Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Huis

As always, welcome back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  As Spring makes her 2017 debut, I thought it might be different--and perhaps a bit left of logical--to follow the "N" on my compass and visit with some Canadian folks who have put together a sound that wanders some distinct acreage in the prog garden.  The search for all things prog has discovered some rather captivating bands and artists way up north, and this week the journey expands on that theme with a stopover in Chateauguay QC, swathed in the sounds of Huis...



Huis is a musical project that began in 2009.  Eight years and two albums later, the band has captured my attention with a multi-layered sound this is more deep than ornate and manages to seize your attention without feeling it necessary to drop-kick you to the ground.  Huis prefers to grab your senses rather than your collar...so let us step to the prog buffet with eager anticipation and feed our prog addiction...

First serving this week is a delicate piece called "The Red Gypsy."  The acoustic opening oozes a bit of Al Dimeola; corduroy-smooth vocals seep in and get wrapped in some very delicate guitar and percussion work.  Huis flows through the headphones like maple syrup running down the side of a stack of buttermilk pancakes; you want more just because.  The tempo picks up as primary colors blend with pastels on the canvas...top notes of Camel and Marillion stream through your head and flow down your spine...

Going back to the buffet for more, I discover a tune covered in darker hues, "If by Morning."  Huis likes to hang a silk scarf over the lamp to cut the glare--but it doesn't keep the light from shining through.  The feel here is "Dire Straits meets the Krimson ProjeCKt" with a dash of early Genesis folded into the mix.  Huis is the guy in the dark suit walking down the boulevard in the pouring rain, only to arrive at the leggy model's apartment totally dry, looking dapper, and carrying roses...

Liner Notes...Huis hails from Montreal Canada, in the aforementioned Chateauguay region of Quebec.  What was a project in 2009 became a full-fledged band led by keyboardist Pascal Lapierre and bass man Michel Joncas.  Along the way Pascal and Michel were joined by guitarist Michel
St-Pere, vocalist Sylvain Descoteaux, and drummer William Regnier.  In one of their "remodeling phases" Pascal left the band and was ultimately replaced by Johnny Maz on keys.

While the road traveled was definitely a twisting, turning one, Huis settled into the ornate, multi-layered section of the prog garden and has two albums on their (hopefully) growing resume.  "Despite Guardian Angels" was their 2014 debut, followed by the 2016 release of "Neither in Heaven."  There is talk of a third album soon, so perhaps the Concert Closet will be traveling back to the tundra before the next snowfall...

 
                                                                         
My final offering from the feast this week is a cut lifted off their first album called, "Garden of Dust." The terrestrial-like opening that flows through the headphones dims the lights and gently paints the canvas with dark yet subtle hues.  Vocals melt the clouds swiftly and with moderate force, much like  marshmallow running down the side of your s'mores as you sit by the fire...you absolutely notice and are completely fine.

Huis has staked out acreage in the shadowy section of the prog garden, although there is a glow radiating from the embers.  This is a band that fills the canvas with detail and layers without crowding anything--or anyone--out of the picture.  The flow is almost mesmerizing as guitars melt seamlessly into the keyboards, which ride right across the percussion.  The occasional organ and bells are the amuse-bouche to what is already a decadent offering.

Learn more about Huis at their website Huis Band where you can (of course) purchase their music. You can also follow Huis on Twitter @huisbandprog and connect with the band on Facebook
Huis FB.  Huis has even made their music available on Soundcloud Huis SC so the options are plenty.  I recommend a dry red wine or a good single malt; just sit back and let the sound run its course whilst you sip...

The clip posted below is called "Memories."  Let the piano opening cleanse your mind of the debris of the day and float downstream as the song begins to fill your cranium with music crisp like Italian wine grapes...distinct and full bodied.  Huis has a feel on this tune like Gentle Giant meets The Strawbs...extravagant without being obnoxious; heavy without being a burden.  Go ahead; turn the volume up...

                       

And seemingly as quick as it started, another week has found its way into the history books.  Huis was an adventure much like walking through a maze and not being concerned about the time...the longer this escapade takes the better.  

The search for all things prog has introduced me to many bands, artists, and musicians that seem to have one thing in common--a desire to burrow deeper within to find the soul of the music.  That is the feeling I get listening to Huis; they dive right into the deep end of the pool and stay submerged.  Try Huis because you're curious...stay because you can...

As always fellow progheads, time for the Concert Closet to forge on and continue the search for all things prog...until next time...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Gregorian Rock "Fire"

Another seven days around the sun....thanks for finding your way back fellow progheads!  2017 has proven thus far to be a year of doing things differently, and the Closet Concert Arena continues to travel the uncrowded path, this week catching up with a band I have been following since their inception, although "band" might be a stretch...

