Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Introducing The Alea Dilemma

Greetings from the Concert Closet fellow progheads!  Last week was quite the adventure with Pandora; not only were we treated to some amazing progressive rock, we also witnessed firsthand the passion emanating from Studi Pandora Music di Claudio Colombo...my blood pressure is still running high...

Having spent three of the past five weeks in Italy, I realize the need to take the search for all things prog back home to the USA.  For a shake-up of sorts, I decided to look for something new and exciting; a band that has to survive the next ten years in order to celebrate their ten year anniversary.

Being a strong believer in fate, receiving a first hand request, and seeing as the planets have aligned themselves just so, this is the perfect moment to introduce you my loyal followers to The Alea Dilemma.  In their own words, The Alea Dilemma is "...an eclectic progressive rock band..."  With their debut album, "Within the Clamor of Voices," set for release October 30th--three days hence--let us take the Concert Closet to Missouri and ingest all The Alea Dilemma is serving up...

Jumping right in with a hearty appetite, I start with a full-bodied song called "I.D."  The music opens with an energy burst that hits you square in the cranium.  The guitar just baps you right off, followed by a drum beat thumping strong and steady.  The music gives the illusion of letting up-- but don't be fooled;  I.D. comes at you without compromise start to finish.  I sense top notes of Dream Theater and perhaps an aromatic scent of Yes in the air...The Alea Dilemma has set the bar high with their first installment...

Serving number two is an attention-grabber; a sort of "prog-parallel" tune called "Forsaken Pawns." The opening bears resemblance to an early Uriah Heep gig with a rustic Boz Scaggs laying down the vocal tracks...hitting hard in unsuspecting places.  The drums set up camp at the top of your spinal column sending reverb across your body in waves...meanwhile hefty doses of guitar are being pumped  through your bloodstream...Alea Dilemma has laid roots in a dark section of the prog garden--but light does manage to cut through the haze.

Liner Notes...Hailing from Kansas City MO, The Alea Dilemma came to be in 2013...but the prog seeds that blossomed first took root in Denver CO back in 2007.  Guitarist/vocalist Danny Brymer formed a band with bass player Ryan Sloan that was short-lived due to life hurling her usual challenges and twists at them...but fate always finds a way.  Danny and Ryan were reunited in KC and decided to give the prog band thing another shot, adding Todd Crookston on drums to complete the ensemble.

Playing prog with infusions of jazz, metal, and a few symphonic layers, The Alea Dilemma has reached beyond traditional boundaries and forged a sound ripe with top notes of Yes, The Strawbs, Led Zeppelin, and Steely Dan.  I even detect an infusion of Fairpoint Convention blended with aromatics of Chick Corea to create what is truly a distinctive sound.  Danny, Ryan, and Todd have perused many sections of the prog garden and used what they learned to build a style that stands just outside the borderline of any hard definition.  It is an invigorating jolt to the senses...

Another cut served up for digesting is a jazz-infused gem called "The Machine."  Clean and crisp, this song floats through your ears like a kayak cutting across a still lake. The song opens as if spoon feeding evidence in a criminal investigation...building to a tense moment of full disclosure. Once the drums grab the guitars and invade the inner lining of your skull, the song comes at you from all sides...a  reflection of the diversity Weather Report has been known to hurl around the room, with side notes of Joe Satriani...

The Alea Dilemma is a multifarious band...they make their home in the prog garden but were raised on many influences.  The complexity of their sound increases your desire to hear more.  They have haunting vocals, intense mood swings, and a foot locker full of imagination...

Listen to the cut posted below; it is but a sampling of what The Alea Dilemma will thrust upon the prog world in 72 hours...an exciting piece called "Down the Rabbit Hole."  A funky jazz fused intro opens a flood gate of sound that pours through your ears and fills your cranium with pictures and ideas reminiscent of the Whisky A Go Go in its heyday.  Let the sounds and images wash over you like high tide just before the storm.  Learn more about The Alea Dilemma and check out a purchase of their debut release at http://www.thealeadilemma.com/. You can also follow the band on Twitter at
@TheAleaDilemma.  To get below the surface and keep up with the band's show schedule, check their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheAleaDilemma.  Support The Alea Dilemma and purchase your copy of "Within the Clamor of Voices" Friday...

