March 15, 2010
“Drawing its inspiration from a unique heritage of King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Jethro Tull and many other progressive, kraut, art and math-rock bands, Half Past Four takes pride and pleasure in taking progressive rock a little further and planting its seeds in the harsh soil of contemporary popular culture.”
I thought the above words, found in the promotional release for the Toronto based Half Past Four gives a nice synopsis of what this band is all about and what they are striving for with their music. For those of you who believe progressive rock is all about twenty minute epics and out of this world musicianship (although these guys are no slouches) you need not bother reading this review. However, if you appreciate the quirky side of art rock, with gasp, moments of poppy bliss, please read on.
The musicians responsible for making this wonderfully modern progressive music are Constantin Necrasov (electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, bass, vocals), Dmitry Lesov (bass, acoustic guitar, vocals), Igor Kurtzman (keyboards, sound effects) and Kyree Vibrant (lead vocals). Rabbit In The Vestibule is the band’s first full length release. Now on to the music.
As a reviewer, every once in a while I come across a CD that is so unique and original it is difficult to categorize. I have to say Rabbit In The Vestibule is one such recording. There is no doubting this is a progressive album, filled with tricky time signatures, excellent musicianship and a general feel of adventurousness that is all to uncommon in today’s music. The music is complex enough to satisfy hard core progressive rock fans yet accessible enough to have tremendous cross over appeal for those leaning towards pop and rock. Fans of classic 70s progressive icons like King Crimson, Genesis and Jethro Tull will appreciate the band’s angular yet melodic approach to songwriting. The lyrics have a quirky sense of humour and the music has a certain playfulness that fans of Frank Zappa will appreciate.
It all starts with the quirky dissonance of “Missing Sevenths” featuring nice interplay between guitar and keyboards and the excellent vocals of Kyree Vibrant sounding a bit like Deborah Harry of Blondie. She has a unique voice that is difficult to compare to others but Kate Bush also comes to mind. “Johnny” features a delicious bass groove, flowing keyboards and tasty lead and rhythm guitar while the jazzy prog approach of “Southern Boogie” with Steely Dan inspired keyboards that really pop and excellent saxophone really works well. The retro progressive rock of “Poisoned Tune”, sounding like an amalgamation of Genesis, Jethro Tull and perhaps Jefferson Airplane just plain feels good and the vocals of Vibrant really took me back to a more innocent time when pillows were surrealistic and England was sold by the pound. And yes, this just might be the perfect music for hippies.
Other notables include the eclectic art rock/pop of “Dwayne” where the band’s Zappaesque humour comes through loud and clear and “Salome”, an instrumental that oozes exotic Eastern themes, especially in Necrasov’s inventive guitar playing.
Suffice to say, I could have talked about any of these songs as they are all very good. Half Past Four are one of the better Canadian bands I have heard, proving progressive music is alive and well in the great white north. You owe it to yourself to give this band a listen.