Surface of Eceon - "The King Beneath the Mountain"
(Strange Attractors Audio House 2001, SAAH 004)
From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)
Every now and then an album comes along to redefine a genre and take it into whole new dimensions. The King Beneath the Mountain may be just such an album to the space rock genre. Combining the blissed out aesthetics of the 90's shoe gazers and exploratory notions of post rock pioneers, but stretching out into spaces far beyond where either of those two genres have gone before, Surface of Eceon guides space rock into the 21st century.
The band, comprising Dick Baldwin, Daron Gardner, and Aaron Snow of Landing, Adam Forkner of Yume Bitsu, and Phil Jenkins, seems to have been just the right combination to generate some true magic. Each member brings the more exploratory elements of their own bands to this project. The three guitar attack of Baldwin, Forkner, and Snow, manipulated by a huge arsenal of effects pedals, gives the improvised music a vast depth and stirring beauty. The lead guitar in the latter of half of The Open Sea is achingly beautiful, almost transcendental (not the only time listening to this album that I felt that way). This "open sea" is truly breathtaking, but make no mistake, it is an alien sea we are passing over. Silence Beheads Us, as the title suggests, is the quietest piece on the album; it breaths with great depth, like something alive. The title may be a metaphor. Listening to it, you may feel as if your head has left your body and soared into skies of a color you've never seen before. In sheer contrast, The Grasshopper King bounds along at a wildly exuberant pace, taking us on a brisk journey through strange worlds infested with clouds of extraterrestrial locusts.
The entire album balances on the gorgeously rendered Deep Grey Night. The music undulates on slow waves of bliss in a world of cool mists, bringing the listener to finally stand before The Council of Locusts, presumably to await some kind of judgement regarding ascension. The underlying intensity of this piece will take you to new highs, preparing you for the final journey, the 17-minute epic, Ascension to the Second Tier of the Outer Plane of Dryystn (Ecyeon). Jenkins' drumming is wonderful throughout the album, but truly shines here. It reminded me a little of Nick Mason's percussion in the early days of Pink Floyd, with lovely and complex cymbal work. Ascension... is a slowly building piece that twists and winds its way upon layers of languid, jangling guitars all the way to a gloriously mind-bending climax, finally drifting off into the misty worlds beyond.
The King Beneath the Mountain is what every great space rock album should be: a musical voyage to worlds unknown. It gets my vote for best album of 2001.
For more information you can visit the Surface Of Eceon web site at: http://www.surfaceofeceon.com/.
The King Beneath The Mountain is distributed by Strange Attractors. You can visit their web site at: http://www.strange-attractors.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Strange Attractors Audio House; PO Box 2827; Olympia, WA 98507.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald