Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Graveyard Orchestra

Welcome once again to my search for all things prog, fellow progheads!  I hope you enjoyed the two week extended stay in Germany as we all got to know Fire on Dawson...and now the search continues.  This week I find myself  back yet again in the familiar confines of the UK--must be some sort of magnetic pull--as I feel the Concert Closet being drawn to some new and distinct sounds emanating from London.  Looking to "loosen up a bit" I discovered a band that, while it might not take itself too seriously, does have an interesting groove.  Welcome to the sounds of Happy Graveyard Orchestra.

Happy Graveyard Orchestra qualify themselves as "...experimental rock...unpredictable music, unexpected musicians..."  If you've followed my blog for even a few weeks, you know it is impossible for me to travel past that billboard without at least a look-see...so with a wink and a nod toward a "less than formal" week, let us wander into the off-beat darkness of the Happy Graveyard Orchestra...

Moving slowly and perhaps a bit cautiously to the prog buffet for my first serving, I come away with a very distinct tune called "That Thing There for Me."  Almost immediately I get a sense of Crowded House performing with Frank Zappa.  Soft and melodic, the music wends itself not so much through the dark gloom of a graveyard, but rather the upbeat celebration of achieved happiness. There is quite a bit happening here really; it is almost as if the music causes an out-of-body experience.  The simplistic acoustics are accented with just the right emotion by the vocals.  I sense top notes of Difford and Tilbrook floating across a smoke-filled nightclub where Ebn-Ozn are back lit on a dark, sparse stage...striking while making you hanker for more...

Moving with a bit more confidence in my gait, the return trip to the prog buffet yields an ironically fitting piece called "Dracula."  An instrumental lead in with aromas of early Beatles in an oddly funky mood.  As the song progresses, I detect top notes of Architecture of the Absurd and Van der Graaf Generator...almost a Hocus Pocus unplugged kind-of-vibe.  Happy Graveyard Orchestra oozes with fun and talent--an atypical combination that is both refreshing and exhilarating.  The bass thumps across the latter part of this song like stones skimming a lake.

Liner Notes...Haunting the area in and around London, England, Happy Graveyard Orchestra was founded by bass playing vocalist Ivan Perilli currently joined by Debbie Teo on oboe, piano, and glockenspiel, Saif Ur-Rehman on steam punk guitar, and Pablo Perez Vich on drums and percussion.  I can honestly say I do not recollect seeing an oboe or glockenspiel credit listed by a band prior to this, which goes to my point about how talented, dedicated, and comfortable Happy Graveyard Orchestra appears to be.  Fold in the ability to avoid being overly serious, some humility, and a dash of zaniness...voila!  Happy Graveyard Orchestra. With two demos to their credit, Happy Graveyard Orchestra emerged from the darkness around A.D. 2012 and have been wreaking musical havoc since.

Trip number three to this ghoulish buffet yields a song reminiscent of New Orleans jazz; "Danse Macabre & the Swan."  The snare drum opening leading into dark, ominous acoustics takes me to a funeral march that is more celebratory than downtrodden.  I pick up the scent of Bang on a Can All Stars emanating from my headphones...Happy Graveyard Orchestra didn't just walk to the end of the prog garden--they leaped across the babbling brook, paced off another fifty feet and then dug a trench into which they poured their souls.  Music like this comes along rarely...and I believe that is because while many would like to break the mold and leave an indelible mark, few have the courage to step into the moonlight for that "offbeat foxtrot."  Happy Graveyard Orchestra are fun to listen to...akin to hanging out at your favorite local gin joint because the house band just plain ol' kicks ass...learn more about Happy Graveyard Orchestra at http://happygraveyardorchestra.co.uk/.  You can also follow them on Twitter @HappyGraveyardO and Facebook at
https://www.facebook.com/HappyGraveyardOrchestra.  Happy Graveyard Orchestra can also be found on Spotify and iTunes.

Choosing a clip to post for your listening pleasure was a unique challenge this week; I wanted to capture the essence of what Happy Graveyard Orchestra is without spoiling the fun.  Ultimately, I opted for a song called "Those Seventeen Letters."  The tempo and mood flit about; energetic to sedentary...macabre to joyous...even structured to avant-garde...which is what makes Happy Graveyard Orchestra both fun and maddening to listen to.  There are bands that dare you to put a label on their music, or try to pigeon-hole their style. Happy Graveyard Orchestra just sits back and watches you try, with the evil genius grin your algebra teacher wore when you tried to explain a quadratic equation...


Well my fellow progheads, I hope you enjoyed deciphering Happy Graveyard Orchestra as much as I did.  Progressive music is such a moving target and bands that are able to expand the landscape are a special breed to me.  Emulation is fine--even desired at times.  But the true artist is one who can walk out on the stage that is life and project something new and distinct...Happy Graveyard Orchestra does that with all the seriousness and stress of blowing bubbles in a glass of chocolate milk.

Much like other trailblazers, Happy Graveyard Orchestra leaves you scratching your head and wanting more...but alas; the Concert Closet is off once again to extend the search for all things prog...until next week...  

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