Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Revisiting Sir Chronicles

Good evening fellow progheads and thanks for coming back to the Closet Concert Arena!  This week the unofficial "random whirlwind" search for all things prog continues its ramble through the prog garden as I journey back to Italy for a slice of deja vu.  Last summer  I discovered an
up-and-coming prog band that I believed showed signs of an ascending trajectory...turns out I was right...

I am happy to report that Sir Chronicles continues to mature and asked me to reprieve my earlier review of their music now that they have gone back to the studio and  re-worked their songs into a complete album.  More than happy to go back for a second helping when the first offering was so delectable...


Let's get the party started with "Tears of Love."  A quick stormy opening lead is the backdrop for a rather dark instrumental piece...the mood is fitting as the music rains down the inside of your skull like an all day spring shower, complete with gloomy skies and and a punishing wind.  The guitar picks up the tempo but the canvas remains dark; the penetrating drums serving mainly to exacerbate the downtrodden ambiance.  Sir Chronicles waves a dark brush across the underside of the listener's eyelids and a powerful mood is born...

Moving farther along the serving line, I am struck abruptly by "Genova City."  The opening bass line clashes with a lead guitar/drum cacophony that leads to an instrumental rumba sauntering through your mind.  Strong top notes of Seven Impale and Under the Psycamore permeate the room with perhaps a hint of Beardfish floating on top like so much foam on a mug of ale...


Liner Notes...Sir Chronicles is currently a two-man operation made up of Alessandro Bordino on guitars and bass, and Efrem Nota on drums.  This "dynamic duo" have done quite a bit since first appearing in the prog garden.  Their initial recordings earned them early praise, several awards, and the start of a loyal following; the decision to re-work and fine tune their music into an EP puts the emphasis on a commitment to their craft.  Many bands go through the growing pains of personnel changes, identity issues, and just plain attracting an audience...but talent, skill, and aptitude tend to outweigh chance...

Sir Chronicles is that lesson in determination, grit, and talent.  Today it seems almost anyone can release music to the masses and set up a YouTube or Spotify account. What separates the contenders from the pretenders is a desire to do what it takes and the refusal to give up and go home--along with the ability to back it up.  Sir Chronicles invites you the listener into their world...where they tend acreage in the dark, brooding, introspective section of the prog garden.

One more cut to review tonight; "Metronomy."  Opening with a bit of a funky bass line, this piece is much more uptempo than what I have been exposed to thus far...and it is a nice rabbit hole to wander down.  With top notes of a Jaco Pastorius/Narada Michael Walden jam session, the jazz fusion club is in full swing.  Sir Chronicles puts on a display here that peels back the curtain a bit, exposing their ability to change direction and cruise across the prog garden in funky style.

Hopefully your curiosity has been aroused...your intrigue spiked.  The urge to get the debut release from Sir Chronicles can be scratched at iTunes, Sir Chronicles iTunes and Soundcloud,
Sir Chronicles SC.  You can also follow the band on Facebook Sir Chronicles FB and Twitter
@AlessandroRiche.  Sir Chronicles even has a YouTube channel Sir Chronicles YT so you can not only catch their music, but dial into what inspires them as well.

This week I decided on the song "Sbrigidi" for your listening pleasure/temptation.  The sound is definitely crisper and cleaner this go 'round, and Alessandro's and Efrem's affinity for the jazz side of the prog garden is once again on display.  Of course on this cut the duo "takes it up a notch" as it were, bringing the ornate Italian flare so many bands from that area are known for.  Sir Chronicles hits you right from the get-go and gets your adrenaline racing...there is an Al DiMeola vibe crawling through the headphones as Sir Chronicles peels back yet another layer of the onion...

 

So fellow progheads, as we creep ever closer to the finish line of 2017 I am deeply pleased by all the new music I have heard this year and sincerely appreciative of the opportunity to bring it all to you.  Sir Chronicles has been an especially fun week in The Closet Concert Arena as I have been afforded the chance to listen to the band's refined sound.  Having heard them come full circle, I can say with absolute certainty that Sir Chronicles should be a name to remember...and a band not to forget.

And as we say every seven days in the prog garden, the search for all things prog continues on...until next week...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Naryan

Hello once again fellow progheads and welcome back to the Closet Concert Arena.  Autumn continues her trek across the calendar this week as the search for all things prog travels to Finland to see how others handle the changing seasons.  With relatively similar temperatures in both locales, now seems as good a time as any to find out what the far reaches of the prog garden are producing.


 Naryan, a band originating in Tampere, Finland, has released two albums on the Progressive Gears label.  Their eponymous first album came out in 2013, and their follow-up "Black Letters" hit the streets in January 2016.  The band describes their sound as "melancholic" and "atmospheric" which leaves a lot to the imagination.  Images of an ornate stage draped in black crepe and lace complete with glowing candelabras fills the mind...so straight to the buffet for what promises to be a sumptuous extravaganza as I get this review started...

With two albums being served up this week, I will play along logically and start with the first release;  cuing up "Ungettable."  As the song peels back the curtain you feel as though you are ocean-side watching a piano recital, the tide lapping at the pedals while the mood begins to slowly build...and then the crescendo erupts as the remaining players emerge on the surf.  Naryan comes straight at you with raw emotion dripping from every note...

Naryan emits top notes of Anathema and Porcupine Tree on this tune...a mesmerizing piece that bounces around the inner workings of your head like a frenzy of pellets in a Pachinko machine...

Next up from the same album is a more complex cut, "Never Give Up."  Naryan once again goes straight for the heart strings as passion pores out like nectar from a honeycomb, sticking to everything in its path.  Vocals start to pour forth as the tendrils of a flute flirt with gentle guitar work laying a path that gets a bit rocky while the tempo begins to pick up the pace.  Once you're inside the labyrinth the walls begin to close in; you feel pressure from all sides...and "Never Give Up" becomes a mantra that leads you through the eye of the storm.

Moving across the aisle to Naryan's second release, I immediately immerse myself in the title cut, "Black Letters."  Tommi Niemi's vocals are deep and dark as they waltz across some intricate violin work.  Once again Naryan takes you down a gentle path only to toss you into an abyss and watch you fall--but the landing is "almost-soft;" as though  you were thrust onto a pile of floor exercise mats.

Liner Notes...as I mentioned above, Naryan hails from Tempere, Finland and is  a member of the Progressive Gears family of prog artists. The band consists of the aforementioned Tommi Niemi on vocals, Lauri Kovero and Raino Ketola on guitars, Eveliina Sydanlahde on bass, flute, keyboards,and backing vocals, Nona Onnela on violin, and Tommi Tanhuanpaa on drums.



Started in 2009 by Lauri as an instrumental project, Naryan has gone through several line up changes and additions. Couple that with a maturation  in regard to arranging, writing, and performing, and the result is an amazing version of Naryan confidently leaping through my headphones today.  Working with the Progressive Gears team sets the expectations bar high as the bands builds its album library...

Staying with the "Black Letters" album, I serve up a platter of "764."  Clever guitar work introduces the cut as top notes of Anathema once again waft through the air.  Dark colors start to run down the canvas, streaking randomly while an ominous cloud settles over the mood.  Eveliina's piano saunters off toward the Radiohead section of the garden--and suddenly the bottom falls out as you tumble toward chaos a la Katatonia...only to land safely once again in the warm embrace of Eveliina and her keyboards.