Gregorian Rock, for those blessed with quick mind and good memory, has two albums on a growing resume.  Dale Benedict--the driving force and brains behind the curtain and under the robe--has found a unique way to release album number three--one song at a time...



Gregorian Rock is nothing if not distinctive, combining "...ancient with modern to create a serene yet pummeling sound."  This is a band that has few peers in the prog garden; perhaps not a "one-of-a-kind," but absolutely not a follower in a long line of carbon copy, stamped-out, melodious, predictable bands.  Gregorian Rock looks at prog rock--and music in general--through an entirely different lens...listening through an alternate set of headphones...

Let us stroll together the labyrinth of sound that is Gregorian Rock as Dale nurtures, grows, and offers up his latest release "Fire" one song per month to the faithful (and patient) in the prog garden. Opening  with "Consuming Fire," the album broadens the landscape that Gregorian Rock occupies...the keyboards and guitars are extremely tight, lying under a vocal chant that comes through the headphones with subdued force. The drums lift the entire ensemble higher, held in place on solid footing while allowing everything to cascade down like a soothing waterfall.  Yes, Gregorian Rock has indeed taken it to another level...

The second song released has a church revival vibe, "Reap What You Sow."  Once again the vocals come at you like surround sound theater, and that upbeat tempo--highlighted by a thunderous horn section--throws brighter colors at the canvas. The keyboards draw more attention on this cut as well as they meld with the percussion beautifully.  There are top notes of Beardfish and Transatlantic filling the air as you feel a crescendo building that is delivered with tempered exuberance.

Liner Notes...Gregorian Rock has pretty much been a one-man show, with Dale Benedict responsible for the grooves carved into vinyl and lasered into disc.  However; the third time around the turntable has enabled Dale to assemble an impressive line-up.  In addition to Mr. Benedict playing chapman stick, keyboards, and laying down the vocals, the ensemble includes Phil Keaggy on guitars, Scott McCullor on vocals, John Adams on bass, and Sean McCurley on drums.

Gregorian Rock originated in San Antonio, Texas and has been building quiet momentum since its inception.  Dale has managed to bring a sound to the prog garden that unifies several sections while at the same time standing alone.  With an energy level equivalent to that of a teenager on Red Bull, Dale has relentlessly pushed Gregorian Rock to new heights and wider realms, stretching the boundaries of the prog garden.  His efforts have brought forth a bountiful harvest from the garden; introspective, soul searching, cerebral, and tremendously gratifying progressive rock.  Gregorian Rock is like a loofah for the mind...soothing your soul as it clears your head of so much peripheral debris.

My final installment this week is the third single from the new album called "Skies Proclaim."  The bassline draws you in right away...you can feel the tug on your collar as your head is lifted and tilts right.  The canvas explodes with color and enthusiasm as guitars and keyboards reign down, washing over you like ocean waves with a pent up fury...Vinnie Moreno's guitar solo finale pulls you under, and the exhilaration does not end when the stylus hits the blank space...

Learn more about Gregorian Rock on the band's Facebook page Gregorian Rock FB and Twitter @cantusnovus .  You can also check in with the band and purchase music on their website Gregorian Rock.  For those so inclined, the music can also be found at Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.  Links are available on the main website.


This is where I normally post a cut for your listening pleasure...a song to entice, whet the music appetite, and hopefully convince you to expand your prog music collection.  However; this week I take a different tack...no video, just a request to support Gregorian Rock and all the musicians and bands that call the prog garden home.  With Dale releasing the "Fire" album one  song at a time, I felt it would be best for you to listen and purchase via the links listed above.  I personally thank all my loyal followers for supporting all the prog artists reviewed here.  It is your loyalty and appreciation for the genre that allows these artists to do what they do.

OK...off the soapbox and back to the Concert Closet.  The search for all things prog took the proverbial fork in the road this week...Gregorian Rock was an oasis of sorts, just off the beaten path in the prog garden.  Dale has truly tapped into something as stimulating as it is appealing...intelligent without being arrogant.  For me, Gregorian Rock followed the path on which I discovered Brian Eno...an entirely different view of the genre via a spectrum that was there just waiting for the right eye to peer into the kaleidoscope...

And once again the clock has wound down on another week in the search for all things prog.  One of the (many) enjoyable aspects of writing this blog is watching bands grow and attract a wider audience. With the release of "Fire," Gregorian Rock has reached for the next rung on the ladder, and recruiting Phil Keaggy to play guitar certainly shows a bit of brass.

So the search for all things prog continues on...the Concert Closet continuing a journey that is much more fun than I deserve...until next time...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

IT "We're All In This Together"

Welcome back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  This week we're venturing into the "far back" corners of the Concert Closet as the search for all things prog burrows into the rich soil that is the prog garden.  With all the crazy stuff happening on this rock we call home, the music coming from the prog garden has begun to take on an ominous tone.  The Mute Gods recent release is but one example of progressive rock hitting you over the head in an effort to pull you from your slumber.

