Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Lifesigns "Cardington"

 The Closet Concert Arena welcomes you once again fellow progheads!  As the fall foliage begins its rapid descent into the prog garden, I am reminded of how colorful is the music of the prog garden.  To highlight the natural beauty this time of year brings out, the search for all things prog takes an unexpected trajectory this week.  The mission was simple; seek out a band that captures the essence of the season.  Despite New England's reputation as "the place where foliage was invented," I took The Closet Concert Arena to a different backyard; the United Kingdom and some splendid listening with Lifesigns and their latest release, "Cardington.".



Lifesigns captures the spirit of the Concert Closet's mission; seek out new, lesser-known, and/or under the radar prog bands that push the boundaries of the genre.  Lifesigns is a band with a stellar pedigree...current and former members along with guests and friends who are headliners and A-listers in their own right coming together to create one more prog garden beauty.  Immersing myself now...

...and starting out with "N."  The song opens as if you are taking a joy ride on horseback across a wide open meadow and your stallion is gaining steam...the energy level pushes the needle to the red--without splitting your ear drums.  As the tempo settles into its own, you can still feel the energy flowing through your veins.  Top notes of The Strawbs and perhaps a shot of Camel explain the majestic keyboards layered throughout this piece.  Soothing and exhilarating all at once; this is turning out to be an "E" ticket ride...

Next up on the carousel is "Touch."  Another upbeat cut that dances a high-step across the prog garden.  Lifesigns moves into a different realm here; I detect top notes of an early Yes incarnation blended with the skillful playing of Marillion.  The canvas is filled with bursts of color in rapid-fire  succession as the sounds enter your auditory sensors and flow through your entire being...music that caresses the soul...

Liner Notes...started originally circa 2008, Lifesigns was the light bulb in the minds of  John YoungFrosty BeedleSteve Rispin, and Nick Beggs.  Despite hands and heads in many other projects, they were able to complete the first album for a February 2013 release.  As if the original four weren't genius enough, they enlisted the talents of friends Steve HackettRobin BoultJakko Jakszyk, and Thijs van Leer.  Niko Tsonev signed on for the ensuing tour, and Nick Beggs--the man of 1000 bands--was ultimately replaced by Jon Poole.  Add to an already crowded stage Dave Bainbridge and Menno Gootjes and my earlier reference to a stellar pedigree and all that nonsense about headliners and A-listers is starting to seem blatantly obvious I bet...

Lifesigns released a live DVD and double audio CD during the hoopla and touring, and also managed to release their second studio album "Cardington," in 2017.  With performances at Cruise to the Edge and a UK tour, Lifesigns has been busy indeed with no plans to slow down...a new CD and extended tour are in the works now... 


The final serving on this prog feast is the title cut, "Cardington."  These guys are as comfortable as your favorite sweater; they feed off each other so effortlessly.  A jazz cafe sound as smooth as a silkworm's finest effort...I detect top notes of Transatlantic and Asia with perhaps a touch of District 97.

However; there is enough of a prog and rock pedigree running through this band  that comparing them to another is almost unfair.  Suffice to say Lifesigns brings more to the prog garden than it takes, leaving cuttings in several sections to nurture those coming after.  Learn more about Lifesigns and purchase their music at their website Lifesigns and bandcamp.  Peel back the curtain at Facebook and follow the band on Twitter @Lifesigns_uk.

Your earworm for the week is a bit of a teaser; a taste of each cut to lure you in...rest assured you will not be disappointed.  Lifesigns hits the canvas with an array of colors that blend splendidly together...much like folding caramel and black cherries into dark chocolate; there is never too much and you're always in the mood.  Once your ears are wet, buy the entire catalog...         

                

Once again the clock on the wall says time is up for this week fellow progheads.  Minutes seems to be in warp speed as we trudge through the final quarter of 2018, fixated on the ribbon stretched across the finish line.  But there is still plenty of harvest left in the prog garden and there is no need to rush through it hastily.



Lifesigns steers your mind back to the beauty that is the prog garden; serenity wrapped in excited joy.  This is a band quite comfortable in its own skin, playing not for something to prove but rather something to enjoy.  The search for all things prog has brought us a treasure that is best shared.  Of course the journey must continue...until next time... 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ancient Veil "Rings of earthly...Live"

A brisk autumn hello and welcome to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Traveling back from Athens and the metal sounds of OH. got me thinking...since I'm in already in the Mediterranean, why not maximize the travel miles?  So this week the Concert Closet is taking the search for all things prog over to Italy to visit with Ancient Veil and check out their latest release, "Rings of earthly...Live."


As much a prog band as a fusion group bringing modern and ancient sounds together, Ancient Veil brings a unique resonance to the prog garden that bleeds with emotion and tranquility.  So with a nod to composed excitement, let the journey begin...

I chose to open with "Rings of Earthly Light."  An opening as soft as a rain forest greets you; feel the moisture wash over your entire being like a light summer drizzle drenched in sunshine...nice.  As your stress melts away, your appreciation for woodwinds and piano increases tenfold.  Ancient Veil caresses your mind with this piece.  Top notes of Big Big Train and early Genesis manage to seep through with each note.  The guitar/flute duel is soothing in its own right, and carries the song along beautifully.


Moving farther along the disc, I become enveloped in "Creature of the Lake."  Once again Ancient Veil flows through the headphones as calming as a shallow waterfall.  Flute takes center stage for a while as it carries you like Aladdin's magic carpet across the prog garden like autumn leaves floating to their final resting place...even the vocals are soothing.  Ancient Veil waltzes gently through the prog garden; think Atlas Volt with a Victorian slant.

Liner Notes...hailing from Genoa, Italy, Ancient Veil is Alessandro Serri on vocals and guitars; Edmondo Romano the woodwind master on sax, clarinet, and flute; and Fabio Serri on keyboards and piano.  The band is essentially a trio although credits also include bass player Massimo Palermo and Marco Fuliano behind the drum kit.

Ancient Veil spent many years in the minds and hearts of its creators before coming to life.  Circa 1992 Alessandro and Edmondo left their original band to create Ancient Veil, releasing their first album in 1995.  The catalog looks to have eight releases credited to the band and several solo works along with music from their previous groups.

You can find out more about Ancient Veil at their website Ancient Veil.  From there you are able to connect with the band on Facebook and Twitter @ancient_veil Ancient Veil records on the Lizard Records label and you will find their catalog, not surprisingly, at Lizard Records as well as iTunesAmazon, and Google play.  Lots of options, so please support this wonderful band...


My final spin in the CD carousel pushes "Night Thoughts" through my headphones.  This song bring the ancient into the mix with an opening reminiscent of the Paul Winter Consort...very moving...
Ancient Veil paints with subdued colors on a large canvas, filling the room with a sound that is refreshing without being overpowering.

Italian prog is often ornate and "over-the-top;" music that fills the room and leaves very little space for anything else.  However, Ancient Veil manages to come across as minimal while still giving you that "full-to-overflowing" feel.  Here is a band that swims against the tide, giving you not only room to breathe, but also space to move around and savor the sound.

