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Estradasphere picture
Estradasphere biography
Founded in Santa Cruz, California, USA in 1998 - Disbanded in 2008

Guitarist Jason Schimmel and bassist Tim Smolens met in 7th grade at Miraleste High School. In 1997, their band Don Salsa recorded its first album, "Koolaid Moustache In Jonestown." In 1998, Jason and Tim moved to Santa Cruz, CA. Jason attended UC Santa Cruz, along with Timb Harris, John Whooley, and Dave Murray. At that time, John, Tim, Jason, Dave, and Jason Conception played downtown in the streets of Santa Cruz. Jason Conception left the band to pursue Netwerk:Electric, his other project. In December 1998, Timb Harris joined the band. The band continued to play the streets and at local coffee shops.

On January 7, 2000, Estradasphere held its first concert at Kuumbwa Jazz Center. This was a pivotal show for the band, and they began to play clubs exclusively. Later that year, they released their first album "It's Understood" on Trey Spruance's label, Mimicry Records. They went on their first North American tour, opening for Secret Chiefs 3.

In 2001, Estradasphere released their first EP, The Silent Elk Of Yesterday, which included a few new studio tracks, and some live performances. They also went on their second North American tour with the band Tub Ring.

The band released their second full length album, "Buck Fever" in Spring of 2002. Later that year, drummer Dave Murray decided to quit the band.

In 2003, they released their third full length album "Quadropus." Because they did not have a full time drummer, several guest drummers appeared on this album, including Dave Murray. In Spring of 2004, they released a DVD of life footage called "Passion for Life." It contained a full length DVD as well as a CD that included some live tracks and other material.

In early 2004, John Whooley left Estradasphere. Kevin Kmetz and Adam Stacey joined the band to replace him. They played their first show together as a new band with guest drummer Theo Mordey at 2004's SXSW Festival. After a few months of recruitment for a new drummer, Lee Smith moved from Atlanta to join Estradasphere as their permanent drummer.

Estradasphere played several shows as a new band throughout late 2004 and early 2005. They are currently busy in the studio recording a new album.


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Palace Of MirrorsPalace Of Mirrors
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Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

ESTRADASPHERE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.05 | 56 ratings
It's Understood
4.04 | 53 ratings
Buck Fever
3.07 | 37 ratings
4.16 | 99 ratings
Palace Of Mirrors

ESTRADASPHERE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ESTRADASPHERE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.85 | 13 ratings
Passion For Life
3.50 | 6 ratings
Palace of Mirrors Live

ESTRADASPHERE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ESTRADASPHERE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.90 | 10 ratings
The Silent Elk Of Yesterday


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Buck Fever by ESTRADASPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.04 | 53 ratings

Buck Fever
Estradasphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Out of all the bands to find Mr Bungle as the primary influence in their genre skipping schizoid madness to making music, perhaps none was more successful in its endeavors than the Santa Cruz, CA based ESTRADASPHERE and after the band's debut "It's Understood," the band returned the very next year to unleash its second electric cauldron of every genre and the kitchen sink in the form of BUCK FEVER. And if the comparisons to Bungle and its offspring project Secret Chiefs 3 weren't already apparent then the production help of Trey Spruance on this sophomore album will only cement the connection but after all several members had already played with Spruance so the family reunion continues.

The debut album already displayed a knack for unbridled ferocity in genre skipping, fusion blending and the drop of the hat schizoid shifts from relaxing massage music to death metal and everywhere in between. BUCK FEVER continues all of this and takes it all even further by covering several styles of jazz, klezmer, surf rock, doo-wop, chiptune video game music, disco, funk, avant-prog and three styles of metal: black, death and grindcore. The entire album is the genre purists nightmare come true and the most representative successor of the Bungle legacy after that band's retirement in 2000. The band who plays on BUCK FEVER consists of only five musicians but between them they cover a whopping 40 plus instruments which gives this album a rather busy sound.

It all starts off with a title track that that alone covers many ground but remains in a 60s sort of surf rock mode with Bungle's "California" album as a prime source of inspiration with catchy booty shaking dance grooves, kitschy 60s pop charm and a horn section that's on fire during the uptempo swings. The tracks vary considerably as "The Dapper Bandits" jumps into Balkan gypsy jazz number but finds itself wending and winding through jittery progressive time signature shifts and even a polka section. The next track is one of my favorites, the atmospheric black metal "The Silent Elk of Yesterday," with haunting female vocals and arpeggiated psychedelic guitars leading in the melodic blasts of heavy guitar riffs. It's more like a mix of black, alternative and classic 80s metal with sizzling solos and eerie ambience.

