Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Seconds Before Landing "Trio Volume 1"

The door to The Closet Concert Arena is always open to the prog faithful, so come on in fellow progheads!  While the summer heat continues its stranglehold on the thermometer, the search for all things prog continues its quest to bring you the best new, lesser known, and flying low under the radar bands the prog garden has to offer.  An absolute pleasure to visit with old friends--especially when they bring new music to the Concert Closet. This week the search for all things prog stays stateside for a visit with Seconds Before Landing, a band that is as intense as it is creative.  SBL released their fourth album/first EP "Trio Volume 1" July 27th and I am more than happy to review.

I have been a fan of Seconds Before Landing since my first encounter with their music back in 2016.  In an era when many bands and artists tend to follow a safe path, SBL founder John Crispino consistently blazes his own trail, pushing the envelope to create music that can be dark, haunting, and thought provoking.  John claims to be a pretty upbeat guy, just a witness to the world around him.  To the headphones we go...


The opening tune is called "192" and to call it powerful is an understatement.  Janusz Korczak ran an orphanage in Poland when the Holocaust happened; this song honors one man's bravery in the face of evil.  The entire piece is shrouded in a darkness that is almost tangible--you can feel it permeate the headphones as it wraps around your mind, penetrating your auditory sensors and grabbing your conscience. The aromatics remind me of Pink Floyd in their "Atom Heart Mother" or "Ummagumma" period; occupying a not very crowded section of the prog garden.  Seconds Before Landing strikes a nerve with wrenching lyrics:

"It wasn't that long ago
Back in '42
Just me and the children
We numbered 192"

 "...one day, they came to take them                 
 They gave permission that I could stay
 I didn't want to see them go alone                   
 So we all just marched away..."
                 
 "...They'll be coming soon so we must prepare
 Get on the train and take this ride                 
 Remember what I told you show your pride   
 Once inside let's sing this song
 I promise children it won't take long"

The brush strokes on canvas these words evoke are dripping with emotion you won't find spinning the radio dial...the dark background has  splatters of bright red and subtle streaks of blue...because hope always accompanies strength...

Next up is "Maybe I'm a Weirdo."  In typical SBL style, the opening is a gateway down an  absolutely unknown rabbit hole that I can't wait to fall into.  The darkness almost illuminates; there is a madman in the room but you can't tell which facade he hides behind.  John is extremely adept at identifying with that which makes us uncomfortable...are these the ramblings of a depressed every man or are we peering through the cracks of a psychotic mind?  The vocals have a Frank Zappa feel as you sit through an autobiographical run down of why this person takes up occupancy in all of us.

Liner Notes...started in Pittsburgh PA back in 2010, Seconds Before Landing is the creation of John Crispino.  John has had several prog and rock  giants on his albums, including Trey Gunn, John Palumbo, and Tim Bogert.  The core of SBL includes John on drums, percussion, keyboards, synthesizers, vocals, and special effects.  Joining John is Steve Schuffert, Eric Maldonado, and Rick Witkowski on guitars, J.D. Garrison and Guy Bar Tor on bass, Jamie Peck on piano, and Vanessa Campagna on backing vocals.

Seconds Before Landing may produce their final product along the dark outer edges of the prog garden, but they travel every square inch of earth within its confines putting ideas and thoughts together to do so.  John views the absurdity, cruelty, and irony of life through a different lens and uses those awakened  emotions to breathe life into his work...

Learn more about Seconds Before Landing at SBL and SBL Bandcamp.  Here you will find the entire catalog along with links to the band's Facebook and Twitter as well as SBL Radio, an outlet John uses to share his world with you.

The final cut is called "You Won't Deny Me" and this one drips with foreboding and anger reminiscent of "I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats.  The song grabs your attention immediately; tension so thick nerve endings are exposed.  Seconds Before Landing crawls inside the macabre mind of a school shooter as he walks you through his day right up to that final, fatal moment.  Guitars scream with anguish while a haunting vocal similar to Gregorian Rock pierces the veil around your soul.



I chose "192" for your peek behind the curtain.  This is as much to honor Janusz Korczak as it is to paint a vivid picture of the inner workings of Seconds Before Landing.  John found a crack in the time/space continuum, crawled inside, and watched the projection machine rattle off so many of mankind's shortcomings.  His ability to channel that, using darkness to awaken an inner morality inside the listener, is stunning.  Dim the lights and hold on...

