Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Burntfield "Hereafter"

Warm (and wet) weather greetings fellow progheads!  I appreciate you taking the time to come back to The Closet Concert Arena and I hope this week's journey made it worthwhile.  Since frequent flyer miles are not an issue, the search for all things prog traveled all the way to Amsterdam to find out  about Burntfield,  a relative new-comer to the prog garden.  With two EP's and a pair of singles already on their resume,  the May 7th release of "Hereafter" is the band's first full length album, released on the Progressive Gears label.


Excitement level is high in the Concert Closet as discovering new bands is one of the main reasons I volunteered for this gig.  Calling themselves "progressive alternative rock...music is discreetly spiced with AOR and hard rock elements..." Burntfield uses soundscapes, a brooding darkness, and haunting vocals to create some ornate imagery across the prog garden...so let's get started, shall we?

As is my wont, I begin at the beginning with the delicate instrumental "Now" allowing it to wash over me and roll into the next cut, "Sub-zero."  There is a gentle rain tapping at the window as the sky begins to bruise; sunset has arrived...the soft piano and violins simply record the occasion.  While you melt into the emotion of the moment, the clouds peel back on a sky now illuminated with an amazing moonlight.  The jazz fusion top notes are mesmerizing as Burntfield flows through the headphones as effortless as honey melting into hot tea.  Tight drum work sits just below vocals as smooth as suede and you are once again washed out to sea...

Next up for this mind massage is a beautiful yet solemn tune called "In The Air." As the curtain draws back darkness fills the mind--except for that lone sliver of light glinting off the piano and striking your eye.  The solitude of the song coats your mind like molasses rolling slowly off grandma's measuring spoon...the richness outdone only by the song's elegance.  There is a Wishbone Ash vibe here; Burntfield manages to penetrate deep and flow through you.  The canvas streaked with pastel hues running through soft grays as the boat rocks gently against its mooring...

Liner Notes...Recording on the Progressive Gears label, Burntfield resides in Amsterdam.  Band members are Juho Myllyla and Valtteri Seppanen on guitars and vocals, Maarten Vos on bass, and Steven Favier on drums.  The band started in 2012 in Helsinki and went through the obligatory 
line-up changes and  growing pains, releasing an EP in 2013.   Recording and touring filled Burntfield's agenda for much of the next three years as they put out two singles on either side of a second EP.  


Making Amsterdam their new home,    Burntfield spent 2017 in the studio.  Their efforts came to fruition earlier this month with the release of "Hereafter," the band's first full-length album. If my auditory canals are correct, it was time well spent.  Burntfield navigates the gentler side of the prog garden with relative ease.  There is a slight tinge of It's A Beautiful Day wafting through the music much the way lavender is folded into pastry; you aren't looking for it per se--but its presence is undeniable.  

Finally, I allow "Q&A" to spin in the carousel and stream through my headphones...another slow melt into bliss.  The acoustic guitar flows like spun sugar as it accompanies a vocal with just a touch of gruff; the tempo picks up a bit but the pallet remains splattered with softer hues as sunlight dances around the perimeter.  Burntfield gently ties a velvet bow around lines of poetry, offering you the opportunity to unwrap another prog garden gem.


Learn more about Burntfield at Burntfield and Progressive Gears/Burntfield.  Of course you will have the opportunity to purchase "Hereafter" and I would ask that you indulge that urge--we all need to support the artists.  You can also follow the band on Facebook Facebook/Burntfield and check them out on Twitter @BurntfieldBand.

The bait I chose to lure you in this week is "The Failure."  This cut opens a bit faster and uptempo; the acoustic guitar dances across your inner ear effortlessly.  You sense the headphones just waiting to burst and rain fireworks all over your mind.  Strong drums begin to work their way in as the explosion hits while managing to not destroy the beauty this album created.  Burntfield prefers the lighter side of the prog garden...enjoy the sights, sounds, and artistry...


                  

And thus my fellow progheads, another seven days winds down.  While this may be the first  Burntfield entry to The Closet Concert Arena, for sure it won't be the last.  Despite only having one full-length album in their catalog, the earlier EP's and singles allowed Burntfield to hone their craft and smooth out the rough edges "on the job" if you will.  So while the search for all things prog continues, I expect to find myself in Amsterdam again...until next time...

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Plini "Handmade Cities"

Greetings from The Concert Closet fellow progheads!  Now that warmth has moved from memory to  reality, I thought it a perfect opportunity to see how the other hemisphere lives.  So taking the search for all things prog to Australia, let's immerse ourselves in the guitar sounds of Plini, a 25
year-old who likes to play prog guitar, travel, and eat...what else is there, right?

Plini plays guitar the way I play the stereo; very well.  His style has been referred to as new prog, modern prog, even classic-retro prog; whatever the hell that is...Plini himself describes his sound thusly;  "music for world peace."  Perhaps on a subconscious level I have always thought of progressive music that way--for the most part at least.  Regardless; let us venture into the prog garden and get comfortable with Plini's latest release and first full length LP, "Handmade Cities..."

Moving to the head of the line, I start with "Electric Sunrise."  The acoustic opening is a pleasant, albeit short-lived entrance into an atmosphere that is explosive and chaotic.  There is a Flim & The BB's vibe as the song begins to unfold and Plini starts to hurl his all at your auditory sensors with a deliberateness reminiscent of Jaco Pastorius.  As the drums pick up the pace, Plini's guitar continues morphing...setting a frenetic pace.  Solitude encased in a camouflage of mayhem...I can see Steve Vai in a back corner of the studio, torch in hand...

Second serving from this carb heavy buffet is the title cut, "Handmade Cities."  Plini wastes no time peeling back the top layer of your skull as he swings that guitar like Paul Bunyan wielded his axe...time and tempo changes are dizzying, much like a dessert buffet where you can't decide between Baked Alaska and Flaming Cherries Jubilee--so you just mash 'em both together.  Plini manages to channel Joe Bonamassa and Al DiMeola one minute, only to hurl a John Petrucci grenade the next.  His ability to flow from one mood to the next so fluidly is marvelous; that he does it so often is mind-numbing...and he's only 25!  Ahhh, the young...

Liner Notes...Plini hails from Sydney, Australia and is basically a one-man guitar show, although on the album he is accompanied by Simon Grove on bass and Troy Wright on drums.  His touring entourage is larger still, and he has played with Marco Minnemann, Jakub Zytecki, Stephen Taranto, and Chris Letchford among others...impressive resume for an up-and-comer...

Final selection to wrap my ears around this week is "Pastures." Once again Plini chooses to crawl inside your skull and hammer the lining around your cranium.  He wastes no time clearing any cobwebs that may have survived to this point; now Troy joins the fracas with crazy good drumming skills.  Working together they simply lift you up and carry you across the prog garden.

Learn more about Plini and make a purchase at Plini.  Check for tour dates and other information at Plini/Facebook.  Of course there is always Twitter @plinirh for all things Plini too.

Your ear candy for the week is a heavy dose of "Cascade."  Fall into chaotic serenity as Plini squeezes every luscious drop from his guitar; Simon and Troy complete the ensemble and beauty flows from the headphones.  The aromatics I pick up have a Transatlantic scent and perhaps a hint of Joe Satriani moving over the top.  Plini hits the canvas with bright hues and does so at a record pace, the colors raining down in a vivid expression of absolute bliss.

                      

And another week falls off the calendar fellow progheads.  Despite the crazy weather--or perhaps because of it--the search for all things prog has served up a crop that is crazy in its own right.  A vast and varied collection from all corners of the garden fills out the 2018 playlist thus far.  And the journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Glaston "Inhale/Exhale"

Hello fellow progheads and welcome once again to The Closet Concert Arena!  Spring has apparently fallen off the calendar--giving way to instant summer.  No worries here; the search for all things prog has a road trip planned anyway!  This week the Concert Closet set the GPS for Switzerland so as to check in with Glaston and their latest release, "Inhale/Exhale."

