It’s strange when you come across certain bands that, up until now, have escaped your attention, especially when you subsequently learn what an impact they are making in the UK progressive rock scene, even to the point, I might add, where they have been highlighted as a band to watch by Steve Hackett. This is certainly the case of the London duo with the unusual moniker “Hats off Gentlemen It's Adequate” who have just released a three track EP entitled ‘Ark’, the subject of this review.
‘Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate’ (HOGIA) is a partnership comprising Malcolm Galloway (vocalist, multi-instrumentalist ) and Mark Gatland (bass, backing vocals, keyboards) who have been playing music together ever since meeting at school from the age of eleven. However, due to other professional career callings it wasn’t until 2011 that they seriously got back together and ‘HOGIA’ developed from there. Malcolm quotes “The band name is a bit silly, but came from a vision in my head of Victorian gentlemen throwing their hats in their air about something being average. It is intended to be playfully self-deprecating”.
This EP ‘Ark’ follows in the footsteps of four other albums previously recorded by ‘HOGIA’. It is indeed a very comprehensive EP which showcases the musical versatility, writing and arranging talents of the band. Comprising of three totally diverse tracks one gets the impression that the EP is acting as a kind of sampler to showcase the wide range of talents that the band has on offer. Particularly so with their ever-growing popularity and the extent of cult interest being developed in the UK. It is indeed a well-timed release to reinforce the band’s status both in the UK and hopefully everywhere else. Also a great way to advertise their fifth album currently being assembled and soon to be released.
From a music perspective:-
Track 1 ‘Ark’ is divided into seven distinctly separate movements each of which portray the various stages of the Second World War attack by British Swordfish by-planes on the German battleship Bismarck. The music for this piece was inspired by the real life exploits of Malcolm’s Grandfather a telegraphist air-gunner (TAG) in the Fleet Air Arm based on HMS Arc Royal. As recorded in the event log
This entire military operation has been beautifully captured and set to music in the form of seven distinctly separate symphonic movements. Starting with a simple piano introduction of successive and repetitive tinkling notes that gradually increase in tempo to be later overlaid with a delightful sequence of steady guitar notes. This repetitive piano sequence gradually expands before bursting into a parallel melodic note sequence forming into a delightful duet with the guitar before being interrupted by stark synthesizer modulations. And so in this manner the epic story line continues to form a succession of graphic soundscapes that eventually terminate with a glorious and moving finale involving a succession of clipped piano notes once again overlaid with string like guitar and keyboard choral effects. Not immediately apparent but really steadfast throughout and so important to the musical structure are the melodic bass lines which guide and glue together the respective parts of this absorbing suite of music.
Track 2 ‘Chasing Neon’ Is a cinematic styled up-tempo series of rhythmic electronic proliferations that create a sense of movement and speed which would fit together perfectly well with in respect to high speed sports footage of a similar ilk. The thought did occur to me that perhaps the origin of this piece might well have been associated previously as a ‘Swordfish’ attack sequence for the ‘Ark’ track above and then subsequently removed as separate track?
Track 3 ‘She Moved Through The Fair’. Is a beautifully atmospheric rendition of an old Irish folk song which Malcolm quotes as being “A song he used to play regularly when he started performing on the Camden open-mic circuit prior to forming Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate.”
The opening accompaniment of rigid military styled drumming interspersed with the unpretentious strumming of acoustic guitar forms the backdrop for the refined delivery of ‘Malcolm’s striking vocal skills. These musical proliferations are in turn overlaid with the exquisite flute so very stylishly played by Kathryn Thomas (Malcolm’s wife) a sound that washes majestically over the proceedings adding interest and dimension. There is a an abrupt turn of pace in the final section of this piece with a piercing electric guitar taking over the duties of the flute and the song to its conclusion.
Summary: An interesting EP which highlights the talents of this hard working duo.
Cover art by Malcolm Galloway, incorporating a public domain photograph
the Ark Royal, and a background texture by MercuryCode.
Notes from the Press Release :Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate have been developing a cult reputation through their award winning albums, endorsements from rock legends (passionate live performances. They came to wider attention when they stepped in at the last minute to replace an injured band on the main stage at Hard Rock Hell’s Prog Festival in Wales on November 2017, one of the world’s leading indoor progressive rock events. They performed to over 1000 people, opening for Magnum, Focus and Carl Palmer. They were described by Hard Rock Hell magazine as ‘unlikely stars who stole the show’, by eFestivwatch. als as the ‘highlight of the festival’, and now have a busy festival schedule for 2019/20. Their music combines progressive/alt/classic rock, experimental and classical elements, minimalist, metal, folk, funk, and electronic music, and often explores scientific and philosophical themes.
They regularly play at leading London venues and regularly put on charity gigs (including for Save The Children, Cancer Research UK, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Ehlers-Danlos Support UK, and Brain Tumour UK).