Progressive Newsletter (Germany) no. 38 (January 2002), p. 38
Ed Macan is someone for whom his role as Professor at the College in Eureka, California is quite obviously not sufficient, it appears, to fully occupy him. Thus he has not only published, with “Rocking the Classics” (fully covered in P.N.L. no 22) a very interesting and highly recommended book about, for instance, the social background of progressive rock, but also is working on a biography of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which, under the title The Endless Enigma, is nearing completion. However, even this is not enough, and his other passion belongs to making music, as he himself is an active artist. His band project, Hermetic Science, have already released two albums, and the one now under consideration, En Route, provides another facet of his trio concept.
The premise of the first album was unambiguously based on the exploration of marimba and tuned percussion; as the second release, Prophesies, added electronic keyboard instruments, so En Route has taken a further step. Under the influence of various “classic” instruments (ARP String Ensemble, Micromoog, Hammond, Rhodes piano) the music becomes denser, darker, more massive, in its tone-spectrum more richly orchestrated and above all much more electronic. The mallet instruments, to be sure, still provide parts of the album with its own unique sound for an interesting listening experience, still on the whole the keyboard instruments have unambiguously gained the ascendancy.
As with the first album, there is once again a cover version of the classic “Mars, the Bringer of War” by Gustav Holst, which provides this album with a darkly mysterious opening. To be sure, Ed Macan, as well as Jason Hoopes (bass) and Matt McClimon (percussion)—on other tracks Joe Nagy drums—do not attain the drama or dynamics of versions by King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Powell, or Anekdoten, nonetheless the band’s arrangement, featuring colder, more explicitly electronic sounds, has its own entirely unique fascination. The remaining 44 minutes-plus is occupied by the seven-movement suite “En Route.” Classically-inspired, all the old analog sounds from the closet of days gone by provide for a very good time trip, while “Raga Hermeticum,” with its sitar and recorder, evokes the Indian subcontinent. The album is rooted in its sounds, with the detail-rich arrangements stemming from the carefully-plotted compositions.
Nevertheless the album, in my opinion, has the following weak point: it misses the right correlation between the dynamics and the content of the musical passages. Craftsmanlike, well-made, compositionally interestingly formed, the idea nevertheless misses the true conception—the sudden surprise, the forceful turn of phrase. Thus one can listen through the album with much enjoyment, but the experience isn’t galvanizing: the peak experience, the dynamic contrast somehow is absent. One senses and hears the obvious potential, yet I think it’s never entirely loosed; Hermetic Science here undervalue themselves, and this album could have generated more power, more energy. Kristian Selm