Now another prog band steps up to the podium with a sound that is all at once foreboding, foretelling, relevant, and urgent.  Like Nikita Khrushchev banging a shoe on his desk at the UN, so does IT bang the ground in the prog garden with their latest release, "We're All In This Together."



IT has been tilling acreage in the prog garden for quite some time now; long enough to have laid down strong roots and delivered a healthy harvest.  Indeed; "We're All In This Together" is the fifth album IT has offered to the masses in twenty plus years...but for the immediate let us envelope ourselves in the this new release and discover the wonder that is IT...

The first cut released as a single is "Revolution" and it comes at you right away--straight between the eyes.  The percussion tells you this song has no intention of backing down; the tension mounts as short direct vocal snippets pierce the skin...and then chaos reigns down.  The song erupts like a levee unable to hold back the flood, and just as suddenly it rescinds.  You begin to assess the damage but your auditory canals are flooded once again...the tempo continues to run the gambit from complete bedlam to controlled restraint.  However; the message is bold and clear--you cannot and will not hold IT back.  The prog garden may just be ground zero for the new uprising...

The next track to catch my attention is called "The Path of Least Resistance."  An opening reminiscent of a police state clampdown, this piece enters through the headphones and traces a path directly to the heart.  IT continues to fill the canvas with dark colors, but more out of necessity than desire.  IT has the urgency of The Mute Gods, the angst of Seconds Before Landing, and the relevance of The Clash at their counterculture  best.  IT ties it all together in burlap with a bow made from old navy yard rope...

Liner Notes...IT calls London home, the place where many a great prog band got its start.  The band originally came together in 1994 using multimedia outlets to get their message out.  Almost a throwback to the 60's but with up-to-date technology, IT used videos playing behind the band to coincide with deep lyrics, a dark portentous sound, and a thought provoking intensity to grab the listener by the ears and dare you not to get involved.  By 2009 IT had four albums to their credit and continued to dig deeper, bringing profundity to the prog garden in songs dealing with all the madness and mayhem the world had to offer.

Going through the inevitable growing pains, maturing, growth, and just plain soul searching, IT was on hiatus after album #4...using that time to solidify the band and put together what would become "We're All In This Together."  The current line-up is Nick Jackson on guitar and vocals, Andy Rowberry on lead guitar, James Hawkins on bass, Ryan McCaffrey on keyboards, and Will Chism on drums.  IT is part of the Progressive Gears Records stable of prog bands and well worth immersing yourself in...

The last slice to fill out this week's prog buffet is titled, "The Working Man."  The song opens on the dark side as you would expect--but this is more rye toast dark than charred pumpernickel coal. There are slices of light cutting through the doom and gloom, much like rays of sunshine piercing the rain clouds after a thunderstorm rages across an open field...which makes the brightness that much more glaring.  Don't misinterpret; this is not a "clap your hands and hug your neighbor" happy upbeat tune. Rather it is a song that declares the defiance, pride, and determination of those that carry the weight every day without fanfare.  Top notes of Fire Garden permeate the air, as do hints of Lost In Kiev and Scarlet INside.  The Dropkick Murphys without the throat punch...prog for the introspective...

Learn more about IT at their website IT Band.  The new album as well as the band's previous releases can be found here...and of course this is my plea for you to support IT and all the bands that make the prog garden their home.  You can get more info on IT and other bands on the Progressive Gears label on Twitter @ProgGears, Facebook Progressive Gears FB, and on the Progressive Gears Bandcamp site Progressive Gears BC.  Don't think of it as tasking a risk--think of it as taking charge.

The clip posted below is a smorgasbord of tastes from the new album...designed to draw you in and capture your emotions like a siren call to the prog faithful.  If The Mute Gods put the world on notice, IT is telling you there is still time...but you have to stand up and act now.  Passion and grit drip from this album like sweat from the brow of a third shift factory worker...and the aroma is what satisfaction smells like...

                

So my fellow progheads, another week comes to a tumultuous crescendo...and the prog garden lets out a collective "hell yeah!"  These past few weeks have seen the Concert Closet venture into new territory in the prog garden.  2017 has indeed witnessed the search for all things prog trod several previously unwalked paths.

Progressive music has stretched its boundaries over the years...broadened its scope and reached for a bigger umbrella...but the mainstay has always been purpose.  It may not be political, ripped from the headlines, or the latest trend, but prog rock is at its best when it delivers a message. Sometimes you have to listen hard and shut out the peripheral noise to hear it, but the message is there...and so too, is The Closet Concert Arena, ever eager to bring you the best and brightest the prog garden has to offer. The search for all things prog continues...until next time...