Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Apostle "Sky Above Me"

Greetings fellow progheads!  Welcome as always to the Concert Closet.   This week the search for all things prog turns up the heat as we venture across the pond for a visit with our friends at Progressive Gears Records.  One of the bands in the Progressive stable, Apostle, recently released their "debut" EP, "Sky Above Me."  PGR has a lot of stellar bands in their stable so let's check out what I hope will be another fine performance...


The album opens with a song called "Reaper" and the imagery the music evokes is quite fitting.  The guitars sit heavy on top while keyboards move in and out, beefy at times before then letting up...and the chase is on.  The song puts hands around your throat but doesn't give that fatal squeeze--although there are finger marks from the tight grip.  Top notes of Marillion are scattered throughout as the canvas fills with bright primal colors outlined in darkness...

Next song to be hit by laser is "Last Goodbye."  an unexpectedly poignant piano gently pulls back the curtain on gentle lyrics.  A son paying tribute to his mother is usually a heartfelt moment and Apostle drives the point home with guitar that hits hard at just the right moments.  An unexpected flash of vulnerability from a band that seems to prefer the more boisterous section of the prog garden...

Liner Notes...Apostle hails from Yorkshire, England and the current line-up is comprised of Ryan Hanson on vocals, Chris Allen on keyboards, Richard Lidster on guitar, Shaun Ellis on bass, and Marcus Murray on drums.  Starting out as Apostles of Chaos, the band took a brief hiatus in 2019 to determine the next steps in their journey.

Drawing from classic rock, prog, metal, and other genres under the rock 'n' roll umbrella, Apostle adopted their new name and dove headlong into the growth and inner reflection needed to distinguish and claim their own identity. With this release Apostle makes an absolute statement about who they are and justify the battle to claim their own acreage in the prog  garden.


Learn more about Apostle and purchase their music at their website Apostle and the home of their label PGR.  You can also find them at bandcamp and on facebook.  For those so inclined, you can follow the band on Twitter @AOC_Bandpage_UK.

My final play for review this week is "The Fire Within."  The tempo is turned up on this cut as the guys feed off each other's energy.  Hints of Deep Purple and a dash of Magnum flow through the headphones as the canvas runs with colors bright; painted with heavy strokes.

The song I bring to you as a taster from this EP buffet is "Reaper;" to whet your appetite and prepare you for a full serving from the band.  Apostle taps their inner hard rock DNA and fills your head with wild imagery and an ominous darkness that is pierced straight through with a bright light--just when you think the fateful blow is about to strike...

                   

So fellow progheads, a little high energy metal from the prog garden this week to get your adrenaline going.  However; Apostle hasn't painted themselves into a corner by being "just" a metal band; they have other arrows in their quiver.  Deep lyrics, heavy guitar, gentle piano, hard hitting drums...and
all of it comes together nicely on this five song EP.

The search for all thing prog forges onward as the journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate "Nostalgia for Infinity"

Welcome back once again fellow progheads!  Summer is heating up and the prog garden is overflowing with great music.  This week should prove to be quite the adventure as I return once again to a band that has become one of my favorite newer entries to the prog garden.  I have been a fan of Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate since I first discovered them in 2016.  Led by Malcolm Galloway, Hats Off Gentlemen have been reinventing themselves with every release...so let's find out who they are now...


The album opens with "Century Rain."  As expected with Hats Off Gentlemen, the first sounds to permeate the headphones are understated yet extremely captivating.  The song melts over your ears like icing on a warm danish, running through your auditory canals and filling your being with a sense of ease.  Hats Off Gentlemen has mastered the fine art of squeezing the most from the least; there is so  much going on in this tune with only three people contributing to the final product.  The flute is mesmerizing as it floats over the the entire piece...

Perusing the playlist I discover a song with a most intriguing name; "Nanobotomas."  Malcolm follows in the footsteps of Alan Parsons with his ability to construct a concept album.  The theme here is the delicate structure of civilization viewed through several different lenses.  Here we are struck by the imagery of the human body being overtaken by nanobots...self destruction from within.  Top notes of Porcupine Tree and the ominous moods of Pink Floyd skitter through this song.  Let this one play on a loop a few times while you sink into it...or perhaps it is sinking into you...