                       

So fellow progheads I hope you enjoyed your time this week.  Seconds Before Landing lives everywhere in the prog garden, shining a light into the abyss we humans prefer to avoid.  It is rare to find someone who can take tragedy, sadness and evil and turn it inside out the way John Crispino does--and he does it quite elegantly.  Progressive rock can be the beautification of a world drenched in flaws and shortcomings, and that makes the journey all the more relevant and worthwhile.

Now as I am so fond of saying, the search for all things prog continues...until next time...

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Majestic

As always, it is a pleasure to have you back fellow progheads!  If this is your first foray into The Closet Concert Arena I hope you enjoy the view, the sound, and keep coming back for more!  This week the search for all things prog continues the mission of bringing the lesser known, toiling away, extremely talented yet for the most part unknown prog bands to the forefront.  To scratch that itch, I took the Concert Closet to Minnesota for some deep listening with Majestic.




Referring to themselves as a progressive rock recording project, Majestic tills acreage in the symphonic section of the prog garden.  Falling into the "been around awhile and still flying low under the radar" category, Majestic released their first album "Arrival" in 2009 and followed that up with seven more releases through 2015 (eight if you count "Epsilon" I and II separately).  A respectable resume, so let us find out  what lurks beneath the surface waiting to burst through the rich prog soil...

In keeping with tradition I will start the buffet with "Arrival;"  gotta stick to the timeline!  A truly beautiful piece...the opening takes me immediately to the dawning of a new day--and few things match the splendor of the sun rising on a new beginning; a fresh opportunity.  The guitars are soft as melting chocolate as the entire production is swallowed up in a 1960's dreamscape.  Vocals pierce the shell that encompasses the music; Majestic has just crossed into the terrestrial symphonic section of the prog garden.  Top notes of early Pink Floyd echo through the headphones and aromatics of Genesis in their "Foxtrot" days carry through the air.  Majestic fills the room with a physical presence as the canvas is exploding with color...yes, we have arrived...

Moving down the buffet line, I stop at what appears to be a healthy portion of "Clover Suite."  More vintage 2009, more prog that wraps around you like your favorite blanket on the beach while enjoying a bonfire at night.  The vocals leap through the headphones, bellow down your auditory canals, and pump their way through your entire being.  A splendid slice of symphonic majesty...there is an ornateness reminiscent of Trans Siberian Orchestra careening around in my head, but make no mistake--Majestic is a band true to themselves.

Liner Notes...Majestic was born in the winter wonderland known as Minneapolis, MN.  The band is  Jeff Hamel on keyboards, guitar, and vocals.  Jeff is joined in a regular, member-of-the-band kinda way (for the most part) by Jessica Rasche on vocals.  But don't let that lull you into a false sense of inaccuracy...Jeff is also joined by several talent-laden musicians on each of his album releases.  A "family reunion" of all the musicians Jeff has recorded Majestic albums with would run this blog too long at around eighteen.  I don't want to disrespect anyone by listing some and omitting others...so suffice to say it is an impressive list...

Going back to the buffet I laser up "Star Bound" from the 2010 release "Ataraxia."  This album was dipped in cool jazz fusion and encased in an atmospheric prog outer shell.  Top notes of Steely Dan and Camel fill your auditory sensors immediately.  Jessica's vocals are smooth like a water slide, taking you right into the middle of the pool.  There is a blues vibe coursing through the tune giving it an alter ego of sorts...the clean crisp lines of a Maserati with scratches in the paint...


There is much to learn, listen to, and appreciate about Majestic and you can do that at the website Majesticsongs...you can even check the impressive alumni Jeff calls guest musicians in the gallery...
The entire Majestic catalog is available at Majesticsong Bandcamp and
Majesticsongs cdbaby.  Of course there is also Facebook and Twitter,
Majesticsongs FB and @majesticsongs, for those so inclined to follow along and dig a bit deeper.

For your listening pleasure I chose a song from the 2012 album "V.O.Z." called "Crossing Meridian."  This album takes yet another tangent road--Majestic has mastered the art of starting from scratch with each album.  Not necessarily a dark colored canvas, but there is a metal-tinged hardness that builds as the song progresses.  Jeff uses every acre the prog garden has to offer in creating a sound as distinct as it is remarkable.  Let the drums carry you while the guitars and vocals lead you through a labyrinth of sights and sounds...

