Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Decorating the Concert Closet for the Holidays

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyeux Noel, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Boxing Day, and of course a most boisterious "Festivus for the Rest of Us" fellow progheads!  As you can tell, I am all inclusive here as "Holiday Season 2016" plays out.  And as my loyal followers most assuredly remember, I am loathe to write a post ranking the best artists/songs/bands/blah blah blah of the year...



Lists are subjective and I usually hear someone complain about a great band or song being left off the list while some blithering noise or talentless hack has been incredulously added to the list.  The search for all things prog searches out the finest progressive rock music I believe is worth listening to and bands/artists worthy of your support. The prog garden is alive and well and fertile breeding ground for standard bearers and new comers alike.  I encourage you my fellow progheads to support those you find laudable and to continue meandering the garden in search of others.  With that in mind, I present the annual Closet Concert Arena Holiday Music post...please to enjoy...

Since it is impossible to avoid the elephant in the room I will walk right up and twist its trunk...2016 was a tough year for musicians and fans alike.  The prog garden was not immune to the Grim Reaper's scythe as David Bowie, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and others passed through the veil. However; I choose to celebrate the memories and music of these and other prog giants as 2016 lowers the curtain for the final time, so let us rejoice and play loud some holiday cheer...

The opener this year is a Keith Emerson rendition of "Silent Night."  This song is one of my personal holiday favorites and Keith does it justice.  Ever the showman--and always able to back up the bravado--Keith kept a low profile here.  Not to say the keyboards were hidden or muffled; they just laid down a festive carpet for the vocals and soft percussion to elegantly glide across...



Next up on the holiday buffet is a cut from Chris Squire's Swiss Choir, "Three Kings."  Another master humbly placing music before self as this song flows smooth and gentle through the headphones, much like melted chocolate cascading down the sides of a New York style cheesecake...yes please!  The backing choir bring an elegance to the entire piece as delicate keyboards move through the center and waft into your auditory canals...

                                     


One more slice from this holiday feast comes from the Moody Blues; "The Spirit of Christmas."  This is a band that seems to generate extreme emotion on both ends of the metronome; people either love 'em or hate 'em.  I tend to love 'em I guess, since I don't hate 'em.  This song pours out like a fine brandy...keyboards cascading with silky smooth vocals, all wrapped up with gentle acoustic guitar as the vocal master John Lodge brings it home...



This next song is simply an homage to Mr. Bowie...David was many things; artist, singer, musician, actor, chameleon, genius...I can hear the arguments against inclusion of this song already; hence my inclination to avoid best of lists and greatest of all time collections.  David Bowie was a visionary and true trail blazer, not only in the prog garden but many other art forms as well.  He will truly be missed, and one more tip of the hat surely won't hurt...



The final decoration to adorn the Concert Closet this year is Greg Lake's "I Believe in Father Christmas."  This is one of my favorite songs for the holidays, and I chose this version so as to highlight Greg's vocal and guitar skills.  The acoustic opening clears a path traipsed heavily with strong vocals and drums that leave no room for indecisiveness.  The upbeat mood bellows, and--this year especially--the prog garden  cannot have too much upbeat and happy...



...and that is a wrap fellow progheads, as the curtain is drawn for the final time on 2016!  The swansong has faded to black...the fat lady has sung...and thus begins anticipation for the search for all things prog 2017!

I would like to sincerely thank everyone for coming back week after week to see and hear what the Concert Closet has to offer.  This journey is truly a fun ride and it is an honor to captain this ship...something I assure you I do not take for granted.

The prog garden produced a great crop this year; interviews with up and comers and stalwarts, new bands, new releases, bands that have been pouring it out for decades, artists that bleed prog...I have been astounded, impressed, surprised (pleasantly), educated, and humbled by what I have learned. The prog garden is so much more than music--it is a living breathing thing, and it continues to grow and thrive.

Of course without you my loyal followers I would not be on this astonishing journey.  The search for all things prog is made that much more enjoyable by the feedback I receive weekly from you.  I sincerely wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.  Celebrate any way you see fit--just make damn sure you make it back in 2017...

The Concert Closet will be grounded for a short while as I add some much needed upgrades.  2017 promises to be even bigger and better than previous years, with many surprises, changes, and improvements.  Lots happening; much of which is still in the design and construction stages. However, when January arrives I believe you will like what you find.  Please join me on January 17th, 2017 as The Closet Concert Arena 2.0 is unveiled.

Thanks again fellow progheads, and a safe and happy holiday season to all...until next time...

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Coalition

Thanks for coming back fellow progheads!  Page twelve has been turned on the 2016 calendar as the final grains of sand drop through the neck of the hourglass...quite a year indeed.  As the search for all things prog sets out on the last odyssey of 2016, I am reminded not only of the great artists and musicians that have passed through the veil, but also the up and coming bands that continue to keep the prog garden flourishing, thriving, and bringing bountiful  harvests to the prog faithful season after season.

With that thought in mind, I decided to load up the Concert Closet for my final journey this year, setting the GPS for England and a relaxing interlude with Coalition.  Like most prog bands discovered here in the prog garden, the story behind the story of Coalition will leave as much of an impression as the music itself...so into the tale we plunge...



Many of my loyal followers will remember my review of Inner Road back in July 2014, a prog band that "...rose from the ashes of Coalition."  Fortunately the fire was not fatal and the embers continued to smolder, because Coalition has risen once again and released a new LP, "Bridge Across Time" in October.  So let us cozy up to the buffet and sate our prog appetites...

Coalition refers to themselves as an "...international symphonic prog rock band."  Coalition is also but one plot in the prog garden tended by Steve Gresswell;  The Inner Road is another along with some very strong solo work.  However my focus this week is "Bridge Across Time," so let us have a seat in the Concert Closet, apply the headphones, and have a listen...

The first offering from the album is an upbeat tune called "Across the Sea."  Coalition uses bright colors to fill the canvas as the piece opens with the serenity of high tide gently caressing the shore. Guitars and percussion quickly take the baton and fill your auditory canals with positive energy. Keyboards break on through, riding the drums as they cascade across the disc.  There are top notes of Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate and (ironically) Transatlantic wafting through the air.  I am detecting aromatics of Pandora as well.  Coalition hits you straight on with a positive vibe that rides the top of this song all the way.

Selection number two as we carve our way through this download is "Land of Dreams."  The song opens with a subdued flourish--not bursting with the energy of "Across the Sea" but not hushed or gloomy either.  Coalition may have grays and dark hues in the paint box, but they fuse them with pastels and brighter shades to enhance the mood on either side of the pendulum.  There are top notes of The Strawbs and It's A Beautiful Day coming through, and I detect aromatics of Tirian Flame permeating the Concert Closet on this cut.  Coalition leans on synthesizers to build that symphonic sound, while the drums and guitar push everything to the edge.  The vocals lay on top like a narrative, pointing out to the observer the scene taking place below...serene and numinous...

Liner Notes...Coalition--of course--the brainchild of the aforementioned Steve Gresswell, who plays keyboards, drums, and bass.  Blake Carpenter is lyricist and lead vocalist and Colin Tench plays guitars.  An earlier line-up included Phil Braithwaite and Paul Bulger, both of whom appear on the 2012 release, "In Search of Forever."  Members of the band trace their roots to Sweden, the UK, and the United States, hence the international descriptor.

Coalition travels the same basic path in the prog garden as The Inner Road, albeit with a slight tangent to the trajectory.  Steve pays homage to the full sound of prog in all he does, and Coalition is no different.  The songs burst with energy, run through time and tempo changes, and fill your auditory canals with robust sound.  Coalition doesn't explode through your speakers--but they don't crawl with barely a pulse either.  The music is high carb with an emphasis on the stuff that sparks your musical taste buds--but no artificial sweeteners here; just the good ol' natural stuff...

My final selection from this calorie laden buffet is, "Valley of Shadows."  Once again the trademark thrust that hits your cranium like a Tabasco shooter oozes through the headphones then tapers back; much like waves crashing the jetty as a storm brews.  There is a Marillion vibe riding the under current, and a taste of Fire on Dawson hits the back of the throat.  Coalition is not as ornate as, say, most Italian prog bands, but they have read the playbook.  Learn more about Coalition and purchase their music at Coalition Bandcamp.  Their earlier release "In Search of Forever" along with "Bridge Across Time" can be found, purchased, and downloaded here.  Coalition also has a Facebook page at Coalition FB and can be followed on Twitter @CoalitionRocks.  Steve, Blake, and Colin each have their own individual Facebook pages so you can learn more about every member of the band.  Please expand your library as well as your knowledge by making a purchase!