Calling themselves "...experimental/post rock..." starts to paint a picture, but I need deeper colors, more expression, and some emotion to fill the pallet and the headphones so let's get right to it.  The buffet opens with "Game of Tones" and the piano is absolutely splendid here as the music creates an image that burns brightly on the underside of my eyelids.  The guitars bleed into a somber expression of sadness as they work with the drums to fill the canvas with ominous dark clouds attempting--albeit unsuccessfully--to blot out the light the piano shines on the entire piece.  So much emotion, yet not a word was spoken.

I pick up top notes of Far Behind The Sun and perhaps a touch of Byrne and Eno  from their "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" days.  Glaston made it rain on this first cut; you can smell it in the air...

Moving on to another slice of the album; "Mariana Trench Skyscrapers."  Reminiscent once again of of Eno--but this time from his Moebius days with the mind massage you get from A Perfect Circle and Bent Knee.  This is the type of music you want to wrap yourself in like a favorite blanket and let the world cruise on through.  Once again the piano takes the lead while drums keep you focused on the subject matter.  As the sky takes on the burnt orange of sunset the mood starts to intensify; just a friendly reminder the guitars are present and accounted for...

Liner Notes...Glaston is a four piece ensemble from Zurich, Switzerland.  Formed in 2014 the band consists of Selina Maisch on piano, Jake Gutzwiller on guitar, Timo Beeler on bass, and David Preissel on drums.  The band uses no vocals which in and of itself is no big deal; many an experimental rock band lets the music paint the picture.  But Glaston takes the challenge of defying your senses a step further; Selina makes that piano sing, and every instrument joining in forms a beautiful choir.

"Inhale/Exhale is Glaston's first full length album, released October 2017.  The band had released a few singles prior, two of which are on the album.  You can purchase "Inhale/Exhale" and learn more about Glaston and all their music at
Glaston Bandcamp.  Check out their website Glaston and their Facebook page Glaston Facebook to go even deeper; discovering everything Glaston.

The final cut for review this week is "Ritou."  I am immediately taken to a smoke filled lounge on a rainy night in Chicago, the only light a blue spot on Selina's piano.  The guitar and drums fold in gently at first as the band explores the inner workings of the mind, body, and soul.  There are top notes of Jordan Rudess in a classical/jazz mood wafting through the headphones; I'm simply striving to not miss a note...

Have a listen to "Noir," the cut posted below.  Once again Selina and her piano lead the rest of the band on a soothing stroll across the prog garden.  The dark clouds hovering overhead start to rain down ever so gently as the canvas is filled with grey to black hues...then the drums add a bit of zeal to the journey.  Glaston toys with you like the cute girl in math class who knows you like her...so go ahead and carry her books already...
   
                     

And once again we are one week deeper into 2018 fellow progheads!  Glaston was quite a heartfelt journey across the section of the prog garden where ambient meets jazz meets experimental; so much to decipher while relaxing and letting it wash over us.  The sheer expanse of the prog garden is part of the lure and this section has its own siren song.  Lyrics are not always necessary when expressing thought and emotion; bands like Glaston explain why in musical detail sans words...

Now of course the search for all things prog continues as the Concert Closet maps out the next leg of the journey...until next time...

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bomber Goggles "Gyreland"

I know you know, but I always appreciate you coming back fellow progheads!  This has been a marvelous journey and 2018 is proving to be the most amazing leg thus far.  So many new bands, new artists, familiar artists starting more new bands, familiar bands releasing more new albums...phew!  The search for all things prog has kept The Closet Concert Arena logging many a frequent flyer mile and there seems to be no rest for the weary...

This week was particularly special for me as I had the pleasure of listening to one of those new bands I just mentioned started by a musician I have become familiar with here in the prog garden.  Peter Matuchniak had his hands in several projects prior to forming Bomber Goggles with some friends (more about them later).  He was kind enough to send me a copy of "Gyreland," the band's debut concept album.  I've had it on repeat for a while now so I feel it is only fitting to share my experience with you my loyal followers...


Sticking with my OCD ways, I start the buffet at the beginning of the table and a serving of "Land of Plastic."  The immediate face slap is a bit tempered; not meant to hurt, just jolt you from your slumbers.  The guitars dart around inside your head like Alfred Hitchcock  leading you through a county fair funhouse only to settle down for a gentler ride back to reality.  The top notes are reminiscent of  Spirit with slight aromatics of Crack the Sky.  I like an album that gets your feet tapping and your mind pondering...gonna be an intriguing 168 hours...

The next sound pumping through the headphones, "Oh Gyreland," is as much a mantra as a title cut.  The piano that draws the curtain back reveals a band that takes the music as serious as the lyrics.  With aromatics of 10cc wafting in the air, Bomber Goggles cuts to the heart of the concept behind the album; a new continent constructed of plastic debris floating in the ocean...unfortunately a concept not quite as bizarre or born of fantasy as it may seem at first.  However; the pallet is splashed with hues that reflect just a glint of light; rays of sunlight perhaps?  This song is understated just enough to draw you in, the proverbial flame that lures the moth...but hope burns brightly in the center of that torch.  Bomber Goggles preaches without coming off as hokey or pretentious...a blazing beacon in a sea of plastic sludge...

Liner Notes...forming in early 2017, Bomber Goggles features the aforementioned  Peter Matuchniak on guitars and vocals.  Remember the friends I mentioned earlier?  Just a duo of Steve Bonino on bass and vocals and Vance Gloster on keyboards and vocals.  Jimmy Keegan makes an appearance as a guest musician sitting behind the drum kit.  In other words, a collection of veteran, time-tested, multi-talented, and professional prog musicians collectively involved in at least a half dozen other bands, several solo projects, a few tribute bands, and probably a cure for aging...and to think I felt accomplished learning to play the stereo...

"Gyreland" the concept was born in the mind of Vance Gloster; "Gyreland" the concept album was brought to life by everyone involved with Bomber Goggles.  Working together the band wrote and arranged thirteen songs, recorded, mixed and mastered the album with Barry Wood, asked Martin Kornick to design the sleeve art, and released the entire project in a year.  Quick work for such a hard driving, thought provoking, "deep end of the pool" album.  The journey from inception to reality makes "Gyreland" all the more remarkable as it washes over you like fresh clean ocean spray...pun intended...

Last serving on the review platter is "Invasion."  Jimmy's drumming is escorted by Vance's great keyboard work and the entire piece is shrouded in vocals that hearken back to the energy level on the "title cut" from Jesus Christ Superstar.  The story as presented could have easily been drawn from the darker, ominous side of the mind--but that isn't the neighborhood these guys live in.  Instead Bomber Goggles took what is at first glance a story of dread and tragedy, injected it with hope enveloped in an uplifting spirit, then presented you the listener with an album as poignant as it is telling.

Learn more about Bomber Goggles at Bomber Goggles Facebook.  You can purchase the album at MRR Music .  I would encourage you to dig deeper into each musician individually and their other works and projects to get a more in-depth feel for the soul of Bomber Goggles.  You can also follow the band on Twitter @bombergoggles.

The clip posted below, "Triangle of Power," reflects a turning point of sorts as the album moves toward its climax.  A mild frenzy erupts in the spirit of Camel with perhaps a whiff of Steely Dan permeating the room.  Bomber Goggles made the conscious decision to create an album that is as much fun as it is foreboding, with optimism and promise the subliminal message echoing through the headphones.  Go ahead; pour two fingers and relax...

