Leap Day - Treehouse

(CD 2021, 55:50, Oskar Records OSKAR 1130CD)

The tracks:
  1- Like Icarus(10:43)
  2- Clementine(8:51)
  3- Raining(7:30)
  4- Treehouse(9:24)
  5- May 5th(7:24)
  6- Autumn(11:58)

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I assume that Dutch neo prog group Leap Day is a familiar name to many readers. It was to me, although I found out that I have hardly any of their work in my collection. Let's do a quick rehash of their history to refreshen our memories.
The band was started by Flamborough Head drummer Koen Roozen on 29 February 2008 when he had all members complete for new musical challenges - and found a name for the group to be at once (after the date...). The line-up included keyboard player Gert van Engelenburg who had previously been active by composing for youth theatre, singer Jos Harteveld from Pink Floyd Project, guitar player Eddie Mulder (Trion, Flamborough Head and also Pink Floyd Project), Peter Stel (bass, backing vocals of Nice Beaver) and keyboard player Derek Evert Waalkens.
Leap Day was more or less a continuation of the group King Eider. This had been a studio project of Hans Gerritse (Nice Beaver) and Derk Evert Waalkens. They had promised a live performance if 1.000 copies of their CD Somateria Spectabilis (a very fine disc, by the way) would be sold. When they reached that number, they contacted Koen who was preparing the band that was to become Leap Day. It was found to be practical to try out the new band live by playing King Eider's album live. This was so successful that they wanted to carry on. For practical reasons Hans, who lived in another part of the country, bailed out.
Leap Day debuted with a self-titled three-track demo later in 2008 and quickly followed up with the full-length album Awaking The Muse (2009, see review) that was received pretty well. During live shows in 2010 they started playing some new songs that eventually ended up on Skylge's Lair (see review), the second album that saw the light of day early 2011. Their most ambitious work to date is sure the two-part concept From The Days Of Deucalion (2013, see review and 2015, see review) which was based on the 1950 book Worlds In Collision written by the Russian-Jewish psychiatrist Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979). Timelapse (see review) was more or less a collection of outtakes and now here is Treehouse, the first album with new vocalist Hans Kuypers who replaced Jos Harteveld (I need to mention that there is also a new bassist, Harry Scholing).

Like Icarus opens with typical neo progressive rock. Very nice keys to which the Camel-like guitars of Eddie Mulder are soon added. The first question to ask is often about the singer. Good news, Hans Kuypers is a solid replacement of Harteveld, reminding me a bit of the singer(s) from Egdon Heath, which definitely is a vote of confidence. All in all, the first track is a great opener that will win over many neo prog fans with its fine melodies and instrumental keyboard-guitar interplay. However, the band ruins this advantage a bit with the spoken word at the end. Mentioning the victims of a fire is bound to become boring on future listening and in my opinion an unwise choice. Even though I can understand and respect the band's choice to do this, it ruins the flow.
Unsure whether this affects my judgement of the second track. Guess not because Clementine starts well in a darker and a bit tortured mode. The sound lightens up quickly, but that is not all positive. The quasi chorus “Oh my darling Clementine” is even almost child-like and wears very, very quickly. A piece that I certainly will skip in the future, even though some parts remind me a bit of Genesis.
Raining is a semi-ballad. I am reminded a bit of Big Big Train, perhaps because of the horn-sounds. It's not quite as good as the British band though. And I don't understand the metal-riffs at the end. Much better is the playful title track. This is perhaps my favourite track. There is a slight touch of reggae and ska here that sets the piece pleasantly apart from the rest of the album. There is a great guitar piece in the second half and then an odd excursion into trance dance music that oddly works well, then to erupt into another delicious (slide) guitar section. Let's play that one again!
May 5th is the day that celebrates the end of World War II and Freedom in the Netherlands. Also this piece features sounds from horns (probably from the keyboards) and there is some sitar (unsure who is playing that). The lead melody is a bit shallow to my ears, but there is a great guitar part in there in the middle.
Closing piece Autumn is the longest track of the CD. It starts beautifully with piano and gentle vocals and ends the album in a most positive manner.

Treehouse is a good album that could have been even better had they worked a bit more on some tracks. However, if you like neo progressive or symphonic prog, give it a try.

*** Carsten Busch (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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