The clip below is designed to whet your prog appetite and stimulate the neurons in your brain that cause intense cravings.  This is a teaser of sorts for the "Bridge Across Time" album.  Just a snippet of each cut to give you an idea of what Coalition is about.  Listen as the keyboards stream across the top like spun sugar, raining down on a solid base of guitars and drums...coming together like the perfect trifle dessert...



Well fellow progheads, we have just about concluded our journey through 2016--and what an experience it has been!  The search for all things prog has crossed oceans and continents while traveling through many countries.  It has been an eye opening, ear pleasing, mind expanding expedition, as well as an extensive walk through miles of the prog garden.  Coalition is unique in their own right, as are most bands of the progressive rock genre, mainly because their music takes on the traits of the artists.  There are no steadfast rules or formulae to follow; prog music simply carves its own path.

I am looking forward to what 2017 holds for the prog garden as Father Time begins to draw the curtain on 2016.  The search for all things prog is alive and well, and I thank you for staying the course...until next time... 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Lost In Kiev

Hello once again fellow progheads!  The calendar has almost run out of pages as we prepare to say goodbye to 2016.  With excitement for the future of the prog garden and a bit of pride in all the new growth thus far, I have loaded the Concert Closet for a journey to France; a land I have not spent enough time in this year.  Gotta change that going forward, but right now let's just focus on taking the search for all things prog to a band that understands what it means to follow your own path.  Time to check in with Lost in Kiev...



Lost in Kiev refers to themselves as "...a four piece band with visual effects on stage...write and record their own texts...progressive energy leads to oneiric post rock while emitting massive energy..."  No way I can pass up that introduction!  Let us wander into the "dreamworld" of Lost in Kiev...

My initial stroll to the buffet as we open this feast brings me to "Narcosis," an intricate "mind-bender" from their latest release, "Nuit Noire."  This first cut stays true to the album title; it is an extremely dark piece.  The percussion is reminiscent of a tribal beat as a narrative creeps in gently from behind. Different sounds come at you from all sides...your head is almost overloaded with deliberate, forceful thumping.  The guitar and keyboards work in tandem to keep you off kilter until you are unsure whether you are traveling in a parallel universe or simply wandering the outskirts of your own psyche...

Lost in Kiev has a keen sense for the abyss that is the imagination; an almost macabre approach to orally illustrate the inner workings of the mind.  My second selection for review, "Somnipathy," hits right at the epicenter of my point.  The song starts out hurling dark colors at a canvas sitting blank on the easel; the ominous grays, blacks, and dark hues running down slowly, creating an eerie
still-life...like a distorted caricature of normalcy.

The music of Lost in Kiev encourages you to take a deep introspective of the musical landscape and all that you fill it with.  They emit top notes of Beardfish, Atlas Volt, and Tool on a mild day.  I remember when deejays were not sure what to make of Talking Heads when their music first came out; way far off the beaten path of corporate radio...so too Lost in Kiev challenges those who prefer life in pre-labeled compartments.

Liner Notes...Lost in Kiev makes their home in Paris, France and is comprised of Maxime Ingrand on guitar and synthesizers, Dimitri Denat on guitar, Jean Christophe Condette on bass and synthesizers, and Yoan Vermeulen on drums and samples.  The band formed in 2007 and dealt with all the usual growing pains of life in the music world; namely personnel changes.  "Motions," their debut, was released in 2012, followed by "Nuit Noire" this past September.

Lost in Kiev tills ground in the prog garden where sun and water aren't necessarily plentiful--but strong healthy growth is vibrant.  Think Radiohead with David Byrne and Brian Eno adding a new slant while Robert Fripp does the mixing...eclectic and reality-changing all at once.  This is a band capable of putting together concept albums with imagination, time travel, and different states of mental awareness as the central focus.  Lost in Kiev is progressive rock that tips its hat to the standard bearers of the genre while foraging through virgin jungle at the same time...

My final serving from this celestial, other-worldly buffet is from their debut release, "A Mere Shift of Origin."  The bass and guitar open the song with guarded trepidation as the drums methodically move through to take control, working in tandem with that steady bass line.  Lost in Kiev manages to wander into your subconscious and get "lost" as they pierce the veil separating thought and action. The narrative floating over the top is but a subtle blade that cuts as smooth and delicately as a surgeon's scalpel through cartilage.

Learn more about Lost in Kiev and add to your music collection at Lost in Kiev Bandcamp and
Lost in Kiev Instagram.  As is the custom these days, the band has a Twitter account @LostInKiev and a Facebook page  https://wwwLost in Kiev FB.  Lost in Kiev can also be found on YouTube and Spotify, but my loyal followers know my plea at this juncture--please purchase their music and support this band!

The cut posted below, so as to whet your appetite,  is the aforementioned "Narcosis." Using just dark colors, Lost in Kiev manages to paint a vivid picture of the machinations of the mind.  Blacks and grays come to light as bright as the sun on a summer picnic as Lost in Kiev breathes life into the song.  Stay to the end and then play it back one more time...you want to be sure to squeeze all the life out of it...

                     

Once again the calendar seems to be turning pages much too quickly...the sand is flowing through the hourglass at much too rapid a rate as 2016 looms much larger in the rear view mirror than on the horizon...and yet despite the the mind-numbing speed with which it all is happening, the search for all things prog did manage to uncover many absolute gems hidden about.  Lost in Kiev is but one crop in an astounding haul from the prog garden this year.

Lost in Kiev tills acreage in a section bordered by bands that expand the width and breadth of the entire garden; King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Genesis, Tool...and allowing new growth is what keeps the prog garden relevant and thriving.  Of course the search for all things prog must continue--if for no other reason than it is necessary for the survival of the entire genre...until next time...

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Il Rumore Bianco and the release of "Antropocene"

Eastern Stand Time greetings fellow progheads!  Setting the clocks back is always bittersweet for me; while I love the extra sixty minutes Sunday morning lying prone and unconscious, the pre-dinner sunsets get me feeling melancholy for summer.  The best cure for the "lack-of-daylight" blues
is--what else--a prog music album review!

Although I asked you to adjust your reading habits to a bi-weekly format, I am (as usual) going off script and posting a new entry in this, my "off week."  My loyal followers will recall a review I wrote  in March 2014 for Il Rumore Bianco; a band with but one EP at the time, "Mediocrazia." Dedication to their craft has paid off  as the band--just as I predicted-- will be releasing their second album, "Antropocene" November 11th and asked me to write a new review.

Having been on the search for all things prog over three years, it is still personally gratifying when a band or artist asks for my humble opinion of their work; a responsibility I never take lightly.  So join me in the Concert Closet as I set the GPS for a return trip to Verona, Italy and embark on some quality time listening to "Antropocene."



First serving on the buffet platter is a calorie laden serving of ""Al Crepuscolo Dell'anima."  In keeping with complete transparency and full disclosure, Italian is not my mother tongue.  However; in the prog garden, music speaks to your heart and soul...and the depth and emotions are bursting through loud and clear.

The song opens with a jazzy, "Transatlantic meets Jaco Pastorius" feel to it.  The bass line draws you in throughout the entire piece while drums and guitars work in harmony to create a sturdy yet fragile foundation to relay a message of hope.  There is an urgency permeating the music as it enters your auditory canals and runs the length of your spine.  Not intended to be a spoiler alert--but the gunshot following the spoken word at the end will chill you...and make you want to go back and right the injustices the world never seems to run out of...an extremely moving piece...

Going back for a second serving, I find "Tempio Pallido" flowing gently through the headphones. The soft piano opening belies a gentler, softer side to the band...top notes of Under the Psycamore and Sir Chronicles waft through the air like cotton candy threads at the county fair.  Il Rumore Bianco plays with an understated intensity...the ability to strike so many affecting chords and thrust so many conflicting colors at the canvas while maintaining a sense of calm and serenity is rare and appreciated.  Il Rumore Bianco shares acreage in the prog garden with Seven Impale, Gentle Giant, and Gekko Projekt.  This is a band that, while seeming to prefer the rain, can have a lot of fun in the sunshine as well.