Liner Notes...Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate remains as always Malcolm Galloway on vocals and Mark Gatland on bass and Chapman stick.  Both play guitars, keyboards, and synthesizers, and  Kathryn Thomas plays flute and contributes vocals.

I have listened to this band from the beginning; their growth--both musically and lyrically--is impressive and refreshing.  There are few bands that bring so much to every song using so little--and that is an underappreciated accomplishment.  Each note, lyric, sound, and even silence is deliberate and thought out.  Hats Off Gentlemen give Steely Dan a run for their money in this regard...even the album artwork is stunning and thought-provoking...

You can learn more about Hats Off Gentlemen at their website HatsOffGentlemen and bandcamp.
There is also Twitter  @itsadequate to learn the latest and keep up with the band's goings on.

Finally this week I listened to the title cut, "Nostalgia for Infinity."  The soft guitar opening streams gently through the headphones, setting the listener up for a journey across the prog garden as smooth and dreamy as it is surreal and introspective.  Kathryn's flute is hypnotic and rides across the top of the song like a siren, calling you deeper into a dream.  Malcolm breaks through the veil with strong lyrics reinforced with steady percussion and guitar work.  Once again Hat Off Gentlemen approaches the prog garden from a different vantage point, much the way Brian Eno was so adept at doing in his early influential years...

In the spirit of social distancing, my listening choice this week is a lock down version of "Century Rain."  The bass line really shines through here, and of course Kathryn's flute mastery is simply beautiful.  I'm not surprised Hats Off Gentlemen posted a "pandemic" version of this song; they have been extremely involved in so many social issues since their inception.  Sit six feet away from your neighbor and enjoy...


                    

So fellow progheads another week falls though the hourglass.  Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate took us on a very insightful journey across the prog garden this week.  Their music is inspiring, thought-provoking, introspective, and a pleasure to listen to.  Delving into a concept leaving no stone unturned and no vantage point unobserved, the music  engulfs your mind, body, and spirit...and that is why the prog garden is so rich.

Yet travel on I must as the search for all things prog continues...until next time...

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Silas & Saski "Power of Three"

       Hello again fellow progheads!  The Closet Concert Arena is jam packed and excited to bring you more of what the prog garden has been cultivating, so let's get started.  Lots of great music has graced these pages over time and that trend continues.  This week the search for all things prog went back to the well with new friend Silas Neptune who just released a duet with Saskia Maxwell.  Time to  venture into the prog garden and settle in with Silas & Saski and their latest, "Power of Three."




I open with the lead-in song "Magic of Words."  The curtain rises on a celestial atmosphere; almost immediately you can sense yourself being transported to another world.  The imagery is bold and vibrant, the canvas dancing with striking colors.  Listening to this piece I am reminded of what drew me to Silas' music in the first place--serenity wrapped in so much energy and passion.  It isn't often that a song will excite your senses and soothe your inner being at the same time.  

Next up, "In Reverse."  This song opens as if you're watching a movie about the universe, creation, and the wonder of it all.  The vocals wrap themselves around you like a silk scarf, gentle and caressing.  To say Silas & Saski are transcendental is almost cheating--it's too easy and simplistic.  There are so many more layers to their music and while it's soothing, it's also highly imaginative.  I get a sense of Brian Eno and Can  woven gently into the mood here; so much going on yet your senses are keen to every sound floating through the headphones.   
Liner Notes...as I stated earlier, Silas Neptune and Saskia Maxwell are the "mystics behind the curtain."  In addition to playing synthesizers, lead guitar, and bass guitar on this album, Silas is also the keyboard master for Ozric Tentacles.  Saskia performs lead vocals and acoustic guitar here and is also quite an accomplished dancer.  Ed Ozric, Tom Brooks, and Paul Hankin round out the guest musicians on the album.  