                    

Majestic is another in a long line of prog bands that have been working the garden for a long time and managed to stay out of the limelight.  Jeff Hamel's ability to find the right artists for each collaboration--a la Steely Dan--has created a collection of music that spans the prog garden.  Prog artists tend to wear multiple hats; musician, producer, sound engineer, promoter...you get my point.  Jeff has toiled behind and in front of the curtain putting together a sound that really needs to be heard to be appreciated.   Majestic has a flavor for every craving...

So now the search for all things prog trudges on--in a most excited and eager way.  A journey that for me has been  nothing short of extraordinary.  The prog garden is a fertile hot bed of  vast and varied sights and sounds and The Closet Concert Arena is only too happy to offer you my loyal followers a front row seat.  The journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Sonic Tapestry "Aftermath"

Welcome back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Setting the A/C on "yes please" as the dog days continue to beat down on the prog garden.  In an attempt to escape the sweltering heat, the Concert Closet kept the search for all thing prog in the UK another seven days as I discovered a still "green around the edges" prog band.  If I had an official mission statement it would include something about bringing new and undiscovered gems found in the prog garden to those eager to expand their appreciation of the genre...to offer aspiring musicians and artists a platform to expose their sound...


With those thoughts rattling around my cranium, I set off to check out a band I stumbled across almost by accident; Sonic Tapestry and their release "Aftermath."  The focus of this week's journey  begins with a cut called "Mystic Void."  The high energy instrumental opening has top notes of Transatlantic; the entire piece washes over you like a cool summer sun shower...the guitars are understated, allowing gentle vocals to seep through the headphones and bounce gently inside your head.  Meanwhile the keyboards lead the charge--but not so much that everything else is forced to run for cover.

If a title cut exists I tend to search it out...gives a bit more insight to the goings-on behind the curtain; a single song "concept" if you will.  "Aftermath" delivers a strong message as Sonic Tapestry shows a bit of an edge on this song, coming out of the gate more like Marillion with a touch of Spock's Beard standing on the rim and aiming loud speakers across the abyss.  The decibel level keeps you alert--but the heat is turned down just before the anticipated explosion.  The band moves pointedly through the prog garden as the song plays out; tempo, mood, and time changes splattering the canvas like an Andy Warhol/Peter Max event out of control.

Liner Notes...a relative new comer to the prog garden, Sonic Tapestry started in Cheshire, England somewhere around 2010.  Founded by Steve Forster on vocals, flute, keyboards, synthesizers, and bass, the band includes Giles Ashley, John Byrne, and Sean Byrne.  "Aftermath" is the band's self-released debut EP, coming out in 2015.  As with many a new comer to the prog garden, details of the Sonic Tapestry family history are a bit cloudy, but suffice to say the trajectory looks good.

One more slice from the buffet; "Divinity in Stone."  Sonic Tapestry is starting to peel back the layers and reveal their inner metal edge.  Top notes of Rush start to waft through the headphones and aromatics of Camel begin to swarm inside my head.  The guitar work breathes new life into the band's sound as Sonic Tapestry seems to feel at home toeing the threshold of the metal section in the prog garden; I believe I detect a tinge of Mountain starting to make its presence known...


You can look behind the curtain for more about Sonic Tapestry on Facebook
Sonic Tapestry FB.  Although they have a Twitter handle @SonicTapestry, I don't see much activity there as of press time...still in the growing phase...of course the music can be purchased at their website
Sonic Tapestry.  Tour dates are listed and while the page appears to be in the "some assembly required" phase, your support will go a long way in helping Sonic Tapestry take root and prosper in the prog garden...

To that end, I offer for your listening pleasure this week "Caged Lions of Old."  I chose this cut because it paints a varied picture using mainly dark colors.  The piano opening is stark...then the vocals begin to seep in.  Sonic Tapestry makes it rain in your mind; the mood is somber yet you feel a warmth on your face as light begins to burn through the fog shrouding your entire being.  True to form, guitars and keyboards take the tempo up a notch or two and Sonic Tapestry once again
hop-scotches across the prog garden like a kid enjoying summer vacation...


