By Mark Hughes: 8 out of 10
Canadian band Half Past Four can hardly be described as prolific given that in their 17 years of existence, the mini album Land Of The Blind is just their third release. The band is comprised of guitarists Dmitry Lesov and Constantin Necrasov, (who formed the group in 1999), keyboardist Igor Kurtzman who jumped on board in 2002, and the extraordinary singer Kyree Vibrant who joined up three years later. The current line-up was completed in 2012 when drummer Marcello was pulled into the ranks. I can find no mention of who plays the drums, and although he is missing from the website, there is definitely one present on the CD! (Note from Half Past Four: Marcello is the drummer, Dmitry Lesov is the Bassist)
Despite only featuring five tricks and a running time of twenty-six minutes, the breadth of musical styles on Land Of The Blind is quite amazing. There are plenty of groups than defy pigeonholing but this Canadian combo definitely take the biscuit in terms of being very difficult to pin down. However there is no doubt that the group fall into the progressive domain, given their use of offbeat and varied/varying time signatures, and their supreme musicianship.
The EP kicks off with Mathematics, a rather straight-forward song featuring a lovely melody and sublime vocals by Kyree. We also have a collection of solos, one by each of the guitarists, split by a meander across the keyboards. It all shows off the chops of the members, before a final chorus shows the group also has a handle on harmony singing. In complete contrast Mood Elevator is a really quirky number, whose introduction bears a strong resemblance to Adrian Belew-era King Crimson. Initially, it was a bit of a surprise volte-face, but after a few spins, the whole piece becomes quite a delight with riffing guitars, a phenomenal piece of scat singing and an amusing narrative.
Fellow Canadians Max Webster are honoured with a cover of Toronto Tontos from the art rockers’ debut eponymous album of 1976. It is a pretty straight cover, in that Half Past Four haven’t dramatically altered the song, apart from adding some amusing squeaky toys into the mix, but anyone familiar with the Rush-endorsed combo will know not to expect anything simply ordinary. One Eyed Man continues the quirky nature, with once again the soloists shining through. One never knows in what direction the band will head off, from one moment to the next, as the songs are far from linear, mixing tempo and stylistic changes throughout.
The mini album finishes with Mirror Eyes, whose introductory vocal section showcases Vibrant’s rich and sonorous voice. Once again the instrumentalists shine without being indulgent. It is a pity I can’t name-check the drummer whose sterling performance makes a great contribution, but needless to say he (or she) fits in perfectly with what the rest of the band are doing. A jolly vocal refrain brings the all-too-short album to a happy close.
With a striking cover, a visual representation of the old saying: ‘In the Land Of The Blind the One Eyed Man is King’, this is a delightful EP of excellent, modern, melodic progressive music. Well worth investing in.