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progVisions is a progressive rock e-zine, published in English and made by an international group of members.

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progVisions

progVisions is a progressive rock e-zine, published in English and made by an international group of members. Our objective is to become a centre of information that contributes to the knowledge, growth and development of progressive rock.

album reviews

album review

Hermetic Science - En Route - 2002

"When I founded Hermetic Science in late 1995, I was addressing three issues. First and foremost, by the mid 1990s I had become very concerned about how neoprog had become more or less the "accepted" form of new prog, since in my mind by that time neoprog was no longer progressive at all. I was interested in progressive music in the original sense of the word-music that stretches out, takes chances, explores new stylistic directions-rather than music that's "progressive" merely because it recycles the most obvious and cliché riffs by classic prog bands like Genesis, Yes, ELP and Pink Floyd. The neoprog bands seemed to feel their music was "modern" simply because they used digital keyboards and gated drums, and to me this stood the original premise of progressive rock on its head. So my idea with Hermetic Science was to recapture the original spirit of progressive music: music that pushes back and breaks down stylistic boundaries, music that creates a utopian synthesis, music that takes its listeners somewhere new and stretches their comfort zone. Our starting point was earlier progressive music-instrumental ELP, as well as some of the chamber prog like Univers Zero-but we went on to draw on ECM jazz, minimalism, fourth world, and ambient styles that I feel have been sadly ignored by a lot of progressive rock musicians of the 1980s and 1990s. I still feel our debut album made a real contribution to reopening the boundaries between prog and these other styles, a contribution which has yet to receive its full due".

"I was also concerned that we not replicate the typical guitar-keys-bass-drums lineup, because in my opinion that particular instrumentation has been bled to death. In particular, I'm not too sure a lot more can be done with guitars in a rock context, which is one reason we don't have a guitarist. The other is that I like the trio format-as I explain below, I'd rather have too much open space than not enough, because it gives not only me but the rhythm section more room to stretch out, and I was also interested in exploring the possibility of using the bass guitar as a second lead instrument. Early on I knew we'd be extensively featuring the mallet percussion instruments. I had developed a contrapuntal, almost keyboard-like approach to playing vibes and marimba, whereby I could supply melody and chords or chords and bass line simultaneously, and by using this approach, I felt the mallet-bass-drums lineup could carry an entire CD. I think the debut Hermetic Science CD proves that this lineup was completely viable, although it may perhaps have been just a bit dogmatic, which is one reason I used more keyboards on "Prophesies", and I will use keyboards on the next CD as well".

"My final reason for founding Hermetic Science involved my work as a music educator. I've become very concerned that there is a gap between what we teach music students in the college classroom and what they encounter in their work as professional musicians. I wanted to give a select group of especially talented students experience they might not get otherwise in terms of letting them see what all is involved in recording and marketing a CD, setting up gigs, and so on. And, of course, I see Hermetic Science as an ideal vehicle for teaching a new generation of musicians about progressive music in a very intense, hands-on way".

"I have always had a preference for bands that leave a lot of space in their arrangements, as opposed to bands who like to fill up all the sonic space. I have always especially liked trios: ELP, Egg, Terje Rypdals's band with Miroslav Vitous and Jack DeJohnette, King Crimson in their "Red" configuration. The trio format forces the musicians to focus on defining the essential aspects of an arrangement in a way that larger lineups don't necessarily have to, encourages them to eliminate anything that's superfluous, and makes the members contribute everything they've got".

I think these declarations made by Ed Macan for our webpage in June 2000 are eloquent enough for those who still don´t know his music. Complex music, very elaborated, sometimes even cold, that shows the spirit of a nonconformist fighter. In this new CD we find again a musician who wants to be faithful to progressive spirit and progressive concept. As a novelty we can find in this CD a heavier music, absolutely massive at times; darker, harder-rocking, more richly orchestrated and more electronic, with a breathtaking range of dynamics.

With a nice black and white art-book designed by Macan himself (inspired by art-nouveau and that, I don´t know why, reminds me to "La femme de Nulle Part" by film director Louis Delluc, many times tributed by Wim Mertens), Macan also wants to eulogize the forgotten French writer J.K. Huysmans (1848-1907), one of the biggest influences of Spanish film director Luis Buñuel.

The CD includes a 45 minutes long suite divided in seven tracks and an isolated song - "Mars The Bringer Of War" composed by Holst and featured in Emerson, Lake and Powell´s CD. The track list is as follows:

"Mars The Bringer Of War" (doomsday mix 7:15)
"En Route"
"Against The Grain, Part One" (6:39)
"Against The Grain, Part Two" (5:31)
"Against The Grain, Part Three" (4:57)
"Against The Grain, Part Four
I. Tocata
II. Dirge
III. Fugue" (3:38)
"Là-Bas (Down There)" (7:58)
"Raga Hermeticum" (9:00)
"En Route" (6:45)

The trio structure goes on with the rotated presence of percussionists Matt McClimon -who also collaborated in "Prophesies" (tracks 1 to 5) and Joe Nagy -who collaborated in the first record (tracks 6, 7 y 8), the bass guitar is played by Jason Hopes, who also plays acoustic piano in track 2, sitar in track 7, and electric guitar in track 8. Macan plays lots of instruments: hammond organ, micromoog, ARP string ensemble -he defined it as a sort of mellotron for poor men-, marimba, vibes,...). All of the musicians have a high skill near of perfection, but I have to highlight the work of Hopes and Macan.

The music, always having Hermetic Science´s style in tracks like "Against The Grain, Part Two", also combines classic moments with a great presence of acoustic piano and organ in tracks such as "Là-Bas" or "En Route"; but specially stands out in "Against The Grain, Part One" where we can find some minimalist fragments in its structure combined with high delicate moments that reminds me to Michael Nyman. Another great surprise is the inclusion of oriental airs a la In The Labyrinth in the track "Raga Hermeticum" that provides renovated fresh airs to Hermetic Science´s music: an interesting contribution. The rest of the CD has the style of the precedent works so if you like risky music and experimentation far from "laboratory music", this CD won´t disappoint you.

Eduardo Aragón and Juan Reyes - May 2002
rating - Independent Release

 

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