29 September 2010

CD REVIEW: Edensong - Echoes of Edensong (2010, private release)

Do you remember your first time?

Of course you do.

You know just what I’m talking about, too…you’ve waited so long for it…and it’s finally there, right in front of you.  You’ve made sure the moment is right…perhaps a nice glass of scotch or wine to set the mood.  You’ve made sure there’ll be no interruptions…you’ve even taken the phone off the hook, or turned the ringer off.  You’ve got the lights down low, and it’s time for you and that brand spanking new album from a new to you band you’ve been waiting for.

The first time never seems to live up to expectations.  Oh, but when it does…when it does, it’s like heaven and earth have just stopped, and it’s just you, and the music, and it’s magic.

I can probably count in the fingers of both hands the number of times that the first time has worked out that well.  The last time it happened had to be 199(mutters the rest), when I got a packet in the mail from Royal Oaks Michigan with my copy of discipline’s Unfolded Like Staircase.  I still remember the chills that album brought me.  But my point is, it doesn’t happen all that often, and when it does, I cherish it, because I know just how rare it is.

All this is build up for me saying (wait for it) that the same thing just happened for me.  What makes it all the more amazing is that it’s not a single album that did it, but a pair of releases from the same band.  The fact that both caused the same kind of reaction in me is something rare indeed…the fact that these two albums are their entire output thus far is gobsmackingly astonishing.

The band is Edensong.

And today I’ll be talking about Echoes of Edensong: From the Studio and Stage.

Now Edensong is a newer band, founded by James Byron Schoen (who contributes vocals, electric and acoustic guitars).  I’m assuming the band line-up that I’ve posted below is accurate for this release; hopefully James won’t kill me if I’m wrong.  Echoes is the band’s second release, following on from the equally amazing The Fruit Fallen (about which more in an article to come), and it acts as a sort of…well, I hate to use the term odds and sods release, but it is a half live, half studio effort that presents us a pair of new(ish) songs, a remastered track from the TFF sessions, and three live performances from 3RP, Progday and Terra Incognita festivals.  It’s a nice way to get a taste for the band in a live setting as well as to hear some material that is fresh and perhaps less familiar.

Echoes of Edensong opens with ‘Beneath the Tide.’  In the studio, this track is just a shade over 10 minutes long (it stretches in the live take included later to over 13), but it’s an odd thing, those 10 minutes.  I feel that they last far longer, and yet not that long at all.  This was the very first Edensong song I heard, and what a way to start off my listening.  I am a person who gets very involved in my music…I feel it keenly, and sometimes I can see it, smell it, almost taste it.  And from the very first quiet acoustic bits, through the final crescendo that drops to waves crashing on the beach, I am completely and wholly held in this song’s thrall.  I have goosebumps almost from the offing, and Schoen’s lyrics are, quite frankly, amazing.  His delivery is powerful, and while I’ll admit that my first listens found me somewhat less than enamoured with his voice, I’ve come to not only accept it but enjoy it.  He’s passionate in how he sings…his voice can be plaintive, fragile, or vitriolic and angry in equal measure, and it’s a huge part of why this song is so successful.  The arrangements are intense, with great changes between light and dark, heavy and soft.  There’s not a single out of place note.  The ending solos…harmony guitar at first, then a solo guitar, then violin, flute, keyboard, all in turn…build so powerfully.  I’m not playing the CD, but as I write this, the goosebumps are already coming back.

Yeah, it’s that good.

And better.

And I’ll put it bluntly…for me, this is THE song of 2010.  Full stop.

It’d almost be impossible to match the intensity of ‘Beneath the Tide,’ and Edensong wisely goes a different direction with ‘Lorelai.’  No, this is not a cover of the old Styx tune; it is, in fact, a piece the band contributed to the Haiti Projekt benefit CD release following the tragic Haitian earthquakes.  Gentle, pastoral, filled with carefully constructed layers of acoustic guitar and keyboards, this piece has a mystical feel that is unlike its predecessor on the album.  Again Schoen’s lyrics shine, and the tale the song tells is engrossing and involving.  I greatly enjoy this one…it may not offer the sheer intensity of ‘Beneath the Tide,’ but it makes up for that in mood and pure emotion.

