Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Echoes and Signals

Welcome back once again fellow progheads!  As summer starts her 2014 swansong I decided to go crazy and take the Concert Closet on a "virgin voyage" in my quest for all things prog, traveling to previously uncharted territory (at least for me).  So with excitement and anticipation in the air I head to Russia and the progressive sounds of Echoes and Signals.

Echoes and Signals hails from Tula, Russian Federation.  They describe themselves as a three-piece instrumental band, "...mixing post-rock with post-everything."  Currently the band is working on a concept album; always prog music to my ears.  Listening to Echoes and Signals this week makes me believe that if Putin would just settle down and turn up the volume there would be less problems and better international relations around the globe...Glasnost indeed...

The long travel from the US to Russia makes me hungry for this prog feast, so I jump in right away with a tune called "Memories."  A very striking instrumental piece; robust drums with guitar intertwined such that you feel yourself being pulled inside your own head.  I get a strong sense of Alan Parsons Project's "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" and some Atomic Rooster oozing through as well.  While the music is on the dark side of the spectrum, I don't get an ominous feeling of danger...rather I sense a dim light trying to burn away the darkness.  Halfway through that light is almost blinding as it peels back the gloom and the music settles over everything as if it were your favorite blanket.

Serving number two is called "Moons, Seas, Constellations."  This is a very moving piece; you can feel yourself being swept up in emotions as the music builds toward a climax right from the onset.  The drumming and percussion is so raw it is almost primitive...a la Jamie Muir in early King Crimson.  Echoes and Signals play what I call naked music--no fancy gift wrap, no auto-tune, no light shows to make the listener ooh and aah...just music at its core.  This is a song to put on replay a few times so it can wash over you the way scotch washes over ice...

Liner Notes...Echoes and Signals was formed in 2012 in the aforementioned  Tula, Russian Federation.  The original line-up consisted of Fedor Kivokurtsev on guitar and sound producing, Alexey Zaytsev on bass, and Vladimir Pozdyshev on drums...however; after recording tracks for the new release Vladimir was replaced by Yaroslav Egorov.  Echoes and Signals started as an "improvisational playground" for Fedor, Alexey, and Vladimir...but it didn't take long for talent to get noticed, a concept EP to be released, and the making of a "real band" to get underway.  2013 saw Echoes and Signals sign with a label and start a tour.  Currently working on their third album, Echoes and Signals has begun to establish deep, strong roots in the prog garden.

My third selection for review this week is a song called "Comma."  I get an instant mind flash to the Yes "Fragile" album, and Echoes and Signals dances through most of that vinyl masterpiece in six minutes plus.  They top it off with  a touch of early Pink Floyd just to keep it appealing.  Many bands try to wear the "progressive music" moniker; perhaps they believe it will make them sound smarter or attract a more diverse audience.  Echoes and Signals wear it because that is truly what they are--a progressive rock band--not afraid to step outside the paradigm and experiment a little.  I believe Robert Fripp would be proud.

The clip posted here is called "Equinox Part II."  A slight bit heavier sound coming through the headphones, but I think you can handle it.  Echoes and Signals defines the term "post-everything."  I pick up strong traces of Gentle Giant, Tool, and the Adrian Belew/Bill Bruford era King Crimson.  Echoes and Signals are students of the progressive genre who studied tenaciously.  Listen and enjoy like that scotch I poured you earlier...sip it slowly and take it all in.  Learn more about Echoes and Signals at http://echoesandsignals.com/music/