Learn more about Silas & Saski at Silas&Saski and Facebook.  Music can be purchased at their bandcamp site.  You can also follow along on Twitter @silasandsaski.  

Finally, I bring you the title cut, "Power of Three."  Listening to this album is a combination of time travel back to a calmer, more serene era on the planet and a transcendental music-scape; think Robert Fripp having an improv jam with Ravi Shankar.  Saski comes through again with lyrics as soothing as aloe on a sunburned shoulder while Silas continues the musical magic on his carpet ride across the universe, opening your soul and your mind.  This is an album perfect for those times when you just want to relax body and spirit.  
      
There are definite top notes of Adrian Belew's "anything's possible" attitude coming through all three songs.  Combined with soundscape aromatics of Robert Fripp, the creativity of Frank Zappa, and the ornate stylings of Pandora, this is definitely music to pacify your aura.  

The ear candy this week is "Magic of Words."  The calm that washes over you as the song opens will guide you through the entire EP.  Let Saski's soothing voice sweep you across the prog garden as gentle and free as an eagle soaring across the wide open sky.  One of the pleasures of Silas & Saski is their ability to make you forget the madness and mayhem of the moment and allow you to fall into that gentle abyss of mystery and imagination...


                

So fellow progheads I hope you enjoyed this week's interlude.  Silas & Saski will take you to the transcendental side of the prog garden and expand your musical boundaries, much like the Beatles did with Ravi Shankar in the 60's.  Every now and then a mind cleanse can be a very good thing... 

So the search for all things prog continues...the prog garden is flush with new music and the Closet Concert Arena is the perfect forum for presenting it all to you.  I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I do...until next week...

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Pattern-Seeking Animals "Prehensile Tales"

Hello once again fellow progheads and welcome back to the Concert Closet!  I trust you are all staying safe and practicing whatever form of social distancing keeps you COVID-19 free and sane all at the same time.  This week the search for all things prog stops in with Pattern-Seeking Animals 
to check out their second album "Prehensile Tales," recently released on Inside Out Music.



Under the headphones straightaway for an infusion of "Raining Hard in Heaven."  This song opens with a bass riff as smooth as meringue on Baked Alaska and just as rich; vocals come over the top while keyboards make their way into your consciousness.  The top notes veer farther from the band's Spock's Beard roots than their debut release; planting their own stake in the ground it seems.  I detect aromatics of The Strawbs and a touch of Camel in the air.  The keyboards seem to enjoy teasing your senses...this should be quite the refreshing week.

Next up is "Why Don't We Run."  The curtain rises and the listener is swept into a whirlwind of  ardor as the song leaps across origins, backgrounds, and emotions...you feel pulled back from one reality only to find yourself falling into another.  The music tastes of western, Asian, and flamenco roots; as if
Pattern-Seeking Animals jetted  across the prog garden in search of essential parts necessary to create a greater whole.  The top notes here, as with most of the album, are difficult to pin down.  There are the obvious whiffs of Spock's Beard, but Pattern-Seeking Animals are cutting themselves free of the umbilical cord as it were with this second release.

Liner Notes...John Boegehold, Ted Leonard, Dave Meros, and Jimmy Keegan returned to the studio for the band's second album.  However, they expanded their sound with the addition of violin, cello, flute, trumpet, saxophone, and pedal steel guitar. The band has really come together on this album and sound as though they've been playing together for years.  As with their debut release, everybody takes and shares the spotlight; neither the stage nor the recording studio is overcrowded with egos...which makes for a fantastic listening experience.

Last song in the queue this week is "Soon But Not Today."  The violins are breaking through on this one; the song opens as if darkness is giving way to a new dawn, a new day...a new hope.  The tempo picks up and the music takes you on an adventure similar to the one Alice took through the looking glass...nothing is as it seems and everything is yours for the taking.  The canvas is splattered with bright hues in no particular sequence or pattern accompanied by streaks of grey that bolster the entire trip.  Pattern-Seeking Animals cross many sections of the prog garden as they continue to forge their own unique identity.

