Concert Closet.  This week the search for all things prog sets the GPS for the United Kingdom and a visit with The Tangent to review their latest release, "The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery."


Not exactly a "newbie" to the prog garden; this is The Tangent's ninth studio album for those scoring at home.  Despite having reviewed the band just once, way back in 2013, I have been a fan ever since discovering their bounty in the prog garden.  This is a band that redefines themselves with every new release and "The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery" is no exception.  Despite a political slant, band leader/founder Andy Tillison takes world issues head-on...there is so much to enjoy and admire about this album.  So let us step up to the buffet and dive right in...

First song on the carving block this week is "Dr. Livingstone (I Presume)."  As the song opens you are immediately struck by the force that The Tangent brings...perhaps it is because of rather than in spite of this being their first new music in two years, but it feels like the magic is back. Top notes of old Tangent work their way through the headphones.  While there is a distinction here from the band's previous output, there is no denying the obvious...much like the unmistakable taste of  grandma's home cooking, there is something "comfortably familiar" happening here...

Next up on the platter is a cut that takes off in an entirely different direction, "The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine."  Perhaps grandma took some cooking lessons from Anthony Bourdain; the atmosphere changed although the surroundings aren't intimidating.  The piano work that rolls across the vocals is as smooth as ganache running down the sides of a chocolate torte...The Tangent manage to slap you awake with this cut despite the velvet gloves.  Madness may be the new norm in society, but for many that change is unsettling.  Andy Tillison walks a fine line between jazzy comfort and worrisome anxiety as the mood swings dark while the background haunts.  A Marillion hue added to the paint on the canvas...


Liner Notes...The Tangent is of course led by Andy Tillison on vocals, keyboards, and drums--his sitting behind the kit a Tangent first.  Andy is joined by Luke Machin on guitars and vocals, Jonas Reingold on bass, Theo Travis on saxes and flutes, and Marie-Eve de Gaultier on keyboards and vocals.  Guest appearances by Boff Whalley on vocals and DJ/producer Matt Farrow round out the line-up.  Perhaps this time around Andy felt the time was right to sit in every stool and wear every hat...

The Tangent came to be in 2002 and enjoy a loyal following. What captured my fancy this time around is the alternate approach the band took in putting this album together.  I prefer to keep the soil in the prog garden pure and leaves politics out; however this album does a splendid job bringing the two together without pummeling you with a one-sided argument.  There can be music with a purpose; music to make one think (remember the 70's?).  But The Tangent does it without forsaking the
quality--or validity--of the music.  One of the many gifts Andy possesses is the ability to tell a
story--a real story--one that pulls at your emotions, makes you think, and gets under your skin without  causing you to bleed.  The words and music used by The Tangent paint a picture as vivid as a Salvador Dali original...


Another dark gem etched in etched in vinyl here is "Slow Rust."  There is an eerie, somewhat sense of macabre coming through the headphones as the song opens, much like Steven King reading Hallmark cards out loud; is he being nice or should I walk faster past the open door?  One thing The Tangent refuses to do is stay silent or stand on the sidelines when discussing issues that tear at the moral fabric of society.  Andy prefers to point out the hypocrisy that runs rampant today, whether it be politicians, the couple next door, or the tabloid press.  The music absolutely captures the spirit and soul; the colors running down the canvas are rife with raw emotion.

"The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery" was released on the Inside Out Music label; you can purchase this jewel and others like it at The Tangent.  Check out more fantastic prog artists under the Inside Out umbrella at Inside Out Music.  Andy Tillison and The Tangent can also be found on Facebook and Twitter; The Tangent FB and @thetangentmusic respectively.

For a taste of what The Tangent brings to the prog garden, I chose the cut "Two Rope Swings."  An elegant opening belies the depth of this piece; I pick up scents of U.K. in the air and perhaps a hint of Gentle Giant.  The flow of the music and the range of mood a la Tangerine Dream are striking...much like discovering a bottle of Armand de Brignac champagne at your local discount liquor store...once the shock wears off the savoring begins...

   

The prog garden needs artists like The Tangent...sometimes it is important to stand up and be counted.  Andy & Co. make more than just a political statement here; this is a record that demands  everyone look in the mirror and decide if they like who/what they see.  Are you content to let the world spiral on and just be a spectator--or can you get in the game and make a difference?  Is the slow rust that surrounds you the moral decay of your world, and if so, what can be done about it?  The planet has not seen such divisive times as these in a while, and the prog garden is as good a place as any to get the conversation started...just be prepared to dig deep into the garden soil and have plenty of time to indulge your listening skills...

As the The Tangent sates your appetite for relevant, meaningful, insightful prog right now, The Closet Concert Arena continues the search for all things prog so as to keep you replete with an plethora of options as we delve into the future...until next time... 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Gregorian Rock...Making "Fire" the Old-Fashion Way

Greetings once again fellow progheads!  Summer 2017 is preparing for her swan song; nights are getting a bit cooler as Mother Nature starts to hunker down in anticipation of autumn.  The leaves are starting to turn, there is a crisp bite in the evening air, and a brisk stroll through the prog garden has me looking for hearty fall bounty.  In an effort to cling to summer as long as possible, I circle back to San Antonio, Texas for a follow-up to a blog post started several months ago...


