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Echolyn - Mei CD (album) cover

MEI

Echolyn

Symphonic Prog


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Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A beautiful album. A modern symphony. Mei is one song, 49+ minutes, and has so many changing textures and emotions that it can only be classified as EPIC. An incredible piece of music. This disc will take the average listener four or five sessions to begin to fit the pieces together and I would recommend going to Echolyn's website and retrieving the lyrics before beginning this undertaking. The lyrics are powerful and filled with angst and beauty. Brett Kull and Ray Weston trade off on the vocals, Kulls somewhat sweet and softer voice and Weston's controlled screaming adding color and depth. Buzby's keyboard work is the highlight of the disc.

The DVD, Stars and Gardens, has the entire piece performed live with Tom Hyatt adding percussion and bass. A majestic moment for modern prog.

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Send comments to Dan Bobrowski (BETA) | Report this review (#9400)
Posted Friday, December 26, 2003 | Review Permalink
ebwoy@easynew
5 stars A great piece of changing and inspired music, give the stereo a really good workout. Lots of different moods, from mellow to moody.

It's one of those albums that's a real musical journey - different thing each time ya listen !

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#9401)
Posted Saturday, December 27, 2003 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars "Echolyn" rules once again!!

Well actually this is their first "concept-song format" album, based upon one inspiring-even though a bit uneven- song ... its direction is precise but without a great variety of ideas nor any peak of invention! Of course this is my personal opinion, following my excitment brought about the other two masterpieces composed by this "fertile" band in the nineties, those are:"Suffocating the Bloom" (definitively their best album) and "As the world" (a bit inferior but always excellent). But coming to the present issue, I think of an interesting new album, with a few defects...in fact, except on their usual originality concerning their arrangement, the remaining music passages- regarding of their music harmony - are not always convincing!! This original suite is a bit tiring till the end, despite of its compactness; therefore I'm not too much fond of the vocal harmonies like in their recent past...after all this is a diverse album and anyway interesting, so to me it's well worth checking out at least; but I let you listen to it, because I don't want to affect the opinion of their new fans.

Good issue, even though it is not a masterpiece!!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#9404)
Posted Thursday, April 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
jany@prog-nos
4 stars Can you spare a moment? Say 50 minutes? That's exactly the time you'll need to listen to Echolyn's newest. There's only one song featuring "Mei". Very daring in these times of meaningless tunes and monotone beats, don't you think? Who would still take the time to sit and relax in his comfy chair to listen to the whole song? But then again, Echolyn doesn't aim for a target group. But really taking the time to listen to music?? I don't think it happens a lot, except perhaps for the real music lover, the genuine symphomaniac for instance. However, it's not a unique experiment. An illustrious example is Jethro Tull with "Thick as a brick". We had to stand up halfway to change sides, but that was all. Anyway..

Let's see what "Mei" has to offer. The inner sleeve shows miscellaneous photographs of still lifes and landscapes, images of people, cars, etc. with bits and pieces of text. These scraps match mainly the amount of fragments being skilfully put together. You can find the entire textbook on their website. I discovered 14 themes in this piece of work. 14 different states of mind, translated into music. From calm, almost classical to utterly chaotic, even sometimes-aggressive music with all the possible variations in between. It feels like an imaginary voyage, a journey all the way through Progland. It's hard to compare this album with former Echolyn work, because it seems they changed their musical direction. It makes me think more of Spock's Beard and Transatlantic. Nevertheless, you'll recognise the "old" Echolyn here and there. This album is a very modern prog-one, like Saga's "Generation 13". Few old prog elements, a bit of jazz, rock and blues, a touch of Steely Dan, even "drum and base" are woven into the music, but in a responsible way.

A quick summary: The album is filled with complex music, but, give it some time because it grows on you every time you listen to it. Nowhere is it disappointing and there are always new elements to be discovered. Echolyn have surpassed themselves. The album should also be very interesting for Spock's Beard and Transatlantic fans.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#9405)
Posted Tuesday, May 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars A true classic! this album is a real special one.It is 50 minutes long.. and one song! It is not and easy one for the first couple of times but it grows in me and it become one of my favourite prog album! A masterpiece!It is really a listening trip. You cant divide this album in pieces. You love the whole album or not.The musicianship is simply perfect and the melodies are very very strong. Take the time and take your headphones and enjoy the trip! Highly recommanded!

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Send comments to stephdrum (BETA) | Report this review (#9406)
Posted Tuesday, October 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Echloyn's work in general is prime time stuff. The incredibly complex and lightning quick time changes always made my mind ringed with the picture of a huge smiling giant. Too few groups are referring to Gentle Giant as an influence. I guess they just feel scared of not fitting into the Giant's shoes, and how. But Echolyn never feared anything, especially not getting on par with UK's Giant. Because in most of their work, Echolyn always had the pedal to the floor, dazzling us and blinding us with furiously fast and complex pieces of weird rock. As the World was a tour de force from start to finish and Suffocating the Bloom was as good, if not better lyrically at least. Everything seems to fit into place for Echolyn when it came to the golden days of the 90's.

Which band could honestly say that through half a dozen albums they could maintain a constant level of innovation?

Echolyn being out of business for many years finally gave us their new cookie in 2002. Mei is a quite dangerous format. Only one piece of music through 50 minutes, with no breaks except some brief orchestral moments. And this is where my eyebrows react: this is not exactly the best formula. Blending an orchestration in rock has been done successfully in the past by many bands (yes, camel, moody blues) but sometimes the pudding doesn't gel, and honestly in this case Echolyn is losing a lot of power. Sometimes they sound kinda Pearl Jammish or some sort of an old 90's hit and run band. This is a new approach that restrains an enormous part of what made As the World or Suffocating the Bloom successful albums. They calmed down the pace real bad in most of the record.

Some parts are actually 5 stars material throughout the album, such as where the old GG Hammond Organ kicks in for many minutes. Of course let's not forget the superb 4 persons vocals, always appreciated and a trademark for Echolyn throughout the years.

Echolyn is maybe running out of power significantly, but the core of the fun is not lost. This album is doing the job at some places and could make you snooze at some other.

It's a tad saddening to see an old hero disappointing you but, get real man, this is only music.

Good, not great [You snooze you lose]

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Send comments to Menswear (BETA) | Report this review (#9408)
Posted Wednesday, January 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
James Lee
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars For those not familiar with ECHOLYN, this is probably not the place to start- unless you're an experienced proghead, comfortable with disc-length tracks and concept albums. Conversely, the music itself is a shade LESS progressive than earlier releases, making it a more comfortable listen for the more mainstream rock fan.

For those who are familiar with the band, you'll notice this relative shift towards more familiar rock textures. Not that ECHOLYN has gone mainstream, by any means; it's simply a continuing evolution of the trend from "As the World" onwards, and compliments the bands' strengths. Weston, for instance, sounds much more mature as a vocalist but also somewhat less immediately recognizable (in fact, at times he resembles Maynard during TOOL's quieter moments). The production is also less sparse and flat than previous releases, with less of a gulf between the individual instruments; this tends to highlight the organic elements and tasteful orchestration, and the band in general shows off a wider dynamic range. One could argue that they're less unique than they once were (as well as less frequently evocative of GENTLE GIANT), but also more adept at realizing the full potential of the music.

