15 January 2011

CD GUEST REVIEW: Half Past Four - Rabbit in the Vestibule

(Today's CD review is written by good friend Jeff Gutenberg...expect more reviews from him soon!)

This quirky quintet hails from the wilds of Canada, home of such prog-rock legends as Rush and Saga, but sounds nothing like either of those bands. Instead, vocalist Kyree Vibrant, guitarist Constantin Necresov, keyboardist Igor Kurtzman, bassist  Dmitry Lesov and drummer Ann Brody mine the perhaps somewhat more obscure but no less rewarding territory plumbed by the likes of Frank Zappa, Echolyn and Finneus Gauge.

The aptly named Ms. Vibrant’s vocal range seems practically limitless, and she brings a variety of emotional colors to these songs, always finding just the right tone and attitude for each lyric, whether cool and jazzy, as on “Johnny” or urgent and heartbreaking, as on the eight-minute epic “Biel,” and all points in between. She’s playful and fun on “The Ballad of Dwayne’s Plane,” with its Zappa-like humor, sultry and languorous on “Southern Boogie” (which is not a boogie tune at all!), dreamy and ethereal on “Underwater,” feisty and energetic on “Bamboo,”  another Zappa-esque bit of off-kilter whimsy. She’s a real find, and one of the great pleasures to be found in listening to this band.

Of course, this is a prog band, and that means the other people in the band can’t exactly be chopped liver either. Indeed, Mr. Necresov and Mr. Kurtzman solo with controlled abandon all over the album; the former is not a fret-burning speed demon, more of a tasty, melodic player, and his style fits in very well with Kurtzman’s more frenetic approach. Kurtzman, however, is not just a fine soloist on the synthesizer, but he’s also very adept at using electric and acoustic pianos for tones and shading. As for the rhythm section, Mr. Lesov is a supple, supportive bassist who slips his lines in and around everything else that’s going on, while Ms. Brody’s drumming is never less than superb, navigating through tricky time and tempo changes with ease, while propelling the music ever forward.

The standout tracks on an album full of standouts include the aforementioned epic “Biel,” which pulls out all the stops with chanted vocals, acoustic guitars, and fantastic guitar and synth solos, ending dramatically with a lone snare drum plaintively echoing into space; the moody, evocative instrumental “Lullaby,” which features lots of dynamic light and shade, and another terrific synth solo; the album’s other epic, “Poisoned Tune,” vies with “Biel” for the honor of being the album’s best overall track, with yet another great vocal performance (and a dark, haunting lyric that makes reference to ‘the poisoned tune within’), scintillating guitar/keyboard interplay, and an almost Gentle Giant-ish kind of feel. And the disc’s other instrumental, “Salome,” is a marvelous piece of Middle Eastern jazz, complete with a wonderful saxophone solo, really dexterous drumming, and perhaps the best guitar solo on the album.

Rabbit in the Vestibule is a very rewarding listen on all levels, offering something a little different – a little humor, a lot of energy, and a great deal of thoughtful composition and arrangement. If you’re looking for prog that doesn’t revolve in the endless Yes/Genesis orbit, and you enjoy the sound of a female voice out front, you really can’t do much better than Half Past Four. Four stars - highly recommended.

Track Listing:

Missing Sevenths 2:38
Johnny 2:55
Poisoned Tune 7:53
Southern Boogie 4:15
Twelve Little Words  5:18
Underwater 4:58
Lullaby 4:21
Strangest Dream 6:30
Biel 8:15
The Ballad of Dwayne’s Plane 4:53
Salome 2:46
Bamboo 2:41
Rabbit 6:09


Kyree Vibrant – vocals
Constantin Necresov – guitars
Igor Kurtzman – keyboards
Dmitry Lesov – bass
Ann Brody – drums & percussion


1 comment:

Wilton Said... said...

While they are a great band, Ann did not play on this release.