Hope you have enjoyed the progressive view from Russia fellow progheads; it has been quite a journey. One more push pin on the map as another country is accounted for in my quest for all things prog.  Echoes and Signals are able to cross boundaries and avoid getting lost in translation because prog music has a way of penetrating barriers the way dryers lose socks...it just happens.  Do yourself a favor and avoid multi-tasking for the next hour or so...sit back, dim the lights, and just let Echoes and Signals pierce your auditory canal...you're welcome.  Being so far from home I need to find another stop for the Concert Closet as I work my way "stateside" in my quest for all things prog...until next week...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Once again a heartfelt thank you to my fellow progheads for returning one more time!  I have been looking over my recent posts and one thing tends to stand out...my alternating between prog bands in the UK and the USA.  The cycle continues for another week as I have been on a new quest in my search for all things prog.  I set out these past seven days to find a band that is so much larger than its following; I wanted to find a band with the talent, ability, and stamina to hold their own with the bigger names of the genre.  Lo and behold I believe I hit pay dirt when I took the Concert Closet back to the UK for a long listen to Lifesigns.

Lifesigns is "...an English progressive rock band from the heart of rural England..."  Simple, allusive, teasing, and dead-on all at once.  Now I am compelled to have at least a little listen, just to satisfy my curiosity. Lifesigns stakes out a section of the prog garden few could survive in--accolades well deserved.

The first song I grace my ears with from the buffet this week is called "At the End of the World."  A beautiful opening; very serene...the understated drums flow effortlessly through the guitar and keyboards while backing up the vocals like an old friend.  I pick up scents of Marillion and a touch of latter-times Genesis,even perhaps a top note of The Moody Blues.  Lifesigns has a full sound that surrounds the listener while allowing the peanut butter smooth vocals to drape over you.

Selection number two is called "Lighthouse."  Visually, the song opens at dawn at the end of a storm...you can feel the air stirring as the tension breaks and the mood shifts to an upbeat tempo.  The vocals cut through and suddenly the mood and tempo swing again.  I need to remind myself more than once that Lifesigns is not eight musicians.  Lifesigns has a sound that is distinct and sharp, much like the sun reflecting off a mirror.  The neo-progressive movement is alive and well, continuing to innovate and hammer the inner lining of every eager listener's head.  There are definite aromas of Spock's Beard and IQ wafting through what truly is superb prog.

Liner Notes...Lifesigns has a very interesting lineup... current members are John Young keyboards and vocals, Jon Poole bass and vocals, Frosty Beedle drums and percussion, and Niko Tsonev guitars and vocals.  Lifesigns also credits Steve Rispin for engineering and production and Nicky Beggs for recording sessions on bass, chapman stick, and vocals.  The list of guest musicians includes Steve Hackett and  Jakko Jakszyk on guitar, and Thijs Van Leer on flutes.  OK; that makes for a crowded recording studio--and it explains without question the quality of the grooves pressed into the vinyl.

Moving back to the prog buffet, selection number three is a tune called "Fridge Full of Stars."  Lifesigns seems to enjoy leading into a piece of music ominously, only to pull the ol' "bait 'n' switch" with music and lyrics that dance through your head like so many focused ballerinas.  This piece has a lot going on; deep vocals, a hard driving beat, time, tempo, and mood swings that swirl around like smoke on the horizon in a windstorm, and some impressive flute...thank you Thijs Van Leer; flute has not been this cool since Chris Wood in his Traffic days.

The clip posted below is called "Telephone."  This is a good piece with which to familiarize yourself with Lifesigns...everything fits like a well worn leather jacket. The guitars flow through the drums which highlight the vocals, and the vocals wend their way through the keyboards delicately enough to not leave permanent marks.  Spend the next nine minutes plus on a long distance call that will soothe and satisfy...learn more about Lifesigns at facebook.com/signslife

Fortunately summer has not loosed her grasp on the season clock just yet...there is still daylight past 7:30, shorts are still the wardrobe of choice, and a glass of chablis hits the spot while listening to great prog.  Yes, life is good.  This search for all things prog has led me to many different facets of progressive music, and Lifesigns has brought the focus to yet another "uncrowded" section of the prog garden.  The ability to produce a sound so full while seeming to leave so much space for expansion is a rare thing. I recommend sitting down in a dimly lit room and enjoying the sounds emitting from the headphones purposefully.
Now the Concert Closet moves on, chasing a dream further down the galaxy...until next week...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Aaron Clift Experiment

Here we go again fellow progheads; time for another dose of all things prog.  Specifically--and for a second straight week--all things symphonic prog.  Last week's taste from the "full sound" section of the prog garden left me with a hankerin' for more...so I took the Concert Closet on a trip to Austin, Texas this week for an alternate interpretation of symphonic prog with a band called The Aaron Clift Experiment.

