Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Warm thoughts and heat filled greetings fellow progheads!  Winter waited a while to throw her "polar vortex" at us, and I wish she had held out longer...but one can never be surprised when the mercury falls out of the thermometer during the solstice--just disappointed.  Of course, I say that as I bring the Concert Closet and the search for all things prog to a land where February tends to be the coldest month of the year...the Netherlands.

I wanted to stretch the boundaries in my search for all things prog this week; I really needed a jolt that was as much mentally stimulating as it was physically draining...and so the Concert Closet headed north to Amsterdam as we honed in on the multi-layered, cerebral sounds of Amikdla.

Referring to themselves simply as ..."a progressive rock band from the Netherlands" was the hook that lured me in.  No fancy window dressing, no marketing ploy to capture the listener's attention...just an honest assessment of who they are.  Never being one to walk past a train wreck or a street musician without taking notice, I obviously felt compelled to dive right into this prog feast.

The opening course is a test of the senses; a mind altering tune called "Mutate."  The music pulsates right from the beginning...you feel a mild tension as it slowly starts to thump.  This song has depth; you find yourself being drawn in then down deep as the vocals start--and suddenly the guitars bring everything to life like a defibrillator to the chest.  Solid drumming is the protective shell holding the whole thing together.  Amikdla emits aromatics of Genesis and adds top notes of Dream Theater and Tool that waft in the air just strong enough to awaken the metal prog sensors in your brain...until the song winds down and you feel its lifeblood slowly spiraling down the drain...

Now that the opening jolt has awakened the senses, let us step back to the buffet with cautious anticipation..."Inertia" seems just the elixir to clear the head.  Amikdla adds musical pieces like a jigsaw puzzle; fitted together the right way, they create an image otherwise unseen.  There is a darkness that hangs over this song; not so much a cloud as a long black veil designed to protect the vulnerable listener from a metal beast working extremely hard to break out.  Amikdla hammers the edges of reason with a mallet yet manages to stay on the correct side of sanity...turning the heat down two degrees below mental scorch...an art form truly appreciated...

Liner Notes...Amikdla calls Zaandam, Netherlands home and the current line-up appears to be Jasper Schilder on guitar, Joel van Dam on vocals, Chinouk de Haan on bass, and  Wouter Ouwehand on drums.  A very strong quartet that--unless photos are posted backwards--has two left-handed guitarists in Jasper and Chinouk.  Being a southpaw myself I tend to notice these things...not that two lefties alone makes them great--but it certainly does not hurt the cause.

Amikdla flourishes in the eclectic symphonic, techno area of the prog garden, sharing acreage with Seven Impale and  Spleen Arcana among others.  However; there is also some metal growing amongst and between the pastels poking through the dirt.  Like their peers, Amikdla uses subtlety with the right ratio of iron and steel to play off each other and strike a nerve in your soul that hits hard and fast--then backs off like cayenne pepper folded into milk chocolate.  There is smoothness and then there is the bright lights that follow a head-butt...

Moving along the buffet line, I find the best ending for this week's feast; a large slice of a sweet morsel called "Escape." Top notes of A Perfect Circle and XTC shine through on this cut; the emotional rainstorm builds slowly and definitely, slamming against the inside of your skull like waves against the jetty.  Amikdla reigns down like combustible dust through the headphones...only volatile if mixed with open flame.  The band is careful to temper their music with neutralizing levels of guitar, drums, and vocals to make it appealing to those who tend to stay on the fringe.

This week's musical post is especially intriguing...a song that seems filled with the subliminal, "Join the Tribe."  Amikdla has a knack for drawing you in with the siren song of musical lust, all the while toying with your emotions.  The song opens with a foreboding unheard in previous cuts, yet the calm vocals that cut through the fierce opening sooth your nerves like a morphine shot after a skiing accident. Learn more about Amikdla at  https://amikdla.bandcamp.com/ and follow the band on Twitter @Amikdlaband  and Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/amikdla to keep up with new releases, tour dates/places, and other pertinent information. You can also find the band's music at
http://amikdla.bandcamp.com/album/a-small-step.  Amikdla brings the black light, candles, and dark mood...all you have to add is the flame.  Sit back and enjoy the mental fireworks...

