Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Good evening one more time fellow progheads!  Many thanks for helping me make this blog such a  successful project.  In my continued search for all things prog you have been the catalyst sending me around the globe on a whirlwind tour of countries and venues cranking out the best new and classic progressive music.

Recently I have been alternating trips between the USA and Great Britain...but like I said last week, it is time to break the US/UK cycle.  So tonight the Concert Closet has turned off the GPS and jettisoned off on an alternate route...and I see the sign post up ahead reads, "Welcome to Sweden."   Since we are here, let us enjoy the prog sounds of Pocketful.

Pocketful is self-described as a "...musical landscape full of contrasts...brutality meets beauty."  This can go a lot of ways--I simply must check out this band.  I take my search for all things prog very seriously, and this is research after all...

I find an interesting aperitif to begin the buffet with, "She Won't Steal My Thoughts Tonight."  The song opens interestingly enough; I get a bit of an Alan Parsons Project meets Radiohead vibe with a bit of a Strawbs overtone.  The lyrics are layered over a symphonic-like drum and synthesizer that spills over your inner cranium like maple syrup melting warm ice cream.  The songs is soothing, yet it manages to startle a bit as you realize it is not so much a love song as it is a rebound-love song.  An intriguing start to what sounds like a fun week...

Serving number two is a tune called "Wrong."  That thoughtful, evocative tone resonates once again. Pocketful walked to the far edge of the prog garden, viewed the landscape, and continued on for another 50 yards or so.  Pocketful packs a lot of emotion into this piece; you feel yourself being pulled in so many directions...as if your heart and your head are in a battle for control of your feelings.

Liner Notes...Originating in Gothenberg, Sweden circa 2004, Pocketful is Johan Engstrom on guitars and keyboards, Jerker Rellmark  on vocals, keyboards, and trumpet, and lyricist Joakim Gralen. Pocketful has put together an impressive portfolio in a relatively short time culminating with their latest release, "Late Night Call," in 2010.  Having worked together previously helped Johan and Jerker make Pocketful the compelling band it is...and Joakim's lyric writing skills are a plus as well. Pocketful strikes an emotional chord not only with words--but also the moods brought to the surface with the music.  Pocketful seeps into your bloodstream and flows through your veins as you listen.

My third serving this week is the poignant title cut from the earlier mentioned "Late Night Call." There is a lot going on in this song, and once again Joakim's lyrics are the thread tying Jerker's and Johan's guitar and keyboard work together.  I detect definite top notes of Gentle Giant...and in a "prog coincidence" sort-of-way, I am reminded of Adrian Belew's "Phone Call From the Moon."

The clip I posted below for your listening pleasure is called "Sorry."  The opening keyboards lift you up in a Depeche Mode kinda way, with a hint of Ebn Ozn...so apparently Pocketful can run the gambit of emotions.  Pocketful has been building their professional library for almost a decade...time to check out prog's version of the Dewey Decimal System.  Learn more about Pocketful and what makes them tick at at https://www.facebook.com/pocketful.  You can also check out more of their music at https://myspace.com/pocketful.

OK fellow progheads, it's that time again...when we try to ascertain where the rest of the week went because there is no way seven days flew by that fast.  I have enjoyed this trip to Sweden--not to mention the frequent flyer miles I collected with the Concert Closet.  Pocketful fills their section of the prog garden with ambient textures, a unique groove, and emotional strength.  I do believe the garden is rich with fertile soil...until next week...  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ascending Dawn

Once again I feel I must thank you the proghead faithful for coming back to the Concert Closet week after week.  Although without you I would probably still write this blog, it would not be nearly as much fun or meaningful.  And with that hanging in the air, I am off across the pond yet again for a visit to my second favorite "prog country," Great Britain.

Having spent the past few weeks meandering through the cerebral/instrumental/post-rock/ambient sections of the prog garden, I am feeling like I need to break out and blow an amp.  The urge to scratch that itch landed me in the afore mentioned London area where I have been bathing my ears in the prog metal sounds of Ascending Dawn.

