wears the trousers magazine


incoming: fursaxa

Fursaxa
Mycorrhizae Realm

[ATP; February 1]

Seventh full-length album in 10 years from experimental musician Tara Burke, recorded at the Philadelphia studios of Espers’ Greg Weeks in 2009. Described as “an exercise in symbiosis” (a mycorrhiza is a symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a plant – thanks Wiki), it features Helena Espvall, who records with Burke as Anahita, playing cello on three songs, plus Mary Lattimore of The Valerie Project playing harp on four songs.

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wears the trousers albums of the decade #75-51

part one part threepart four

Here’s the second part of our albums of the decade countdown, running from #75–51.

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75

Róisín Murphy
Overpowered

[EMI, 2007]

Of all the critical droolfests that failed to ignite on the commercial front this decade, Róisín Murphy’s second solo album is among the most inexplicable damp squibs. The ex-Moloko frontwoman may have shed the avant-garde experimentalism of her solo debut Ruby Blue in favour of full-on disco diva mode, set against a backdrop of thumping, shimmering state-of-the-art production, but it seems the world wasn’t ready to accept even Murphy’s toned down personality quirks. That’s a real shame for although Overpowered is not without its flaws, there is a sense of playful grandeur here that can easily toe the line with Goldfrapp at their most teasing.

Chris Catchpole

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espers: III (2009)
November 5, 2009, 10:30 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , ,

e_lp_espers_09

Espers
III ••••
Wichita

It has been three years since this gloomy drone-folk ensemble released their masterpiece, Espers II. Since then, many of its members have released various experimental solo works, such as Helena Espvall’s Anahita, an avant-garde exploration of ritualistic songmanship and freeform folk, and Meg Baird’s more accessible folksy debut Dear Companion. Now the Philadelphia-based sextet are offering their third full-length record entitled – surprise, surprise – III. But while the title was easy to guess, the content makes for a decidedly refreshing change.

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free music friday: espers
October 16, 2009, 5:04 pm
Filed under: free music friday, mp3 | Tags: , , ,

180809_espersEspers
‘Caroline’

It’s October and the gently spectacular spell of autumn is upon us. Keats’s ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ is here, which means there’s no better time for a new Espers album. Preview track ‘Caroline’ is taken from the Philadelphia collective’s aptly named third full length, III, released on November 2nd through Wichita Recordings. The music made by Espers is designed for the evenings where the sky has an orange glow, to soundtrack the sweeping of leaves and the careful collecting of apples. This may imply a certain sickly romanticism, but despite its yearnings for the past the Espers sound is remarkably free and light .

‘Caroline’ is a duet in which Meg Baird’s affectingly beautiful voice soars over Greg Weeks’s heavier tones all in celebration (or fear?) of the mysterious Caroline. As ever with Espers, oblique lyrics proliferate – witness “Don’t you cry, go lie down in the day… / I’m frightened and I’m right / your candles are burning again” – thus offering a moody array of images, fragments of stories that give the impression that they are potentially ancient folk songs with their meanings obscured by time and reinterpretation. So whoever Caroline is and whatever she is yearning for, this first glimpse of the new album is comforting and strangely alluring and deserves to be played at your local harvest festival. Alternatively, you could go to theirs; as reported previously, the band are taking part in the latest Shred Yr Face tour that begins November 9th. Don’t miss it! MP3 after the jump.

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espers announced for latest shred yr face tour

180809_espersNew album out in October

Now in its third incarnation, the latest Shred Yr Face tour marks something of a departure from its predecessors, relying less on the shock and awe tactics of previous treks. This time around the travelling triumvirate consists of Philadelphian collective Espers, Seattle’s The Cave Singers and Brooklyn’s Woods, all of whom could feasibly be labelled alt/psych/freak folk and more likely to shred yr face in an unfortunate agricultural incident than through their abrasive behaviour.