Liner Notes...originating in the aforementioned  Verona, Italy in 2012, Il Rumore Bianco is Allesandro Zara on lead vocals, Giacomo Banali on guitars, Michele Zanotti on guitars and saxophone, Thomas Pessina on keyboards and synthesizers, Allesandro Danzi on bass, and Andrea Sbrogio on drums.  If the studio is not crowded enough, the band includes additional musicians Federico Lonardi on guitar, Eddy Fiorio on synthesizer, Umberto Sartori behind a second drum kit, and Carlo Cappiotti on backing vocals.

Il Rumore Bianco released their debut EP "Mediocrazia" in 2013.  Having poured forth a solid foundation of sound, the band supported the album with extensive touring throughout northern Italy. Three years after the fact, "Antropocene" is the band's sophomore release and first full length album.  Il Rumore Bianco stays mainly in the deeper, though-provoking section of the prog garden, but they are quite capable of straying "outside the lines" and pushing a button or two in your limbic system.  You may be tempted to focus on the smoky haze that seems to have settled over their sound but just keep walking...the lens clears as the big picture comes into focus.

My final selection for review this week is called "Tephlon."  This particular cut hits harder and strikes deeper as Michele's saxophone comes right at you from the start.  Top notes of Weather Report, Chick Corea,  and Traffic flow through the headphones like an electric current firing up an amplifier.  The sound comes at you from all directions...building layer upon layer with keyboards and drums that underlie the sax as the bass keeps you mesmerized from just outside the light's bright arc...Il Rumore Bianco is a band well worth expanding your music library for.

"Antropocene" will be available November 11th and I ask all my loyal followers to peel back the curtain and check it out for yourselves.  You can learn more about Il Rumore Bianco at the band's website Il Rumore Bianco.  Their debut release is available now at IRB Bandcamp in case you cannot wait for  "Antropocene" to drop Friday.  As always, social media makes it easy to contact and follow the band at IRB Facebook  and get the latest musings and rumblings from Twitter @IlRumoreBianco. The band also has a YouTube channel at IRB YouTube where I suspect additional videos will be posted following the release of "Antropocene."



Since the new album is not out yet, I cannot post a clip...but rest assured that when the clock strikes twelve Friday morning, it will have been well worth the wait.  Il Rumore Bianco is adding an impressive entry to their resume, which will continue to grow and expand as the band reaches a wider audience and extends their reach through the prog garden.  Following a band as they grow, watching and listening as their sound evolves and matures (like a fine Italian wine), is really why I started the search for all things prog in the first place.

Those of you who have been following my journey know that prog rock is the center of my musical universe, and discovering new and lesser known bands and artists are the driving force behind why I do what I do.  The search for all things prog is more than just a catch phrase; for me it truly is a journey that been as fun as it has been educational.  Il Rumore Bianco is but a snapshot of the ever growing paradise that is the prog garden.

Now the search for all things prog continues on its global quest to bring to you my loyal followers the latest editions to the prog garden.  Updates such as this make it especially rewarding; I hope you enjoy the success stories as much as I do.  But now is not the time to wax philosophic; there is too much undiscovered acreage in the prog garden.  The search for all things prog marches on...until next time...

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Seven Second Circle

Hello and thanks again for traveling with the Concert Closet fellow progheads! Hopefully the new posting format agrees with you; I know it has given me the opportunity to expand the search for all things prog and explore more intricately newly discovered bands and those that have made an impression.  Peeling back the layers takes time and allows me to find out more about the machinations behind that curtain, under that rock, and buried in that soil.  While I have been traveling the globe--and the search for all things prog will continue on that worldwide quest--I have also been enjoying some great progressive rock right here in these United States.  This particular fourteen day adventure has brought the Concert Closet back to the "left coast" for a listen in with Seven Second Circle.


Seven Second Circle refer to themselves as "...cognitive and ethereal progressive rock...Thinking Man's Prog..."  That description  paints a vivid picture that I want hanging in the Concert Closet, so I set the GPS for Oregon and start the journey.

First cut served up on the platter is one from the darker side; "Fracture."  Seven Second Circle wastes no time; they go right for the jugular once the laser touches disc.  Guitars begin to hammer at  the inner lining of your skull with precision as drums work to peel the soft layers away.  Deliberately and with just a hint of subtlety, the tempo drops back and begins to stroll through the headphones like a hiker crossing the Mount Olympus Trail--with careful determination.  Top notes of Dream Theater with hints of King Crimson emanate from the headphones, and I detect aromatics of Beardfish wafting through the air as well.  Seven Second Circle tend some rich soil in the prog garden...

Going back for more, I find a tune a bit more cerebral yet still walking the dark edges of the garden; "The Great Depression."  The acoustic guitar breaks in first, accompanied by vocals smooth like a blank canvas...and then Dr. Jekyll makes way for Mr. Hyde.  The tempo picks up, the atmosphere gets a bit ominous, and the song delves deeper into the crevices of the mind.  No metal explosion for those so inclined, but the mood does segue down a dark alley...Seven Second Circle underlines cerebral with a permanent marker; I sense a bit of Vanilla Fudge wafting in through the open window....

Liner Notes...originating in Salem, Oregon, Seven Second Circle is Brian Forster on vocals, Jarrett Holly on keyboards and guitars, Rich Clinton on guitars and vocals, Thom Tessandori on bass, and Doug Cramer on drums.

Seven Second Circle released their debut album "Divide" just a year ago, so they are newcomers to the prog garden--and laying some hearty roots that I expect will take hold and grow deep as they draw from very fertile soil.  Tending to acreage in the Beardfish/Genesis/Transatlantic section, Seven Second Circle likes to hit hard and creep around the dark edges--but don't get complacent with the gloomy colors of the pallet...this is a band that can throw loud, bright colors at the canvas as well...they just dip the brush in the darker hues first for emphasis...

My final serving for review is another cut that dabbles in the dark outer reaches of the garden while standing firm under the examination light; "Nothing Less Than Nothing."  The acoustic guitar that opens the song lays a soft foundation, much like carpeting the basement allows for a little rough housing.  But the head slams and body punches are mainly analytical; Seven Second Circle hurls intellectual bombs rather than excessive use of guitar amps--and it is quite refreshing.  Top notes of Psicolorama and hints of Atlas Volt permeate the soundscape here...the headphones wrapped like caramel around a fresh macintosh, luring you closer and deeper.  There is a Pink Floyd depth to the sound...the way "See Emily Play" laid the necessary cobblestones that led to "Run Like Hell."  Seven Second Circle is the nerdy kid in math class who manages to catch the eye of the homecoming
queen--and takes her to the prom.  Brains, style, and just the right amount of chutzpah...

The song clip posted below for your listening pleasure is called "Bitter."  Another piece that cuts as deep lyrically as it does musically; the keyboards meld seamlessly with the guitars while the drums sit gently below the surface...with a grip just tight enough.  Seven Second Circle seem to enjoy making the listener think--not just hear. You can't help but listen intently, and the cerebral challenge the band poses with each song on the disc invigorates the mind...

You can learn more about Seven Second Circle and  purchase "Divide" at the band's Bandcamp site, Seven Second Circle Bandcamp and their website Seven Second Circle.  A few spins in the CD player may lead you to wanting more, so check out the Seven Second Circle Facebook page
Seven Second Circle FB and Twitter @SevenSecondCir.
Feel free to stay in this section of the garden a while...no need to rush the thought process...


                   

And once again fellow progheads new growth in the prog garden is unearthed and exposed to light. Seven Second Circle, while perhaps not as widely known, echoes with early Genesis, Gentle Giant, and the initial work of Kansas because they don't swamp you with layer upon layer of sound built up to be just that--lots of sound.  This is a band that prefers to drill deeper  into your thought process and consciousness.  Another example of why progressive rock stands apart from other genres; the ability to transform something simple into complex art--without making you feel inadequate about what you're listening to.

The Closet Concert Arena continues the search for all things prog with the hope of discovering more bands that make you listen--and make you reflect.  The prog garden may be crowded, but there is always room for healthy growth and new discoveries.  So the journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Inside the Progressive Rock World of Peter Matuchniak

Hello and welcome back fellow progheads!  This past fortnight felt like forever--but the Concert Closet has re-charged the batteries, cleaned out the cobwebs, and is now ready and eager to take the search for all things prog to the next level!  Naturally (of course), I decided to get up close and personal with a musician/artist I have admired for a while; someone whose music--both solo and with his bands--crosses many sub-genres within the prog garden.  I welcome you to the vast prog world of Peter Matuchniak.