My ear candy for you this week is a delightful piece called "Dance Around My Slow Time."  Gentle vocals riding an acoustic guitar roll back the curtain on a song that embraces you like an innocent child hugging their favorite teddy bear.  Ancient Veil is the friend you rely on without realizing it; always there with a firm yet familial hug...you know you're among friends as you fall gently into the prog garden's embrace...

                        

So fellow progheads, our time this week winds down as smooth and serene as a still lake reflecting  moonlight.  Ancient Veil unites the sections of the prog garden nurtured by the standard bearers with those of the modern day.  While walking to the precipice of ambient sound, Ancient Veil is careful to stay on this side of the ground stake, allowing you to walk freely among the different sights and sounds.

The prog garden has an abundance of artists that blur the lines of the genre, but not many that unite them.  Take the time to savor all there is to appreciate here.  Meanwhile the search for all things prog continues its perpetual journey.  More pleasantries on the horizon...until next time...

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

OH. "Metallia"

October is here fellow progheads, so pile into The Closet Concert Arena as we take the search for all things prog up a notch (or two) and head into the home stretch of 2018!  This week the journey circles back around to Greece to check in with a prog metal artist that has been attracting serious attention in the prog garden.  Said garden is under-represented by women so when I hear of one tilling acreage in the metal section...well, that is a siren I cannot ignore...and welcome to the world of OH.



Finding it easier to simply use her initials, OH. is in actuality Olivia Hadjiioannou, a one-woman prog metal force.  Her latest album, "Metallia," was released in July so I guess it's been marinating long enough; let's have a listen...

The opener to this metal feast is a powerful piece called "Red Lion."  The song opens with a quick acoustic burst that leads the listener into a fierce encounter with Olivia and her shredding abilities...I do believe John Petrucci would admire her stylings.  With top notes of Dream Theater and the intensity of Liquid Tension Experiment, Olivia takes the listener on a dark yet vivid journey that intersects the mind of Edgar Allen Poe and the imagination of Stephen Gammell.  This is going to be a wild, blustery week indeed...

Moving across the disc I find another fiery blast, "Androgyny."  An angelic, church choir-like opening belies a metal storm waiting behind the curtain.  OH comes at you full force, filling your head with guitar riffs that tie themselves around a searing vocal, penetrating deep into your cranium.  The solid drum work solidifies what is already a cement foundation, allowing the guitar to echo back and run circles in your mind...until she cuts out.  The song ends abruptly and you get a minute to catch your breath...

Liner Notes...calling Athens, Greece home, "Metallia" is the seventh release by Olivia Hadjiioannou.  Her debut EP "Sleeping World" hit the streets in 2013 and a full-length LP "Synemotion" came out in 2015.  Add four ballad singles and she has put together an impressive resume thus far.  OH. stays busy in the recording studio playing guitar, violin, bass, and drums...and she lays down the vocal tracks.

OH is a hybrid of sorts; I detect aromatics of Steve Vai, John Petrucci, and Joe Satriani in her guitar playing, blended with Kate Bush and Anneke Van Giesbergen in style and range.  OH. doesn't just dabble in the metal section of the prog garden--she takes up full residence.

Learn more about OH. and purchase her music by visiting  her website  Olitunes and also at  olitunes.bandcamp.  Of course she has Facebook and Twitter @olitunes  for you to keep up with all things OH, and a YouTube channel  olitunes YouTube  allows an aural glimpse behind the curtain.

Last song to tear through my headphones this week is "Resurrection."  This cut opens with strong drum work that is quickly overrun with Olivia's explosive guitar.  She may wear many hats as an artist, but guitar seems to be her first love--and she remains loyal to her first love.  OH. is a refreshing kick in the cerebellum, her thumping guitar taking aim via your auditory sensors.  The music unfolds as a cacophony of searing sound, finally coming to rest with the drums and guitar battling for supremacy and crashing to a halt.

The sound explosion I chose to placate your metal fix this week is "Triumph." OH. runs right at you here, wielding her guitar like Thor's hammer.  The vocals hearken to being caught in a sound warp where everything comes at you in short fiery bursts.  Olivia hits the canvas with some of the brightest dark color scapes the metal section of the prog garden has to offer; think Peter Marx with a gothic bent...play it loud, but keep away from open flames...


                     

Another week winds down to a screeching implosion fellow progheads.  The prog garden has been set ablaze these past seven days by OH.  We stand in a vast musical playground with enough acreage to satisfy  the many different tastes of the prog genre.  I admit to not spending much time hunkered down in the "barbed wire" area of the garden, but when I do I am reminded as to why prog music is so all encompassing.

As is the norm, the journey continues on as the search for all things prog makes its way through the final turn toward the horizon in the road race that is 2018...until next time...

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Electric Mud "The Deconstruction of Light"

Welcome to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  As always it is a pleasure and honor I don't take for granted to be able to bring you the best in new and lesser-known prog music.  After a raucous week in LA, the mood settles just a bit as the search for all things prog makes a return trip to Germany and a follow-up visit with Electric Mud and their latest release, "The Deconstruction of Light."

It was but three years ago The Closet Concert Arena first discovered Electric Mud, and summing up their sound as "post-progressive rock" doesn't quite touch all the bases.  While the sky overhead may be filled with dark ominous clouds and the atmosphere hangs heavy, Electric Mud walks many a mile through the prog garden, delving into sections labeled ambient, metal, and avant-garde just to name a few.  This is a band that crawls inside your head just to see if they fit, so perhaps we best get to it...

The opener this week is a bit dark and dreary; "Suburban Wasteland Blues."  The opening guitars are tangibly heavy--and that is a good thing.  Electric Mud does a bit of a bait-and-switch here as this song just bleeds the blues...but prog elements leap off the disc at the same time.  Think Adrian Belew jamming with John Lee Hooker and you're close.  If your feet ain't tapping as this song climbs over, through, and around time and tempo changes, check your shoes to see if they're empty...

Next up on this calorie laden buffet is "Heads in Beds."  A sultry guitar leads you down a dimly lit corridor as the song opens.  Waltzing through domes of light cast by overhead streetlamps you alternately  disappear in darkness and reappear as if walking a lone desolate avenue on a rainy night.  The top notes are reminiscent of The Strawbs and  Tangerine Dream while the guitar work has just a hint of a Mark Knopfler influence; elegant and brooding while at the same time extremely minimal...in a word, fantastic.  The music continues to walk the prog garden in search of fellow nyctophiles; Electric Mud is haunting in this piece without crossing into the macabre or evil--just floating on this side of the darkness...


Liner Notes...hailing from Springe in the district of Hannover, Germany, Electric Mud was founded by bass player and sound conceptualist Hagen Bretschneider.  The band, now an official trio,  also includes Lennart Huper on rhythm guitar and Nico Walser on guitars, keyboards, percussion, noises...and sound alchemy.  Manfred Lohse is credited for video production...these credits alone should be a sliver of light shining on the depths to which Electric Mud will dig to capture the essence of their sound.

"The Deconstruction of Light" was released in April, the band's third full length album.  Paying homage to the prog standard bearers that tilled the garden early on, Electric Mud doesn't just echo the sounds of the past, rather they sift the many layers and add a touch of their own DNA, creating a unique sound amongst the familiar.