You can purchase both of these albums at Naryan bandcamp and Progressive Gears.  Social media provides several options for connecting with and learning about the band; their website, Naryan,
Facebook, Naryan FB, and Twitter @Naryanband.  Naryan also has a YouTube channel
Naryan YT so you can experience the music for yourself before making that ever important purchase...

To entice you into increasing your music collection, I chose "Sad to Listen."  This is a bonus clip of sorts as it is not found on either of their albums...you're welcome...🎶  Naryan enjoys toying with the listener; the gentle opening lures you in like a siren call until the clouds roll back, dark skies open, and Naryan rains down with emotions that bleed like an open wound.  The violin tears right through you like a fine-edged scalpel, the drums hit you with a steady thump, and the bass keeps everyone's pulse on an even keel.  The aromatics you detect have a Metallica hue, with perhaps a twinge of
Porcupine Tree making the air heavier still...


Naryan hits hard, heavy, and fast.  There is a Jekyll and Hyde feel to the music as they start out of the gate with a genteel air--only to drop the facade and deliver a wallop to your emotions that pushes the envelope.  Naryan doesn't blast you like Opeth; they prefer the slow, deliberate crawl inside your mind so as to seep into your subconscious...bursting out like a great white attack...and then slinking back to reload...

Naryan straddles different sections of the prog garden; drawing from the melodic and blending it with metal that isn't too sharp or piercing and tying it together with the gentle strings of a violin.  Naryan brings you a full basket of fervor to accompany you on your journey...

And as quickly as it began, the week draws to a close.  Naryan is a dark jewel sparkling in the shadows of the prog garden. Not to worry--the Concert Closet is on a mission to search those shadows and unearth more prog that hits with absolute sincerity.  The journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday The Sky, "Drift"

Another grateful thank you to everyone returning to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Mother Nature seems to have finally gotten it right, much to my chagrin, as there is now more chill in the night air than my evening drink.  So to warm the Concert Closet up a bit I took the search for all things prog over to the InsideOut Music section of the prog garden to check out a fascinating release from a band/side project created by prog guitarist Jim Matheos; Tuesday the Sky.


For those familiar with Jim's day job--guitarist for Fates Warning--a spoiler alert of sorts...Tuesday the Sky is by no means an extension of that band.  Rather it seems an outlet for Jim's inner Brian Eno; the master of ambient music.  Tuesday the Sky is apparently the place Jim goes to allow his alter-ego an opportunity to come out and play...a section of the prog garden separated from the rigors and demands of progressive metal.  Tuesday the Sky flows through the prog garden like fudge rolling across a marble slab; just watching makes you want more...

Starting out with the first cut "Today the Sky" is akin to having an Eno/Fripp flashback; the sounds wash over you like slow motion 8mm home movies...lots of emotion mixed with a twinge of longing and inner peace.  The opening is much like an old Victrola that wasn't cranked fast enough; the sound is equal parts eerie and fascinating.  Tuesday the Sky takes you on a journey that gets more exciting note-by-note.  The dripping irony is the lack of a thunderous metal backdrop...




Following along the grooves in the vinyl I am captivated by the song "Vortex Street."  There is no missing the ambient mood...that dream-like "falling through the air" feeling as if the entire world were in slow motion...truly captivating.  I sense Abstract Aprils as much as Fripp from his Soundscape days; the atmosphere is soothing; the mood serene.  Tuesday the Sky actually takes the listener on an adventure with this piece...close your eyes and feel the tension flow from your body much the way coffee spills from a cup in zero gravity...

Liner Notes...Tuesday the Sky is of course the brain child of Jim Matheos, who plays guitars and bass on the album.  Joining Jim is Lloyd Hanney on drums; additional guests on the record are Kevin Moore playing  keyboards on "It Comes in Waves" and "Drift," and Anna Lynne Williams on vocals for "Vortex Street" and "Westerlies."  Tuesday the Sky may simply be an ethereal side venture for Jim, but don't let that cause you a moment's hesitation as to whether it is worth listening to--it is.

One needs to approach instrumental music from a different vantage point, whether you are the listener, the performer, or the writer.  Here in The Closet Concert Arena, it is more than just going "voiceless."  The mood is usually more somber or reserved...the mood elevator is often stuck between floors.  The canvas illustrations tend to be larger as the colors run from soft, obscured hues to bright patches that fade away behind darker, more ominous tones that tend to overwhelm if left to their own devices.  However; Tuesday the Sky fills the album with distinct a passion that carries you across the threshold of emotions like so much salt spray crashing over driftwood on the shore...



Learn more about Tuesday the Sky at Tuesday the Sky and InsideOut Music.  This album, along with others in the Inside Out catalog are available and well worth adding to your vast and varied prog collection.  You will also find the band on Facebook at Tuesday the Sky FB.  For those inclined to dig deeper ((the Concert Closet is cavernous) you can also find Jim Matheos at Jim Matheos and
Jim Matheos FB .

For the listen-in this week I chose the second cut, "Kite."  Opening like raindrops running across a windshield, the song captures what I consider the essence of what Tuesday the Sky attempts to convey throughout; music, especially of the prog variety, flows naturally and needs no preconceived
pattern to follow.  Ambient music--while not an entirely different animal--does offer an alternate perspective from which to view the prog garden.   



How far this project goes has yet to be determined, so enjoy the present and wrap yourself in the cocoon that is "Drift" and let your mind sail away...Tuesday the Sky is a splendid way to spend time while wandering through the prog garden...so be sure to avoid a strut that would prevent you from enjoying the music and the surrounding scenery...

And thus another week falls from the calendar. Tuesday the Sky is a rare (and hopefully not one-off) gem Jim Matheos has put together outside the Fates Warning realm.  The ambient section of the prog garden tends to be under appreciated and perhaps even a bit overlooked.  While  Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Harold Budd, Robert Fripp, Cluster, Moebius, and a select group of others walk this section of the prog garden extensively, the following and appreciation has always been underwhelming.  Ultimately this is what makes bands like Tuesday the Sky the remarkable, precious nuggets they are...the lack of concern for the mainstream and pure desire to make music that appeals to themselves as artists.

Which means of course that while this stop is complete, the journey continues...The Closet Concert Arena moves forward in the search for all things prog...until next time... 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Tangent, "The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery"

Welcome once again to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Sit down and relax; now that autumn is officially here and you feel the urge to reach for that hoodie, rest assured there is plenty of heat here in the Concert Closet.  This week the search for all things prog sets the GPS for the United Kingdom and a visit with The Tangent to review their latest release, "The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery."


Not exactly a "newbie" to the prog garden; this is The Tangent's ninth studio album for those scoring at home.  Despite having reviewed the band just once, way back in 2013, I have been a fan ever since discovering their bounty in the prog garden.  This is a band that redefines themselves with every new release and "The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery" is no exception.  Despite a political slant, band leader/founder Andy Tillison takes world issues head-on...there is so much to enjoy and admire about this album.  So let us step up to the buffet and dive right in...

First song on the carving block this week is "Dr. Livingstone (I Presume)."  As the song opens you are immediately struck by the force that The Tangent brings...perhaps it is because of rather than in spite of this being their first new music in two years, but it feels like the magic is back. Top notes of old Tangent work their way through the headphones.  While there is a distinction here from the band's previous output, there is no denying the obvious...much like the unmistakable taste of  grandma's home cooking, there is something "comfortably familiar" happening here...

