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Surfdog Records

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.

-Jason Dunn

Track Listing:

1. jellyneck
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
12. nobody


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