While Peter plays guitar for Gekko Projekt, a prog band my loyal followers will recall from an earlier review, he also has his hands in other projekts...namely some fantastic solo work and playing with Evolve IV and The Steppes.  The Concert Closet was fortunate to get an interview with Peter recently, and what better way to get to know the man behind the music than to tie that interview to  a review of Peter's solo releases? So let us peel back the curtain on the prog world of Peter Matuchniak...

 photo courtesy Robert Smith


Closet Concert Arena: Peter, in addition to your solo work, you also play guitar for Gekko Projekt, Evolve IV, and The Steppes.  Any other side jobs or do these keep you busy enough?

Peter Matuchniak: I enjoy working on many musical projects; I currently have a few going at the moment.  I am guesting on new albums by Hamlet Transportinae and Marco Ragni that have yet to be released.  I also appeared on several songs on Marco's highly acclaimed album "Land of the Blue Echoes" and one song on the "Psychic for Radio" album.  I recently mixed a song for Shawn Gordon, a cover of "Haunted Man" by Steve Walsh.  If asked to do more I will--as much as I can handle!

CCA: Your two solo releases are a step away from Gekko Projekt; is it helpful and/or important to delve into other areas to keep motivated and stay fresh?

PM: With Gekko Projekt I get to indulge in progressive rock and I love that.  However; my personal tastes are more general and so it is fitting that my solo projects reflect that, because what I do on my own would probably never occur within the confines of any band.  That keeps it unique and personal for me.

To motivate your auditory senses, here is a live version of "Sandcastles," a song from Peter's 2012 release "Uncover Me."  The vocals are almost a narrative as the song slowly builds strength...resting alternately on the shoulders of solid percussion and a lively organ.  Peter steps away from the "traditional" prog sound on this piece; while there are top notes of Traffic and a quick jolt of Atlas Volt, Peter brings a style to this cut--the entire album actually--that is truly his own.  Nothing overpowers yet every instrument stands up and demands to be heard.  Yes, this will be a walk down a different path in the prog garden...


                     

CCA: Is it difficult--or necessary--to keep the solo work and the band work separate, or does one feed off the other?

PM: No it is not difficult, yes it is necessary, and they do in fact feed off each other.  With Gekko Projekt and Evolve IV I get to enjoy collaboration and the inherent restrictions that might place. Restrictions are not a bad thing; as they focus and you operate within that space, you can feed off each other and venture that way.  For my solo projects I create that restriction through a theme or concept for the album, which helps me decide which songs to work on from a lyrical perspective and glue the album together whilst allowing the genres to wander off and venture.

CCA: Where did the inspiration to play in the prog genre come from?

PM: I heard a few albums at a young age that blew my mind and intrigued me deeply.  Hearing "Selling England by the Pound" by Genesis, and then "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" completely changed me.  Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" and "Ommadawn."  And of course "The Snow Goose" by Camel--some of the best progressive rock ever.  I was already listening to "The Dark Side of the Moon" and "Animals" by Pink Floyd.  I would even go so far as to include The Beatles and their later albums that pushed the envelope in rock music.  This is stuff I heard when I was ten years old or younger.

Time for a little taste from Peter's "Destiny" album, a cut called "Spies."  As the song opens, you can almost smell the stale scotch and cigarette smoke emanating from an late night jazz club.   Marshmallow soft drums carefully envelope vocals so smooth they slide through the headphones like a jello shooter...meanwhile guitar work comes through gentle and forceful all at once, leading a clarinet through the haze that settled over the sunset...

                     

CCA: Your solo work has a jazzy, "Steely Dan meets The Alan Parsons Project" feel; specifically the "Destiny" album.  Do you take bigger risks with your solo work, or do you write/play/record simply what you feel?

PM: I like to call my music rock/jazz/folk...even cabaret!  Sometimes I find myself composing music in a style I might not normally listen to.  I was half-joking about the cabaret bit because, for example, my ten-minute song "Landscape Burning" goes off on a tangent into all sorts of musical genres in a whimsical manner, and yet it's in keeping with the lyrical aspect of the song ( a sort of identity crisis where we take on a different image and then destroy it).  In short, my solo projects allow me to wander wherever my muse takes me, and I like to go along for the ride.  It's fascinating and fun when you surprise yourself.

 photo courtesy Robert Smith 


CCA: Father to father, it must make you incredibly proud to cut an album with your daughter Alyssa singing the vocals...and she can really sing!



PM: Of course I am biased, but at the same time I wouldn't have asked her if I didn't think she would add a lot to the project...I love her--but not that much!  Kidding aside, she is an all-around great musician with a keen ear for understanding harmony, great at working with others, plays lovely piano, etc.  Plus she is organized and always comes prepared, so there is little hand-holding.  Yes, it really is nice to have her aboard.  My son AJ is also dabbling in composing his own music; more in the EDM genre, and it's actually fascinating to hear...some very cool ideas.

CCA: If you could play a live gig with anyone, living or dead, who would you want to be on stage with and why?

PM: My mother's dad, Adam Epler.  He was passionate about music and played guitar and accordion. Every Saturday he would conduct an orchestra on Polish radio back in the 1930's.  He was also the town judge which made him a target during WWII.  One day he was taken away and never seen or heard from again (it was only recently we found out he had been murdered in one of those awful mass graves).  I managed to work out one of his songs from dozens of his hand-written sheet music that my mum had saved all this time.  It's a lovely piece that sounds typical of the time it was written in, yet could fit perfectly into a more progressive rock tune.  I would have loved to have known him; to have discussed music...and of course to have the opportunity to play together.

CCA: Can listeners expect new music from Gekko Projekt in the near (or distant) future?

PM: I hope so; we started work on a new concept album and things are sounding great.  But our work tends to come in bursts of effort--due to life's circumstances more than anything else.  I'd love to complete that sooner rather than later, but either way I hope we can deliver many more albums in time. We get on really well together and I love our vibe when we rehearse.

CCA: You are also involved with a band called The Steppes, a tribute to the early works of Steve Hackett.  Can you elaborate?

PM: Bassist Randy George (from Neal Morse and Ajalon) invited me to join the Steve Hackett tribute band.  I normally focus on original music but I found myself saying yes for many reasons.  Hackett is my favorite guitarist and I am very fond of his early albums; there's a bit more of a special, niche feeling to this.  I enjoyed the challenge because I knew Randy would demand the best and put together a super band of musicians.  We have Jonathan Sindelman on keyboards (from Alan White's band and the official Keith Emerson tribute) and Scott Connor on drums (from Billy Sherwood's Circa band).  We also have Pamela George on vocals, guitars, keys, percussion, etc.  I refer to her as the "Pam-of-all-trades" because she can play anything we need.

CCA: What else does the world need to know about Peter Matuchniak?

PM: I am a nerdy mathematician and I love traveling the world.

 photo courtesy Robert Smith 


And there you have it my loyal proghead followers, another glimpse inside the extensive mind of a progressive rock musician.  Peter has traveled the prog garden many times, leaving sounds in different areas and taking valuable experience from others...all the while expanding a passion for music that continues today.

From the perspective of a fan, I offer you one more slice of Peter's solo work, "Landscape Burning." It would be borderline cruel and I would be derelict in my responsibility as a prog blogger to exclude a song that highlights Alyssa's contributions to her father's work.  The prog garden is doing just fine for the next generation, thank you very much.

This song also demonstrates that a solo album is more than simply a single contributor; everyone on that stage makes a contribution that makes the whole more than the sum of its parts.  Peter brings the guitar work and then some--but the bass, drums, and vocals keep up their end of the bargain as well. This song cuts right to the heart and without realizing it, you are left short of breath.



As for Peter's dream duet, I can almost see him and Adam on stage performing a mesmerizing set; the image was so powerful as he described taking the long forgotten music from the past and breathing new life into it. This is why I love the prog garden--the music behind the music; the stories, life tales, and experiences that come alive so vividly as the artist paints the auditory canvas.

Please take time to visit Peter's website at Peter Matuchniak to delve deeper into the man, his bands, his music, and so much more.  Of course I ask that you support not only Peter but all the prog artists in the garden.  Peter can also be found on Twitter @petermatuchniak and on Facebook
Peter Matuchniak FB.  You will can also find Gekko Projekt at Gekko Projekt and the band's Twitter at @gekkoprojekt

Once again time for The Concert Closet to continue the search for all things prog.  Artists like Peter make the journey more fun than I expected it to ever be, and hopefully I will be able to continue the search well into the future...until next time...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Magrathea...Turning Back the Hands of Time

Hello and welcome back fellow progheads!  Last week's journey to Venezuela was quite the ride; The Viridian Groove was an interesting off shoot into some surrealistic acreage of the prog garden...and this week the search for all things prog goes even further off the beaten path as we journey into the past...