                  

So fellow progheads, a relative newcomer to the prog garden has been exposed to the light.  Sonic Tapestry has done it the old fashion way, putting an EP together and releasing it on their own.  The prog garden is filled with artists that wear many hats; several have been reviewed right here in the Concert Closet.  Bands with the determination and desire to succeed need more in order to make it; talent and access to an audience are key--of course a little luck never hurt anyone either.  The search for all things prog continues to be a most exciting adventure as we scour the planet...and as I like to say, the journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Servants of Science "Another Day (The Swan Song Live)"

Hazy, hot, humid prog greetings fellow progheads!  The thermometer seems to have a never ending supply of mercury attempting to "ring the bell," much like that guy at the county fair trying to win his sweetheart the kewpie doll by swinging the sledgehammer...

This week the search for all things prog takes another one of my famous alternate trajectories as The Closet Concert Arena revisits a recently reviewed band that has taken their own alternate trajectory of sorts.  Servants of Science independently released their debut "The Swan Song" in December 2017, and riding on the success of this amazing album, the band has since partnered with Progressive Gears

Records to release "Another Day (The Swan Song: Live)" and asked me to review this release as well.  This presented a many faceted challenge as I struggled with my approach; review as a totally new record solely on its merits, or compare live cuts side-by-side to studio cuts?  Perhaps a swirl of both; a totally new record reviewed for content, live sound quality, and the ability to capture the essence of the original recording.  Cue the Concert Closet, here we go...

I open with  "Another Day."  For me, live and concept albums are similar in that you need to play them through completely and in song order to really capture the essence of what the band/artist is trying to convey. Since this is a live concept album, I thought it best follow my own advice...

As the song opens you almost forget this is a live performance; the sunrise over planet earth as you view from afar seems as real as your reflection.  Servants of Science capture the raw emotion that flowed through the studio version and spill it across the stage...I feel like I'm in 3rd grade watching Apollo 11 land on the moon all over again...

Except for the audience applause, the flow into "Kaleidoscope" is as smooth as melted caramel caressing a granny smith apple.  I am taken back to my original interpretation of this song and the depth of emotions that oozed forth; to capture those feelings live is a statement to the intensity the band brings to this performance.  The guitars seem to melt in Ian's, Helena's, and Neil's hands as notes escape through the headphones...

Liner Notes...Servants of Science is founding member Stuart Avis on keyboards, guitar, and backing vocals, Ian Brocken on lead guitar, Neil Beards on acoustic guitar and vocals, Helena DeLuca on rhythm guitar and vocals, Andy Bay on bass, and Adam McKee on drums.  Started in Brighton UK in 2017, the band was originally a project begun by Stuart and Andy, culminating in the 2018 release of "The Swan Song."  OK; enough talk...let's get back to the reason we're gathered in the prog garden in the first place...

Moving down the playlist a bit I stop on "Peripheral."  Another gentle beginning that steadily gathers inner strength--the formula Servants of Science uses to enter your mind and walk delicately across your cranium... 

You can find this album and the entire Progressive Gears catalog of music at SoS Progressive Gears  There is also a direct link to this particular download at their Bandcamp site SoS Swan Song Live .  Information about the band can be found on Facebook Servants of Science FB and Twitter @ServantsScience.

The performance concludes with "Burning in the Cold."  The music cascades over the audience like a gentle spring shower and slowly builds strength until soft waves crash tamely at their feet...a benign storm that cleanses your inner mind.  Servants of Science uses dark hues to bring this masterpiece to life, each brush stroke a beat in a steady pulse as the music awakens...

To illustrate the band's ability to capture the original depth of this album live I bring you the song "Servants of Science."  As with the original, this cut is a bit harder as it penetrates deeper; dark colors fill the pallet as Servants of Science continue to pull you in all directions...is it the demise of the planet or an astronaut going mad, wandering alone in space..?

                       

Servants of Science captures the essence of the original album in a live setting; the mood, personal turmoil, shock, sadness, and even a bit of inner peace as the album winds down.  The prog garden is a vast open space serving as the backdrop to a sound explosion that fills the mind with images as opposed to simply clogging the auditory sensors with noise.