Learn more about the band at their website PSA as well as facebook and Twitter @psanimals1.  Links to buy both of their albums are on the website.

The listening teaser this week is "Elegant Vampires."  The upbeat tempo is somewhat surprising but very much welcome.  Pattern-Seeking Animals land somewhere between U.K. and 10cc with this song.  Stretch out in the Concert Closet and enjoy...   


                    

And thus fellow progheads another week roaming the prog garden is in the rear view mirror.
Pattern-Seeking Animals has brought their own sound and style to the forefront with this album.  The music gets under your skin and inside your head, taking up full residency in your entire being.  Might as well go with the flow and ride it out; expanding your prog boundaries is never a bad thing.

Now off to the next adventure in the search for all things prog.  The journey continues; there is so much more to discover...until next time...

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Black Cat 6 "Scratching My Itch"

Socially distanced greetings fellow progheads!  As the worldwide pandemic continues and nations stay (at least partially) closed, The Closet Concert Arena continues to safely search out prog bands for your listening pleasure.

This week the journey brings me back to some familiar faces in new places as I check in with
Black Cat 6 and their debut release "Scratching My Itch."  This album was released on Halloween 2019; thinking it was time for some fun here in the Concert Closet I dug right in...


First cut to get the laser drop is "You're a Liar."  The song jumps in your face right out of the gate.  Hard driving guitar with some very solid drum work gets your adrenaline pumping...this should be an exciting week...

Top notes of Spock's Beard and Dreadnaught run rampant through the headphones and kick at your skull from all sides.  This is a band that enjoys playing and performing; you can feel the energy...as striking as a tornado funnel cloud breaking the horizon.

Next up is "Lose Your Way," another cut with a rough edge, but with the corners rounded just a bit.  A prog band that takes the eternal jam session approach to playing; you can almost hear additional performers joining the line-up as the music plays on.  Black Cat 6 has found a portal to the classic prog era of the 70's and they are squeezing all the life they can from it.  This song has a funk about it that reminds me of Joe Walsh in his James Gang days, but with a stronger ensemble.  The drum here lay a solid foundation and the guitar work leaps all over the room.

Liner Notes...like other bands Neil Citron is involved with, the focus is on the music and not so much the behind-the-scenes stuff.  Their home is the USA and they play like you would expect a hard hitting prog band from America to play--straight at you with no warning.  Somehow I don't think the name of the band or the  album was pulled randomly from a hat...

The band is a trio consisting of the aforementioned Neil Citron on guitar, keyboards, and vocals, Luke Fattore on drums, and Jon Pomplin on bass.  If you pick up top notes of BangTower you are quite astute; although Neil is the only member of both bands, the hard charging energy from both bands is unmistakable.

Neil is a Grammy winner, Luke an in-demand session drummer and producer, and Jon started Declassified Records, the label on which this album was recorded.  Individually accomplished, collectively occupying territory in the high energy section of the prog garden...


Last serving of the night is "Saying It Out Loud."  More of a ballad feel than the other songs I've listened to thus far, there is a sense of Seconds Before Landing in the air the way emotions drip from every note.  Don't be fooled though--the guitar still has that sting to it and the air is heavy with a brooding ardor...the canvas strokes are dark and heavy; Black Cat 6 can be quite the mood elevator...

This week I chose for your listening interlude "Black Cat," mainly for its heavy opening.  This one comes at you in a deceptive, creep-up-on-you kind of way; there are top notes of Cream shooting through the headphones. Everything about this song is heavy...it might not be metal but it sure as hell weighs a ton.  Black Cat 6 is another arena for Neil to just let loose, and Jon and Luke seem all in on the adventure.  This is a band for those who have been around the prog garden a few times and remember the fun they had taking that first journey.  Pour something with some weight behind it and sit back...




You can connect with the band and purchase their album on their website Blackcat6 and Bandcamp.
They also have Facebook and Twitter @BlackCat6band.  You've got time, stat awhile...