OK fellow progheads, ten down and two to go as 2015 continues its relentless march toward the end of the calendar.  The Alea Dilemma is one more piece of proof positive that the prog garden has fertile soil and continues to produce brilliant music.  That prog is a melting pot of sorts should surprise no one; blending the intricate musings of jazz with layers of symphonic sound and  hard hitting rock 'n' roll is bound to leave a mark on your mind--but isn't that what prog is supposed to do? With The Alea Dilemma unearthed and exposed to your auditory senses, time to continue the search for all things prog and take the Concert Closet on another exploration...until next week...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Catching Up With Pandora...Prog Music and So Much More...

Good evening fellow progheads, and welcome back!  Last week's side trip to Spain/London was enjoyable to say the least--but the siren call of Italy has drawn me back once more.  Once again I ask you my loyal followers to flip through the rolodex in your mind--and the link on this blog to my posts from January 2014--and re-visit Pandora.  A lot has happened in the 22 months since the Concert Closet visited Bra, Italy in the Piedmont region of that beautiful country.  Well, the search for all things prog has once again brought the Concert Closet to the Italian hemisphere of the globe where there is always great food, enthusiastic people, and marvelous progressive music.

Catching up with Pandora, I discover the band has been anything but complacent since January 2014. So this week I bring you another interview with another prog band as I peel the curtain back on Pandora; let us discover together what has kept Claudio Colombo and the rest of Pandora busy since our last stopover...


Closet Concert Arena: Since Alibi Filosifico was released, what has Pandora been up to?

Claudio: We have had quite a lot to keep us busy!  After the release of an album there are many  aspects on the business side of music that need attention; jounalists, publicity, information via our website and other channels.  Above all Pandora needed to keep our fans involved, make them feel they are part of our family!

The time seemed to fly incredibly fast as we worked on these aspects of promoting our music and we found ourselves on many new roads.  One new journey was the opening of the "Studi Pandora Music di Claudio Colombo," a structure hosting an art school, music school, and a cutting edge recording studio.  Another side road Pandora traveled was working on our next album and the celebration of our 10th anniversary!  Our communication channels may have slowed a bit--but we are working hard and profusely "behind-the-scenes" without losing contact with our faithful, loyal fans.

CCA: Can you tell us more about your new recording studio/music and art school?

Claudio: Yes, of course!  The official name is "Studi Pandora Music di Claudio Colombo;" a project I have been planning for years.  Previously I ran a drum school for almost ten years.  Following the evolution of Pandora's musical journey, I decided to create a place made by artists for artists.  A
state-of-the-art facility where one can record in a top quality professional setting; where someone can learn to play an instrument alongside artists who live by and through their music.  At the same time, I wanted my wife Emoni to be part of it all--the one person in my family and Pandora that has worked extremely hard side-by-side with me to make it all happen.  She follows the arts courses and secretarial work in the studios.  We started this project in 2013, and in October 2014 everything was complete and the studios were inaugurated; I successfully accomplished everything I set out to do.

I run the drum, guitar, bass, and keyboard courses, Corrado Grappeggia is in charge of piano courses, my father Beppe takes care of music history, and Emoni handles art and English for musical language courses.  Other teachers have joined our project as well...some are part of the history of Pandora.   Jerry Arcidiacono is an artist who performs with Pandora live; Jerry and other lesser known but incredibly talent-laden artists full of passion love to reach out to anyone interested in approaching the world of music!

The studio has been analyzed down to the last detail.  The entrance, for example, is dedicated to an extensive music memorabilia collection put together over several years, belonging to my father and I. Live concert posters from original shows, autographed track lists--we even have a set of Phil Collins' drumsticks to be honest!  Inside there is a section highlighting Emoni's art teachings for both young and old; where she devotes her time and talent to creating the splendid album cover art for Pandora.

