LA CAJA DE PANDORA ( Spain ) no. 1, September 2006
The bold progressiveness of Edward Macan, alma mater of Hermetic Science, demands a considerable intellectual and emotional exertion when confronting his music. The challenge begins already with his group's structure, with its unusual formation, consisting of vibraphone-bass-drums, which reinforces the necessity for that exertion to which reference has been made, given the lack of musical education that most in the progressive rock world have in reference to the characteristic sonorities of a vibraphone or a marimba as dominant instruments in the music of a group.
Since 1997, Hermetic Science has released, under the Magnetic Oblivion label, three discs of incontrovertible importance for their considerable success in shaping a genuine progressive rock that evinces no anxiety towards the past. Ed Macan's Hermetic Science (1997), Prophesies (1999), and En Route (2001) have been remastered and remixed in order to be re-released in this two-CD set as a musical legacy of the birth of a new band (perhaps a legend in the future), with the addition, in some cases, of instruments like the lyre or the sitar in order to enlarge the musical palette of bold explorations. The intrinsic incorporation of analog keyboards in the later, more advanced compositions of the group.
As for the music, we encounter a profound foundation built from jazz, as in “Esau's Burden,” influences of ELP (“Fire Over Thule,” “Fanfare for the House of Panorama,” “ Trisagion ”), or of Yes (“Hope Against Hope”), influences that, curiously, become diluted as the group adopts instrumentation approaches more appropriate to a progressive rock group, especially on their last two albums. And so we encounter excellent exercises in the ARP string ensemble as a solo instrument, “Hope Against Hope,” again; we savor virtuoso piano compositions like in “Lament” with romantic cascades in clear reference to Debussy, including a beautiful fugue, precise and convincing. We are presented with large-scale arrangements with airs of grandeur, “Leviathan and Behemoth,” with that personal touch of Macan in which the deep feeling of the melody doesn't overrule the progressive musical form. Nor are the sonorities that are extracted from his instruments the usual, as in “State of Grace ,” except for the piano in its classical mode, because what is important is the music itself, since there is no intention of pleasing except for posing a musical challenge, an extraordinary exercise for the listener. Each theme is distinct, maybe for this composition unconsciously in search of its origins, that carries us to moments of calm and mystery with a certain air of dandyism confronted by an anxious spleen, but which translates us also to joyful moments with lilting rhythms, as also in “En Route,” something that is not very habitual in the music of Macan.
My favorites: “The Sungazer ,” for its rich instrumentation augmented by the inclusion of the piano as reinforcement of the marimba and its evident echoes of Bach; “Against the Grain (part one),” a beautiful track that's almost chamber-like in a progressive manner; “La-Bas,” Bach in its origins and progressive in its development, with essences of hymns and elements of sacred music more proper to Mozart than to Germany; “Raga Hermeticum ,” with a second movement which follows a sure musical line, with a marked element of bajo funk , that dervies from Arabic- Andalusian propositions, with a finale that recalls, with symphonic grandeur, the initial Indian theme; and “En Route,” for being an exquisite vehicle for blending piano and marimba as co-protagonists.
If you like challenges, no doubt this is your disc. An intelligent endeavor that shows us that true progressive rock has neither died nor been reduced to being cloned over and over, but can evolve and create new musical forms. A masterful work of the progressive genre for the twenty-first century.
José Luis Martínez