After the black metal bombast, "Crag Lake" is a cute little 8-bit chiptune video game track that reminds me of Frogger as the little froggie hopped up the lily pads to get to the other side. "Meteor Showers" jumps back into a very experimental Balkan gypsy jazz / polka track but also mixes in some metal, chiptune and ska but ends as a 60s Baroque pop track in the vein of the Beach Boys complete with excellent harmonies by many of the members along with an authentic sax solo. These guys can really pull it all off effortlessly. "The Bounty Hunter" is another jazzy Balkan folk track, "Super Buck ii" is a lounge jazz cover of the Super Mario Bros 2 video game theme and a damn good cover as well! "Millennium Child" reminds me of the Mike Patton ballads on the Bungle "California" album except Dave Murray dishes out blastbeats most of the duration.

"Trampoline Klan" is yet another chiptune track. "Burnt Corpse" is a very short burst of brutal death metal immediately followed by another cheery 30s jazz styled number in "Rise N Shine." "Bride of the Buck" has a spoken narration over new age keyboards and my vote for the worst track on the album. "A Very Intense Battle" is the longest track on the album at 8:40 and starts off with a heavy muddled mix of keyboards, guitars, bass and drums and some spoken narrative in the background. It evolves into a grindcore / death metal hybrid with atmospheric keyboards and progressive time signatures zigzagging every now and again. As the title suggests, it is indeed very intense. "Green Hill" is another chiptune track and at this point one too many. In fact by the time i get to this part of the album it feels too long as neither the disco fueled gypsy jazz number "Feed Your Mama's Meter" nor the finale "What Deers May Come" with a silly skit about the theme seem like filler.

Overall ESTRADASPHERE cranked out an excellent followup as they navigated through the genre list like pros but the repetition of certain ideas ruin the surprise factor and the length of the album should've been trimmed to around 45 minutes and this would've been a much more effective experience but for the most part this is quite the enjoyable slice of Bungle fever taken into the next century and proves that this band has all the chops and sense of humor to pull it off however due to the album's inconsistency in no way dethrones the Bunglers from their perch as quirkiest prog artist since Zappa. This will surely not appeal to everyone since you have to be able to hang with the myriad genres that are juggled but for those of us who love left field twists and turns to who knows where then you can't go wrong with ESTRADASPHERE and BUCK FEVER is a worthy successor to the eclectic wild ride of the debut.

 Palace Of Mirrors by ESTRADASPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.16 | 99 ratings

Palace Of Mirrors
Estradasphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by raigor

5 stars ESTRADASPHERE was an experimental-rock band formed in Santa Cruz, CA in 1998. The band, which in its last incarnation was based in Seattle, WA consisted of six multi-instrumentalists from a variety of musical backgrounds trained in disciplines ranging from Classical music and Jazz to Progressive Rock and Heavy Metal. The band is on 'a permanent hiatus' since 2010.

"Palace of Mirrors", which was released in 2006 through The End Records, is the fifth and final full-length album by the band. Beyond six core band-members, the brass section, two string quartets, the mail choir, and other thirteen auxiliary musicians were involved in its creation. The album presents 13 all instrumental compositions clocking in at over 50 minutes, and ranging from strictly organized, orchestrated pieces to weird and obscured experimental soundscapes. In fact, listening 'Palace of Mirrors' is like studying sophisticated ornaments, whose separate elements and details stylistically correlate Contemporary Classical music, Latin, Balkan, Greek and Gypsy music, Surf and Funk, Chanson Pop and RIO, Prog-Rock and Jazz-Fusion, Avant-Metal, Dark Ambient, Post-Rock, Cinematic Rock, etc. (yes, the musicians had all good reasons to proclaim themselves inventors of bizarre styles such as Spaghetti Eastern, Romanian Gypsy-Metal, or Bulgarian Surf). Everything over here is conceived and performed with incredible imagination, taste, aesthetic, artistry, and humor making "Palace of Mirrors" one of the most listenable and enjoyable Estradasphere's album.

Overall, this is nothing short of a masterpiece, a must have for those who are interested in truly creative, deviant, and inventive Rock music!

 Buck Fever by ESTRADASPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.04 | 53 ratings

Buck Fever
Estradasphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Luqueasaur

4 stars Talk about eclectism: 8/10

ESTRADASPHERE is a side-project of musicians from SECRET CHIEFS 3 which in turn was originally a side-project (but now permanent) of Trey Spruance from MR BUNGLE. The only similarity on the three bands though is that they all are avant-garde and share somewhat mutual musicians because their approach on experimental music differ completely.

