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ECHO US Tomorrow Will Tell The Story Absolute Probability (2012)

Echo Us

With a label called Absolute Probability Recordings and an album titled 'Tomorrow Will Tell the Story' and tracks like 'Beyond the Horizon' and 'The Ears of the Eras' this is a proggy ambient album with great expectation. But if the emphasis is on a forward progression to a higher place, the music only partly achieves its goal.

There are moments of delicate inspiration here, chunks of cleverly juxtaposed choral pieces, various percussive effects and always the relentless synth pulses, that generate a variety of fleeing mood pieces which ultimately suggest emotional engagement, but actually fail to do so. And while there's much to admire in this 'kitchen sink and all' approach to a loosely defined concept, there's a lack of compositional substance. The moments of melodic splendour and snatches of choral emphasis are but fleeting moments in an amorphous landscape well suited perhaps to a film context, but far too flimsy to constitute a coherent suite of music.

'Tomorrow Will Tell the Story' although full of integrity and clinging to the concept of 'a story of consciousness raising itself from earth-bound reality to that of higher forms', doesn't in truth offer us coherent framework with which to understand the concept.

There are plenty of ambient induced moments and impenetrable vocal pieces, and on tracks like 'Beyond the Horizon' the repeated processed vocals come perilously close to the same effects used by electro dance DJ's. The vocal on this track sounds like Phil Collins in his Genesis days as synths pulse all around and choral voices weave in and out of the track. It all just about works in terms of a shifting and at times startling aural landscape, but ambient music demands more than the mere synth noodles and electro dabbling.

There's some sort of conceptual narrative on 'Docked at Bay' as a woman narrator intones 'everything we've done is forgiven' and the line is repeated near the end of the album offering us a sense of resolution, though quite what is being resolved other than the next part a complex journey, is not clear.

It would be incongruous to simply dip into this album and pull out bits and pieces that stand out, as this is a multi layered jigsaw in which complex musical puzzles are gradually resolved and repeated synth, percussive and choral pieces offer levers to forward motion.

Then there's the deft use of drifting piano lines which offer emotional triggers and clever parts of interwoven synth and guitar lines best exemplified by the restless explorations of 'Anchors away'.

'The Light It Moves, En Vie Est Lumière' moves from vocal intonation in a language unknown, through annoying processed voices and pulsing synth beats into an ambient environment in which a baritone vocal repeats the mantra 'the oceans of space and time'. There's a momentary pause before a plummy voice intones 'nothing short of everything is ever enough'. The contrast between the dead pan messages and the uplifting lead vocal and synth is sharply defined, giving us the feeling that the both vocalist Ethan and Henta are reaching for somewhere beyond.

On 'Echoes of Eras' the gothic vocal sounds like snatches of Dead Can Dance' and structurally it's one of the most accessible pieces as the repeated vocal lines and spiralling guitar couched in banks of synths and a feather light percussive feel leads to a beautiful concluding piano piece.

There are also several delightful moments such as the gentle melody underpinning 'Iagala' which is suddenly propelled forward by a butler's voice that announces 'the lift has arrived sir' and acts as a trigger for an uplifting guitar line. But a conceptual piece such as this has to have more beef than mere waves of synths and voice collages.

In fairness the album demands repeated plays and having heard it three times it does grow on you, but you can't help but wonder what the music would sound like if stripped to its notes and denuded of the throbbing electro effects, or maybe that would be missing the point?


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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