The US outfit EDENSONG is the creative vehicle for musician and composer James Byron Schoen, who founded the band back in 2002. Originally a full band, the results of various happenings and projects saw Edensong fall apart in 2006, after which Schoen has rebuilt it. "The Fruit Fallen" is the debut album by this outfit and was issued in 2008.
1. Water Run 6:02
2. The Baptism 6:38
3. Reflection 5:05
4. The Prayer 8:03
5. Nocturne 9:20
6. The Sixth Day 9:59
7. One Breath to Breathe 4:23
8. The Reunion 21:43
James Byron Schoen – guitars; vocals
Arthur Sugden – piano, organ
Matt Cozin – drums
T D Towers – bass
Ben Wigler – guitars (2, 4, 5, 6, 8)
Eve Harrison – flute (1, 2, 4, 6)
Rachel Kiel – flute (3, 5, 7, 8)
Sam Baltimore – cello (2, 4, 7)
Joe Swain – violin (1, 4)
Michael Drucker – violin
Several additional musicians
Concept albums are back in fashion it seems; every other CD I have listened to for some time now has been based around a conceptual story or theme of some sort. And this production is yet another one of those. Musically it is rather different from most other such ventures I've encountered though, where the eclectic nature of this excursion, as well as the stylistic expressions utilized, are rather unique in my experience. The 8 compositions are not highly advanced in terms of structure and for some it may be a negative feature that they develop in pretty much the same manner: acoustic guitars, soon accompanied by flute and often violin, open the songs in a mellow, rather pastoral fashion. Vocals are added in pretty swiftly as well, and these segments – sometimes with a strong folk music tinge and at other times with a slight classical flavor also – start evolving. The intensity of the instruments rises, sometimes a cello will be added in for more of a chamber rock feeling and in other tracks an organ will make an appearance to add some art rock flavors to the proceedings. At some point drawn-out heavy riffs or harder hitting riff patterns will be added to select sequences, strengthening the art rock impression already present or adding it if not. At times these passages even take on progressive metal dimensions due to the intensity of the guitar work. For the remainder of the songs there is a frequent movement between pastoral passages, art rock inspired sequences and either metal-tinged or chamber rock influenced segments. The sonic textures created are pretty advanced at times too: not overly complex though. Quirky rhythms, dissonances and disharmonies are not effects extensively utilized, but the soundscapes will more often than not contain multiple layers of instrumentation, giving the listener a wide variety of sounds to keep track of and creating some rather intriguing atmospheres besides. Whether it is flute and violin in harmonic explorations or flute soloing neatly contrasting with a riff pattern in the forefront of the mix, the moods created are strong and with a great deal of nerve, captivating and enthralling in sheer beauty, or a mix of both. There may be just too much to keep track of for some though and as the vocal passages are numerous and dominating throughout, the very distinct voice of Schoen might alienate some listeners. He is a good vocalist without doubt, but has a voice and vocal delivery pretty unique – for better or worse. Personally I like his style, but can easily understand others who disagree with my perception in this matter. And people solely looking for albums containing long, epic excursions better stay away from this effort. Although the track index lists the final track as an epic in the 20 minute range, it is actually a 10-minute excursion followed by a few minutes of silence and an 8 minute long hidden tune. The latter is more of a heavy art rock excursion and not very interesting as such as far as I'm concerned. It does showcase a heavier side of this band's output, and while I think this act is better off working with folk and chamber rock influenced material those who think otherwise should find this creation to be a great hidden asset on this excursion.
Advanced but not overly complex is a good description of the material contained on this disc, with diversity as a key word. If concept albums with a musical style residing somewhere in between heavy art rock, chamber rock and folk music sound intriguing, there's a good chance that you'll appreciate this production. To my ears one of the better albums issued in 2008 and an effort that will get many spins in my CD-player.
Oho! “The Fruit Fallen”, the first official release by the US combo EDENSONG, involves about twenty musicians, quite a few of whom play chamber and related instruments: violins, cellos, flutes and acoustic guitars, of which the bowed ones are present on half of the disc’s eight tracks, while the others on all of those without exception. So it didn’t come as a surprise that the album’s sound is warm and very lush, and by the way it also has a distinct analog feeling, since the organ and piano are the only keyboards deployed. Well, it’s time to describe the music, and I’ll begin with its vocal part. Whether he plays an electric or acoustic guitar (which he does approximately equally), James Byron Schoen shines with both originality and inventiveness almost throughout the recording, whilst as a singer he is most of the time too strict in following the canons of Neo to impress me. Okay, evoking something halfway between Derek “Fish” Dick and Cyrus “Xyrus” Scott (Citizen Cain), he appears as a good apprentice-in-absentia of Peter Gabriel in the end, but nevertheless his professionalism in this particular field doesn’t come across as something special, of course, besides which he sings almost non-stop, if not to say off the reel. Neither of James’ benefactors duplicates, etc, his vocals via overdubs, whereas he does – from time to time, yet on each of the disc’s eight tracks delivering 3- or 4-voice virtual choirs, while hearing which I’m often reminded of those in AOR. Thankfully, although the album is heavy (or at least rather abundant) in vocals, on almost all of the compositions the soloists, meaning the band’s players and side participants alike, create wonders of a sort. Instead of constructing what we in such cases comprehend as a mere backdrop for the singing, they solo intensely and almost ceaselessly, often shining with virtuosity (particularly the flutists), creating lively as well as fairly intricate arrangements with many – often sharp – changes in both pace and density, so there are plenty of pleasing structural and dynamic contrasts on the recording. What’s also of great significance is that the musicians really succeed in merging different sonic fabrics into one cohesive whole, as a result of which most of their creation appears as a quite innovative take on Neo Progressive. It’s surprisingly rich in vintage devices and has additionally a sense of Classical – on all the tracks where the bowed instruments are present, namely Water Run, The Baptism, The Prayer and One Breath to Breathe. The last of these pieces is basically slow-paced throughout, but I don’t think anyone else will remain indifferent towards it, as it’s full of warm chamber tones and is generally a thing of beauty. In terms of development, the other three have a lot in common with both Nocturne and The Sixth Day, along with which they actually form the album’s prevalent musical picture (whose instrumental part is described or at least sketched above). There is another aspect that unites these five songs: each of them contains ‘heavy’ elements which pop up here and there, occasionally taking the shape of full-fledged progressive Doom Metal – a component which blossoms out on the last and the longest track, The Reunion (21:43). The only composition that reveals not only brief instrumental intermezzos (as all the others do), but also some massive vocal-free arrangements, it is also the sole creation in the set that shows signs of derivation on its instrumental level, too. About two thirds of it echo mid-‘90s Threshold, while the remainder evokes classic Jethro Tull, which though doesn’t upset me at all, as the piece has a grandiose, truly epic magnitude and is generally a standout. The remaining track, the mellow Reflection, would’ve been a conventional ballad if it hadn’t been rich in refined acoustic tapestries – with your permission, and by saying so I mean above all those that are woven by the flute.
None of the songs here are as rich in different thematic storylines as those by the leading modern art-rock acts – be it Cast, Kotebel or even the Par Lindh Project, besides which there are really plenty of vocals on this outing – too many even by the standards of Neo (which may scare off those who are into classic Symphonic Progressive). Nevertheless, thanks to Edensong’s highly resourceful approach to the instrumental arrangements, their debut album turns out to be one of the most innovative creations that have ever been released within that genre.