With the multitude of releases, increasingly so under the progressive banner, it comes as no surprise that many fine albums drift under the radar. Those of a more unusual, experimental and of a wholly instrumental nature may struggle more than others to be noticed and although only released in June I fear one such album might be Esthema’s third album, Long Goodbye. And that would be a real shame, because this accomplished sextet, who hail from Boston (Massachusetts) richly deserve to be heard.
I must admit that prior to receiving Long Goodbye, the band’s third album, I had not come across these guys, but after only a few bars of the opening track I was thinking that if this album continues in this vein then I’m in for a real treat and although the music of Long Goodbye takes us on much more diverse journey, the opening track serves the album well. The album liner notes tell us that the three part opening piece, Three Sides To Every Story, “was inspired by how two individuals can be a part of one conversation but never hear what each other has to say.” Well the conversation here starts in a tranquil setting with the achingly restrained Part I opening with the lightly strummed guitar of Andy Milas shortly afterwards joined by Onur Dilisen on violin. Along with cello from Naseem Alatrash they form a rich bed of strings, serving as a touching back drop for the delightful stringed melody. Only two minutes in duration, but a splendid opening statement.
Again lead by Milas and as Part I segues into Part II the conversation takes on an altogether different tone, becoming increasingly more animated with each of the band members pushing and pulling both musically and rhythmically. Although the album is primarily performed on acoustic instruments, there is no lack of power and dynamic and with a different set of instruments this album could have taken on a truly different skin. One more akin to the more adventurous in the progressive metal field combined with notable exponents drawn from the jazz rock, fusion camps. Another striking element of Esthema’s music, displayed throughout Three Sides To Every Story Part II, is the way it effortlessly moves across the globe, blending the more prominent, Eastern influences succinctly into the West and back again.
As Part II reaches a dynamic conclusion we see the conversation reach a mutual compromise noted by the recapitulation of the main themes and as the track returns to the opening melody – nicely bookending the suite.
From this fine opening Esthema demonstrate a cohesive approach to their music, a music that fuses and encompasses prog, fusion, jazz, chamber, classical, Gypsy, folk and more whilst deriving inspiration from music across the Western, Eastern (including Middle Eastern) hemispheres. Not only do they achieve all of this admirably, but throughout demonstrate an empathy to those genres and ethnic cultures. Although primarily an acoustic album I can envisage Long Goodbye having a broad appeal across a wide spectrum.
The most upbeat track from the album comes in the form of Fire And Shadow and certainly Tom Martin and George Lernis conjure up a driving, if not toe tappingly friendly, pulse to the tune. The middle portion of the track is a more liquid affair with some fine violin bringing to mind the wonderful Akihisa Tsuboy’s more acoustic outings. Whereas the subject matter for Reflections From The Past deals with the emotions of being taken away from loved ones, family and friends and reflected in this darker, atmospheric and more sprawling piece – composed by George Lernis. The jazziest and freeform piece on the album, however as appears to be the nature of Esthema, there’s a stunning, upbeat middle section.
Album favourite comes in the form of the gently undulating Without A Moment’s Notice. A great track, especially on headphones, initially with the intertwining guitar and strings drifting effortlessly together and forming a calming aura. The track is however a slow builder and at the mid point the track takes on a sort of ‘danse macabre’, initially lead off by Tom Martin, but swiftly joined by the rest of the musicians. This is track that needs, deserves and rewards multiple listening sessions as it subtlety reveals its charms – inadvertently demonstrating the band’s obvious understanding of more unusual modes, scales and rhythms, but without losing the essence or beauty of the music. Without A Moment’s Notice closes out, primarily with Andy Milas and Mac Ritchey.
In between the lengthier tracks is a great ensemble piece and the delightful Reminiscence, which derives its inspiration from the retelling of old stories and the joy that they bring. This is in stark contrast to theme of the closing piece and the album’s title track. A sombre but absorbing journey chronicling the passing of a life. Onur Dilisen and Naseem Alatrash superbly capture the darker, concluding moments…
Esthema do have an audio page on their website offering brief samples of each of the tracks, although I’m not entirely sure there is enough to do the tracks justice, but hopefully sufficient to make you seek out this imaginative and cultured band. Finally, like most good music it derives its strength and character from the interaction of the musicians. Esthema have managed this in spades and Long Goodbye joins an ever growing list of fine albums released during 2014.
01. Three Sides To Every Story, Part I (2:01)
02. Three Sides To Every Story, Part II (8:21)
03. Three Sides To Every Story, Part III (3:19)
04. Fire And Shadow (6:49)
05. Reflections From The Past (9:07)
06. Without A Moment’s Notice (9:22)
07. Reminiscence (4:22)
08. Long Goodbye (11:41)
Total Time – 55:03
Andy Milas – Guitar
Onur Dilisen – Violin
Naseem Alatrash – Cello
Mac Ritchey – Oud & Bouzouki
Tom Martin – Bass
George Lernis – Drums & Percussion
Record Label: Independent
Year Of Release: 2014
Long Goodbye (2014)
The Nearness And Nowness Of Things (2009)
Apart From The Rest (2007)