ATROPOS (Spain), July 2000 , pp. 53-54
, pp. 53-54
The virtuoso percussionist, musicologist, writer and, based on his disclosure on this disc, sensational keyboardist Ed Macan returns to the current independent music scene with the second album of Hermetic Science, Prophesies.
If in '97 we witnessed an extraordinary event within the progressive genre with their debut, which distinguished itself largely by the magical musicianship evident in the vibraphone and marimba playing, '99 brings to us this pollinated seed that has blossomed beyond expectation. Ed continues to utilize only a rhythm section as accompaniment. Andy Durham (who also appeared on the first disc) and Nate Perry occupy the roles of bassist. Restless investigators of their instruments, they do not conform to the role of mere constructors of more or less complicated rhythms. They create ambiences and sensations of a profundity and sentiment worthy of the greats, and not only of progressive music, but of the most serious and respectable jazz (of Pastorius and Mingus, and all that which is "there in the middle").
For his part Matt McClimon acts as "musical translator" between the bassists and Macan with his "talking" drumming, recalling, for me, Mark Lavallee of Lands End, the major new drummer of the nineties. He incorporates chromatic voicings that are ideal for the sometimes surrealistic moments of Hermetic Science.
Naturally, it is Ed Macan who stands out among the many excellencies of this group. To his marimbas and vibraphones we must now add keyboard playing of a superlative manner and taste. And not just any keyboards: as a good fan/devotee of the genre, Ed utilizes Hammond organ, ARP string ensemble and Micromoog besides his forte, the Steinway grand piano.
If in the review of the first CD we explained that utilizes the marimba in the manner of a keyboard-like sound, imagine this same facet in combination now with vintage keyboards from the seventies. It surpasses words. The album is a continuous surprise from the first second of listening.
The first track, Rush's "Jacob's Ladder" (6:46), with the marimba as absolute protagonist, carries all the melodic weight of the original song. This indeed is a genuine cover, offering new and unexpected perspectives on the track. "Intrigue in the House of Panorama" (4:19) would be the continuation (in the vein of spy music of the sixties) to "Fanfare for the House of Panorama" from the first disc. A cut with a lot of swing and parallelisms with Lionel Hampton or the Modern Jazz Quartet (without doubt Ed Macan is the Milt Jackson of progressive!), it permits the good taste that can obtain in the chamber rock of Hermetic Science to come into evidence. As we can verify in the main composition of the album, Prophesies: A Suite in Six Movements (41:10). Words fail us. This represents the grand synthesis of Macan to date. Chamber progressive, Rock In Opposition (at times with a nod toward Henry Cow), free jazz, contemporary . . . All serve to help re-create this tremendous suite which necessitates many listenings (I might say limitless) in order to extract its full essence. From Bartok to Emerson (is there so much difference? . . . ), lyricism and compositional artifice combine in a display of progressive harmony.
And in case this is a bit outside (I don't know that anybody on the planet thinks this), a "little" bonus track: Tarkus (18:48), interpreted in its entirety by Macan as a classical piano piece, in his own arrangement, live at the Shannon Center in California in 1992 (long before the release of his debut CD). Here we now witness the completion of the circle from one musician who not only conveys the same effect as the original version with a solo piano, but also transmits to us his love and passion for this timeless music. If Keith Emerson ever listens to this interpretation, not only will he return to the path of good music, but also he will comprehend all that he has given to us in progressive materials. Ed Macan is now preparing his second book, covering ELP, and after listening to his adaptation/tribute, I do not doubt that it will be something worthy of being read.
Prophesies is the culmination of Hermetic Science's two year quest. Then I said that their first release "borders on the historic." Fine, this now is history.
J. J. Iglesias