Where Echoes End – By The Pricking Of My Thumb
At first you’re impressed with an artwork. No, no dragons and queens – its art working for music, philosophic and for best comprehension supplied with comments. Experimental stuff based on synthesizers and sampling. If you’re in for bright melody, you’re immediately out. Part I of the suite is called “To The Enlightened Man”. It is, but not for Buddahs – although enigmatic to the same extent. The band states “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”. Very tongue-in-cheek because they don’t get lost in the loops and know their target well. Its on the surface further on, in “The Face In The Mirror” consisting of ten pieces, intricated but beautiful. The most magical is Indian-toned snippet with female voice. Even KULA SHAKER fans will go for it. And organ sounds magnificient, too. Moreover, the fact that speaking voices go well with music we know since “The Wall”.
Blurred boundaries, ECHOES say? Ah, bag it – boundaries are clear, keeping music as music and not letting it go for free form. Whats really blurred is your counter as every Part include sub-parts and you can’t follow the titles. “Wild Imaginings” as they call Part V. But should we ask for more?
Artist: Where Echoes End
Title: By The Pricking Of My Thumb
Label: self produced Beaks Ahoy 001
Length: 72 minutes [No samples on the Internet as of 26-1-19]
Year(s) of release: 1998
Eddie Katz – keyboards, bass, sampling, sequencing, vocals, cymbals
Paul Read – keyboards, sequencing, sampling, vocals, guitars
with help from Mark Rachelle.
To the enlightened man:
1) Disengage…disengage…disengage 4.00
Endless forms most beautiful
2) Ripples On A Stagnant Pond 3.26
3) Life As Animation 3.29
The face in the mirror
4) Inventor Of The Invisible World 4.40
5) Terra Incognita 3.54
6) I Tell The Truth, Even When I Lie 2.38
7) Opinions Divided 5.06
8) A Cast Of Thousands 2.07
9) Only In War 3.33
10) Our Lowest Ebb I And II 8.51
11) Our Lowest Ebb III And IV 7.19
12) Syndication I 3.24
13) Syndication II 4.05
And Oh how we long to escape
14) Trust Me 2.44
15) I’m Here But I’m Not All There 3.08
16) A Stranger To Reason 3.01
17) The Human Condition 1.52
18) Ad Infinitum 2.01
19) Reengage…reengage…reengage 2.40
A professional Australian based band with their debut CD.
Aragon is not the only recent progressive band from Australia it now seems. The music of this band however differs widely from this well-known neo prog band, being both ethereal, esoteric and reminding one of the experimental side of King Crimson and pointing fingers at Robert Fripps Soundscapes. The tone is set with opener Disengage Disengage Disengage with soundescapist eerie sounds, vocals in the back and once in a while a loud plodding drum. On the next of the in total 19 tracks, the sound is tribal with references to that other esoteric Australian band: Not Drowning Waving. Arabic vocals in 4 Science vs. religion in Terra Incognita with filmic atmospherics. Often long drawn synths and tingeling piano like parts. The themes is well crafted and well-structured and connected. Soft classical flute like passages are combined with tribal drums in I Tell The Truth Even When I Lie. In Opinions Divided, Freud is the subject. Especially the majestic stringlike passage just after the middle is great and rather surprising. In Our Lowest Ebb, the longest track on the album (8.51) is about the bombing in Oklahoma City, while the continuation of the track is about the killings in front of abortion clinics. Lots of news thus on this album. Things that the makers of the album probably thought, shouldn’t be forgotten. They give no opinions, just soundmaterial of the events. On Syndication the music becomes decidely more rhythmic and with the added female vocals makes it sound like ambient house. To dance to theres quite too much change in the music. We end Part III of the CD with vocals from around the world, heavy percussion and heavy droning sounds, alternated with soft laments. In Part IV and V we get more of the same with again some slight house leanings, but always tasteful and we end with Reengage Reengage Reengage, the counterpart of the first track.