So fellow progheads, I hope this trip to the Netherlands was worthwhile for you.  I not only embraced the cerebral sounds of Amikdla, I was able to expand the boundaries of the Concert Closet.  Not necessarily our first trip to the shores of the North Sea, but a venture well worth the time and effort! Amikdla tills specific acreage in the prog garden, but don't be put off by the apparent lack of diversity; this is a band that can play in anyone's sandbox.  A quartet that assembles a sound seemingly built of far more parts, with the ability to drag the mood meter across many emotional sensors.  Now to find other gut pulling sounds in the search for all things prog...until next week...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Good morning/afternoon/evening fellow progheads!  Regardless of what time of day you check in--thanks for taking the time to venture over and do just that!  2016 has opened with a barrage of new prog music here in the Concert Closet--my frequent flyer miles bear that out.  This week I chose to keep the search for all things prog a little closer to home so as to take NYC by (snow) storm...and become wholly absorbed in the sounds of Moonlapse.

Self-described as "...Experimental/Cinematic/Progressive Metal..," Moonlapse reaches across acreage in the prog garden that almost defies definition and explanation--and that ain't a bad thing.  Many a band makes an attempt at unique--and a high percentage of those brave souls fail miserably. Moonlapse takes avant-garde era prog and "not-so-gently" folds in some of today's extreme technology to create a sound that lifts you out of your skin without splitting you open.  So...let us venture into the maelstrom that is New York, trust our prog senses, and wander where the music takes us...

The first offering from the buffet this week is a terrestrial piece called "The Old Kingdom."  The song opens as if you are on a roller coaster that intermittently picks up speed and slows down...no rhyme or reason and no pattern to discern.  Moonlapse throws a vibe of Chick Corea playing jazz standards with Dream Theater on this particular cut.  There is a sense of wonder that flows through the entire piece, much like your first date with that cute girl from English class--and it plays out just like you hoped...

Moving back to the buffet for a follow up course, I come away with a heavier, more morose serving of "Shadowform."  The drumming on this tune is velvety smooth, and the keyboards echo through your auditory canals like a fading passenger train.  Synthesizers add to the mystique; the top notes emitted are heavy on Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Tangerine Dream, with aromatics of Adrian Belew and Bill Bruford wafting in the air.  Moonlapse leaves a mark on the inner lining of your cranium, much like windswept impressions on winter's first snowfall.

Liner Notes...Moonlapse currently calls New York City home, although its origins appear to be somewhere near Chicago.  The "band" is comprised of and comes completely from the heart and soul of one Ben Strick.  Yes, Mr. Strick lays down all the sounds you hear--and paints a vivid picture while doing so.  Moonlapse released its debut "Conscious" in May 2015 and followed that with the recent release of a five song EP called "Fade Construct."  Ben bores deep, going under layers of epidermis, enabling him to drill into your inner emotional foundation.  Moonlapse can be as profound and absorbing as Peter Gabriel one minute, then come off as flippant and casual as Happy Graveyard Orchestra the next...the key is staying dialed in to find out what mood is about to permeate the headphones.

Searching the buffet at the moment for something strong and robust; something that will sate my appetite for experimental, cinematic, progressive metal...and just like that my plate is filled with "Primeval Nature."  This cut is from the debut album and hits hard--but with what seems to be the trademark jazz fusion hammer.  The drums are more solid and forceful and the keyboards/synthesizers are in lock-step, taking the listener on a journey through the space/time continuum.  Moonlapse has a tinge of Jean Michel Jarre on this cut as the canvas is filled with a wide variety of colors intended to tantalize and mesmerize.

I chose the song posted below to thrust a full dose at you; another cut from Moonlapse's debut called "Ever." The piece opens slowly--almost deliberately so--as it builds an energy that flows from the disc like white water rapids swallowing a kayak cascading over the falls.

While Moonlapse tills acreage in the experimental/metal section of the prog garden, this is a band that stretches its roots across the entire farm, drawing nourishment and inspiration as it goes.   Listening to Moonlapse brings a flood of images to the inside of my eyelids, most of which equate to alternating states of ease, ecstasy, acute awareness, and simple laid-back relaxation.

Learn more about Moonlapse at http://www.moonlapseofficial.com/ and of course on the band's Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/moonlapseofficial/.  You can also follow Moonlapse on Twitter @MoonlapseMusic, where you will discover new music and other information.  Moonlapse can also be found on Spotify.

OK fellow progheads, that wraps up another exciting week in the never ending search for all things prog.  Moonlapse flows deep through the soul of the prog garden with a sound that inspires.  I know I have said it before, and I am sure I will say it again...one of the wonders of progressive music is its ability to transcend other genres with chameleon-like prowess.  While I would never mistake the music of Porcupine Tree for that of Moonlapse, I can appreciate both artists on a level other genres of music cannot attain.