                  

So my fellow progheads, I hope Black Cat 6 made your quarantine a little more enjoyable and a lot more tolerable.  One of the things I enjoy about spending time in the prog garden is how big the umbrella is and how diverse the music is when traveling the different side roads in the genre.  Black Cat 6 isn't a throwback so much as a reflection of the past cast upon the future.  The music may be heavy and even dark at times, but the sun shines brightly on their section of the prog garden.

And once again the search for all things prog continues...until next week...   

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Circuline "Circulive Majestik"

Good evening once again fellow progheads!  Whether you're in quarantine, a forced lock down, or just plain staying at home for the foreseeable future, I hope you are virus-free, safe, and finding musical pleasure in the prog garden.

The search for all things prog continues despite the worldwide pandemic, and since the idea of seeing a live show is all but a fantasy until (at least) Autumn 2021, I thought now the perfect time to bring a "live show" to the Concert Closet.  So regardless as to whether I'm rubbing salt in a fresh wound or making the best of a difficult situation, welcome to the latest release from Circuline; Circulive Majestik."


Another band with a strong female lead vocalist; coincidence?  Perhaps not...
Once again my headphones are on and the first song to pierce my auditory canals is "Who I Am," with a strong keyboard intro that leads into a soft melodic flow that is reminiscent of Yes.  Lead vocals are not only strong they are shared, making for a bit of intrigue I simply cannot avoid...

Opening the show with "Who I Am" starts the journey with an introspective kick.  Right away you are thrust down a rabbit hole of wonder as the piano mesmerizes you.  The guitars and percussion pick up on that energy and push you farther along...and then darkness--save the lone candle burning a hole through the center of the canvas.  Those double lead vocals burst on the scene,  and yes it is extremely captivating.  There are aromatics of Supertramp floating through this cut, right down to the bone-chilling wind that blows through as the mood changes.  A touch of Camel comes through as well, filling the room with all sorts of energy bursts.  A great opening performance...

Next on the playlist is "Summit."  There is somewhat of a Moody Blues feel as the song opens; soft and genteel.  The guitar that leads you deeper into the song is smooth like the satin lining of a suede jacket.  The vocals wrap around that guitar like a scarf on a blustery day.  Top notes are Fairport Convention and Gentle Giant as the music fills the canvas with deep, rich hues.  Circuline has put together an album that reaches across the prog garden to satisfy many affluent tastes.

Liner Notes...Calling New York home, Circuline is a live action definition of what it means to be a band--the contributions of all being necessary to create the whole.  With Natalie Brown and Billy Spillane sharing lead vocal duties, Andrew Colyer on keyboards, Alek Darson on guitars, Matt Dorsey on bass, and Darin Bannon on drums, I am reminded of The Band in the sense that everyone makes multiple contributions to the entirety of the project...and it is an impressive ensemble.

Brought to life in 2014, Circuline is a "Mulligan Stew" of talent; two theatre quality lead vocalists, a keyboard player that attended Julliard, bass and guitar players that channel 70's prog at it finest, and a drummer who connects it all together.  Cinematic symphonic prog meets AOR and blows the roof off--without frivolous distractions.

Get to know Circuline at their website Circulinemusic and purchase their music at Bandcamp.  There is also Facebook and Twitter @CirculineMusic to stay connected and learn the latest the band has to offer.

The final spin this week is "Stay Alive."  The opening path the song leads you down is once again fraught with sounds coming at you from several directions brought together beautifully by Natalie's vocals. Keyboards and drums work together on this piece to underscore the guitar; so majestic throughout.  Circuline channels a bit of The Strawbs here; they truly pay homage to their cinematic/symphonic roots. 

For your listening pleasure I chose "Hollow."  I wanted you to get a taste of what this band is capable of; running the gambit from beautiful piano work to intricate keyboards, slick guitars to solid drums and percussion, and of course the dueling vocal stylings.  As fine tuned a live recording as anything in my current collection.  Sit back and enjoy... 