The tour, which fittingly enough kicks off at The Farmhouse in Canterbury on November 9th, marks the long-awaited return of Espers to the UK armed with new material from their upcoming album Espers 3, released October 26th through Wichita Records. Full details of the release have yet to emerge, but we’re pretty much suckers for anything that Meg Baird sings so just the fact that it’s coming is exciting enough. As for the others, well, The Cave Singers released their second album Welcome Joy this week, and we hear it features the impressive vocal power of Black Mountain’s Amber Webber. Meanwhile, Woods will be riding the wave of critical acclaim for their fourth album Songs Of Shame.

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trouser press: anaïs mitchell, heather nova and more

in today’s trouser press:

– limited edition EP from Anaïs Mitchell and Rachel Ries now available
– Heather Nova surprises fans with announcement of new album
– Marianne Faithfull duets with Chan Marshall, Rufus Wainwright and more
– Jane Birkin to release new album in November
– Charlotte Martin to release new EP in November
– Courtney Love sticks her boot into the VMAs
– Kaki King collaborates with The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle
– Free Raveonettes remix EP up for grabs; three more EPs on their way
– Sky Larkin sign to Wichita Recordings
– Pioneer composer/producer Hector Zazou dies 

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Here’s something we’ve been meaning to tell you. The wonderful Anaïs Mitchell has a new EP out. A country EP, called country e.p., recorded with her friend and frequent touring partner Rachel Ries. The five songs – two Anaïs originals, two Rachel originals, and a cover of their friend Louis Ledford’s ‘When You Fall’ – were recorded earlier this year using vintage studio equipment and released last week on Righteous Babe Records. Don’t go expecting Jewel-style schmaltz though. “These [songs] are a bit more sly, not quite as straightforward as most country,” says Rachel. But don’t just take her word for it, two tracks have been uploaded to Anaïs’s Myspace.

If you order the five-track CD, you get a bonus 7″ vinyl containing three of the songs. A bit strange, you might think, but that’s how they wanted it. “We knew it wasn’t the most rational or efficient way to put the recording out there,” says Rachel, “but we both felt there was something worthwhile about the tactile quality of vinyl and lacquer.” Adds Anaïs, “Beauty is inefficient.”

Anaïs comes to London with label boss Ani DiFranco and fellow RBR artist Hamell On Trial on October 29th at The Forum in Kentish Town. You should be able to get the EP on the merch desk.

country e.p.
01 o my star!
02 mgd
03 come september
04 grace the day
05 when you fall

bonus 7″
01 o my star!
02 mgd
03 when you fall

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2005/06 reviews dump: e

The following reviews were all published on our old website between May 2005 and December 2006.

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El Perro Del Mar
El Perro Del Mar •••½
Memphis Industries

Three years ago, a chic-looking Swedish girl went on a Spanish beach holiday when a dog popped out of nowhere onto the shore. The girl, named Sarah, was inspired by this, went home, worked hard, wrote an album, swapped a lot of CD-Rs, got signed to the same label as The Pipettes and Field Music and toured with José González and Calexico. I suppose that this slightly odd fairy-tale goes a long way to explaining exactly what her project is about. Albeit, of course, nothing to do with canines. Musically, however, this is a debut offering that interestingly mixes the sublime with the unusual.

Because, while bittersweet, longing and often alienating, El Perro Del Mar essentially creates delicate, minimalist retro-pop by blurring a kaleidoscope of playground string quartets, gentle handclaps and Supremes-style harmonies with the vulnerable vocal of a chronically depressed Nina Persson and the mild kitsch of Petula Clark in her heyday. Yet she does it in such a way that it makes you want to stop sobbing into your milkshake in favour of doing ‘the monkey’; this is a collection of songs made for the cool chicks in tight pencil skirts wiggling their bums at ne’er-do-well boys named Kenickie. Songs with a dignified sound that will also appeal to ladies what lunch. Songs that will be cherished, most strikingly, by anyone who’s ever been in love. And been dumped. And, shortly afterwards, had someone drive past and splash a giant puddle all over their best diamanté.

