The Windsong Spires is the sixth full recording of Echo Us, issued from composer Ethan J Matthews musical concept project begun in 2001. On this group of compositions, Matthews is joined by Andrew Greene on drums and percussion and classical vocalist Charlotte Engler putting female vocals front and centre for the first time since the 2009 release The Tide Decides (see review).
Matthews' mode of composition is particular and specific to this project, referring to the activity as 'music channelling' and written in a highly focussed state. The result being about more than chord progressions and resolution and more about discovery of patterns and vibes; the search for enlightenment inside the note. Although this artistic ambition directs the music toward a Progressive rock audience, in truth there are no obvious boundaries and nothing is ruled out. This tends to lead to a product which can be divisive. Some will find it patchy and a curate's egg, others will revel in the blend of styles and contrasts. Obvious New Age style spiritualism can mix with more traditional tropes. Mike Oldfield type guitar mixes with a 60s pop jangle over Tangerine Dream or Vangelis inspired electronic loops. I particularly enjoyed the free and easy atmosphere of songs such as If You Can Imagine, juxtaposed against the more formal piano instrumental The Night Sky moving into the title track taking its theme from traditional music, for example. The effect can be at once traditional yet fresh, intimate and expansive at the same time. If you are prepared to go with the flow this can be a refreshing and cleansing trip for a jaded musical palette.
Echo Us is a metaphysical experience as much as a musical project, it is not easy to grasp immediately and the listener who can indulge the time in immersing themselves in the experience and trusting in the musicians to guide them will be best rewarded by this ambitious and intriguing conception.
**** Andrew Cottrell
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