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!
1. My Sirens
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