ScienceNV — The Quest for Prester John Volume One
((Not on label) , 2018, CD)
ScienceNV — The Quest for Prester John Volume Two
((Not on label) no#, 2018, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2019-03-15With three highly-regarded instrumental albums under their collective belt, the sciency guys have taken on one of music’s biggest challenges — the concept album — in a big way. The Quest for Prester John is spread across two volumes, totaling well over an hour and a half of music, and numerous vocalists are featured in compositions centered on the stories, popular in medieval times, of a powerful Christian king in a distant land, maybe Asia, maybe Africa — reports varied. This expansive set of music covers wide stylistic ground, spanning big prog-rock arrangements worthy of Yes or Genesis, angular complexity reminiscent of King Crimson, progressive folk rock like Strawbs or Jethro Tull, meditative near-ambient interludes, and modern chamber music. Modern references might be Deluge Grander, Eccentric Orbit, White Willow, and Wobbler, though ScienceNV’s palette is broader. The scope and variety are nearly overwhelming, enabling the band to avoid tiring the listener out with too much of the same thing. They also manage to be consistent enough to avoid sounding like a compilation of different artists. The writing is consistently intelligent, with occasional touches, mostly in the vocal melodies, that are what I think of as “composerly,” which means that they have a hint of awkwardness that melodies written by a singer would probably avoid. Note that this is not entirely a bad thing, since singers who write melodies often fall into the trap of writing things that sound natural to them but are on the ordinary side. Musicianship is of a very high caliber, especially among the instrumentalists, with a tight rhythm section, excellent guitar work (both acoustic and electric), tons of lovely vintage keyboard parts, and lovely additions for strings and woodwinds here and there. There are a few spots where singers struggle with the challenging parts and come off as somewhat tentative, but it’s not enough the mar the overall impression. Two of the twelve tracks (one on each volume) top the 20 minute mark, being impressive epics in their own rights. For listeners who love the grandeur and power of classic prog but aren’t looking for warmed-over clichés, both volumes on Prester John are essential. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend listening to the whole thing in one sitting — and it’s plenty impressive no matter how you segment it.
Related artist(s): ScienceNV
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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.