It was almost exactly this time last year that I discovered EBB with their remarkable genre bending debut album Mad and Killing Time, released in late 2022. 2023 proved to be quite a breakthrough for this previously little-known band from Scotland, with attention grabbing, high quality and high-octane performances in a hat-trick of appearances at UK festivals, Fusion, Prog for Peart and Summer’s End. They had moved some way from their previous manifestation as the ‘Erin Bennett Band’ in 2013, and on this New Year’s Day release they continue to defy boundaries and mix genres, but seemingly move a little more towards an Art Rock or Progressive style, which will please the fans of that genre who seem to have taken the band to their hearts.
Similar to Mad and Killing Time, mini-album The Management of Consequences has a conceptual theme, but just like their previous release all the songs can equally stand alone on their own merits. The band’s publicity states that:
“The Management of Consequences is a companion piece to the album Mad & Killing Time… it deals with and resolves many of the issues raised in that album. If Mad & Killing Time was a comment on the human condition, The Management of Consequences is a more personal examination. The EP is dedicated to Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy which is referenced to throughout the work. The gist being: that the human condition and indeed, any condition, all find terminal irrelevance on a cosmic scale.”
Well, the human condition and a supermassive black hole all covered in three fine rock songs – what more could you want! In my view, the concept and imagery, similar to Mad and Killing Time, do not overpower this release, and you can enjoy it on many levels – as a conceptual piece or just as an entertaining slice of imaginative rock with a variety of styles. Erin Bennett has shared that “the over-arching concept wrapped around the three songs is that life and all of its ups and downs find terminal irrelevance when compared to something so all-consuming like Sagitarius A*.” It’s hard to argue with that!
Silent Saviour comprises three distinct sections. There is an extended atmospheric intro with synthesisers, saxophones and shimmering percussion, feeling as if we are walking across a landscape or floating in space, which the band have called The Awakening. EBB have likened this section to the waking of human consciousness when things seemed simpler and more serene, and the music fits that description very well.
Gradually, out of that cosmic soup, the tempo rises, and with a Van der Graaf Generator-like melody and riff the main body of the song coagulates in front of our eyes and ears. EBB call this section The Work, Erin sharing that this main part delves “into what it is to be human and alive… in and out of social and cultural restrictions and expectations, as well as, perhaps, the expectations we have over ourselves… it is a comment on the complication of existing within all of those seemingly large and overwhelming things.” Erin comes in with her trademark dirty guitar, driven on by the characteristic powerhouse drumming of Anna Fraser. Nikki Francis contributes so much to this track with her skilful synth and organ work, quite apart from the saxophone. Bennett’s outstanding vocals swagger in distinctively, supported by the inimitable Kitty Biscuits. The Van der Graaf Generator pulsing at the centre of this dark piece seems to be inexorably drawing us towards the heart of the black hole as they drive on relentlessly, this section finishing powerfully and suddenly as we are seemingly plunged into it… seemingly to emerge in a pub! This final coda, Reeling in the Pub, features a brief Celtic reel, which Bennett says was recorded live in their pub at The Lodge Arts Collective. Difficult to argue with that as a finale! Bennett has explained, “within this umbrella concept of the struggles with one’s own consciousness, we always seem to be able to resolve into some fun that seems to make the whole business irrelevant”. It is rather grounding and cheering as a conclusion to what may feel like quite a dark piece… not many VdGG songs ended down your ‘local’, let’s face it.
If you want to know more about the underlying concept, EBB have produced a high quality 24-page colour booklet with photos, lyrics and information to accompany the album. Nevertheless, they do like to leave some of the work to the listener’s imagination… it’s definitely a release to try to get in physical format as this band gives you the whole package.
Cost and Consequence may already be familiar to those that have seen EBB play live in the last 12 months. When I first saw them, at Fusion in March 2023, they introduced it as a sort of anti-war song related to the Ukrainian war. However, Erin has shared that it originally described one’s search for ‘enlightenment’, but when they were developing the song the war in Ukraine broke out and they realised that some of the lyrics could be used metaphorically on the consequences of war. It’s strange how songs can take on layers of meaning. This also shows that EBB who, under all their rock and roll pizzazz and brimming stage energy, are also a very thoughtful band who draw deeply from the well of their emotions and are not afraid to touch on important subjects.