To learn more about Electric Mud and make a purchase check their website Electric Mud.  Links there will take you to bandcamp, soundcloud, Amazon, and other music sites for listening and buying--with an emphasis on the latter.  There is also Facebook and Twitter @Electricmudd  to keep up with all the latest band information.

Final selection for review this week is "Through the Gates."  Electric Mud is extremely good at giving the listener a macro view of the inner workings of a determined mind, allowing you to glimpse a private world not usually on display.  The percussion in this piece is deafeningly restrained; you feel the blows in your conscious but no physical harm is done.  Music to contemplate by...


I chose a reprise of sorts for your listening pleasure this week; "Black Dog." The opening riff lifts the top of your skull and rains down all over your mind...aromatics of Deep Purple burst through the thick outer shell encasing the song as the tempo and mood swing back away from the sun.  Electric Mud manage to say quite a bit without once uttering a lyric, filling the canvas to overload.  As you sit back and allow the music to swallow you whole, you realize the ride down is as fulfilling as it is mesmerizing...dim the lights...

                   

Yet one more trek through the prog garden has yielded a hearty bounty for the week.  Electric Mud takes you on a joy ride through a cavernous section of the prog garden; dark and eery at times but never letting go of your hand.  The post-progressive section of the prog garden has a reputation for being ominous and gloomy, but don't be fooled; Electric Mud has the power to light up a seemingly impenetrable darkness--and you'll want to be there when the beacon burns through the haze...

So the search for all things prog moves forcibly ahead as the Closet Concert Arena moves on.  Electric Mud has shown another side of the prog garden, allowing a dark hue to wash over the sun soaked dunes...and the result is magic.  The journey continues...until next time...   

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lobate Scarp "Time and Space"

Hello fellow progheads and welcome to another week here at the The Closet Concert Arena!  The summer flew by much too quickly, so in an effort to slow the gravitational pull of Mother Earth (or at least make it feel that way), the search for all things prog stayed on one continent this week, hunkering down in California to check out a relative new comer to the prog garden, Lobate Scarp.


Referring to their sound as "Progressive Space-Opera Rock," Lobate Scarp put themselves on my radar; always looking for bands that view the prog garden through a different lens.  So diving right in, I drop the laser on the title cut and let the headphones fill my cranium...and the sounds they emit are quite the mind show.  As the song opens you feel as if you're listening to the background music while credits roll on a classic 40's film noir marathon.  Then just as sudden and unexpected as snow in July, color splashes across the canvas and Lobate Scarp comes at you full force.  This terrestrial aura comes through on some fine guitar work and percussion.  The mood swing is a bit jazz fusion at one point as I find myself waiting for David Sanborn to break out one of his trademark sax solos.  The week starts strong as I am sated for fifteen minutes plus...

Moving across the disc I discover a piece that opens in a nostalgic frame of mind then quickly punches up the drums, "The Contradiction."  Once again an ominous cello forces itself onto your auditory sensors like a prelude to darkness.  However, Lobate Scarp is simply doing what they do best--toying with your emotions the way most operas do...even the progressive space-rock kind.  There is a taste of ELO and The Flaming Lips in the music here as the tempo floats like a swinging pendulum.  Lobate Scarp seems to enjoy a "quick intro" as the song starts to emerge from the headphones, only to inundate you with a roller coaster ride of emotion and style...

Liner Notes...in addition to being from Los Angeles CA and into quantum physics, Lobate Scarp sports a left-handed guitarist/vocalist in Nate Olmos and bass player/cellist/vocalist Andy Catt (unless the photos are backwards).  The other current members of the band are Adam Sears lead vocals and keyboards, Andrea Whitt on electric viola, and Dustin Prince on drums.  The band originated in 2007 releasing "Time and Space" in 2012.  They also have a single, "Beautiful Light" that hit the airwaves in 2016.

Lobate Scarp is a melange of sorts; many ideas and influences brought together to create a driving sound that resonates across much of the prog garden.  The ornate boldness of Queen, the "not taking ourselves too seriously" approach of Dreadnaught, and the mellow smooth attitude of Phish make for a canvas splattered with color and character that is a truly unique blend...

Learn more about Lobate Scarp at Lobate Scarp and purchase their music at
Lobate Scarp bandcamp.  You can also connect with the band via Facebook and on Twitter @LobateScarp.  Their catalog is relatively small while still in the "construction phase."

The palate cleanser for this prog gala is "The Mirror."  Channeling David Gilmour as the curtain is peeled back, this song is an extension of what Lobate Scarp is about; emerging slowly as they fill your mind to overflow with sights, sounds, and bursts of energy.  Top notes range from Pink Floyd to Asia and the Red Hot Chili Peppers...yes, Lobate Scarp likes to fill the entire picture frame... 

Your ear candy this week is a tune called "Jacob's Ladder."  This song brings a funky edge to the forefront...think Spock's Beard meets Wishbone Ash meets Cake.  The guitars carve out a groove that gets your foot tapping one minute and your mind swirling the next...of course the drum work thumping the back of your neck helps keep you focused.  Lobate Scarp seems to enjoy making the most of their time in the prog garden and sharing a twisted groove with friends... 

                          

And another week has walked briskly by the picture window.  Lobate Scarp seemed the right elixir as we witness summer's annual fade to gray, her strut across the prog garden deliberately alluring.  However, the prog garden is a landscape for all seasons and bands like Lobate Scarp have nurtured some impressive acreage.  As their resume grows and the catalog fills, I anticipate the envelope being pushed and the prog garden continuing its expansion.

As for The Closet Concert Arena, the search for all things prog continues to stay on course...until next time...   

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Hollow Moon

Greetings once again fellow progheads!  As the unofficial final days of summer flash by the rear view mirror, the search for all things prog continues its forward motion.  This week The Concert Closet carries a passport to check in on both sides of the pond investigating a band starting to build its own portfolio...welcome to the sounds of The Hollow Moon.

The Hollow Moon is one more prog band that touches two continents as the members reach across the Atlantic to bring their sound to the prog garden.  Time to peel back the curtain and look inside the workings of The Hollow Moon...

Starting with the song "King of Yesterday" I find myself swept up in a touch of nostalgia.  The mood is quite somber as the yearning for days gone by drips from the lyrics like raspberry vinegar; the desired sweet is soothing, just enough to temper the acidic bite.  There are top notes of Marillion and a hint of Keane wafting through the entire production; the keyboards are soft yet able to penetrate deep into your pores.  Feels like a reflective week coming on...

Moving to the next single, I drop the laser on "Everything in Balance."  A more upbeat tempo greets the auditory sensors as strong keyboards wash over like a cool breeze on a humid afternoon.  The drum work gives a foundation to the guitars riding across the top.  Aromatics of Yes dart in and out of the music, poking your skull.  I sense a Godley and Creme vibe as well; the logic minded depth of the lyrics wrapped in deep thought, begging to be unwrapped.

Liner Notes...The Hollow Moon is the blend of two musicians hailing from two continents.  Jon Farley lives in Moray, Scotland and along with composing for the band plays piano, keyboards, drums, guitar, and provides vocals.  Darren Selesnow calls Los Angeles, CA home and he also composes while  providing bass, electric and acoustic guitars, as well as keyboards.