                      

Tradition here in the Concert Closet means that seven more days have drifted through the hourglass, increasing the sand hill growing in the bottom globe.  It was a fun week on this side of the keyboard and I hope you enjoyed your time as well.  Bomber Goggles tills acreage in the brighter section of the prog garden as they deal with serious subject matter.  Once again the labyrinth that is prog rock leads the listener through a maze of equal parts introspection, thought provoking, fantasy, joy, dread, fun, and inspiration.  A band that gets you thinking without hurting your head...I can dig that...

Tradition 2.0 means of course that the search for all things prog continues on...until next time...

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Mile Marker Zero "The Fifth Row"

 As always, a pleasure to welcome you back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Thus far 2018 has been a banner year and the calendar has just recently moved into season two.  Recently I had the good fortune of connecting with a musician on Facebook who is a member of a band I was
up-to-that-moment unfamiliar with.   By now you (hopefully) know me enough to understand I am  incapable of walking past without checking out...so the Concert Closet took the search for all things prog to the Nutmeg State--that's Connecticut for you spice-deprived--and a check-in with Mile Marker Zero to unwrap their latest release, "The Fifth Row."

 Self described as an "Audio explosion...driving, powerfully progressive modern rock..."  How did I miss this gem walking through the prog garden as often as I do?  Not sure, but this is as good a time as any to broaden my listening skills, so to the prog buffet we go...leading off with "Source Code" and allowing it to bleed into "2001."

This is eerily magnificent; the album opens with a Big Brother-like overview of society flashing across your auditory sensors...from an age of innocence to a time of regret...or perhaps simple remorse.  As "2001" begins to erupt through the headphones you start to make the connection; we humans are beginning to outsmart ourselves.  With top notes of Muse wafting throughout, the adrenaline pumping through this song has the guitars pinging off the lining of my skull using the drum kit for bumpers...this is an adult dose...

Moving along, I find "Building a Machine" forcing its way through my headphones.  Mile Marker Zero is nothing if not intense; yet another sound explosion racing through your blood stream with enough force to burst through your chest, but with a calculated rhythm to the mayhem.  The vocals build a ferocity that showers down all around like a July hail storm...complete with accompanying calm. The song moves through a season of emotions as it unfolds; aromatics of Transatlantic and perhaps a scent of Rush stir my senses.

 Liner Notes...coming together in 2005, Mile Marker Zero originated in New Haven, CT and is comprised of Dave Alley on vocals, John Tuohy on guitars, Jaco Lindito on bass, Mark Focarile on keyboards, and Doug Alley on drums.  After meeting at college, the band spent much time honing their craft the old fashion way; practice and performance.  Mile Marker Zero has been on stage with  Porcupine Tree, Underoath, and
Spock's Beard among others.

"The Fifth Row" is MMZ's third full-length LP, released in March (their 2006 debut was an EP) and is a concept album dealing with Artificial Intelligence and its affect on society.  Not the first band to dabble in this subject matter, but quite an alternative view through an entirely different lens. Mile Marker Zero lets you catch your breath just long enough to suck the air out of your lungs...audio explosion indeed.

You can purchase "The Fifth Element" and other entries in the Mile Marker Zero catalog at
MMZ Bandcamp as well as the band's website Mile Marker Zero.  Music can also be found on iTunes.  Fans can follow them and learn about new releases, tour info, and all things MMZ on Facebook at MMZ Facebook and Twitter @mmzofficial.

Another bit of intrigue etched into plastic is this next cut, "Propaganda." Once again Mile Marker Zero crashes through the starting gate leaving a scorched earth and lavender aroma...Johnny and Doug paved a section of the prog garden to ensure no weeds got through; they gave this song a very solid foundation.  Dave's vocals come riding across the top like flames on a grease fire; all you need do is sit back and admire the explosive canvas on display.

The clip below is called "The Architect."  I chose it to for a peek behind the curtain that allows  you to discover for yourself what it's like to have sound travel that fast through a set of headphones.  The needle is pushing toward the red yet all the while the music is tight; this isn't loud for the sake of being loud.  Mile Marker Zero is enlightening (or warning?) us about the dangers of AI taking control of all we think, say, and do...and everything is self-inflicted.  You may sleep with the lights on after this...

                      

Just like that seven days finished a lap around the sun.  Another week gone by and another bumper crop from the prog garden.  Mile Marker Zero is a breath of fresh air--which is apropos considering the time of year.  There has been much debate about what is and isn't prog; many people seem to believe that the entire genre is stuck in a bubble that started somewhere around 1968 and sealed itself off in 1980 or so...and I could not disagree more.

Lest we forget, prog is short for progressive, and bands like Mile Marker Zero help progress the genre along, keeping it fresh and evolving for the next generation.  That can only be a good thing, because stagnation is a painful death.  The search for all things prog has opened my eyes and ears to some incredible music and some fantastic artists, and I hope my sharing with you has broadened your horizons as well.  Now as always, time to pack up the Concert Closet and continue the journey...until next time...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Karmamoi

Sprinter greetings fellow progheads!  Now that winter and spring have "officially merged" to wreak havoc across the globe, I thought it the perfect time to take The Closet Concert Arena on a trip to one of my favorite prog places; Italy.  Home to many an ornate and elaborate prog rock band, Italy has produced some of the finest innovators, albeit underrated, in the genre.

This week the Concert Closet stops in Rome to check in with Karmamoi, who refer to themselves simply as a progressive rock band.  Not like the Italians to be humble, introverted, or understated, so already my attention has been grabbed...


Karmamoi has three full length albums and an EP in their current catalog and their latest release "The Day Is Done" is due in May.  Like many bands in the "modern era," Karmamoi is taking a less traditional approach to making this album a reality; reaching out directly to you the fans/listeners.  More about that later, time to start in on the prog feast...

Looking over all the offerings Karmamoi has out there now, I start with a slice of "Nashira."  In typical Italian prog style the music saunters across most of the prog garden with a focus on the brighter, more ornate sections.  Mood and tempo changes are as common here as mosquitoes at a summer picnic; so many and from all directions.  A strong foundation built on splendid piano and solid drum work allows for vocals smooth as softened butter to coat your inner ear...the week is shaping up quite nicely...

Moving around the catalog randomly I discover a cut called "Labyrinth."  Once again those siren vocals ooze through the headphones, sticking to the auditory canals as they echo through your head.  There are top notes of Porcupine Tree and a gentler side of Opeth ringing out from the disc.  Karmamoi likes to keep you focused as they come right at you, and like the proverbial train wreck, it is impossible to look away.

Liner Notes...Coming to be in 2008, Karmamoi is officially a two-man operation with Alex Massari on guitar and Daniele Giovannoni sitting behind the drum kit and playing keyboards; the founding duo splits time between London and Rome.   Karmamoi has several alumni that have left for various reasons and they list several guest musicians on their album credits; the woman with the killer pipes on "Nashira" is Sara Rinaldi for the curious among you...

About that reaching out to the fans thing; you can pre-order the new release "The Day Is Done" at
www.pledgemusic.com/projects/karmamoinewalbum. There are different packages you can
pre-order with some cool options.  Or you can simply go to Karmamoi to learn about the band.  You can purchase albums currently in their catalog at Karmamoi bandcamp.  Check out all their music and all things Karmamoi at Karmamoi Soundcloud  and Karmamoi FB.  If that doesn't slate your thirst there is also Twitter @karmamoirock .


 One more serving from the Karmamoi buffet; "If I Think Of The Sea."   The song is very ethereal as it opens with another incredible vocal performance...this time Serena Ciacci is the captivating siren.  Aromatics of Bent Knee waft through the room--which is crazy since Karmamoi recorded this gem first.  The song soothes your nerves as it arouses your senses...even the drums crash around you gently...
                             
