TRAVERSES ( France ) no. 21 (January 2007), pp. 30-31
I detest compilations. At times, they're even worse than a bad album! To pretend that one can extract the “best” of the repertoire of an artist and place the entire selection on a new disc, without having taken into account the colors and the different approaches which very often lent identity to each of the works, is all plainly abominable. The disc then gives itself a malign pleasure of donning its costume of Doctor Frankenstein, taking bits of this, of that, in order to create its vile creature, void of intelligence and spirit.
There are of course exceptions that prove the rule. For instance, as is the case here, the band themselves decide to publish an anthology of their work, all simply because the original discs have since become unavailable. Hermetic Science does even better, a lot better. It does not attempt to give life to something that should not be. Heresy, that! No, it prefers to proceed to disinter the inert corpses of these beloved beings in order to give them once again the breath which resuscitates them. Crash Course proposes nothing other than this. Certainly in an order that's a little altered, here all the same returns to us, in its integral form, the work of the group of Ed Macan; all, absolutely all, from their first album Ed Macan's Hermetic Science of 1997 to En Route (2001), including Prophesies , their second album, released in 1999.
Despite its mysterious name, Hermetic Science has nothing of the occult project. A triune formation, the group articulates itself around three instruments: drums, vibraphone, and keyboards, respectively emphasized more on the first and second discs (for yes, as you have probably divined, Crash Course is a two-CD set!) Largely acoustic, regularly accompanied by bass guitar (increasing the impression of an RIO/Zeuhl influence, as in for example “Barbarians at the Gate”), our trio remind one in rare passages of the Third Ear Band, when a fleck of sitar or of flute comes to mix itself into the procession that advances imperturbably. But in the majority of cases, one imagines rather the work of Gary Burton on the ECM label, indeed, and there, it is yet more eloquent, but yet it is ever necessary to have had the occasion of having lent an ear, to the Australian collective Prop . . .
The music bestows to itself the luxury of going for a stroll between pretty harmonies and controlled discordances. Steve Reich directing the Third Ear Band at a festival of modern jazz all the while including in their repertoire the symphonic passages that even Keith Emerson could not disown.
The least that one can say, is that the work of the shadow of Hermetic Science is proving expiating in the long term. If one never discovered them until now despite numerous years of activity, Crash Course remains a brilliant manifesto all to the honor of the band which has thus succeeded in developing a music at once original and personal ye t n ourished by a thousand influences. An excellent (re)discovery. Domenico Solazzo