Echo Us — To Wake a Dream in Moving Water
(Absolute Probability EU07.03AP, 2017, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2018-01-02
The last I heard from Ethan Matthews and his Echo Us project was on Tomorrow Will Tell the Story in 2010. There was another release in 2014, but I missed it somehow. When To Wake a Dream in Moving Water first starts, with ethereal keyboards and a bluesy electric guitar, I thought I was in for more of what Tomorrow gave me — slickly produced rock with slight hints of prog, basically along the lines of Alan Parsons’ classic albums. But about three minutes in, that expectation of similarity is shattered, at least to a degree. When the energy level perks up from the atmospheric intro, it ventures into Celtic territory, with bodhran and other folk instruments filling out the sound. This newfound love of acoustic instruments permeates the album, though it is tempered with high-tech modern production, so for every hammer dulcimer, there’s a wash of keyboard chords. We don’t hear any lyrics until track 3, “Begin to Remember Vr 1,” and it too is drenched in Celtic flavor. It also features some lovely round-like countermelodies and an instrumental break reminiscent of a jig. “Vr 2” of the tune follows and expands it with variations, including some pitch-altered vocals that are a little odd in this context. (I hesitate to use the name Autotune, since there are other ways to accomplish this effect.) The second half of the album features two lengthy tracks in the neighborhood of 15 minutes which evolve through various sections. Aside from the previously mentioned comparisons, other artists that come to mind are Mike Oldfield and Clannad, and the (probably) inevitable touch of Riverdance at times. The vast majority of the music is instrumental, with vocal sections few and far between, and there are some parts that are adapted from traditional music, though most was penned by Matthews. The stringed instruments are expertly played, with even a few flourishes from the electric guitar that in another context (and with a different mix) would count as shredding. Taken on a whole, To Wake a Dream in Moving Water presents a modern version of Hergest Ridge infused with meticulous production and a hint of New Age beauty. As such, its lack of rough edges may turn off some listeners, though others will bask in the expanse of comforting sounds.
Related artist(s): Echo Us
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