The heart of the entire operation is most certainly the control room and recording studio.  Everything was designed to achieve a great, clear sound...working with the latest technology available as well as analog equipment from "the good old days!"  I am also in charge of recording, which ranges from demo productions to official record albums.  I handle every detail regardless of whether it is one or the other; to me everything is of equal importance as those who have registered for courses and entered the studios will attest.  I invite you and your readers to visit our studio's website at
https://www.facebook.com/Studi-Pandora-Music-di-Claudio-Colombo-811373725582720/timeline/ to better appreciate the photos and other material through our work.

CCA: Have there been any line-up changes since Alibi Filosifico?

Claudio: No.  The project has its artistic form completed--I am always in charge of drums, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, some keyboards, and small instruments added here and there; Puerto Rican cuatro, flute, etc.  I also handle artistic production of the final songs, the audio recording, and the mixing of the recordings.  My father Beppe continues his great work with keyboards as does Corrado, in addition to leaving his voice print on our work.

With us also is Emoni Viruet, who will continue to apply her magical artistic touch that characterizes our covers of other artists.  She will complete our arrangements with her ever evocative, intense, and beautiful voice.


CCA: What can fans expect from Pandora for the remainder of 2015 and beyond?  

Claudio: This year we are celebrating exactly ten years since the creation of the Pandora project.
Ten years since we first sat in our living room at home discussing what to do and where to begin...ten years since Corrado, after arriving at our house, said, "I want to play prog!"  and my father excitedly replying, "Then you are in the right place!"  We are celebrating ten years since choosing the name Pandora; the name that has always kept us company.  To mark this celebration, we wanted to make something extremely special, something that would contain everything that brought us to where we are now and inspired us to keep going.

CCA: Will the new album be as grandiose as Alibi Filosifico, or is Pandora going in a different direction?

Claudio: We are not the ones to judge this, hehe!  But we can tell you we are exceptionally happy with how things are going!  The direction of Pandora--according to many--is always very unpredictable.  I would need the album in hand to have an answer because there is still a sea that separates us from the end result.  Nonetheless, we start recording soon and if all goes well, the completed album will be available in early 2016!

CCA: What musicians/bands have had an effect on Pandora?

Claudio: If we have to make a list it would most certainly include: Genesis, ELP, Yes, Jethro Tull, Dream Theater, Gentle Giant, Area, Banco, PFM, Le Orme, Ayreon, Pink Floyd, Marillion, Pendragon, and many, many more...

Music is a unique and special world because everyone influences each other, but with different ideas and ways of expressing those ideas that may contrast others.  The groups we listed are but a small part of what we have heard and collected over the past 40 years in our recording libraries (which for the most part belong to my father; he has a vast collection of LP's and CD's!).  Each group has shared with us emotions that have sparked something inside.  There are people who listen only to a specific genre of music and are not open to listening to something other than what they hear regularly.  I believe this is very wrong and not very constructive.  If what you hear is created with a sincere, pure, true expression, then it should be listened to while trying to understand and grasp the nuances--whether it be jazz or death metal!

While it is true Pandora makes symphonic progressive music, there are times when I may need a Genesis CD to explain a feeling I want to create, while immediately after I may use something from Iron Maiden!  Perhaps that is what pulls us away from the "classic" progressive music; we are not tied to just the classic canons of the genre--we prefer to wander through every aspect of music from rock to jazz to metal to classical...from melodic to the most complex and absurd improvisations you can imagine.  As we have always stated and believed; Pandora music is a pure and sincere 360 degrees of Musical Expressionism!

CCA: Who writes the songs and how are the arrangements determined?

Claudio: The role of composer has been passed around continuously since the birth of Pandora; in the end we all take part and many things end up completely changed, hehe!  Everyone's opinions and tastes are important to make our music what it is.  To be honest we have very different musical personalities that once blended together, create our unique sound.  I am very much in charge of the arrangements and the artistic production of the band.  I do my best to perfectly blend everything, bringing it to a final result that satisfies everyone's ideas, all the while creating a unified meaning.

CCA: Will Pandora be touring to promote the new album, and if so will that include US dates?

Claudio: Unfortunately no.  It is very difficult to promote music here in Italy--concert-wise especially! We would love to bring our live music overseas; if that were to happen we would be more than honored to share the world of Pandora, hehe!

CCA: The artwork and designs for your CD sleeves are quite striking; where does Emoni draw her inspiration from?