Progressive rock--and the artists who produce it--by definition should be evolving with each new release.  That is the motivating force behind the Concert Closet and my search for all things prog...the reason I re-visit bands and post interviews.  Prog artists seem to be on a different "wavelength" if you will, and I simply aspire to tap into that process.  So onward once again fellow progheads, as the search for all things prog continues...until next week...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Hello once again fellow progheads!  Seems like we put Christmas back in the attic just yesterday and already we find ourselves knocking at the door of Valentine's Day, holding a dozen roses in one hand and our favorite prog album in the other--or maybe romance just looks different to me.  In any case, the search for all things prog has brought the Concert Closet back to one of the hotbeds of the prog garden, Italy...hence I anticipate something deep, rich, and filling.  To that end the next seven days will be spent immersed in the alternative/post prog sounds of Koneskin.

Koneskin is a trio of musicians playing progressive/alternative/instrumental rock.  This is a descriptor I have heard time and again when bands try to "broaden" their appeal to the multiple
sub-genres within the prog garden.  Thankfully, the Concert Closet is not afraid to venture anywhere and everywhere in the search for all things prog--so clear some landing space, Turin...

My initial venture to the buffet this week serves up an intense morsel of "To Fall Apart-To." This is the first of what sounds like a dark, haunting trilogy to lead off the album.  The gloomy foreboding mood is undermined by vocals that bleed hope through despair--an almost intuitive sense of knowing it will be a tragic ending yet still holding out for the best.  I pick up strong top notes of Gentle Giant throughout as well as aromatics of early Genesis.  Koneskin pushes the emotion needle into the red as the entire three-song piece plays out. Guitars are bleeding into keyboards as the drums plunge deep into the far reaches of your skull. Vocals don't just pierce--they impale.

Venturing with a cautionary stride back to the buffet, I sample a dark slice of  "Maya (Fer Au D'Sol)."  The steady heart/drum beat that floats just under the surface of this piece is understated enough to hold my attention and subtle enough to works its way into my frontal lobe, where it takes root.  The vocals are much softer as well; like creamy peanut butter melting on a hot bagel.  The keyboards and acoustic guitar gently penetrate your auditory canals, keeping you locked in emotionally; you need to know the outcome before it's too late.  Koneskin paints with dark hues on this cut...the canvas is splattered with grey, brown, rust, and black.  Interesting how it all bleeds together to pull you in...never fatal but just menacing enough...

Liner Notes...Koneskin hails from the northern Piedmont region of Italy; Turin to be precise.  This prog threesome consists of Feryanto Demichelis on keyboards and vocals, Gabriele Zoccolan on guitar, and Sergio Ponti on drums.  Koneskin formed in 2013 and released their debut "Liberty Place" November 2015.

While Koneskin occupies acreage in the darker section of the prog garden, their music cannot be summed up simply as bleak, dark, or angry...the feelings and emotions go much deeper.  This is a band with baggage much like Radiohead, determination in the manner of Beardfish, and inner soul searching a la Talking Heads.  Koneskin builds on a foundation laid by others--but the design is strictly their own.

My final take this week is the third leg of the opening trilogy, "To Fall Apart-Apart."  You get a sense right away that there is a macabre dance playing out and it is just a matter of time until everything crashes down--and as the music moves toward its climax you are not disappointed.  Koneskin toys with your emotions much the way a tiger does with its prey and yet you can never look away.  The pull gets stronger as the end draws near...

The post I saved for publication this week is called "Velvet Starry Night."  An alarming worry strikes you between the eyes as a siren-like wail is hurled from the headphones.  Calm and a sense of rationale begin to enter the soundscape--but you realize it is short-lived.  The night may be filled with stars--but there something ominous waiting behind them.  Learn more about Koneskin at https://koneskin.bandcamp.com/.  While you are there you will be tempted to purchase their music; follow that impulse.  Koneskin can also be found on Twitter @koneskin and that New Age marketing tool, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/koneskin1.

Once again fellow progheads  the Concert Closet has uncovered a true gem buried in the rich soil that is the prog garden.  Koneskin plays to an unconventional crowd--nothing new in prog circles, but in doing so they manage to blend top notes of King Crimson, Porcupine Tree, and Gentle Giant with aromatics of Radiohead, Transatlantic, and Opeth.  They never strike as a pure metal band and do not emit any earthy, cerebral overtones either.  Koneskin is more a sound to enjoy when the need arises to cleanse the head but not the mind...

The search for all things prog continues on as  the Concert Closet seeks to discover what else lurks just beneath the surface...until next week...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate

Good evening one more time and thanks for sticking with me fellow progheads!  Moving into the February section of the 2016 calendar, my search for all things prog continues to shine a light on fresh, new, and unique music and artists taking root in the prog garden.  I extended my London stay an additional seven days so as to explore one such band that is unique in several ways...

Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate has a sound that roams through many sub genres of progressive rock; confining them to one area of the prog garden is not only impossible it would be unfair to the talents and abilities of the band's founder Malcolm Galloway.  But aside from their distinctive sound, Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate does a lot of "extra curricular" work and gives back to the community from which it draws...more on that later.  This tour through London I decided to not only dive into the sounds of Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate, but also peel back a layer of the onion and have a chat with the aforementioned Mr. Galloway, the mastermind behind the curtain. So a bit of a melange here as I intertwine an interview with a music review...

The prog buffet is the best place to start and a serving of "Head In A Jar" is the right antidote for what ails ya...  The vocals are piercing as the drums and guitar almost plead with you; keyboards slide through the middle like the creme brulee hiding under a layer of caramelized sugar...one pleasure after another.  There is a sense of urgency riding the under current here; I get a scent of Uriah Heep jamming with Atlas Volt on this cut.  Hats off Gentlemen is definitely forging their own identity...

Closet Concert Arena: First off, the name of the band...unique is an understatement.  Any back story here?

Malcolm Galloway: The band originally started as a vocals/guitar and flute duo with my wife Kathryn Thomas.  We had a gig the day before our youngest son was born and had to give a band name for the introduction.  I'd always had an image in my mind of Victorian gentlemen throwing their top hats in the air and shouting, "Huzzah!"; not because they think something is amazing, but because it is adequate.  It is also a playful reference to Robert Schumann's review of Chopin (hats off gentlemen, a genius).  I'm pretty self-deprecating so the name suits my personality.  But on the other hand it might not suit the sound of the music very well--and is poorly suited to Twitter.  Once the band name is written, most of the 140 characters are gone.

CCA: Malcolm, you are listed in the music credits as as either playing alone or with colleagues...is the band a full time gig for everyone involved or are you the driving force and bring others in for live performances and recording when necessary...in other words; who is Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate?

MG: I'm very fortunate in that I get to play with a group of outstanding musicians.  Our flautist Kathryn Thomas is a professional classical flautist who is regularly heard on the BBC with her wind quintet The Galliard Ensemble.  I met Mark Gatland (bass) in school; we have been playing together for decades.  Rudy Burrell (drums) is an extremely musical drummer and has an excellent ear for song structure.  Ibon Bilbao (guitar) is a much more technical/pyrotechnical guitarist than I am; his background is classic rock and metal.  Live we play in any combination of me solo or with one or more of my colleagues.  For recordings so far, it is initially me composing on a laptop.  Some tracks remain that way multi-tracked while others feature one or more of the band.

CCA: How long have Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate been around and how many albums on the resume?

MG: We've been going for about four years and released two albums; "Invisible" (about invisible disabilities) and "When the Kill Code Fails" (about artificial intelligence).  I have also released a couple of albums of contemporary classical minimalist music under my own name.

CCA: Your sound has flavors of jazz, metal, ambient, and classic prog just to name a few.  Who/what do you consider the biggest influences on your writing?

MG:  Pink Floyd/David Gilmour, Marillion, and Steve Reich are big influences for me.  In terms of lyrics I am inspired Philip K. Dick.

Time to give a listen to a song that wanders off the "standard" prog path; a piece with an electronic bent a la Tangerine Dream called "Freerunning."  The sci-fi connection hits you right out of the gate (thank you Philip K. Dick), and the pulsing drums carry the heavy-laden bass line and strong layer of guitar quite nicely. The terrestrial-like keyboards hover overhead and reign down like shards of crystal...Hats Off Gentlemen defies categorization with pieces like this.  Imagine Geoff Downes collaborating with Pat Metheny and a mellow Carmine Appice and you start to get a feel for this tune...


CCA: You perform a lot of charity gigs and do a lot of fundraising for very worthwhile causes...what is the connection to this side of your music?

MG: There's a lovely atmosphere at an event where everyone has come together as volunteers to make something happen.  We put on an annual "Save The Children" fundraiser at The Fiddler's Elbow.  Even small donations can make a big difference to vulnerable children.  For example; it only costs about 50p ($78USD) for a sachet of rehydration medicine to prevent a child from dying of diarrhea. We've also done events for Ehlers-Danlos Disease charities (my link with that is I have the condition), Brain Tumor UK, and Marie-Curie.

CCA: You play regularly in London and the UK; any opportunities on the horizon to add to your frequent flyer miles? 

