Band: Echo Us
Band Website: www.echous.net
Label: Dust on the Tracks Records
Label Website: www.dott-music.de
Release Date: 2014
Echo Us started life as an electronic pop group in Boston back in the year 2000 but only really came into full bloom in 2003 when multi-instrumentalist Ethan Matthews moved to Portland and used the band as an outlet for his musical expression. As such performing on this disc are: Ethan Matthews (electric & nylon string (Spanish) guitar, Yamaha 'silent' guitar, filtered octave guitar, fog horn, synthesizers/piano, Ashbory Bass, percussion (forks, pirouette cookie containers, screwdriver), harmonium, glockenspiel, programming/sound design, lead, background, and resampled vocalizations) along with: Raelyn Olson (concert harp), Henta (vocals), Chris Smith (flute, piccolo) and Christina Fitzgerald (oboe). The complexly titled, II:XII, A Priori Memoriae is actually their (his?) fourth studio outing and probably their most symphonically structured.
II: XII, A Priori Memoriae is made up of eleven compositions many of which are less than four-minutes in length and in many cases seem to be binding musical selections for the three or four longer compositions. Right off the top to get a musical reference point I was reminded of the music of Vangelis and Olias of Sunhillow era Jon Anderson with a bit of early Patrick Moraz. We start off with “Vestige” [3:28] where layers of keyboards create wave after wave of symphonic crescendos like the music of Vangelis or even Mike Oldfield. In fact a lot of the music here is instrumental with short vocal lines sprinkled here and there or sometimes it’s choir-like and then at other times its filtered spoken-word passages as if from space. Most everything is connected, making for a lushly symphonic, heavily orchestrated musical experience. Many different guitar sounds, both acoustic and electric are incorporated at different points along the way. Because the individual compositions themselves contain so many changes in time, tempo, structure and instrument arrangement it’s almost inconsequential where one song stops and another starts.
Fans of progressive rock from artists such as Mike Oldfield, Vangelis and early Jon Anderson will find much to appreciate and enjoy here. Echo Us create a very organic music that is warm and inviting most of the time and yet there are moments of distinct musical contrast that elevates the musical feel way beyond what some might consider New Age or background music. There is much that is bold and dramatic on this disc and certainly the more I listened to it the more I was able to appreciate the deep levels of compositional complexity. Symphonic Prog fans should love this. Recommended.