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Echo Us: Echo Us

These days, guitarist, keyboardist, singer and songwriter Ethan Matthews darkens decidedly different corridors: with his heavy-prog trio Greyhaven formed in high school with friends and future fellow Berklee alums, with one CD to their credit on Germany's Angular Records in limbo, Ethan is poised to make a sizeable splash in the waters of the music underground on his own. A completely insular project for now, Echo Us is a venture that trades a denser symphonic approach for smoother, prevalently electronic avenues.

The songs on the new full-length Echo Us CD can be described as dark melodic synth-pop, not without trance, trip-hop & acid-hop underpinnings. Ethan's singing is fairly straightforward, pleasant, expressive, and never strays from the realm of good taste. "Who Loves You" is a charming, reggae-tinged ditty that opens with a gently percolating sequence. Congregating processed guitar notes spiral into a subtle solo within a bedding of spectral synthetics. "Who Loves You" also features bass guitar by Kai Kurasawa, the album's lone guest spot. In the context of things, the eleven-minute "Her Heart's Army/White Wednesday" is an epic. Ethan picks up his guitar for a delicate solo amidst the Jarre-esque goings-on, while the track's instrumental second half recalls Clan Of Xymox's semi-legendary 1986 album Medusa in its mirthfully uncluttered, ethereal glissade.

Thickly distorted percussion throbs to life on the futuristic funker, "Directed Study." Here, I can't pinpoint exactly which singer the vocal part emulates tonally, but there's something peculiar (in a good way) about Ethan's delivery. This and the dynamic "I Radiate I" with its wildly shifting panoramas, Zanderish vocal and patently Hackett guitar solo would make great singles. A nasally, kazoo-like tone presumably a Korg sound stands out. "In The Fall" opens with more textured, Tangerine Dream-esque sequencing and a vocal melody that wouldn't sound out of place on a Xymox record were it transposed two octaves lower.

Now, I'll admit, when I first heard this disc, my reaction wasn't exactly a keen one, but after multiple listens days apart, tunes such as these assume a mossy veneer and start growing on you. As a one-man affair, Ethan solidly demonstrates that he's got a knack for editing and arranging as much as writing and performing. Rough edges filed down tend not to pierce, but a fair level of gritty texture coats what would otherwise be an all-too-safe crystalline clarity. The overtly digital synth sounds, characteristically TR 808 drum programming, and generous daubings of reverb lend a mid-1980's flavor to the material, so your mileage may vary. Most importantly, this is edgy stuff, something that followers of the artists on labels 4AD and Projekt will probably dig. Have a listen!

Tracklist:

1. My Sirens
2. Dreaming
3. Directed Study
4. Her Heart's Army / White Wednesday
5. Who Loves You
6. To Save You
7. I Radiate I
8. Black Thursday
9. In The Fall

Total time 49:13

Added: February 5th 2006
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Score:
Related Link: http://www.absoluteprobability.com
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Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Echo Us: Echo Us
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-02-05 17:32:12
My Score:

Echo Us is former Greyhaven founder/keyboardist Ethan Matthews' new solo project. Since Greyhaven was put on hold (though I sincerely hope Ethan is going to put it back together somehow some time), Matthews ventured into electronic music creating the interesting project Echo Us that will definitely have appealing value for fans of 80's synth-pop, experimental electronic music, and other pop culminations of diverse influences.

Fans of dark progressive metal fans of Greyhaven should note that Echo Us presents a different side of Ethan Matthews' curious musical vision. This is an entire solo project in which Matthews handles every aspect of the music from very personal vocals to drum programming to song arrangements and meticulous production. The short "My Sirens" starts the album displaying Matthews' sparse key textures and is anchored with the two vocal tracks, "Dreaming" and "Directed Story". Both songs employ consistent use of synths, programmed drums and smooth vocal melodies. I'm not too good at comparing this kind of music to other bands, but I believe Tangerine Dream and Depeche Mode fans might enjoy them. "Her Heart's Army / White Wednesday" and "I Radiate I" are my favourite pieces here; they clearly come from Ethan Matthews' progressive roots blended with ambient textures, ethereal lead guitar work and constant harmony changes. "White Wednesday", the second part of track four, is the more atmospheric piece that will sweep you away because of its fantastic production. Fear not, Echo Us is not an attempt on Matthews part to go commercial; you can't go commercial with 11-minute tracks like this. "I Radiate I" is the album's most chaotic composition. Uncomfortable keys run amok in the background with intense guitar lines floating above them as if a soft wind carries them over. Its multi-textured instrumentation is bound to keep Greyhaven fans' attention.

The production of this disc is lightyears ahead of Greyhaven as well. There's a great sense of clarity and cohesiveness throughout. More compact tunes ala "Who Loves You" remind me of 80's A-ha, though like I said, I could be well off the mark here. Matthews' careful work on keyboard sequencing results in a very happy melody that I want to hear constantly while reading or relaxing. "Black Thursday", on the other hand, sees Matthews using delicate symphonic arrangements embraced by synth-pop elements and ambient textures. This disc is bound to establish Echo Us as a creative electronic band in this expansive genre. In the booklet, it is mentioned that this albumn is dedicated to solace and perseverance, and it definitely shows.



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