CCA:  We are exploring the possibility of playing gigs in France in 2017, and would be very happy to to explore other opportunities to perform in other countries.

CCA: What can fans expect from the band as 2016 progresses?

MG: Next we are on to playing in Camden's Dublin Castle on February 11th, while simultaneously working on our third album as well as the music for the comedy/horror feature film "Rock Band vs. Vampires."

 CCA: That is a fairly full schedule...

 CCA: If you could play a gig with anyone alive or dead, who would you be on stage with?

MG: That's tricky.  It would be lovely to do something with Steve Hackett, David Gilmour, or Steve Rothery; they are very inspiring musicians.  I'd quite fancy a jam with Eminem.  I am though quite spoiled already in having incredible and supportive musicians in my band--and very grateful for that.

Liner Notes time...As Malcolm mentioned earlier, in addition to himself on guitar, vocals, and keyboards, Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate will consist at one moment or another of Kathryn Thomas on flute, Mark Gatland on bass, Rudy Burrell on drums, and Ibon Bilboa on guitar.  Malcolm has shed some light on what drives Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate as well as what separates them from others in the prog garden.  More than simply music, this is a band with a cause--a worthwhile cause.

What makes Malcolm and the rest of Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate unique is their understanding of the role the music plays in the bigger picture...and their ability to make the music a vision one can "see" with eyes and ears.  Hanging in the jazz/metal/ambient corner of the prog garden means there are few direct peer to relate to, but an incredible opportunity to expand on a point of view.

The band's latest release is called "When The Kill Code Fails."  I found a gem quietly inserted into this concept album called "I Still Remember You."  The song opens with gentle drum and keyboards as a backdrop to painful vocals appealing to the emotions buried deep in a heart coming to grips with the reality of who/what he is.  The soft layers of sound continue throughout and belie a dark gripping pleading that leaps through the vocals.  Hats Off Gentlemen emit top notes of Marillion and Alan Parsons Project on this tune...I detect traces of Gentle Giant permeating the air as well.  

CCA: What else do you want the world to know about Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate?

MG: Our live gigs are fun and playful, even if the lyrics are quite dark--defiant rather than bleak. We tend to play our "rockier" tracks live.  If you join our mailing list you get a free mp3-
http://www.hatsoffgentlemen.com/index/.  We also have quite a few videos that showcase more of who we are at https://www.youtube.com/user/itsadequate, including some Lego animated music videos I did with my kids.  We are aware there is a lot of music out there, and we are extremely grateful to all those taking the time to listen to what we do.

And that in so many paragraphs, words, videos, and explanations, is Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate...or is it?  Being of the cynical variety, I tend to doubt that anything is as simple and obvious as it seems.  Here is a an up and coming band, tending its own little acreage in the prog garden.  Upon first listen you find a sound that is distinctive...coming from nowhere in particular yet bouncing through your prog consciousness like Tommy's pinball...stirring up images and emotions you weren't aware of prior.  That, my fellow progheads, is why I so enjoy the search for all things prog.  

The prog garden is quite lush with quality bands that push the envelope and musicians that push the genre in new directions.  It is not, however, flowing over with bands and musicians that understand the frailty of it all...that everything can be taken away in a second so best to enjoy the moment in the moment and give back what you can while you can.  Enter Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate and the prog world's axis tilts just a bit...you can feel the difference in the emotions; much like the difference between velvet and corduroy.

One last music link for your enjoyment; "Solace."  The laser no sooner starts to read the disc than you pick up a Pink Floyd vibe...this is a song that will burrow deep into your emotional lock box.  The gentleness and innocence that lead you down a friendly path of ferns and moss slowly morphs into a dark trail fraught with uncertainty and suspicion.  Hats Off Gentlemen ride the pendulum back and forth from dark to light in a way that might have taken Edgar Allan Poe off his game.

In addition to the links above, you can find Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate on Facebook at
https://www.facebook.com/itsadequate and Twitter @itsadequate.  Purchase their music online at
http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/HatsOffGentlemenItsAdequate. After all, if we don't support those who fill the prog garden, the garden will cease to grow and expand...

So fellow progheads, we have traveled yet another tangent road in the prog garden.  Malcolm provided quite the glimpse behind the curtain, and Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate illuminates  a side of prog not often glimpsed--the human side.  Progressive rock is an outlet for so much, providing the artist the opening necessary to walk the listener into the labyrinth that is prog...so just relax, open your mind, and prepare to be transfixed...you're welcome...

...and the search for all things prog continues on its way...rummaging through the garden for still more as yet undiscovered treasures...until next week...