My loyal followers will recall a review of the band Magrathea back in 2015 just as the holiday confetti and glitter were being swept off the floor.  Well, this week I took the Concert Closet back to 1995--hard to find those settings on the GPS--and a listen in as Magrathea released their first album "Underclouds" in re-mastered form.  I usually enjoy stepping into the way-back machine; it isn't often the search for all things prog travels in reverse...



The album starts with the title cut and immediately you are hit square in the forehead.  Magrathea refers to themselves as a symphonic prog band with some dark moments and a quirky humour.  This cut rides the darkness a bit and then quickly throws brighter colors at the canvas in a spin-art sort of way; you find yourself racing in your mind to keep up with the tempo and time changes.  There is a Be Bop Deluxe aroma wafting in the air...much the way Bill Nelson toys with your senses and rationale, so to Magrathea comes right at you from all directions.

Moving along the disc, I am immediately grabbed by the fourth cut, "Slave to the Machine."  Guitars work a frantic pace, being held by the tether of drums and bass.  The tempo comes down just long enough to fill the lungs with oxygen...and swiftly the mind blows continue.  Magrathea emits top notes of Marillion and perhaps a thin layer of Rush as they build a crescendo of sound only to let the air out just before it engulfs you completely...and thus begins a cycle of excitement that whisks you through 6 plus minutes of frenzy...and prog bliss...

Liner Notes...the Magrathea of 1995 had a slightly different look than the band performing today. The line up for the original "Underclouds" release was Gary Gordon on bass, Glenn Alexander on keyboards and vocals, Jason Smith on  guitar, and Gary MacDonald on drums.  Gary Gordon and Glenn Alexander, the original founding members of the band, continue to control the direction of the band.  Of course in the prog garden the only thing that never changes is change--and therein lies the beauty.  Gary MacDonald and Jason Smith have moved on to other projects.  However; after leaving in 2003, Gary MacDonald returned to Magrathea in 2007 to record an as yet unreleased EP entitled "Antiques."  Perhaps more time travel when this disc hits the airwaves...
The carousel filling the guitar position-- a la Spinal Tap--has Gary Gordon holding down both lead and bass guitar currently.

The current line-up continues to work on new music and are currently putting the finish to their latest album, due for release in early 2017.  For now, let us enjoy Magrathea vintage 1995.  My final cut for review is "The Lion's Den."  A track from the darker side of the prog garden, you feel an almost tribal rhythm moving through the headphones...and as delicate as a ball-peen hammer, vocals start to to break through to the surface.  The drums cut a path across semi-rough terrain as guitar work breaks in and begins shining a brighter light on the entire piece.

Magrathea has been through several line-up changes and taken their music across much prog garden acreage as a result.  Carrying top notes of early Genesis, Marillion, and King Crimson, Magrathea has a chameleon like ability to move in and out of sub-genres encompassed by the prog umbrella, making the band a must listen for progheads across the spectrum.  To find out more about Magrathea and purchase "Underclouds" in its remastered form, check out Magrathea Bandcamp.  You will find links to purchase this as well as all their other albums...and as you know I encourage all my loyal followers to support the bands of the prog garden.  Magrathea can also be found on Facebook at
Magrathea FB and on Twitter @Magrathea5.

This week I offer you a link to a song but no video.  No need to worry; close your peepers and Magrathea paints a vivid picture on the other side of your eyelids.  This cut is called "Interactive Dreamers;" quite fitting I thought...

                                   http://magrathea.bandcamp.com/track/interactive-dreamers-2

The opening offers all the evidence you need as to why Magrathea lays claim to symphonic acreage; but give the piece time to wash over your auditory canals and fill your head with imagery and sound...perhaps twice around the garden to get the full effect.  The keyboards flow with the guitar like melting butter filling the crevices of a hot Belgian waffle, and the drums keep you focused.  1995 was a pretty good year...



The Concert Closet has been enjoying the search for all things prog for a while, and the search will continue on..so long as there are new and undiscovered bands bands dotting the prog landscape, my mission is never complete.  At the risk of sounding like a PSA however, I continue to ask you to support Magrathea and and the dozens of other bands reviewed here on these pages.  I have always thought of the prog garden as a family of sorts... we who look for more from the music we listen to.

Magrathea has shown the ability to re-invent themselves while traveling different paths throughout the prog garden.  Taking tangent roads with side projects and other bands does not deter them from continuing their journey; I believe it is quite the opposite.  The "extra-curricular" work helps Gary and Glenn keep Magrathea fresh, and this album--despite being originally recorded in 1995--helps drive that point home.  Staying one step ahead sometimes requires a look in the rear view mirror; it helps to know where you've been when deciding where you want to be.

As always my fellow progheads I will continue the search for all things prog, scanning the globe for the latest and best in undiscovered prog beauty...but I must alter course slightly.  Moving forward I will post every other week.  This will allow me to spend ample time listening to the music, connecting with the band, and presenting to you the best review possible.  So please enjoy the music of Magrathea...until next time...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Getting Surrealistic with Viridian Groove

Autumn Equinox greetings fellow progheads!  Hard to believe it is that time already...and while I hate to see summer fall off the calendar so soon, I am excited to continue the search for all things prog. Walking through the prog garden I discovered some new growth in the experimental section...so wasting no time, I packed up the Concert Closet and headed to Venezuela to expand my horizons and bore deeper into the sounds of The Viridian Groove.



The Viridian Groove refer to themselves simply as an experimental/progressive rock band.  I have only made the journey to "The Land of Grace" once or twice in the past, so discovering more progressive music in this part of South America is a bit exciting; I can feel the prog juices starting to flow already...let us get to that buffet and see what is on the menu...

Viridian Groove released their debut album "Surrealistic Sweven" this past April and my first slice from the disc is a bit on the "altered states" side, "Uthominis."  The song opens as if walking through a time warp of sorts...everything seems a bit off center...and then the mood goes from dark to calm; almost serene. The vocals come in stage right like voices breaking through a veil of unconsciousness slowly and methodically.  The horns play off the guitars quite nicely and the bass line keeps everyone in check. There is an "otherworldly" atmosphere to this piece; think New York Dolls covering early Pink Floyd, with a touch of Brian Eno/David Bowie and their mid 70's flair and artistry.

Viridian Groove  certainly grasp the concept of experimental; meandering through this album you feel as though you're being pulled into intermittent mood altering pods...be soothed here for a bit then move down the oscillating hallway for a small dose of tension and mystery...yet further down, don't be alarmed by the jazz fusion feel...you are in the right place and everything is going to be OK...

Next up on this existential mood elevator is a cut called "Juxtaexposing." The piece opens as though I am overhead looking down into an ICU ward at a patient in distress...and then the mood quickly picks up, the atmosphere changes, and Viridian Groove is channeling Frank Zappa at his experimental/prog best.  I believe I detect a touch of captain Beefheart wafting in the air as well.  The vocals are strung between fiddles and horns while the percussion work grabs the entire piece by the neck...

Liner Notes...The Viridian Groove calls Valencia, Venezuela home and is theoretically a two-man band...but as with their music, nothing is quite as it seems with The Viridian Groove.  Victor-Lio Angulo on guitar, bass, cuatro, and keyboards, and Jose Luis Vazquez on vocals are the founding members and heart and soul of the group.  For their initial release, Viridian Groove included Daniel Cruz on violins, Enrique Lara on woodwinds, and Miguel Mendoza on drums and percussion. Additional sound provided by Douglas Dominguez on drums, Veronica Lozada on strings, Flavio Gasparini on guitars, and Laura Diaz-Santos on background vocals.  A crowded studio indeed for a two-person operation...

       

Third and final course from this Venezuelan prog feast is called "Planetarius," another cut that attempts to defy logic.  Viridian Groove seems to enjoy walking the listener down a path in the prog garden lined with random imagery and wild sound.  Much is happening in the foreground and the background here; best to just strap in and enjoy the ride.  The Viridian Groove staked out their prog garden plot in the vicinity of Ivan Perilli and The Happy Graveyard Orchestra; serious musicians who prefer to choose their own destiny...