The concept is epic, though on a personal scale, and defies a simple summary. On their website they refer to it as a "...a combination of jack kerouac's "on the road" and dante alighieri's "inferno"...a pilgrim's journey...a love song...with love as something intangible and yet all encompassing, fragile, and yet eternal......but a backdrop of darkness forever surrounds this love...". One might say it's a story of one man's roadtrip, both literally and symbolically, across a landscape of endless roads and landmarks from his own psychological conflicts. Imagine "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" without the mythological surrealism, or MARILLION's harrowing "Ocean Cloud" with a more epic and in-depth character portrayal. There's certainly a less rarefied and more earthy and visceral feel than the band's songs have displayed previously. As songwriters, the band has clearly progressed- and "As the World", for example, was not lacking in lyric quality to begin with.

Which returns nicely to my original conflict: an album full of separate songs would have showcased ECHOLYN's development much better, but instead they want you to hear the 50-minute "Mei" as a whole- which places a bigger burden on the listener. They're more of a 'contemporary' band than ever (just listen to the filtered vocals and sampled drum loops that peek out occasionally- and to their credit, tastefully- during the song) but also more steadfast than ever in their refusal to join the ranks of prog bands who have attempted to produce a more commercially viable statement.

In short, this album is a remarkable achievement for the band, a treat for the fans (unless you're stubbornly in favor of the mid-90s sound of the band), and one of the most artistically effective progressive concept albums of the last twenty years. I can't go as far as to call it "essential", but anyone with the patience and openness to appreciate the album/song will find it an involving and impressive journey.

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Send comments to James Lee (BETA) | Report this review (#9411)
Posted Wednesday, April 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tony R
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars With Echolyn's "Mei" we are taken along on a musical journey,which echoes the twists and turns of the highway and reflects the changing landscape and the mood of the "pilgrim". Brimming with metaphor (the path to enlightenment,love and loss) the album can be seen as a single 50 minute piece or 9 shorter vignettes-that is; one long journey of discovery or 9 episodes that complete the whole.However such is the skill of the composers that the themes float in and out and the symphonic feel to the album makes the 50 minutes fly by.Whilst the biographic blurb mentions Dante and Kerouac,it is the sweeping epic works of author John Dos Passos and composer Philip Glass that spring most readily to my mind.

The piece starts with an almost pastoral feel (in fact,I find echoes of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony in the mood of the piece) interrupted by some of the most poignant lyrics I have ever heard:

"We share more than the end A tragic blend of cocktails with a kiss My love grows anxious Waiting for the cure - picking sores We were careless To be taken by such misery That tastes of violence - the saints are silent God won't perform here anymore"

And away we go on a roller-coaster ride of angst-ridden,bombastic pieces interspersed with more delicate,introspective interludes. Musically, this is their most diverse album to date,featuring guest performers playing an assortment of woodwind,percussion and strings.I hear Gentle Giant,but not as prominent as in previous albums-this is a band at the height of its powers and less self-conscious of its influences. GSYBE,ELP,Yes and Genesis seem to prick the edges of my subconscious when I listen,but musically this is as strong and diverse as any of those. This is modern progressive rock at it's best;symphonic but street-wise,arty but accessible.That's not to say it is aimed at any commercial market-when I say "accessible" I mean relatively for a single piece of 50 minutes length! Is it a masterpiece of Progressive rock? Maybe,maybe not (very close) but it deserves your full attention.

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Send comments to Tony R (BETA) | Report this review (#39065)
Posted Sunday, July 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I'd like to start this review, if that's OK with you, stating a few basic truths about the "Mei" album from my humble point of view - 1) this is one of the best recordings in Echolyn's career; 2) this is one of the most beautiful prog releases for the new millennium; 3) this is destined to be a prog classic when our times are looked at from a certain perspective in the future. Well, what Echolyn has brought us with this terrific album is a lesson in how to create sonic magic in a fully integrated 50-minute long piece of music, an integrated harmony between softer and harder sections sustained on shades of density and colours of emotion. In "Mei", the band sets its path across new progressive pastures, in this way tracing a twist out of the solid consistency that had been laid down along the sequence of the three studio albums released during their first era. To some degree, "Cowboy Poems Free" album stated a robust renewal of vintage Echolyn - their typical melodic sensibility had been enriched via the inception of lots of R'n'B and old fashioned American hard rock nuances that served as a source of refreshment and refurbishment. But the level of refurbishment that we find in each and every ounce of the music comprised in the "Mei" suite is really something else in the most radical sense of the word 'else' - sure, you can recognize the main features of this splendid phoenix bird, but the fact is that it is reborn into a new life, a life purely based on textures, layers and ambiences, each one of them properly located in its place, all of them forming a powerful amalgam that dignifies adjectives such as 'majestic' and 'exquisite'. The band actually sounds quite strong in the language of rock, yet this can hardly be designated as a hard rock album; the melodies and harmonic arrangements are usually recognizable, yet the thing is far from being plainly catchy; most of the particular sections turn out to be somewhat accessible, yet this is definitely the Echolyn album with which the uninitiated better not get started with the band. The reason for the latter lies on the stylistic peculiarity that this album portrays in itself - a priori, it would take to get acquainted and genuinely enjoy their previous material in order to assimilate and properly enjoy this one. As I said before, density and deep emotion are the recurring materials of which the lyrics and music are made of, so it is no wonder that the final result should appear clearly intense without reaching the stage of aggressiveness. No matter how loud do the organ chords or synth solos sound in places, no matter how much anger is displayed in some of Ray Weston's lines, no matter how electrifying some guitar leads and riffs turn out to be, the recurrent strategy is focused on the varying use of delicacy. Either "As the World" or "Cowboy Poems Free" surpasses the rocking power of "Mei", but again, the album that is being reviewed right now was created, performed and produced as a new aesthetic experience more than just a bunch of rock songs (and hey, none of the two aforementioned albums was a mere selection of songs, but real prog gems). The use of extra musicians on string, woodwind and tuned percussion orchestral instruments is meant to help the Echolyn guys to enhance some emotional stuff when the mood intended demands it: don't expect something like the orchestral grandeur of Camel's "The Snow Goose" or Rick Wakeman's "Journey to the Center of the Earth". I've used the word 'progressive' quite a few times here, and I am well aware that the guys in the band (at least, some of them) hate that word's guts. Well, in my book, a musical work that intends to provide such amount of sonic richness in such a majestic manner can only be labeled as progressive, although, at the end of the day, truth is that the main thing is to give meaningful art to the audience - this is what "Mei" essentially is, meaningful art in the form of music, with many connections to the traditional prog masterpieces of the 70s, yet staying unique and well rooted in the current era of non-commercial rock.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#45965)
Posted Wednesday, September 07, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've been listening to this album for quite a while now, and with each listen I love it a little bit more. Mei is a true masterpiece, spanning nearly 50 continuous minutes of some of the most interesting, intriguing, complex, emotional, and expertly played music in the land of prog. Actually, this is the first Echolyn album I ever heard, and upon hearing it, I was hooked. I bought their entire catalog ... but Mei remains my favorite. Indeed, not only is it my favorite Echolyn album, it's one of my all time favorite albums from any artist.

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Send comments to Cinema (BETA) | Report this review (#46580)
Posted Wednesday, September 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Echolyn has often been compared to Gentle Giant. Well, the comparison is not exaggerated here again, although Echolyn has its own sound and style. With an ultra-epic and very progressive track here of nearly 50 minutes, Mei is also reminiscent of the progressive bands Transatlantic and Glass Hammer. There are an omnipresent dirty organ and Fender Rhodes notes like on the Gentle Giant's album around 1975: the keyboards are rather vintage. Some flute parts contribute to embellish the overall music. There are some xylophone-like percussions. There are many very good backing vocals. One can notice the presence of some very pleasant strings arrangements, which should have been more numerous. The omnipresent electric guitar a la Gary Green does not want to steal the show. The bass and the drums are played most of the time at a constant moderate speed. The long track is less complex than Gentle Giant, and the overall rhythm is rather slow. The album has something a bit melancholic, but not too much.

