Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Mood Manual

Many thanks for returning one more time fellow progheads!  Leaving Italy was bittersweet after spending seven days embedded in the ambient section of the prog garden; I was reluctant to pull up stakes and move on...but my search for all things prog faithfully continues.  This week I find myself back in the Motherland (for me); the good ol' USA, pushing the envelope while scouting for a new,
"not-quite-hit-the-big-time" prog band..and my GPS has led me to Madison WI to enjoy the captivating sounds of The Mood Manual.

The Mood Manual defines themselves simply as a progressive rock band that "...autonomously create authentic and unique art...with the elegance to amplify awareness..."  So apparently Wisconsin is famous for something much bigger than cheddar cheese and beer affordable by college students--and that is my cue to traipse up to the prog buffet and get this party started.  Selection number one is a tune called "Feeling Symbol."  It opens as if the stylus randomly dropped on the middle of the album; you know that feeling you tuned in thirty seconds too late and can't help but wonder what you missed. The vocals smack you on the cheeks while the drums hit you like rabbit punches on the back of your head...I feel the prog love and am drawn in for more...

Serving number two is a moodier piece called "Black Massasauga."  An uptempo opening that seems a bit contradictory to the lyrics; suddenly I can relate to the name of the band.  The Mood Manual strikes and then takes a step back as if to examine their handiwork, asking, "Do you realize what you just felt/heard/saw?"  The drums never leave the back of the song...filling in spaces that would otherwise sit empty while guitars rhythmically strut up front.  Top notes of  The Strawbs and a slight touch of Gentle Giant meets Architecture of the Absurd crawls through the inner being of the band...The Mood Manual  pitched their tent where metal meets neo in the prog garden; an interesting combination.

Liner Notes...The Mood Manual calls Madison WI home and is comprised of Tyler Kundinger on vocals, guitar, and violin, James Keith Fabry on bass and vocals, Andrew (Gio) Giordano on drums and percussion, and Matthew William McHugh on guitar and vocals. James, Gio, and Matthew grew up together and played with several local bands, finally assembling The Mood Manual and releasing their debut album in 2011.  Challenging the five senses--especially sound--is evidently something The Mood Manual does for kicks, as their eclectic and emotion filled style exemplifies their many moods for the prog listener.

My third selection this week is a song called "Ballad of Somebody."  Taking the tempo down a notch, I close my eyes and am taken to a nightclub lounge with thick cigar smoke hanging in the air while subtle guitar work starts to slowly gain momentum.  With the snap of a guitar string the lounge melts away, the mood darkens just enough to furl my brow, and The Mood Manual is coming at you full-on.  But almost as suddenly the tempo flits back and you become caught in a swirl of time and energy. The Mood Manual  paints using an emotional brush with no fear of bright or dark colors.
Just when you think you've cracked the code they go off on a tangent, pulling you in deeper.

My selection for your viewing/listening pleasure this week is a bit different; more of an informal introduction to The Mood Manual if you allow me some liberty here.  Wade past the first four minutes to get to the music; from the vantage point of a live performance by an up-and-coming band recorded in a small venue, not bad.  They do manage to pack a lot into this clip--but do yourself, me, and The Mood Manual a favor by digging a bit deeper at http://themoodmanual.bandcamp.com/. You can also follow them on Twitter at @TheMoodManual.

Now that November has opened the door for the dreaded "Polar Vortex" to sweep across parts of the country, I am grateful for the warmth of the Concert Closet as I continue this journey.  The Mood Manual offered a glimpse into a different section of the prog garden...a section where the growth is deep, thick, and can bloom in all sorts of weather.  Progressive music is unique because of its chameleon-like ability to adapt to its surroundings.  The mood, tempo, attitude, and everything associated with prog make it something to behold.  Now that I have broken fertile ground in Wisconsin, it is time to move my search for all things prog forward...until next week...

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