4S'd — Man or Muffin
(HOBART 004, 2017, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2018-01-10
In the aftermath of The Muffins’ demise as a band, this group stands as a clear successor, with this album growing out of tunes that were originally planned for The Muffins as far back as 2008. But that was not to be, as the members had dispersed around the country. Luckily for us, former Muffins Tom Scott, Paul Sears, and Billy Swann worked with Mark Stanley to make the four S’s of the name and complete the music, presenting it to us as Man or Muffin (which is printed without a question mark — this may or may not be of significance). Most of the instrumental passages are quite similar to what we’re used to from Scott, Sears, and Swann, with clever riffs, lots of great sax work, and unpredictable arrangements. The tunes lean a bit more to the RIO side than Mother Tongue did, but not outside what you might expect. With the second track, we hear something unexpected: singing. With lyrics. The oddly treated voice comes in towards the end of “Aftermath” and establishes another side to the group. Vocals show up again on “Another Lost Tomorrow,” and here they are more central to the composition, and include backing parts as well, from various female members of the Scott family. “2319” is a kind of synthetic big band tune, with an electronic swing beat and parts (all real, with some treated in ways that sound synthesized) playing the roles of the trombone, trumpet, and sax sections. While Man or Muffin may be somewhat different than a pure Muffins project, I suspect that anyone who likes The Muffins would get into it as well. This is fun music, tricky but not overly serious, full of imaginative twists and turns, expanding on a legacy that stretches back to the 70s.
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From the press release:
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water takes from Echo Us' past and spins it into a whole new direction, one closer to traditional acoustic Celtic music than ever before.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water was composed and recorded during the first few months of 2017. Although Celtic influenced and comprised of a number of re-workings of Irish folk tunes and Breton aires, the album is still in large part new and original Echo Us music that fits right in the Echo Us ‘canon’. “Wake” is a natural progression from “A Priori Memoriae”, which was released to critical acclaim in Europe in 2014.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is Echo Us’ ‘Celtic’ album that was planned for a long time but never executed because of the work on the trilogy that came before it. The album title is a typical ‘Echo Us’ play on words which one can find their own meaning.
“It is also both evocative of the Oregon rain, which I am told is not too unlike the rain in Ireland.”(Matthews)
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is also a comment on conception- which was unintentional when the lyric was written. Matthews surprised himself a few months after writing it, realizing that the song was actually about the nitty gritty, biological workings of what happens when a child is conceived. The folk song it derives from musically describes a courting ritual, one that even today we can all relate to in our own way.
“Come With Me Over the Mountain" in acapella was the musical inspiration for the song, and came into my consciousness after the lyrics were written a few months prior. “ (Matthews)
As with all Echo Us recordings, a number of seeming coincidences resulted in connections being drawn where prior there were none. Another experience of similar capacity was found in oboe samples from A Priori Memoriae that echoed the traditional “May Morning Dew’, also reworked for guitar on the new album.