PROGRESSIVE NEWSLETTER ( Germany ) no. 56 (July 2006)
With the previously-released Hermetic Science albums Hermetic Science (1997), Prophesies (1999), and En Route (2001), keyboardist/percussionist Ed Macan, together with an ever-changing lineup of musicians, set out to chart new musical paths of purely instrumental progressive rock, mainly in a trio setting. Wherein the debut features entirely vibraphone and marimba [as lead instruments], the sound of which decisively dominate, in their later music more “classical” keyboard sounds (i.e. analog synthesizers and Hammond) come increasingly to the foreground, making their earliest music seems rather Spartan and elemental by comparison.
Crash Course contains 20 titles on two CDs and offers an overview of all original compositions from the three albums of Hermetic Science, which dissolved in 2002. The Holst composition “Mars, the Bringer of War” is the only cover version included; if it is similar to the already chamber music-like re-recordings of Rush or ELP [undertaken by the band on their first two albums], the considerable charm of Hermetic Science is evident nevertheless. All titles from the original albums have been remixed and remastered for the compilation, which is supplemented by comprehensive liner notes.
The music of Hermetic Science tends to be arranged and reduced to essential elements. Thus bombastic tendencies are avoided without the music becoming conceited, as one sometimes hears in other bands of the genre. But it is just this instrumentation restriction that is also the deficiency of this American group. The arrangements do often work, yet they lack a fullness of sound, that is, inner variety. Nevertheless, interesting new aspects reveal themselves selectively through the rather basic arrangements.
Fortunately, one can, through soundbites of each of these tracks available on the Hermetic Science web site, procure one's own impression. Moreover, Ed Macan has announced his intention to revive the band, which will now work more in a post-rock sphere. To be continued . . .