Two last remarks: why use this front side of the booklet when so many beautiful artwork is locked up inside? And please do not use these very variable fonts again inside the booklet. It makes everything so unreadable.
The most striking fact on this album is that the tension is so well-dosed and built up along the seemingly randomly connected bits and pieces. Not really random of course otherwise I could not have made heads or tails (hats or tales?) of this album. But it seems I can and as a whole it is a musical adventure that can be heartily recommended. The texts that are used and read to the listener give information on various historical and metafysical concepts and for some will be interesting to hear or at least broaden some views. The music is more important in my opinion where the music is mostly keyboards and synths with some percussion. The melodies are generally very good and the tension is well-built and held, while the general atmosphere of the music is the one of the film soundtrack, so it certainly not is run-of-the-mill progressive, but if you liked Gabriels The Passion, Not Drowning Waving or dark soundtracks (and because of this slightly classical stylings) in general, this is the place to look.
I really wasn’t expecting that after several listenings to the debut album by these Australian guys that I would find it quite an interesting thing, I’d even say a wise work in some ways.
First of all, there is a lot of manual playing on the album – in each part (piece, composition) of this conceptual work, and both Eddie and Paul use their ability to play keyboards and guitars very well. After a few listenings to “By the Pricking of My Thumb” I’ve noticed almost all the ‘born-in-the-computer’ themes were used by the duo mainly to create an intensive hypnotic atmosphere, and it has been done by them successfully. Sometimes very monotonous yet (but, rather exactly because they’re so monotonous) hypnotic themes support guitar and keyboards themes and solos very effectively, and it is obvious that such an unusual group of supporting themes, to the accompaniment of which the story is told, really help to create quite an innovative sound (and style) on this album.
The construction of this work is undoubtedly a new word in electronic progressive music in general. It was built in such a way that you cannot understand it at the first listening to the album. It is very difficult to draw a distinction between, first of all, narrations and vocals here, though later you will understand the creators of “By the Pricking of My Thumb” have invented a few very innovative styles of singing – and you can use the last phrase with respect to all genres and styles of Progressive Rock. Of course, this doesn’t mean such vocal innovation will necessarily be made by other (new…) performers, but I am sure, it could/can be really possible if such an original – in many ways – work would be distributed and promoted properly. But, I guess it wasn’t/still isn’t… I did forget to ask the guys if they are happy with the distribution deal of “By the Pricking of My Thumb”, but I am almost sure they aren’t…
So, yes, I have a bit of a reputation ‘being down on neo’, but how many ‘neo’ works have been appreciated by me… I said I don’t like any kind of electronic music, but this doesn’t mean I can’t see that some works of the genre really contain alot of interesting (and thats the main thing) innovative episodes (forms, structures). Yes, the only ‘problem’, why I can’t feel pleasure listening to some neo or electronic music, is just because these works aren’t bringing any refreshing moments. So, the only reason why I can’t listen to some pseudo-progressive albums is that those albums are not original at all. And thats actually all.
Back to the “By the Pricking of My Thumb” album, I remember that any more or less significant Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock (to begin with ‘Gibraltar’) contains alot of materials dedicated to Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra (including all the offshot and solo projects of both these performers) and many other bands that were/are playing in the style(s) of spacey, psychedelic, electronic music, ie such styles have lots of fans/lovers. I’ve listened to many bands whose stylistics are the same or very close to the stylistics of Where Echoes End, and to conclude my ‘current’ material I am adding here that taking into consideration spacey/electronic music on the whole, the work by WEE is the most interesting I’ve listened to until now, though you may not believe me (then just buy and listen to the album I have just reviewed). Finally, you are quite observant readers (this is just a compliment in advance, as none of you have written me about the next:) to have noticed that my reviews are mostly about the music, whereas lyrics I describe not very often. It is because I honestly consider Music is the main thing of our Trinity of Arts we have with any musical CD (the music itself, lyrics-poetry, and painting-graphics-photography regarding the booklet).