ATROPOS (Spain) no. 17 (October 2002), 86

 

In 1997 Ed Macan traumatized our neurons with a violent jolt of creativity in his fabulous debut, Hermetic Science.  Utilizing the vibraphone and marimba in the manner of keyboards, here he approached a Gary Burton ECM-period style, but with a progressive orientation.  In 1999 he returned to give another turn to the screw with Prophesies, persisting in his percussive pyrotechnics while now revealing what an excellent keyboardist he is.  Unforgettable for its adaptation of Tarkus to solo piano.

 

In 2001 he again assaults our capacity for surprise.  The new attack is called En Route.  It is his most keyboard-oriented album, without neglecting the color of the vibraphone, which lends it distinction.  Untransferable magic.  Now enriched with an extensive assortment that would be any analog keyboard lover’s dream.  An enviable collection of apparatus:  Hammond organ, ARP string ensemble, Micromoog, Rhodes electric piano, digital pipe organ, electronic harpsichord, and acoustic piano.  Besides his customary thicket of percussion there’s also 10-lyre and soprano and tenor recorders.

 

The disc commences with a version of “Mars, the Bringer of War (Doomsday Mix)” (7:15), revisiting a work that Hermetic Science had already recorded for their first CD.  The classic work of Gustav Holst has a length and very honored history in the world of rock (King Crimson, Andromeda, Emerson, Lake and Powell, Diamond Head, and Metallica).  It is the only cover on En Route.  Rare, if we take into account the tendency of Macan to include progressive covers:  “Cheetah” of Darryl Way (Curved Air), “Infinite Space” and “Tarkus” of ELP, or especially surprisingly, “Jacob’s Ladder” of Rush in previous Hermetic Science albums.

 

The only other cut of this CD is a macro-suite of 45 minutes, En Route:  A Suite.  Dedicated to the work of J. K. Huysmans, revolutionary novelist of the late nineteenth century, impressions of three of his novels constitute this colossal piece.  “Against the Grain,” in four sections, occupies the first twenty minutes.  This novel dates from 1884.  “La-Bas,” of 1891, constitutes the following eight minutes.  Next follows “Raga Hermeticum” (9:00) and the suite finishes with “En Route” of 1894 in the final seven minutes.  The latter work reminds me powerfully of Patrick Moraz.  The extraordinary labor of the drummer’s position (the percussion is indispensable to the work of Hermetic Science) is divided between Matt McClimon and Joe Nagy.  While we have another surprise with the inclusion for the first time of guitar.  This is played by the very versatile Jason Hoopes, who also plays bass, sitar, and acoustic piano.  He brings an element of balance to the new Hermetic Science.

 

It is clear that the principal influence on Ed Macan is baroque music and the figure of Keith Emerson.  However.  We are not speaking of a mere clone.  Ed molds this inspiration into his own sound.  He takes a little Bartok (one of the favorite composers of Emerson) and reconstructs him with his percussion and keyboards until he has formed a new sonic world.  Singular, magnificent, surprising, it is all of these:  from the baroqueisms of “La-Bas” to the Hindu-medieval developments of “Raga Hermeticum.”  It shows itself with tranquility (and prudence!) as contemporary music, jazz of the vanguard, and explicit progressive rock.  In a similar way we can speak of the Par Lindh Project or the Rumblin’ Orchestra, two of the most important combos of true progressive music.  The same is true of Hermetic Science, a group of authentic intellectuals, musicologists, and theoreticians of the style.  In fact, Ed is finishing his long-awaited The Endless Enigma:  A Musical Biography of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.  And previously he wrote the acclaimed Rocking the Classics:  English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture (Oxford University Press, 1996).  Somewhat distinct for the USA, where they know to break new topics.  As we do not spend all day fighting bulls and eating paella, neither to they spend all their time at the rodeo eating hamburgers! Whoever thinks that USA prog is another form of mainstream rock should hear this! En Route is his third complete success, building on what he has already done . . . his most complete and intelligent disc.  Progressive rock or contemporary music? A real dilemma.     J. J. Iglesias