Echo Us - Inland Empire

(CD 2023, 59:01, Absolute Probability Recordings)

The tracks:
  1- Across The Star(3:49)
  2- Echo Us(9:37)
  3- Dark Shock(8:35)
  4- It's Time For Winter(3:43)
  5- Inland Empire(7:43)
  6- Nest Egg(2:12)
  7- From The Furthest Memory(1:14)
  8- Far Above The Sky(5:19)
  9- Solarium(6:33)
10- Singing With You(10:45)

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Inland Empire is the seventh, full length studio release from Echo Us (Ethan J. Matthews). The American multi-instrumentalist and composer has created an album that transports the listener to realms deep within the mind and offers a brief escape from the madness of everyday life.

The gentle, soothing lull of Across The Star opens the album. Electronic ambience mixes with lovely stirring guitars and a vocal line of "across the star" - something the album returns to at certain points on its journey. It's a warming start to proceedings. Sea breeze blows through my hair as Echo Us begins and we are introduced to Ethan's vocals for the first time. Interesting rhythms mix with luscious guitar playing on what is my favourite song on the album at the time of writing. It manages to mix a kind of new age dance energy with film score spirit all within the same song. The music then drifts off into some gorgeous ambience before Dark Shock enters. "It's dark, very, very dark" starts the song up and then we're off. I feel as if I've been put under a spell and led into an enchanted garden by some mystical beings hearing this. It's Time For Winter brings a glistening, gothic glimmer to proceedings. Frost-bitten keys and jangly guitars all combine to make this a standout track. Being one of the shorter and more straight-to-the-point songs on the album, it offers everything that is great about this release into a sweet, little package. Very melodic, very nice. The title track, Inland Empire clocks in at almost eight minutes and combines the epic with the tranquil in equal portions. We also hear the vocal line of "across the star" from the opening track making an appearance again. Nest Egg and From The Furthest Memory follow, adding a mix of instrumental sweetness with a dash of vocal sampling for good measure. Although they're both separate tracks, they act together to form a bridge in-between the longer songs. It is this bridge that leads us gently into the last section of the album and the next two songs, When 'Far Above The Sky and Solarium. Each of these feature electric guitar playing that really touches the soul and add another layer to the already therapeutic foundations of the album. Closing piece, Singing With You is full of the electronic rhythms and sweeping keys we've come to expect. The 'across the star' vocal line is brought back once again, neatly tying everything together and leaves us in a better headspace than we were in when we started this sonic journey.

With its soothing, spiritual energy, Inland Empire is a relaxing listening experience. The ten songs presented here flow much more like a soundtrack than your more regular album might do. Shots of Mike Oldfield soul are injected into the music, especially in the guitars and this is something I absolutely love. You can hear the passion that has gone into this release and it is an album that continues to grow on me with each listen. It's certainly worthy of your time, especially after a stressful day, so be sure to give it a spin. Look at the links below to find out where to listen to and purchase the album.

*** Rickalonius Monk

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