Next up on the platter is a cut that takes off in an entirely different direction, "The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine."  Perhaps grandma took some cooking lessons from Anthony Bourdain; the atmosphere changed although the surroundings aren't intimidating.  The piano work that rolls across the vocals is as smooth as ganache running down the sides of a chocolate torte...The Tangent manage to slap you awake with this cut despite the velvet gloves.  Madness may be the new norm in society, but for many that change is unsettling.  Andy Tillison walks a fine line between jazzy comfort and worrisome anxiety as the mood swings dark while the background haunts.  A Marillion hue added to the paint on the canvas...


Liner Notes...The Tangent is of course led by Andy Tillison on vocals, keyboards, and drums--his sitting behind the kit a Tangent first.  Andy is joined by Luke Machin on guitars and vocals, Jonas Reingold on bass, Theo Travis on saxes and flutes, and Marie-Eve de Gaultier on keyboards and vocals.  Guest appearances by Boff Whalley on vocals and DJ/producer Matt Farrow round out the line-up.  Perhaps this time around Andy felt the time was right to sit in every stool and wear every hat...

The Tangent came to be in 2002 and enjoy a loyal following. What captured my fancy this time around is the alternate approach the band took in putting this album together.  I prefer to keep the soil in the prog garden pure and leaves politics out; however this album does a splendid job bringing the two together without pummeling you with a one-sided argument.  There can be music with a purpose; music to make one think (remember the 70's?).  But The Tangent does it without forsaking the
quality--or validity--of the music.  One of the many gifts Andy possesses is the ability to tell a
story--a real story--one that pulls at your emotions, makes you think, and gets under your skin without  causing you to bleed.  The words and music used by The Tangent paint a picture as vivid as a Salvador Dali original...


Another dark gem etched in etched in vinyl here is "Slow Rust."  There is an eerie, somewhat sense of macabre coming through the headphones as the song opens, much like Steven King reading Hallmark cards out loud; is he being nice or should I walk faster past the open door?  One thing The Tangent refuses to do is stay silent or stand on the sidelines when discussing issues that tear at the moral fabric of society.  Andy prefers to point out the hypocrisy that runs rampant today, whether it be politicians, the couple next door, or the tabloid press.  The music absolutely captures the spirit and soul; the colors running down the canvas are rife with raw emotion.

"The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery" was released on the Inside Out Music label; you can purchase this jewel and others like it at The Tangent.  Check out more fantastic prog artists under the Inside Out umbrella at Inside Out Music.  Andy Tillison and The Tangent can also be found on Facebook and Twitter; The Tangent FB and @thetangentmusic respectively.

For a taste of what The Tangent brings to the prog garden, I chose the cut "Two Rope Swings."  An elegant opening belies the depth of this piece; I pick up scents of U.K. in the air and perhaps a hint of Gentle Giant.  The flow of the music and the range of mood a la Tangerine Dream are striking...much like discovering a bottle of Armand de Brignac champagne at your local discount liquor store...once the shock wears off the savoring begins...

   

The prog garden needs artists like The Tangent...sometimes it is important to stand up and be counted.  Andy & Co. make more than just a political statement here; this is a record that demands  everyone look in the mirror and decide if they like who/what they see.  Are you content to let the world spiral on and just be a spectator--or can you get in the game and make a difference?  Is the slow rust that surrounds you the moral decay of your world, and if so, what can be done about it?  The planet has not seen such divisive times as these in a while, and the prog garden is as good a place as any to get the conversation started...just be prepared to dig deep into the garden soil and have plenty of time to indulge your listening skills...

As the The Tangent sates your appetite for relevant, meaningful, insightful prog right now, The Closet Concert Arena continues the search for all things prog so as to keep you replete with an plethora of options as we delve into the future...until next time... 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Gregorian Rock...Making "Fire" the Old-Fashion Way

Greetings once again fellow progheads!  Summer 2017 is preparing for her swan song; nights are getting a bit cooler as Mother Nature starts to hunker down in anticipation of autumn.  The leaves are starting to turn, there is a crisp bite in the evening air, and a brisk stroll through the prog garden has me looking for hearty fall bounty.  In an effort to cling to summer as long as possible, I circle back to San Antonio, Texas for a follow-up to a blog post started several months ago...


Dale Benedict, perhaps better known as the master mind behind Gregorian Rock, has been putting together album #3, "Fire" one single release at-a-time.  I wrote about this album and the concept behind it back in March; the early cuts were original, exciting, and very well put together. Gregorian Rock is truly a distinctive prog force to be reckoned with.  Recently Dale forwarded me a copy of song #11 called "Wisdom"; a piece he described as "pummeling."  The song opens hard and stays there throughout; drums crack the protective coating that is the vocals, which are but the lone word sapientia (Latin for wisdom), and guitar work spills out just enough to tangle itself around that vocal line and hang on.  I pick up a few top notes of Spock's Beard and Porcupine Tree lingering around the periphery...

Playing back some of the other tracks Dale has laid down leads to some attention-grabbing music; the cut titled "Blood & Fire" jumps right at you.  There is "jazz cafe" feel much like Steve Scales improvising with Herbie Hancock if you can paint that picture in your mind.  Once again the drum work is exceptional as it carries the rest of the music comfortably through the headphones, filtering through your cerebrum as it both soothes and ignites the senses.

Gregorian Rock is the stained glass window in that vintage village gift shop...until you cross the threshold and nothing is as it seems.  While the vocals are a chant, they are well accompanied by incredible guitar and keyboard work.  Dale does Tony Levin proud with the Chapman stick as well...


A song that changes things up a bit is this next cut, "Talon."  Gregorian Rock digs deeper into the rock section of the prog garden with this tune; I detect top notes of latter era Yes blending with aromatics of Be Bop Deluxe.  Dale has done his home work for this album; there are footprints up and down the prog garden.  "Fire" is a culmination of Gregorian Rock's first two albums stretched to a new limit...Dale didn't just push the envelope to stroke his ego, he moved the bar and raised the expectation level for what Gregorian Rock can do.

"Ashes" is up next and once again Gregorian Rock comes at you from a different angle.  The vibe is almost surreal; you feel as though you are floating downstream on a current as gentle as flowing honey, each twist of the water soothing and tender.  The pallet goes from dreary gray to color strewn as Gregorian Rock manages to awaken you without shock waves...letting the sound flow over you like a soothing balm...

Liner Notes...As should be blatantly obvious by now--and explained to the prog faithful in previous posts--Gregorian Rock is Dale Benedict and vice-versa.  However; for the making of "Fire" Dale had some help in the form of a pretty impressive line-up.  With Dale on vocals, keyboards, EWI, and Chapman stick, the line-up rounds out with Phil Keaggy, Vinnie Moreno, Pat Neil, and Jay Pilkington on guitars, John Adams on bass, Scott McCullor on vocals, and Sean McCurley and Paul Garretson on drums.  As big as Texas is, that is one crowded recording studio...

Gregorian Rock legitimizes itself as a band with this album.  Assembling that level of talent--the fact that Phil Keaggy not only played guitar but had nothing but positive things to say about the project--is a bold statement all by itself.  Gregorian Rock has grown and matured from their first release in 2013 right through the first eleven tracks of "Fire."  The sound is tighter, the mixing improved, the songs stronger, and the emotions bursting through the headphones are real.

