Ed Macan's Prophesies(CD, 71:00) Magnetic Oblivion Records 2-MERM2-99 Magnetic Oblivion Records P.O. Box 486 Loleta, CA 95551-0486 CYBERHOME: http://www.hermeticscience.com. Ed Macan - scholar, author, progressive rock aficionado. and mallet percussionist. His band Hermetic Science, (the band that brought you Holst's "Mars: The Bringer of War" played on the marimba), is back for another go around of "vibrariffic" music with their second CD titled Prophesies. However, this time around Macan brought some other instruments along for the ride, resulting in some surprisingly, (for me, anyway), pleasant compositions. However, no Hermetic Science album would be complete without a bizarre cover tune and Prophesies is no exception. I'll address this first. Although no where near as shocking as "Mars: The Bringer of Mallets," the cover of Rush's "Jacob's Ladder" on Prophesies is equally ill-advised. The original "Jacob's Ladder" is a song that builds up over 7 or so minutes; its climax and denouement depend on Alex Lifeson's powerful guitar riffs and power chords. No matter what you do to a marimba (short of perhaps running through a fuzz-box), you're not going to get a powerful enough sound to do this song justice. So this attempt at a cover tune doesn't work very well. However, Macan would make up for this later in the album with an excellent cover of ELP's epic, "Tarkus." Following "Jacob's Ladder" is a short vibraphone-heavy tune called "Intrigue in the House of Panorama," which actually sounds like it was influenced by 60's "spy" music like "Secret Agent Man" and the like. The sound doesn't particularly work very well when combined with mallet percussion, but I do think it is an interesting idea. After this slight diversion, Hermetic Science delve into what is the centerpiece of Prophesies: a 41-minute original suite comprising of six separate movements. Maintaining interest in a composition for over 40 minutes is a tall order, but I would have to say that Macan just about pulls it off here. Although the suite begins with - you guessed it - more marimbas and vibraphones, by the end of the piece Macan has broken out the Hammond, a Steinway Grand Piano, a Micro Moog, and even a soprano recorder! The fourth movement of the suite titled "Lament" is an absolutely beautiful piece made up mostly of Macan's excellent piano playing. I actually wish he'd do an entire album worth of piano compositions, because his playing is fantastic. Anyway, the Prophesies does have some tedious moments, but overall it is a very good composition and shows what Macan is capable of when he uses all of his musical talents. However, like a good showman, Macan saves the best for last - a rendition of ELP's mighty "Tarkus" suite completely performed on the Steinway Grand Piano. It is here that he hits the proverbial "nail on the head," somehow managing to capture the power of the original using just his musicianship and his piano. His playing is again incredible, especially when you realize that the entire 19-minute piece was recorded live with no edits or overdubs! This track alone is definitely worth the price of admission. If there were an award for "most improved band," Hermetic Science would certainly get my vote. They've gone from a dismal effort, (their eponymous debut), to a surprise success with Prophesies. Other then a slight misstep in his decision to cover "Jacob's Ladder," Macan shows on this album that he is a formidable composer, and an excellent musician on a wide range of instruments. Heremtic Science - its not just for mallet enthusiasts anymore! - Michael Askounes (email@example.com) CREDITS: Ed Macan: Vibes, Marimba, Piano, Soprano Recorder, ARP String Ensemble, Hammond Organ, Micro Moog, assorted tuned percussion Nate Perry: Bass Guitar (Tracks 1,2) Andy Durham: Bass Guitar ("fuzzed" and "unfuzzed") Matt McClimon: Drums and Percussion TRACKLIST: Jacob's Ladder (6:46) Intrigue in the House of Panorama (4:19) Barbarians at the Gate (4:37) Hope Against Hope (6:56) Last Stand (6:31) Lament (4:55) Leviathan and Behemoth (9:52) State of Grace (8:17) Tarkus (18:48) More information on Hermetic Science can be found at http://www.hermeticscience.com