Darren and Jon bring well over a half century's experience to The Hollow Moon from their respective musical upbringing.  Each has been playing, writing, and recording music on their own as well as with with other bands.  Darren's alter-ego has been part of The Edwardian Look for the past ten years while Jon is the lone member of Checking for Echo.  The Hollow Moon currently has five singles out with their first full length album due soon.  The LP will consist of the existing singles along with new music presently being mixed, arranged, and going through all the necessary machinations required to bring it to fruition.  So the prog garden expands its boundaries...

My last song for review here is "Don't Forget Me."  The Hollow Moon is a very introspective band; these are songs that penetrate deep into your conscious, lifting the lid on your cranium and stoking the thought process.  I sense aromatics of Porcupine Tree in this cut; the percussion brings out the strength of the vocals and guitars gain momentum toward the end of the song.  The haunting voice-over carries you across the threshold from present to a perpetual, fading eternity.




Learn more about The Hollow Moon  at The Hollow Moon Band.  They also have a Facebook page Hollow Moon FB and Twitter @TheHollowMoon .  Both will keep you informed as to the release of their debut album and other information about the band.  You can purchase all the singles now at iTunes and Amazon; links on the website.  Get in on the ground floor so you can say you knew them when...

I chose the clip below, "Falling Away," as your ear candy this week.  The signature melancholy piano lead-in pulls the curtain back slowly on a coming-of-age realization about what really is important and how fast time slips through your fingers--no matter how tight your grasp.  The Hollow Moon fills the pallet with subtle strokes from a somber brush; delicate though it may be, the song pulls on your emotions without drowning you in sorrow.  The tempo gains just enough momentum for the song to float through your mind and carry you to that peaceful place...pour a single malt and dim the lights...

                                    

OK fellow progheads, seven days closer to the end of another busy year in the prog garden.  The Hollow Moon is an apropos way to draw the curtain on summer; watching the sunset while enjoying a fresh crispness in the air.  The prog garden brought forth a lot of exciting new bands and artists this year as well as witnessing some old favorites continue their upward trajectory.

With a debut album coming soon and side projects to use up any possible free time, Darren and Jon appear  to be riding The Hollow Moon to new acreage here in the prog garden.  And of course  the search for all things prog continues the hunt for even more new and exciting entries...until next time...

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

I Am The Morning "Lighthouse"

Another seven days have passed and  I welcome you back fellow progheads!  The search for all things prog has brought me to some fascinating places and unearthed many wonderful discoveries; the band I am reviewing this week scores high on that list.  My journey has not taken me to Russia very often--I believe my passport is stamped but twice for stops in Alaska's  neighbor.  However; I Am the Morning has convinced me to bring The Closet Concert Arena this way more often.

Calling themselves a "Chamber progressive rock duo...mixing prog with classical music and writing songs about death" is a calling card I cannot ignore.  "Lighthouse" is the fifth album from I Am The Morning, released on KScope records. With album number six due in the fall, I thought this a good time to stop by for a listen.  To paraphrase John Soule, let us "go west" across the Bering Strait...



The album opens softly with "I Came Before the Water Pt I."  Gentle waves lapping at the shore greet your auditory sensors while vocals as delicate as a linen shawl float over the top...and the song seamlessly bleeds into "Too Many Years."  An intense piano introduces vocals elegant as  lilacs...gentle to the touch yet the scent completely fills the room.  The piano continues to waltz through the entire piece as strings come around the perimeter and draw everything together.  Top notes of Brian Eno's ambient best folded with the melancholy of Keane, aromatics of Doville Lee, and a hint of the darkness that envelopes Tuesday The Sky.  Yes, there is quite a bit happening in the prog garden at the moment...

My next selection from this "classic" buffet is the title cut "Lighthouse."  As tender as a mother's touch, the piano flows through the headphones guiding lyrics soft as a down filled pillow through your head.  I Am The Morning is a walk through the first snowfall on a hidden meadow; tranquility holding your hand and guiding your steps.  The images are Victorian and ornate while the music is simple and genteel.  This song is as unique as a piece of driftwood washed up on shore...admired for its beauty and appreciated for the treasure it is.

Liner Notes...I Am The Morning hails from St. Petersburgh, Russia and is Gleb Kolyadin on piano and keyboards and Marjana Semkina on vocals and backing vocals.  They do include many guests on the album; Mariusz Duda on vocals, Vlad Avy on guitars, Colin Edwin on bass, Andres Izmailov on harp, and Evan Carson on bodhran and percussion.  Playing drums is one Gavin Harrison...must be that Porcupine Tree and King Crimson aren't enough to keep him occupied.

I Am The Morning have five albums on their resume and number six due in October, complete with
Blu-Ray.  Factor in Gleb Kolyadin's recent solo release and this duo have been caretakers to quite the acreage in the prog garden.  Different musicians appear on each album, which is recorded in a different location based seemingly on its association with the theme or history of the album and its music.  I Am The Morning leaves nothing to chance or circumstance when putting an album together; everything--from cover art to mixing--is as meticulously attended to as anything Steely Dan ever did.             

Selection number three is "Chalk and Coal." This time Marjana's vocals pierce the headphones with some oomph; the darkness implied by the title hits the canvas like an impending storm...all the while building an intensity that breaks through without destroying the landscape.  The top notes are reminiscent of The Strawbs in a more macabre mood.

Learn more about I Am The Morning and purchase their music at IATM bandcamp.  For those so inclined, you will find links to soundcloudiTunes, and KScope where you can also pre-order the new I Am The Morning album "Ocean Sounds."  Follow the band on Facebook IATM Facebook and Twitter @themorningband.

I chose the song "Matches" as your gateway to the beauty that is I Am The Morning.  The piano opening takes you to a quiet nightclub and the vocals float on top like cotton candy strands taking flight from a vendor's machine at the fair.  This piece, however, moves right into that "sweet spot" in your mind, allowing you to drift away like a message in a bottle...washing up on a desolate island and basking in the solitude...

                     

Once again fellow progheads a week has fallen off the calendar as easily as morning dew dripping from a rose petal.  I Am The Morning has broadened the perimeter of the prog garden and added a  stunning view.  The passion expressed in the music makes "Lighthouse" a must-have for those with a fondness for prog beauty.  The band walks the emotion laden section of the prog garden, a la Moody Blues.  Yet it is Marjana's voice that lures you deeper into the abyss...

The search for all things prog continues on, and bands like I Am The Morning make the journey so worthwhile.  With so many sub-genres under the prog umbrella, a find as refreshing and unique as I Am The Morning is always a pleasant discovery, and of course the search continues...until next time...   

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Silas Neptune "The Scales of Tahuti"

Greetings once again fellow progheads and welcome back to The Closet Concert Arena!  So much activity in the prog garden; the heat has certainly inspired some amazing growth and expansion.  As the search for all things prog continues, so too does the flow of fresh new music.  This week the journey took me back and forth across the pond we call the Atlantic so as to enjoy the sounds of Silas Neptune.  In a world of constant noise and simulated chaos, it was quite the invigorating ride...