The experimental eminence of ESTRADASPHERE lies on their lack of cohesion, or "innovative songwriting and structuring" if you like fancy definitions, but NOT on inaccessible and difficult Frankenstein as say grandpa MR BUNGLE builds. This characteristic (approachability) was inherited (and improved) from daddy SECRET CHIEFS 3. Therefore, it's pretty accessible. A pleasant surprise.

The songs in BUCK FEVER, as said, are fragmented and disjoint (uncoherent), they present various sections all of which demonstrate different genres which dynamically alters between the vast arrays of styles within the multi- instrumentalist six musicians' grasp. In a moment, they might be playing jazzy bossa nova, moving right after to circus music and then to symphonic funk. There are also generous doses of black metal (although they are isolated in their own tracks, they don't interact with the multi-stylistical tracks) and rather humorous video game 8-bit songs (and a jazz swing cover of Super Mario Bros 2's theme!).

They could develop their ideas freely, as apparently money was not an issue: not only the record has great quality but also there is a huge assortment of multiethnic instruments, ranging from (Australian) Aboriginal horns to African percussions. I find the variety refreshing, the gigantic amount of things they use guarantee unique multiplicity of sounds. However, I need to acknowledge they have a clear preference for brass instruments, as they are nigh omnipresent and peppers almost every song.

For as much there is a constant shift with countless styles, ESTRADASPHERE does present moments with their unique sound, a syncretism of jazz (pre-bop? Post-bop? Hard-bop? Something bop, I guess), symphonic brass and a delicious funky slappy electric guitar.

Worth mentioning is the concept, blurred between ironic appraisal and implicit criticism of ole 'Murican idolatry of hunting. Buck fever is actually a term for Americans hell-bent on killing every single horned ruminant mammal (deer) within their vicinities' temperate woods. I say the concept is difficult to understand because there are moments that can be identified as criticism but also lapses of sarcasm, and it begs the question: are they indeed detractors or just jesting around? Personally, I feel that they express their humorous, satirical view on this issue through their jazz/rock tracks, whereas their thoughtful ecologist opinions are expressed in the black metal ones.

Back to the music. I will be honest. The first time I listened to their album I went to delirium. The musicianship is indeed spectacular, the copious amounts of intertwined layers that confers enthusiasm, the brassy overload, the symphonic black metal pieces? I was betting my buttons this would be a favorite of mine. Sadly, it isn't: 72 minutes is perhaps too long for me. After a while, the ecstatic boot loses adrenaline and ESTRADASPHERE's hitherto absurd deliciousness vanishes. Well, I still think them of proficient experimental (jazz) musicians, but not as brave genre voyagers as I used to.

The reason why I still highly regard (and rate) this album, though, is that its highlights are indeed worth highlighting. It begins with the dystopian and environmentalist The Silent Elk of Yesterday. Through mighty symphonies that build a dark atmosphere, female soprano singings and melodic black metal riffs, the band leaves its dystopian thoughts on the overly predatory behavior of men. Happily, there's none of that "lo-fi" and "anti-technical" bs common to black metal, so don't be afraid of sh***y brutality. Sweet guitar solo. I recommend watching the music video, the propositional (satirical, most likely) cheesiness of black metal tropes such as evil Satanic men singing in boreal forests and solos so melodic the guitarist literally is set ablaze. "The deer shoot back" is the emblematic line that characterizes the song.

Meteorite Showers is a delicious retro track that features a swing-revival core (sprinkled with various midsections from bossa nova to circus music) that'll probably stick in your mind (it did on mine), followed by a doo- wop one. The doo-wop is state-of-art: rhythm, vocal harmonies, 50s American accent, singing style, upright bass solo, all done terrifically.

The Bounty Hunter is where their Latin jazz excels. Using it as core, there are various different styles structured upon it, all of them sound fantastic when syncretized.

A Very Intense Battle is the lo-fi evil black metal tool in the shed, atmospheric, virulent, and very intense. What Deers May Come is a meditative, atmospheric Balkanic traditional folk music. This is where both the didjeridu (Australian horn) and djembe (African percussion) joins several other instruments to create the resonating ambience.

There is almost eight instruments for every musician and I could identify at least nine genres here. In conclusion, there is a considerable collection of diversity in BUCK FEVER, all played surprisingly well. Not for the faint of heart, lovers of slow tempo, or stillness adorers. Instead, I recommend for anyone who wants to listen to new, different stuff - stuff that morphs into completely different shapes repeatedly, and people who want to get into Avant-prog without hopping into stuff way too weird right away. The album is available on YouTube for anyone who wants to do test-drive.

