(Internet), December 2001
for German-language version of this review)
Hermetic Science “En Route” (Magnetic Oblivion Records, 2001)Ed Macan, vibraphonist, keyboardist, and composer of Hermetic Science, by no means makes it easy on the sympathetic listener, as was true with both of their previous albums. The first piece, “Mars, the Bringer of War (Doomsday Mix)” of Gustav Holst is a dark, rigid, wooden, tough piece of music that at first lengthy bite (ah, oft-maligned listener) is flexible. But only, probably, because the teeth (the ears) have become accustomed to this already almost unpalatable piece. Or still not? Already the original orchestral version is a dour piece, whose essence is not abandoned in this martial, note-perfect setting. Yet Ed Macan brings a further exaggeration here. He expunges any sense of warmth from his keyboard ensemble and provides this gloomy composition, defined by its leaden rhythm, with a shrill overtone reminiscent of an old computer game or otherwise cheap sound that is by no means agreeable. Emerson, Lake and Powell indeed play this piece robustly throughout, but not nearly as severely. A risky beginning.
Thereafter comes the 44-minute “En Route: A Suite,” portions of which sound far more harmonious, lyrical, and accessible. Still, one who expects Ed Macan to be cheerful will be disappointed. No, here also the compositional and instrumental structure is hard, cold, dark, and forbidding. Still, much less so than “Mars.” In the softer passages very colorful melodies break forth, which give a delicate face to the austere sonic landscape. Always, when Ed Macan plays vibes the warm, vibrating tones paint strong, inspiring colors, reconciling the rigid form with the living, breathing content, making the austere composition sound less icy through the dynamic harmonies. However, it is only the tension between the dark, cold compositions and the living, luminous solos that give the work its attraction. He who only endures easy-to-digest music is cold-shouldered here. But he who dares to risk his ear to stirring, turbulent music, has good chance, with Hermetic Science, of finding an alternative. I am only ill at ease around “Mars,” as often as one must hear the piece. Volkmar Mantei