While Silas is from Somerset in the UK, his debut solo album "The Scales of Tahuti" was recorded in Colorado USA and released December 2017.  Silas has music in his veins; his father, Ed Wynne, is the founding member of Ozric Tentacles.  Let us see how far from the tree this apple fell...


The album opens with a gong, so I am already relaxed...and then carried across the threshold where consciousness meets a dreamlike state.  The song "Feathers of Ma'at" slowly and gently fills the headphones.  Silas Neptune traverses the prog garden in pursuit of Utopia; there are equal parts Ravi Shankar and Pink Floyd painting graffiti on the inner lining of my skull.  As the song progresses I am taken back to Yes and their "Close To The Edge" intro.  This truly is a mesmerizing piece...

The next sounds to fill my mind are "Become Everything."  Silas Neptune picks up the pace a bit here as he works those keyboards into a semi-frenzy.  There is a new age vibe running the entire piece as it somehow soothes while energizing.  For top notes think Robert Fripp doing his soundscapes thing with an electronic push...imagine Adrian Belew and Frank Zappa getting hold of the motherboard and tweaking the master tapes...
Liner Notes...In addition to producing a "solo" album, Silas Neptune plays keyboards in Ozric Tentacles, the band I mentioned earlier that his father started.  I say "solo" because this is almost an extension of Ozric Tentacles.  Performing on this album in addition to Silas are Ed Wynne, Brandi Wynne, Joie Hinton, Natan Mantismash, Roy Brosh, Balazs Szende, Dominic Gibbins, and Paul Hankin.  Natan doubles are art director; the album covert art is his design.  
The album is a concept of sorts as Silas takes the listener deep into the unknown, much like Hal led Dr. Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  This time, however, man controls machine as Silas and the rest of the band journey across a mental landscape as imaginative as it is stellar and robust.  The canvas comes alive with colors that explode as if Peter Maxx designed an eternally melting kaleidoscope.  Learn more about Silas Neptune and purchase his music at SilasNeptunebandcamp 
and Silas Neptune soundcloud.  You can travel along at Facebook and Twitter @SilasNeptune .  For the proghead that needs to delve deeper there is ozrics where this and other side projects of Ozric Tentacles are highlighted.

For the icing that runs down the sides of this celestial cake I chose "Gateway to Dreamtime."  The percussion on this cut is a bit more pronounced, but once again "mystical" keyboard work headlines the encounter.  Silas Neptune seems focused on bringing an alternate universe to the listener...a previously unknown reality--and it is a wonder to the subconscious.  Life in the star gazing lane never seemed so wondrous...

To illustrate the beauty that is "The Scales of Tahuti" I chose "Aqualight."  This piece moves through the headphones like summer melt-off flowing down a cliff...the warm inner peace is all you notice.  Once again keyboards--the lifeblood of the entire album-- are showcased like a musical delicatessen; so may variations on a theme.  Just remember why you came and let the soundscapes carry you away...

                      

Well fellow progheads, another week is in the rear view mirror.  This week was a stroll down a different path in the prog garden.  Silas Neptune commands acreage that I have explored from the periphery and indulged in with various artists whilst viewing through a different lens.  Silas pushes the boundaries of the prog garden as he expands on ideas and concepts brought forth by others...I sense aromatics of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Zawinul with and without Weather Report.  But there is so much more here as well; the influences run the width and breadth of the entire prog garden.

I hope you enjoyed this leg of the journey.  The search for all things prog takes many twists, turns, and seldom-traveled roads, all for the sake of finding that next shining star.  So of course The Closet Concert Arena will travel on...until next time...

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Seconds Before Landing "Trio Volume 1"

The door to The Closet Concert Arena is always open to the prog faithful, so come on in fellow progheads!  While the summer heat continues its stranglehold on the thermometer, the search for all things prog continues its quest to bring you the best new, lesser known, and flying low under the radar bands the prog garden has to offer.  An absolute pleasure to visit with old friends--especially when they bring new music to the Concert Closet. This week the search for all things prog stays stateside for a visit with Seconds Before Landing, a band that is as intense as it is creative.  SBL released their fourth album/first EP "Trio Volume 1" July 27th and I am more than happy to review.

I have been a fan of Seconds Before Landing since my first encounter with their music back in 2016.  In an era when many bands and artists tend to follow a safe path, SBL founder John Crispino consistently blazes his own trail, pushing the envelope to create music that can be dark, haunting, and thought provoking.  John claims to be a pretty upbeat guy, just a witness to the world around him.  To the headphones we go...


The opening tune is called "192" and to call it powerful is an understatement.  Janusz Korczak ran an orphanage in Poland when the Holocaust happened; this song honors one man's bravery in the face of evil.  The entire piece is shrouded in a darkness that is almost tangible--you can feel it permeate the headphones as it wraps around your mind, penetrating your auditory sensors and grabbing your conscience. The aromatics remind me of Pink Floyd in their "Atom Heart Mother" or "Ummagumma" period; occupying a not very crowded section of the prog garden.  Seconds Before Landing strikes a nerve with wrenching lyrics:

"It wasn't that long ago
Back in '42
Just me and the children
We numbered 192"

 "...one day, they came to take them                 
 They gave permission that I could stay
 I didn't want to see them go alone                   
 So we all just marched away..."
                 
 "...They'll be coming soon so we must prepare
 Get on the train and take this ride                 
 Remember what I told you show your pride   
 Once inside let's sing this song
 I promise children it won't take long"

The brush strokes on canvas these words evoke are dripping with emotion you won't find spinning the radio dial...the dark background has  splatters of bright red and subtle streaks of blue...because hope always accompanies strength...

Next up is "Maybe I'm a Weirdo."  In typical SBL style, the opening is a gateway down an  absolutely unknown rabbit hole that I can't wait to fall into.  The darkness almost illuminates; there is a madman in the room but you can't tell which facade he hides behind.  John is extremely adept at identifying with that which makes us uncomfortable...are these the ramblings of a depressed every man or are we peering through the cracks of a psychotic mind?  The vocals have a Frank Zappa feel as you sit through an autobiographical run down of why this person takes up occupancy in all of us.

Liner Notes...started in Pittsburgh PA back in 2010, Seconds Before Landing is the creation of John Crispino.  John has had several prog and rock  giants on his albums, including Trey Gunn, John Palumbo, and Tim Bogert.  The core of SBL includes John on drums, percussion, keyboards, synthesizers, vocals, and special effects.  Joining John is Steve Schuffert, Eric Maldonado, and Rick Witkowski on guitars, J.D. Garrison and Guy Bar Tor on bass, Jamie Peck on piano, and Vanessa Campagna on backing vocals.

Seconds Before Landing may produce their final product along the dark outer edges of the prog garden, but they travel every square inch of earth within its confines putting ideas and thoughts together to do so.  John views the absurdity, cruelty, and irony of life through a different lens and uses those awakened  emotions to breathe life into his work...

Learn more about Seconds Before Landing at SBL and SBL Bandcamp.  Here you will find the entire catalog along with links to the band's Facebook and Twitter as well as SBL Radio, an outlet John uses to share his world with you.