 It's Understood by ESTRADASPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.05 | 56 ratings

It's Understood
Estradasphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars ESTRADASPHERE was formed in 1998 in Santa Cruz, CA and a part of the extended Mr Bungle family as the band was formed by members of Trey Spruance's (at the time) side project Secret Chiefs 3. This musical ensemble was founded by violinist and trumpet player Timba Harris and guitarist / banjoist Jason Schimmel of SC3 fame along with drummer Dave Murray. On their debut release IT'S UNDERSTOOD they take the Mr Bungle, Frank Zappa and John Zorn approach of applying technical wizardry, healthy genre shuffling and frenetic instrumental workouts that created mind-bending fusion styles such as "Bulgarian Surf", "Romanian Gypsy- Metal", and "Spaghetti Eastern" and sounded like "Psychedelic-Sci-fi", "Gypsy-Metal-Jazz" and "Epic-Cinema-Thon," as described by the band itself.

Stylistically ESTRADASPHERE is somewhat similar to Secret Chiefs 3 from which they sprang forth only whereas SC3 used Middle Eastern music and Surf Rock as their template to experiment upon, ESTRADASPHERE uses the violin saturated styles of Balkan gypsy music and Klezmer as their foundation. That means generally speaking they begin a track with an energetic violin led outburst of rhythmic gypsy sounds that ride down the Mr Bungle highway as they genre skip and incorporate everything from bluegrass and klezmer to death metal and video game chiptune. Zappa influences are abundant with whimsical titles ("The Trials And Tribulations Of Parking On Your Front Lawn") and hilarious musical contradictions ("Danse Of Tosho And Slavi / Randy's Desert Adventure") where frenetic death metal can sit side by side with placid slowed down classical violin solos. Same goes for the death metal meets yoga meditation chant on "Spreading The Disease" which finds evil sounding metal riffs alternating with relaxing soccer mom meditation class instructions!

"The Transformation" and "Planet Sparkle / Court Yard Battle 1" both find use for cleverly crafted use of classic old school video game music. The album is bookended by two monster tracks with the opener "Hunger Strike" clocking in at 19 minutes and 30 seconds. Both are based in the same Balkan gypsy folk music but deviate from their belying intros manyfold and seemingly leave no genre stone unturned in their wake and if that weren't enough ESTRADASPHERE which is a band of highly trained virtuosos is quite playful in creating some of the most sophisticated and convoluted progressive rock time signature changes that never sound forced and always succeed in blowing the mind.

ESTRADASPHERE comes off much like Secret Chiefs 3 in their focus on the ethnic elements but is more adventurous and therefore seems a bit like a more refined and less schizophrenic version of Mr Bungle so in effect, the perfect extended family member of one of the most creative branches in the experimental rock universe. IT'S UNDERSTOOD is a highly enjoyable debut and one of my favorites in the band's canon. It is well-paced with the disparate elements utilized for maximum effect while incorporating strong ethnically based hooks that often make you think you've crashed some sort of alternative music festival in Bosnia & Herzegovina or something! Very few musicians could pull off these musical gymnastics with such grace and precision but the members of ESTRADASPHERE truly conjured up some highly addictive musicomania. Another one that will surely please all the adventurous listeners out there.

 Quadropus by ESTRADASPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.07 | 37 ratings

Estradasphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars Here is the perfect example of a band that i really want to like more but they just lack an original edge to put them over the top for me. I immediately get that dejŠ vous feeling with the first track "Mekapses Yitonisa" which immediately puts me squarely in Middle Eastern influenced rock done much better by the Secret Chiefs 3. The fact is i've heard of this band for a long time and sampled a few tracks online and never been blown away but decided to take the plunge having found this fourth album QUADROPUS by ESTRADASPHERE at a ridiculously reasonable price at my local used music store. OK, so i took the plunge.

What i have found is that they fit perfectly on the Web Of Mimicry label for "mimicry' is really what they are all about except that unlike the bands they worship most, namely Mike Patton led Faith No More and Secret Chiefs 3, their influences are a little too pronounced on their sleeves and not weaved together in a brilliant manner. The frustration of this album is that everything is played extremely well and this is a very wonderful listen for every track takes you on a totally different musical journey, it's just that they don't manage to tie it together as beautifully as Mr Bungle and their other offshoots.

The second track actually brings The Manhattan Transfer to mind, while the third track "King Krab Battle" once again uses the SC3 as a template. Track four "Speck" follows the same SS3 although this template is translated into a Balkan Gypsy sound with outstanding instrumental interactions. "Hardball" is the longest track and excels at expanding the Balkan Gypsy sound into nooks and crannies of musicality hitherto unforeseen in the native culture of its origins but once again, this track sounds like an exact pathway that the SC3 would have conjured up.