This week I opted not to post a video clip since none seem to be available...The Viridian Groove is a new comer to the prog garden with "Surrealistic Sweven" coming out barely five months ago.  I encourage all my loyal proghead followers to check out The Viridian Groove on their Bandcamp website Viridian Groove Bandcamp.  Listen--and make a purchase!  Their music is also available on iTunes and Spotify...of course the support your purchase provides is much appreciated.  The Viridian Groove are also on Facebook at Viridian Groove FB and you can follow the band on Twitter @viridiangroove.


                


Once again fellow progheads it is time to say goodnight.  The Viridian Groove may be a tad off the beaten prog path, but they have a sound well worth checking out.  The prog garden has strong roots and continues to flourish because of its diverse growth, and The Viridian Groove pushes that envelope just a bit...

As I continue this journey searching out new and lesser-known prog bands, I have come to appreciate the many sides of prog.  The unifying link I believe, is the desire to bring real, honest, and emotion driven music to the masses.  Whatever the sub-genre, progressive rock is, was, and shall ever be at the forefront of the music class.   In keeping with the spirit of enlightening, I must continue the search for all things prog...until next week...    

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Transitory, the latest release by New Sun

Hello fellow progheads and welcome once again to the Closet Concert Arena!  September is turning the page from summer to autumn as days fall through the narrow sieve in the hourglass faster than raindrops in a thunderstorm.  In keeping with this time of change, I thought I would once again go slightly off course and post a new album review.  I have been engrossed these past 168 hours (and longer) in the latest release from New Sun, a band my loyal followers will remember from a review back in May 2014.  Setting the GPS for northern California, the search for all things prog ventures to the San Francisco Bay area and some serious listening time with New Sun's fifth album, "Transitory."

 
This album is a concept of sorts, telling the story of the transitory nature of human existence and life in general.  Opening with "Gravity Wells" I am immediately put at ease by the deceptive calm that is the ocean...soft percussion wrapped around velvety smooth guitar allows you to float away like so much driftwood rolling up on shore.  There is a darkness hovering however; just enough to keep you focused, waiting for the waves to swell...and then the tide rolls out without so much as a whitecap.  There are top notes of King Crimson, early Jethro Tull, and a touch of the dark side of Atomic Rooster floating through this piece...don't you just love being oceanside?

The next cut I dive into is called "The Beguiler."  The vocals start soft and inviting--but listener beware.  There is an almost subliminal warning siren riding the undercurrent...New Sun is tilling previously untouched soil in the prog garden as they bring a "classic prog meets her eclectic uncle" vibe to this song.  Imagine a Peter Gabriel fronted Genesis collaborating with The Moody Blues and Be Bop Deluxe...now you're getting close...

Liner Notes...New Sun was formed in the Silicon Valley area of California in 1993.  Founding members D.L. Erickson on guitar and Christopher Scott Cooper on vocals, guitar, and keyboards took the band through a few line-up changes, including the 1999 departure of Mr. Erickson.  Fast forward two decades and you discover New Sun has built a very loyal following on the left coast--specifically the northern California/Oregon area of these United States; although their music has traveled the globe.

New Sun is rounded out with Alex Kley on bass and despite his passing in January of this year, Chris Trujillo is still credited as the band's drummer; a tribute I can only describe as classy.  Chris did lay some tracks for the Transitory album and is greatly missed.  The new album also includes guest musicians Gus Fjelstrom on bass,  John Hasty on drums, Benito Cortez on violin, Rebecca Lomnicky on fiddle, and David Brewer on pipes and whistles.

New Sun doesn't re-invent themselves with this album; rather they expand their boundaries, stretch their abilities as artists and musicians, and move to a new level in the prog garden.  This recording does all that--opening and exploring an entirely new spectrum, seen through an "alternative view" lens and listened to with ears ripe for exploration as the listener whisks off on a journey they would otherwise never be exposed to...all for the price of a CD...


My final selection for review from this marvelous release is the title cut "Transitory."  Continuing on the dark path that permeates the album--but does not blot out the light--this cut alternates between quick hits and subtle jabs.  The drums on this cut, laid down by Chris, are extremely tight and carry the rest of the band like a Range Rover through thick forest.  Vocals cut through it all while the tempo takes you through a hectic pace allowing you the opportunity to catch your breath one moment so as to have it taken away the next.

Learn more about New Sun and purchase this incredible album at New Sun.  This would be a great time to expand your prog library by perusing (and purchasing) the other great releases New Sun has out there as well.  New Sun can also be found on Reverbnation at New Sun Reverbnation.  Check the band's Facebook page for news about upcoming shows, new releases, tour dates, and other critical band information at New Sun FB.  Don't forget to follow New Sun on Twitter so you will never miss a beat @NewSun_Band .

The cut below is another that will take you to the ocean and mesmerize you with tranquility, allowing you to find your inner Zen, "Down By Sea. "  This beauty is a tribute to the Scottish sailors who went to sea in the 19th century and never made it home...of course the bagpipes at the end are such a pleasant surprise, much like finding the proverbial pearl in the oyster.  Violins are hypnotic as they brace you for the "onslaught" of guitar and percussion that sneak in behind.  New Sun reflects images of Gaillion and perhaps a touch of Dream Theater in their "Scenes From a Memory" days...just remember to stay with the bagpipes as they float you away...

                     

Thanks for checking in this week fellow progheads; I hope the sounds of New Sun were as therapeutic for you as they were for me.  This is an album that should catapult New Sun into the prog spotlight and get them some of that much needed exposure...we all know the prog garden flourishes best when shared and appreciated by the masses.  One of my main goals in writing this blog each week is to get the music that needs to be heard out there for all to grasp, recognize for its beauty and worth, and of course play over and over again...

As I continue this journey, I realize the prog garden is in good hands.  However; no time to rest on my laurels as the search for all things prog continues deeper into 2016 and beyond...until next week...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Thank You Scientist

Welcome to the Concert Closet once again fellow progheads!  Leaving the Emerald Isle was bittersweet; Iron Mountain was an absolutely marvelous experience for me.  Of course time marches forward and the search for all things prog continues its weekly exploration.  Determined to bring you my loyal followers the brightest, most ground-breaking, and inspiring bands that dot the prog garden landscape, I travel a bit closer to home this week as my GPS guides my path to New Jersey and the exceptionally innovative sounds of Thank You Scientist.

  
Billing their sound as "Post Genre Sweet Potato Polka" immediately lets me know Thank You Scientist is not a band hung up on themselves.  It is actually quite refreshing to walk the prog garden and discover a band this free and unrestrained.  Time to clamp on the headphones and find out what the hubbub that is sweet potato polka is all about... 

Opening the buffet, I come away with a tantalizing cut called "My Famed Disappearing Act."  The frenzy that is the opening guitar riff is but a friendly warning of the furious tempo this band performs at. The spaces in between are quickly filled with violin, horns and keyboards...madness and mayhem prog style.  Meanwhile the vocals cut through like an ice pick pecking at a frozen pond.  The canvas is splattered with colors bright and livid...the top notes emitted here are redolent of  a "placid" Liquid Tension Experiment, the zany genius of Frank Zappa, and the off-the-cuff frankness of Harry Nilsson.

Stepping back for a quick intake of oxygen, I foray back to the buffet for a large serving of "The Amateur Arsonist's Handbook."  Once again the song opens as if the stylus was dropped into the middle of the vinyl; the race is on to catch that tempo.  Guitar work here is strong and fast while percussion manages to keep everyone on solid ground.  The vocals burst over the top like blasts of a tommy gun.  As the tempo takes a breath, some fine horn work makes it way to center stage.  Thank You Scientist are as free-wheeling as Bent Knee, fine tuned as Seconds Before Landing, and carefree as Gaillion.

Liner Notes...Thank You Scientist came to be in Montclair, New Jersey.  Founding members Tom Monda on guitar, Ellis Jasenovic on saxophone, and Andrew Digrius on trumpet joined forces with Salvatore Marrano on vocals, Cody McCorry on bass, Ben Karas on violin, and Odin Alvarez on drums to not only fill a stage--they created a sound that defies categorization.

Coming to life in 2009, Thank You Scientist released their first EP in 2011.  This was followed by their full length debut album "Maps of Non-Existent Places" in 2012, and the just recently released second album "Stranger Heads Prevail."  To say their style is a cornucopia of a melange of a fusion of a blend is not much of a stretch--over twenty instruments can be heard on their debut album alone. Thank You Scientist bring jazz fusion, metal, avant-garde, and classical together to create a sound that is not only unique, it is difficult to define or duplicate...the easy part is the listening and enjoying...