This week a bit of a twist; yes I have a clip to whet your appetite...but...it's just a teaser from the new album.  Get an idea of what Daniele and Alex are up to as you listen to a waltz across the prog garden on electrified feet...walk tall, hold on, and wait for the drums to release the pressure...

                   

One more week comes to a crashing halt fellow progheads.  Karmamoi is that sparkling gem laid bare as the sun shines brightly on the prog garden, glinting off the soft stones in the soil.  Bask in the glow that burns through the dark clouds raining down a color storm on a streaked prog canvas.

  Progressive music casts a wider net these days it seems; some say too wide.  I, on the other hand, say that perhaps it isn't wide enough--there is always someone out there looking to push the envelope, skirt the edge, and look through a different lens.  It is for them the search for all things prog continues...until next time...

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Autumn Moonlight "Passengers"

Good evening and thanks for the return visit fellow progheads!  My calendar broke this week; never a pleasant thing...so time for a road trip!  Spring travel is always fun so I decided to take the Concert Closet to a place I have not been in  awhile...Buenos Ares, Argentina.  Autumn Moonlight, two talented musicians who have been putting out some incredible prog, recently released their latest album, "Passengers."

Calling themselves a progressive post rock band, Autumn Moonlight challenges boundaries as they blend a post-modern jazz feel with progressive overtones.  You may remember Autumn Moonlight being in the spotlight of  The Closet Concert Arena just about two years ago; they return now for us to witness first-hand how the band has grown and flourished while cultivating their unique sound in the prog garden...

Image result for autumn moonlight  band

 For no particular reason, we'll start the prog buffet with some lighter fare; "Transcend."  The song peels the curtain back gently with an acoustic opening that builds momentum on drums that explode in your head like roman candles...semi-bright colors everywhere against the backdrop of a dark, moonlit sky...and the festivities have begun...

Moving along the buffet line I find a cut that strikes a bit harder right up front; "Last Stand."  The drums and guitars try to one up each other as the tension begins to build.  The crescendo of sorts strikes as guitars "win" the battle and the dust settles a new calm over everything.  There is a jazz fusion meets prog metal thing going on; think Jaco Pastorius and George Benson meet Dream Theater.  Autumn Moonlight throw mostly dark colors at the canvas--but they do include a few bright hues to expound on the imagery.  This piece winds down delicately yet there is a tension in the air...not quite the Robert Fripp guitar solo in "Red" but enough to keep you looking over your shoulder...

Liner Notes..."Passengers" is the third album in the quiver of Autumn Moonlight, released November 2017.  Founding members of the band Tomas Barrionuevo and Mario Spadafora have developed a sound that cascades over you with an unsuspecting force; you don't feel overwhelmed or shocked, although you never did see it coming.  Listening to their earlier music I have an appreciation for how they have developed.  Not that the early works were less deserving, but like a great single malt, one of the key ingredients is time.

Learn more about Autumn Moonlight at their website Autumn Moonlight.  You will find "Passengers" as well as the rest of their catalog available for purchase at Autumn Moonlight bandcamp and Autumn Moonlight iTunes.  You can follow the band on Twitter
@AuMoonlight  and Facebook Autumn Moonlight FB.

My final selection to savor from this album is "Breathe."  The opening throws you at first; is this a dark mellow cut or a storm about to wreak havoc?  Perhaps a bit of both so you may be better off doing as suggested and inhale...then release.  The guitar works beautifully with the drums as they both alternate between a gentle touch and penetrating blows.  The canvas is flush with dark hues trimmed with striking primary colors, a contrast that belies an inner turmoil...and all this in sixty seconds.  Autumn Moonlight waltzes down the center aisle of the prog garden dabbling in the control section of all your senses.

Your aperitif this week is the title cut, "Passengers."  Once again Autumn Moonlight opens the door with trepidation only to leap out and hit you straight on.  Top notes of God Is An Astronaut are filling the room, interwoven with a touch of the introspective/instrumental side of The Alan Parsons Project.  Ironically,  there is a sense of motion as you close your eyes and just melt into the music...perhaps we are all passengers riding through the prog garden, searching for inner peace...

                       

All of a sudden the week is in the rear view mirror and while we are seven days closer to the end, we are also seven days richer thanks to another splendid find on the search for all things prog.  Autumn Moonlight plays with a passion that seeps through the headphones and massages your temples while  working its way down your spine; the jolts are there to keep you focused.

Now it's time to prepare for the next leg of the journey as the search for all things prog seeks out more music worthy of your listening and attention...until next time...

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Bob Katsionis "Prognosis and Synopsis"

As always, a pleasure to welcome you back to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  The search for all things prog pulls a bootlegger's turn of sorts this week, traveling a trajectory I have not been on for a while.  Now that winter seems to finally be in the rear-view mirror, the time seems right to open the windows and crank the volume, allowing the wind to blow all that pent up dust out of the Concert Closet.

Stepping into some acreage in the prog garden with a bit more adrenaline running through the soil, this week the search for all things prog heads to Greece and a visit with Bob Katsionis to check out his latest release, "Prognosis & Synopsis."  Bob resides in acreage rich with new age sounds; Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, Jordan Rudess,  and Keith Emerson have roots in this section as do many others.  A different travel log for the Concert Closet so hold tight and get ready for an
ear-opening week...


Starting with Prognosis, I am immediately struck by lightning as the needle shoots dead right toward the red; not so much as to break glass, but you won't be nodding off anytime soon either.  As the curtain is drawn back you can almost feel yourself needing to grab hold of terra firma; the headphones are filling your auditory canals with a cacophony of sound your mind needs a minute to digest.  There is so much here; top notes of Liquid Tension Experiment and Yngwie Malmsteen are whizzing past my olfactory sensors at a record pace. Bob Katsionis  certainly knows how to make a grand entrance...

Next up is Asymmetric Parallels.  If, for some unexplained reason, you need a shot of Red Bull after that first cut--here you go.  I sense a Trans Siberian Orchestra vibe wafting through this cut.  The guitar work would make John Petrucci drop a gauntlet, and the drum work sets a healthy foundation on which the entire production sits.  Bob Katsionis seems like an adrenaline junkie and the prog garden is where he finds his fix--nothing wrong with that.  Let this one crash over you like a Rocky Mountain avalanche...

Liner Notes...hailing from Neo Irakleio, Athens, Greece, Bob Katsionis keeps a busy schedule.  He plays guitar and keyboards for the bands Firewind, Serious Black, and Outloud.  Did I mention Bob also played all the instruments except the drums on his new album?  The sticks were handled deftly by one Vangelis Moraitis...many hats indeed.

Bob has had a full ledger since 1993 when he began playing at this frenetic pace.  He also runs a video making company and tutors the next generation of guitarists and keyboard players.  Somehow (between students I assume),  he also found time to put together some pretty impressive solo work.  Five albums by my count...oh yeah; that's why we're in the prog garden this week in the first place...

Bob started with keyboards at the age of ten and then dabbled with the guitar as a teenager.  In addition to being a member of the bands listed previously, Bob Katsionis was involved with no less than sixteen previous bands and/or projects...prodigy comes to mind...maybe over achiever...

The final serving this week is the last cut on the album, Synopsis.  Here Mr. Katsionis pulls out all the stops, exploring the prog garden from an entirely different vantage point.  If this piece truly is a synopsis of Bob's career thus far, he has had one helluva joyride across the prog garden.  Close your eyes and you can feel the wind on your face as the dry ice clouds waft in the air, the intensity level hitting its stride and cruising along that delicate edge where tranquility meets insanity.  Top notes are reflective of a Jordan Rudess/John Petrucci duel, with Keith Emerson throwing lighter fluid on the entire thing; the flame is controlled and burning ever so brightly...