Claudio: Emoni's art visually defines the music of Pandora in every aspect.  Her way of expressing her interpretation of the music is unique and eclectic.  Emoni is a very radiant person, filled with enthusiasm and talent.  Right from the beginning when we first started working together, she painted while the band worked on songs in another room; this allowed her to put on canvas her feelings about the music she was hearing.  When I saw one of her first drawings I immediately said, "This will be our next cover art!"  I am referring to the art you see on "Sempre e Ovunque Oltre il Sogno;" an album containing much of her artwork--given that she created a painting for every song on it!  That said, after seeing Emoni's first artwork, I was very shocked and pleasantly surprised as was the rest of the band.  We all agreed and Emoni came to be part of the team.  We can now say she is our Roger Dean, hehe!

 CCA: Are there any other festivities or surprises planned to celebrate Pandora's 10th Anniversary?

 Claudio: As I stated earlier, a nice sparkling album, hehe!  But I would like to clarify; this is  a very special album dedicated to our 10th anniversary--and some specific choices were made to celebrate just that.  Let me give you a little preview:

The album will be divided into two parts.  The first will be comprised of four songs from our previous albums (which you will soon discover!) completely re-recorded, re-arranged, and re-mixed.
As a special gift to our fans outside Italy who have always supported us--the songs are sung in English!

The second part of the album will contain five re-arranged tribute songs (which you will find out later!) dedicated to groups who have been an inspiration and guided us with their notes and music. Of course there will be other surprises as well--I will reveal one now; the renewal work and collaboration with the legendary David Jackson who once again lends his magnificent touch and tremendous talent to our recordings!

As always the album will be an AMS production under Matthias Scheller and will contain everything our fans have come to expect from Pandora--360 degrees of Musical Expressionism!

CCA: Feel free to send this fan a copy when its complete...

CCA: Which musicians and/or bands would you like to perform a live show with?

Claudio: As my father Beppe always says, music is a moment of unity, expression, and sharing. Whoever understands or feels this is welcome on stage with us...so I guess I don't have a precise or definitive answer to this question.  To play alongside other bands, be it before or during as has happened in the past, is always an honor; something special that makes music a real universal language.


Well fellow progheads, I believe you will agree that Pandora is one of the most high energy, passionate prog bands to take up residence in the prog garden...I need to sit and catch my breath! Pandora absolutely embodies a richness, boldness, and zeal few bands in any genre radiate. Combine all that energy with the talent that oozes through Pandora's music and you have the embodiment of what prog is.

Listen to the music interspersed randomly through this blog and you hear more than sound--you hear passion coming alive.  Pandora exudes a desire to not only play great prog--they bring it to life and offer it to the masses!  Follow Pandora on Twitter and keep up with all that is happening at @PandoraMusic1. Learn more about the band at http://www.pandoramusic.eu/ and please check out the Studi Pandora Music di Claudio Colombo at the link I posted above...you will be drawn to the progressive arts...

Now the Concert Closet must once again continue the search for all things prog, which means once again leaving Italy.  Bittersweet as that may be, I know there is so much more prog out there waiting to be discovered...until next week...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Psicolorama...The Album Catalog...

Autumn harvest greetings fellow progheads!  The days are getting shorter and the nights a bit brisker...a perfect time to continue the search for all things prog.  This week things get twisted just a bit; I have done album reviews in the past and has received much positive feedback. They are enjoyable for me and a great way to learn more about many of the prog bands tilling acreage in the prog garden. Based on feedback received I believe they are entertaining for you my faithful followers as well.  So this week I dine on the entire album catalog of Psicolorama...

Psicolorama is a prog band the way David Bowie is a rock 'n' roll band...one man, one artist, and many collaborations.  You may remember my original review of Psicolorama just a bout a year ago. The lone "mad cap" behind the curtain is one Carlos Herrera Carmona, hailing from Seville, Spain--although he lists London UK as the home of the band.

The Psicolorama music library consists--as of this writing--of four full length LP's and one EP, each with its own story to tell.  This week I will review a selection or two from each and offer you my faithful followers an opportunity to get acquainted with "...a new concept in prog..." as stated in the Psicolorama bio.  You may not need to fasten your seatbelts, but you will want to grab hold of something with both hands to anchor yourself securely in this stratosphere...

