EXPOSÉ ( USA ) no. 34 (March 2007), p. 72
Ed Macan's Hermetic Science released three albums between 1997 and 2001. Crash Course contains all the non-cover material from those albums, with the addition of their arrangement of Holst's “Mars.” The oldest material has been remastered , and some new parts have been added to some tracks from the first album so that everything is up to the same standard in terms of production quality. The first album is probably the weakest of the three, given that Macan was very dedicated to his vibraphone trio concept (with bass and drums), and the sparseness of the arrangements sometimes limits excellent compositions such as “Fire Over Thule,” robbing them of their putative climaxes. It also seems a bit clinical. The other two albums are quite enjoyable. “Prophesies” is a 40 minute suite in six parts, entirely instrumental, in which Macan supplements his vibe parts with keyboards. This addition of familiar tones makes it easier for sheltered prog reviewers to enjoy. It bears mentioning that Macan wrote possibly the most essential book about the progressive rock movement, Rocking the Classics , and it is hard not to view his own musical output in terms of his assessment of progressive music. In particular, he seems to want to avoid the neo- prog formula identified in that book, or to too closely emulate any one artist.
The only group that I get brought back to is ELP, particularly on Prophesies , but Hermetic Science reminds me of all the parts I tend to like in that problematic group (strong musicianship, a feeling of classical music's richness arranged for rock instrumentation). However, I also detect Eastern influences and a greater comfort level with more ambiguous tonality, or at least angular melody. En Route is the most rocking release, with another epic, the four-part, 20 minute “Against the Grain.” At times it almost sounds like Ars Nova to these ears, although Hermetic Science displays more restraint and has more than one speed setting. With more material planned, this is an excellent way to hear the essential work done until now. All three albums are enjoyable, although if you are like me you will find yourself reaching for disc two more often. That's no slight to the group, just a hat-tip to their evolution. Highly recommended for our readers, and while you're at it, if you have not yet read Rocking the Classics , it's high time for that too. Sean McFee