You can find out more about Bob Katsionis and purchase the CD at Bob Katsionis bandcamp.  I would encourage you to purchase this disc and everything else in Bob's catalog.  Just a heads-up; the disc/download will not be available at iTunes, Spotify, or other streaming services.  I respect an artist who protects his work...

The clip posted below is only here to educate you to the uncanny ability and serious talent Bob Katsionis delivers.  The keyboards are almost hypnotic as they float through the background of the entire cut.  There is a haunting voice that starts to follow you down the path, like an extra terrestrial that isn't there when you turn your head suddenly...the fervor picks up once again and then the song fades to black...and you're out of breath...

                     

Thus concludes another week in the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads.  It has been a while since the heat reached these levels; Bob Katsionis can definitely work up a lather.  This is a section of the prog garden I have always enjoyed but never seem to write enough about...perhaps it is time to broaden the scope and vision.  This section of the prog garden is always in full bloom and filled with vibrant color, the canvas exploding with vivid emotions that rain down like a summer hail storm.  So while I fumble through the prog garden exploring the next destination in the search for all things prog, you can just sit here and melt into the cacophony...until next time...

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Straight Light "Love Over Power"

Thanks for making the return trip to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Sometimes the search for all things prog turns up a band that has been in the prog garden quite a while yet for me is a new discovery; this week finds us at that juncture.  Staying close to home this week as we venture to Michigan and spend several days (and nights) learning about and catching up with Straight Light.

With just a bit of swagger, Straight Light considers themselves "prog rock for all." They advertise "Crafty songwriting. Excellent playing.  Deep, yet accessible."  I like confidence--especially when it is backed up with talent.  So the only option at this point is to step into a pair of headphones and see if Straight Light is LED or incandescent...

Straight Light
Applying laser to disc, I start the musical foray with the album's title cut, "Love Over Power."  There are top notes of Big Big Train coming through the headphones, blurring with a 10cc meets Todd Rundgren vibe.  Straight Light hits the canvas with colors that light up the room without emitting a day-glow brightness...more of a thinking proghead's color spectrum...

The vocals ride the edge of a strong guitar/drum foundation as the calliope picks up a bit of momentum, cruising along the perimeter of your cranium. A song that makes you think about what powers your moral compass...what's in your character wallet?

Moving a bit farther toward the center of the disc, I discovered this gem, "Bread And Circus."  This song comes at you a bit more direct both musically and lyrically. Straight Light swims in the deep end of the pool as they blend cutting lyrics with a prog style akin to Kansas and The Alan Parsons Project; more to the mainstream side of the spectrum but with added soul and passion.

Liner Notes...hailing from Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Straight Light is Bart Garratt on vocals, keyboards, and recorder, Brent McDonald on guitars, vocals, bass, and additional keyboards, Gil Bristol on bass, and Bill Roelofs on drums and percussion.  The band's FB page also lists Tere Bertke as a second bass player; however the album shows no such credit.

Originally formed in 1973, Straight Light performed in varying line-ups until 1980 when it became hiatus time...a symptom of many bands in the making.  Fast forward to 2007; Bart and Brent decide to get the band back together and bring it full circle...do now what they tried previously...write and play their music their way without the corporate hand cutting off the blood flow from heart to head.  Bump the needle ahead just a bit more to December 2016 and the result of their efforts is Love Over Power.


When a band has a mission of sorts; unfinished business, a change of season, a life experience...something driving them to create, you can usually expect some emotion to find its way onto the vinyl.  Straight Light absolutely fills the album with an understated intensity; you feel their passion without having to be knocked over with a sledgehammer.  Remember how your dad could get a rise out of you with just a stare and a whisper?

Learn more about Straight Light at their website StraightLight.net.  There you will find links to purchase the CD and downloads.  You can also visit their Facebook page Straight Light FB and the Straight Light Twitter (of course) @Straight_Light.

My final song for review this week is called " A Better Place." The opening rings with an almost contemporary jazz vibe if that makes sense; imagine Pat Metheny jamming with Kansas and you start to get a feel for the mood here.  Once again Straight Light comes right at you with lyrics that tug on your thinking nerves.  The mood is upbeat with a core of restraint running through the center, much like finding out your favorite ice cream is really frozen yogurt--good, and good for you...

For your listening pleasure and my way of luring you to the website to purchase the album, I chose "Cell Phone."  On this tune Straight Light seems a bit sobering, like the winning runner who just set a world record comforting his fellow nemesis who fell three feet from breaking the ribbon first...you appreciate what you have and revel in the world that surrounds you.  The acoustic guitar work flows seamlessly through the headphones as it transforms into a more elaborate canvas, bursting with vibrant hues that don't blind but instead clear your vision.  Play. Listen. Repeat...


Thanks for stopping in and staying for the encore fellow progheads.  Once again a week has fallen through the narrow neck of the hourglass much too quickly.  The journey with Straight Light was as much mind candy as it was auditory pleasure.  It has been said that listening to a song for the lyrics takes away from the music; I don't always agree.  There are times when lyrics are but window dressing--and there are times when lyrics bring the point of the music home.  With "Love Over Power" Straight Light brings out the beauty in using one to lift up the other.

The search for all things prog, as always, continues on...until next time...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Pinn Dropp

Good evening once again fellow progheads!  The search for all things prog is ready for spring and anxiously awaiting what the "season of new beginnings" will bestow on the prog faithful.  This week The Closet Concert Arena takes the red-eye for a long journey to Eastern Europe to check out another first-timer here in the prog garden.  Pinn Dropp refers to themselves in the simplest of terms; a "progressive rock band from Warsaw, Poland."  OK, the bio isn't exactly earth shattering, but I learned long ago to never judge an album by its jacket cover...


The buffet opens with a serving of Kingdom of Silence. A beautiful piano opening slides fluently through the headphones, almost concealing the depths Pinn Dropp takes you to with this piece.  Vocals smooth like Montrachet chardonnay seep into your frontal lobe as the tempo begins to rise; an energy starts to burst forth that emits top notes of Marillion.  Excitement wrapped in an understated glow...Pinn Dropp is like that carnival ride that speeds up so it can slow down--designed to keep you guessing as to what is up around the bend...

Next up is a song that cuts right through you without leaving a mark, Unresolved.  Opening as if it were a throwback, the song quickly bleeds into today and picks up a little steam.  Pinn Dropp reflects The Tangent somewhat on this cut, and perhaps a touch of the Alan Parsons Project oozes through as well.  This is a band capable of wearing many hats as they stroll across the prog garden, taking from each section just enough to create a sound they can call their own.  Riding this song to its fade-out as the sea rolls across your ears acoustically and your feet figuratively, you see the canvas filled with a brightness that more naturally accompanies the outdoors.  The hues are brighter, the contrasts more subtle, and everything flows smoothly like ganache rolling down the sides a chocolate torte...decadent and rich, yet you don't feel stuffed.

Liner Notes...Pinn Dropp hails from Warsaw, Poland and is a concept originally brought to life by one Piotr Sym, the band's composer and electric/acoustic guitarist.  In 2015 Piotr was joined by Mateusz Jagiello on vocals, bass guitar, and keyboards, and Dariusz Piwowarczyk on drums, samples, and programming.  The trio put together their self-titled debut which was released in December.  Last month bassist Pawel Wolinski joined the band making them a quartet.  The band is currently working on their next project which will hopefully be a full length LP.