Take the leap and learn more about Gregorian Rock at Gregorian Rock.  You can purchase any or all of the first eleven tracks of "Fire" (there will be twelve upon completion) at Amazon
GR Fire Amazon, iTunes GR Fire iTunes, and cdbaby GR Fire cdbaby.  You will also find links to purchase the first two albums while you are there.  For those looking to expand their own personal prog boundaries, this is must-have stuff.  There is also Facebook if you are interested in keeping up with the latest, including the release of song #12 (when that occurs) at Gregorian Rock FB.  Of course, Gregorian Rock can also be found on the ever popular Twitter @cantusnovus.

I debated posting a clip this week as I prefer you to listen and make a purchase...need to support the artists after all.  However I thought the clip below, "Remember the Name" would help introduce those who are still unfamiliar with Gregorian Rock to this section of the prog garden.  This song should help erase the misconception that Gregorian chant is simply dark voices echoing from a hollow void.
Although the song opens with a melancholy, perhaps stereotypical "churchy" feel, the mood quickly swings right as the tempo gains steam and even the vocals have an upbeat, toe-tapping edge.  The drums and percussion lay a foundation for the vocal work that is tight as a wrestling mat; you feel the music bounce up and come right back at you.

                   

OK fellow progheads...two weeks in Texas and two bands expanding the prog garden.  Gregorian Rock has taken a unique approach as Dale Benedict blends the ancient art of Gregorian chant with modern music to establish a different section of the prog garden.  The sounds are soothing, menacing, deep, and relaxing...all while seeping into your subconscious to alter your thoughts on the genre.  One thing is certain--prog rock has many tangent roads down which it is unafraid to roam...

So please give Gregorian Rock a listen and make a purchase.  The search for all things prog continues to find new and expanding avenues and ever changing acreage in the prog garden...which is after all the best part of the journey.  Until next time...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Aaron Clift Experiment "If All Goes Wrong" Indiegogo Campaign

Hello fellow progheads and welcome back to The Closet Concert Arena!  In case you are scratching your head with a confused look in your eye...no--today is not Tuesday and yes--this is a new post coming from the Concert Closet.

The Aaron Clift Experiment is set to go into the studio to work on their third album "If All Goes Wrong."  The album promises to be as diverse as the prog garden; tracks ranging from intricate prog epics to crushing hard rock and delicate ballads...



If I may be so bold as to offer some first-hand personal experience with The Aaron Clift Experiment, let me simply say that this is a band that walks the width and breadth of the prog garden.  Their first two albums were extremely well done and offered the listener quite a prog experience.  I first discovered The Aaron Clift Experiment back in 2014, and was fortunate to interview Aaron in 2015 following the release of the band's second album, "Outer Light Inner Darkness."  Aaron is dedicated to his craft and his band is both a credit and testament to that end.

The Aaron Clift Experiment released their debut "Lonely Hills" in 2012, and followed up in 2015 with their second album.  Both were well received in the prog world, with rave reviews here in the Closet Concert Arena as well Progression Magazine and  Progradar.  Prog Magazine nominated the band for a a prog award in the Limelight category in 2016 and  for the Indie Prog Award by Friday Night Progressive.

The Aaron Clift Experiment hails from Austin, Texas and is deeply entrenched in the local prog music scene.  They are running an Indiegogo campaign from today September 15th through October 27th, 2017.  You can contribute to the campaign at www.aaronclift.com/indiegogo.  There are some fantastic rewards being offered by the band for contributing and helping make "If All Goes Wrong" a reality.

You can also connect with the Aaron Clift Experiment on their website http://aaronclift.com/,  Facebook ACE Facebook, Twitter @AaronCliftMusic and Instagram aaroncliftmusic.  The band also has a YouTube Channel ACE Youtube.  Lots of options, lots of great prog.  I simply ask you to check the band out for yourself and if you believe great prog needs to be kept alive, and the next generation is honoring the standard bearers that forged this genre, then please make a contribution.

I post the clip below to allow Aaron Clift Experiment to explain personally about their campaign to make "If All Goes Wrong."


So fellow progheads, the gauntlet is dropped, the challenge made, the request genuine...please help keep the prog garden flourishing.  The Aaron Clift Experiment is offering great rewards for your contributions, including album download, signed CD's, a signed bass, music lessons, and more.

In keeping with tradition, the search for all things prog continues on...and The Aaron Clift Experiment Indiegogo campaign is but one example of the plethora of talent coming from the prog garden today.  I know the prog faithful will step up, and the search for all things prog will continue the journey...until next time...

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Barock Project "Detachment"

As always welcome back fellow progheads!  Mother Nature has been wreaking havoc across the US; hurricanes, wildfires, floods...seems like Armageddon at times.  So to avoid being swept up in
out-of-control weather, the search for all things prog travels beyond domestic borders this week as the journey continues to find prog music the world over.

Hopefully many of you will remember the Barock Project, a symphonic prog band from Italy I discovered two years ago.  Time to set the GPS for the Modena region and check back in with this remarkable band.  Barock Project recently released their fifth album "Detachment" and this seems the perfect time to put the headphones on and check it out...


The album opens to what sounds like a dreary day; you can almost feel the rain as the piano sets a sobering mood.  The canvas is streaked with gray to dark hues as you are swept through a barrage of emotions culminating in the second track on the album, "Promises."  This piece echoes through your head gently as the songs comes to full bloom; top notes of Spock's Beard permeate the mind. Barock Project come at you in a subtle way; tiptoeing through the prog garden as they set up a burst of sound that suddenly strikes from all sides.  Filling the headphones with an energy level that seemingly came from nowhere, Barock Project abruptly hammers the lining of your skull a la Dream Theater.

Moving through the album, I come across what starts out as a gentle albeit somber piece called "Broken."  Continuing to paint with primarily darker shades, Barock Project hits the canvas with splashes of color--just enough to pique your interest and draw you in deeper.  There is a stillness to the music that belies an ornate, calliope-like energy level sulking under the surface...just waiting to ooze through your pores.



Liner Notes...on this album Barock Project is founding member Lucca Zabbini on piano, keyboards, acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Marco Mazzuoccolo on electric guitars, Francesco Caliendo on bass, and Eric Ombelli on drums.  Guest and additional musicians include Peter Jones performing lead vocals on "Broken" and "Alone," and Alex Mari and Ludovica Zanasi adding additional vocals.

Barock Project has five albums in their repertoire including this release.  You can find out more about all of them, listen, and make a purchase at one of these sites;  BarockProjectBP BandCamp, and
BP Stars of Italy. The band also has a Facebook page where you can keep current with all things Barock Project Barock Project FB, as well as Twitter @BAROCKPROJECT

The final serving for review this week is called "Twenty Years."  A soft acoustic opening melts away the darkness for a moment; there are top notes of early Kansas and perhaps a hint of Gentle Giant flowing through the headphones.  Lucca's voice is gentle as the canvas begins to fill with Monet-like pastels...and then the tempo picks up--hard--and the hues get brighter, the images louder, and the aura starts to swing the pendulum back toward the ornate.  Barock Project stay true to their inner being as guitars tilt the mood meters hard right and drums echo across the room.



The clip below is the earlier reviewed "Broken."  I chose this cut because it gives a glimpse of all Barock Project is...opening with that trademark soft piano, it slowly raises the temperature without going ballistic. There is an atmosphere of a "Victorianesque" attitude among the commoners, much like serving white truffles with fried chicken.  However; the crashing of these two opposing classes results in a piece of music that pours out a soul that you would otherwise miss...much like a subtle taste of tupelo honey lost among the jalapenos...



