A most beautiful sadness.
Echobrain's Glean is the sun that bursts through
the clouds after a hard, driving rain. It's a trip in a boat amongst
the clouds, but don't look over the edge; the roiling vortex waits
below, ready to swallow you whole. If grunge was the music of the
junkie's nadir, then Echobrain is the whorling eddy of his chemically
induced apex. When I listen to this album, I am reminded of the
cover art to a particular printing of John Brunner's existentialist
fantasy about a wandering demigod charged with the task of restoring
order to a world gone mad, "The Traveler In Black." The
artwork showed the titular character in his black, hooded garb holding
out his hand as though he were holding onto a pole. On one side
of his hand exists a wild, mishmash of colored shapes flowing into
the hole created by his thumb and forefinger. On the other side,
the colors exit, separate and ordered. That picture reminds me of
the ordered and tranquil feeling that "jellyneck" induces
in me each time this CD cycles into play as it holds the chaos of
the rest of the world at bay, if only for the moment.
There exists, I think, a musical river of sorts: a wellspring of
inspiration that the gods must draw from. Rarely, I hear something
that must have come from this fountainhead that stops me dead in
my tracks as my brain filters out all other sensory input. The coda
to "you're sold" is as close to anything I've ever heard
that achieves a sound so perfect that time stands still when I hear
it. I must say, the effect is a little unnerving; I don't even breathe
'til it's over.
The album as a whole is a consistently strong effort with my favorites
being "jellyneck", where Dylan Donkin does his
best Chris Cornell impression, "heroic dose" for
its (probably unintended) lyrical parables to the Heisenberg Uncertainty
Principle, and the bitter "arsenic of love" where the
whole band does a bang-up job of channeling the spirit of Mama
Cass of The Mamas And The Papas fame with a morose, but
tongue-in-cheek bit of musical noir and nostalgia. The only track
that feels out of place to me is "out of reach." It's
a little too metal or grunge to fit in with the otherwise contiguous
feel of the rest of the album. It's by no means a bad song, it just
doesn't quite fit.
One of the great tragedies of grunge's demise was that it transmuted
into nu-metal, and completely lost the gut-wrenching, heart-breaking
sorrow and self-derision that made it such a powerful form. The
succeeding abomination contained the anger of the former, but retooled
it as nothing more than over-blown teen angst, blanketed in rage.
Had that unfortunate step been skipped, and a sound such as this
had bloomed in full, "mainstream alternative" (or whatever
we're calling it these days) wouldn't be quite the cesspool it is
today. Glean has a light and peaceful tranquility to it that
just barely hides its melancholy underbelly. It hints that all is
not right with the world, but that it's still possible to kick up
your feet and get carried along; appreciate things for what they
are, and don't get too bogged down in their grim realities.
Then again, considering the state of the world, perhaps now is
the best time for Glean to debut.
2. knock 'em out
3. you're sold
4. heroic dose
5. out of reach
6. seven seconds
7. arsenic of love
8. beat as we go
9. modern science
10. hardheaded woman
11. nowhere too long
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