To learn more about Pinn Dropp and purchase the eponymous DP/EP, check out the website
Pinn Dropp bandcamp and of course the band's Facebook page Pinn Dropp FB.  You will also find Pinn Dropp on Twitter @PinnDropp.  These guys are new to the prog garden and with just one DP/EP on ol' the resume, could certainly use all the support you can muster...



Rounding out the review this week is the third cut cut from the EP called Cyclothymia.  Once again the music opens in grand style...Pinn Dropp is very good at getting you to notice as they enter the room.  On this cut the vocals have a more prominent role--as do the keyboards.  Although they stay pretty much within the brighter colors of the spectrum, the background has a bit of a sullen gray to contrast the glare.  Piotr cuts through the fog and clouds that blur our vision with his opulent compositions.  This piece rides the mood elevator like a storm chaser on the outskirts of that elusive tornado...

The ability to paint from both sides of the prog artist's brush--elegant visuals paired with brilliant music--is something I don't find in the prog garden every week.  While it isn't a prerequisite, it is a treat I savor once stumbled across.

No automatic alt text available.Pinn Dropp is a band whose next album is something to look forward to, not only because the first is just three songs, but also because they splayed out across the prog garden in such a way as to pique my curiosity...so much for being just a "progressive rock band from Warsaw, Poland."  The prog garden once again proves its robust ability to support many tangents of the genre and continues to encourage new growth.  While some genres of music under the wide umbrella that is rock 'n' roll flounder, sit stagnant, and have even shown signs of withdrawal, prog marches forward like a brave chameleon strutting right past its predator to reproduce another day.


And that, as they say, fellow progheads, is a wrap.  The search for all things prog continues to enlighten and educate (at least me) and uncover some great music in the process.  The adrenaline rush is in the search; the satisfaction is in the quality of the discovery.  This never gets old, so the journey continues...until next time..

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Zombie Picnic "Rise of a New Ideology"

As I love to say upon noticing your return, welcome back fellow progheads!  Always a pleasure to have standing room only in The Closet Concert Arena, and lately it has been shoulder-to-shoulder madness as we continue the search for all things prog.  2018 may be the Year of the Dog in China, but it is the Year of the Prog here in the garden!  Lots of new bands breaking ground, and many more bands and artists coming back to the garden to plant new crops...and The Concert Closet has the best seat in the house to check 'em all out!

This week I honor me Ma (she's a "Sheehan--with two e's" is how she says it), as the search for all things prog heads back to the Emerald Isle to check in with a prog band that just released their second album upon the masses, Rise of a New Ideology.  Let us walk through the garden together expounding on the sounds of Zombie Picnic.  My first thought was death metal when I heard the name, and therein lies the mystery--and the fun--because this band is closer to Picket Fences than Walking Dead...and off to the garden we go...

Zombie Picnic is self described as "...post-rock instrumental..."  So with a focus on their latest release, I plan to indulge on as much of the Picnic as I can.  Two albums laid out in the garden for our listening pleasure means lots of mind exercise just in time for spring.  First up is Democracy Cannot Survive.  The song opens with a short-wave radio like warning complete with static, and bleeds right into a musical overview of a barren landscape still smoldering as the sun rises slowly.  Top notes of Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" days waft through the mist, giving rise to aromatics of Phil Manzanera's guitar mastery...an ideology I can relate to...


Next serving placed on the platter is Life-Support Systems, which in an ironic way is much more upbeat.  The guitar has a swagger that grabs the drums and struts like the queen of the ball, demanding everyone's attention.  There is a Dreadnaught vibe to this tune, something about the way everything just works together while fun wends its way through the headphones.  Zombie Picnic cleared a wide swath on their journey through the prog garden.  The instrumental approach is stretched just a bit as Zombie Picnic mixes "message clips" and other spoken background pieces into their sound like parmigiana cheese added to piping hot popcorn; they are intertwined and now the magic is complete.

Liner Notes...Originally formed in 2012, Zombie Picnic hails from Limerick, Ireland and is comprised of Jim Griffin and Dave Tobin on guitars, Brian Fitzgerald on bass, and Brendan Miller on drums.  Yes there is no credited vocalist...just four musicians laying deep instrumental roots in the prog garden.  This makes the "vocal snippets" on the new release more beguiling; the hall monitors of the rabbit hole if you will.

Zombie Picnic released their debut Suburb of Earth in 2016.  It too, is an extremely busy canvas, splattered with bright primary colors that are connected with off beat hues.  This is a quartet that seems to enjoy gathering in the studio and just leaving the world behind.  These are two albums you want in your arsenal when breaking in new headphones...

The final selection for review this week is from said debut, "The Rama Committee."  A mellow opening belies the intent as this song delves deep into your subconscious.  There is a calmness along the lines of a Jaco Pastorius/Pat Metheny impromtu jam session throughout the entire piece...smooth as melted chocolate cascading down the sides of a layer cake...

Zombie Picnic staked their claim in a semi-dark corner of the prog garden; no direct light needed but nothing ominous brewing either.  They are more of a lunar band, emitting a silver moonlight glow.  Learn more about Zombie Picnic and purchase either or both of their albums at Zombie Picnic bandcamp.  You will also find them on Facebook at
Zombie Picnic FB and on Twitter @zombiepicnicire.

I was fortunate enough to locate a video clip from the new album to whet your appetite, "Anger in Storage (Denial Will Follow)."  This cut opens like a Liquid Tension Experiment outtake, only to melt right into a slick, stainless steel smooth, Talking Heads-like walk across a marsh...and oh that voice-over!  She leads you right down the garden trail to the briar patch.  My favorite thing about this song is not knowing where it's coming from or where it's going; you just gotta have faith the guys have the journey mapped out.

Zombie Picnic steps out here to paint with primary colors while explaining the whole "new ideology" thing.  This is an album that doesn't ride the mood elevator for kicks; they swing the pendulum across an emotional and psychological landscape.  The canvas is splattered with hues that bleed real passion.  It is rare that an album with little to no vocals says so much about a society and its foibles.  A prog documentary if you will...peel back the curtain and look deeper...listen to what the metal says...


                   

OK progheads, savor this one as it blows the cobwebs and dust bunnies from your mind.  Zombie Picnic walks that fine line between mind-blowing and thought-provoking with the grace of a dancer in the Bolshoi Ballet.  Prog metal is an offshoot of the genre that in my humble opinion is often abused; some bands are loud for the sake of making noise and hide under the prog metal umbrella.  But Zombie Picnic chose a different route much like Will Geraldo when he feels he has something important to say.

Rise of a New Ideology conjures up many things; images of  George Orwell's Big Brother from 1984, the Kent State Protest of 1970, The Chicago Seven in 1968, Martin Luther King's March on Washington 1963...the list goes on.  The mortar between these bricks is ferocity.  Prog music has the ability to be intense even when it whispers through the headphones...all you have to do is listen.  Zombie Picnic harnessed that energy and is able to whisper and scream without scaring you off or losing your interest.

Now of course the search all things prog must continue onward...and with a renewed sense of spirit I take the Closet Concert Arena on another leg of an incredible journey...until next time...

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Evership

It's that time again fellow progheads; pay no attention to the calendar or the weather outside--the prog garden is flourishing right now--The Closet Concert Arena is simply trying to keep up.  The search for all things prog has uncovered another relative new comer to the prog garden as the journey brings us back stateside.

This week the Concert Closet travels to Tennessee and a check-in with Evership, a prog band of "...Sky and spirit, space and time..."  They claim to have entered transcendence; hmmm...that is a calling I simply cannot ignore, so Nashville here we come!

Evership took up residence in the prog garden in 2016 with the release of their self titled debut.  Blending a reserved splendor with a touch of the grandiose, Evership pumps through the headphones like maple syrup pouring down a stack o' flapjacks on a frosty morning, only to coat your listeners with a low simmering burst of ornateness that sticks...like maple syrup...

