PROG-RESISTE (Belgium) no. 28 (Spring 2002), 92-93
On the whole: an absolutely inspired album, the best by the group to this point. If you want to know why, read the following: otherwise close your eyes.
Ed Macan, the man behind Hermetic Science, no longer needs an introduction. Musicologist, writer, professor, composer, and musician, he knows that which Prog is capable of expressing. In his book Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture he explains prog to us; fruit of a counterculture, a music in flux whose goal is to evolve and to explore terra incognita, a music in which literature and the graphic arts play an equally important role.
His composing is informed by his activities as a Prog specialist, and vice-versa. As the graphics of the CD booklet and his internet site demonstrate, for this third work, he has found inspiration in the novels of J.K. Huysmans, master of the late nineteenth century decadent school. But it is above all a testament to the evolution of his music that he is faithful to his writings, or rather, faithful to the spirit of Prog: a score of times, in crafting your work you edit and reconsider your music. On this, his third time at it, he fulfils his promise, my brothers.
The first opus was innovative and astonishing: a trio of vibraphone-marimba-piano, bass, and drums which presented a chamber rock in the manner of Univers Zero tinted with jazz, minimalism, ethnic music, and church music of the renaissance . . . not at all hermetic then (sic) . . . The second album offers new timbres, and the appearance of the Hammond organ (dear to my heart and sweet to my ears), permitting an easier apprehension of the musical direction. This time the sonic palette opens itself still more and devotes considerable emphasis to the analog keyboards: ARP string ensemble, Micromoog, Fender Rhodes piano, pipe organ, Hammond, which are added to the queue that already includes piano, harpsichord, vibraphone, marimba, recorder, 10-string lyre, and sitar. The resulting sonorities are startling, rich, and massive, giving you the shivers. Check it out on their site in order to prove it to yourself, you of little faith!
A powerful and subtle version (yes, yes) of “Mars” by Gustav Holst constitutes the prelude to this opus. This visit to “Mars,” already undertaken by King Crimson, Anekdoten, and Hermetic Science upon their first album (on mallet instruments), is here dominated by ARP and surpasses all the others in colors and in rigor . . . Listen to this 5/4 rhythm, which terminates itself in 5/2 and finally in ¾ . . . The second composition, En Route, a long suite of more than 44 minutes, consists of four parts which seem to be the continuation of “Mars.” The first movement, “Against the Grain,” composed by Ed Macan and Jason Hoopes (bass, guitar, sitar, piano) is broken into four equal sections and is characterized by constant dialogue between instruments: piano and organ developing a martial rhythm, delicately jazzy vibraphone and bass, bass, organ and Moog afterwards terminating the piece in an ELP-style extravaganza. The second movement, “La-bas,” a toccata and fugue for pipe organ, ARP, Hammond, and acoustic piano, constitutes the summit, the climax that the first movement was leading to. The following, “Raga Hermeticum,” constitutes a break, a repose appropriate to meditation: Indian music for the sitar into which renaissance essences are layered (recorder, harpsichord, bass, and percussion), terminating in a huge instrumental tutti. The last movement, a concerto for piano and orchestra, makes us travel from Bach to Gershwin by the way of Emerson and Macan. It is grand. We note, before finishing, the subtlety and controlled power of Joe Nagy’s drumming.
If you have not yet understood that this album is my number one, you must be hermetic somehow. Dominique Genin