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#75926)
Posted Saturday, April 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Most of the time an album or some that is over 20 minutes long has trouble keeping the listener enthrawled due to breaks and boring parts that just don't fit. This is not the case with Mei (pronounced May(I think)). If you sit back and listen to the breaks in the song you will miss all the wonderful parts of the song because there are NO BREAKS. Not once is there a instrement not being played that really make it magical. Echolyn might be the most underrated band in Prog history and this might be the most over looked song of the past years spanding back to the 70's. Anyone that is looking for a magical hour to spend on music needs to get this CD.

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Send comments to cowbell1 (BETA) | Report this review (#76016)
Posted Sunday, April 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Let's talk about Mei

Although nominally all one track, "Mei" is made up of a number of contiguous, and occasionally disconnected sections. There is certainly a diversity to the sounds and styles included here which make for a distinguished, perhaps unique listen.

There is a generally symphonic nature to the music, which I find at times to be at odds with the distinctive vocal sound and style of singer Ray Weston. His delivery is often jazz tinged and can appear improvisational, something which I personally find unappealing. Christopher Buzby and Brett Kull lay down some fine keyboards and guitar respectively, and during the instrumental passages there is an unquestionable fluidity to the music. The melodies of the vocal passages tend however to be unfocussed, and dare I say tuneless. This is especially the case on the angry sections.

Fortunately however, there are plenty of instrumental sections, often enhanced by the addition of strings, and when Buzby finally lets go with some soaring synth things take a decided turn for the better. His organ work too lays down the powerful basis on which the album is built.

Ironically, for a single piece of almost 50 minutes, the music is surprisingly accessible, with strong hooks, and driving rock rhythms. At around 34 minutes for example, the track effectively ends, restarting with a completely different and much softer acoustic piece. Here, the vocals too are far more melodic, even when the pace picks up again.

It is difficult to identify the peers of Echolyn, they have a unique place in prog. There are similarities with bands such as the Flower Kings, largely minus the jazz side of that band.

In all, a fine album, which grows with each listen. Could try harder in the vocal department though.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#76235)
Posted Tuesday, April 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Psych/Space Team & Band Submissions
4 stars Mei o Mei ...

Awesome production! It's somewhat unusual for the band to offer an epic album with only one song. I don't care if the album is divided in several songs or not. The main thing is they are delivering interesting music during nearly 50 minutes which is always the case. Ballad and rocking parts are alternating - this album is completely rounded and provided with a lot of suspense - recommended!

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Send comments to Rivertree (BETA) | Report this review (#81585)
Posted Tuesday, June 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Echolyn were always a somewhat eclectic group, somewhat symphonic, somewhat jazzy, somewhat mainstreamish. Their last album showed hints of what was to come, sprinkled inbetween the songs on "Cowboy Poems Are Free" were short instrumental tracks that had some cleverness to them and placed them close to Radiohead land. Now, by no means am I comparing "Mei" to Radiohead. It's just that Echolyn progressed and tried something different, and that something different was to play one 49 minute continuous song. Did they pull it off successfully? Maybe not as successful as Jethro Tull's masterpiece "Thick As A Brick". Or maybe even their "A Passion Play", (although it's damn close me hardies). But I will say it's THEIR masterpiece. You will not find another Echolyn album with more instrumentation then this one. Look at the listing above for the shear number of musicians involved. Sure, there's words aplenty, and that's a good thing when we're talking about Echolyn who write some of the most clever lyrics this side of the Atlantic. But hey, I'm writing a review for a website where wordplay is overshadowed by how one plays de instuments...and the boyz came to play! Right from the get go, there's some moodiness coupled with a dose of sadness keyboard-wise and guitar-wise. The melody pops up in spots with a heavy dose at the end. A sad beginning and a sad ending. Inbetween though is some outright jamming jazzy symphonic prog that would make any American proud. There's a touch of Gentle Giant in the mix here and there, (go on and listen for it). I even agree with another reviewer about hearing Maynard from Tool's influence in a spot about 30 minutes in. If you're a fan of the band, you'll just love this album. If you're new, don't be turned off by the length. Their signature sound is there and then some. Don't know if I can honestly rate this up there with "Thick As A Brick", but 4.5 sounds about right. Bravo!

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Send comments to NJprogfan (BETA) | Report this review (#99738)
Posted Monday, November 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This kind of album is only possible because of the later digital technology which can accommodate non-stop music with duration of more than 23 minute. If by the time Jethro Tull was making "Thick as A Brick" or "A Passion Play" the technology was already there, I'm sure they would make it one song as well, like this album by Echolyn. Echolyn is fortunate because by the time they have this musical idea, the recording technology was ready to accommodate nonstop music even until the maximum duration of the CD: 80 minutes. The Flower Kings is a good example of bands who have maximized the maximum space of a CD.

The first listening experience of "Mei" was when I watched the live DVD where this album was performed in its entirety with string players. It's an interesting live show and from then on I started to enjoy the CD. Looking at the varied musicians in this record, this is not just the performance of Echolyn but also with a strong backup from additional musicians who play string section.

The music itself, which comprises only one single track non-stop, provides a total adventure for listeners through the journey of Echolyn band and string section players. From my experience listening to this track, I assure you that you would not regret owning this album. The band brings us, masterfully, through excellent delivery of their music augmented with powerful string section. For me personally, it's a great joy listening to this album from start to end. Recommended. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#120960)
Posted Monday, May 07, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars In my opinion, this is Echolyn's best album-- it blends their accessible, energetic and dynamic playing into a more creative package than their other releases, which run on far too long and sound repetitive before one reaches the half-way mark. With "Mei", we're given more variety in song structure, creative use of instruments, and a change in the sound of the normally stagnant vocals.

The arrangements are a good mix of the delicate and rocking, the strings fitting nicely in between the band's excellent playing. Most of all though, I feel like one can pick out what's going on in the layered sound more easily here because we're not being bombarded by a constant assault of changing time signatures and melodies.

"Mei" is an outstanding, symphonic work with lots to enjoy... I just wish the band gave us track-breaks.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 3 Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

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Send comments to Prog Leviathan (BETA) | Report this review (#126271)
Posted Monday, June 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Here's a short list of the competition for one-song albums: the Tull contributions, Journey to Center of the Earth, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (at least one disc of the double-album), and Echolyn's Mei (of course there are others, but these are what I'm most familiar with). I think Mei compares favorably to these. On the other hand, it suffers from similar flaws as the other one-songers (even Thick as a Brick included!), such as lack of continuity, too many melodies (or variations on the good ones), and a lackluster grand finale. Maybe 30 minutes is the upper limit of an effective epic, because even though these album-length tunes have epic qualities, they just don't feel like an epic.

Pros. Mei offers 50 minutes of solid music. That's something you can't say of too many albums out there, which is quite impressive. There are plenty of great tunes, and they are reasonably well-transitioned, considering the scope of the task. The album also generally has a consistent feel--an overall happy, reflect-on-how-good-life-is quality--interrupted by fits of intensity and anger. Fortunately the contrast is not too drastic, and you're left with a feeling of having been on a pleasant journey when you sit through the entire piece.