And so my fellow progheads, the curtain has drawn to a close on another masterful work of art. Barock Project has traipsed through the prog garden in grand style once again, expanding the boundaries, expectations, and abilities of their symphonic capabilities.  The album blazes through  an ornate set and leaves the listener wanting more.  Listening to the Barock Project grow and mature from one album to the next gives me reason to expect even more from album #6...but let's savor "Detachment" for now...

Of course this can only mean one thing; the search for all things prog continues the journey.  More new music awaits the anxious ears of the prog faithful...until next time...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Violent Attitude If Noticed, "Ourselves and Otherwise"

Once again hello and a heartfelt thanks for returning to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads! The dog days are here and the prog garden is definitely heating up.  This week the search for all things prog takes a look at the newest release from Violent Attitude If Noticed, one of several prog projects led Will Geraldo and Progressive Gears.  You may remember our visit with Will last summer as he discussed his many ventures, bands, and music projects.

Setting the GPS for Brazil and this week's journey is underway.  Violent Attitude If Noticed, or V.A.I.N. for the acronym-friendly crowd, cuts a fairly wide swath as they roam the prog garden;
post prog/art/post punk according to Will...time to put on the headphones...



The new album, recently released on the Progressive Gears label, is called "Ourselves and Otherwise."  If the intention was to stir the proverbial pot; mission accomplished.  The first cut teed up is "Time Waster."  The opening bass line hits like a soft hammer as it walks you into a percussion outburst; top notes of Joy Division and a hint of Style Council make this an interesting spin around the turntable.  The tempo picks up as vocals move in riding on some smooth guitar work and an undercurrent of drum work that is strong enough to carry the music along. V.A.I.N. stalks the prog garden in search of ideas, thoughts, and impulses that can be taken individually and melded into a melange unique unto itself.  Will and his bandmates tap on the inside of your skull in an attempt to wake you from your doldrums, not wanting the world to pass you by.


The second song pulsing through the headphones is "The Tower."  A more acoustic feel moves in as the the song wraps itself around you...slowly getting your attention as it holds on tighter and tighter.  V.A.I.N. continue their trek through your mind, trying to hit the nerve that will jolt you upright, no longer able to remain a mere spectator.  There are hints of Camel and slight aromatics of Marillion seeping into your consciousness...

Liner Notes...Violent Attitude If Noticed is Will Geraldo, Guilherme Saba, and Alessandro Queler.
Three musicians who collectively produce some of the more extremely ornate, multi-layered, conceptually thought provoking stuff to emerge from the prog garden.  They fill the canvas with more than just blasts of color; the images that emerge sting you like a low tide jellyfish.  Looking back at my interview with Will, V.A.I.N. likes to "get their hands dirty" as they dig deep into the rich prog garden soil, unearthing--and talking about--all the things that hide in plain sight.  Violent Attitude If Noticed started on a journey in 2008 and their mission is not yet complete...of course that means great prog will continue to flow from Brazil so it ain't such a bad thing...

Get involved in the movement and unearth more V.A.I.N gems at V.A.I.N. and V.A.I.N. BandCamp.
You will find Violent Attitude If Noticed along with other prog artists under the Progressive Gears umbrella at Progressive Gears.  V.A.I.N. also has a Facebook page at V.A.I.N. Facebook.



Violent Attitude If Noticed claws into your conscious thought in an attempt to push you into
action--something the world could use more of in case you have been asleep at the switch these past several months...the planet is like a snake shedding its skin and people are either watching in awe and bewilderment or gearing up for the next phase.  Will, Guilherme, and Alessandro chose the latter and believe the best way to build a revolution is to start one...and this is their benchmark.

One more slice of the vinyl for review; "Ever-Ticking Clock."  Top notes of Dream Theater from "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" lash out immediately; tension builds from the first note.  The guitars work with the drums to create an atmosphere of pressure and anxiety...you're waiting for the unseen blow from the blind side as vocals rain down like a siren song of impending tragedy.  V.A.I.N. slices deep--not only this song, but the entire album.  It is one thing to paint with dark colors, but to use those sinister hues as a backdrop to a more elaborate story is as refreshing as it is explosive.

Take a moment to explore Violent Attitude If Noticed (if you haven't already) and I feel confident you will come away with a new appreciation for this prog trio.  You can start with the post below; "Useless."  Don't take the light drum opening lightly; it leads down a path littered with misconceptions and misplaced intentions...what is it they say about the road to perdition?  V.A.I.N. continues to poke insincerity and hollow concern in the eye...if you aren't part of the solution then you ARE the problem.

                           

Start the music machine, sit back, and feel your pulse begin to race.  Violent Attitude If Noticed is prog  making a statement; stand up and be accountable...get involved...if you ain't pissed you ain't awake...there really is a mood for everyone.  Hopefully I have not led you to feel V.A.I.N. is just a rant against humanity and all that is sensible--because they are so much more than that.  The beauty of this section of the prog garden is the emotions that bore deep and the sense of outrage in regard to everything that runs counter to decency and the good side of mankind...Violent Attitude If Noticed really does care.

And once again fellow progheads The Closet Concert Arena cues up traveling music as the search for all things prog forges ahead.  V.A.I.N. is just the top layer to some very rich, fertile soil...the prog garden is filled with bands and artists just bursting with energy and desire, I simply try to give them a soap box to preach from...until next time...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Many New Releases of Psicolorama

Hello again fellow progheads and welcome once again to the Closet Concert Arena!  The summer of 2017 has proven to be a banner season for the prog garden; so many new bands releasing great material combined with up and coming artists proving their worth with follow up albums that expand both their catalog and boundaries.  This week The Concert Closet takes the search for all things prog back to Spain and a whirlwind fortnight with Psicolorama as together we review several new releases that have recently been thrust upon the ears and minds of the masses.



Psicolorama has been filling the prog garden with new sights and sounds--almost non-stop--since the band came into existence.  My last review was almost two years ago and since that time their album catalog has grown 4-fold...apparently the studio is one comfy "home" for Manuel Casado and company...

I open the review this week with a cut from the album "Nomadas" released in May; "Some Expectations."  A soft acoustic guitar opening bleeds gently into beautiful piano accompanied by a steady bass beat that keeps you on point.  The guitar and piano continue to trade velvety smooth jabs throughout.  Although on a different plane, I am reminded of Robert Fripp and Soundscapes; perhaps even a gentler version of Brian Eno during his ambient days.  Psicolorama leads the mind and soul on a journey filled with soft colors and the occasional horn blast of primary red to hold your gaze...


Next up for review is a cut from "The White Sun" released in January called "Cerulean Skies." Another fine edged gem, this piece has an old school jazz feel as the muted horns start to penetrate your inner ear and vocals pierce the veil and enter your cerebrum; the sing/speak draws you closer to a flame that is felt but as yet unseen.  Manuel does so much with so little...the sound is as full as an ELP interlude but the ornate, over-the-top, bomblast is nowhere to be heard.  Much like Pink Floyd in their early days, Psicolorama hits the canvas with an array of images and colors outside the standard spectrum...leaving the listener awash in a calming pool of sound...