Ed Macan's Hermetic Science (CD, 52:35) Magnetic Oblivion Records 1-MERM1-97 Magnetic Oblivion Records P.O. Box 486 Loleta, CA 95551-0486 CYBERHOME: http://www.hermeticscience.com [Enter Announcer] "Ladies and Gentlemen. we now present to you direct from Magnetic Oblivion Records, Heremetic Science's interpretation of Gustav Holst's glorious classical piece, 'Mars, Bringer of War.'" [the audience goes wild] "Performed on the marimba and vibes!" [sound of crickets] [Exit Announcer] As with the above example, just because ideas are different and have the best of intentions does not always mean they will work. In music, true progressive performers try to find a musical space that has not yet been occupied so as to become innovators and carve a niche out for them or their band. Unfortunately, prog rock aficionado Ed Macan and his band Hermetic Science decided on their self-titled debut CD to carve out the bass/drums/marimba progressive trio niche - a musical space that hasn't yet been occupied most likely due to the fact that it's not a very good musical idea. Ed Macan is a musical educator, and the author of one of the most respected books on progressive music, Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture. This is a man that truly knows what he speaks of when it comes to things progressive. In the liner notes it mentions that Macan's goal is to create truly progressive music, rather than simply try and copy the more popular progressive bands of the 1970's. For this, I applaud him. Also, in the liner notes it mentions that the music on the CD contains elements of "jazz, minimalism, Arabic and North Indian music, and Renaissance church music." Well, try as I did to find these elements, all I found is an album full of bass and drum grooves with marimba and vibe solos on top. And that just ain't that interesting to listen to for 53 minutes - all the songs begin to sound the same. Most of the music on the CD is Macan's own compositions, but the band does include a couple of cover tunes. The first song to get the "marimba treatment" is "Infinite Space" from ELP's Tarkus CD. I was interested to hear what this would sound like, but after about 30 seconds the song began to sound just like all the other songs on the CD. The last track, and the most shocking in my opinion, is Macan's cover of Gustav Holst's powerful "Mars: the Bringer of War". Performing this piece with vibes and a marimba is akin to performing "Bolero" with a comb and tissue paper - vibes and marimbas just don't have the sonic fortitude to convey the sense of impending doom that makes "Mars" the brilliant piece of music it is. After Hermetic Science is finished with it, the title might as well have been called "Mars, the Bringer of Pastries." I have much respect for Mr. Macan as an author and a scholar, and I think it's fantastic that he's making an attempt to do something truly different and "progressive." But no matter now bizarre and innovative Macan attempts to be, the bottom line is that the music isn't entertaining to listen to. It doesn't matter if the tracks are over 6 minutes long, have time signature changes, or contain other prog rock trappings if they're bad SONGS. Therefore, while I can commend Macan and Co. for their attempts, I cannot recommend this release to the listening community. My suggestion for Macan would be to pick up a guitar player or other lead instrumentalist to accompany his mallet percussion to make the separate tracks sound a little more different from one another. Another suggestion would be to stop performing Holst on a marimba. - Michael Askounes (firstname.lastname@example.org) CREDITS: Ed Macan: Vibes, Marimba, Piano, assorted tuned percussion Andy Durham: Bass Guitar (Tracks 1,6) Donald Sweeney: Bass Guitar (Tracks 2,3,4,5,7,8) Michael Morris: Drums and Percussion (Tracks 2,3,4,5,7,8) Joe Nagy: Drums and Percussion (Tracks 1,6) TRACKLIST: 1. Esau's Burden (5:12) 2. Fire Over Thule (9:26) 3. The Sungazer (11:09) 4. Cheetah (3:51) 5. Infinite Space (3:47) 6. Fanfare (For the House of Panorama) (4:05) 7. Trisagion (8:12) 8. Mars, The Bringer of War (6:51) More information on Hermetic Science can be found at http://www.hermeticscience.com
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