Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Greetings from far away places fellow progheads!  The Concert Closet has not spent much time docked at home since kicking off the 2015 search for all things prog, and this week is no exception. While I do have plans for touching down on familiar tundra soon, I spent the past seven days in my 2014 "home-away-from-home"--the United Kingdom--to expand my prog appreciation and spend time with a band that blends classic prog with a beaker full of originality, a touch of humor, and some serious boundary pushing...welcome to the sounds of Magrathea.

Magrathea refers to themselves as "...symphonic/neo prog rock...some dark moments with a quirky humour..."  It isn't often you hear the words "prog," "quirky'" and "humour" in the same sentence...so naturally my interest was piqued.  Consequently I parked the Concert Closet in Lancashire so I could locate this so-called quirkiness...

In keeping with what I anticipate to be an off center kind of week, I stomp up to the buffet for my first serving and come away with a tune called "Search For The Crystal."  Opening in true avant-garde style, my aural senses are bombarded by a calliope as the controls of a warped roller coaster/carousel are hijacked by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.  Very strong top notes of Marillion, Gentle Giant, and Beardfish permeate this prog stew, and I get a strong aroma of Van der Graaf Generator...I can already tell this is gonna be a wild week!

Elbowing my way back to the front of the line, my second helping from this exquisite feast is a song called "Agorophobic Witness Killer."  Magrathea are masters of auditory sleight-of-hand; what starts out as a dark, foreboding piece explodes in a plethora of brightly colored sound.  I am reminded of King Crimson's "Lizard" in that the music takes on a life of its own, leaping from the mind and bounding through your entire inner being.  Careful, lest you get caught up and forget you are but a mere mortal--the music is what's larger than life!

Liner Notes...hailing from Lancashire, UK, Magrathea originally formed in 1994 and have brought forth three self-produced albums from the prog garden thus far.  The current line-up consists of founding members Gary Gordon on bass and guitars, Glenn Alexander Barnes on keyboards and vocals, joined by Terry Bowles on bass and Stephen Lightfoot on drums.  It is worth noting that Gary and Glenn were a prog duo on the existing albums; Terry and Stephen are recent additions after Magrathea took a short hiatus.  The quartet is currently working on their fourth studio album and performing live.

Magrathea has sharp overtones of early Genesis with a side chaser of a Brian Eno in a lighter mood. I detect top notes of the Talking Heads and even a hint of Brand X.  Magrathea strikes from the dark side of the prog garden...however the facade slowly crumbles, giving way to a lighter, more melodic feel.  Imagine the Aristocrats attempting to be bullies and realizing the absurdity of it all.  Magrathea understands the need for real emotion in music--and the fact that not all emotions are dark and ominous.  There are multiple colors in the Magrathea paint box, and I sense many shades of grey splashed with boldness.  Magrathea has found that section of the prog garden where too much sun withers the fruit and total darkness stunts the growth...

Serving number three is from the lighter fare section of the buffet, a slightly whimsical piece called "Into The Drink Once More!"  I am immediately taken back to younger days and my sister's jewelry box; the sound cascading around a dancing ballerina as the lid is lifted...except I don't recall the melody echoing in my head being "What do You With a Drunken Sailor?"  Magrathea plays on a theme and whirls you away to a world of debauchery, over-the-top revelry, and just plain fun...all the while tapping the back of your skull with a ball pein hammer.

The clip I selected for your listening pleasure this week is called "It's About That Time."  The pleasant overtones are balanced by an emotional vocal performance reminiscent of  The Alan Parsons Project's Eric Woolfson.  Magrathea goes deep without drawing blood; making you think without making your head hurt.  Learn more about Magrathea at http://magrathea.bandcamp.com/.  You can also find them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @Magrathea5.

OK fellow progheads, seven more days just fell from the calendar like snowflakes from the sky, and we have yet to scratch the frozen acreage of new plantings in the prog garden!  Magrathea's beacon brought a much needed respite from the dark clouds that were hovering the past few weeks--but make no mistake; the prog garden is as rich and fertile as it is because of both.  My search for all things prog has brought me to the realization that without storms and dark clouds nothing grows...and a 24/7 forecast of sunshine and rainbows produces apathy, discontent, and ennui.  Magrathea has found the delicate balance between darkness and light; folly and solemnity.  Be prepared for an emotional see-saw ride as you dive deeper into the Magrathea end of the pool.

My search for all things prog continues to enlighten, encourage, and provoke...until next week...

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