                     

So fellow progheads, I hope you enjoyed the "live" show from the prog garden this week.  Circuline is a band that connects on so many levels, bringing a sound to the Concert Closet that had me more than once checking the calendar to see if I time traveled back to the prog heydays of the 70's.

Now it's time to look ahead as the search for all things prog continues the journey...until next time...

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Far Meadow "Foreign Land"

Quarantine greetings fellow progheads!  Flattening the curve is certainly easier and more tolerable from inside the Concert Closet, so with mask and gloves at the ready let us foray deep into the prog garden and listen in with The Far Meadow on their latest release, "Foreign Land."



I have always been intrigued by bands--especially prog bands--with a strong female vocalist.  One would think the music lends itself to the sultry musings of a strong female voice, yet there seems to be so few in the genre.  Rather than lament that fact, let's enjoy those that call the prog garden home.  One again, headphones on...

Opening cut is "Travelogue" and as the curtain peels back slowly there are top notes of ELP spilling out.  Keyboards come at you subtly at first, then they explode all over the canvas...just like Keith would do.  The vocals are sandwiched between layers of keyboards and drums--and the lady can certainly hold her own.  The guitar works its way in and the vocals just continue to wind through the entire piece.  The music plays with you;  the symphonic roots The Far Meadow prides themselves on give way to a sultry ballad  at times...and the bass is reminiscent of Tony Levin.  This opening cut offers much; hopefully the band doesn't spend it all in one place...

Fear not--the second song I drop the laser on, "Mud," keeps the energy needle in the red.  The Gothic keyboards and upbeat tempo are strong with aromatics of Dreadnaught and perhaps a touch of Roxy Music to keep it interesting.  The drums are a solid foundation to this cut and everything fits like the proverbial glove.  The music is smooth as a silk necktie and cool as the zoot suit it's paired with...The Far Meadow
demonstrates the ability to make intelligent, well produced music and have fun while doing it.

Liner Notes...hailing from London, The Far Meadow is a quintet with Denis Warren on lead and rhythm guitar, Keith Buckman on bass, Eliot Minn on keyboards, Paul Bringloe on drums and percussion, and the lady behind those piercing vocals is Marguerita Alexandrou.  This is the third album in the band's catalog; the second on Bad Elephant Music.

The Far Meadow released their first album in 2012 and kept an upward trajectory.  With a sound that radiates across the prog garden from Yes to Rush to Gentle Giant, this is a band I would love to see perform live...curse you COVID-19 (and that darn trip across the Atlantic)...

You can learn more about the band at their website thefarmeadow and Facebook.  Feel free to give them a shout out on Twitter  @TheFarMeadow as well.  Of course purchasing the music is always a great way to support the artist, and you can do just that at Bandcamp.

One last selection to settle into; "Foreign Land."  Title cuts are telling to me because they shine a brighter light into the soul of the band.  In this case, I get a sense of crystals set on an antique table with lavender scented candles filling the room with a most soothing aroma.

Marguerita once again caresses you with her smooth vocals...and the tempo picks up a bit.  Not so much that the candles are blown out, but your blood is pulsing with a bit more oomph.  The song settles into a rather surprising groove as everyone lets their energy flow; you can feel it pumping through the headphones.  This is a "sit on the back of the sofa with a favorite beverage and the lights off" kind of moment, so excuse me while I fade to black...


For your own listening pleasure this week I chose "Sulis Rise," a captivating piece of music.  The drums are just enough to keep the entire piece flowing like a silk scarf in a soft breeze, the keyboards cutting through and all the while Marguerita once again crawls inside your head and wraps around your cranium like velvet.  Denis uses his guitar to splay the canvas with an array of color that bleeds from soft hues to bold flashes of brightness.  The Far Meadow takes you on quite the journey with each song...enjoy the ride... 

                  

So my fellow progheads, once again a fun week of hanging in the Concert Closet winds down.  The Far Meadow proved to be a bright light shining across the prog garden.  The music gives off a "feel good" vibe the genre needs needs a shot of every now and then...and who can resist vocals that smooth?

But alas, the search for all things prog continues on its never ending journey...until next time...