Eddie Lascu 28-March-2011 Rabbit in the Vestibule

For many, Canadian progressive rock is confined within the borders of “La Belle Province”. Quebec has given us and continues to give a slew of amazing bands, so much that it has created its own identity, kind of like the Basque Country in Spain. The English Canada hasn’t been so generous in the way of progressive rock. The jury is still out on whether Rush and Triumph are truly progressive rock bands, Saga and FM only released a handful of records and other than that, there isn’t much left, unless one wants to talk about Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn or Joni Mitchell. This should explain why we all have to get excited when a new band with tremendous potential raises out of the thin ashes of Toronto’s progressive rock scene.

Half Past Four (or 4:30 as they like to call themselves) is a quartet (recently augmented to a quintet by the addition of a full time drummer) playing music that cannot be categorized in one single bin. The voice of Kyree Vibrant (will get to the line-up in a second) and the musical arrangements confer the sound a certain cabaret feeling. Remember Kate Bush’s vocal antics, that original way of over-imposing a vocal score on instrumental passages? Kyree can match them and it any day. One is removed from that burlesque atmosphere by the occasional instrumental passages and when those occur, one almost longs to hear more of them. If the lyrics wouldn’t be so goddamn good, that is. In today’s consumption-oriented society, when the attention span of everyone is shorter than the blink of an eye and the pop culture throws garbage at us from every angle in order to captivate our feeble, mal-nourished brain in that split second it is receptive, it is very rare that artists try to actually put meaning in their craft. “Rabbit in the Vestibule” is an album that must be listened following the lyrics, because it will take you places you have never been.

With 2 girls (Ann Brody - drums, has joined the group after the release of the album) and three boys, you already know you are in uncharted territories, considering the ingredients that are usually put together to form a progressive rock band. I already mentioned the magnificent Kyree. In counterpoint, we find Igor Kurtzman, a very gifted instrumentalist (I look forward to him stamping his authority more on the following 4:30 albums), one that, given the right amount of works, can be ushered into the pantheon of keyboard wizards, a league that gets less and less members in the age of heavy guitar riff misuse. In many cases I hear a young Ken Hensley in his sound, but there is more that meets the ear (sic). His many lush and rich solos push the envelope deep into progressive territories. The other pivotal structure that anchors Half Past Four’s sonic architecture is Constantin Necrasov’s guitar. The interesting thing about him is that somehow he manages to escape the big keyboard sound and make significant contributions, his fluid and versatile style impresses. The rhythmic section is covered by Dmitry Lesov on bass with the help of a guest drummer (Art Pisanski). There are other musicians that make various contributions on saxophone, tin whistle and violin. They even get help from The Burlington Seniors Four Part Harmony Choir, most likely some dormant fans of the progressive genre.

The music is an intricate and eclectic mix of everything and I mean everything: rock, jazz, cabaret, ballroom dance music, reggae, you name it. But rest assure, and here I entice you to discover for yourself how, the end result sounds as well articulated and as homogenously beautiful as one can hope. “It sounds like ... “ is a nonsensical sentence in Half Past Four’s case. Some highlights of the album are “Poisoned Tune”, “Biel”, “Twelve Little Words”, “Lullaby” and “Rabbit”. Do yourself a heap of favor and pick up this album. It flew under the radar of many and this has to be rectified as soon as possible.

Two notes in the end:

  • In recognition of their talent, the members of Half Past Four have been invited to open the NEARFest 2011, before the festival was cancelled due to the lack of ticket sales.
  • The band is currently working on a new album to be released sometime in the second half of 2011.
Line-up (on the album):
Kyree Vibrant – Lead Vocals
Igor Kurtzman – Keyboards and Sound Effects
Constantin Necrasov – Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Mandolin, Bass and Vocals
Dmitry Lesov – Bass, Acoustic Guitar and Vocals

Links for further information