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Echolyn - As The World CD (album) cover

AS THE WORLD

Echolyn

 

Symphonic Prog

3.98 | 228 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Unless you have better sensory processing skills than I, you'll need to listen to "As the World" at least three times before you even start to hear everything that's going on. The lyrics, which are intelligent and complex, lead rather than follow the band. The song structures are unconventional, yet comfortable; the transitions are smooth and there is little filler. The musicians are adept and have an extensive range of organic tones, so the songs rarely sound too similar.

"As the World" and "Audio Verite" are frank, irritated studies of personal identity with unique vocal parts and harmonies. "Uncle" is a disturbing childhood narrative that voyages through a wide range of arrangements- including a very "Close to the Edge" sounding transition into the musings of "How Long I Have Waited". "Best Regards" and "My Dear Wormwood" seem to juggle pop- rock and jazz- rock leanings in a playful but earnest way, sometimes sounding like a more focused and jazzy PHISH and sometimes like a more lysergic POLICE. "The Cheese Stands Alone" has an even more humorous touch, in an anglo- Zappa vein (but with a bit more subtlety). "One For the Show" is more dramatic, a desperate and driving nostalgia epic not unlike an early Tori Amos composition ("Silent All These Years", "Winter"). "The Wiblet" initially struck me as filler, but it certainly confirms the prog status of the band. "Settled Land" starts more laidback but with a desperate, witty edge (I'll take a longshot bet that they have heard a song or two by THE SMITHS) and, oddly, quotes Stephen King. With a subtle but pervasive jazz influence, chord structures never seem to develop as expected; they find new ways to resolve melodic lines and this sense of the unexpected keeps the sometimes flat sonic textures from seeming bland. The piano parts are some of the best I've heard, occasionally bringing to mind Emerson's playing (compare the piano in "A Habit Worth Forming" with "Take a Pebble" for instance). The singer is dryly effective; his phrasing sometimes make me wonder how serious he is about his growing-up angst (and whether the occasional British accent is an affectation)- once in a while I'm reminded of the music of Trey & Matt(the South Park guys) and that only makes me more unsure of his intent- there's a post-modern feeling about the lyrics, not quite ironic but seeming to imply something other than what they say. Indeed, the entire band sounds much more modern than the actual instruments and influences would indicate; they are neither retro nor trendy- they occupy a space apart. There are some stylistic left turns; "Never the Same" is strikingly different- almost a classic rock ballad with exquisite strings and delicate harmonies (preluded in- what else: "Always the Same"). "Letters: Prose" is a disarmingly gossamer interlude and "A Short Essay" starts by musically resembling one of the piano-and-Freddy moments from QUEEN's first album- and is one of the most lovely songs of the bunch, culminating in an almost torch-song coda. "Entry 11-19-93" sounds like a modern take on "In My Room" but is far more interesting than most of what Brian Wilson ever wrote.

In fact, 'interesting' is how I'd characterize the sound- not in the "I'll set you up with my friend, she's interesting" sense but rather the "I'm not sure I'll buy it yet but keep talking" sense. There aren't many powerful moments in the music- mostly it's a little too almost-cerebral to be truly moving- but often they achieve at least a complex ambivalence, and sometimes really surprise you with the extent of their range. It's an admirable achievement and perfect for anyone (except maybe the hardcore metalheads) who wants to be reassured of the potential of modern prog.

(by the way, it was pretty hard to write about these guys without mentioning GENTLE GIANT, but I wanted to prove it could be done...oops, I guess I just blew that one)

James Lee | 3/5 |

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