At the end of the album we get a total change with "Crystal Blue" being a surf rock track that sounds like a hardcore Beach Boys song of the modern age. "Jungle Warfare" is an industrial death metal song that incorporates a nice sax solo and the finale "At Least We'd Have Today" finds the band doing their best Rage Against The Machine impression with some metal rap.

While i find everything on this album extraordinarily played and executed, i find zilch on this album to be very original. There are fine nuances of originality like jazz inclusions on board but each track just exemplifies styles of other artists that have been done much better by the original inventors. Having said that this is not an unpleasant album to listen to per se, but given the copycat approach displayed here i just can't give this album more than 3 stars. I realize that the SC3 similarities are because several members play in both bands but this isn't a satellite band of SC3 and i just wish they would create a distinct band sound since this is a different band.

 Palace Of Mirrors by ESTRADASPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.16 | 99 ratings

Palace Of Mirrors
Estradasphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The RIO/Avant-Prog genre has a vast canvas of artists from a broad range of influences. Therefore, it can be difficult for a band to really step out as a unique entity within this very music- driven genre. Estradasphere doesn't quite hit the mark that I have come to expect from this sub- genre.

My basic understanding of this band is if French TV replaced their Cantebury sound with that of metal and Eastern European classical music. Kind of a strange brew of styles considering that when the metal, surf, gypsy and classical do merge, the sound is excellent and ''Colossal Risk'', ''The Return'' and ''Corporate Merger'' pull the style bending technique quite well. The song lengths are also kept at a premium meaning that many have time to develop and few overstay their welcome (the longest song is just past eight minutes). The muscle of PALACE OF MIRRORS comes from violinist Timb Harris as he weaves from beautiful classic (title track) to foot-stomping ballroom music (''Smuggled Mutation'') all with a technical flair that's to be expected from a violin prominent in prog music.

Sadly, I cannot grasp PALACE OF MIRRORS as a whole album mainly in that there isn't one cohesive style. ''Smuggled Mutation'' is a fine country-influenced number, but the sudden shifting of styles ends up serving the album like ''Anyone's Daughter'' from Deep Purple's FIREBALL album; a more country-influenced tune just comes out of nowhere. Keeping the overall cohesion in mind, you sometimes get a classic song, then a surf-jazz, then a surf-metal song, all within an Estradasphere sound (I CAN tell that the band is aiming for a particular sound) but enough of a shift to knock the equilibrium of PALACE OF MIRRORS out of line. And the Big-Lipped Alligator Award has to go to ''The Unfolding Pause on the Threshold'', a four-minute-long segue that ploys with Nintendo sounding keyboards.

Estradasphere never quite show me how much different they are compared to other RIO bands, so PALACE OF MIRRORS really doesn't stick out in terms of overall achievement. I give them credit for bringing in the shamisen prominently on ''Those Who Know?'', the album's best track. Definitely for the hardcore avant-prog fans, and I can almost get feeling behind the music, but not quite.

 Palace Of Mirrors by ESTRADASPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.16 | 99 ratings

Palace Of Mirrors
Estradasphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by VanVanVan
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This album is a journey. That's a phrase that gets used a lot, but I struggle to think of an occasion it's been a more appropriate descriptor than for this masterpiece. Estradasphere manages to combine orchestral music, metal, jazz, electronica, folk, noise, and even surf rock (as well as pretty much anything else you can think of) into one cohesive trip. You won't know where you're going on the voyage that this album takes you on, but I can almost guarantee you'll enjoy your travels.

"Title," at only about a half a minute, is really just an introduction. Some interesting electronics set the scene very nicely though, and when the strings and piano of "Palace of Mirrors" come in there's already a very nice contrast established. This title track is really a stellar piece of music, with compelling melodies and orchestration that remind one of a classical overture. I must confess that the first time I heard this song I was very surprised; I think that the label of "avant-garde" often carries a certain connotation for people, but despite the label "Palace of Mirrors" is an incredibly gorgeous song that has more in common with folk and classical music than with the occasionally hard to digest "typical" avant sound (oxymoronic as that phrase may be).

"A Corporate Merger" begins on a decidedly jazzier note, though there's a decidedly European folk vibe as well. In fact, though my experience with the music of Ennio Morricone is very limited, I can hear resemblances to his music here. Violin is a dominant presence for much of the track, with frenetic, virtuosic playing and, like "Palace of Mirrors" a strong sense of melody throughout. The structure is very jazzy, with various instruments soloing over a more or less consistent drum and bass line throughout the course of the track, and I have to say the playing on these solos is some of the most compelling I've ever heard. The sound is incredibly tight as well, with all the musicians sounding completely in sync. This is especially true towards the end, as the tempo quickly increases to a light-speed fever pitch, and yet, the listener never gets the feeling that the musicians are sweating. An incredibly well-performed piece of music, "A Corporate Merger" really shows that the members of Estradasphere are nothing if not extremely competent musicians.

