HATS OFF GENTLEMEN IT’S ADEQUATE – One Word That Means The World (Arkhipov) / Music For Dancing

When approaching a fusion based style, London’s Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate are rarely anything less than interesting. Since their inception, the musical duo have painted an art rock canvas that’s blended prog, pop, funk and ambient textures in a way that – for the want of an easy descriptor – sometimes makes them sound like The Pineapple Thief jamming with the rhythm section of early 80s King Crimson. At other times, you might stumble upon the atmospheres of later Talk Talk, or swathes of guitar work tipping their more than adequate hat in the direction of ‘In Absentia’ era Porcupine Tree, but almost always with the Gentlemen’s own, slightly odd, twist. Simply put, you can rely on them to tease your ears with something pleasingly complex.

The two tracks that make up this digital outing are no exception, and provide very strong hints of a worthy follow up to the band’s 2023 full length ‘The Light of Ancient Mistakes’ – a record that’s very much “in the making” at the time of this release. ‘One Word That Means The World (Arkhipov)’ is a dark, prog infused workout inspired by Soviet naval officer Vasily Arkhipov’s historical decision to stand against action that could’ve led to a nuclear war. In their own quirky way, Hats Off take the utterly bleak theme and contrast it with a superb musical arrangement that uplifts, but also supplies what some of the (many) prog snobs might term a “thinking person”s sound. From the outset, a bass groove helps to set a solid but very rhythmic arrangement in place, whilst busy – and slightly atonal – guitar work indulges in a mix of flowing notes and fret mangling that harks back to some of the band’s previous experiments. Settling into the melody, a broader vocal steers the music through a mix of very melodic prog, vaguely goth-infused undertones and a few other retro sounds, including a bright sounding guitar which throws out sonar-like notes in an almost punctuating fashion. You’ll also discover a lead guitar break that fuses a few prog-ish indulgences with more of a classic rock tone. What’s most important here, given this duo’s love of a complex arrangement, is how strongly the chorus shines through. Malcolm Galloway isn’t the strongest singer in the traditional sense, but he’s still able to show a few prog vocalists a thing or three about melody, and during the main hook of this very strong track, his distinctive style allows a few longer notes to match a few soaring guitars, lifting an already impressive number. It’s safe to say that if you’re already a fan, you won’t be disappointed.

Joining ‘Arkhipov’, the cheekily titled ‘Music For Dancing’ supplies an eight minute jam, where busy funk led bass work collides with a busy drum part, light piano, and jazz fusion keys, before dropping into a world of proggy keys and quieter textures. The change is merely a brief interlude – used effectively more than once – designed to make any further grooves sound even bigger. By the time this workout reaches its peak, listeners can be expected to drown in a world of sounds that flaunt themselves as a heady mix of Return To Forever, Camel, and a non-descript 70s band. Adding chunky guitar and eventually cranking their way through something that sounds like a close relation of of a prog band reworking an old Lalo Shifrin film theme from decades gone by, Hats Off definitely champion something brilliantly retro here – and it suits them very comfortably. Fashion be damned.

Whether you’re approaching these tracks as a fan or casual listener, they’ll provide either a welcome stop gap, or an interesting and semi-accessible introduction. Two numbers mightn’t be enough for new ears to fully appreciate the duo’s variable sound, but any new music is very welcome. ‘One Word’, in particular, is a great reminder of the Hats Off concoction of quirk, melody, crunch and atmosphere. A recommended listen.

April 2024