Despite these strangest of times, 2020 has continued to give musically, the creative standards being exceptionally high. Now and again, it is wonderful to stumble across gems such as The Awakening, especially this being the debut album of the French band Esthesis. Their only previous musical output has been the EP, Raising Hands, issued last year.
It's one of those total immersion albums, which ends almost the way it begins, the last fading synthesiser moments of Still Far To Go coming full circle with the ethereal introduction to Downstream.
The quartet, led by Aurelien Goude on vocals, guitars, bass and keyboards, also features Baptiste Desmares on guitars, Marc Anguill on bass and Florian Rodrigues on drums. Together they create some evocative soundscapes and hypnotic moods, the album dealing with the notion of identity.
Downstream, the longest track, offers shades of Tangerine Dream, but the overriding influence is Pink Floyd through the steady rhythm and David Gilmour-like guitars, which soar high. There are also a few interesting vocal passages, one of which includes whistling.
No Soul To Sell has a sinister metal edge, but is far more direct and moody until it explodes half way through, and there's even a flamenco-sounding acoustic guitar towards the end.
Goude's piano is dominant in the slower paced High Tide which ebbs and flows in a wash of synthesisers until a huge guitar-led passage breaks through, ending gently with the piano coming back in.
The strummed acoustic introduction to Chameleon leads into a mellower and more flowing, commercial song with great harmonies and some wonderful keyboard work.
However, the highlight is the title track, The Awakening, storm clouds brewing at the start, a haunting repeated keyboard motif anchoring some beautiful atmospherics and aural colour, together with guitar flourishes that dart in and out. That flowing central theme sounds almost Middle Eastern or Gong-like at times. It is mystical and magnificent.
Mathilde Collet joins the line-up to provide backing vocals on Still Far To Go, another highly emotional and expressive piece on which the piano and echoey synthesisers take centre stage.
Pink Floyd's A Momentary Lapse Of Reason is writ large across this album, but it is undoubtedly a very impressive debut which has set the bar very high for this band.
*** Alison Reijman
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