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5 stars 80s sounding yet the progressive elements are subtly embroidered into the pop music fabric. Think Tony Banks of Genesis meets the Alan Parsons Project with some newer grooves and sounds. Some songs (particularly "Saint Augustus") have a poppy feel; yet the extended song forms, asymmetrical meters and occasional dissonances belie the pop music format/label.
Report this review (#24929)
Posted Wednesday, March 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Let me say that this album touched me in so many ways. Aethellis manages to mix a decent blend of concept and melody with a synth / groove / layering of keys that had me wondering who I was listening to. There is very early Genesis, mid life Asia and a more recent John Young all included with its own brand of reality that has resulted in a truly very good album.

1. Tie and Handkerchief

Great opening, atmospheric leading to what? Nice piano the a nice groove and synth with Geoff Downes overlays and a great contribution to the prog rock world. More of it I say. It isn't rushed with vocals or changes of instrumental sounds in the first few minutes. It's allowed to flow. A real drummer could have helped but the effort of 'digi drums' (and percussion?!?!?) is as good as I've heard. Nice layering of sounds in the vocal breaks...did real well without a real guitarist. Great finish which leads to...

2. Saint Augustus

This track moved me. More church organ - HA!! Was this studio or produced it somewhere else?? Unfortunately the vocals were a bit too even here but the chorus really got going which helped lift the track (my perspective only). Love the bridges - and the lead breaks. I don't know what his religious loyalists are but a track that could be 'top and tailed' as a single. The ending of this track should be given to music students as a way to close off a track - great use of echo on the vocals.

3. Hubris

Introduction sounds like it follows on from Saint Augustus and tends to flows from Track 2 and then changes direction as the tracks takes and number of changes. Great synth and atmospheric work to build tension. Almost Eastern feel. Then it morphs into an almost 'rif' feel from MAGUS (different artists / different time but similar feel) in the middle which blends into a Geoff Downes (New Dance Orchestra) series of chords which moved me more than you what to know. Top stuff and the best I've heard in a long time (tone up those Wakeman licks at the end - HA!!)

4. Portal

Great change of pace and acoustic piano at the start. Which leads to the track proper. Carol? Lost friendship? Very pastoral. I'd almost heard this track before. The layering of vocals is great and then it spirals into Part 2 of this track which follows the general melody but keeps exploring little nocks and crannies along the way.

5. Djibouti

A real change from the other tracks. Nice groove after the first part and not rushed at all. Almost Wakemanish. Is there such a word!?!?!?!? Great touch on the synths (Wakeman and Geoff Downes in the one track - good stuff!!!). Beautiful melding of electronic and acoustic overlays which is as good as 'Tumbleweed' [from Affini Logue]. One of the better instrumental tracks of 2004.

6. Final Affinity

Great start into a weirder section that gets a bit experimental but not 'over the top'. Disguising the vocal doesn't help (unfortunately) but the instrumental section after is a buzz - loved the guitar sound-a-like and the overlaying of sounds and bass work. The middle section seems to flow effortly from guitar to keys... But it's a long track and then the organ starts (same from Saint Augustus???) which leads into an almost early 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' feel and into a great improv section. Then there is the light synths flowing over the top of a great groove and even better mid section.

By this time I want to listen again and again and again.

Report this review (#24930)
Posted Thursday, May 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Aethellis = Ellsworth Hall

Aethellis is a project of Ellsworth Hall , a classically traind keybordist and piano virtuoso who released a single album so far in 2003 at Affinity Music. Ellsworth Hall plays here at everything is to be heared on this labum, from keys, vocals, guitar to drums, so a realy solo album. This name and this project was unknown to me untill 2 years ago when I've discoverd him. Well, what to say something between neo prog, maybe the lighter side but still very much uptempo in places and some popy elements added, very melodic with lush keys on top. The vocals he made is realy mediocre, he has no voice, not irritaiting but forgetable, the rest of the instruments are ok, specialy the keys are most important here, but also the guitar has his share, but not spectacular in any sense. The keys sound intristing in places with a happy atmosphere on some pieces Tie And Handkerchief or Djibouty, the best tracks from here, the rest are ok. In the end , this Aethellis get a moderate succes in prog circles, still unknown for many, well I don't think he will became more popular than he is today, not because the music is bad, but to the lack of realy solid songwritting. Still pleasent to be listened from time to time, nothing spectacular or special but enjoyble, 3 stas, good but totaly non essential work. Similar with Jadis, at some point Pendragon or '80's Camel.

Report this review (#243770)
Posted Friday, October 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Prog Purists Beware, Catchy Hooks Abound! And yet...

And yet you will find lovely passages in 7/4 and 17/8, the oft-cited rather jarring polytriads, and numerous modulations ("Saint Augustus"). "Hubris" continues the journey with danceable rhythms and funky guitar yet balances these with quartal harmonies, macabre vocals with augmented chords (a favorite of Steve Hackett), and diminished scale synthesizer melodies.

Jazz harmonies mix with contrapuntal piano and hip-hop rhythms in "Djibouti." Banksian tone colors and chord progressions flow in "Portal" and "Tie and Handkerchief" while gnarly riffs and more asymmetrical meters weave throughout "Final Affinity" climaxing with a Wakemanesque organ solo.

Apart from these tasty attributes, the song structures display compositional acumen where themes are stated, developed, restated in a variation and morphed further along with other interlocking thematic material. For example "Final Affinity" weaves all the motifs from the first three sections into a tapestry of recapitulations in the final climax.

Indeed there are catchy hooks abounding; top-notch lush complex interlocking keyboard orchestrations and smoothly earnest (and sometimes impassioned) vocals. If this lends one to conclude the album is "poppy" and thereby more immediately accessible, then so be it. That is a positive attribute if it draws one in to the music. But upon repeated listenings, the layers unravel and deeper treasures are found. The point is: it may be accessible but it is not simplistic.

Report this review (#243849)
Posted Friday, October 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Aethellis started as a one-man project during the millenium by American keyboardist Ellsworth Hall.Hall has been a huge prog lover since his youth and was also a member of a few prog projects back in the 80's and 90's.The lack of progress regarding the recordings of an album with his last band forced Hall to come up with the Aethellis project, while some of the material he recorded for this solo effort dates back in the 80's.The seld-released CD ''Aethellis'' came out in 2003.

Hall handles all instruments and vocal lines in this album and, as with many one-man projects, some of his music parts are nice, while others lack the professionalism of a normal band.His overall style falls into the accesible keyboard-based prog category with an undoubtful 80's feeling throughout and strong AOR hints here and there.The compositions range from symphonic passages and Neo-Prog tastes to Melodic Rock and cliche AOR ballads.Hall's keyboard work is the one that shines through this release.Fast piano paces and fine interludes, good synth passages and some decent solos are likely to please fans of keyboard/piano-driven musicianship.The few organ appearances have also a strong WAKEMAN-ish flavor and most of the melodies are listenable.On the other hand this album suffers from a number of flaws.The songwriting is decent but not great, some of the synth parts sound really cheap, the guitars are hardly recognizable, while the biggest problem seems to be the over-plastic drum machines.Even Hall's voice does not set a candidacy for the best singer around, still it suits well enough with the music.

If Hall had managed to set a regular band and record this album in a professional basis it would have sounded a lot better, no question.For the time being ''Aethellis'' seems a work strictly created for fans of Neo Prog or 80-sounding synth Art Rock and this is the audience I would recommend to check out this effort...2.5 stars.

Report this review (#769407)
Posted Monday, June 11, 2012 | Review Permalink

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