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Hermetic Science - 2008 - "These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruins"

(50:30, Musea Records)


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TRACK LIST:   

1.  De Profundis 10:06 
2.  Voyages 6:38 
3.  Triptych 15:32 
4.  Melancholia-I 1:54 
5.  Aion 8:15 
6.  Melancholia-II 1:11 
7.  The Second Coming 6:48

LINEUP:

Ed Macan – keyboards; mallet percussion
Jason Hoopes – bass, guitars
Angelique Curry – drums

Prolusion. HERMETIC SCIENCE is the brainchild of American musician and composer Edward Macan, Ed being the only permanent member of the outfit. While their, or rather his, previous three studio albums – the one that’s named after the project (which in turn bears the same name as the Masonic dogma/ideology does), “Propheseis” and “En Route” – were released after only a one-year hiatus, in 1997, 1999 and 2001, respectively, it took seven years for him to present us his new musical creation, “These Fragments I Have Shored against My Ruins”. However, any uninitiated person should bear in mind that Edward is also a writer, who has penned the excellent “Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock & the Counterculture” and the wonderful “Endless Enigma: A Musical Biography of Emerson, Lake & Palmer”. This, his latest, book is the most voluminous and at the same time the most elaborated music-related literary work I’ve ever read. When conjecturing whether Sir Macan is the present Chief of the Knights Templar Order or is a sort of continuer of the Illuminati's activity in the field of arts, I’ve chosen the latter version. The fact is that otherwise he should conceal anything that concerns the Order, particularly its location, whereas each of the project’s releases’ booklets says that the Hermetic Science headquarters is (now) in Eureka, CA, just where Ed lives and creates. The review of the band’s 3-CD box that embraces the ‘remastered versions’ of their first three albums can be read here.

Analysis. The meaning of the disc’s title which instantly, already in itself, evokes something disturbing (doesn’t it?), is another enigma to me. This time, however, I’ll omit all my, hmm, corresponding reflections but the one or rather the only one that could really find its resolution and be either confirmed or refuted after I hear the disc. Here it is: this all-instrumental recording is not compiled of outtakes from the band’s previous releases, but consists exclusively of new, in all senses full-fledged creations. Yes, Melancholia-I and Melancholia-II are very short, perhaps even tiny cuts, and yet both are compositionally complete, each evoking a piece of light classical music for grand piano and vibraphone, respectively. Either way, it’s the other five tracks (ranging from 6- to 15-and-a-half minutes) that determine the album's overall sound, all being full-blown, multi-sectional, as well as generally quite compelling compositions, and it’s another story altogether that I like some of those a bit better than the others. If the first Hermetic Science outing is in many ways a benefit performance for vibes and other mallet percussion, and its follow-up relies approximately equally on those instruments and analog keyboards, then the third one is, so to speak, woven almost exclusively of symphonic fabrics, each of the successive ones being more progressively as well as sonically saturated than its predecessor. In this particular case we deal with a sort of comeback of the approach the band had most widely used on their second album, and although the matter is fully applicable only to Triptych and Aion, these – the longest track and the third longest one, respectively – form nearly half of the disc’s contents. Both for the most part alternate fusionesque moves (with only mallet percussion, bass and drums in the arrangement) with almost purely symphonic ones which, of course, additionally involve keyboards or, to be more precise, a variety of those. Just logically, the sections with a virtual ‘keyboard’ quartet behind them sound noticeably-to-much fuller than those featuring a real ‘vibe’ trio and which seem to have been recorded live in the studio. However, Aion is constructed in such a way that it comes across as being overall much more textually consistent than Triptych and pleases the ear almost throughout. As for the last-named piece, I wonder why it got the title it did, as it’s a multi-thematic creation which, moreover, is fully cohesive only within its last three fifths, whereas while it begins and unfolds it has a fragmentary feeling in a way, since there are quite a few different themes none of which sound like the sequels of the preceding ones. Quite frankly, I would have perceived it better if it had borne the same title as the album does. Occasional allusions in both cases include ELP and Mark Wagnon solo as well as something by this man’s main band, Tunnels (which, in turn, can hardly be taken in any other way than as the reincarnation of Brand X). De Profundis, Voyages and The Second Coming are all creations of vintage-meets-classically-inspired Symphonic Progressive with bits of Jazz-Fusion. The first of these has a particularly strong sense of the classical to it: perhaps because it is rich in segments that feature Ed alone – mostly as a keyboardist, all those being done in the corresponding key, of course. With plenty of changes in pace and direction, all these progress through many dynamic transitions, each standing out for Macan’s at once masterful and inspired keyboard and mallet work, and only the fact that on both De Profundis and Voyages the fast-and-intense arrangements almost strictly alternate with the slow-and-reflective ones makes me regret that, well, the former aren’t as widely spread there as they are on The Second Coming (of ELP?), though on the other hand this is the only heavily-influenced track in the set, which even features an interpretation of the central musical storyline of Tarkus. Nonetheless all three are overall almost excellent, at once cerebral and fascinating, compositions – among the best by Hermetic Science as a matter of fact. There are relatively few electric guitar solos on this outing and their provider, bassist Jason Hoopes, plays those mostly in a quasi jazz-fusion manner. But then most of it abounds in various keyboards: think Hammond organ, ARP string ensemble, grand piano and a couple of analog synthesizers, such as mini- or micro-Moog (not sure which of these is used – maybe both). The instruments are listed in line of descent according to their overall weight in the recording with only one reservation: the piano dominates almost all over the first track.

Conclusion. If you read my reviews of all the previous releases by the band, you’ll find that each of them contains some criticism, too. However, all those (i.e., most, if not all, prog-heads) who can read between the lines instantly comprehend that while expressing my disapproval, okay, in this particular case, I always do it in a friendly way. I’m a fan as well as an adherent of Hermetic Science which, to my mind, is one of the most ‘serious’ and innovative bands on the genre’s modern scene. Its latest release is its second best album to date and comes recommended with only minor reservations.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: June 16, 2009
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Musea Records
Hermetic Science


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