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(68:57, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. From Snow to Sea 4:25 2. The Tide Decides 5:33 3. Out at the Edge of the World 10:55 4. We Surfaced 5:41 5. Fantastic Elevation 5:10 6. Bon Voyage 7:32 7. Trans-Atlantic 7:10 8. Descending From the Dream 5:41 9. State of Expectation 5:17 10. Shooting Scenes 11:33 LINEUP: Ethan – vocals; most instruments Andrew Greene – drums Aaron Bell – bass Teri Untalan – viola Raelyn Olson – harp
Prolusion. ECHO US is a US-based band-project led by composer and multi-instrumentalist Ethan out of Portland, Oregon. Its debut album was issued in 2005, and this sophomore effort, "The Tide Decides" was released by Musea Records early in 2009, via their subsidiary label Musea Paralelle.
Analysis. Coming across a band creating truly surprising musical endeavors is a pretty rare happening these days, and this is one of those rare occurrences. The individual elements aren't groundbreaking, but the blend of vastly different stylistic expressions that makes up this creation is one that I've never encountered before to my recollection. Indeed, I can't even remember listening to an artist even closing in on this particular musical landscape before. At this point I might add that, yes, this is challenging music too. And no, it's not challenging in any traditional sense of the word – many people who would normally love any music described in that manner will probably find this album totally uninteresting. You won't find any dissonances on any of the compositions presented on this production and as far as disharmonic passages go, you'd have a hard time finding any of these as well. In fact, the most striking features running throughout this creation are a dreamy mood and the dominating role given to electronic instruments and effects. Ambient passages are found aplenty, and I suspect that songwriter Ethan knows his Kraftwerk as well as Gandalf and Vangelis. The songs are shifting in style and sound pretty often, though, and often a theme will only be explored for a very brief amount of time before it evolves into something pretty different-sounding. Some passages feature emulated staccato guitar riffs with a distinct metal edge to them, while others are closer to mainstream pop music in style. And to be precise: a band that often came to mind when inspecting those particular segments was Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The bass, rhythms and keyboards do take on a distinct ‘80s-sounding pop music tinge to them at times, and when vocalist Ethan often sounds exactly like the guy singing in the aforementioned act, the comparison becomes inevitable. At this stage I'll have to mention two other striking features of this venture: the harp and the viola. Featured on all compositions and most individual themes and passages, they add some striking and highly unexpected moods to these explorations. Sampled noises and sequences where spoken words are added in are the final features worth mentioning, which add up to compositions progressive in structure, with many changes of pace, sound and style. But music that in its expression is of a somewhat simpler nature despite containing at times several unexpected features, a polished, mainstream-oriented production is a part of the overall picture as well.
Conclusion. Quirky compositions will normally be a feature that interests the dedicated follower of adventurous music, and atypical musical blends will in most cases be appreciated by this crowd as well. And while the escapades on this recording can be said to be just those, the release should be approached with some caution by this particular audience. But if dreamy, ambient music is to your liking and you don't mind musically and compositionally experimental features “The Tide Decides” is an album you might want to get more familiar with.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: October 12, 2009
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