Monday, April 13, 2009

Mark S. Tucker reviews "Midnight Book"

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange by Mark S. Tucker

There are a number of what we can quite easily categorize as 'most intelligent musics' in the Western culture—and, by extension, on the planet. Progressive rock is one of them. In its heyday, it spawned the Moody Blues, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant, Yes, Genesis, and an august catalogue of overachievers. Progrock fused multiple modes to come up with a rock-based genre that has persisted as an extremely influential catalyst still growing in its latter-day effects (though itself generically on the wane). In Midnight Book, 22-year old Eric Margan is living proof that the mode inspires superior craftsmanship and processes. He woodshedded in a prog ensemble and then left to put together this extravagant pageant rightly described by promo lit as magnificent, massive, grandiose, and cinematic.

The disc isn't progrock but much more an elaborate example of vaulting pop prog primed to transform the charts on a level with something Danny Elfman might produce. Midnight Book is brilliantly informed by Impressionism, classic rock, and chamber and adagio musics with a dash of smoky nightclub jazz, a form perfectly suited to his often whispery voice. Expect Stravinsky to spice the slow sonics, Gershwin to walk side by side with rapture, Ravel to pull in fog and rain, and Weill to spike the decadence factor throughout a conceptually based song cycle revolving around love, loss, anomie, and desperation. The large session crew, satisfyingly aided by a prog staple, the mellotron, orchestrates the suite as a seamless chaptered processional almost an opera.

The arrangements here are way above average, the quality that most puts Margan in an Elfman stratum, though I'd sift that through E.S. Posthumous and Tony Carey. The strength of his technical talents matches the passion of the intuitive, both promising that, with a debut this overwhelming, his is a name we'll be hearing much more of as the years go by. Hollywood should be snapping Margan up as though he were flowing gold. Not only are the lyrical qualities of Midnight Book many pegs above the crowd, but the guy also plays everydamnthing: guitar, contrabass, vibes, Hammond, flute, celeste, harpsichord, harmonium, and mellotron. Existential romance by way of Byronic refrains has rarely been this evocatively stated.

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