Another 2017 release, "My Name is Guggenheim vol. 2: Red Cosmic Eye Watching You" contains the terrestrial sounding song "Watching You (Parts One & Two)."  In a fashion similar to Seconds Before Landing, Psicolorama has cosmic overtones on this cut as the listener is led down a winding corridor, through an exit door, across a field, and out into the great wide open.  This is music that expands the soul.  I pick up top notes of The Strawbs in the air and perhaps a touch of Flim & The BB's.  Psicolorama uses the minimum to produce the maximum once again.  Horns shoot across the top like ocean spray hitting the rocks at high tide.  The feeling of being watched is real and almost unnerving; the tension brought on by the vocals as they pierce the veil of drums and keyboards would be frightening if it weren't so fascinating...think back to a horror movie that scared you as a kid; a woman's frightened voice echoing away as the peril moved closer...



Moving to Psicolorama's latest release "No Words," I dig into a serving called "Globetrotter."  A retro jazz cafe feel oozes through my headphones--in a Doc Severinsen/Herbie Hancock sort of way.  The piano strikes first and you feel an almost instant nostalgia for the carousel at a summer carnival. Psicolorama bounces all over the prog garden with this cut, making the title very apropos.  The music seems to strut across your cranium as it enters your auditory canals, leaving an image like an homage to autumn.  The album title gives it away--this one is sans vocals--but they really aren't necessary. Manuel & Company fill the canvas with bright colors without using all the sticky gooeyness...just a cacophony of sound.  Psicolorama continues to defy the senses as so much clamor and imagery seem to emit from so little a starting point.


Check out the entire Psicolorama catalog at Psicolorama BandCamp and Psicolorama Blogspot. The music is also available at iTunes and Amazon, and of course you can follow on Facebook at
Psicolorama FB  and Twitter @psicolorama. There are other new releases listed on these websites as well; do yourself the favor of checking them out and making a purchase or two...or four...or more...

I have been a fan of Psicolorama since first hearing "Psico-ReImpression" back in 2014.  Psicolorama is prog from yet another viewpoint...I hear the grumblings among some that the prog umbrella is getting too wide but I must respectfully disagree; the prog umbrella needs to continue expanding if prog is to survive, thrive, and grow.

To me the beauty of prog is the wide range of artists and the varied sections of the prog garden that produce such a vast musical landscape.  Growth and change are the foundation on which the prog garden flourishes, and Psicolorama is but a microcosm of what that means.  New releases that run the gambit of (almost) the entire garden, a different approach on each album release, and with the possible exception of metal, the band has walked almost the entire breadth and width of the genre.

The clip I chose to post this week is from another new Psicolorama release, "My Name is Guggenheim."  The song is called "The Naked Room" and as you first enter the orbit this piece resides in, you become instantly transported to a different dimension.  The music seems to echo through your mind, bouncing off the sides of your inner skull as a picture of tranquility and unknowing is painted around the perimeter...a mysterious juxtaposition that is calming and unsettling all at once.  Psicolorama prefers life beyond the borders of normal and humdrum, straying constantly into the gravitational pull of a galaxy deep in another stratosphere.  Stay awhile and enjoy the music--and the view....

 
                    

Well fellow progheads, we have reached the end of another review. Hard to believe the summer portion of the sand in the 2017 hourglass is flowing so quickly--yet here we are entering August. As I wind up my time in Spain, I am reminded that the search for all things prog has brought me to many remarkable and out-of-the-ordinary destinations; I trust next week will be no exception as the Closet Concert Arena continues on its never ending, always amazing journey...until next time...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Seconds Before Landing, "Now That I Have Your Attention"

Welcome to the dog days of summer fellow progheads!  The mercury has been climbing high in the thermometer and the sounds wafting from the prog garden have been just as hot...this week we venture back to America and visit with a band that has been steadily growing their prog music catalog.

Seconds Before Landing just released their latest album "Now That I Have Your Attention;" album number three for those keeping score at home.  John Crispino is the creative mastermind hard at work behind (and in front of) the curtain and I have enjoyed the sounds emanating from Pittsburgh PA ever since I discovered this band in the prog garden a few years back.  Now time to dig in and find out if the music is as striking as the album art...



The album opens in usual SBL fashion; that is to say you feel as though you are being escorted through a a crack in the time/space continuum...nothing seems to make sense and there is an apprehensive, almost nonsensical unease in the air.  The voice over and audio clips are tied together perfectly with a eerie "Twilight Zone-ish" musical interlude that sucks you in like a riptide.

It may take three or four play-throughs before you realize the intro has bled into the first cut;
"4 A.M." The tension continues as though a serial killer is toying with your emotions...playing with you like a cat swatting a cornered mouse for what seems like an eternity (to the mouse) before finally dining on his prey.  Seconds Before Landing is to the concept album what Penn & Teller are to magic; an alternate view through a different colored lens.

As I travel along the buffet line, the mood swings to and fro yet tends to stay on the darker side of the garden; nothing evil or portentous--but the sun never seems to burn through the haze.  However; "Come Back to Me" is a cut that brings a jazz cafe feel to the music with top notes of Steely Dan wrapping themselves around a smooth scotch, going down nice and easy.  A sax solo that conjures up David Sanborn images on the underside of my eyelids takes this piece home, melding beautifully with keyboards and bass.

Liner Notes...Seconds Before Landing is the creation of the aforementioned John Crispino out of Pittsburgh.  Seconds Before Landing began in 2010 and "Now That I Have Your Attention" is the band's third album.  Joining John in SBL is Eric Maldonado and Steve Schuffert on lead guitars, J.D. Garrison on bass, Rick Witkowski on rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar and mandolin, Jamie Peck on sax, flute, and piano, and Vanessa Campagna and Carrie Jackson performing the female vocals.  Mr. Crispino is known for having an A-List of guest musicians on his albums and this one is no exception...John Palumbo plays ebow guitar on the cut "Moment In Time."

Seconds Before Landing is that band everyone talks about yet no one seems to know the players by name...much like Pink Floyd or Steely Dan  in their heyday.  Because SBL tends to paint with dark colors and bore deep into the crevices of your cranium, it is easy to think of the band as a living entity rather than being comprised of talented humans.  The album is deceivingly smooth; you almost feel as though you are part of the story being told...the imagery is as vivid and striking as a Salvador Dahli painting...



To purchase "Now That I Have Your Attention" as well as the other albums in the Seconds Before Landing catalog, go to their website Seconds Before Landing , the band's Facebook page
Seconds Before Landing FB  and their Bandcamp site  Seconds Before Landing BC.  You will also find Seconds Before Landing music on Amazon and cdbaby and you can follow the band on Twitter @SBLOfficial 

For a new twist and something I find quite intriguing, Seconds Before Landing has started a podcast called  Fly On The Wall Radio, a weekly (or so) production that will showcase all the music from Seconds Before Landing along with other bands and listener requested stuff...don't just sit there, join the party!



One more slice from the album that wanders a meandering path is called "In The Name Of."  Here John chose to open with an (almost) upbeat intro...the sea lapping at the shore as birds sing to the beauty that is a new day.  Of course in true SBL fashion the song wastes no time pulling the proverbial bootlegger's turn and heading into the thick undergrowth that borders the darker section of the prog garden.  Seconds Before Landing uses a lot of colors to cover the canvas, but there is a drop of black added to each pastel first.  A cloud of "silent" tension runs the length of this piece; you feel it in the spoken word vocals that leap towards you as well as the guitar that just hangs like the Sword of Damocles over the entire album.  Top notes of early Pink Floyd and Genesis mingle with latter day Marillion and Scarlet INside to create a mood that, while hard to define, is most assuredly deep and brooding.