The search for all things prog enjoyed a macro view of the world from above as Servants of Science showed you the audience how to listen with your mind as well as your ears.  Now the journey continues, but from this point forward observing a different vantage point...until next time... 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

M!ndgames

As the summer heats up so too does the melody; a musical sound cloud hovering over the prog garden this week floated in all the way from Belgium.  Welcome back to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  This latest leg of the search for all things prog brought forth a new noise with many facets and layers...music that captivates, soothes, relaxes, and excites.  In my quest for something unfamiliar, I discovered a band that has been tilling acreage in the prog garden for about two decades with little fanfare but lots of talent.  Prepare for M!ndgames, an invigorating dose of prog stimulation...


Referring to themselves as "...refreshing, surprising...heavy tunes and classic arrangements," M!ndgames comes at you with a melancholy sadness only to split your cranium with "...sunlit speed and bombastic outbursts..."  Many a band has ventured into the prog garden claiming to hit both the alpha and omega with the swing of the pendulum, so let's see what kind of M!ndgames await...

My compulsion is to start at the beginning, so venturing back to M!ndgames' 2002 debut release "International Daylight" I chose "Beggars Breakfast" as the opening course for what I anticipate being a delectable buffet.  The soft piano and accompanying strings set the tone for an intimate gathering.  The vocals ride across the top on a cloud of cotton; soft as they approach and settle in, much like a a sailboat returning to shore at sunset's low tide.  I pick up top notes of Atlas Volt and Big Big Train bleeding through the music; peaceful and serene...

Moving forward, I find a tune with that head-tilting "what did I just hear?" quality, "Dramatis Persona" from the 2006 release "Actors in a Play."  There is a theatrical vibe running through this piece, much like Joel Grey in "Cabaret" but with a Jon Anderson twist. The guitars speak softly yet are unmistakable in their appearance.  A song that is like a velvet blanket wrapped gently around your ears...

Liner Notes...M!ndgames calls the Flemish region of Belgium their home, and the current line-up is Bart Schram on vocals, flute, and acoustic guitar, Sandro Starita on electric lead and rhythm guitar and guitar synths, Maximilian von Wullerstorff on bass, and Benny Petak on drums and percussion.

Avoiding line-up changes and growing pains while surviving two decades in the prog garden is difficult if not impossible, and M!ndgames is no exception.  Fortunately they were able to get the right mix and put together an impressive--and still growing--catalog.  Stepping into the music to follow their journey, I sense M!indgames is that stable boat on a rocky lake.  As the waves ripple, lolling you side-to-side, there is a stabilizing tranquility floating on top of the mayhem...with vocals that soothe like aloe after lounging seaside all afternoon.

One more morsel for the ears, "Outside the Gloom" from the 2010 album "MMX."  Simplistically weaving an intricate pattern; M!ingames seems to enjoy toying with your senses.  While bright colors dot the canvas, the feeling of being witness to a macabre circus echoes through your mind.  With top notes of Marillion and a shot of Gentle Giant, the song waltzes across the prog garden with the grace of a break dancer...

Learn more about M!ndgames at their website  M!ndgames and
M!indgame soundcloud.  You can purchase music, check out their catalog, follow up on concert dates and all things related to the band.  For those who like to dig deeper there is the ever popular
M!ndgames FB and @Mindgamesmusic.

Your weekly dose of "sounds to lure you in" is a cut called "The Age of Plenty" from the 2015 album "Paradox of Choice."  This song has a bit more of an edge; think latter day Spock's Beard jamming with early Supertramp...quite the stage when you close your eyes.  Strong guitars lay a nice platform for Bart's vocals and the drums just bring it all together.  There are even top notes of Asia billowing through the headphones...lots going on without becoming just a cacophony of noise...and the pendulum swings...

                       

And thus we once again find ourselves at the end of another week.  M!indgames displays an ability to touch all the nerves in your head that are wired for music.  They can lift you up, take you on an emotional ride through the prog garden, and set you back down...smooth as Aladdin's carpet...

Time now to take the search for all things prog back on the road.  With the summer heat and all the outdoor prog festivities in full swing, finding something new and exciting should be easy--and worth the trip.  Enjoy your week fellow progheads...until next time...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Special Providence

Welcome to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads; as usual the door is always open!  After staying home to celebrate birthday #242 for the homeland last week, I thought it a good time to log some frequent flyer miles.  This week the search for all things prog brought me to Hungary, a country I need to visit more often based on the music I have been listening to these past seven days.  The Concert Closet was filled to capacity with the sounds of Special Providence, a four man instrumental band covering a lot of acreage in the prog garden..so off we go...