Cons. Could this have been made into a more concise song? Sure. But then what would you change? That's the difficult part, because there's so much tight playing, catchy melodies, and varied textures/instrumentation throughout. Maybe complete appreciation focuses more on the story, and that would be a limitation: although the music feels coherent, the story (lyrics) are relatively boring. Maybe that's also a personal preference. I'd rather have someone tell me an interesting story than dance around the important details.

Mei is certainly a difficult album to review. It's not intense, groundbreaking, or technically difficult, but it is 50 minutes of good music. That's a solid three-stars in my book.

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Send comments to Flucktrot (BETA) | Report this review (#162672)
Posted Monday, February 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Todd
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano!
5 stars This is one of my top 25 albums of all time. A 50 minute magnum opus, full of brilliant compositional themes and engaging lyrics. With such long pieces, there is a danger of either being too bland or so diverse that the pieces feel like they're forced together in a way that doesn't flow. This album strikes the balance perfectly, in my mind. Very engaging--the time actually flies by. Lots of hooks. Compositional depth and texture to reward repeated listenings. A masterpiece!

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Send comments to Todd (BETA) | Report this review (#162873)
Posted Thursday, February 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Moatilliatta
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars What an experience! After reforming from the ashes of their unfortunate failure with Sony records, Echolyn are finally back in full-force, and dare i say, an even full-er force! From the second I started this track/album, I was in a state of euphoria. Going from orchestral passages, to acoustic ballads, to straight- up rock, these guys have put together an emotionally driven epic that, no matter what mood they've shifted to, keeps you with this warm feeling from start to finish. The often referenced, quirky Gentle Giant side of their music is less apparent and has seemingly been replaced with a more ethereal symphonic, hard-rock sound. They had symphonic and driven rock elements there before, but what's different here is the atmosphere. The music really paints a visual here. You just feel like you're out driving in a minimally inhabited place, looking out at the beauty of nature, while reminiscing about something very sentimental to you. And when you focus in on the lyrics, coincidentally, that's exactly what's going on in this song. Take a look at the first lines of this piece: I find myself wishing for a ladder/To climb from this car/Did I say I loved you today? Driving over hills and by beaten lonely towns/I think of you more now I'm gone/Outside it is blue and green/And everything once blurred is clear/I am part of the peripheral scene/That shines like cathedral glass.

Another plus here, and has always been a plus for this band, is that the lyrics are very good. I would actually take the time to read these and try to explore the images and feelings expressed here. They share a role with the music in this experience. They explain the journey that Echolyn is taking you on. Bretty and Ray really have put much thought into these poetic, vivid and mature lyrics. And how the band made the music such a great compliment to these lyrics, or how they made the lyrics such a great compliment to the music, creates quite a synergistic effect on the listener.

While this is one near-50 minute epic, it never gets boring and it never feels like there are specific parts that make up the whole. It is dynamic and fluent in it's composition and execution. It is Echolyn the pinnacle of Echolyn's career, and it came out of nowhere! This is very much a musical journey, and one that I would like to take often.

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Send comments to Moatilliatta (BETA) | Report this review (#163942)
Posted Friday, March 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars With AS THE WORLD Echolyn proved to be one of the most gifted contemporary prog bands (non-neo, non-metal), easily on the same level as Spock's Beard or the Flower Kings, perhaps even surpassing them in inventivity. I was curious what their one-track album MEI would sound like, and after checking out the many positive reviews the album received on Progarchives I gave it a try.

Now that I am fully acquainted with MEI, it seems obvious that, if AS THE WORLD was an updated version of classic Gentle Giant, this 49-minute production is much closer in spirit to A PASSION PLAY by Jethro Tull. It has a similar kind of structure: sung passages, some catchy (either ballad-like or rocking), some turgid and unmemorable, are interspersed with quirky solos and recurring instrumental figures. Even the subject matter is similar: MEI's composers have compared their work to Dante's Inferno - and wasn't A PASSION PLAY about life after death?

But the subject matter is precisely where, in my view, Echolyn go awry. While Jethro Tull had at least a modicum of humour (reflected, among other things, in John Evan's curious synth solos), MEI sounds deadly serious from start to finish. Worse, it's the umpteenth American rock album where life is described as some sort of road movie. Although the band do not plunge the depths of Spock's Beard's SNOW (preachier than which it's impossible to get) I've seen similar ideas expressed more forcefully by (supposedly vulgar) bands like the Eagles! Worse, all the way through MEI I was waiting desperately for a Willow Farm type of passage, where the band would finally lighten up. Unfortunately, Echolyn remained straight-faced throughout and kept hectoring the listener, for a full fifty minutes. This is the kind of mistake Andy Tillison also tends to make, with the Tangent. Gentlemen, puh-llleeeze! Serious lyrics and a lack of catchy choruses are no guarantee for artistic success.

When it comes to album-long, uninterrupted prog suites, it seems the best efforts by the likes of Mike Oldfield (AMAROK) and Pat Metheny (THE WAY UP) will remain unrivalled. Such albums have the advantage they're predominantly instrumental and do not feature any lyrics; their power just resides in the music. Still, in spite of all of MEI's defects Echolyn must be admired for their audacity. This album of theirs is definitely worth hearing, and even worth buying. If you're interested in Symphonic Prog's recent development, you ought to be aware of MEI. I expect you'll be digging this album up from time to time and giving it a happy spin, even though you may groan at some of its more earnest passages...

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Send comments to fuxi (BETA) | Report this review (#168592)
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is much heavier than the previous Echolyn albums that I have heard (StB, AtW, CPF), which is definitely not a bad thing in my opinion. There is still Echolyn's characteristic changes of tempo and well done singing, but the accompanying music has a harder edge at times. This is something different from the norrmal Echolyn and actually something different from anything else that I have heard anywhere. This doesn't sound anything like Gentle Giant (which is who Echolyn is most often compared to). This just sounds like a pumped up Echolyn. And that is a really good sound in my books.

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Send comments to digdug (BETA) | Report this review (#171605)
Posted Monday, May 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I completely agree with other reviews about this MASTERPIECE, one of the most compelling and brilliant piece of anybody's music collection: it takes some listens to catch it. In the beginning, I was a little puzzled, because of its length. But after you become more familiar with it, and you are able to appreciate the different moments of the record, you are thrown in one unmatched musical experience. After this, I've been after all the other records of ECHOLYN, and they are now one of my favorite bands ever, because in my opinion they are delivering the best sounds and productions (so perfectly balanced and highlighted are the different instruments and the beautiful 2-singer vocals). Mellow and harder, simple, rocker or highly symphonic, the variety of ECHOLYN's musical textures are in MEI so performed at the highest levels possible. Yes, this is one of the music works that I would choose to pass to future generations, because of its pure, classical beauty (...but now with the IPods or similar devices it's easier to pass or preserve more music than LPs ;=)). Make yourself a better person, listen to MEI!

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Send comments to ingmin68 (BETA) | Report this review (#181032)
Posted Friday, August 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I first came into contact with echolyn's masterpiece, Mei, no more than a year ago, and after some time to get me used to it, I ended up absolutely loving this album.

I confess that, at first, this song didn't seem too appealing to me - after all, its length was reminiscent of something I had read somewhere about prog rockers being too extreme when it comes to not being mainstream. Point being, a forty-nine minute song sounded like a blatant exaggeration. Time, however, has proved me wrong.