The clip below, "You're Giving Me A Headache," should give you a better dose of what to expect from SBL.  An homage of sorts to the nonsensical, cynical, over-the-top vitriol and head-pounding insanity that has wrapped itself around the planet like a baked on truck bed liner...no one seems to know where it came from or why it's here, yet there seems to be no cure.  The guitar punches you right behind the eye as the drums come up from below, carrying the piano across the top like a warning flare.  Seconds Before Landing took all the craziness that is the new normal, stuffed it into a musical molotov cocktail, and hurled into the middle of the street.  The ensuing chaos makes you step back and realize we are the cause of our own demise...very insightful.  Listen a few times; dissect the entire piece...



Well fellow progheads, that brings another fortnight to a close.  Seconds Before Landing found a section of the prog garden that needs little light or water and was able to bring forth a bountiful--albeit dark and foreboding--harvest.  This is a band that, like a good single malt, is an acquired taste...and once acquired you are loathe to relinquish it.

John Crispino has created a band that takes prog to a different level. By incorporating the state of the world around him into his music he has made himself--and his band--an eyewitness to the carnage. Refreshing for me is the objective viewpoint he seems to take...the "I didn't light this dumpster fire but since you asked" approach is difficult to pull off.  People tend to want a narrative and to be told how to think; Seconds Before Landing puts the onus on you the listener...

So the Closet Concert Arena leaves you in deep thought as the search for all things prog continues...until next week...

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Machines Dream "Black Science"

As always thanks for coming back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  So much music to review and seemingly so little time...Bent Knee was quite the prog experience, and as the search for all things prog continues to prove, the prog garden is comprised of extremely vast and varied talent and this week is no different...

Traveling north to Canada, I am checking in with a band that is a member of the Progressive Gears family of prog artists; Machines Dream.  Having been previously been reviewed here in the Concert Closet, Machines Dream has recently released a new album entitled "Black Science." Exciting and a bit rewarding to see them continuing their journey through the prog garden.


The album is a concept of sorts, dealing with war through history and the mark it left on those who served their countries and railed against the death and destruction...and of course the sad truth that man seems unwilling and/or unable to learn from his past mistakes.  Strong statements and powerful imagery are sure to abound, so let the review begin...

The album opens with a Big Brother-esque intro called "Armistice Day."  The voice-over in conjunction with the control room sounds in the background lead one to believe the forthcoming experience will be a foreboding journey down into the darker regions of man's soul.  As this song bleeds into the next cut, "Weimar," I pick up a tension that is both musically fascinating and emotionally draining...Machines Dream is cutting deep through many levels with this album.  This song has top notes of Pink Floyd wafting like plumes of smoke with perhaps a hint of Genesis caught up in the aromatics.  Machines Dream changes tempo and mood several times throughout, much like Dream Theater freewheelin' the mood elevator on "Scenes From A Memory."

Moving a bit farther down the buffet line, I discover the title cut.  I always enjoy playing title cuts over and over as they tend to give more insight into what the artist/band is trying to convey with the entire album...or perhaps I just overthink things.  Either way, this particular one digs its talons in deep and forces you to focus and listen.  Opening with gentle keyboards, the song quickly bores through to the marrow and enters your bloodstream, moving through your entire being like blood pumping through stretched arteries.  There is a tension riding across the top of the entire piece like a razor held close to the jugular by a desperate kidnapper...just stay calm...

Machines Dream seem to prefer surveying the thicker, denser section of the prog garden and this next serving is another example; "Heavy Water."  There is a narrative running through this album which taps you on the prefontal cortex...almost subconsciously getting you to pay closer attention to what is being said/sung as much as the music it is wrapped in.  The piano here isn't portentous or menacing, but rather a warning sign of the serious subject matter you are being immersed in.  The drums hold everything together as the mood continues down a dark tunnel...

Liner Notes...Machines Dream is Craig West on lead vocals and bass, Rob Coleman on lead guitar, Brian Holmes on keyboards, Jake Rendell on all things acoustic and backing vocals, and Ken Coulter on drums.   Hailing originally from Ontario Canada, the band is on Progressive Gears Records, which has quite a stable of young progressive talent.  Machines Dream refer to themselves as atmospheric, cinematic prog, and while this album continues that theme--they are more than that.  "Black Science" delivers on the prog front with an ornate sound you would expect from a band that moves through the artistic section of the prog garden. But they also deliver meaningful, hard-hitting lyrics that make you stop for a second.

Check out Machines Dream on their Facebook page Machines Dream FB and Twitter @MachinesDream.  You can purchase this album and the rest of th Machines Dream catalog at their Bandcamp site Machines Dream BC as well as the Progressive Gears website Machines Dream PGR.  By now you know my feelings in regard to buying the music and supporting the bands and artists here in the prog garden, so I will refrain from my usual rant...just please buy this music...




To that end I am not posting a video clip this week, but suffice to say "Black Science"--and all Machines Dream has pressed into vinyl and disc--is a sound you need to hear top appreciate.  One last song for review...to get your prog appetite whet as it were..."Noise to Signal."  Once again the opening draws from history to give you a glimpse of the future as drums and guitar suddenly wash over your ears like lava erupting from what was thought to be an idle volcano...no reason to panic, just pay close attention...

And with that we are ever closer to the pulse of prog.  Machines Dream mixes a classic sound; parts Pink Floyd, Genesis, Marillion, and a touch of Gentle Giant carrying the portent of the world around us today.  The beauty of the prog garden is the relevance of the music to its surroundings...Machines Dream captures that essence and drives the point home like an archer's arrow through the bulls-eye. Grab it and take all it has to offer...

Now, as the sand drops from the hourglass for the week, the Concert Closet continues the search for all things prog as the garden continues to offer a rich summer harvest...until next time...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bent Knee "Land Animal"

Welcome back once again fellow progheads!  And for those of you entering the Closet Concert Arena for the first time, thanks for stopping in!  The "2017 Album Review Tour" continues on as the search for all things prog checks in with a band  occupying acreage in the prog garden few artists have entered.  Bent Knee has recently released their new album "Land Animal" and I have had the pleasure of listening to it these past 168 hours.
Bent Knee has graced the Closet Concert Arena more than once; since unearthing this band I have been listening intently and falling deeper into their sound.  Much the way King Crimson blazed a trail with their debut release--and remain peerless to this day--so too Bent Knee has been forging their own way.  Moving in and out of sub-genres of the prog garden, this is a band you really need to digest fully...each song is an adult dose.  Open that inner door and let a new experience burst through like waves crashing over a catamaran on the open sea...

The albums begins "innocently" enough with a tune called "Terror Bird."  Opening with an almost tribal-like drum beat, Courtney Swain's delicate yet intense vocals float over the top, creating a mood that feels much like Shakespeare's Tempest...and when it hits you--squarely in the forehead--you saw it coming and gladly took the blows.  Bent Knee picked up where they left off; already I feel as though this may be the freshest new sound of 2017.



Next serving from this exotic feast has a jazzy, almost retro feel to it, "Belly Side Up."  This is the type of song that sounds like an oldie the first time you hear it; you get a sense of nostalgia but at the same time you feel as though you have passed through a time warp into some kind of futuristic sound enclave...nothing is recognizable yet everything is familiar.  Bent Knee took a page from Warren Zevon; the music is rampant with dazzling colors and fills the canvas with broad strokes of brightness, while the lyrics, a la "Excitable Boy," are ominous and run skew to the tempo and mood.