The final cut is called "You Won't Deny Me" and this one drips with foreboding and anger reminiscent of "I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats.  The song grabs your attention immediately; tension so thick nerve endings are exposed.  Seconds Before Landing crawls inside the macabre mind of a school shooter as he walks you through his day right up to that final, fatal moment.  Guitars scream with anguish while a haunting vocal similar to Gregorian Rock pierces the veil around your soul.



I chose "192" for your peek behind the curtain.  This is as much to honor Janusz Korczak as it is to paint a vivid picture of the inner workings of Seconds Before Landing.  John found a crack in the time/space continuum, crawled inside, and watched the projection machine rattle off so many of mankind's shortcomings.  His ability to channel that, using darkness to awaken an inner morality inside the listener, is stunning.  Dim the lights and hold on...

                       

So fellow progheads I hope you enjoyed your time this week.  Seconds Before Landing lives everywhere in the prog garden, shining a light into the abyss we humans prefer to avoid.  It is rare to find someone who can take tragedy, sadness and evil and turn it inside out the way John Crispino does--and he does it quite elegantly.  Progressive rock can be the beautification of a world drenched in flaws and shortcomings, and that makes the journey all the more relevant and worthwhile.

Now as I am so fond of saying, the search for all things prog continues...until next time...

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Majestic

As always, it is a pleasure to have you back fellow progheads!  If this is your first foray into The Closet Concert Arena I hope you enjoy the view, the sound, and keep coming back for more!  This week the search for all things prog continues the mission of bringing the lesser known, toiling away, extremely talented yet for the most part unknown prog bands to the forefront.  To scratch that itch, I took the Concert Closet to Minnesota for some deep listening with Majestic.




Referring to themselves as a progressive rock recording project, Majestic tills acreage in the symphonic section of the prog garden.  Falling into the "been around awhile and still flying low under the radar" category, Majestic released their first album "Arrival" in 2009 and followed that up with seven more releases through 2015 (eight if you count "Epsilon" I and II separately).  A respectable resume, so let us find out  what lurks beneath the surface waiting to burst through the rich prog soil...

In keeping with tradition I will start the buffet with "Arrival;"  gotta stick to the timeline!  A truly beautiful piece...the opening takes me immediately to the dawning of a new day--and few things match the splendor of the sun rising on a new beginning; a fresh opportunity.  The guitars are soft as melting chocolate as the entire production is swallowed up in a 1960's dreamscape.  Vocals pierce the shell that encompasses the music; Majestic has just crossed into the terrestrial symphonic section of the prog garden.  Top notes of early Pink Floyd echo through the headphones and aromatics of Genesis in their "Foxtrot" days carry through the air.  Majestic fills the room with a physical presence as the canvas is exploding with color...yes, we have arrived...

Moving down the buffet line, I stop at what appears to be a healthy portion of "Clover Suite."  More vintage 2009, more prog that wraps around you like your favorite blanket on the beach while enjoying a bonfire at night.  The vocals leap through the headphones, bellow down your auditory canals, and pump their way through your entire being.  A splendid slice of symphonic majesty...there is an ornateness reminiscent of Trans Siberian Orchestra careening around in my head, but make no mistake--Majestic is a band true to themselves.

Liner Notes...Majestic was born in the winter wonderland known as Minneapolis, MN.  The band is  Jeff Hamel on keyboards, guitar, and vocals.  Jeff is joined in a regular, member-of-the-band kinda way (for the most part) by Jessica Rasche on vocals.  But don't let that lull you into a false sense of inaccuracy...Jeff is also joined by several talent-laden musicians on each of his album releases.  A "family reunion" of all the musicians Jeff has recorded Majestic albums with would run this blog too long at around eighteen.  I don't want to disrespect anyone by listing some and omitting others...so suffice to say it is an impressive list...

Going back to the buffet I laser up "Star Bound" from the 2010 release "Ataraxia."  This album was dipped in cool jazz fusion and encased in an atmospheric prog outer shell.  Top notes of Steely Dan and Camel fill your auditory sensors immediately.  Jessica's vocals are smooth like a water slide, taking you right into the middle of the pool.  There is a blues vibe coursing through the tune giving it an alter ego of sorts...the clean crisp lines of a Maserati with scratches in the paint...


There is much to learn, listen to, and appreciate about Majestic and you can do that at the website Majesticsongs...you can even check the impressive alumni Jeff calls guest musicians in the gallery...
The entire Majestic catalog is available at Majesticsong Bandcamp and
Majesticsongs cdbaby.  Of course there is also Facebook and Twitter,
Majesticsongs FB and @majesticsongs, for those so inclined to follow along and dig a bit deeper.

For your listening pleasure I chose a song from the 2012 album "V.O.Z." called "Crossing Meridian."  This album takes yet another tangent road--Majestic has mastered the art of starting from scratch with each album.  Not necessarily a dark colored canvas, but there is a metal-tinged hardness that builds as the song progresses.  Jeff uses every acre the prog garden has to offer in creating a sound as distinct as it is remarkable.  Let the drums carry you while the guitars and vocals lead you through a labyrinth of sights and sounds...

                    

Majestic is another in a long line of prog bands that have been working the garden for a long time and managed to stay out of the limelight.  Jeff Hamel's ability to find the right artists for each collaboration--a la Steely Dan--has created a collection of music that spans the prog garden.  Prog artists tend to wear multiple hats; musician, producer, sound engineer, promoter...you get my point.  Jeff has toiled behind and in front of the curtain putting together a sound that really needs to be heard to be appreciated.   Majestic has a flavor for every craving...

So now the search for all things prog trudges on--in a most excited and eager way.  A journey that for me has been  nothing short of extraordinary.  The prog garden is a fertile hot bed of  vast and varied sights and sounds and The Closet Concert Arena is only too happy to offer you my loyal followers a front row seat.  The journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Sonic Tapestry "Aftermath"

Welcome back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Setting the A/C on "yes please" as the dog days continue to beat down on the prog garden.  In an attempt to escape the sweltering heat, the Concert Closet kept the search for all thing prog in the UK another seven days as I discovered a still "green around the edges" prog band.  If I had an official mission statement it would include something about bringing new and undiscovered gems found in the prog garden to those eager to expand their appreciation of the genre...to offer aspiring musicians and artists a platform to expose their sound...


With those thoughts rattling around my cranium, I set off to check out a band I stumbled across almost by accident; Sonic Tapestry and their release "Aftermath."  The focus of this week's journey  begins with a cut called "Mystic Void."  The high energy instrumental opening has top notes of Transatlantic; the entire piece washes over you like a cool summer sun shower...the guitars are understated, allowing gentle vocals to seep through the headphones and bounce gently inside your head.  Meanwhile the keyboards lead the charge--but not so much that everything else is forced to run for cover.

If a title cut exists I tend to search it out...gives a bit more insight to the goings-on behind the curtain; a single song "concept" if you will.  "Aftermath" delivers a strong message as Sonic Tapestry shows a bit of an edge on this song, coming out of the gate more like Marillion with a touch of Spock's Beard standing on the rim and aiming loud speakers across the abyss.  The decibel level keeps you alert--but the heat is turned down just before the anticipated explosion.  The band moves pointedly through the prog garden as the song plays out; tempo, mood, and time changes splattering the canvas like an Andy Warhol/Peter Max event out of control.