My final selection for review is a cut from Thank You Scientist's debut called "Blood on the Radio." This song is another straight from the Waring Blender; I believe I hear a dozen different instruments come through the headphones in the first fifteen seconds the laser is on the disc.  Even more astonishing is the fact that everything melds together flawlessly.  When the vocals begin to seep through from behind, they are simply the chocolate glace on the eclair.  The guitar work moves to center stage and proceeds to hold court, but rest assured all the players have their share of the spotlight; the only thing Thank You Scientist doesn't thrust at you is bursts of individual ego...

Thank You Scientist bound across the prog garden effortlessly, gathering ideas like flowers for a wedding bouquet while leaving behind music that takes root in all the different acreage and
sub-genres that are progressive rock.  They may have created a few new ones along the path as well...

The tune posted below is from their latest release called "Blue Automatic."  Thank You Scientist continue to challenge the person charged with mixing their albums as sounds burst through every nook and cranny that is the compact disc.  Horns blare but never drown out the vocals; drums hold a steady and forceful beat don't step on anyone else; guitars once again stand up and shout yet they never let you forget the rest of the supporting cast...hell, even the strings have their moment!  I recommend playing this cut over and over until you can fully appreciate what you are hearing...

Learn more about Thank You Scientist at their website Thank You Scientist and the  website of their record label Evil Ink Records. They also have a bandcamp site TYS bandcamp.  Any and all of their music is worthy of being added to your prog music collection so please support the band and make a purchase.  You can keep up with tour dates, musings, and other band information on their Facebook page TYS Facebook and Twitter @TYScientist.



Another post in the clouds fellow progheads; although I hope Thank You Scientist stays echoing in your head a bit longer...this is a band destined to leave a mark.  Thank You Scientist is currently touring the US so you have the opportunity to catch this act live and see firsthand how seven musicians can produce one astonishing sound from twenty different instruments...hope they take care of their roadies...

As is the custom each week at this juncture, time to reload the Concert Closet and continue the search for all things prog.  The 2016 leg of this journey has been quite the ride thus far...here's to that streak continuing ad infinitum...until next week...       

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Iron Mountain

Welcome back fellow progheads!  Despite August having wound down as summer races toward its inevitable end, the sun continues to burn a bright orange hole in the sky.  In an attempt to stretch the solstice as far as possible, I decided to log some serious travel miles and loaded the Concert Closet to continue the search for all things prog in Ireland.  Seems like a great time to spend a week immersed in some incredibly hot and intense instrumental prog.

I do believe this is my first official visit to the Emerald Isle, and like I always say; "Go big or go home."  Following the haunting sound of flutes like a moth to flame, I find myself awash in the sounds of Iron Mountain.


Iron Mountain bills themselves as an instrumental Irish rock band with influences that sprawl across the prog garden, taking root in the post rock, kraut rock, psychedelic, and folk metal sections. Hmmm...the lure of folk metal alone drew my gait in their direction...so let us exit the Concert Closet for a closer look and listen in on what the prog buffet is serving up this week.

Starting with an absolute mind twister, I drop the laser on "Opium" to get things started.  The opening takes me right to the middle of...nowhere...outside deep in the wild...high above K2 looking down...
Iron Mountain hits you in the back of the neck and spins you right around--what a week it will certainly be!  The folk metal reference burns brightly on this tune as Iron Mountain bursts forth releasing all their pent up tension as the song unfolds.  Flutes and percussion reign supreme as the music moves forward with a tribal energy that dares you not to close your eyes and dim the lights...

Once I fully absorb the sounds that just exploded all around me, I crawl back to the buffet for a second assault..."Enthralldom." The tension picks up right where "Opium" left off; the darkness doesn't loom so much as it totally envelops you...much like a shroud wrapped around your entire being, allowing you to become immersed in the sound.  Iron Mountain emits top notes reminiscent of King Crimson's earlier days when Jamie Muir squeezed sound from every item in the room.  The foreboding mood even takes me to KC's "Red" days...but I also sense some of the emotions Beardfish would embed in their music as well.  Iron Mountain stalks the dark outer edges of the prog
garden--but mainly as a sentry.  This is a band that can stand up to the class bully and send him home whimpering without so much as balling up a fist...

Liner Notes...Iron Mountain originates in Limerick, Ireland and consists of Damien Mullane on guitar, Matt Bashford on Uillean pipes, low whistle, and Native American flute, Ronan Ryan on transverse wooden flute and flute head, Stephen Hughes on bass, and Ray Murphy on drums and percussion.  I feel confident saying this is the first band I recall citing credit for two members playing at least three different flutes...suddenly those kids in middle school music class don't seem so nerdy...

Iron Mountain formed in 2012 and released their debut "Unum" in April of this year.  Building a sound that draws from the early days of King Crimson, the psychedelic times of Pink Floyd, the dark side of Gentle Giant, and the multi-faceted emotions of Beardfish, Iron Mountain stalks the prog garden with very few peers.  Their sound harkens to the days when musicians cared more about people focusing on the music rather than the performers on stage.  Remember when album jackets unfolded to reveal a world you knew was calling your name?  Iron Mountain touches all those exposed nerves lurking in the back of your mind...luring you into the realm where hearing something for the first time was magical...

Slice of the music number three this week is called "Bonfires."  Once again Iron Mountain dives deep into the darkness right out of the gate; you sense yourself being stalked as you sit in silence... listening...waiting for the cranium pummeling that cannot be too far away.  Yet the deathblows never materialize--the sounds just roll over you like high tide slamming the shore.  There is a sense of Tony Levin and the Stickmen meeting K2 on this song...a purely mystical experience.

Learn more about Iron Mountain at their website Iron Mountain Band.  You can purchase their
music--and you know I encourage you to do so--at Iron Mountain BandCamp.  Dig a bit deeper and discover the artists behind the sounds at Iron Mountain Facebook.  Of course Twitter allows you to keep up with the band and their musings @IronMountainlk.  Whatever your choice of connection, you will want to add Iron Mountain to your prog rock collection.

I posted the song "Powow" here for your weekly listening experience.  I chose this particular tune because it seems to expose Iron Mountain the most; so much sound and so many moods...a cornucopia of their trademark folk metal sound.  Iron Mountain is tilling very uncrowded acreage in the prog garden; soil that is not heavily trod.  My hope is that their sound will grow, spreading across sub-genres under the prog umbrella, reaching an audience thirsty for new and extremely innovative sound.


    
Well fellow progheads, my first foray into Ireland was without doubt a fascinating experience.  Iron Mountain is not quite the throat punch that is the Dropkick Murphys, but for sure the Irish know how to play hard.  Taking no cues from subtlety, Iron Mountain comes at you full throttle but never hits with a fatal blow...the preference here is to wow and amaze with sounds you never imagined coming from your headphones.  The canvas may be dark and haunting at times, but Iron Mountain is fully capable of tapping into every emotion connecting auditory senses to the mind.

Now as is my custom, I must pack up the Concert Closet once again as I continue the search for all things prog.  I hope you will come back once again to discover where the journey has taken me...and you.  Until next week...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Genre Peak

Hello once again fellow progheads!  Looking at the calendar you would believe summer is winding down...however looking at the thermometer it seems things are still sizzlin' just a bit...and the Concert Closet is still riding high on the search for all things prog.  This week, a bit more meandering as I continue my journey across the width and breadth of the prog garden.  Cutting though some deep growth, I find some acreage in the electronic section that needs attention...

California has always been a prog friendly state, so let us explore further.  Following the siren song that has been been toying with my inner ear, I am led to the Sacramento area; a hotbed of remarkable music, sounds, sights, and emotions...welcome to the world of Genre Peak.



Genre Peak paints themselves as "...electronic based cinematic music..."  My thoughts immediately wander to the "cool but not sure" corner of my brain...fortunately however; I decided to listen to the music before I listened to my cerebrum.  Join me now at the prog buffet for a platter filled with delectable morsels that will stimulate your senses...  

Deciding to dive right in, my first serving is an adult dose of "Hell on the Surface."  A dark curtain bathed in smoke draws back as vocals penetrate a mist wrapped in a drumbeat encased within some keyboard funk.  Sitting there, I sense aromatics wafting heavily toward a David Byrne/Brian Eno collaboration, with perhaps a tinge of Tom Waits roaming the perimeter.  The sound pulls you in for a closer examination as it bounces around the inside of your skull.  Genre Peak has tilled acreage in the prog garden that few have tended but many enjoy... 

