Monday, July 22, 2013
OLAV MARTIN BJØRNSEN
Canadian band HALF PAST FOUR was formed back in 1999, although it wasn’t until 2005 that the unit started to take the form of the band it is today. They released their debut album back in 2008, which was well received back then. Come 2013 and the Canadians are back with their sophomore production “Good Things”, self-released just like their debut album.
Half Past Four is among those bands that appears to really dedicate themselves into exploring the progressive part of progressive rock. Even after two albums and repeated listens to their material I have yet to find an accurate manner in which to describe their specific style. There’s just way too many details floating around, too many nuances, too much variety.
A recurring feature is the band’s tendency to include jazz-oriented details. Bass and drums in particular tends to perform their respective motifs in a fairly jazz-inspired manner. The drummer does know when to settle back into a nice and steady routine and when to utilize the more sophisticated or perhaps even partially improvised jazz oriented delivery, while the bassist is just as skilled delivering subtle masked motifs when needed and more upfront textures when appropriate. The wandering piano motifs, almost just as much of a feature, share many of the same tendencies. Gently wandering and melodic when needed, more adventurous to the point of improvisational when the composition allows for such features.
The guitar follows suit with the descriptions given to the other instruments, more or less. Gently wandering light toned motifs are applied with the same ease as dark, gritty and brooding riffs, sometimes even explosive at that. Occasionally erupting into a majestic combination with the organ, the aforementioned piano is replaced from time to time with alternative keyboard textures just to mention that aspect to, up to and including organ and some marvelous synth soloing. Returning to the guitars again, this is also a band that appears to enjoy incorporating a fair few Frippian details into their compositions. Odd tonal ranges, what might be described as angular guitar motifs I guess, eerie harmonies and subtle dissonances. Both when exploring a more jazz oriented territory and when the movement in question is of a more regular variety.
In a totality which also has ample room for whimsical compositions, Wolf a perfect example of just that, the sheer totality of it all does become fairly challenging to sort into a specific box. The music is challenging and consists of a plethora of details and contrasts indeed. A certain taste for jazz or fusion is probably needed to enjoy all the antics of this band aye, but it isn’t strictly required. Because amongst all of the details mentioned as well as all of the aspects not mentioned or overlooked, this is also a band that has a fairly strict focus on melody. Movements light in tone and strong in melody are key features, many of the darker toned, contrasting passages are more straight forward in nature with a certain emphasis to them being a contrast to the less intense and more detailed constructions. A description that does come with a fair few exceptions, just to make matters a bit…interesting.
The strong, accessible and distinct melodies is still a key feature, and emphasizing that aspect of the material we have vocalist Kyree Vibrant. Her last name, if not an artistic one, provides a fairly accurate description on her voice and her impact for this band. Vibrant indeed. Smoothly going from jazz-oriented and whimsical to powerful and emotional, always emphasizing the key melody of the composition. A key elements that makes Half Past Four’s eclectic but accessible amalgam of progressive rock work as well as it does.
While Half Past Four is a quality act and their album “Good Things” is an aptly named production, I have a hard time describing a potential key audience for this band. A slight taste for jazzrock and a general taste for melodies is required, as is a taste for music that warrants a description as both challenging, detailed and accessible. Those who enjoy the likes of District 97 will probably love this band, and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if fans of early 80′s King Crimson would enjoy this band quite a lot too, even if drastically different in style.