Ascending Dawn refers to themselves as "...progressive/melodic/ambient/metal..."  Someone is obviously stalking me and inserting adjectives in conspicuous places, 'cuz I gotta check out just exactly what melodic ambient metal is! So let us make our way to the progressive buffet for serving number one...a song called "All In Now."  A quick adjustment of the headphones as I hit play and suddenly it is "thrusters on."  The guitars leap at you full force and the drums wrap around the entire song like a force field.  The vocals manage to rise above the chaos to complete the ensemble. Ascending Dawn has set the tone for a strong week; let us now keep that momentum going...

Serving number two is a tune called "Cannonball."  The song comes right at you from the start as it grabs hold of your head like a thick sable hat.  The synchronicity is very good; everyone is playing at the top of their game.  Ascending Dawn hits hard but luckily the blows are non-fatal...they simply careen around inside your skull.  The vocals rise from the center of it all...gently at first as a false sense of serenity forms around a base of solid drum work, lifting guitars up and over the top. Another solid melodic/ambient smack down for those of you at home keeping score.

Liner Notes...Ascending Dawn is Marlain Angelides on vocals, Owen Rees on guitar, Constanze Hart on bass, and Mark Weatherley on drums.  Coming together in 2013 with members from three corners of the planet, Ascending Dawn now calls London home.  A pleasant surprise to find a prog band with two female members--Marlain is the one with the heavy hitting vocals while Constanze reminds me of an angst-filled Tina Weymouth on bass.

Serving number three is a song called "Inside The Silence."  As seems to be their trademark, Ascending Dawn smacks you with a hard-hitting drum riff at the drop of the stylus...and the guitars jump right in as Marlain fills the rest of your ear canal with her trademark vocals.  Ascending Dawn knows who they are and what they want to accomplish; more bands should be so confident.

The clip below is the earlier reviewed "Cannonball."  I thought a taste of a relative new comer to the prog scene would whet the appetite just enough...draw the listener in with a firm grip on the listening center of the brain.  Ascending Dawn has broken ground in the metal section of the prog garden and planted some strong seedlings.  Only time will tell if they take root and mature into healthy growth...but so far the signs are good.  Learn more about Ascending Dawn at http://ascendingdawnband.wordpress.com/.  You can also check out their FaceBook  page  at https://www.facebook.com/ascendingdawnband

OK fellow progheads, I think a hit of metal to the upper cranium was just what the doctor ordered this week.  The world of progressive music continues to expand and the garden is producing a healthy crop of new bands, while the standard bearers continue to raise the bar.  The soil is rich and the bounty plentiful; my search for all things prog continues to lead me all over the world--and it is always harvest season somewhere.  Now seems like a good time to change up the US/UK cycle...until next week...

Monday, September 15, 2014

An Interview with Aaron Clift

Welcome back once again fellow progheads!  You are probably checking your calendars, thinking it can't possibly be Tuesday already...and you would be right.  Two firsts tonight in the Concert Closet; a blog post on a Monday and  an interview with Aaron Clift.  Aaron is the founding member, lead song writer, vocalist, as well as the keyboard player for The Aaron Clift Experiment.

Tonight the Concert Closet makes a return trip to Austin TX to dig a little deeper into the mind of Aaron Clift and learn about the making of the band's second album due for release in 2015.  It is comforting to know that progressive music continues to attract new innovative musicians and song writers.  The Aaron Clift Experiment's debut release, "Lonely Hills"  is an excellent work and well worth the price of a download.  I am extremely energized to get my ears on their second album due next year...please to enjoy...

Closet Concert Arena: What influenced your decision to become a musician, and why did you choose symphonic progressive rock as the musical style for your band?

Aaron Clift: I was exposed heavily to music at an early age; my dad’s side of the family is full of classical musicians, and both my parents used to play lots of records for me when I was very little.  My mom says that I tried to sing along to music she was playing in the car even before I was old enough to speak!  During my younger years, I was heavily involved in classical music.  Viola was my first instrument; I sang for years in different choirs, and I studied performance and composition at Tufts University.  Rock music was also a big part of my life growing up.  I used to listen a lot to my parents’ record collection (my first recollections of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Jethro Tull), and I used to hang out with my friends at summer camps and have music listening parties.

