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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Escherbach

Cycles

Review by Gary Hill

Escherbach have produced quite an intriguing disc with Cycles. The South Bend, Indiana outfit takes fusion, Rush-like elements and other sounds and merges them into a motif that’s a bit odd at times and yet, quite catchy. In so many ways you’ve never heard anyone quite like this – and yet it seems familiar, too. This is not a perfect album and it has a bit of a “garage band” texture to some of the production – mind you that lends charm and it’s not something that’s glaring unprofessional. It’s just if you listen to as much music as I do you can tell the difference between something that’s recorded at a serious studio and something that’s recorded in a smaller studio. They both sound good. They just have a different ambience and life to them. In fact, I’d say that the real difference there is that the pro studio gives you a “studio neutral” sound while the other lets you get the feeling that it was recorded in a studio. (ed. In the interest of full disclosure, Gary Hill has taken Escherbach on as a PR client - but only after this unbiased review was written)

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Trichotillomania
This starts with some sound effects and then moves out to something that feels like it could become metallic. Instead they take us out into a fusion jam that’s rather like Satriani or Vai. From there, though, we get a cool Rush-like riff and then a return to the melodic fusion. I love the nearly funky segment that takes it still further down the road.
McFly!!!
How can you ever see that name and not hear Biff screaming it? This is more diverse than the first one. It’s got a lot of fun woven into the musical motif. At times I can hear surf styled music. At other points we get sounds that are closer to the opening number. The fast paced jam and then slow down later is quite cool and a bit odd – but in a great way. This takes into space type music for a time before they return us to the place where this little bit picked us up.
Back 9
This storms in feeling a lot like Rush and then works through some changes and alterations in a new fusion path. It’s perhaps a bit more straightforward rock and roll than the first couple. It definitely has some tasty guitar work. Of course, all that said, this also has some of the mellowest motifs we’ve heard so far in the guise of a ballad-like little jam mid-track that eventually builds back up towards the song proper. This one is the first to feature vocals and they take us into some unusual territory in a space jam after that before making their way back to the main musical structures. They take us back into vocal sections from there and then we get another Rush-like movement to take it to the odd outro.
Marty Meets Stella
Here we have an unusual track that reminds me a bit of Pink Floyd. Some mellow jamming is laid across an active percussive track. Then a spoken section repeats over this. 
Abrupt Bus
This instrumental doesn’t break the mold of what we’ve heard thus far all that much, yet somehow I like it more than a lot of the rest of the music. There are some definite Pentwater like progressions on this, but with a more guitar centric arrangement. This is possibly my favorite piece on show here. I also hear some modern King Crimson on this one. It also manages to incorporate some of the most meaty pure rock guitar work at points. 
Rimshot
Here’s another highlight. This tune has a bit of a King’s X feel in that it’s got vocals and an almost Beatles-like element to it, but delivered with a slightly off-kilter hard rock sound. I can hear a lot of fusion on this, but the guitar solo later in the piece even makes me think of The Allman Brothers – that’s how diverse this beast is. They drop it way down for a fast paced, mellow jam later, too. We also get some nearly pure jazz on this one and some almost purely old school progressive rock right on the outro. This is a great piece of music. 
Burnt Burrito
Jimi Hendrix is in the house on the opening here, but then they turn it out towards the funk – think Tishamingo or maybe even Niacin (if Niacin had guitar). It moves out towards a more 1960’s sound as they carry it onward. This is another highlight with some spaghetti western meets surf sounds at times. I can also make out Rush on it.  It turns heavier – and still extremely tasty – later with a more pronounced Rush sound. They keep changing it up, though. There are Latin elements later and then a more pure fusion jam, too. It might seem like they’ve packed an awful lot into this one, but at almost seven minutes in length it’s the longest cut on show here – and leaves enough room to keep trading it up. I’d have to say that, as good as the first half of the cut is, I like the later minute or two the best. 
Sea Of Dreams
The airy vocals that start this off remind me a bit of The Syn. This acapella section takes us to a balladic movement that has a definite folk rock texture to it. The vocals come in over the top of this and they begin to build it up from there. I’m not sure that I’d call this track progressive rock, though. They basically take us through this journey by moving into harder rocking territory later, but in more of a jam band style. This is good stuff, and perhaps a bit like Captain Beyond at times. I’m just not sure I would have closed with it.
 
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