Upsetting and confusing, yet undeniably refreshing, from the melancholy “be-bop-a-lula” of ‘Party’ and comforting Argyle sweater-wearing stroke of the head that is ‘This Loneliness’, to the pant-flashing mantra ‘It’s All Good’, and resigned yet slinky Brenda Lee cover, ‘Here Comes That Feeling’. In short, each track is a chapter in a frighteningly frank journey into the female psyche, an empowering celebration of grown-up teenage heartache on the outside, pure bubbling neuroses on the innards. Meaning that, by bringing a whole new perspective to being a woman in the Noughties, these seemingly cute ditties, fraught with determination and extreme femininity, just might not be for everyone. Still, if any of the above sounds a bit like you, twirl gum round index finger, fluff out petticoat and have another vodka. Rest assured you’re in good company.

Anna Claxton
originally published June 16th, 2006 

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Justine Electra
Soft Rock ••••
City Slang

There’s nothing like laying it all on the line up front, and with such a watery title, Soft Rock doesn’t leave much to the imagination. But getting past the immediate subconscious associations (that are, incidentally, wrong and mostly unfounded), there is something truly sincere about these recordings. That’s not to say that they don’t run the gamut of the good and bad, or that their appeal isn’t wholly subjective, depending on the willingness and mindset of the listener, but there is something about them. First track ‘Fancy Robots’ is a prime example, where the cut and crazy synth rumblings could be construed as brilliance, or, alternatively, a little bit bland and lacking the requisite punch to pull the entire song through. Luckily, this here listener feels it to be the former.

As a whole, Soft Rock succeeds as a near masterpiece of patchwork. ‘Killalady’ boasts an offbeat groove, heavenly chimes and delicate harmonies that could make an angel’s cheeks turn beetroot, combined with just enough roughness to keep up levels of intrigue and lyrics that sound familiar to the lives of those you know. All that accompanied by social commentaries that make a mockery of the bloated, predictable industry standard (e.g. “hip-hop guys showing their underpants”) make this an undisputed highlight. Similarly, the airy blues stylings of ‘Blues & Reds’ skulk their way into the depths of your memory as the song burrows itself a nice little nook that it refuses to get out of. Elsewhere, the fantastic ‘Calimba Song’ is reminiscent of a Tom Waits minimalist classic, with an almost childish marimba motif that’s carried forth by the sort of saddened vocals that would suit the back porch of a crumbling South Carolina farmhouse (she’s actually Australian but lives in Berlin).

At the opposite end of the spectrum lie the repetitive, keyboard-based ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘President’, both of which scrape and haul their way to the finish. There’s something distinctly terrifying and disturbing about the execution of the latter in particular. The worn radio sound, the whine of a pacemaker, the basic drum programming, the lyrics – feelings of desolation and hopelessness aren’t exactly helped by Electra’s singing of genital death.

Soft Rock is so chock full of quirk and choreographed madness that it would be extremely interesting to see how the songs might transcribe to live performance. Its crazy bass sounds, scrapings against junk for percussion, stark acoustic riffs and Tori Amos / Fiona Apple-esque backing vocals all add to the appeal; it would be a crying shame to lose the fragments of instrumentation and subtle effects that elevate Electra above her more predictable peers. Put simply, Soft Rock is like one of those close friends you only seem to see once every couple of years, in the summer. The attraction is there, but it’s something that will be nice to lose just to come across again later so the love for it stays ever faithful.

Gary Munday
originally published July 23rd, 2006 

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Electrelane
Axes •½
Too Pure

Brighton is, as far as I’m concerned anyway, only good for taking your relatives to when you can’t be bothered to drive into London or up north, and perhaps to provide an easy apex of convergence for various rallies (cars, cycles, hippies and politicians, for example). Oh, and sanctuary for aging cheesy DJs. So I was really hoping that East Sussex four-piece Electrelane would show me a new town, a revitalised seaside resort brushed clear of its cobwebs, with newly painted shop fascias and nay a broken lightbulb on the rides.