"The Terrible Beautypower of Meow" starts off on a much more melancholic note, no less gorgeously melodic but certainly more subdued than "A Corporate Merger." However, this all changes around the 1 minute mark as the track switches into a brilliant pastiche of beach rock and vintage, 50s sounding pop. It's an incredibly evocative combination that suggests images of old-fashioned convertibles cruising along a coastal road, and it really just evokes a kind of longing for a simpler time.

"Colossal Risk" takes another abrupt left turn, starting off with a slinky melody that wouldn't sound out of place on the soundtrack to The Godfather. However, the track again drastically switches its sound after about a minute, changing into what sounds like a combination of Dick Dale and a bombastic Modest Mussorgsky piece. There's a softer section towards the middle of the track as well that features lush, gorgeous strings and some wordless, almost operatic female vocals. Horns feature prominently for much of the track as well, and "Colossal Risk" ends up being incredibly varied track even by the high standards already set by the album.

"The Unfolding Pause On The Threshold" begins on a much more explicitly experimental note, with a variety of electronic effects creating a very unsettling atmosphere. Percussion takes on a very prominent role, pounding through the sound effects while still working with them to create a very heavy, insistent pseudo-melody. The combination of percussion and electronics creates an almost industrial feel, and the track as a whole is a drastic but still totally appropriate break from the strong melodic themes of most of the previous tracks. It really is impressive how many different genres Estradasphere is able to incorporate seamlessly into the album, and I think that's really a testament to the strength of their compositional abilities.

"Smuggled Mutation" has a rather idiosyncratic beginning, with a violin part that sounds raw and wavering in contrast to the lush strings that permeate most of the other tracks. However, the track quickly launches into an insanely frenetic motif, with lightning-fast violin playing and heavy guitar parts that almost have thrash metal overtones. The violin and guitar play off of each other brilliantly, and some minimally but brilliantly used horns give the track a kind of insane carnival feel. In addition, the technical proficiency here is very impressive as well, and while that's not (by itself) what makes the track so good it is a nice little bonus.

Speaking of carnival music, "Six Hands" also makes excellent use of that sort of motif, with a playful toy piano sound and some excellent folky melodies as well. However, at just over a minute it's more of an interlude than anything, though a very good one.

Next up is "The Debutante," which, despite any labels you want to put on Estradasphere's music, is nothing less than beautiful. With gorgeous, bittersweet melodies and numerous heart-wrenchingly emotive horn solos, this track has probably brought me closer to tears more times than any other piece of music I can think of. Something about it is just so incredibly evocative that I can't help but be blown away every time I hear it.

"Flower Garden Of An Evil Man," on the other hand, is the complete opposite. With rumbling, ominous drones taking up most of the first two minutes, the track is just as sinister as "The Debutante" was moving. Even when a more standard melody does come in, it sounds incredibly dark and knotty compared to the wide-open previous track. Despite that, it's still a very evocative track in its own right, with a climatic, cinematic feel that wouldn't sound out of place over the finale of an action movie. A brief, distorted section in the final third of the track breaks up this motif a bit, but the track finishes grandly before fading to a distorted electronic drone.

"Those Who Know" turns to a totally different source for melodic inspiration, with a decidedly eastern feel. Violin is again at the forefront, and the track on the whole sounds much more carefree and lighthearted than either of the previous two, with multiple breakdowns that almost have a bluegrass feel to them. Another awesome horn part makes an appearance as well, as does an amazingly orchestrated section towards the end. As a result, the end of the track feels incredibly climactic, as horns, strings, and even some wordless chants coalesce into one grand sound.

"Palace of Mirrors Reprise" is exactly what it sounds like, and it's everything a reprise should be. Drastically switching up the instrumentation while keeping the same melodic line really gives the album a sense of holistic power, as it really makes the listener feel as if upon returning to the same place they began they can see it totally differently for having taken the journey. Not content to ever let the listener feel completely in control of the situation, however, the end track spirals into a veritable wall of sound, with pulsing drones and distorted sound clips both disorienting the listener and preparing them for the final track.

?And what a finale it is. After completing the journey that is this album, "The Return" is a crashing conclusion that reminds the listener of everything great about the album. Heavy guitars interlace with insane violins, melodies clash with pounding riffs and beauty combines with pure, unadulterated aggression to create an absolute monster of a track. A stunner of a finale for what is certainly a stunner of an album.

