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Monday, September 9, 2013

Half Past Four - Good Things

Canada, home for bands such as: Klaatu, Rush, Morse Code, and FM to name a few, have taken the boundaries of Hard Rock, Baroque, Symphonic, Electronic, and Progressive music up to a different level. And there is one band that are taking it up a notch and to a creativity and hypnotic swells that is joyous and dark at the same time. That group is called Half Past Four and let me just say that I’m completely hooked into the band’s work.

The band started forming in 1999 in their hometown in Toronto, and they had a few struggles with various drummers who had come and gone. But it wasn’t until 2005 is when they really started cooking after debuting at an Opera House and receiving word-of-mouth from the Prog world on this amazing group and they also did a film score for a Billy Zane zombie comedy-horror movie called The Mad in which its about a father-daughter in which they are terrorized by the living dead in a small town.

The band released their debut album, Rabbit in the Vestibule in 2008 and received excellent press. And now this year, they released their second album, Good Things, is one of the most uplifting, haunting, and driven albums they have unleashed to the table to get you in the car for an adventure that you are about to embark on from beginning, middle, and end.

This is my introduction to the band’s work and this is by far one of the most driven progressive rock albums I’ve listened to and they are soon going to be one of my favorite bands of this year. Not to mention the groups seven centerpieces from their follow-up. And the band considers; Dmitry Lesov on Bass/Chapman Stick, Kyree Vibrant on Lead Vocals, Iggy Kurtzman on Keyboards, Constantin Necrasov on Guitar, and newcomer Marcello Ciurleo on Drums.

Rise has this crossover between hard rock, laid-back jazz groove, symphonic boundaries, and ‘60s garage surf rock vibes as Necrasov pays homage on his guitar lines between Dick Dale, and The Ventures in the midsection before the time-changing signature kicks in as Kyree sings her heart out to give it that high note as the band follows her voice to go into the soaring skies.  The Russian dance-like sing along waltz turned swinging jazz as if you can imagine the setting in the late 1920s/ early 1930s of New York City in Black and White on Spin the Girl, has some wildly piano work while Kyree is having a quirky sense of humor on her vocals as Iggy and Necrasov does some dashing clavinet/guitar solos that is almost a duel between the two of them.

Cool Water is a descending composition that goes into the darker surroundings that is terrifying, gentle, and uplifting. It has this Film-Noir detective boundary that is disturbing, but unexpected at the same time while I Am Lion has this spacey ambient atmospheric introduction before going into a psychedelic feel in ¾ waltz time as the guitar, organ, drums, and piano go into some melodic backgrounds as the vocals come in.

Then everything becomes like a dystopian paradise and you can imagine the people praying for help in the last few minutes, resembles the harmonizing vocal canons of Queen’s The Prophet’s Song, that is mind-boggling and goose bumping at the same time with a sinister finale. Elsewhere, Wolf, a mini opera, has this bizarre combination of Gentle Giant meets 10cc, starts with a Coltrane introduction while Kyree does a perfect tribute to Lol Crème and Kate Bush, that is spot on brilliant before Iggy does his Hancock style on the Rhodes and the growling vocals of the Wolf.

Opener, It Strikes You, in which the album opens for the curtain comes up for a dramatic introduction through a Talk-Box Guitar as Kyree’s vocal lines and Iggy’s swirling keyboards which sounds like a concerto while Les and Marcello go into a fast-driven bass/drum structures that is going into various directions on the road from one place to another and not to mention the little touch of Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse that gets the edge and flow going.

Then, there’s the closing track, The Earth. It is a rolling yet roaring finale to close the album off with a bang. There are elements of Genesis, King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and ELP while Iggy challenges Keith Emerson to go through his Piano concerto and does some wildly improvisations through Classical and Jazz that have been put into a blender and goes into a wildly and maddest journey. And the tension is expected to happen as they give him a chance to come forward to get his energy and power loose like no other.

Good Things, in which I’ve listened to about five times already, is a complete knockout from what I’ve heard. Touches of Jazz-Rock, Symphonic, Art, and Progressive Pop rolled into one, shows that they have an off the wall sense of humor and Half Past Four know it very well.

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