Liner Notes...a relative new comer to the prog garden, Sonic Tapestry started in Cheshire, England somewhere around 2010.  Founded by Steve Forster on vocals, flute, keyboards, synthesizers, and bass, the band includes Giles Ashley, John Byrne, and Sean Byrne.  "Aftermath" is the band's self-released debut EP, coming out in 2015.  As with many a new comer to the prog garden, details of the Sonic Tapestry family history are a bit cloudy, but suffice to say the trajectory looks good.

One more slice from the buffet; "Divinity in Stone."  Sonic Tapestry is starting to peel back the layers and reveal their inner metal edge.  Top notes of Rush start to waft through the headphones and aromatics of Camel begin to swarm inside my head.  The guitar work breathes new life into the band's sound as Sonic Tapestry seems to feel at home toeing the threshold of the metal section in the prog garden; I believe I detect a tinge of Mountain starting to make its presence known...


You can look behind the curtain for more about Sonic Tapestry on Facebook
Sonic Tapestry FB.  Although they have a Twitter handle @SonicTapestry, I don't see much activity there as of press time...still in the growing phase...of course the music can be purchased at their website
Sonic Tapestry.  Tour dates are listed and while the page appears to be in the "some assembly required" phase, your support will go a long way in helping Sonic Tapestry take root and prosper in the prog garden...

To that end, I offer for your listening pleasure this week "Caged Lions of Old."  I chose this cut because it paints a varied picture using mainly dark colors.  The piano opening is stark...then the vocals begin to seep in.  Sonic Tapestry makes it rain in your mind; the mood is somber yet you feel a warmth on your face as light begins to burn through the fog shrouding your entire being.  True to form, guitars and keyboards take the tempo up a notch or two and Sonic Tapestry once again
hop-scotches across the prog garden like a kid enjoying summer vacation...


                  

So fellow progheads, a relative newcomer to the prog garden has been exposed to the light.  Sonic Tapestry has done it the old fashion way, putting an EP together and releasing it on their own.  The prog garden is filled with artists that wear many hats; several have been reviewed right here in the Concert Closet.  Bands with the determination and desire to succeed need more in order to make it; talent and access to an audience are key--of course a little luck never hurt anyone either.  The search for all things prog continues to be a most exciting adventure as we scour the planet...and as I like to say, the journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Servants of Science "Another Day (The Swan Song Live)"

Hazy, hot, humid prog greetings fellow progheads!  The thermometer seems to have a never ending supply of mercury attempting to "ring the bell," much like that guy at the county fair trying to win his sweetheart the kewpie doll by swinging the sledgehammer...

This week the search for all things prog takes another one of my famous alternate trajectories as The Closet Concert Arena revisits a recently reviewed band that has taken their own alternate trajectory of sorts.  Servants of Science independently released their debut "The Swan Song" in December 2017, and riding on the success of this amazing album, the band has since partnered with Progressive Gears

Records to release "Another Day (The Swan Song: Live)" and asked me to review this release as well.  This presented a many faceted challenge as I struggled with my approach; review as a totally new record solely on its merits, or compare live cuts side-by-side to studio cuts?  Perhaps a swirl of both; a totally new record reviewed for content, live sound quality, and the ability to capture the essence of the original recording.  Cue the Concert Closet, here we go...

I open with  "Another Day."  For me, live and concept albums are similar in that you need to play them through completely and in song order to really capture the essence of what the band/artist is trying to convey. Since this is a live concept album, I thought it best follow my own advice...

As the song opens you almost forget this is a live performance; the sunrise over planet earth as you view from afar seems as real as your reflection.  Servants of Science capture the raw emotion that flowed through the studio version and spill it across the stage...I feel like I'm in 3rd grade watching Apollo 11 land on the moon all over again...

Except for the audience applause, the flow into "Kaleidoscope" is as smooth as melted caramel caressing a granny smith apple.  I am taken back to my original interpretation of this song and the depth of emotions that oozed forth; to capture those feelings live is a statement to the intensity the band brings to this performance.  The guitars seem to melt in Ian's, Helena's, and Neil's hands as notes escape through the headphones...

Liner Notes...Servants of Science is founding member Stuart Avis on keyboards, guitar, and backing vocals, Ian Brocken on lead guitar, Neil Beards on acoustic guitar and vocals, Helena DeLuca on rhythm guitar and vocals, Andy Bay on bass, and Adam McKee on drums.  Started in Brighton UK in 2017, the band was originally a project begun by Stuart and Andy, culminating in the 2018 release of "The Swan Song."  OK; enough talk...let's get back to the reason we're gathered in the prog garden in the first place...

Moving down the playlist a bit I stop on "Peripheral."  Another gentle beginning that steadily gathers inner strength--the formula Servants of Science uses to enter your mind and walk delicately across your cranium... 

You can find this album and the entire Progressive Gears catalog of music at SoS Progressive Gears  There is also a direct link to this particular download at their Bandcamp site SoS Swan Song Live .  Information about the band can be found on Facebook Servants of Science FB and Twitter @ServantsScience.

The performance concludes with "Burning in the Cold."  The music cascades over the audience like a gentle spring shower and slowly builds strength until soft waves crash tamely at their feet...a benign storm that cleanses your inner mind.  Servants of Science uses dark hues to bring this masterpiece to life, each brush stroke a beat in a steady pulse as the music awakens...

To illustrate the band's ability to capture the original depth of this album live I bring you the song "Servants of Science."  As with the original, this cut is a bit harder as it penetrates deeper; dark colors fill the pallet as Servants of Science continue to pull you in all directions...is it the demise of the planet or an astronaut going mad, wandering alone in space..?

                       

Servants of Science captures the essence of the original album in a live setting; the mood, personal turmoil, shock, sadness, and even a bit of inner peace as the album winds down.  The prog garden is a vast open space serving as the backdrop to a sound explosion that fills the mind with images as opposed to simply clogging the auditory sensors with noise.

The search for all things prog enjoyed a macro view of the world from above as Servants of Science showed you the audience how to listen with your mind as well as your ears.  Now the journey continues, but from this point forward observing a different vantage point...until next time... 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

M!ndgames

As the summer heats up so too does the melody; a musical sound cloud hovering over the prog garden this week floated in all the way from Belgium.  Welcome back to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  This latest leg of the search for all things prog brought forth a new noise with many facets and layers...music that captivates, soothes, relaxes, and excites.  In my quest for something unfamiliar, I discovered a band that has been tilling acreage in the prog garden for about two decades with little fanfare but lots of talent.  Prepare for M!ndgames, an invigorating dose of prog stimulation...


Referring to themselves as "...refreshing, surprising...heavy tunes and classic arrangements," M!ndgames comes at you with a melancholy sadness only to split your cranium with "...sunlit speed and bombastic outbursts..."  Many a band has ventured into the prog garden claiming to hit both the alpha and omega with the swing of the pendulum, so let's see what kind of M!ndgames await...

