Echolyn: At Last!

Appeared in "The Moravian Comenian", written by Karl Eisenhart
October 1991

This is a reviev I have been both looking forward to and dreading for quite some time. How am I supposed to review an album by a band which has people I know in it, and not sound like a groveling, sniveling wimp? Wish me luck.

I started hearing about Echolyn shortly after I arrived here my freshman year. Sometime after that I found out that the keyboard player, a guy named Chris Buzby was going to Moravian. Echolyn was now, in a sense, one of a precious few campus bands here. At the time, I was involved with another campus band, so the first rule was I had to hate Echolyn, site unseen (Music types are funny that way. They can always find a reason why another band sucks more than them. Right now I can't even remember what my reason was, but rest assured, it was weak.)

Anyway, I finally conested to go check them out, and much to my chagrin, they blew me away. Imagine a band in this day of teased-hair three chord worthless love ballads actually writing and playing music that has complexity, power and something to say. I don't think I heard the singer say the words "baby" or "back seat"once all night. I was really impressed.

About a week ago, I found out that their self-titled album was finally available. I got my hand son it and this is what I heard:

The music on the album is indeed adventerous. Odd time signatures, mountains of arrangement, a tasty blend of acoustic and electric instruments, and songs that are distringuishable from one another (No, it can't be?)

The lyrics are really, really good. Written by by various members of the band, they deal with mostly positive aspects of living, but never become, in my humble opinion (cough, gag) trite and cliche.

The lead singer, a gentleman named Raymond weston has improved the abilities of his voice tons since the now historic "Follow the Echo" demo. Previously screamed high notes now come a lot easier, and I spend less time worrying if he will survive until the end of the song.

Guest artists include Moravian's own Katherine and Kimberly Shenk on violin and cello, respectivelt, and Brian Buzby, who may be very well related to Chris himself, on saxophone.

All of you who already have blind faith in Echolyn may want to skip over the next bit, but I've gotta do what I've gotta do.

My first minor dissapointment in the album is the mix isn't, again, in my opinion, what it could be. The vocals are almost always too quiet, and the guitars too loud. I happen to think the guitar is a neat instrument, and to like instrumental music, so for me to notice...

The genre which Echolyn seems to be aiming for (if you must have a name, try Art Rock) holds some pretty dangerous competition. Bands like Yes, Rush, Kansas, ELP and a couple other have pretty much set an incredible standard for everyone else to try to match. While Echolyn does the best job I've seen recently, some of the similiarities between parts of their songs and other songs by other bands are at least blatant. I won't take it any father than that, beacuse there are only twelve notes in the common musical scale, and they have to repeat sometime.

As far as playing goes, I think that Echolyn's drummer, Paul Ramsey, should be forbidden to listen to live Rush albums before he records. Neil Peart is a great drummer, no question. A drummer could emulate much worse, but a lot of the album sounds like they hired Neil to sit in.

The same goes for the guitar work on the album. Steve Howe is one of the greats, and Brett Kull has adopted his style as well or better than anyone I've heard, but I think that takes away from the originality of the music.

I'm not saying that either of them should quit music and become a Maytag repairman. They both did some tremendous playing on the album. It just sounds to me like they need to build and develop their styles.

Overall, Echolyn's first album is total killer. Like I said before, complexity, power and something to say. A few more albums like this would make the world a better place. If rock music is going to dig itslef out of the stagnate bog it's in now, it is going to need more albums like this to help it. Seize the day, ineed. (I'm so cute I can't stand it.)

Anyway, the album is available from Chris Buzby (he lives in the Laurel St. dorms, kind of in the middle). The disk is $15, and has about twenty minutes of material that is not on the tape, which goes for a meager $10.

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