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(58:56; Absolute Probability Recordings)
TRACK LIST: 1. Across the Star 3:49 2. Echo Us 9:37 3. Dark Shock 8:35 4. It's Time for Winter 3:42 5. Inland Empire 7:42 6. Nest Egg 2:08 7. From the Furthest Memory 1:14 8. Far Above the Sky 5:19 9. Solarium 6:33 10. Singing With You 10:17 LINE UP : Ethan Matthews - vocals, guitars, synthesizers, glockenspiel, percussion with: Aaron Bell - bass
Prolusion. US project Echo Us is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Ethan Matthews, and since the first singles were released more than 20 years ago Echo Us has been a steady creator of a fairly unique variety of progressive rock that has been explored on seven full length albums to date. The most recent of these albums is called "Inland Empire", and was released on the artists own label Absolute Probability Recordings in the spring of 2023.
Analysis. The specific style of progressive rock explored on this latest Echo Us album is difficult to pinpoint into any specific subdivision of the form, but I suspect that if one should describe the music as residing somewhere in between art pop and neo-progressive rock you won't be too far off. That being said, the light toned and dreamladen landscapes explored on this production is a type of music we don't hear too often. There is a distinct ambient touch to the landscapes explored here. Not in a classic manner of the definition of ambient music, but the spirit of that music form is very much present with the arrangements all being of a light toned and delicate nature, with only token enhancements provided by darker toned guitar riffs, a more form bass line or slightly edgier rhythm details. Among the core defining features of all the material here are floating and flowing instrument elements, weaving themselves in and out of the arrangements in a smooth yet also intricate manner. Wandering acoustic guitars and piano motifs are other core features, soft and elegant floating guitar solo overlays are just as vital parts of the totality, with floating and surging careful keyboard details, textures and effects also being a central feature of these landscapes. Occasional use of world music rhythms and otherwise careful but efficient rhythm details that are present but rarely dominating is also a vital aspect, and the light toned, careful and elegant vocals can be described in a similar manner too. Hence none of the details are actually more important than the others here, and it is the interwoven and intricate relationships between them that is the true dominant aspect of all the compositions. While this is a fairly unique approach and execution of music placed within a progressive rock context I have come across music with similar qualities before. In this case I'm specifically thinking about the classic albums made by Jon Anderson and Vangelis back in the day, and there are certainly similar features shared between the landscapes they created back in the day and the landscapes explored by Echo Us on this album. There are some differences too though, with Vangelis often being more atmospheric laden and using more defined and slightly darker tones and timbres than what Echo Us do, but I can readily imagine that if Jon Anderson had ever cooperated with Austrian keyboard wizard Gandalf that the end result might have been fairly close to the music explored on this album, at least in general spirit. Echo Us is a creator of more intricate landscapes than what such a potential partnership probably would have created though.
Conclusion. "Inland Empire" is a light toned and careful but also intricate blend of art pop music, ambient landscapes and borderline neo-progressive textures compiled into an interwoven whole. Dreamladen material that just about always stays on the lighter side of the tone and timbre spectrum, with compositions carefully tracing their way through a complex set of ebbs and flow of a delicate and otherworldly nature. This is unique music in many ways, but as a total album experience this is one I'd guesstimate that fans of the music created by Jon Anderson and Vangelis back in the day should have a good chance of being enthralled by.
Progmessor: March 2023
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