My compulsion is to start at the beginning, so venturing back to M!ndgames' 2002 debut release "International Daylight" I chose "Beggars Breakfast" as the opening course for what I anticipate being a delectable buffet.  The soft piano and accompanying strings set the tone for an intimate gathering.  The vocals ride across the top on a cloud of cotton; soft as they approach and settle in, much like a a sailboat returning to shore at sunset's low tide.  I pick up top notes of Atlas Volt and Big Big Train bleeding through the music; peaceful and serene...

Moving forward, I find a tune with that head-tilting "what did I just hear?" quality, "Dramatis Persona" from the 2006 release "Actors in a Play."  There is a theatrical vibe running through this piece, much like Joel Grey in "Cabaret" but with a Jon Anderson twist. The guitars speak softly yet are unmistakable in their appearance.  A song that is like a velvet blanket wrapped gently around your ears...

Liner Notes...M!ndgames calls the Flemish region of Belgium their home, and the current line-up is Bart Schram on vocals, flute, and acoustic guitar, Sandro Starita on electric lead and rhythm guitar and guitar synths, Maximilian von Wullerstorff on bass, and Benny Petak on drums and percussion.

Avoiding line-up changes and growing pains while surviving two decades in the prog garden is difficult if not impossible, and M!ndgames is no exception.  Fortunately they were able to get the right mix and put together an impressive--and still growing--catalog.  Stepping into the music to follow their journey, I sense M!indgames is that stable boat on a rocky lake.  As the waves ripple, lolling you side-to-side, there is a stabilizing tranquility floating on top of the mayhem...with vocals that soothe like aloe after lounging seaside all afternoon.

One more morsel for the ears, "Outside the Gloom" from the 2010 album "MMX."  Simplistically weaving an intricate pattern; M!ingames seems to enjoy toying with your senses.  While bright colors dot the canvas, the feeling of being witness to a macabre circus echoes through your mind.  With top notes of Marillion and a shot of Gentle Giant, the song waltzes across the prog garden with the grace of a break dancer...

Learn more about M!ndgames at their website  M!ndgames and
M!indgame soundcloud.  You can purchase music, check out their catalog, follow up on concert dates and all things related to the band.  For those who like to dig deeper there is the ever popular
M!ndgames FB and @Mindgamesmusic.

Your weekly dose of "sounds to lure you in" is a cut called "The Age of Plenty" from the 2015 album "Paradox of Choice."  This song has a bit more of an edge; think latter day Spock's Beard jamming with early Supertramp...quite the stage when you close your eyes.  Strong guitars lay a nice platform for Bart's vocals and the drums just bring it all together.  There are even top notes of Asia billowing through the headphones...lots going on without becoming just a cacophony of noise...and the pendulum swings...

                       

And thus we once again find ourselves at the end of another week.  M!indgames displays an ability to touch all the nerves in your head that are wired for music.  They can lift you up, take you on an emotional ride through the prog garden, and set you back down...smooth as Aladdin's carpet...

Time now to take the search for all things prog back on the road.  With the summer heat and all the outdoor prog festivities in full swing, finding something new and exciting should be easy--and worth the trip.  Enjoy your week fellow progheads...until next time...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Special Providence

Welcome to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads; as usual the door is always open!  After staying home to celebrate birthday #242 for the homeland last week, I thought it a good time to log some frequent flyer miles.  This week the search for all things prog brought me to Hungary, a country I need to visit more often based on the music I have been listening to these past seven days.  The Concert Closet was filled to capacity with the sounds of Special Providence, a four man instrumental band covering a lot of acreage in the prog garden..so off we go...


Special Providence refers to themselves as "Progjazzrockmetalturbochill" and one of the EU's best known instrumental quartets.  With five albums spanning more than a decade, Special Providence is one of those bands that has manged to fly low "under the radar" here in the US.  However;  this is the search for all things prog, I live for the hunt, and my radar screen has been blipping for a while...let's get right to it...

First serving on the platter is "Irrelevant Connotations" from their October 2017 release "Will."  The whole progjazzrockmetalturbochill mystery is solved with this song...top notes are a hodgepodge of Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Dream Theater, Al DiMeola, and Camel--just to name a few.  If it is possible to be absolutely unique in a real stand-alone way, Special Providence found it by taking all their favorite bands and placing them in a Waring blender.  The pallet is completely splotched with colors running down, over, through, and across each other.  Meanwhile somebody pushed all the buttons on the mood elevator and hopped out to watch...

Next up is "Kiss From a Glacier," found on the band's 2015 release "Essence of Change."  As the curtain is drawn back you feel as though Robert Fripp has commandeered the controls...some quick Frippertronics followed up with a jolt of Frank Zappa during his "Hot Rats" days.  Special Providence has taken extreme liberties in the prog garden by mixing, blending, and creating almost at will.  The canvas has been pelted bullet-like with paint balls that leave a rainbow colored bruise...

Liner Notes...calling Budapest, Hungary home, Special Providence is comprised of Zsolt Kaltenecker on keyboards, Marton Kertesz on guitar, Attila Fehervari on bass, and Adam Marko on drums.  Noticeably absent is a lead (or backing) vocalist; Special Providence makes prog magic sans voice.  The band released their first of five albums in 2007 and have since opened for Haken, Spock's Beard, Dream Theater, Steve Hackett, and Beardfish.  While that's one way to get your name out there--it don't mean nothing without talent to back it up, and these guys back it up with talent to spare...

Special Providence has played jazz fests and prog fests all around the globe, and you can find out more about what makes them unique and purchase any or all of their albums at Special Providence and SP bandcamp.  You can also follow the band on Facebook
SP Facebook and Twitter @SpecialProvid.

Final spin this week is a song called "End of Childhood" from the band's 2007 debut "Space Cafe."  Tension wrapped in jazz piano greets the listeners as laser first hits disc, and the mood gently settles into Eddie Jobson territory.  Special Providence are wonderful storytellers--which truly is an art when done without words. They squeeze real emotions from every note their instruments emit...think Flim & The BB's with a bit of an edge--and a dark side...

I chose "Distant Knowledge" from the "Will" album as your carbo load this week...lots of energy on this cut, and a canvas splayed with a sampling of what the band dabbles in.  A melange of a blend of a multi-genre walk through the prog garden you might say...

Zsolt went a little off the rails with his keyboards and the rest of the band followed him down the rabbit hole.  Special Providence is the date that shows up in a suit and tie only to take you to a mosh pit--so you are wise to be prepared for anything and everything.  Adam does raise the ante a bit with his drum work, and by the time you reach the end your mind is still wrapping itself around all that just happened.  Enjoy the ride and just wait for it...over and over...   
               
                   

Once again fellow progheads we have timed out...run the course...finished the week.  The 2018 prog garden is producing a bumper crop at a record pace; Special Providence is the result of the nurturing the garden provides.  The search for all things prog continues to dig deep for treasures like this...one of the joys of the journey.

Special Providence waltzes the prog garden the way honey badgers roam open terrain, going anywhere and everywhere.  Of course, Special Providence won't disembowel you--but they will send your mind into progjazzrockmetalturbochill euphoria...

So the journey continues...until next time...