Dale Benedict, perhaps better known as the master mind behind Gregorian Rock, has been putting together album #3, "Fire" one single release at-a-time.  I wrote about this album and the concept behind it back in March; the early cuts were original, exciting, and very well put together. Gregorian Rock is truly a distinctive prog force to be reckoned with.  Recently Dale forwarded me a copy of song #11 called "Wisdom"; a piece he described as "pummeling."  The song opens hard and stays there throughout; drums crack the protective coating that is the vocals, which are but the lone word sapientia (Latin for wisdom), and guitar work spills out just enough to tangle itself around that vocal line and hang on.  I pick up a few top notes of Spock's Beard and Porcupine Tree lingering around the periphery...

Playing back some of the other tracks Dale has laid down leads to some attention-grabbing music; the cut titled "Blood & Fire" jumps right at you.  There is "jazz cafe" feel much like Steve Scales improvising with Herbie Hancock if you can paint that picture in your mind.  Once again the drum work is exceptional as it carries the rest of the music comfortably through the headphones, filtering through your cerebrum as it both soothes and ignites the senses.

Gregorian Rock is the stained glass window in that vintage village gift shop...until you cross the threshold and nothing is as it seems.  While the vocals are a chant, they are well accompanied by incredible guitar and keyboard work.  Dale does Tony Levin proud with the Chapman stick as well...


A song that changes things up a bit is this next cut, "Talon."  Gregorian Rock digs deeper into the rock section of the prog garden with this tune; I detect top notes of latter era Yes blending with aromatics of Be Bop Deluxe.  Dale has done his home work for this album; there are footprints up and down the prog garden.  "Fire" is a culmination of Gregorian Rock's first two albums stretched to a new limit...Dale didn't just push the envelope to stroke his ego, he moved the bar and raised the expectation level for what Gregorian Rock can do.

"Ashes" is up next and once again Gregorian Rock comes at you from a different angle.  The vibe is almost surreal; you feel as though you are floating downstream on a current as gentle as flowing honey, each twist of the water soothing and tender.  The pallet goes from dreary gray to color strewn as Gregorian Rock manages to awaken you without shock waves...letting the sound flow over you like a soothing balm...

Liner Notes...As should be blatantly obvious by now--and explained to the prog faithful in previous posts--Gregorian Rock is Dale Benedict and vice-versa.  However; for the making of "Fire" Dale had some help in the form of a pretty impressive line-up.  With Dale on vocals, keyboards, EWI, and Chapman stick, the line-up rounds out with Phil Keaggy, Vinnie Moreno, Pat Neil, and Jay Pilkington on guitars, John Adams on bass, Scott McCullor on vocals, and Sean McCurley and Paul Garretson on drums.  As big as Texas is, that is one crowded recording studio...

Gregorian Rock legitimizes itself as a band with this album.  Assembling that level of talent--the fact that Phil Keaggy not only played guitar but had nothing but positive things to say about the project--is a bold statement all by itself.  Gregorian Rock has grown and matured from their first release in 2013 right through the first eleven tracks of "Fire."  The sound is tighter, the mixing improved, the songs stronger, and the emotions bursting through the headphones are real.

Take the leap and learn more about Gregorian Rock at Gregorian Rock.  You can purchase any or all of the first eleven tracks of "Fire" (there will be twelve upon completion) at Amazon
GR Fire Amazon, iTunes GR Fire iTunes, and cdbaby GR Fire cdbaby.  You will also find links to purchase the first two albums while you are there.  For those looking to expand their own personal prog boundaries, this is must-have stuff.  There is also Facebook if you are interested in keeping up with the latest, including the release of song #12 (when that occurs) at Gregorian Rock FB.  Of course, Gregorian Rock can also be found on the ever popular Twitter @cantusnovus.

I debated posting a clip this week as I prefer you to listen and make a purchase...need to support the artists after all.  However I thought the clip below, "Remember the Name" would help introduce those who are still unfamiliar with Gregorian Rock to this section of the prog garden.  This song should help erase the misconception that Gregorian chant is simply dark voices echoing from a hollow void.
Although the song opens with a melancholy, perhaps stereotypical "churchy" feel, the mood quickly swings right as the tempo gains steam and even the vocals have an upbeat, toe-tapping edge.  The drums and percussion lay a foundation for the vocal work that is tight as a wrestling mat; you feel the music bounce up and come right back at you.

                   

OK fellow progheads...two weeks in Texas and two bands expanding the prog garden.  Gregorian Rock has taken a unique approach as Dale Benedict blends the ancient art of Gregorian chant with modern music to establish a different section of the prog garden.  The sounds are soothing, menacing, deep, and relaxing...all while seeping into your subconscious to alter your thoughts on the genre.  One thing is certain--prog rock has many tangent roads down which it is unafraid to roam...

So please give Gregorian Rock a listen and make a purchase.  The search for all things prog continues to find new and expanding avenues and ever changing acreage in the prog garden...which is after all the best part of the journey.  Until next time...