Plugging in my headphones, I was transported in an instant to Electrelane’s creation, with a packed lunch, petty cash and a camera provided. The town is called Axes. People are milling around. Above the gentle lap of the waves, intriguing sounds are abounding. There’s a vague sense that somewhere nearby The Fall are jamming with Tom Waits, Blurt and assorted prog rockers. Yes indeed, Axes feels pleasantly arty, the sun is shining and the temperature is just perfect for a day trip.

Shame then that having spent a few hours treading its highways and byways, I can’t help but feel that the town planners could have done more with Axes to make it more attractive to casual visitors. Although this third album once again proves that Electrelane are skilled musicians and are able to hold an exceptional rhythm, it seems that nowadays that’s just not quite enough to make the masses voluntarily flock to Axes. It’s the kind of town that will rarely find its way into anyone’s much-loved holiday snaps.

This particular day trip feels much like a Sunday stroll along the promenade. Despite the desolate, almost ghostly sleeve hinting at a dark netherworld, the outlook at Axes is actually pretty mellow; mostly instrumentals with the occasional highlight coasting in on a much-appreciated breeze. Without the irrepressible gusto of these, anyone visiting Axes might be tempted to just fall asleep on a bench overlooking the shore, missing the last train home.

Endre Buzogány
originally published September 1st, 2005 

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Electrelane
Rock It To The Moon [reissue] •••½ 
Too Pure

The three E’s – Envelopes, (Saint) Etienne and Electrelane. These artists are similar, not just musically, but because it takes an acquired taste to like them enough to listen to their albums the whole way through. Originally released in 2001 and now getting a well deserved reissue, Rock It To The Moon has had plenty of time to grow on me, but it’s quite likely that after only 14 minutes and six seconds, when only two tracks have played, any mainstream indie lover will be fitting on the floor, calling for it to stop, PLEASE stop!

Personally, I love it. I can’t get enough of shrieking strings placed randomly over beat after beat after beat. I love how music like this can burst away from its field of destruction and jump into a techno dance worthy of David Brent. I love the demented circus sample at the end of ‘Long Dance’, and how ‘Gabriel’, the track sequenced directly after, sounds entirely different. So different, that if it weren’t for the loop of fuzzed out voices in the background, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a different band.

Electrelane were relatively young when this album was recorded, but it doesn’t show. Rightfully, the album should have propelled every member to stand in the clouds with Air and Ladytron, looking down on the bands that aspire to be them. I can only assume this didn’t happen because of the indie (and predominantly male) ‘uprising’ that occurred at the same time; they just weren’t given the time. Of course with every album that relies on this form of music, there is a point when even the most hardcore electro fan has to say, “enough is enough” and turn the volume down. There are days when you just don’t want to listen to what is essentially one album-length song that flips and does cartwheels all over your ears. But there are also days when you just itch for something that can do that, people who don’t aspire to live during the Romantic era or to make your ears bleed, and for those days, Electrelane are your band.

Tiffany Daniels
originally published March 6th, 2006 

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Electrelane
Singles, B-Sides & Live ••••
Too Pure

If ever there were a band more often better in principal than actual fact it’s Electrelane. While the Brightonian electro-quartet couldn’t be cooler if they were actually four very cold snowwomen, there’s always been some- thing essentially a bit boring about them. That’s not to write off any band who would give their debut album as daft a name as Rock It To The Moon; it’s just that said album is about a million times less fun than the title would suggest. Better in all ways except name is odds ‘n’ sods collection Singles, B-Sides & Live, the band’s best album to date (excepting perhaps last year’s Axes).

Relative incoherency is actually the record’s biggest plus, as rather than saddle us with hours of interminable Wurlitzer jams, every few songs heralds a change of direction as abrupt as a slap to the face. Thus the, er, interminable Wurlitzer jams of Electrelane’s cinematic early line-up give way to the ragged B-side ‘I Love You My Farfisa’, which in turn segues into tracks from the mighty I Want To Be The President EP, which is still the best of their early works.

