Prog - - Take A Bow - JOR­DAN BLUM

With the re­cent re­lease of the hyp­not­i­cally heavy Vec­tor, Lon­don sex­tet Haken fur­ther dis­tin­guish them­selves as one of the most fer­tile, go-get­ting and unique bands in modern prog. Their most abra­sive LP in years, Vec­tor packs the kind of flam­boy­ant in­tri­cacy and catch­i­ness that de­mands faith­ful live re­pro­duc­tions. Thank­fully, that’s pre­cisely what’s de­liv­ered here. Co-head­lin­ing with Nor­we­gian avant­garde heavy prog­gers Le­prous, along­side sup­port from Bos­ton baroque rock troupe Bent Knee, Haken un­veil top-tier skill amid a highly en­gag­ing and wel­com­ing con­cert.

Bent Knee hold marvel­lous cre­ativ­ity, ex­pert mu­si­cian­ship and jovial hu­mil­ity from start to fin­ish. The true treat of their set tonight is the suc­ces­sion of un­re­leased new ma­te­rial. The melan­cholic funk of Hold Me In is colour­ful and grip­ping, while the dreamy yet gothic splen­dour of Egg Re­placer show­cases prodi­gious, sparse fury. Some over­whelm­ing ef­fects not­with­stand­ing, the in­stru­ments and vo­cals mix flaw­lessly, do­ing jus­tice to Bent Knee’s one-of-a-kind for­mula.

Le­prous are won­der­fully fore­bod­ing, sullen and dy­nam­i­cally rich. They be­gin with a haunt­ing lone cello recital, and from there dive into faith­ful recre­ations of sev­eral gems from last year’s Malina al­bum, in­clud­ing the opener Bon­neville, Stuck and Il­lu­mi­nate. Through­out their 75-minute stint, vo­cal­ist Ei­nar Sol­berg oozes im­pas­sioned fragility while the rest of Le­prous stand fo­cused, mak­ing del­i­cate tran­si­tions be­tween each bom­bas­tic as­sault and ethe­real har­mony.

Vis­ually, Le­prous un­doubt­edly reign supreme tonight. While Bent Knee and Haken’s mul­ti­coloured light os­cil­la­tions cer­tainly en­hance their mu­sic, the Nor­we­gian quin­tet’s use of rhyth­mi­cally timed and al­ter­nat­ing bursts of white, red, green, yel­low, and or­ange ra­di­ance just feels more the­mat­i­cally res­o­nant. Cou­pled with the venue’s post-Hal­loween dec­o­ra­tions of spi­der­webs and skele­ton faces, in con­junc­tion with ab­stract, Lasse Hoile-es­que videos of nightly roads, shift­ing eyes and danc­ing fig­ures, Le­prous yield an un­matched emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence that lasts long af­ter they leave the stage. They con­clude their main set with a reprisal from the cello, giv­ing the show mean­ing­ful con­ti­nu­ity, be­fore en­cor­ing with Mi­rage and From The Flame. It is a wholly af­fec­tive and cap­ti­vat­ing set.

Of course, Haken don’t dis­ap­point ei­ther. Nat­u­rally favour­ing se­lec­tions from the new al­bum, their lengthy per­for­mance kicks off with Vec­tor’s ini­tial one-two punch of Clear and The Good Doc­tor. They alsmoa­genta bring out what seems to be the fan favourite of the al­bum, namely Puz­zle Box, as well as bru­tal in­stru­men­tal Nil By Mouth and the gor­geously tem­per­a­men­tal track Veil.

Aside from those, the group earn mas­sive cheers dur­ing The Moun­tain’s Fall­ing Back To Earth and Affin­ity’s 1985, dur­ing which vo­cal­ist Ross Jen­nings flaunts his tongue-in-cheek neon glasses, while Diego Te­jeida en­joys the spot­light dur­ing his key­tar solo. The truly out­stand­ing mo­ment, how­ever, comes when they pull out the epic Crys­tallised (from the Restora­tion EP) at the end. It is a fault­less ren­di­tion that re­veals how ex­cep­tion­ally united they are: even their in­ter­lock­ing har­monies are note-per­fect.

All three bands de­light and im­press at Un­der­ground Arts tonight, re­in­forc­ing their place at the top of their re­spec­tive sub­gen­res. While their styles ini­tially seem a bit in­con­gru­ous for a shared con­cert, they ac­tu­ally com­ple­ment each other quite fit­tingly, and the au­di­ence are vis­i­bly en­tranced by all of them.






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