Junk Drawer

Appeared in "The Moravian Comenian", written by Karl Eisenhart
April 1993

OK, OK, there has been a lot of hoopla about Echolyn on this campus in the past. They have played here a bunch of times, and keybordist Chris Buzby graduated from good 'ol Moravian last year.

During that time, I heard a few claims that they were a Yes/Genesis rip-off band - mostly made my frustrated musicians or people who plain get off on whizzing in the pool, so to speak.

To that, many people - myself included - took minor offense. It was impossible to deny that the influences were there, but everyone looks a little like their parents until they evolve into an independent individual. They were a relatively new band and they were already good to a scary degree.

I reviewed Echolyn's first album and dug it greatly. It was an unbelieveable first effort. The only things I could fault it on were backing vocals which were ever-so-slighly out of tune, and some parts in which the band's influences shone through a little too clearly.

That is all history, and best left as such. It is only for the benefit of the people who missed it the first time around, Echolyn's new album, Suffocating The Bloom, is a totally different kettle of wild-assed musical fish.

I'm going to go out on a critical limb now and say that Echolyn have found the identity they were looking for and have also totally out-done themselves. Suffocating The Bloom runs a full 70 minutes plus, but that is fine, when you consider that there are essentially 21 tunes on the album. The songs are shorter than those on the first album, but no less complex. The last eleven pieces combine into a 28-minute composition, called A Suite For The Everyman, which Echolyn debuted here at Moravian last year.

The band has taken their art rock influence and coupled it with jazz and a good dose of classical, all of which combine into a sound that - if you can't call it toally new, you have to call totally extreme.

Songs like Winterthru, Memoirs From Between and Mr. Oxy Moron are incredibly orchestrated to the point of being almost a physical challenge to listen to at first. I have to say that I was at first turned off by some of the songs because they were just too much all at once.

I found that as I got used to them, I saw the reason behind the apparent madeness. The songs are still sick, but now in the best of all ways possible. With each listen, I hear something new - be it a crazed time or texture change, a well-written lyric, and outstanding individual perforamnce or a pretty melodic noodle.

The intensity of those songs is off-set by a number of delightful little clasical interludes, including performances by Moravian students, past and present.

Within all of this wonderfulness is plenty of proof that the members of Echolyn - guitarist Brett Kull and drummer Paul Ramsey in particular - have stpped away from their influences and developed their own strong styles. Totally adds to the gap Echolyn have created between themselves and other groups in the same general musical area. Comparisons concerning Steve Howe and Neil Peart are totally for the stupid.

The rest of the band - singer Ray Weston, keybordist Chris Buzby, and bassist Tom Hyatt - all put in some incredible performances on the album. Another year of playing has made them all much stronger musicians.

On the down side, there is a price to be paid for the incredible complexity of the album as a whole. That price is the loss of catchy melody lines. I have yet to catch myself humming one of the songs from Suffocating The Bloom as I sit in a particulary boring class. I imagine that as I get more and more used to the album that will start to happen, but in the nineties, the time of instant gratification - of freeze-dried coffee and microwaves and remote controls and two minute, three chord teen angst power ballads - I can see it as a potential problem as far as any kind of commercial success goes. I hope I'm wrong.

The production on Suffocating The Bloom is nothing short of amazine in this world of grunge-rock. With a year of fiddling time between this album and the last album, the band has learned some great studio tricks that make the album sound really good. The layering and the user of space make the whole thing sound bigger than life. Yet through it all, the drums sound like poo. Mr. Ponytail said it sounded as if Ramsey were playing on a bed, and that is a pretty adequate description, I'd have to say. They just don't have the sharp clarity that I think music like this demands. Of course, if you're not listening specifically for it, you'll never notice, but it is something to bitch about.

The only other complaint I have is the little grammatical errors in the story on the back of the case. The story kind of over-explains the metaphor, and the problems with the pronoun-antecedent agreement - while I am one of three people in the world who would notice or care - detract from the overall professional look of this independently produced album.

Echolyn's Suffocating The Bloom CD is, aside from the nit-picky little problems I mentioned, like a big piece of candy. The listener has to savor it. If anyone listens to the whole thing all at once, it'll smash his or her teeth out. Take the time to listen to the album little by little. There is enough material there to make you think you have a new album everyday.

I got my hands on Echolyn's press kit, and in it I found tons of propaganda that I could include to make you buy the album because it is the cool thing to do. I can't do that, though. The album is primarily about taking control of your life, so buy Suffocating The Bloom because YOU want to (and believe me, you want to).

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