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(61:20; Echo Us)
TRACK LIST: 1. We Seek the Descending Levers 8:06 2. If You Can Imagine 5:29 3. The Night Sky 3:18 4. When the Windsong Spires 5:49 5. Squals 3:52 6. Fly You Home 4:40 7. And When They Dance at Dusk 4:15 8. I'll Wave You In 4:53 9. And Acquiesce 5:41 10. If We Can Breathe Again 3:38 11. Under The Smallest Sky 11:39 LINEUP: Charlotte Engler - vocals Andrew Greene - drums, percussion Ethan Matthews - vocals, guitars, hammered dulcimer, glockenspiel, percussion, synthesizers
Prolusion. US band ECHO US is the creative vehicle for composer and musician Ethan Matthews, and for the last 20 years or so he has written and released a total of six studio albums with his specific take on the progressive rock genre, usually with additional musicians contributing with their specialties to help bring Matthews visions to life. "The Windsong Spires" is the most recent Echo Us album, and was self released in the summer of 2021.
Analysis. Echo Us has by and large been regarded as a band that falls under the neo-progressive category of progressive rock. Which is understandable, as the music tends to be atmospheric laden to an extent that few other subsections of progressive rock would be a suitable placement. At least among those who have a need to carefully place music inside a very specified context. And for lack of better options I'll probably state that this is the best of the compartments to place the band in also on this most recent production of theirs. There is a bit more going on here than a band exploring the legacy of the likes of Marillion however. In fact, many of the people that normally adore most aspects of neo-progressive rock may well be a bit puzzled when they hear the music on this album and see that classification. Atmospheric laden ambient sounds is a key trait throughout this production, of the kind that invokes associations to artists such as Vangelis just as music as, for instance, Austrian ambient maestro Gandalf. The vocals and vocal lines adds a touch of Jon Anderson to the proceedings, which suits such landscapes very well indeed - as both Anderson and Vangelis obviously can testify to. Some of the instrument movements and arrangement developments does add a slight touch of late 80's and early 90's Yes to the proceedings too, but in a subtle and non-dominant manner. But the patterns of the wandering plucked guitar, which is a prominent instrument throughout, brings me associations in that department. This along with the elegant guitar solo parts that appear on occasion, as well as some dramatic instrument and vocal details which is another recurring feature. Folk and world music elements with a slight touch of Peter Gabriel and similar artists is a common feature throughout, and all of this being said there's also the case of the wandering piano motifs which possibly is one of the more defining features of this album experience as a whole to add to the equation too, alongside certain sections here and there that appears to have a nod in the direction of classical music. While the album isn't as complicated to listen to as the above description might indicate, there's a bit more lurking beneath the surface than a mere atmospheric laden variety of neo-progressive rock with an ambient music orientation. The latter part of the description can be applied to the album as a whole of course, as ambient atmospheres is a key defining trait of this production, but it is one explored in a context with a few more dimensions attached than for many other bands and projects described in this manner. The elements that will limit the overall appeal of this album more than any other aspect of it are the vocals and the production however. Both vocalists have very distinct voices, and the mix and production is also of a kind that adds a very distinct presence and sound of it's own to the music as well as adding a certain emphasis to the already distinct vocals. The net effect is that we have an album with a sound and a presence that is strikingly unique, with an open sound that comes with something of a lo-fi association. The dreamladen and otherworldly aspects of the music is also given an emphasis by these production and delivery choices, and whether this is intentional or accidental this will limit the overall appeal of this production somewhat.
Conclusion. While generally regarded as a neo-progressive rock oriented venture, my take on Echo Us as they appear on "The Windsong Spires" is that ambient-oriented, dreamladen progressive rock is a much better summary of the contents here. Elements from folk and world music combined with traces and nods towards classic era progressive rock and classical music all explored inside an ambient oriented context if you like. While distinct vocals and an unusual mix and production will limit the overall appeal somewhat, those who find the thought of a more expressive variety of ambient oriented, dreamladen progressive rock to be interesting should have a good chance of enjoying this latest production by US band Echo Us.
Progmessor: August 2021
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