When I was a teenager and first starting listening heavily to rock, I always wondered if there were any bands that mixed rock and classical music because I loved both forms of music equally.  Around that time, one of my friends gave me a copy of “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd and I was immediately captivated by the album’s sound and structure.  After listening to DSOTM, I went online to All Music Guide (in those days a relatively new web site) and did some research on Pink Floyd to find out if there were other bands that played this style of music.  That was when I learned about progressive rock.  At last I had found a style of music that mixed up classical and rock!  Pretty soon, I was making my first purchases of bands like Genesis, Dream Theater, and The Moody Blues.  After hearing “Selling England by the Pound” for the first time, I knew immediately that I wanted to be in a rock band someday that would play this kind of music.  As fate would have it, all of us in The Aaron Clift Experiment come from classical music backgrounds, and we each like to bring that style into our songs.

CCA: Who are the bands/artists that have had a hand in steering your writing ways?

AC: I have so many musical influences that it’s hard to narrow them down, but I’d say my favorite artists are those who have had a combination of outstanding songwriting, musicianship, lyrics, and emotional impact on me.  Those artists include: Genesis, Rush, Kate Bush, Marillion, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains.  In classical and jazz music, I’m influenced a lot by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bach, Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy, Bartok, Shostakovich, and Reich.

CCA: Which musician(s) would you most like to cut an album with?

AC: I would love to work with Steve Wilson or Devin Townsend.  To me, they are the pinnacle of well-rounded musicians; both are excellent guitarists, vocalists, songwriters, arrangers, and producers.  They are not only extremely knowledgeable about music but also just seem like really cool people who would be fun to hang out with.  I know I would learn so much from working with them.

CCA: Your first album “Lonely Hills” has a somber, dark feel.  Where did you go emotionally when writing the songs on that album?

AC: When I wrote the music for “Lonely Hills,” in 2009 – 2011, I had just emerged from a very difficult period of my life in which I felt very uncertain about my direction in my life and about who I wanted to be.  I had dealt with depression and anxiety and wanted to find a way to document my experiences.  So, the songs on “Lonely Hills” all in some way describe the struggle I went through.

CCA: I understand that you’re currently working on a second album.  What can listeners expect on the new album?

AC: When forming The Aaron Clift Experiment in early 2012, I conceived of the outfit as more of a solo project than a band, and I think the solo artist approach comes through to a certain extent on “Lonely Hills.”  But after The Aaron Clift Experiment started playing lots of live shows, more of a band dynamic emerged, and I felt that this should be our future.  When Eric Gutierrez joined us on guitar in 2013 (replacing our original guitarist), he brought a heavier sound and virtuosity to the band that’s spilled over into our songwriting.

The songs for our second album are going to be livelier and more energetic than anything we've done to this point.  We definitely sound like a real band now!  If “Lonely Hills” was our “Foo Fighters,” then our second album will be our “The Colour and the Shape.”

Eric has also partnered with me on a lot of the songwriting for the second album, so there’s more diversity to our sound than ever before.  On the lyrics side, I've branched out into a lot of different topics, but one of the central themes running through this album is power dynamics and conflict between the individual and the group.  I've been keeping a blog on our web site that has more information about the writing process for the individual songs on the album.

CCA: I know you are currently using the fan funding site Kickstarter to help fund the recording of your second album. Can you tell me about it and why people should help support your project?

AC: All of us in the The Aaron Clift Experiment are very excited about the new music we’re creating.  We’re enlisting Matt Noveskey (bassist for Blue October) to produce and record the album at his amazing new recording facility, Orb Recording Studios.  We’re also increasing the recording budget and time for this album – all with the goal of creating a really solid classic progressive rock album.  We think that the progressive rock community is going to be blown away with our second album, but without the funds to cover our recording costs, we won’t be able to bring our vision to life.

 We know that the progressive rock community is full of great people who are true music fans, and that’s why we want to involve the community in helping us reach our goal.  Our Kickstarter campaign runs from September 15 – October 14 and is live at
www.aaronclift.com/kickstarter.  The campaign has some really awesome rewards for those who contribute, and any contribution helps.