Whatever meaning or interpretation you apply to this piece, it seems clear that this may be one of the best songs so far in EBB’s developing canon as it drips with atmosphere and feeling and throbs with rock power, particularly in the lithe bass of Bad Dog. The disturbing mid-section showcases the remarkable skills of Kitty Biscuits as she maniacally and tortuously vocalises in a bizarre ‘scat’ style over a crunching battery of rock sound, which Bennett feels symbolises ‘the raw effects of war on a person’s heart and mind’. Nikki Francis swoops and dives over this passage with a great synth line before it recedes. A single organ note sets up the finale with some great vocals from Bennett and harmonies, presumably from Suna Dasi, over Francis’ fluid keyboard work before the whole band join in with a wave of instruments and harmony vocals. Long may this cracking piece remain a key part of their live shows.
The final song, Nieu (which Erin has said in a recent podcast for Progzilla Radio is just her fancy way of spelling ‘New’!), was also showcased in some 2023 shows, Erin sharing with TPA that this was borne out of some personal challenge and analysis:
“I was digging through some really personal stuff and felt as though there were many different versions of myself… and it was a crap shoot as to who was going to be in the driver’s seat of ‘Me’… I imagined a scenario where I locked all of my various selves in a room and let them fight it out until only one was left standing. And hoped that the one left over was the ultimate ‘Me’ that I had always wanted to be.”
This remarkable song commences with echoes of the earlier Celtic reel in the first song, hinting that even when one is really trying to focus on your inner self, there are constant distractions in life. A tremendously frenetic organ riff from Francis plunges us into the heart of the song as the band hits on a killer groove… but that bloody background reel is still buzzing away! Bennett’s impassioned vocals echo the internal struggle between her multiple selves. The production on this multi-layered gem by Finn (aka bass player Bad Dog) is so effective and evocative. Bennett lets loose with a short solo before the charismatic Kitty Biscuits comes to the fore with her idiosyncratic and slightly maniacal recitation of the 1838 poem Jenny Kiss’d Me, by English essayist Leigh Hunt. It was written about the time Hunt, having just recovered from the flu, visited the Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane (‘Jenny’) Welsh during a flu pandemic, and out of the blue ‘Jenny’ kissed him, which had a very big impact upon him. Bennett describes this arresting passage as slightly comical, but also explains it fits as “Hunt’s snapshot of a moment in his life, when everything else is rendered irrelevant because of the power of that one moment.” Reading that it sounds rather a stretch, but let me assure you that EBB pull it off with their usual brio and sheer force of personality. We will never know which of Erin Bennett’s personalities emerge victorious or whether the contest is still ongoing. However, as we hear the return of the ominous engulfing synth drone of Sagittarius A* at the end of the song, as the main concept suggests, in the great scheme of things none of it really matters!
As this release fades away into oblivion we hear Erin Bennett saying in the distance:
“… at the end of the day we shouldn’t have genres in music anyway, it should all just be music, eh?”
Erin is, of course, correct so we will not seek to pigeonhole this diverse release. As a foretaste of their next full album, EBB really are flowing forward into 2024 inexorably with great skill, imagination and dazzling style… not that any of this matters, of course!
01. Silent Saviour (8:26)
02. Cost and Consequence (5:40)
03. Nieu (4:07)
Total Time – 18:13
Erin Bennett – Guitars, Lead Vocals
Suna Dasi – Synthesisers, Backing Vocals
Nikki Francis – Hammond Organ, Piano, Synthesisers, Saxophone, Flute
Kitty Biscuits – Backing Vocals, Spoken Word, Percussion
Bad Dog – Bass
Anna Fraser – Drums
Record Label: Boudicca Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 1st January 2024
– Death and the Maiden [EP] (2019)
– Mad and Killing Time (2022)
– The Management of Consequences [EP] (2024)