The first offering served up is from the album "Fear" originally released July 2014.  A deep, cerebral song called "Something Logic" is prog at its minimalist best.  Nothing gratuitous or excessive lasered into the disc...just raw progressive rock.  The piano blends so brilliantly with the acoustic guitar it is impossible to find any seams.  There is a Flim & the BB's feel to this piece; it is haunting while avoiding the macabre.  The vocal track cuts right through the heart of the song; you feel a pulse coming through the headphones.

Moving down the buffet line to serving number two, I find "The Girl on the Grass" from the December 2014 release, "Momo." Another piano intro that stirs unbeknownst sentiment...you find yourself impatiently searching the far reaches of your brain for a connection.  You are familiar with the feelings--but why are they here?  The mood swings a bit toward a light bleeding through the canvas covering this piece...as if emerging from the deep end of the pool.  Psicolorama cuts through the subcutaneous layers of emotion and pierces the heart.  You want to save the girl even though you aren't sure what you'd be saving her from.  Psicolorama borrows a page from the master of emotion twisting, Syd Barrett.  Remnants of very early Pink Floyd flake off the music like so much wax on an old Chianti bottle...

Liner Notes...despite having exposed Psicolorama to the masses with my previous post, some elaboration may be helpful.  Carlos Herrera Carmona is the heart and soul of Psicolorama--and a multi-layered, poignant soul it is.  Carlos has collaborated with the french prog group In Limbo, Horten Aranda, and Nicolas Leterrier among others.  Psicolorama does prog proud because there is so much more to this band than music and sound.  There is something tangible...a feeling as real as walking on broken glass or enjoying a dry martini in a smoke filled nightclub.  Psicolorama draws you in slowly only to escort you out vigorously--and you are never the same.

Stepping back to the prog buffet for my third course, I find "Father and Maryanne" from the July 2015 release, "Home."  Herminia Loh provides the vocals on this cut, and they are piercing. The passion that envelopes this song  is almost frightening--all you want to do is stop the aching in this poor girl's heart.  The mood shifts sharply toward a darkness that falls into an abyss from which there appears to be no escape.  The soft acoustic guitar is a ruse--the pain drips from each note sung like sweat from the brow of a condemned prisoner...the brush strokes on this canvas are almost three dimensional.

One more slice from the carving station yields a most intriguing cut called "Walking Along the Fence" from the September 2015 LP, "The Garden and the Pool: Maryanne's Diaries on the Farm." The album follows Maryanne from her odyssey on "Home" and delves even deeper.  As "Walking Along the Fence" fades out, it bleeds into an exquisite piece called "The Kidnapped Life." No words needed--you feel all the emotion you can handle as it runs down your spine, spilling out like so many tears on a satin pillow.

For your musical interlude this week I chose "Psico-Reimpression," the lone cut from Psicolorama's October 2014 self-titled EP release.  The music bores so deep and explores so much it is hard to believe only twelve minutes have clicked off your life clock when it's over.  The dark, somewhat ghoulish opening seeps into daylight as delicately as a faun being born.  The layers are progressively applied atop a piano and guitar foundation such that you aren't aware of the change in mood and tempo until after the fact.  In an ironic twist, the song seems almost celebratory...like seeing the world through a different lens has opened not just your eyes, but your soul as well.  Go ahead...hit play...and while you're listening to the music and allowing it to infiltrate your mind, check out more of Psicolorama  at http://psicolorama.bandcamp.com/.  Follow the whimsical and assorted rants on Twitter  @psicolorama and other musings on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005418435612&fref=ts.  I highly recommend you crack the ceramic piggy bank sitting on your bureau and make a purchase too...this is the prog that made your parents wonder who the heck occupied that locked bedroom at the end of the hall.