One day, I downloaded the live performance of this song from echolyn's official site, and by listening closely, I fell in love with the song's structure. Excellent sections, great timing, perfect flow (heavy parts followed by calm, slower parts), and the great lyrics and epic feeling convinced me that this was a masterpiece.

Let's start off with the lyrics, shall we? Band members have said them to be about a road trip to Hell which could be interpreted freely. I interpreted them as a man driving away from his love, with whom he had a fight; and then returning home, driven by his will to be forgiven and being ready to love again. The verses are extremely well-written and fit the song perfectly. And more importantly - this song tells a story that not only has a definable structure, but some good characterisation (!).

Now for the performance and technique. echolyn's members don't like to show off - there are no lightning-speed solos, no extremely technical sections with twisted tempos. Sure, there are complicated parts, and sure, it's a damn 49-minutes-long song; but the thing is, all the notes are just right! The synthesizer + organs, the guitar, the drum fills, are excellently well-timed & masterfully chosen. Even though the little sections hat focus on one instrument above others are very simple (specially if, like myself, you like listening to bands such as Dream Theater or Steve Vai), they have amazing power to make you feel like the band members couldn't have played any other notes without ruining it all. The devil's in the details for these guys.

Not to mention the amazing vocal harmonies by Ray Weston (who mostly does the calm parts) and Brett Kull (whose voice is generally used for the heavy stuff). They don't sound too blatantly different from each other, and their singing is absolutely amazing.

As for the length - it couldn't have been any other way. Don't think that they just glued a bunch of different compositions together for this album: it all works, each section leads into the other, there no abrupt and out-of-place changes in style. Plus, it doesn't even hurt as much as you'd think it would to listen to a song that's forty-nine minutes in length. After all, in the end, you just listened to a complete album. This might make some difference for the folks that only give it a go on the CD-player and want to hear just some part of the song; but that will be difficult, since they are all so deeply connected. Maybe you'll find yourself only wanting to listen to this album from time to time - but that will be compensated by its sheer awesomeness when you do.

Mei's distinct style blends rock & roll with jazz and a few arrangements that could even be consider media-friendly, and the way they work it into technically challenging tempos & great harmonies is astounding. I highly suggest you give it a go, for it's a sadly underrated landmark in prog rock history, which will influence any open-minded musician that listens to it.

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Send comments to FlashFirer (BETA) | Report this review (#182817)
Posted Thursday, September 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
MovingPictures07
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This entire album is one 50 minute song. Does it hold up to its expectations?

1. Mei- It does. This is another really well-crafted and played song by Echolyn, full of unique symphonic proggy goodness. It is not a perfect Echolyn song, however, as the song is sometimes a bit too subtle for its own good. Nonetheless, it is very beautiful and accomplished. The opening is magical, it is nearly always interesting, and is one of the most effective songs of this length I've ever heard. My only critique is that I wish Echolyn rocked out more on this song like they do around 6:00-9:00 minutes since that part is SO effective. I can't complain about much else though, because the structure, instrumentation, and innovation is all top notch. One great feat about this song too is it manages not to be a rambling mess, which is always the risk you take with a really long song. Not a perfect step in the Echolyn catalog, but a really good one! 8/10

This is not Echolyn's masterpiece. In fact, it's my least favorite Echolyn album and the one I play the least, yet I'm not entirely sure why. Despite that, it is still one hell of an epic and should please symphonic or modern prog fans wanting to hear something fresh and unique. An excellent addition to any prog collection!

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Send comments to MovingPictures07 (BETA) | Report this review (#194085)
Posted Wednesday, December 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars This album contains one song. It is amazing.

"Mei" The only track on the album begins with strings, flute, and piano- beautiful. The initial vocal melodies are amazing, as are the evocative but peaceful lyrics; in fact, the first several minutes contain one of my favorite melodies of all times and some exceptional lyrics: "Outside it is blue and green, and everything once blurred is clear; I am part of the peripheral scene that shines like cathedral glass." But the lyrics reflect a range of emotions, from angst to peace. There is no lack of variety in the instrumentation, so that fails to grow stale too. Each transition is without flaw, and each build is masterful. I love the differences the two main vocalists share throughout the piece: One is cleaner and gentle, whilst the other is closer to a modern rock singer. While the band could have certainly filled fifty minutes with lengthy solos or noisy atmospheric passages, they took the high road and crafted something that flows as it blends an uncanny array of textures. That is not to say that there is a scarcity of points to highlight the individual musicians, but even when those occur, the rest of the music interlocks like a complex but glorious jigsaw.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#204717)
Posted Saturday, February 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Echolyn are one of my favorite Progressive Rock bands and this album very well may be their crowning achievement. Though, it's tough to say since each of their albums brings something different to the table. This album is one EPIC near-50 minute song that starts off beautifully amongst a gentle string arrangement and slowly builds up to a crescendo and takes you on a Kerouac-inspired journey. There are many different elements to this album and each player shines at various points but the cohesiveness as a band and amazing songwriting is what really shines, whereas on Echolyn's first few albums blatantly smacked you over the head with technical chops and off-kilter rhythms, they have learned to be more subtle with it. They have really matured as a band in that regard. Usually, a song of this length will lose my attention after 20 minutes or so but this one grips me the entire way. Weston and Kull do a great job on vocals and the intermittent vocal harmonies are excellent as always. Be aware that it will definitely take more than a few listens for everything to fall in place but once it does, pure bliss! Be sure to check out the great lyrics as well. An absolute mandatory listen for any serious Symphonic/Eclectic Prog Rock fan.

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Send comments to Doomcifer (BETA) | Report this review (#205050)
Posted Tuesday, March 03, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars I don't know why, but I always wan't to pronounce this "Meh!" I know, that would indicate that this is not such a great album, which is not true, but I can't resist a good pun.

This ambitious album is made up of just one track, Mei, which clocks in at just under fifty minutes. As an epic, at times this piece succeeds, although at times it also seems to meander around between movements, both musically and lyrically.

The lyrics appear to be describing poetically a car trip through America. Since this was released not very long after 9/11, but before a corrupt administration misguided the country into a war for personal enrichment and vendettas, the lyrics eventually turn to a section reflecting both the national unity and jingoism that were prevalent at the time.

Musically, the piece winds it's way through many different themes, both simple and complex. The usual Gentle Giant references can be heard, mostly in the keyboards, and the vocals are as lush as any Echolyn composition.

But after a while, the length of this song can just make it tedious. But then, the same can happen on a long car ride.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#236961)
Posted Thursday, September 03, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I'm probably the only ECHOLYN fan not to have "MEI" or "As The World" included in my top three albums by them. In fact i'm not too fond of either of those recordings even though many fans hail them as masterpieces. My top four are the debut, "Cowboy Poems Free", "Suffocating The Bloom" and "The End Is Beautiful". "MEI" as you probably know is one long track that goes on for almost 50 minutes. I was laughing at a comment by someone on another site who compared it to GREEN CARNATION's "Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness" and said at least it wasn't as boring as that one. I laughed because I feel the exact oposite is true. GREEN CARNATION's album just flows and it's so dynamic and interesting while ECHOLYN's album really bores me almost all the time.

I know i'm in the minority with these thoughts but honestly to really simplify it we get organ and drums in the more powerful sections leading contrasted with the more laid back passages with reserved vocals. Again that's really over simplifying it but other than the organ / drum sections this is hard to get into, and even those get tiresome after a while.They do mix it up at times certainly with strings and some guitar, but vocals, drums and organ standout mostly throughout.