So c'mon fellow progheads, take advantage of this opportunity to be  part of the prog process and what is sure to be a remarkable prog album!  You can find out more about The Aaron Clift Experiment at http://aaronclift.com/ and follow them on Twitter at @AaronCliftMusic.  Most importantly, click on that link to the Kickstarter Campaign and help make this album a reality! You can always tell your friends you helped produced a progressive rock album--how cool is that?!

The Aaron Clift Experiment...tell your friends you knew 'em when and helped produce their second album!  Progressive music and her fans...there is nothing better...until next week...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Clouds Will Clear

Good evening fellow progheads and thanks for taking another trip with me in the Concert Closet!  Recently I have been hopscotching "across the pond;" alternating jaunts between the USA and UK with a few side trips to Russia, Finland, and other prog hotspots just to keep fossil fuel consumption high. This week we make another tangent--to Germany--for a week of crazy weather as we check out The Clouds Will Clear.

The Clouds Will Clear hail from Frankfurt and classify themselves as an "...instrumental postrock/ambient band."  Being a Brian Eno fan from way back, I am quite intrigued to hear musicians refer to their music as having an ambient sound.  This was the hook that caught my attention and suddenly the calendar was filled for the next seven days...

Being relatively new to the prog garden, The Clouds Will Clear offer up but a few delicacies for the buffet this week...but quality will always trump quantity.  Let's begin this feeding frenzy with a song called "It Makes Tomorrow Alright."  Imagine a door in your mind opening slowly as you cross the threshold into a dimension not quite psychedelic and not exactly psychotic...just on a plane skew to everything you knew up to this point. Think Under the Psycamore meets Be Bop Deluxe and you are traveling in the correct stratosphere.  The music is soothing and alarming all at once.

Serving number two is a tune called "Nobody Nowhere."  Another opening like a walk into a third dimension...The Clouds Will Clear views prog through an entirely different lens than most I suspect. The guitars and drums come together as if pureed in a blender; they bleed through each other almost seamlessly.  The background vocals seem to be coming from a source outside the realm of the music...this is a section of the prog garden I have not spent much time in--until now.  I can say with utmost certainty that I will be pitching a tent and camping in the "avant-garde/space prog" section of the garden for a little while.  If Klaatu took a more somber approach to their music and were able to join forces with Syd Barrett, The Clouds Will Clear could easily be their backing band.

Liner Notes...The Clouds Will Clear is amazingly a two-man group...Angelo plays guitar, synthesizer, and samples while Tobi plays drums and bass.  As mentioned earlier, The Clouds Will Clear got together in Frankfurt, Germany in 2013.  Angelo held open auditions and Tobi fit right in behind the drum kit.  The Clouds Will Clear is still looking for a third member to round out the band...any bass players out there reading this?  Might be worth giving Angelo and Tobi a call--if Germany is on your commuting schedule.  If it ain't, perhaps you want to roll that map out one more fold...

The sound Angelo and Tobi created flows with an ethereal resonance hard to pin down.  The guitars are light as they float over the top of the sound, giving the drums and synthesizers balance.  A light, airy feel is countered with the heavy, authoritative/mechanical vocals that pepper the songs.  The Clouds Will Clear has extended the boundaries of the prog garden--which should intrigue even the most traditional proghead...

My final selection from the buffet this week is called "Amygdalae."  As expected by now, The Clouds Will Clear open the song in surreal fashion, soothing the listener into a sense of inner peace. While the calm never gives way to anarchy or chaos, the smooth exterior is almost eerie as it slowly coats the inner lining of your ears.