However, it’s halfway through when things get really interesting; an astonishingly rickety cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’ sounds like it could derail at any moment, and it’s all the more heart-stoppingly beautiful for it. From then on frail, bizarre live tracks and covers (including a haunting version of Roxy Music’s ‘More Than This’) shed the studied hipster stylings and usher in a looser, more emotive band capable of reducing you to tears without boring you to get there.

Andrzej Lukowski
originally published November 23rd, 2006

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Missy Elliott
Respect M.E. ••••½
Goldmind / Atlantic

Nearly an entire decade has elapsed since Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliott exploded onto the scene with 1997’s phenomenal debut Supa Dupa Fly and single-handedly revolutionised both R&B and hip-hop (and, consequently, radio). Not that you’d know it; with her anthemic style and incendiary guerilla flare, even Elliott’s earliest singles still sound fresh and it’s no mean feat that her albums continue to blow away almost every one of her chart rivals, Stateside at least. Given her ubiquity all over the media, it has probably escaped most people’s notice that Elliott’s fortunes have been rather less glittering here in the UK, with just one of her albums (2001’s Miss E…So Addictive) sneaking into the top 10 on the lowest rung. That’s despite a healthy clutch of singles hitting the upper echelons of the charts, though, rather perversely, the only #1 single to bear her name on these shores was the credibility car crash of 1998’s ‘I Want You Back’, a collaboration with ex-Spice Girl Melanie Brown. It makes perfect sense then that a greatest hits collection such as this be compiled to remind non-residents of North America why Elliott’s career has been one of the most lofty and artistically fruitful in recent memory.

Indeed, Respect M.E. ought to be listed in the urban dictionary as an archetypal greatest hits; it’s that good. Each song is a powerhouse display, uniquely showcasing Elliott’s craft and frenetic wordplay. Of course, some of the credit must go to her various partners in rhyme – most notably longtime collaborator / friend Timbaland, with whom she has no issue of sharing the glory – but Elliott is the true star here and constantly reinvents her sound using dance, R&B, hip-hop and good old-fashioned pop laced with a truly wicked sense of humour. Elliott has been smart to recognise that the club is where her talent shines brightest, her sound and larger-than-life persona big enough to fill any Saturday night sweatbox. And when she wants to get folks moving, boy does she ever. ‘Get Ur Freak On’ and the fabulously sexual trailblazer ‘Work It’ are so fine that they’ll forever hold their own special place in dancefloor mythology, while sonic oddities like ‘Pass That Dutch’ and ‘Gossip Folks’ squeak and gibber like hip-hop songs possessed by a mischievous robot devil.

On ‘She’s A Bitch’, ‘One Minute Man’ and ‘The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)’, Elliott combines sass and neo-feminism with irresistibly pulsating thumps, while the Basement Jaxx remix of ‘4 My People’ and the techno-tribal ‘Lose Control’ (featuring Ciara and Fatman Scoop) make a convincing case for Elliott as a queen of gay disco, up there with the likes of Madonna and Kylie. Even on sample-heavy tracks like ‘We Run This’, which features a notable chunk of the oft-sampled ‘Apache’ by the Sugar Hill Gang, Elliott has enough pride and grit to make the song still rock and be completely her own. Of course, there’s more to Missy than just her club sound and the slower jams here are far from mediocre. ‘All N My Grill’ featuring Big Boi and Nicole Wray is funky and shows a slightly more vulnerable side that her dance songs do not, while ‘Hit ‘Em Wit Da Hee’ with the always effervescent Lil’ Kim is unapologetic in its fierceness.

If the sheer diversity of her sound occasionally baffles, it’s only that there are very few artists who consistently stay ahead of the game, who constantly innovate and keep their early tenacity going. Respect M.E. displays Elliott’s uncanny ability to do this; what’s more, her genius and considerable staying power already proven, there can be little doubt that this will be the first in a line of essential compilations from this truly gifted and artistic visionary.

