Eschar – Nova
Eschar are musical nomads, traipsing across a land of rolling hills, slithering rivers and flower specked fields. Nova, the band’s second release, following on from 2012’s Elements is the mapping out of a journey which takes in the sights, sounds and smells of a world entirely their own making. In literature, authors like Tolkien, Pratchett and Rowling conjured tales in an entirely fantastical setting, not suffice with the possibilities of reality. Here, Eschar are doing very much the same; creating powerful, provocative imagery with a charming an elegant instrumental record. You’d have no idea that, when the record opens up and swallows you whole in a swirl of progressive psychadelia, that the four piece are not from a different planet at all, but are actually from Woking.
Why have a singer when every musician can be the frontman instead? is there motto, and across its 55 minute length, their approach is never anything but convincing. Aphotic, a short, subtle track, made up of echoic guitars, is hardly a precursor for the harder hitting Monolith which follows, but what it does do is set the dreamy mood of the album. Songs like Monolith and This Is Not For You seem effortless in establishing a groove – think Cloudkicker – before a whirlpool of deft instrumentation begins to swirl all around it. Rory Gilhepsy’s drumming is very cymbal heavy, so much so that it gives the whole sound a compellingly oceanic sound, while effects lathered guitars flicker in and out of the foray.
The production here is top class. Each instrument is polished and sharp, yet given enough room for their haziness to pour out like a fog. Nuances are, hardly unsurprisingly, as common as Umpa Lumpa’s are in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but each one seems to have been given an equal amount of care and consideration. Their compositions are dense but never overpopulated.
The aforementioned This Is Not For You makes use of a sprawling chord progression and spinning groove to move the listener, fluctuating between major and minor chords at just the right moment to raise the hairs on your arms. Echoes and Reflections meanwhile, is a simply gorgeous, harmony infused interlude track to segue between the two longer, more consuming passages it lies between. The harmonies are almost painful they’re that beautiful; it tingles the senses wells up you with emotion before handing the baton to Discovery One. One of the highlights of the album, it takes a jolting rhythm and builds on top of it with haunting melodies, more crashing waves from Gilhepsy’s kit and, occasionally bursting out from a burrow somewhere in the songs cavernous depths, a little swinging riff. By contrast, it sticks out like Sid Vicious at a cocktail party, but its contrasts such as this, which are smartly sprinkled across Nova, which gives the album a great dynamic vibrancy.
Add Contact Light’s U2 on acid soundscape - which is again rich in riffs that you move uncontrollably – to their palette and you have a fantastic record. Broadly speaking, this is post rock, but the term is so often too vague and once more does no justice in properly explaining the nomadic spirit of this band. They never really sit in place enough to be defined as one thing. Sure, they have a recognisable sound, but it’s executed with a bold sense of freedom and that’s what makes it such a great listen. It steps away from reality and if you allow yourself to follow, then you’re in for a treat.
Words: Phil Weller