Special Providence refers to themselves as "Progjazzrockmetalturbochill" and one of the EU's best known instrumental quartets.  With five albums spanning more than a decade, Special Providence is one of those bands that has manged to fly low "under the radar" here in the US.  However;  this is the search for all things prog, I live for the hunt, and my radar screen has been blipping for a while...let's get right to it...

First serving on the platter is "Irrelevant Connotations" from their October 2017 release "Will."  The whole progjazzrockmetalturbochill mystery is solved with this song...top notes are a hodgepodge of Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Dream Theater, Al DiMeola, and Camel--just to name a few.  If it is possible to be absolutely unique in a real stand-alone way, Special Providence found it by taking all their favorite bands and placing them in a Waring blender.  The pallet is completely splotched with colors running down, over, through, and across each other.  Meanwhile somebody pushed all the buttons on the mood elevator and hopped out to watch...

Next up is "Kiss From a Glacier," found on the band's 2015 release "Essence of Change."  As the curtain is drawn back you feel as though Robert Fripp has commandeered the controls...some quick Frippertronics followed up with a jolt of Frank Zappa during his "Hot Rats" days.  Special Providence has taken extreme liberties in the prog garden by mixing, blending, and creating almost at will.  The canvas has been pelted bullet-like with paint balls that leave a rainbow colored bruise...

Liner Notes...calling Budapest, Hungary home, Special Providence is comprised of Zsolt Kaltenecker on keyboards, Marton Kertesz on guitar, Attila Fehervari on bass, and Adam Marko on drums.  Noticeably absent is a lead (or backing) vocalist; Special Providence makes prog magic sans voice.  The band released their first of five albums in 2007 and have since opened for Haken, Spock's Beard, Dream Theater, Steve Hackett, and Beardfish.  While that's one way to get your name out there--it don't mean nothing without talent to back it up, and these guys back it up with talent to spare...

Special Providence has played jazz fests and prog fests all around the globe, and you can find out more about what makes them unique and purchase any or all of their albums at Special Providence and SP bandcamp.  You can also follow the band on Facebook
SP Facebook and Twitter @SpecialProvid.

Final spin this week is a song called "End of Childhood" from the band's 2007 debut "Space Cafe."  Tension wrapped in jazz piano greets the listeners as laser first hits disc, and the mood gently settles into Eddie Jobson territory.  Special Providence are wonderful storytellers--which truly is an art when done without words. They squeeze real emotions from every note their instruments emit...think Flim & The BB's with a bit of an edge--and a dark side...

I chose "Distant Knowledge" from the "Will" album as your carbo load this week...lots of energy on this cut, and a canvas splayed with a sampling of what the band dabbles in.  A melange of a blend of a multi-genre walk through the prog garden you might say...

Zsolt went a little off the rails with his keyboards and the rest of the band followed him down the rabbit hole.  Special Providence is the date that shows up in a suit and tie only to take you to a mosh pit--so you are wise to be prepared for anything and everything.  Adam does raise the ante a bit with his drum work, and by the time you reach the end your mind is still wrapping itself around all that just happened.  Enjoy the ride and just wait for it...over and over...   
               
                   

Once again fellow progheads we have timed out...run the course...finished the week.  The 2018 prog garden is producing a bumper crop at a record pace; Special Providence is the result of the nurturing the garden provides.  The search for all things prog continues to dig deep for treasures like this...one of the joys of the journey.

Special Providence waltzes the prog garden the way honey badgers roam open terrain, going anywhere and everywhere.  Of course, Special Providence won't disembowel you--but they will send your mind into progjazzrockmetalturbochill euphoria...

So the journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

IO Earth

If you're new to the Closet Concert Arena, welcome!  If you're a returning proghead, thanks for coming back!  Either way I hope the visit this week entices you to make the Concert Closet a regular stop on your prog music journey...

Traveling back to the UK this time around; the prog garden has some wild varietals springing up and I am not one to turn away from a new adventure.  The search for all things prog implores me to delve into the sounds of heretofore unknown or low under-the-radar bands...and as luck would have it, this week's adventure paints quite the mental mural.  Even better, IO Earth is female fronted and comes complete with horns and a theremin...the lure is just too great!