Aaron Alper
originally published October 27th, 2006

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Enya
Amarantine •••
Warner Bros.

The trio that is Enya, fronted and personified by Irish songstress Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, needs no introduction. From 1987’s The Celts, to 2000’s A Day Without Rain, Enya have carved out a unique musical niche that has generated fans from every corner of the globe, and, it seems, an equal number of critics. It certainly appears in vogue to dismiss Eithne and her songwriting partners Roma and Nicky Ryan as New Age fluff, constantly recycled nonsense that’s suited only for muzak and bookshop tannoys. But while some of us chuckle at the hint of truth therein, such a sweeping rebuttal is woefully inaccurate. The rank and file of Enya fanhood may be no place for an indie snob, but the sheer popularity of their music is no accident. Their unique orchestrations unabashedly create pure moods that are perfect for practically any occasion. That they are also about as inoffensive as a slice of white bread doesn’t hurt sales either. But whilst there is nothing remotely challenging about the music of Enya, there is a certain something to savour. Something familiar and comforting like a warm house at Christmas and reassuringly safe like a cup of herbal tea.

Predictably then, Amarantine is unlikely to disappoint Eithne’s legions of fans. In keeping with its title, which refers to a mythical eternal flower, it’s a longer and more satisfying album than A Day Without Rain and is subtly different from her previous releases. Abandoning the trademark Gaelic lyrics for a dabble into Japanese was certainly brave, yet works surprising well. ‘Sumiregusa’ is a striking blend of Japanese lyrics and ethereal vocals evoking visuals of geisha and white cherry blossoms, and may very well be the most innovative thing the trio has done in a decade. So much so that it nearly even manages to trump Amarantine‘s crowning achievement – that of Roma Ryan’s creation of the new language Loxian, a tongue inspired by the works of Tolkien, that appears on three of the album’s dozen tracks. Inevitably, by virtue of its indecipherability, the use of Loxian adds a little more to the fantasy and mystery of just what Eithne is singing about; those of us versed in more mundane languages, however, will just listen to those tracks as we always have with the Gaelic ones, enjoying the sound of the words rather than the actual poetry.

To be fair, a higher expectation would have been folly. The trio have found a working formula and it’s one that they pretty much stick to throughout. At times it can be overwhelmingly obvious – for example, ‘It’s In The Rain’ sounds remarkably like ‘China Roses’ from The Memory Of Trees, the title track is practically a carbon copy of the massive chart hit ‘Only Time’ from A Day Without Rain and ‘The River Sings’ harkens back to 1987’s often-sampled ‘Boudicea’. But despite the formulaic nature of the album, fans of Enya would expect little else, nor, it seems, do they really care to. Amarantine may do nothing to win new fans, but its soothing and comfortable sounds will at worst retain the masses who have come to love Enya for those overlapping vocals and synthesized swells. And since A Day Without Rain was the world’s bestselling album in 2001, perhaps comfort is really the point.

Loria Near
originally published March 19th, 2006 

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Espers
Espers II ••••
Drag City

In parapsychological terms, the word ‘espers’ means ‘ghost hunters’, or rather ‘extraordinary supernatural phenomena explored and revealed’. It’s an astoundingly fitting description for this six-piece psychedelic folk act from Philadelphia, centred on the trio of vocalists Greg Weeks, Meg Baird and Brooke Sietinsons. The self-explanatory, Led Zeppelin-aping title aside, Espers II is a dark and melancholic mixture of traditional folk and freak electronica, like listening to a 1960s folk tape whilst watching a spaceship land outside your muslin-curtained window – simply outlandish. This is in fact their third full-length release, following last year’s unusual covers record The Weed Tree, and things are getting progressively weirder.