Moving down the line for more, I fill the platter with "Body and Mind."  The song emerges gently, much like a bird breaking through its shell for the first time.  There is a calmness oozing from the headphones as I fall deeper into this song...and all the anxiety that has crept into my inner being is slowly melting away.  There are strong top notes of Robert Fripp in his soundscape days, and perhaps a touch of the Harold Budd/Brian Eno collaborations.  Genre Peak has prog roots that run extremely deep; there is so much happening when laser hits disc...

Liner Notes...the man behind the genius that is Genre Peak is one Martin Birke.  Born in 2005, the original line up of Genre Peak was Martin on electronic percussion, synthesizers, and vocals, Dan Panasenko on Chapman Stick, Stephen Sullivan on guitars, and Christopher Scott Cooper on guitar as well as engineering and mixing.  

Following the release of the band's first album in 2006, Martin decided to "tweak" Genre Peak; the three albums that followed were cooperatives recorded with guest performers...this impressive list includes Mick Karn and Gustaf Fjelstrom on bass, Tara C. Taylor on vocals, and Benito Cortez on violin.  Genre Peak has also worked with Jon Hassell, Arve Henriksen, Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri, Matt Malley, and the list goes on...  

Along with heading up Genre Peak, Martin splits time with two side projects; Hardboiled Wonderland with Chris Cooper and Percy Howard, and 9 Microspheres, a completely ambient undertaking with Stephen Sullivan.  Martin Birke and Genre Peak have stretched the boundaries of the prog garden in that they have no fear, no limits, and an infinite supply of creativity; a never ending blank canvas on which to convey emotions, expressions, moods, and feelings.  They leave nothing yet everything to the imagination.

My final selection for review is from Genre Peak's latest album, "Your Sleekest Engine."  The song is called "Denizen Darklight" and the opening drum work  wastes no time going straight to your spine as it leads techno vocals through the labyrinth of your mind via the auditory canals.  Genre Peak continues to paint with dark colors--but the variations fluctuate and contrast to a degree that is most extraordinary; the darkness is all around but there is a brightness burning through that melts away the gloom and destruction, leaving you eager to pursue this avenue further.

The song posted below is from Genre Peak's 2006 release called "Ends of the Earth."  The song "Always Empty" was chosen for a few reasons.  First; being a cut from the band's initial release it is incredibly tight.  The sound roams across the prog garden in every direction yet manages to stay focused.  The percussion sits back just far enough for the vocals to intertwine with the synthesizers, melting down the back of your neck like hot fudge dripping off the sundae bowl...

Learn more about Genre Peak at Genre Peak and follow the band on Twitter @GenrePeak1.  Genre Peak also has a Facebook page at GP Facebook that will expose you to more about the band; upcoming shows, new releases, video clips, and downloads.  

Genre Peak music is available on iTunes and Amazon, and I encourage all progheads to buy the music and show support for Genre Peak and all members of the prog garden...please and 
thank you...

                 

Well fellow progheads, summer continues her relentless march toward the end of the calendar--even though the mercury stays high in the thermometer.  Hard to believe 2016 has passed the halfway marker heading into turn three.  So let's slow down the pace and enjoy the time with Genre Peak. This is a band with a full palette of prog to offer.  Despite setting up camp in the electronic/cinematic/soundscape section of the prog garden, Genre Peak crosses into many
sub-genres and blends them so well.  The mood hangs dark but the sound is enormous and
full-bodied.  Being a cooperative opens a gateway for so many emotions, styles, tempos, and attitudes to leave their mark on the music and the band...just one more way progressive rock stays ahead of the pack.

The calendar refuses to stop and so too does the search for all things prog.  The Concert Closet continues the never ending journey as we discover more gems hidden in the garden.  Until next week...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Looking Glass Lantern

Welcome back to the journey fellow progheads!  As August redefines the "dog days," the sun continues to melt Mother Earth.  So to stay cool, I simply take the Concert Closet to another destination in the land known as the prog garden in the search for all things prog.  This week it seems a bit of time travel may have aided my search, as I find myself in the UK listening to the symphonic, hypnotic, and somewhat nostalgic sounds of Looking Glass Lantern.

Looking Glass Lantern is self-described as "Progressive rock with a nineteenth-century flavor." Knowing the UK is home to many a fantastic prog band, and combining that with my insatiable thirst for the new, different, and distinctive sounds that emerge from the prog garden, I am turning back the hands of time so as to delve deeper into the mystique that is Looking Glass Lantern...


Perhaps the curtain was lifted a bit with the image posted above; Looking Glass Lantern fuses classic prog with the essence and aura of Victorian England.  The resulting flavor is a twist on more than one tradition...

To open the prog buffet, I choose a full serving of the title cut from the first album, "A Tapestry of Tales."  The song opens in grand fashion; you feel yourself being drawn back to a different era...the intricate sounds interwoven with soft vocals. There are strong top notes of Alan Parsons Project and hints of early Genesis throughout this piece.  Looking Glass Lantern has captured a piece of the past here; there is an upbeat tempo wrapped around a narrative...quite the novel approach and extremely appealing...

Moving through the prog garden, I come across another interesting morsel, "A Scandal in Bohemia."
Hearing what appears to be a trend, I am immersed in another opening that peels the curtain back on a symphonic cornucopia. The drums sit just below the surface as keyboards and vocals throw colors at the canvas that meld together into something that would make Peter Max proud.  I pick up top notes of King Crimson's "Lizard" and perhaps a touch of Yes in their "Tormato" days...the music flows like raspberry coulis cascading gently down the sides of a cheesecake...yes please...

Liner Notes...Looking Glass Lantern is the creation of Graham Dunnington, who resides in the UK...a vague home address I grant you, but he nonetheless does his birthplace proud.  Graham put together two "concept" albums of a sort; both dealing with the life and adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his friend/sidekick, Dr. Watson.  While the Arthur Conan Doyle stories are well known and there have been several movies made, nothing quite like Graham's musical interpretation has previously pierced my auditory canals.

After performing with a prog band that is now defunct, the multi-instrumental Mr. Dunnington went on a solo bent under the Looking Glass Lantern banner, releasing "A Tapestry of Tales" in 2013 and "The Hound of the Baskervilles" the following year.  Setting up camp in the symphonic section of the prog garden, Graham has followed a trail blazed by the Alan Parsons Project with "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" in 1976...and while there are similarities, Looking Glass Lantern has wandered off the beaten path, taking the music to a more grandiose level.

My last serving from this ornate buffet is the title cut from "The Hound of the Baskervilles."  The opening is a bit dark and dreary; much like the story it reflects.  There is a sense of royalty flowing through the headphones on this piece; the keyboards lay on top of fine tuned drumming like cream in a milk bottle before homogenization buries it within.

Therein lies the intrigue; Looking Glass Lantern is a modern day throwback to days reflected best in mirrored chandeliers and claw foot furniture...everything seems so proper and majestic.  The harpsichord helps drive the point home, topped with vocals as fragile as a wine goblet.

Learn more about Looking Glass Lantern at Looking Glass Lantern...there you will find much to quell your curiosity.  You can also follow along, keep up with new releases, and hold an ear out for musings and such on Twitter @glass_lantern.  Looking Glass Lantern is available on Spotify, and Graham has set up a YouTube channel as well.  However; I encourage all my fellow progheads to show support for Looking Glass Lantern (and all prog bands) by purchasing their music.

The cut posted below--intended to pique your curiosity as well as whet your appetite-- is called "Six Pearls to Mary."  This song leaps through the headphones with proper thrust...intended to wake you for the "gentle" ride home.  The Victorian side of the music shines brightly on this piece...perhaps I should invest in a harpsichord...

                          


Well fellow progheads, I trust you enjoyed this week's futuristic walk through the past.  As summer begins to fade from the calendar, the sunsets can be striking--much like this stroll through a new section of the prog garden.  The biggest impression Looking Glass Lantern made for me is the connection between story and song.  Readers of Arthur Conan Doyle's works will notice the uncanny emotional  connection the written word has with the music.  More than simply bringing pages to life, Looking Glass Lantern paints with brush strokes that give the stories a pulse.

More surprises await I am quite certain, hiding in plain sight as the Concert Closet scours the planet in the search for all things prog.  As always, it is my pleasure and honor to bring to you my fellow progheads the new, different, distinct, undiscovered, and uncommon sounds that abound here in the prog garden.  So of course, the journey continues...until next week...