Echolyn - mei

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Velveteen Records
Catalog Number: VR2009
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:33:00

I like Echolyn and I like mei. Some parts are simply stunning - that which happens at the 9-minute mark for example, where we get a southwest jazzy feel. This is one of my favourite sections of the piece, and there are numerous sections that qualify. But, those who are just coming to Echolyn might wish Ray Weston were a stronger vocalist. Listening to this myself in amongst folks who are not Echolyn fans at all, I took that objective step back and tried to hear this as they would. Not to knock Ray, mind you. As I said, I like mei and I don't have problems with Weston's voice. Vocals are shared Brett Kull and Chris Buzby, as well, which only adds to the contrasts of sound and texture.

If this were an album filled with a number of separate tracks, it sure would be easier to review in terms of reference. But mei is "mei," and nothing but "mei." And "mei" is a diverse suite of music with numerous textures. Some subtle, some full belt rockers, all with that characteristic Americana feel -- that is, the mid-west crossed with the southwest. Each member of the band - Chris Buzby on keys, Weston on bass, Paul Ramsey on drums, and Brett Kull on guitar - excel as musicians. I love every bit of instrumental moment, it's epic, it's moody, it's thoughtful, it's harsh, it's smooth... it is the kind of diversity one hopes to get from an album, without the feel of chaos. Unless that's the effect of a particular segment. The musical elements that make up the Echolyn sound - at least in these post-reformation days - include references to the 40s. The booklet is filled with vintage photos that I'd place right in that time period - roughly late 30s through early 50s. The other era referenced the 70s. At 25 minutes or so, it is jazz-rock a la Boz Scaggs and Steely Dan. But Echolyn can be angular as well, reminding me of Spock's Beard as well. Especially in their big moments with lots of organ and the choppy rhythm. But there's a bit of the blues in there, too. It is that bluesy keyboard style that makes me think of Spock's Beard.

Those expecting mei to be Cowboy Poems Free part II, will find something quite different and something that references back to that album both stylistically and lyrically, as at one point during the track, we hear "too late, too late for everything." Maybe it's the string section and the moody beginning to the album, but there is an air of added sophistication to this release, too.

The more I play it, the more I listen to it, there's more and more that I like about it. If you haven't yet got into Echolyn, now is a good time to start. As we start assessing the best albums of the year, mei is certainly going to be among them. I know it's going to be on my list.

mei (49:33)

Christopher Buzby - keyboards & vocals
Brett Kull - guitars & vocals
Paul Ramsey - drums & percussion
Ray Weston - bass, vocals
Additional Musicians: Sarah Green - flute
Jian Shen - clarinet
Jordan Perlson - percussion
Emily Botel-Barnard - violin
Janosh Armer - violin
Jonathon Atkins - cello
Eric Huber - vibraphone, timpani, marimba, tambourine

Echolyn (1991)
Suffocating The Bloom (1992)
...And Every Blossom (1993)
As The World (1995)
When The Sweet Turns Sour (1996)
Cowboy Poems Free (2000/2008*)
ProgFest '94: The Official Bootleg (2002)
mei (2002)
A Little Nonesense: Now And Then (2002)
Official Live Bootleg: Jersey Tomato (2003)
As The World (expanded reissue) (2005)
The End Is Beautiful (2005)
Echolyn (**) (2012)
I Heard You Listening (2015)
Home Brew Bootleg Stew 1994-95 (VHS) (1995, oop)
Stars And Gardens Vol 4. (DVD) (2004)

*remastered **not the same album as the debut

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: October 20th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 979
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]