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Echolyn - Mei CD (album) cover

MEI

Echolyn

 

Symphonic Prog

4.13 | 329 ratings

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Wicket
Prog Reviewer
5 stars From a band whose best efforts come out of concise songs with catchy hooks and melodies, and rely rather more on simplicity over complexity, a singular 50 minute long epic seems kinda unusual for this band's repertoire.

But that's exactly what they did with their 2003 album "Mei". And strangely, it doesn't sound like a big Yes tribute album or Spock's Beard-esque colossal concept album. In fact, the intro is fairly simple, a nice little ballad strolling along until the band fully kicks in about 5 minutes later, with catchy melodies in hand, and yet prog elements still remain, with unusual jump cuts to minimal instrumentation, with samples of vibes and synth action cutting in between a funky drum groove and a really impressive and aggressive effort from the singers.

Even by this point, it's an impressive album because it doesn't sound like a typical, bombastic concept album by some 70's prog band, and even though most of the defining sections of the song don't really connect together like an epic or concept album, I'm not turned off from it because I don't get that impression from the first listen. Yes, it's one giant 50-minute long song, but it doesn't have a bombastic intro or long prolonged overture. It's very understated in its construction, and therefore comes off with a sense of modesty. In fact, overall the album tends to have a laid-back groove to it, the band's not in a rush to get anywhere, not in a rush to tell a story or paint a picture, but rather it feels like one long jam the band put together with scheduled improvs in between controlled verses and phrases of singing.

And frankly, I think because of this laid-back groovy song, it's probably one of my favorite 30+ minute prog songs ever, mainly from the fact it doesn't take itself too seriously. And probably the most interesting thing about this album as well is that Echolyn's signature sound is still present and audible, but rather than overcomplicate and overproduce, it feels as if the band has taken a more relaxed approach, not that they don't care about it, but rather just want the music to do all the talking and not dilute it with overcomplexity.

And perhaps because of that, it's an album that's so easy to get into, there's a ton of groovy sections and equally as much beautiful ballad sections, and it doesn't sound either cheesy or nostalgic of 70's prog, either. In fact, Echolyn on this album have created a sound that doesn't sound unlike a combination of Spock's Beard and jam bands (a la moe. or Phish). And as such, unlike perhaps previous Echolyn albums or other symphonic prog bands, there's nothing here that ticks me off, no predictable sections that make me cringe when they happen. Nothing like that. As much of an oxymoron that it may be, it's a simple epic.

And that's what makes it so great. So great, in fact, I actually have it on my driving playlist. That's how good it is, because that means it's not only considered a progressive masterpiece, but it's also incredible accessible, but also it's full of good jams and relaxing moments. In short, it really has almost everything you could really want, just nothing that you'd expect . Which, when referring to a prog band, is something you probably WOULD expect, that being the unexpected.

It really is a rare beast, this. A unicorn, an 847-year cycle comet. And as such, it'll be a cherished album of mine for many years to come.

Wicket | 5/5 |

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