I just don't feel any emotion with this album. 3 stars.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#281871)
Posted Thursday, May 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars How's your attention span these days? Can you focus on one thing only for fifty minutes? That's what you'll have to do to make it through MEI, the 2002 single-track epic from American nouveau proggers Echolyn.

For my money, Echolyn are one of the very few contemporary prog bands who manage to recall the music's glory days without being overly derivative. When I listen to them, I don't find myself thinking "I've heard all this before" ? something I can't say of many newer acts. Echolyn continually pull off the difficult balancing act of recapturing the exuberant, inventive spirit of past masters like Gentle Giant (their most obvious antecedent), while yet making music which is fresh, engaging and original. MEI is no exception.

MEI is a modern-day wonder -- as much sheer achievement as it is great music. How many other bands today have the audacity and courage to attempt a single-track album, and the talent to pull off the venture so compellingly? Not very many! MEI can be viewed as a kind of new millennium counterpart to Jethro Tull's classic THICK AS A BRICK. As with Tull's renowned epic, MEI travels through many musical and lyrical moods and themes, while yet coming across as a single, unified piece -- no mean feat.

There's a surplus of substance here, a lot to absorb. This is "difficult" music in the best sense of the term, in that it requires much of the listener. One must dedicate nearly fifty minutes to a continuous piece of music, but for the listener able to allot the time and attention MEI needs -- and deserves -- the rewards are ample. Echolyn could easily have played things safe, and delivered MEI as a "normal" album of multiple songs. That they didn't follow the "obvious" path says a lot about them as uncompromising, original artists willing to take risks and ply their own course in a time of cookie-cutter conformity and fake, industry-created acts. It also says a lot about MEI as a viable, fully-realized single work.

Musically, MEI may well be Echolyn's finest hour (or near-hour). The vocals have never sounded better, more impassioned or more expressive. Tasty guitars and keyboards --with lots of nice crunchy organ -- dominate the sound. This baby flat-out rocks.

The lyrics, meanwhile, are perhaps the band's most incisive, hard hitting and relevant yet. They reflect a broad and mature emotional palette, going from yearning, to bitter anger, to hope as they journey through no less vast and complex a subject than America today, and the individual's place within it.

MEI is something you experience in a different way. Because of its commitment-demanding one-track nature, it is not for casual listening -- likely it won't find its way onto your CD player as often as it might, had it been a multi-track album. That's understandable. Therefore, one could easily ask "should Echolyn have done this?" Yet that's a moot question. The point is, they have done it, and they've fully, utterly, resoundingly succeeded with it.

In all, MEI is a triumph of an unfettered, far-reaching vision married with the sheer artistry and force of will necessary to realize that vision in all its uncompromised, sprawling glory. Great prog is still being made, and Echolyn deliver it in spades here. I can only give MEI the full five stars, and thus dub it a modern "masterpiece of progressive rock." Brilliant!

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Send comments to Peter (BETA) | Report this review (#282827)
Posted Thursday, May 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars What a fantastic album. Thanks to a couple of suggestions from my fellow PA members I opted to check out echolyn and I haven't been disappointed, at least not with mei. If I may, I invite the rest of you to go check this album out too.

Mei is a single epic track clocking in just seconds shorter than fifty minutes. Over its course you are sent on a winding musical journey. What you're listening to at minute fifteen probably won't have too much to do with minute thirty. There are a few parts which will reappear again at later stage, but it all fits in with the whole work. Don't let the album cover fool you, mei's overall sound is fairly bright and energetic. It does have some darker and/or slower spots too. What else would you expect from a "progressive epic?"

My favourite parts tend to be in the early going; especially the soft introduction where in everything is "blue and green" and then when the foot first hits the gas pedal and things "fade away." Both parts couldn't really be any more different from one another, but that's what mei is about. It evolves continually. The changes in style, feel and tempo never feel abrupt and echolyn moves with seeming ease from one passage to the next.

The band also manages to keep consistently good. There are a few parts which I did not like as much as others, but nothing which compromises the album. I've decided on a four rather than a five mostly because there a few idiosyncrasies of echolyn's sound which don't agree with me fully, but that shouldn't turn you off the prospect listening to this album. If I was just ranking them on the boldness and talent displayed on the album it would be an easy five, but it is my review and I feel inclined to account for taste. I think even hard core echolyn fans wouldn't begrudge me when I say that their sound can be challenging at times.

mei, four stars out of five

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Send comments to R-A-N-M-A (BETA) | Report this review (#305691)
Posted Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars I might be in the minority of those who do not believe Mei(I believe it's pronounced like May)to be Echolyn's masterpiece or a masterpiece in general. It's certainly not a bad album but it just doesn't excite me that much either. I've listened to it about four or five times so far and I still don't really know what it's about. I don't usually pay much attention to lyrics but with Echolyn I find it's one of their strong points. There are probably more instrumental breaks than I initially thought but nonetheless this albums sounds like one long 47 minute song complete with lots of singing and lot's of changes in mood and melody. It is these changes that prevent it from being too boring but for me it's not enough to grab my attention. There's nothing here that really stands out and makes me go wow. There are some high points though. There is one moment about 30 minutes into it or so where it sounds like it's going to end but it doesn't. It just starts over again with a softer sound that again develops and carries the rest of the piece. There's a lot of classical flair complete with orchestra but it's probably a small orchestra.

This is possibly my least favorite Echolyn album. I commend them for trying something different and trying to push boundaries but in my opinion sometimes that works and sometimes that doesn't. This is only partially successful in my view. Here, it's just a bit too much for me. I always think I'm going to like this more and more with repeated listens but it still hasn't hit me the way their other stuff has and possibly never will. This would have been a great ep if the band took the best ideas and condensed them but as a 47 minute single piece track it's just a bit too long winded and even a bit boring for me although the disc does have it's moments. I love Echolyn as a band and think they are all very talented but this one just doesn't float my boat as much as their other stuff. Still, I recommend this to those who are fans of the band or those who like music with symphonic elements.

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Send comments to Prog_Traveller (BETA) | Report this review (#308038)
Posted Tuesday, November 02, 2010 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This long suite song almost starts as a « 10 CC » extravaganza or a Fab Four one. They too came up with some suite songs in their times ("One Night In Paris" or the B-side from "Abbey Road"). But a fifty minutes piece is quite challenging. Even the great Tull couldn't release two sides of equal quality while releasing their awesome TIAB?

This "Echolyn" work surely deserves your attention: as usual, the musicianship is excellent (but that's just normal IMO). The vocal department is quite good for sure; but I am lacking great instrumental parts. Gorgeous keyboards or splendid guitar breaks. Unfortunately, there is nothing as such.

Only a fine succession of good parts: at times bombastic; at time more subtle and intimate. Even harder at times. As usual as well, this album is a balance between the symphonic and the eclectic style. But for the first time maybe, some simplicity is to be noticed as well.

The length of this song prevents though to listen to it indefinitely and therefore the passion while this track is being played is not always on top. Some parts are just basic (US) rock, and this is not too good I'm afraid. It sounds as if the band has departed from the complex music of the early days. The filiation with GG is also alien here. But maybe it is a good point, I don't know (I don't think so to be honest).

"Mei" is a good album but no more. It is a consistent effort for sure, but with little passion nor thrilling passages. As such I am rating it with three stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#388828)
Posted Friday, January 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Site and Forum Admin
5 stars Shines like cathedral glass...