Opener ‘Dead Queen’ is a spooky, graceful affair that mixes high-pitched trembling electro sounds with medieval guitar melodies and airy female vocals. What starts quite simply slowly evolves into a thickly-layered, eight-min epic; strings, electric guitars and synthetic sounds combine to create layer after layer of countermelodies, culminating in a wall of dissonant sound that almost drives you to discomfort. The beauty of Espers is that although they use a modern approach to recording, the technology never seems to compromise the songs’ authenticity; modern and classic elements blend together extraordinarily smoothly.

‘Widow’s Weed’ and ‘Cruel Storm’ offer a more rhythmical approach, though both are equally melancholic and dark. Sometimes reminiscent of a funeral service, sometimes like a lonely summer night’s walk though a sinister forest, the arrangements are simple but clever. Another mini-epic, ‘Children Of Stone’ is an emotional masterpiece that is justly given the time it needs to evolve rather than reaching a premature conclusion. Various interludes – first a flute then a squealing theremin and lastly a swooning cello – truly accentuate the rare, strange and fragile beauty of this uniquely harmonious composition.

‘Mansfield & Cyclops’, ‘Dead King’ and ‘Moon Occults The Sun’ also blend the new with the old in clever ways. Rhythmical and textural layers and the use of dissonant and sometimes unbearably high electronic sounds have a freaky and dark effect on the listener. The closely miked recording of the vocals is just as unsettling and will leave you wondering how something so distant and unearthly can be so near.

Espers may indeed be hunters of ghosts but listen to this latest excursion into the future-past and you’ll find they’re not beyond indulging in a little haunting of their own.

Anja McCloskey
originally published July 2nd, 2006 

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Evanescence
The Open Door •••
Wind-Up / SonyBMG

In the early autumn of 2003 Evanescence seemed to have the world at their feet. Their debut album, Fallen, was acclaimed across the globe, picking up awards and well on the way to multi-platinum status. Their songs had been heavily featured in that summer’s blockbuster movie? well, ‘Daredevil’ anyway? but how soon the dam did burst. Co-founder Ben Moody walked out mid-way through a European tour citing “musical differences”, a fan backlash was building up in the States as the band distanced themselves from their Christian roots and their 2004 CD/DVD live set had “contractual obligation” written all over it.

In view of all this, it’s a miracle not just that The Open Door exists but that it’s actually quite decent. In comes former Limp Bizkit and Cold guitarist Terry Balsamo and suddenly lead singer Amy Lee is claiming that they’re functioning more as a real band than ever before. That said, the focus of the album remains squarely on Lee and her pre-Raphaelite, Goth chic presence looms large over proceedings. As with Fallen, it’s her vocals that draw the disparate sounds scattered across the thirteen tracks together into one coherent whole. It’s in the cohesiveness stakes that The Open Door really scores points over its predecessor, despite songs ranging from the pop-metal of single ‘Call Me When You’re Sober’ to the ‘My Immortal’-esque piano and strings of album closer ‘Good Enough’ via the cod-operatic stylings of ‘Lachrymosa’ and ‘Cloud Nine’s curious sci-fi backing vox.

Musically, Balsamo’s addition seems to have paid off. His bone-crunching riffs are more convincingly metal (albeit with an inevitable ‘nu’ flavour) and alone form a pretty satisfying core around which the lush strings and keyboards are layered. Lee’s vocals are impressive, benefiting from her almost operatic power and projection when stretching out in the high register. Equally strong at all pitches, she captures an emotional performance rather than simply providing bombast. And that’s a good thing as, lyrically, this is much more interesting than much of the genre. ‘Lithium’ explores the dilemma facing those suffering from depression –medicate but lose the vital spark that defines who you are or struggle to live with your own demons? – whereas ‘Weight Of The World’ asks real questions about identity and self-worth.

So you see, there’s plenty to explore through this particular door. If you loved Fallen then there will be much to appeal to you here. If your tastes extend into the rock, metal or emo genres you will similarly find much to enjoy. And even if Lee and co. leave you cold, you have to concede that it’s a damn fine example of triumph over adversity.

Trevor Raggatt
previously unpublished