Spock's Beard — Snow
(Metal Blade 3984-14406-2, 2002, 2CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2003-02-01
Okay, so no one is going to accuse Spock’s Beard of laziness. This latest effort, apparently their last with the line-up that has lasted since their second album, presents nearly two hours of music following the story of a character called Snow, an albino cult leader (with psychic powers, I think). This is longer than most Hollywood movies, and is quite a lot to absorb, so I’ll just skim the surface. Musically, it’s more or less like the other Spock’s Beard I’ve heard, a sophisticated prog-pop hybrid with many varying sections and a high standard of musicianship. Vocals are strong throughout, and often feature complicated harmonies and countermelodies. The music ranges from gutsy rock with tight arrangements (“Second Overture” is my favorite of these) to Mellotron-heavy anthems (“Wind at My Back”), and all the players get their times to shine. But it really is the group as a whole, rather than any individuals, that makes the music work, as the arrangements feature many nice touches like Mellotron flute behind acoustic guitars and lush vocal harmonies. I don’t know if Snow will earn the Beard any new fans, but it is a strong work, impressive with its sheer size and consistency. Still, as much as I enjoy it, the whole thing is a bit long to take in, and might be even better at a shorter length.
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From the press release:
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water takes from Echo Us' past and spins it into a whole new direction, one closer to traditional acoustic Celtic music than ever before.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water was composed and recorded during the first few months of 2017. Although Celtic influenced and comprised of a number of re-workings of Irish folk tunes and Breton aires, the album is still in large part new and original Echo Us music that fits right in the Echo Us ‘canon’. “Wake” is a natural progression from “A Priori Memoriae”, which was released to critical acclaim in Europe in 2014.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is Echo Us’ ‘Celtic’ album that was planned for a long time but never executed because of the work on the trilogy that came before it. The album title is a typical ‘Echo Us’ play on words which one can find their own meaning.
“It is also both evocative of the Oregon rain, which I am told is not too unlike the rain in Ireland.”(Matthews)
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is also a comment on conception- which was unintentional when the lyric was written. Matthews surprised himself a few months after writing it, realizing that the song was actually about the nitty gritty, biological workings of what happens when a child is conceived. The folk song it derives from musically describes a courting ritual, one that even today we can all relate to in our own way.
“Come With Me Over the Mountain" in acapella was the musical inspiration for the song, and came into my consciousness after the lyrics were written a few months prior. “ (Matthews)
As with all Echo Us recordings, a number of seeming coincidences resulted in connections being drawn where prior there were none. Another experience of similar capacity was found in oboe samples from A Priori Memoriae that echoed the traditional “May Morning Dew’, also reworked for guitar on the new album.