A short disclaimer before I review this album: I have a slight affinity for lengthy tracks, which this near 50 minute beast is. The lengthy track by American symphonic prog masters Echolyn, titled Mei, is quite the beast. Made up of numerous different sections compiled into one genius track, the whole album is filled to the brim with incredible melodies, creative instrumentation, and an overall really amazing output. With a cool concept of a road trip and the interesting sightings and adventures of the driver, the track displays an overall fantastic album full of great transitions, passion, and "drive" for success.

The title track is massive, to say the least. Nearly 50 minutes long, it's hard to review the whole song in one sitting. The whole suite is filled to the brim with meticulously thought out movements and sections, with notes generously crafted into a sweeping mastery of music. It opens slowly with a beautiful melodic symphonic piece, with spectacular melodies crafted perfectly to fit the mood of the music. A tender vocal section greets the ears of the listener as a pseudo-overture of the vocal theme of the music. The song transitions effortlessly from gentle themes to rocking modern symphonic masterpieces. With the employment of a near orchestra, the band has constructed a great sound with sweeping string section and humble wind parts all melding perfectly with the main band. The band showcases a beautiful sense of fluidity to the music, with sweeping sections of grandeur contrasted sharply by almost angry sections with driving rhythms and a jazz tinged fury to them. All throughout the track the feel changes from whimsical to mellow to joyous to feral and all over again, throwing in diversity all throughout the song. Fusing accessible melodies with massive prog rock tendencies, the band is able to craft a fantastic prog masterpiece, and one of the better non-"classic" (Yes, Genesis, etc) symphonic albums I've heard.

ALBUM OVERALL: Echolyn's Mei is certainly a modern masterpiece. Although I may be a bit biased due to the fact that the song is a bit lengthy, there is no denying that the song is filled with countless goodies and compositional masteries to make it absolutely sublime. As well as fusing some of the best features of progressive rock, the band throws in accessible and rocking melodies, jazzy twinges, and some really great orchestration with the orchestral instrumentalists they brought in. Overall, the song displays an overwhelming amount of precision and creativity, orchestration and compositional genius, and an overall fantastic display of fantastic modern prog. 5 stars.

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Send comments to Andy Webb (BETA) | Report this review (#429887)
Posted Saturday, April 09, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I found this CD amazing. It takes a special talent to make a 50 minute song completely engaging and listenable for every moment of its huge length - but that's exactly what Echolyn have managed here. And what a song! Ambigiously tinged lyrics, fun progressive symph atmosphere, great transitions that help to respect it as a singluar piece rather then just many songs slapdashed into one. This remains my favorite driving tune, and for good reason. It would be a shame to give it any less then five stars for its inventive and progressive approach. I'd love to see another long piece from Echolyn emerge sometime in the near future!

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Send comments to Renkls (BETA) | Report this review (#531761)
Posted Saturday, September 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I confess I always have a sense of aversion to the new retro symphonic bands, due to some poor copies of each other's bands and double albums in an attempt to win over fans. The album in question was my second experience with the band and had the light and only impression of the influence of Nemo and thank God nothing more. It's challenging to launch a music album with only one and even harder when it is not divided into sections. The creative beats and melodies are simple but striking a sample of quality; than keyboards near the progmetal but without exaggeration. was not necessary for me to hear several times to like it. Echolyn is not a revolutionary band, but is light years ahead of many current prog bands symphony.

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Send comments to nandprogger (BETA) | Report this review (#576040)
Posted Saturday, November 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars echolyn provide the definitive and unambiguous proof of their credentials as a fully-fledged symphonic prog band on Mei, their stab at the good old Thick as a Brick album-length song format. With the band handling the core rock band instruments and a micro-orchestra of additional performers providing a more varied range of sounds, the band have all the tools to hand to produce something really special, and they certainly don't disappoint. Definitively moving out of the shadow of Gentle Giant, echolyn come up with a sound which is distinctly and unapologetically echolyn, making this one of the most original symphonic prog releases for decades.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#655406)
Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Mei from 2002 is another worthy affait by Echolyn, is like a musical jorney never wanted to end, The album consisted only by one piece clocking around 50 min is a totaly blast, at least for my ears. Again the musicianship is top notch, the alternating moements between slow and mellow parts with more up tempo is awesome here. Quite complicated symphonic prog with many twists and turns where the ideas are concentraded to give one pleasent unit in the end. Echolyn manage again to release more then a great album, each musician involved here is in their best form and is clear that the reputetion they've made across the years is not by chamnce. I really like this one , maybe better then As the world because here I find the band to be very mature, the previous works were very good aswell, but this time they really done it. This is the kind of symphonic prog I like to here every day, inventive, complex with outstandic instrumental passages. I have to check their best album many considered to be their second one Suffocating the bloom to make some compartaion, as untill then this one is better or I like better then As the world who already was a big album in their career. Echolyn remains one of the top bands of the genre that every fan must check at least 3-4 of their albums. 4 stars for sure.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#768790)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
5 stars "Mei" was recommended to me a while back and as soon as I heard it I was completely mesmerised by its beauty and its power. Echolyn begins this epic 50 minute journey in a quiet mood with tranquil atmospheres and very emotional vocals. The music builds to a loud explosive sound with Hammond blazing, guitars crashing and fast paced bass and drums over more aggressive vocals. It settles again with acoustic vibrations and piano with a haunting vocal. It seems to be drifting in a new direction after the outburst, like being in the eye of the hurricane. The vocals are mixed to the front and easy to decipher, with such poetry as "The wipers move back and forth confessing, The scenes pass through my eyes, Slipping through darkness, Deeper than oceans, The miles can't purify, My dashboard glows cold liquid red, The miles tick on and on, Rainfall adds to a beat, lamenting, What's been said and done."

After this there is an incredible build up of sound with hammering Hammond and an odd time sig and I reminds me of Gentle Giant in their most quirky mood. The lyrics "Out here there could be giants" further confirms the influence. The vocals are more forced "I want to walk in their shade, Introduce me to a brand new kiss, Help me forget my love." An instrumental break fires up and that stabbing Hammond staccato rhythm is incredible, and the music locks into a 6/8 sig and then a lead break follows, and the Gentle Giant sound is prominent. This is a fantastic piece of music and feels quite dark in texture especially with the angular guitar riff with muscular tone, leading to the next verse "Sky has opened, Suppose I could ignore the rain, Should I listen to all that's golden, And the ghosts of its curse."

Finally the intensity dies down with a threatening sustained organ chord and some wonderful guitars. The harmonies are well executed on the next verse, and it moves along on a jazz fusion vibe, with some odd tempos. The music has already won me over totally and we are only at the 17 minute mark. I love the way the tension and release dynamics are so prominent and pour out the emotions of the journey that the protagonist is experiencing. At this point I can tell what the story is portraying, a man driving in a car running from his pain, a lost love, a broken relationship, and the search for hope when his world has turned to pain, a search that takes place in his mind as memories flood over. His twisted memories eventually will lead him to crash his car. The roads and mountains are psychological elements of his mind as he searches for meaning in a midst of turmoil; a road trip designed to search for meaning.

The music seems to twist and turn like the highways stretched before the protagonist. As he revels in his regrets and guilt the music becomes more intense. There is a lot of religious imagery and allusions to war and the symbolic taking up of arms in a war torn scenario. One can take this to mean that the man has been through hell and back and towards the end it appears that the crash changes his perspective and he is bed ridden, perhaps an invalid or in a coma. This is a theme taken up on Ayreon's "The Human Equation" and Spock's Beard's "Octane" where the car crash leads to a coma and a catharsis for the victim or an epiphany leading to a change of heart towards themselves and others. The crash comes in the lyrics "I hear the road beneath my wheels, Spin and roar, Spit my teeth blood and tongue, Dashboard Jesus on the floor, Smoke and glass, twisted steel, Hard to catch a breath, Hard to pay from all of this, Devil in my ear."