IO Earth refers to themselves as a "...symphonic, contemporary, progressive rock band...truly genre defying..."  To me, that's a powerful statement and one that sets the bar fairly high--and garners my full attention.  Time to prepare the Concert Closet for a full set and find out what all the fuss is about...

I decided that to do IO Earth justice and give you my loyal followers a true glimpse behind the curtain, I would need to start at the beginning and hop through the band's catalog the way they hop through the prog garden; carefully, deliberately, and with skilled precision.  

The band's journey started with their 2009 eponymous debut; from that album "Storyteller" seems the logical starting point.  The music opens as if you're crossing the space/time continuum.  As you recognize that eerie sci-fi mind warp feeling tossing your mind around inside your head, you settle into a more familiar atmosphere and let guitars and keyboards wash over you like summer moonlight dancing across a rippling lake.                                                                                                                                           Perusing the IO Earth resume I discover an absolute beauty.  The title cut from the band's 2012 release, "Moments," immediately takes me to a Paul Winter Consort show...dim the lights, close your eyes, and prepare to be swept through the prog garden as gracefully as an eagle gliding across the horizon.  As the music picks up there is a mystical vibe floating across the entire piece.  The top notes range from Transatlantic to Rhavi Shankar to Al DiMeola...quite the invigorating lap around the prog garden!  The vocals are captivating as they caress your auditory sensors...

Liner Notes...Hailing from Birmingham UK, the current line-up for IO Earth includes Rosanna Lefevre on lead and backing vocals, Adam Gough on acoustic and electric guitar, keyboards, theremin, lead and backing vocals, and programming, Dave Cureton on lead, rhythm, and acoustic guitar, keyboards, lead and backing vocals, and programming, Jez King on violin and rhythm guitar, Christian Nokes on bass guitar and double bass, Luke Shingler on tenor and soprano saxophone, flute, and EWI, and Christina Jerromes on drums and percussion.  To be a member of this band one must be a multi-instrumentalist apparently--or one helluva singer...

The music of IO Earth has evolved much the way the band has; a gradual maturation with naturally occurring changes, additions, and a whole lot of talent.  The deeper I plunge myself into their music, the greater the feeling I have that IO Earth is more like a family than a band; they complement each other to a degree that the music flows seamlessly.  Discover for yourself what IO Earth is all about at IO Earth where you can purchase their entire music catalog.  Of course there is also a Facebook page and Twitter, IO Earth Facebook and @IOEarth to learn more about IO Earth and all the goings on.  

Listening to the band's third album "New World" released in 2015, I find "New World Suite;" yet another stunningly beautiful tapestry.  The imagery IO Earth projects with their music is nothing short of awe inspiring...the pallet drips with raw emotion as much as it reflects a captivating mural with colors pushing the boundaries of the spectrum.  I pick up aromatics of Big Big Train, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Jean-Michel Jarre.  As the song reaches its climax, let yourself be carried away by that theremin....oh yeah...

Continuing the waltz across the prog garden with IO Earth, their February 2018 release is called "Solitude" from which I chose the cut "Hold On" for your weekly eargasm.  The album is a concept dealing with depression and mental illness...hence the dark clouds hovering overhead.  However; IO Earth  is nothing if not optimistic and inspiring--the mood may be dark and ominous, but the pallet has definite streaks of light and shards of brightness; hope perhaps? 

                   

And with that we reach the end of this week's journey.  IO Earth has put together an impressive catalog on their (relatively) short journey through the prog garden.  Their ability to take personnel changes in stride--in relation to the band's continued trajectory--is a testament to both their commitment to the music and each other.  Family is the one sanctuary where rules tend to not exist, and the cohesive outer layer sometimes belies the stress within.  Yet with IO Earth there seems to be no "smoke and mirrors" just a strong desire to bring the best out of each other and to the listener.  That is the point, isn't it?

The search for all things prog has discovered some incredible artists, music, bands, and even prog specific record labels.  Every journey is an exploration unto itself, leading to a discovery that expands the boundaries of the prog garden.  IO Earth is one more jewel in the crown, and so the search continues...until next time...