ATROPOS (Spain) no. 9 (March 1998), p. 68

Ed Macan’s Hermetic Science: Hermetic Science

Magnetic Oblivion Records, 1997

Ed Macan leapt to prominence in worldwide progressive music circles not long ago with his book Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture. It contributed interesting points of view about the genre. But Ed is not just a theorist. Besides teaching music classes at the College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California, he formed Hermetic Science with especially distinguished students from that institution. This group is a trio, in which the lead instrument is Macan’s vibraphone, but in which bass and drums also fulfil a highly soloistic role. The inevitable comparison will be with Pierre Moerlen’s Gong or Frank Zappa, on account of them being among the few that have utilized this complete instrument as protagonist. This comparison is not entirely accurate, since Ed Macan combines formal progressive rock, and the chamber type of Art Zoyd or Univers Zero, with jazz (Lionel Hampton, the Modern Jazz Quartet), minimalism, oriental music, and sacred music of the Renaissance.

The virtuosic vibraphone and marimba parts of Ed Macan play a keyboard-like role, simulating at times a Hammond organ, while the rhythm section condenses the sound (100% rhythmic!!), in a solid block, tremendously melodic and brimming with nuances. Thus sound creates incomparable passages of authentic magic. "Fire Over Thule" (9:26), "The Sungazer" (11:09), or "Trisagion" (8:12), a sensational renaissance fugue, are examples of this peculiar and personal style. But still there is more. The perfect combination in the form of a medley between Curved Air’s "Cheetah" (3:51) and a curious reinterpretation of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s "Infinite Space" from Tarkus, leaves the listener breathless from agreeable and astonishing surprises. We unify two very nice short distinct pieces, the opening "Esau’s Burden" (5:12) and "Fanfare for the House of Panorama" (4:05) and finally, a re-creation of "Mars, the Bringer of War" by Gustav Holst (also covered by Emerson, Lake and Powell). The overall value of Hermetic Science is in my opinion very high. Not only for its special character. But for almost inventing a new way of conceiving progressive rock. Suggestive and restless innovators, they nevertheless avoid abstract or unassimilatable forms.

An extraordinary CD that I earnestly recommend. Its unique nature borders on the historic.

J.J. Iglesias