The studio ‘side’ of this release is closed out with a remastered version of ‘To See but Not Believe,’ a track ‘hidden’ on the band’s 2008 debut album, cunningly added to that album’s closing track ‘The Reunion’ (so no, that song is not nearly 22 minutes long, much to my initial chagrin).  I haven’t A/B tested these versions to each other, but this release’s take on the track seems a bit punchier, a bit more open and breathy in some areas, and in general just a bit clearer and more precise.  It’s nice to have it as an individual track finally!

‘Side 2’ of this album opens with ‘The Reunion,’ of all tracks (so yes, we’ve got those two inverted here).  This performance was taken from the band’s concert at Progday in 2009.  This is a nicely handled rendition of this track from The Fruit Fallen, cello and harmony vocals mixing nicely with the acoustic guitars.  I feel it perhaps lacks a tiny bit of the intensity of the studio version, but in exchange we get a bit more rawness, a bit more organic passion.  ‘The Reunion,’ like much of Edensong’s material, reminds me so much of classic 1970’s progressive music, retuned for a new age.  It’s got all the hallmarks sound wise, but with plenty of modern influences that set this apart from being just another symphonic prog retread.  It’s a toss up between this and the studio take for me, honestly…I like both for totally different reasons.

We take a quick jaunt up the road (and back in time by about a month) to the 3 Rivers Prog Festival for a live take on ‘Beneath the Tide,’ our album’s opening track.  Where the studio take is a case study in balancing the contrasting elements of light and dark, this one is acid and vitriol almost from the start.  Intensity ramped up past 11, Shoen spitting lyrics out like a man possessed, flute and acoustic guitar not even coming close to muting the crunching guitar and organ.  If this were the first time I had heard this song (and had I been in the audience), I’m sure I’d have been struck dumb by it.  I can listen to it with a bit more detachment having the studio version to compare it to, but still…it’s pretty damned impressive that a band this young can craft something like this so early in their career.

We close out with a so-called bonus track, a final live song taken from Edensong’s performance at the Terra Incognita festival in Quebec from May of 2010.  Now, I have to come right out and say that ‘The Sixth Day’ is one of the most goosebump inducing songs on Edensong’s The Fruit Fallen album, for reasons I’ll hopefully be discussing with you very soon.  This live rendition does their studio effort proud, showcasing the wide dynamics and contrasts in tone and sound that seem to be hallmarks of this band’s music.  I think Schoen is a far more impressive vocalist live than his studio efforts have typically shown, and if he could tap into the energy and power that he shows on this song…wow.  Great performance of an already great song.

Do I sound like a fan boy?


But bear this in mind…I’ve been listening to these albums a good bit now.  And despite the fact that I have 30 other albums to review, I am not yet ready to have these leave my CD player, be it at home or at work.  I’m hooked, well and truly.

Edensong is a band to watch over the coming years.  I think truly that they have what it takes to move on to even bigger things with each successive release, and Echoes of Edensong, as great as it is (and I think…no, I know…that this one will be on my year end top ten list), is still the voice of a young band discovering themselves.  It almost frightens me to think where they’re going from here.

Get this one.  Yesterday.

Track Listing:
1. Beneath The Tide 10:19
2. Lorelai 04:11
3. To See But Not Believe 08:42
4. The Reunion (Live in NC) 10:02
5. Beneath The Tide (Live in PA) 13:12
6. BONUS: The Sixth Day (Live in QC) 09:57

Band Mambers (current line-up):
James Byron Schoen - Guitars and voice
Stefan Paolini - Keyboards and voice
Tony Waldman - Drums and percussion
Matt Bauer - Drums and percussion
TD Towers - Bass
Michael Lunapiena - Cello
Barry Seroff – Flute

Find out more:


Anonymous said...

"On Saturday, October 16th, New York based orchestral rockers Edensong will take the stage at the Magic Room in Brighton, MA."
I take it you'll be at this show?
Just a few comments: You say twice that this band is young, how young are they?
I wondered while reading this review if James Schoen might be related to Neil Schoen of Journey.
(And finally, you had me going on the first paragraph - I think I was 16 with no music playing, LOL!)
PS. Sounds like a cool band, with cello and flute, how cool is that, to set moods with these two instruments!
And two drummers!

Anonymous said...

Wow, killer review. Gotta check this band out.