Moving straightaway to the music laid out on the buffet table, I begin at the beginning; "Silver Light."  This song cascades across the inner lining of your skull as it weaves through a myriad of moods.  There are top notes of Kansas free flowing through the music, emitting aromatics of an Al DiMeola/Chick Corea impromptu jam session.  Should be a stimulating week...

Next up on the turntable is "Flying Machine (I: Dream Carriers/II: Dream Sequence/III: Lift)."  A deceivingly lavish piece with an understated elegance.  The beauty here is Evership's ability to fill a canvas with lavish color without ever seeming to lift the brush.  The song carries you across a shifting threshold as you enter Part II; tension builds as you approach terra firma.  


Like tuning the old RCA, Evership fades in and out while building a musical Jacob's Ladder to carry the listener to Part III.  Gently and without fuss you feel your heart rate slow; an acoustic interlude injected with quick shots of just enough energy to keep the ears open and the mind expanding.  The color burst on the underside of your eyelids strikes as the calliope picks up speed...an exquisite almost fourteen minute experience.  Now as the ride slows you best prepare for another round...
                                           
                                                                                Liner Notes...Evership calls Nashville, Tennessee home and is ultimately the creation of Shane Atkinson--but the dream became reality once he connected with Beau West.  The duo is joined by James Atkinson on lead guitar, Jaymi Millard on bass, Jesse Hardin on rhythm guitar, and Joel Grumblatt on drums.  Evership is one of those bands that, like a true romance, needed nurturing, patience, and time to reach its full potential.

The debut album was over a decade in the making, and much like a fine wine, well worth the wait.  They say dreams are things you never let go of while making plans, and that has held true in this case.  When Shane connected with Beau things started to connect.  Sorting through years of songwriting, music, and pieces of their collective souls, Shane and Beau put together and released their eponymous debut in 2016.


Learn more about the origins of Evership and purchase their music at Evership.  Of course you can always connect with the band on Facebook
Evership FB and Twitter @evershipband.  Take a stroll around the prog garden with the headphones on and you will find yourself walking back in time...

Final selection for review this week is called "Ultima Thule."  The opening is hopefully dark; much like a beautiful sunrise after a miserable stormy night.  An acoustic guitar introduces soft vocals that permeate the room entwined with a soft piano that leaves you pleasantly adrift...a soothing mind cleanse.

My chosen appetizer for the senses is "Evermore (A: Eros/B: Agape)." Evership not only channels Yes when naming songs, they fill the room with aromatics of their ornate extravagance; top notes of a classical nature bubble to the top as well.  Vocals as smooth as a velvet painting of Elvis once again pour down your auditory canals and penetrate through to your bloodstream, and you feel every note pulsing through you.

Evership uses a candelabra to light the rooms inside your mind...reflecting so much controlled chaos.  The journey begins and ends on a gentle carpet ride, the prog garden just below bathed in ambient light.  Enjoy the view... 

   
Thus another week rolls rolls through the prog garden.  Evership aptly refers to their music as transcendent.  The music carries the listener forward through the genre with a nod to those bands and artists who came before.  The prog garden thrives because it evolves; Evership realizes their role in the life cycle of the prog genre and walks brazenly through the fire with head held high, the music a beacon to those all around.  Of course The Closet Concert Arena continues the search for all things prog, in the hope of discovering more such gems...until next time...

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Servants of Science "The Swan Song"

As always, welcome back and thanks for taking the journey with me fellow progheads!  The Closet Concert Arena digs a bit deeper this week as we take the search for all things prog to the UK and check in with Servants of Science who recently released their debut album, The Swan Song.  As a bonus I was able to score an interview with founding member Stuart Avis which will hopefully give us a more vivid peak behind the curtain...


Closet Concert Arena: What were you doing before Servants of Science and how did the band originate?

Stuart Avis: In some ways I've spent the last 20 years building up to Servants of Science.  I've known Andy Bay our bass player and drummer Adam McKee since 1998; we used to play in an "indie" rock band.  Last year I invited Andy to my studio to put some guitar down on these keyboard parts I had for a song.  This ended up evolving into the closing number on the album, "Burning in the Cold."  I have done a number of collaborations with our vocalist and acoustic guitar player Neil Beards over the course of the past twelve years and Helena DeLuca on rhythm guitar and vocals has collaborated with me the past few years as well.  Ian Brocken, our lead guitarist, is a recent addition to the band--and he is smashing all the guitar parts.  I consider everyone who is part of the band a close friend; I wanted us to have a great vibe and gel right from the start.  As luck would have it, I have very super-talented close friends.

I own a studio in Brighton called "Black Bunker."  This is where Servants of Science started, originally as a recording project between myself and Andy.  From there it grew as we invited more people into the Bunker to build on what we were writing and recording.

CCA: Where did the name Servants of Science come from?

SA: "Servants of Science" the song actually came first.  I had music but no lyrics; one day while driving to the studio the line "Servants of science and sculptors of dreams" popped into my head and I pulled over to write it down.  Throughout the rest of the day I came up with more lyrics and when I got home that evening started to formulate the song.  Whilst putting the song together it occurred to me that "Servants of Science" would also work well as a band name.  I took the idea to the others and they loved it.  It is the fastest band name I've ever come up with and it felt right straight away; suits what the band does lyrically.

CCA: "The Swan Song" is a concept album and the band's debut, yet the term usually implies a farewell.  Can you shed some light on what we can expect?

SA: I really liked the irony of that title for the debut album, it's from a lyric in the song "Servants of Science" and fits the concept really well.  The album tells of an astronaut observing the end of the world while floating in orbit...mixed with hints of a possible mental health disorder like schizophrenia.  So from an alternative angle the lyrics are also about the main character succumbing to depression and taking his own life.  Depending on your interpretation of the music, it is the swan song of Earth or the main character--or both.  Much of it is quite cryptic but the clues are there.

CCA: There is an ambient, almost astral feel to a lot of the music.  Did that lead the direction of the writing or was this an area you set out to discover?

SA: It's certainly a style of music I've been a big fan of and wanted to explore for a long time.  Aside from Sparks, I grew up listening to the likes of Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield, music that has space to breathe but also takes you on a journey.  Science fiction and ambient, ethereal music have long been good bedfellows; they compliment each other very well.  I've done a fair bit of "poppy" stuff in previous bands, but I have never wanted to make music that was straightforward.  At the very least I always tried to introduce a weird sound into a song, even if for only a few seconds.  With The Swan Song we were able to experiment with textures and sounds right off because no one had any formulated songs.  We had a blank Logic project as the canvas for each track; we worked from the ground up trying different things.  A lot of it fell by the wayside, usually things that sounded to "poppy."  What stuck was the stuff we found to be sonically interesting and we introduced song elements into those experiments.  It wasn't always strange sounds though; sometimes it was unusual chord shapes that to this day we don't know what they are called!

Perfect time to check out a cut from the album; let's start with "Peripheral."  As the song opens you get a sense of dawn; the world is beginning to awaken from its slumber...the drum keeping time to a steady pulse that gives rise to a ritual more than a celebration.  Top notes of Eno during his "Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy" days fills the headphones, and there is a definite early Pink Floyd aroma in the air...Servants of Science wanders--but not aimlessly.

CCA: Who does the songwriting and how does that process work within the band?  

SA: I guess I did the core writing of The Swan Song and most of the recording myself, but everyone made invaluable contributions.  Andy Bay wrote the first lyrics.  He came up with the "Come along to the sun" line which appears at the end "Burning in the Cold."  This was a huge relief as I had no lyrical ideas whatsoever.  The only snag I had was looking for something dark while Andy came up with what felt like a very positive uplifting line. All I could think of was the "Let the sunshine in" chorus from the end of Hair, so I challenged myself to twist that into a dark lyric, just as the "Flesh Failures" section of the Hair track covers dark subject matter.

