Echo Us: The Tide Decides
Ethan Matthews could be his generation's answer to Mike Patton — he's not mapping the boundaries of aural arcana by any means, nor conducting bizarre fringe vocal experiments, but the output by his current band project Echo Us differs as greatly from his music with Greyhaven as Patton's excursions with Fantomas and Tomahawk stand apart from the first couple Faith No More albums (for this occasion, allow for a bit of disregard on the part of Mr. Bungle). The Tide Decides is the next evolutionary step for Echo Us and it elaborates splendidly on the groundwork laid by the eponymous album of 2003.
Thematic shifts, tempo changes, a polished production, a healthy indulgence of melodrama — elements intrinsic to "prog rock" — populate the album, even if the end result doesn't exactly resemble anything "prog" that's been raved about as of late. Two songs hit the eleven-minute mark, "Trans-Atlantic" and the finale "...And Sea To Sky (Bon Voyage)." With analog synths (and the Mellotron, Rhodes electric piano, clavinet, etc.) in vogue again for the last decade-plus, it takes a good-sized pair to record a heavily electronic album with a purely digital rig. Crystalline timbres shape the album as much as Ethan's surgical crunch-guitar strikes and lead vocals, which at times sound like an angstier Gary Wright or Tony Carey. The first ninety seconds of "Trans-Atlantic" could almost pass for Tangerine Dream circa the early-to-mid '90s. Burbling synth-arpeggios and bass sequences surface in "Fantastic Elevation" and "Descending From The Dream," while the latter reveals moaning violin drones and sourced sound bites. The violinist's brief vocal also graces "...And Sea To Sky" and thus the notion of a male-female vocal tandem on the third album seems likely if not inevitable. Halfway through the track, Ethan dials another TD-esque sequence and a sampled musical box; yet another sound eerily similar to a certain one Vangelis used in his Blade Runner score is utilized to great effect. The interplay and timbral combinations are nifty, and the somber strains of the violin and analog bass enhance the proceedings when the vocal section resumes. As the album fades out, it becomes apparent that, along with the obvious elements of modern trance, a "symphonic shoegaze" aesthetic has crept in; think the trance-rock of Delerium (not the prog band) or the lush shoegaze-pop of Mira.
This is not an album to absorb in one sitting; The Tide Decides balances optimism with despair, reins in adventure with the dusky reins of gloom, and still manages to get aggressive when it needs to. Tide's release on Musea's Parallele imprint is another step forward that lifts Echo Us from the murky limbo of the private press. Initial orders look promising, and like its predecessor, Tide should appeal to the shoegaze, ambient-pop/rock and nu-goth scenes as well as fans of Phideaux, Porcupine Tree, Spectrum, and Delerium (again, not the prog band).
1. From Snow To Sea... (4:25)
2. We Surfaced (5:33)
3. Trans-Atlantic (10:55)
4. State Of Expectation (5:41)
5. The Tide Decides (5:10)
6. Fantastic Elevation (7:32)
7. Descending From The Dream (7:10)
8. Shooting Scenes (5:41)
9. Out At The Edge Of The World (5:17)
10. ...And Sea To Sky (Bon Voyage) (11:33)
Total Time – 69:02
Added: July 16th 2009
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: Echo Us Dot Net
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|Echo Us: The Tide Decides
Posted by Mark Johnson, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-01-18 17:04:21
1. Who is the band? What is their history? What motivates them?
"Echo Us returns with a new album and entirely new approach to its musical journey seeming to have found a natural path only hinted at by the debut released in 2005. The conceptual album, "The Tide Decides", marries a metaphysical approach to music with fantasy or 'theoretical' story telling - from what seems like an alien universe." (Echous.net, 2009).
"The story might very well be about humanity, but most everyone could apply it personally to a terrestrial life. Birth, traveling through life, and ending up wherever you please- to begin again and ride a new path of consciousness to infinite conclusions." (Echous.net, 2009). "When asked in my 3rd grade class where I thought people go when they die I replied- 'They go wherever they want'. I believe now and always have, that we are on a constant search for 'a home' that suits us as individuals and as the collective. Basically, as people seem to choose their life goals and challenges on the terrestrial plane- so do they choose their 'heaven', afterlife or subsequent existence. This is one paramount idea that I have believed in for as long as I can remember, and it didn't come from a book, a psychologist, teacher, or history lesson. It's just spanned from somewhere in me internally". –Ethan (Echous.net, 2009) .
2. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
"The Tide Decides brings forth a life, living as if it moved in tandem and perfectly parallel with the entirety of human existence. From birth through evolution, to perish or reincarnate The Tide Decides concept is of a fantastic nature, and loosely ties to philosophical ideas and ideals of a new (meta) physics, new age, and the falling away of chronological human consciousness." (Echous..net, 2009). "The word Freedom is too vague a term" (Aldous Huxley)
3. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
When I first received the package of reviews that Ron sent, I raced to open and listen to this one first because it is from a local Portland, Oregon band. It took a couple listens to get used to Ethan's voice and the music because it sounds so unique and different than anything else I listen to on a regular basis. But that is what I like about doing reviews for the Prognaut.com. Nothing is off limits and it is a wonderful eclectic site run by fans who just love music, no matter what genre.
This music is very interesting and yes different. It mixes progressive, experimental, and electronic genres. It is just very hard to categorize this music. One minute you are listening to electronic and computerized voices, the next heavy bass, lead electric or acoustic guitar and the drums are pounding. It is definitely original. One of the most original albums I have heard in years.
1. From Snow to Sea… - The ocean and wind chimes open this song. "We find within time, that we know not what we do…and the sea travels to you." You really need to look at the online notebook that is on their website to feel the full power of the lyrics and the pictures of the ocean and mountains to gain the majesty of the opening of this album and first track. (Editor: There was a link here but it wasn't working. Please go to the band's website and seek out The Notebook, which contains beautiful pictures).