OK fellow progheads, the prog garden has officially been expanded.  Psicolorama may not be in the Captain Beefheart  section, but the band does till acreage in the Pink Floyd "Atomic Heart Mother" and "Meddle" section.  Carlos Herrera Carmona turns inside himself to expose all that Psicolorama has to offer.  So many cliches would make a fitting description here, but I prefer to simply tell you that Psicolorama is progressive music...much the way The Talking Heads are new wave post funk. Unafraid to collaborate with anyone, Carlos pushes the envelope with each new release.  I have a sneaking suspicion the four LP/one EP catalog will be expanding soon and often--of course I will be more than happy to review the next wave of music Psicolorama spills across the prog garden. However, the search for all things prog must venture onward...until next week...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Comedy of Errors

Happy "Progtober" fellow progheads!  As promised, the Concert Closet has left Italy (for now)...albeit grudgingly.  Barock Project was the perfect ending to a fortnight spent in the land of my forefathers...but I digress.  This week the search for all things prog has me on the hunt for a sound unique unto itself; full and bright without melting your ears.  Music that refuses to be pigeon-holed...sounds that fill the room without kicking you out.  So 1500 miles northwest we go to enjoy the rich sounds of Comedy of Errors.

Based in Glasgow, Scotland, Comedy of Errors refers to themselves as a "...progressive rock band..." A bit like Miles Davis referring to himself as a jazz musician...time do dig deep into the prog garden soil and unearth what lies beneath...

The prog buffet opens with a flashback of sorts...a mind-altering tune called "Disobey."  The song opens as if playing in reverse...drawing you deeper into a vortex that is oddly relaxing.  Comedy of Errors strikes with muted force; you feel yourself being hit yet never feel abused.  The music is extremely tight...guitars feed off the drums which follow a sturdy bass line, and strong vocals are the chives on the baked potato.  I can easily spend seven days here...

Making an eager stride back for more, I find another stalwart piece; "The Cause."  The curtain rolls back on a darkened stage--but beams of light break through the haze almost immediately. Comedy of Errors seems to be anything but--there is a seriousness about the way this band approaches their craft.
I detect top notes of  Be Bop Deluxe and an aromatic whiff of Transatlantic...perhaps an after taste of Marillion as well.  Comedy of Errors strikes the anvil hard on this tune; hammer blows with guitars and drums that leave your senses a bit out of kilter as the final notes echo through your ears. However; the band included a backdrop of emotion and passion that attempts to leap over all the barbed wire.  Sifting through the layers of music I am awed by the intricate simplicity...

Liner Notes...calling Glasgow, Scotland home, the current line-up for Comedy of Errors is Joe Cairney on vocals, Sam McCulloch and Mark Spalding on guitars, Jim Johnston on keyboards, John Fitzgerald on bass, and Bruce Levick on drums.  Dial the Way Back Machine to 1984; Comedy of Errors sets out to make their mark the old fashion way--clubbing, losing/adding members,  even suffering a temporary demise of the band.  Fast-forward to the present millennium where two albums and a metamorphosis of sorts combine with true determination and a burning desire to bring their music to the masses...new life is breathed into a symphonic-jazz fused progressive rock band.  I for one am pleased Comedy of Errors survived the decades of turbulence.

The final selection this week is a song called "Fanfare for the Broken Hearted."  A piano led soft opening bleeds into a melange of sound that fills the prog garden with fall blooms--the colors may not be "summer vibrant" but they certainly are deep, bold, and rich.  Vocals cut through the periphery and drive a stake through your feelings, like that first teenage crush.

The clip below is called "Rule Britannia."   I chose this particular cut because it fits like a favorite pair of shoes...you can just step right in and feel the comfort.  Gravel smooth vocals wrapped around a sound reminiscent of Beardfish jamming with latter-day Genesis allow Comedy of Errors to stretch their reach through the prog garden.  Feel free to listen again and again...learn more about Comedy of Errors at http://www.comedyoferrors.org/.  Of course, as always, you can follow the band on Twitter, @ComedyOfErrors2  and Facebook

Well fellow progheads, as we move closer to the end of another calendar, let us relish all that we have gathered from the prog garden thus far.  Comedy of Errors is but the latest fruit born of a bountiful harvest.  The search for all things prog continues to astound and enlighten me.  Progressive rock has shown time and again that music does indeed transcend if we but take the time to listen.  And now is the time to carry on the search for all things prog...until next week...