Comparing themselves to scientists using knowledge to explore the unknown, The Aaron Clift Experiment
"...combines elements of classic and cutting-edge music into an innovative whole."  Never one to pass up an opportunity to grow both intellectually and musically, I am fervent to jump right in.  The energy level in the Concert Closet picks up a notch or two as I prepare the ears and mind for a week of schooling...

My first serving from this week's buffet is a song called "Staring at Fruit Out of Reach."  I will admit the title lured me in--but the music was worth taking the bait.  The opening starts out almost church-like with keyboards, drums, and percussion working together to build a background reminiscent of Supertramp in their "Crisis? What Crisis?" days.  I also pick up top notes of Gentle Giant and The Strawbs; a somber sound wrapped around lyrics that dig deep when you sit back and listen.  The Aaron Clift Experiment strikes a nerve right away; I sense a week of cerebral musical enjoyment--pleasing as well as entertaining for the ears and mind, a true prog experience...

Serving number two is a tune called "Arsonist Games."  The song opens in a dark mood, but that should come as no surprise.  Almost ominous as the curtain is drawn back, The Aaron Clift Experiment once again digs below the frost line with the lyrics, layering them with keyboards and guitars that drive right through the spine.  If Steely Dan alums Becker and Fagen were able to escape the pitfalls of ego and heroin at their peak and join forces with Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson,  this might have been their sound.  Aaron Clift is quite adept at bringing a pulse to each song, giving the listener an opportunity to experience it coming to life.

Liner Notes...The current Aaron Clift Experiment is Aaron Clift on vocals and keyboards, Eric Gutierrez on guitar, Joe Resnick on drums, and Joe Green on bass.  As with many a band, there have been line-up changes...however this current quartet seems to have it dialed in.  Aaron has penned some very intense and deep lyrics, but what really makes it work is Joe, Eric, and Joe immediately grabbing the song by the heart and pumping life into it.  You can almost feel a presence in the room as sound emerges from the speakers. The Aaron Clift Experiment enters the prog garden from an entirely different vantage point.  I imagine the tape in a recording studio to be much like the canvas on an artist's easel with all the promise, vision, hope, and expectation about to be splashed upon it.  Ironically, what makes listening to The Aaron Clift Experiment stimulating is the peace I come away with afterward...

My third serving carved from this buffet is called "Seven."  Opening bolder than previous cuts, the song methodically curls into an emotional ball.  The band paints with some bright colors that go gray as darkness moves in and the mood turns cold and murky.  Although they never quite cross into the darkness of their other tunes, you get the feeling The Aaron Clift Experiment likes walking that fine edge.

The clip posted below is a live piece called "Shipwrecked."  Focused on the music--as most progheads
are-- you get a sense that The Aaron Clift Experiment is deceptively talented.  The keyboard opening feels like a storm about to hammer your living room, and then guitars move in with the drums to steady the ship and bring a bit of balance...nicely done.  Learn more about The Aaron Clift Experiment at http://aaronclift.com/

As school season creeps closer to the horizon, the Concert Closet will return to weekly postings.  Summer is but a short window and I have certainly packed a lot into it...continuing my search for all things prog staying high on the list.  The Aaron Clift Experiment was a fun stop on the journey, a band that comes at you with strong music and even stronger lyrics.  Now I must take the Concert Closet on another trip to search for yet another new prog adventure...until next week...