Eszett – Ambient Music Comes Back Strong

Apr 16th, 2012 | By | Category: Sounds

I spent the weekend listening to the music of Greensboro-based post-rock band Eszett. I listened to their available content from MySpace and Radio Greensboro at WUAG. Unlike previous reviews, I haven’t spoken to the band itself or seen them perform – this is strictly a review of the recorded output available.

The band is instrumental, something that makes a foray into music every 10 years or so. In the 60’s we had The Ventures; in the 70’s, we had variations from Frank Zappa, Edgar Winter and Jeff Beck. Of course that list is short, as there are many more. But a change came in the late 60’s. Although below the bottom of the list of bands I enjoyed from that time period, the Grateful Dead were largely responsible for creating the jam band format. Every Dead show had some degree of spontaneous improvisation between songs. That has carried through to successors like Phish and Gov’t Mule.

I can’t put Eszett under the category of a jam band. I’ve been told that their musically is actually far more composed than what I discerned from listening. But that isn’t in any way detrimental – coming across as improv from the recordings is what drew me in.

By having no vocals, the instruments carry the melody and counter-melodies, giving the musicians a chance to use more varied soundscapes and colorations that might not be appropriate if vocals were present. Removed from that support role, the music becomes a moving and varied canvas of timbre and melodic snippets.

The first piece I listened to was their live performance on WUAG late last year. It had no name listed and ran just over 30 minutes. Having no title makes it more intriguing by keeping you from attaching some significance to the music from the title.

I was enthralled by the moving in and out of melodies, usually starting simply and then taking over the tune to drive it forward. Extensive use of dynamics drew me in further. Twelve or so minutes into the piece, there was shift to a different direction. This culminated in a rising crescendo that reached its peak around 19 minutes. And the music kept my attention all the way to the end, where the music faded out – not on a volume drop but by letting melodic content end. The element of surprise, as a recent review reader stated, keeps our attention when listening.

This is the most interesting music that I’ve heard in quite a while. Eszett took what is arguably a very different format – ambient instrumental and met the challenge head-on, creating interesting and intriguing soundscapes in the process. I would suspect that this band is even more enjoyable in a live situation and look forward to seeing them perform live. In the meantime, follow this link to Radio Greensboro, or on MySpace, get some headphones (not earbuds, which cannot do justice to this type of music because of their limited frequency range), relax, and listen in a quiet room, where you can appreciate the subtleties and refined musicianship of Eszett.

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