Don't be afraid of the avant-garde label. As I've hopefully been able to convey, this is an incredibly melodic album in spite of its rampant experimentalism. This is really an album that deserves to be on any list of modern masterpieces, and with its genre bending and strict avoidance of predictability, it's the very definition of progressive music.


 Quadropus by ESTRADASPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.07 | 37 ratings

Estradasphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Brendan

3 stars Well boys, mark this one down as one of the 'must get' bands of modern prog. Neither they sounds like a clone of an earlier band; rather a mixture of different elements that all come together well.

They are classed under 'Avant-RIO', admittedly a genre I don't know a lot about, but using definitions outside of this they are a blend of Eastern / middle Eastern folk with jazz-rock fusion. death metal (unfortunately) and pop exploration. If I were to compare them to any band that came before, I would say Works-era Emerson Lake and Palmer, in that they sound like an eccentric cacophany of genre's that no-one else want's to touch, at least no one else in the prog world. As no one else in 1977 wanted to touch Rag-Time, Cabaret and the like, very few prog-bands in 2003 would mix Beach Boys send ups with Jazz-rock and Eastern folk music. Even, you wonder if they intended to be 'prog' at all, but that's okay, they're refreshing.

The first song is an interesting Eastern European folk song, it's interesting to hear in a world of organs and Heavy guitars. Th is is followed by one of my favourite songs on the album, 'Dubway'. Dubway is what I would call 'vocal techno', it's techno music but the beats and rhythms are all made by making/singing noises into the microphone. I think it must take a lot of skill to pull such a thing off so well, and actually turn it into an infectious piece of pop music. Followed by 'King Krab Battle', an interesting jazz-rock fusion piece, although there are moments when the song turns into a 'death-metal' song, and I can't see that as being a good mix. 'Speck' is a haunting ballad, like something the Moody Blues would have done in the late 60's (e.g. Candle of life), but it is done poorly. Needs better vocals, at least.

Then comes the highlight of the album, 'Hardball', a twisting turning long song that mixes various Eastern and sometimes middle Eastern folk with jazz-rock fusion, and gets up towards the 15 minute mark. Now I might have been complaining about Yes songs in the mid 70's being dragged out to 20 minutes and it was more of an exercise, and was a chore for the listener to sit through, and maybe some folks might think I'm not a real 'progger', and that may be true... but I enjoyed every minute of Hardball, enjoyed how it kept progressing and felt liek it was working towards something. Now if this song was 24 hours long, no problem! I'd call my workplace up sick and take the time to listen to it! I would sit down for the 24 hour duration and probably enjoy every minute of it. But ten minutes of Siberian Khatru is ten minutes too long.... sorry...

Hardball is followed up by a similar sounding 'Car Ride through Idealistic Ethiopia', though this song is a bit more psychedelic. Actually, it's a breath-taking piece of a mix of styles, and to demonstrate their abilites, they do this 'radio tuning' effect, to make it seem they are changing stations, and when they settle on a new station, it's a different style playing the same melodic theme as was present before they changed stations. So, with those two pieces, there is at least 20 minutes of excellent music.

They are followed by four shorter piece, Crystal Blue, an enjoyable but sloppy Early rock n roll meets Beach Boys tune, A couple of awful piece of 'Death-Metal'; 'Jungle Warfare' (Prog- Metal) and 'Bodyslam' (straight metal) and a Beach Boys ballad send-up 'At least we have today', though this is also sending up Van Morrison, I suspect. Sure, how it keeps restarting after minutes of silence is a bad idea, but the original 2 1/2 minutes is very enjoyable.

From the praise I was giving you may think I would give it ****, but in light of two terrible pieces of metal, I cannot rate any higher than ***. Jungle Warfare is worse for trying to be prog, it shows you can 'prog up' anything, so you could have 'progressive crap' or 'progressive traffic samples' or the like. At least 'Bodyslam' tries to be fun, now wasn't that what rock was suppose to be all about? Of forget that, that's such an old theory, went out-of- date in the early-90's....

But I have to admit, having heard this Estradasphere album, it made me want to go and reduce ratings I had given to bands such as Porcupine Tree and Transatlantic. On 'Quadropus', hear all those different instruments, so many... On a Transatlantic album it's just same old guitar/organ/synth combo, and the synths are strictly Banks/Wakeman retreads. So it's ncie to hear people who can bring more sounds to the table than what has already been.

 Palace Of Mirrors by ESTRADASPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.16 | 99 ratings

Palace Of Mirrors
Estradasphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Quantum Tuba

5 stars Estradasphere are a gloriously eclectic and innovative ensemble, and Palace of Mirrors is their masterpiece. In addition to revealing their virtuoso musicianship, compositional prowess, and versatility, Palace of Mirrors displays a cinematic grandeur only found on the best progressive concept albums.

Like many of their avant prog comrades, Estradasphere incorporates more musical styles into their compositions than a musicology professor overdosing on Jolt Cola. At various points, the music evokes classical orchestras, mellow soul jazz, head banging metal, and a Japanese take on gypsy. When a group incorporates such disparate influences, there is a risk of producing a disjointed mess; however, the ensemble is very deft at developing transitions, permitting their wildly diverse album to tell a coherent tale without the need for words.

In addition to being a great avant prog album, Palace of Mirrors is rather accessible to those who are unfamiliar with this style. The melodies, though complex, are very aesthetically pleasing, which makes them a good jumping off point to the arguably more difficult works of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Mr. Bungle.

The real reason this is an essential masterpiece of progressive music is simple: no other album is like it. If I find another coherent musical journey that features shamisen solos over funk grooves or thrash metal with violin and a full brass section, I will be very surprised.

 Quadropus by ESTRADASPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.07 | 37 ratings

Estradasphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by cookieacquired

3 stars Can you unscramble an egg?

This is the question Estradasphere has been posed, or at least try to answer, on their Quadropus (with a wicked picture of the green 'pus fellow on the cover). This cover does look cool, and reminds me of some sort of jade ruin stone, or amulet, something epic-looking, yet sinister and mysterious. It is the harbinger of the cover of the album, with Estradasphere trying to de-mystify their traditional hodge-podge of genres.

The result is that, if taken alone, each song can sound semi-serious to its respective genre. Together, they add a whole new dynamic, and they sort of compliment each other. To really have fun with this album, you must hear other Estradasphere and see how much they meld genres, and switch them abruptly in the middle of a song. Otherwise, you might not really get it, in quotes for lack of a better phrase, and then I don't know really how this album'd sound to you.

Anyhoot, individual track time. Actually this section might seem a little vestigial for Quadropus, as the title of each track gives a comprehensive enough description of it. Digressing from that, the album kicks off with Mekapses Yitonisa, which is a Greek/Gypsy Roots/Folk song and also happens to be one of the better tracks of the album. It is very upbeat, and is a style that Estradasphere can do, while still putting their own flair to it. Next up is Dubway, a beat-box experimental techno thingy, with vocal samples. Not very complex, but something I really haven't heard the band do, and if not good, is cool. Then up comes King Krab Battle which contains some smooth sax, and sounds like a jazz version of a battle theme of a video game. It clocks in at 8 and a half minutes, so it's good there's meat to it. Note that was one of the better (if not best) tracks on the album.

Next are a few jazz rock pieces, and that's the point. A few of them. I guess Estradasphere lost that whole, different singular genre each track thing, as these sound all similar, and should've really just been called a suite. I must admit, though Hardball does a feat, in that it seems eternal, like it will go on forever. It's 13 and a half minutes, which I could tolerate, but this song drags on. and on.

On the other side of this long piece is Crystal Blue, which could be my favorite track off the album. It's a surf rock song with all the cliches of the genre. Think Back in the USSR, the song it reminds me a lot of. The soaring guitar, drums, the backing vocals, all work perfectly. Best case scenario for isolating the genres they play.

One of my biggest gripes with not only the album, but the band itself is exemplified in the next two song, and that is this: PLEASE, stop doing that metal, okay? The growling vocals, the crunching guitar, doesn't work for the band. At all. STOP IT.

Finally, Quadropus ends with At Least We'd Have Today, which seems daunting at 9 minutes in length. It starts off as the most trite, frivolous love song with the most banal lyrics ever. And it doesn't develop over the course of the song. At around 4 minutes it ends. Then the obligatory silence, and the bonus track, which is the same song, except the lyrics, while sounding identical, are switched up a bit, to make it funnier. It ends with the most overpronunciation of the word Today I've ever heard. Then more silence, like 2 or 3 minutes worth, then some sound clip, then the end.

I felt underwhelmed, it didn't really work. Some of the songs are great, there are some experiments, and just more of the same with some. The album was also missing Estradasphere's sense of humor for the most part, and that really detracted from it. It seems like they fluffed up the album to increase it's length and that makes it drag a bit. Overall, not a great place to start listening to Estradasphere. For fans of the band however, it's a fine addition once you've got some of their other works.

I couldn't sleep giving it two stars (as it does have some standouts, like Mekapses Yitonisa, King Krab, and Crystal Blue), but four stars seems like waaaaaaaaaaaay too much for it. Three stars is just dandy.

Thanks to useful_idiot for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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