On the way home that evening the film "The Day the Earth Caught Fire" popped into my head; a classic 60's sci-fi about the cold war.  Suddenly I had a eureka moment!  I got home, dug out the film, watched it twice while writing notes, and then put the lyrics together.  I always wanted to write a song based on Ray Bradbury's "Kaleidoscope," where a space shuttle crew survives their ship's destruction in a meteor shower.  The story is essentially the conversation between the astronauts while they still have radio contact.  Whittling it down to one character, I wrote our song "Kaleidoscope" around that.  From there lyrics flowed easily; we knew where we were headed.

Some songs started as keyboard ideas; "Tedium Infinitum" and "Another Day."  Others originated with guitar experiments..."Peripheral" was written around one chord that I liked the sound of and added synth chords to.

Our next album will be much more of a collaborative process.  Working on The Swan Song we didn't know if we would even be a band; it was just a group of friends chipping in with the recording.  Now we are a great 6-piece ready to take the album to the world and work on the dreaded second album...

CCA: Who or what are the biggest influences on your music?

SA: It would be churlish to deny the Pink Floyd influence; they really were the masters of atmosphere.  Some of us met and bonded over our love of and respect for Floyd.  Rick Wakeman's "King Arthur" and "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" along with ELO's "Time" were big hits with me as a kid; I loved concept albums from a young age.  Around age five I started buying albums by Depeche Mode, OMD, and The Human League.  I fell in love with the otherworldly synthesizer sounds, they developed my appetite for stranger things I would later find tucked away in the prog gems of my parents' record collection.

CCA: If you could play a live gig with anyone--living or dead--who would you choose and why?

SA: Definitely Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd.  Despite seeing a few Earl's Court Pink Floyd shows in 1994, the curse of youth meant I did not get to see Floyd with Roger Waters until Live 8; the box that remains unticked is seeing Syd do his thing on stage.  Of course I would insists we play together only one minute so the remaining members of Pink Floyd could take the stage and perform longer...

Time for another music interlude...with the obvious Pink Floyd reference, I chose "Kaleidoscope."  The song title reminds me of the "Atomic Heart Mother" days and the music runs the gambit from "A Saucerful of Secrets" to "The Wall."  The background sounds are an intriguing addition in and of themselves; but as they weave their way through the clouds to wrap around guitars and vocals as smooth as old corduroy and as soothing as a glass of merlot, you feel your pulse slow and your mind grin.  Servants of Science pays homage while driving the chariot forward into untilled acreage.   

CCA: How are album sales doing and what are the challenges to getting your music out there in today's market?

SA: We've been blown away by the response; we're getting new orders every day!  People are hearing the album and really taking to it, and it's happened rather quickly.  A few months ago no one outside my circle of family and friends even knew we were making music and now when I log into our Bandcamp page I see a complete stranger has purchased our album, that is truly an amazing feeling.

I think the challenges are the same as always; trying to stand out in a crowd with something fresh. What has changed is how you do that.  The Internet is full of opportunity; social media  presents a lot of options for reaching out to people, often via others who help spread your music even further, and there is a nice knock-on affect to that.  Our prog appeal has certainly helped.  There is a wonderful camaraderie amongst prog fans, so much passion for and dedication to the genre.  Fans tell other fans about new bands all the time, they love discussing the music in depth.  People on different continents, having never met, immersed in lengthy conversations with each other because they both enjoy the same music and/or album; it genuinely means something to them which is amazing.

Insert subliminal purchase information here: Look for The Swan Song and find out more about Servants of Science at Servants of Science.  The album is also available at SoS iTunes and
SoS Bandcamp.  You can even follow them on Facebook SoS Facebook and Twitter @ServantsScience .

CCA: Any personal favorite(s) on the record?

SA: I'm torn between two.  "Peripheral" is a very personal song; writing and recording it was a very cathartic process, but more than anything the vocal performances of Neil and Helena really make it special.  When they launch into "How are you all from here?" I still get goosebumps, even after listening to it thousands of times!  They did the song an incredible service.  The other has to be "Burning in the Cold" because it has everything I've wanted to get out of a song.  It was the genesis of the entire project and got me thinking about songwriting in ways I hadn't before.  It is also the first time I'd written lyrics I felt comfortable showing to someone else.  There is stuff in there I am immensely proud of I didn't know I was capable of.

CCA: What are your feelings on the state of prog rock today?  As a new band, what are the challenges to getting recognized?

SA: Prog appears to be having a wonderful renaissance, it's in a very good place and growing.  Of course the term "prog" is much broader today than during the 70's boom.  Bands like Radiohead and God Speed! You Black Emperor, right through to bands like ours that draw inspiration from more obvious prog influences like Kraftwerk are now part of the conversation, and that's a good thing.

We have a number of gigs lined up with some great bands making a name for themselves and achieving success on their own terms.  I mentioned a camaraderie earlier; it extends to the bands as well as several have been very courteous to us, allowing an opportunity to share their audience.  Everone seems united toward a common goal--the music.

In terms of recognition it certainly seems like a minefield at first but everyone I've contacted has been very welcoming and kind.  The more people you reach out to and contact the more you will get recognized.  With social media the key is to not procrastinate.  If you are willing to put in the hours  whenever possible, people will start to take notice--or get sick of you! 😂

CCA: Is Servants of Science currently touring?

SA: We are not touring as such but we do have some exciting shows lined up!  Our campaign for The Swan Song kicks off in London at 229 The Venue. We will be performing with IT and Taikonaut March 14th, followed by an appearance March 31st at the Fusion Prog Festival.  This is an epic all day event with some well established and newer prog bands that are making waves.  April 21st we will be at The Prince Albert in Brighton in support of The Filthy Tongues.  Then back to London May 13th at the legendary Fiddler's Elbow in Camden where we share the stage with Hat's Off Gentlemen It's Adequate and the Tirith.  We will be headlining at The Hasland Theatre in Chesterfield June 30th with our good friends Lorna.  We've also secured a support slot with This Winter Machine August 26th at The Talking Heads in Southampton.

We're really fortunate to be in such great company for these gigs.  Hell, I'd like to be able to just go and watch!  More offers and opportunities are being sorted through; shaping up to be a busy year for Servants of Science.

Sate your appetite as we wind down with a slice of  "Servants of Science." Another haunting entry in the book of prog--but fear not.  Servants of Science rings of Hat's Off Gentlemen It's Adequate as this song strives to reach it zenith.  There is a heart punch buried below the surface just waiting to burst through the headphones.  I get the sense that Servants of Science are capable of squeezing emotion from dry sand.  The music is but a backdrop as vocals cut through the thin veil of your eardrums; not with a shriek but with so much fervor...and the calm gently washes back up on shore, lapping at your feet like an eager puppy.  I think it was Arlo Guthrie who said, "Once more, with feelin."

                     

CCA: What else does the world need to know about Servants of Science?

SA: We are going to be your new favorite band.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow; but someday, and for the rest of your life...

I hope you have enjoyed listening to and learning about Servants of Science as much as I have enjoyed bringing them to you.  The prog garden is alive and well indeed, and as long as bands like this continue to nurture and grow, the future looks extremely bright.  Stuart said the prog genre has expanded over time; the umbrella covering a wider swath of music today than ever before.  I say good for the genre; more entries into the garden brings more fans, which can only be a good thing.

The search for all things prog once again pulls up stakes as the course for the next leg of the journey begins to take shape...until next time...