An incredible understanding of the power of the beauty surrounding us in the Pacific Northwestern, USA, and the world for that matter. But even if you don't live here you can appreciate Ethan's almost cry to recognize and try to understand the power of this place and the world around us. One of my favorite songs on the album. There is a wonderful mixture of all sorts of percussion, noises synths and powerful drums and guitars. It is an amazing blend of instrumentation and vocals that help to capture the rising peaks of the Cascades blending into the Pacific that is the reality of the Pacific Northwest. Almost an eerie native sound to this one. Really hits the mark delivering the awe and majesty of this beautiful land.
However, "something is gone, the feeling is strong, so gone is the charm, and no more!...false alarms." Yes, wake up before we destroy this great world we all share.
2. We Surfaced – "God, come and save us all again, before we surface call again..." Synths and guitar open this one along with computerized voice lyrics and Oriental sounding chimes. Bells, harps, and a myriad of sounds to elevate the senses. Just spectacular! "You'd never know the time it takes to create these mistakes." "But I don't understand what we're waiting for." "Does this underwater shelter no more." Incredible synths, heavy guitar, drums and powerful instrumental in the middle. "We can't replace the all the little things that we disgrace." "We surface to trust." Hard to top anything more profound than that…
3. Trans-Atlantic –The lyrics are so deep on this album. You really need to have time to sit back and listen to this album. Which is great. We need more music like this. Music to think and dream again. The dramatic drums and synths that come in after the quiet beginning set this one apart from the other songs on the album. Very powerful and the vocals highlight the drama. So different. "Escape the need so you're free to be." That sums it up very well. The guitar mixed with synths give a progressive feel to this one, but then the electronic wonders take over and you still can't classify this music. "As a storm beyond this coast rises at tide to let go." If you ever get the chance to watch a Pacific storm come in during the fall or winter, you know what he's talking about…just incredible that someone was able to put the feeling to music.
4. State Of Expectation - "I can make you flow uphill. I could be the thud that keeps you alive." "We say we've always got the explanation, so we can finally pretend in this state of expectations." Viola coupled with synths. "An artificial waterfall that tries to make everyone give in to all." Incredible electronic effects. Setting the mood and delivering the mystical surroundings to think and dream.
5. The Tide Decides – The title song and another of the best songs on the album. "There's something we wanted to say." "There's the one thought forgot to give away." Carl Sagan's voice in the background. Bold electronic strokes of genius from the synths and sounds that are so unique. Guitar riffs light up the opening and grinding guitar coupled with synths and powerful lyrics complete the mix.
6. Fantastic Elevation – From the ocean we drive through the blinding snow to the highest elevations! You can do that in around two hours in the Pacific Northwest! Powerful keyboard and guitar assault that just lifts you…like climbing or rather running up a mountain. "I could give this away…if someone could find me…are we so far away…woven behind me so high?" "Be we with everything so interlocked and fiber-opted and sifted through." "I ask what do we do. And why the hell can't I reach you?" Yes, the virtual world keeps us away from the world our species grew up respecting and appreciating. The track ends in the snow as we hear footsteps through white powder. Incredible effects.
7. Descending From The Dream – "So maybe- to save this race." "We're far beyond a ghost of grace." "Saved again, but only at too late." "It's not a game of trust anymore." Great dramatic music and vocals along with violins and synths that really drive home that feeling of descending from the elevation of the last song.
8. Shooting Scenes – Viola opens this one so perfectly along with the wonderful synths that have been supporting the dream-like sounds throughout this album. "It used to be so in control. And when your heads been so many places, and distorted so many faces, your eye is like a camera lens." "Nearly lost at sea. Never ending seas, to perfect to be, alive in you and me, please leave me be." Guitar and dreamy synths support vocals.
9. Out at The Edge Of The World – "So - I go on, but never forget what was. To be on the edge of this space…and this race." Viola and harp with fewer synths, providing a very earthy song, which a little over halfway through, has a full stop before the synths and dreamy sound effects take over. The picture in the online notebook looks like one of the San Juan Islands of Washington. It sums up the feeling perfectly. Out here you do feel like you are on the edge of the world.
10. …And Sea To Sky [Bon Voyage] – "We've always been known to believe. We always go on. But when this dies where do we lie?" Powerful climax. The vocals here remind me of Peter Gabriel heard through a synthesizer, on the opening section of the track. Great beat and a memorable harmony to remind you to come back for more. The final close is strong and serves as a reminder for all.
4. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
This music defies category. It does not fit comfortably into any single genre and that is its strength. The echo effect of stop and then go that permeates this album is at first annoying, then as you drift back and let it take you, begins to feel and sound like the ebb and flow of the ocean itself. Be it the inner ocean of our life-force or the sea. Definitely a signature effect that helps define the name Echo Us.
This is not popular music or really music you can enjoy without concentrating. It demands your attention and forces you to think of the world around and inside. It really is not suited to casual listening, if you hope to enjoy all of its aspects.
5. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Yes, it will be a great morning starter alongside some of my other favorite breakfast, quiet time albums. It will also be an album I will pull out when studying, grading papers or before retiring for sleep.
It does capture a moment in time for all of us on this globe and hopefully celebrates our need to appreciate what we have and may be losing by our carelessness. It definitely is something I will and already have recommended to friends.
Rating: 4/5 – The uniqueness of the vocals and the sound of the whole album are its strength as well as its weakness. The originality sets this release apart from anything I have heard so far this year. Its celebration of the inner and outer world is deep and inviting. However, it may not get the exposure it deserves because of its uniqueness.
(Originally published on Prognaut.com)
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