Bent Knee wanders the prog garden like Kaa roamed Kipling's jungle...with stealth-like agility always ready to pounce on the unsuspecting.  This album comes at you from so many different angles offering so many different views of the prog garden...and every time you come back for a fresh listen something marvelous and energetic graces your auditory canals.

Liner Notes...Bent Knee is Courtney Swain, Ben Levin, Chris Baum, Jessica Kion, Gavin
Wallace-Ailsworth, and Vince Welch.  The hats they wear are listed in my previous reviews of the band; tonight the focus is simply the music.  Bent Knee originated in Boston, MA when Ben and Vince met in 2005 before attending Berklee.  The rest, as the saying goes, is prog magic.

The band has been busy of late; touring in support of and and celebrating the release of "Land Animal" while keeping everyone updated via Instagram and Twitter.  Bent Knee is rising in the prog world, yet remain well-grounded in the prog garden.  Staying connected with their fans and playing venues that allow them to be as immersed in the crowd as the crowd is in their performance.  Bent Knee isn't a throwback--but they do recall for me a time when prog music was raw, energetic, tangible, and thought-provoking.  This is the music you always knew was buried among the racks in your favorite music store.

One more song to cue up for review; "Insides In."  The cut opens like a dark fairy tale...you sense something hidden from view and are determined to find it.  The subtle drumming and delicate guitar work belie deep lyrics that slice through your thought process like a scythe clearing a wheat field.  Did I mention the storm clouds?  Leading the listener on a dark cavernous journey you never saw coming, intense piano accompanies ominous violin and a resounding drum echoing like painted memories that fade but never fall away...



Purchase "Land Animal" and the rest of the Bent Knee catalog at Bent Knee Music; tour dates and other information can be found there as well.  You will even find their music and merchandise at
Bent Knee BandcampBent Knee iTunes and Bent Knee Googleplay.  You can follow the band on Facebook at Bent Knee FB, Instagram Bent Knee Instagram, and Twitter @bentkneemusic.  Build your collection and make that purchase!  This is music to be savored and appreciated...

This week I go against my own preaching and offer a clip from the new album below.  This piece is called "Holy Ghost" and gives a bit of a glimpse behind the veil that envelopes a band dripping with creativity, vision, and daring...step through and hold on...



That was a bold adventure and I hope you enjoyed it fellow progheads.  Bent Knee is steadily gaining attention and notoriety in the prog garden and everywhere they perform.  Finally a band that accepts the challenge and walks the walk; making every album a new adventure and every song etched into the vinyl an entity unto itself.  Bent Knee is prog music listened to and viewed through an entirely different prism...you need to catch a glimpse for yourself and relish the moment...

...and once again the search for all things prog moves forward.  Meandering through the garden has led to some amazing discoveries, and Bent Knee has been a favorite since I first discovered them last spring.  Allow yourself to be swallowed up by the music, swept away by the sound, and engulfed in endless possibilities...until next time...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"Hard Chargin'" with Dreadnaught

Enjoying the heat fellow progheads?  It only gets hotter this week as the search for all things prog takes a bootlegger's turn and makes a fast and furious run through the raucous, disheveled, loud thumpin' section of the prog garden!  Seeing as how summer makes her official entry into 2017 less than 24 hours from now, I thought it only fitting to cruise back to Portsmouth, NH and spend some time proggin' with Dreadnaught...who coincidentally just released their latest album, "Hard Chargin'" last week.



Dreadnaught is the type of prog band that forces you to think long and hard about why you like prog in the first place; they refuse to follow any rules--written or unwritten--that attempt to define the genre.  This is a band that has a simple mission statement: "Listen and Enjoy."  Being self described as "Zappa meets Yes at Willie Nelson's BBQ" should give you a general idea of where the stress level is within the band.  Time to plunge headlong into the music and marinate  a bit...

The first cut on the album is aptly titled "Have A Drink With Dreadnaught" and it leaps through the headphones like a corvette maneuvering a double "S" curve on Mount Everest.  The mood is fast and loose as the band primes your ears and mind for a wild romp through many sections of the prog garden.  Dreadnaught are masters of their craft without all the stuffy hobnobbery...you remember the kid in physics class with the faded Yes T-shirt that always aced the exam?  Well, he started a prog band...

Moving the stylus deeper across the vinyl, I find another interesting nugget; "Gets The Grease."  I am immediately taken to a smoke filled jazz lounge as a piano/sax duet open the piece.  I search the room for the Wurlitzer from which the music is emitting...but alas all I see is the old Victrola...Dreadnaught has an uncanny ability to leap across the prog garden with giant steps yet they are as fleet afoot as a butterfly in a meadow, flitting from song to song as they lead you on a prog journey exploding with sounds, emotions, and exhilaration.

Liner Notes...Dreadnaught is Bob Lord on bass, Justin Walton on guitar,  and Rick Habib sitting behind the drum kit.  A musical trio as diverse and unafraid as a Vietnamese restaurant in Macon GA, Dreadnaught changes tempo, mood, and time signatures much the way Imelda Marcos used to change shoes.  Hailing originally from Portsmouth NH, they have traveled the planet for over twenty years, putting on exhibitions as opposed to mere concerts or shows.  Nothing is simplistic yet everything is fun. Additional musicians on this album include Chris Dow on flute, Andy Happel on violin, and Jonathan Wyman ripping a solo on "That's The Way That You Do It (Your Way)."

Don't be fooled or lulled into a false sense of incoherence; Dreadnaught is comprised of serious musicians who are merely unable and unwilling to take themselves too seriously.  You may not catch yourself singing along, but you will notice an inability to avoid tapping on the dashboard, playing air guitar, or just moving with the beat.  If only Dreadnaught would tour with Adrian Belew; now that would light up the prog garden...



You can purchase "Hard Chargin'" at the band's website Dreadnaught, their record label Red Fez Records' website Red Fez Records, and Dreadnaught's Bandcamp website Dreadnaught BC.  Most of the Dreadnaught library is available on all sites and I implore you to check it out.  You will also find Dreadnaught on iTunes and Amazon. Find out more about Dreadnaught on Facebook at Dreadnaught FB  and try keeping up with them on Twitter @dnaughtmusic .  This is the music your parents warned you about, only to discover that they themselves enjoy the stripped down straightforwardness Dreadnaught invokes with every tune.

One last song for review and it is another dandy; "Express Delight."  This piece sets up camp in the metal section of the prog garden and refuses to play nice.  I pick up strong aromatics of The Sex Pistols and The Clash having a reverb contest as the song opens...and then top notes of Traffic begin to float across the top as mayhem takes a backseat to fine tuning.  Dreadnaught seems to enjoy playing with your senses; all that is missing is the carnival ride through a haunted house with strobe lights wailing to bring this to a rolling boil, and that is the point.  Dreadnaught doesn't want to explode all over the room--the full simmer that keeps your attention is the real fun.



Another review for the prog faithful reaches the end of the disc.  As has become my custom with album reviews, no clip to seduce your listening sensors; 'tis better to purchase the entire album and enjoy within the confines of your home, office, car, boat, backyard, or anywhere you feel the urge to let loose the prog garden magic.

And once again we reach the end of the post...for now.  Dreadnaught was the frozen margarita required to kick the summer prog season into overdrive.  There is so much more new music, great bands, and as yet undiscovered artists lurking throughout the prog garden just waiting for discovery.  Of course I am only too happy to oblige and keep the search for all things prog going full throttle.  In the meantime please enjoy Dreadnaught and all the artists you have discovered here in The Closet Concert Arena.  Until next time...