The clip posted below is called "Solar Eclipse."  The opening may make you question the intention of the band, but fear not--it moves slowly and purposefully to a smooth union of guitars, drums, and synthesizers.  Learn more about The Clouds Will Clear at  https://www.facebook.com/thecloudswillclearmusic/info?ref=page_internal and hear more of their music at http://thecloudswillclear.bandcamp.com

Well fellow progheads, I hope you enjoyed this week's review.  The Clouds Will Clear are unique in their own right and tilling some stimulating acreage in the prog garden.  Few bands may tread the ground they walk, but someone has to sit in the front of the bus.  The Clouds Will Clear are welcome members to the prog family as there is always room for innovation and a new interpretation of what prog is.  This is but more proof positive that progressive music is not only alive and well, it is thriving.  The pulse may vary, but the heartbeat is strong...and the search for all things prog continues.  Until next week...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ephemeral Sun

A humble and heartfelt thank you for coming back once again fellow progheads!  Last week's visit to Russia was quite enjoyable and extremely special.  For me there is great pleasure in discovering prog bands that bring so much to the genre.  In my quest for all things prog I have taken the Concert Closet to numerous places near and far, exotic and lackluster--but most importantly filled with great prog.  This week proves to be yet another long distance voyage as I head back to recognizable food, street signs I can read, and the familiar sounds of domestic chaos...welcome to Virginia USA and the sounds of Ephemeral Sun.

Ephemeral Sun calls themselves an "...exercise in contrasts...music that balances elements both cerebral and visceral in nature."  Fellow progheads know I could never drive by that lead-in without at least a taste of what was behind the curtain, so let us now hit the headphones for what I anticipate to be an excellent week of ear feasting...

We start the prog buffet this week with a song called "Memoirs."  A very nice piano opening; mood is set with dark tones yet the ambiance is rather peaceful...however; I smell storm clouds.  The air is filled with aromas of Marillion and just a touch of "Funeral for a Friend."  The guitar picks up the tempo a bit and sways the mood away from the precipice while drums enter the cerebellum just enough to carry the weight. While the storm never quite pounds the shore that is the inner lining of my skull, I sense Ephemeral Sun has many a mood swing in its playlist...

Serving number two is a piece called "Prism."  The song starts out strong as the drums lay a foundation on which the guitars start to build.  I pick up very strong scents of Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment.  Keyboards are added and the song begins to intensify...but not in a menacing way. I get more of a victorious vibe...a sort of "Good vs. Evil" mood with Good winning out in the end.

Liner Notes...Ephemeral Sun is John Battema on keyboards, Charles Gore on bass, Brian O'Neill on guitars, and Allen Lind currently on drums.  Laurie Ann Haus peppered the band's debut album with great vocals. Originally formed in 2002, Ephemeral Sun is the offspring of doom metal band Rain Fell Within. Releasing their first album in 2004, Ephemeral Sun began to explore other areas of music, melding bits and pieces of jazz, prog, avante garde, symphonic, and even some experimental sounds into their own style. While spreading roots mainly in the symphonic section of the prog garden, Ephemeral Sun has sown seeds throughout the entire acreage.

My final selection from the buffet this week is a tune called "Discovery."  A much darker piece, this is from Ephemeral Sun's first album.  I sense walking through a tunnel and rapidly descending into an earlier time. Laurie Ann's vocals haunt throughout the song, helping create an atmosphere that wants to draw you into the past while feeding off that same energy to strive forward.  Some top notes of Tool and Beardfish run through this song; Ephemeral Sun has unquestionably grown up prog.  Learn more about Ephemeral Sun at

The clip below is called "Winter Has No Mercy."  Another selection from the dark metal side of prog...but Ephemeral Sun does a lot with it.  The almost military-like rhythmic drum in the beginning sets a mood that takes one deep into the inner sanctum of an otherwise casual mind.  The tempo swings back-and-forth and there are moments of sheer gloom and upbeat hope strung together like so many pearls on a sparkling gold chain. Ephemeral Sun is able to run the gambit of emotions while performing, whether it be in a studio or on stage live.  

One more week and one more prog band uncovered for your listening pleasure.  The Concert Closet has logged many summer miles; now that the sun is beginning to set around dinner time, the morning air has a bit of a nip in it, and the "dog days" are behind us, I am excited to discover what autumn has in store as I continue my search for all things prog.  Time to get some laundry done, load up on canned goods, and clean out the Concert Closet...until next week...