After this the music detours into a quirky time sig and very cool guitar riff over very strong drums and bass. The Hammond and guitar duel at the 31 minute mark is delightful, then it locks into a relaxed melody. The struggle between good and evil seems to be the plight of the protagonist and he finally admits he is sorry to his lover. We hear it over and over on a loud speaker, which may be from the grave. The music intensifies again as the next verse is heard with the aggressive sustained howling "No more wishing you away". This is as heavy as the music gets at this point and it builds to a massive wall of sound. The shimmering Hammond releases finally and the sound of rain coming down is heard as an isolated piano comes in. The beauty returns to the epic and a violin compliments the mourning of the victim as his regrets are heard, "Where was my time for you, It was lost on a thousand reasons." The sadness of the scene is very moving and augmented by a melancholy guitar instrumental and the sound of birds twittering, and then a car driving by.

The pace picks up in a more bright tempo and the return of the shimmering organ is welcome, and it is building to a happier riff. A fast heavy rocking riff locks in and changes the atmosphere, one of my favourite sections of the track. "Separate the useless from the green, Keep me safe, I will do anything it takes, To feel the sun again" signifies that the protagonist is now lying in a hospital bed and is helpless, or is he dead and we are hearing his regrets from the grave.

The music takes on a dark quality as we hear more of the memories of the protagonist and then a heavy riff crashes through, with those Hammond splashes consistent. At 43 and a half minutes the drums begin a new sig, and are more forceful, the sig changes again with some nice harmonies and sweeping strings. The funky tempo punctuates the atmosphere in sporadic bursts, and then a rocking riff locks into place, to make room for a fantastic lead guitar break. This is followed by buzzing retro synthesizer, the band are in full flight jamming up a storm, and then there are sledge hammer crashes of organ and guitar. The vocals have more optimism, "I am ready to receive".

We are nearing the finale and it feels like the song is preparing to end, which is sad as it has been so brilliant. The final section is a lone acoustic strumming over gentle vocals, "My hope is a coin in a shattered fountain, Distorted, Out of touch, But shining through." After one final stirring lead guitar solo and some peaceful keyboards it comes to an end.

This is a genuine masterpiece of some of the most soul stirring music I have encountered. Everytime I hear it, it sends chills through me, and it inexorably led me to more of this incredible American symphonic band. "Mei" is one of the greatest epics and is highly recommended for all of the above reason; a triumph of exquisite musicianship and innovative prog.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#850910)
Posted Sunday, November 04, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars The most ambitious and best.

It is not a perfect work, but close to it. Formidable participation of violins, cello and flute praises the album, which also contains a variety needed in music. Lyrics about loss of love, to find a new ones, love the country, melancholy, sadness, hope. Music accompanies brilliantly such sequences. Sections not so bright, are acceptable and enjoyed too.

Good prominence of keyboards, and soft and strong guitars. Outstanding and judicious addition of backing vocals on several sections. The Fender Rhodes is inherent of Gentle Giant, among other things.

Needless to say it's a job to listen carefully and devote the time to immerse themselves in the particular climate of Mei. Nice design and cover.

4+ stars.

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Send comments to sinslice (BETA) | Report this review (#1036603)
Posted Monday, September 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars From a band like Echolyn we always expect the best: work as " Suffocating the Bloom " and especially " As the world" are real masterpieces of modern prog .

"Mei " is very close to those sounds sparkling, made of analog sounds, dinamic percussion and lovely melodies, but seems partially obscured by a cloud heavy, gray, with the striking artwork to accentuate this approach.

The basic concept is left to interpretations very free, symbolizing in an almost " cathartic " the journey and its values .

We take as a comparison two classic suites "Close to the Edge" or " Thick as a brick ": in " Mei " is missing the division into sections or movements , it is slightly marked predominance of themes, that mark the highlights of speech.

The vocals are divided between Ray Weston (also on bass) and Brett Kull: the guitarist seems to background, working to give body and strength. Chris Buzby dominates wisely on keyboards either a sound purely " vintage". Toghether Paul Ramsey is confirmed percussionist Pearlson, and the rhythmic scores are more "linear" than before, less sharp, also thanks to the " roundness " of the keyboard- work, the same vocals , though suggestive , do not have the complexity of the years.

A special mention deserves the good work of Kull, between recording and mixing, but penalizing the choice not to break the cd in different tracks, there are many interesting moments, that deserve to be played back, in particular towards the final fireworks .

The catchy vocal passages, the smart choice for a small string section, which is often intertwined with tunes disturbing the mellotron, more discreet presence of the winds, favorite colors are dark and shadowy, sometimes sinister, little space for virtuosity individual, much to the chorus.

This is also a stretch winning album, and an characteristic of the "new " Echolyn , it seems that they have developed a very personal way of composing, more relaxed and serene. References fusion of the past seem to be forgotten, a vague echo of the experience Finneus Gauge is present, Summing up, I think it is undoubted validity ' of " Mei", compared to the average of production in the prog music.

The Echolyn fanciful and " abundant "of the past are now buried, advancing relentlessly simplifying the sound, always charming and engaging, having regard to the capacity of the four.

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Send comments to agla (BETA) | Report this review (#1078431)
Posted Monday, November 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Echolyn has been pushing the envelope of modern prog since their debut, and have developed a sound which both references the sounds of retro prog and reflects a style unique to themselves. With mei, the band reaches their musical peak; and no better way to express this than in the form of a 50-minute epic. In fifty minutes the band is able to encapsulate everything they represent up to at this point, be it influences, musicianship, or compositional quirks. But moreover, I believe this is a good representation of prog in general; be it modern or not.

In its 50-minute duration, the band explores a myriad of sounds and styles, yet never truly stray from what they established on one of their first few albums. Ranging from laid-back to aggressive, melodic to dissonant, delicate to heavy, this album explores the full spectrum of sounds and styles.

Of course fans of the band will still be presented with the Gentle Giant influence in the form of vocal counterpoint, syncopation, and that definitive keyboard sound. But it is clear the band took a more symphonic approach with this album, being filled with organ runs and supporting orchestral instruments such as strings, clarinet and flute.

The album, consisting of a single track, should be listened to as such. Fortunately, the song is both chocked full of great moments, yet feels like a cohesive whole. Themes are developed and repeated occasionally, but the real factor here is the sheer number of great melodies and riffs. Suffice it to say every second of this masterpiece contributes to the brilliance of the song as a whole.

This is truly a musical adventure from beginning to end; with unexpected twists and turns along the way. One moment may be dramatically different from the next, but the flow is never hindered. Whether it be the heavy and aggressive climax (33:00) to the subdued part that follows, or simply the string of riffs in the 'all that's golden' section (12:00), the album is a never ending stream of excitement and brilliance.

Mei serves as both the apex of the band's career, but also as a guide of what modern prog should be: Utilizing influences, but never regurgitating, to create an exciting, dynamic, and innovative piece of music. This album is truly a gem. The only unfortunate downside is its too unknown. But sometimes the rarest reap the best rewards.

10/10

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Send comments to Mr. Mustard (BETA) | Report this review (#1124528)
Posted Thursday, January 30, 2014 | Review Permalink

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