Half Past Four -
Land Of The Blind

(CD 2016, 26:02, Private Release)

The tracks:
  1- Mathematics(5:33)
  2- Mood Elevator(5:28)
  3- Toronto Tontos(3:39)
  4- One Eyed Man(4:38)
  5- Mirror Eyes(6:44)

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Ah, wonderful. It's been a long time since I played something from this Canadian progressive rock group from Toronto. I have and love their excellent debut album Rabbit In The Vestibule (see review) from 2008 and went to look up what I wrote about it in my own book, and noticed that it is one of the rare albums that gets a ****+ rating:
A very, very surprising album. The first track sets you on the entire wrong foot because it makes you believe that we have a progmetal group here (oh no, not another one...) but quickly it turns out that the band is much, much more versatile. Take for example Twelve Little Words that manages to combine very strong and expressive female lead vocals, heavy guitar (the guitarist must have at least some sense for progmetal...), jazzy elements and a certain flamenco sensibility. Are you still with me? Can you in fact imagine something like that? Hard to classify this band. There runs a certain Canterbury-ish-ness through the album, at times one is vaguely reminded of chamber prog, there are fusion elements (the fiery wah-wah-ish guitar in the lazy jazzy Underwater is superb), and, and, and... Enough said, recommended. Highly.
That should be enough to seek them out, isn't it? Well, shame on me, because I lost sight of them afterwards and totally missed out on the 2013 CD Good Things (see review). Many, many thanks to main editor for re-connecting me to this brilliant, varied, eclectic group that travels without any problems between a great variety of styles, including progressive rock, Canterbury, folk, country, jazz, metal, classical, rock 'n roll and even traces of rap.
The new (mini)-album (housed in a great sleeve) contains only five tracks, but what an energy and variation bursts from them. Just awesome. It was recorded with the line-up of Kyree Vibrant (lead vocals), Dmitry Lesov (bass, Chapman stick, vocals), Igor Kurtzman (keyboards, vocals), Constantin Necrasov (guitars, vocals) and Marcello Ciurleo (drums) with guest vocals by Mauro Giammarco.
As said, the sound is eclectic, and clearly influenced by Yes. Just check the harmony vocals on the first track, Mathematics. Sound-wise this piece also draws on a lot on jazz-prog and Canterbury. And speaking of vocals, I have to mention already here the powerful female lead vocals by Kyree that have a clear jazzy vibe and among others remind me of for example Leslie Hunt (District 97).
Mood Elevator draws even stronger on the fusion side of the band and if anything, then I am reminded of a proggy version of Matt Bianco (imagine that!). Except that Matt Bianco never did experimental stuff in-between, of course. The band has made a video for this song which can be found at YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6edBzrIUgU.
One may wonder why the band would include a cover on a mini-CD, but they turn Max Webster's Toronto Tontos (from this band's self-titled 1976 debut) clearly into their own. It's a rocker with some very quirky piano and distorted guitars exchanging with Zappa-like weirdness.
Besides the opener, I think that the quasi-title track One Eyed Man is one of my favourite pieces. Again, we have a very quirky piece of music that draws on country and semi-rapped vocals and there is a brief classically flavoured interlude with some lush keys.
The longest piece comes last, and the fairly symphonic Mirror Eyes may be the one that might please fans of ordinary prog most, even though the lead vocals clearly put a jazzy stamp on it.
How about another full-length album now?

**** Carsten Busch (edited by Robert James Pashman)

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