September 28, 2016
Rejoice, for there is new music from Half Past Four in the world!
Not so smartly on the heels of their two previous albums, Rabbit In The Vestibule (2008) and Good Things(2013), we have a new EP in the shape of Land of the Blind. What is, as ever, immediately apparent is the sheer joie de vivre of the band, their energetic glee and clear belief in their quirky music. But don’t go thinking that it’s a difficult listen because it certainly isn’t. Vocalist Kyree Vibrant has one of the best and most versatile voices around, it draws you in and urges you to listen. Likewise the rest of the band, with a line-up stable from Good Things, have huge confidence in their abilities – justifiably so – and work together superbly as a unit.
It’s a very eclectic bag of sounds. Classic prog influences come through in the beautiful Mathematics, but done in a typically Half Past Four style, easily melding their influences and inspirations into something new. There’s Igor Kurtzman’s organ and electric piano, gorgeous harmonies with a touch of Yes about them, dexterous guitar solos, and all within a fine groove. A fantastic song.
And now for something completely different…
From the sinister piano intro of Mood Elevator there’s a mighty burst of King Crimson, with some great drum work from Marcello Ciurleo, that moves into an edgy tale of a bloke who REALLY likes elevators, with words spoken by bassist/Stick Dude Dmitry Lesov via a deep Eastern European accent. He also plays the lead role in the video which is great fun. Vibrant arrives for the jazzy funk section and the mood swings, ahem, for a free jazz section with high powered scatting, then a return to that Krimson crunch to finish. I love this band!
All of the songs are Half Past Four compositions with the exception of Toronto Tontos, a Kim Mitchell and Pye Dubois co-write from the 1976 self-titled Max Webster album. A good choice for a band from that particular town and delivered here in an even more barking style than the original with a big dose of Zappa wackiness. The gritty buzzing of the guitars gives it more punch than the original and set against the squeaky toy sound effects recreation and the wonderful harmony vocals of Vibrant leading the choir with guitarist Constantin Necrasov taking the lead it all works a treat. It reminds me that I need to return to Max Webster too.
There’s a funky strut to One Eyed Man, as featured in the cover artwork, with Vibrant delivering the words in commanding style. The fantastic thing about HP4 is the boundless genre defying creativity of it all, they can effortlessly turn their hand to any style they like with ease and make it work within the framework of an accessible song. You want a fragment of piano inspired by early Mozart in there? You got it! The songs are catchy and contained, no need or desire for long-winded epics, the concise approach distils their essence into punchy little numbers that leave you breathless.
The energy levels are high but that doesn’t detract in any way from the exemplary skill and attention to detail. It’s all fun and highly entertaining stuff and they aren’t afraid of having a good time. After nearly 20 years together in one form or another HP4 have clearly learnt a thing or two and are all on the same page, to the point where no one is visibly holding the book. A rare talent and they’re clearly doing this purely for the joy of creation.
To end we have Mirror Eyes, a more relaxed and less eclectic listen, but that does not mean that it is any less detailed or compelling, with another wonderful and engaging performance from Vibrant, ending beautifully with a capella harmonies. As a complete listen Land of the Blind is tricksy but not for the sake of it, the endearing quirkiness steadfastly at the heart but with an easy to get into accessibility and this is what makes it work. As I’ve said before when describing HP4, free spirits playing with poise and precision.
After reading all that I’m sure you want to get it and for UK and European fans who want to get hold of a physical copy, you can now do so from Caerllysi Music. Then get the other albums and thank me later.