Friday, March 13, 2009

Album Review: Emanuel and the Fear

Emanuel and the Fear is a 11-piece Orchestral Dance-Rock band fronted by Emanuel Ayvas and in February their self-titled debut EP was released. Since then, they’ve been labeled Deli Magazine’s artist of the month, played to sold-out shows, toured with the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Spoon and the National, and are playing at SXSW next week. Their 5-song EP is an eclectic piece of work that is impressive on all musical levels, which is not as surprising once you find out that Emanuel and the Fear list a large range of musical influences, from Beethoven and Rachmaninoff to Arcade Fire and Daft Punk.

I got hold of the EP and consequently wrote the following as I listened to it for the first time. Instead of doing a re-write of my take of the album in a more professional tone, I decided just to post the initial thoughts I had, because each song is so distinctly different there's no way to comprehensively evaluate the EP as a whole unless each song is described. Once again, this is raw, first impressions, but now that I’ve listened to it all, I gotta say, if there was any reason to advocate for a return of the entire album listening experience that has been damaged by the downloading of a single here or there by today’s technology (I mean really, people don’t appreciate albums the same way anymore), this would be it. This thing is beautiful to listen to in its entirety.

The Rain Becomes the Clouds [mp3] – The first selected track for release. We start off with drums, then synth, and then soon a muted electric piano arpeggios in juxtaposition to the beat of the drums as the warmth of trombones and strings emerge alongside both male and female vocals in this multi-layered song. Certainly not a bad way to begin, but I’m hoping for something a bit more to come along.

Comfortable Prison- A simple calm acoustic guitar with an echo-y sliding guitar is not what was expected after the previous instrument-rich track, but the ballad is well produced and constructed, perfect for those moments when you just need to chill, and finishes nicely when the drum kicks in and the female/male harmonies really start belting at the climax of the piece.

Jimme’s Song- After listening to the last two songs, if I didn’t know that this was by the same people, I wouldn’t have suspected it. *That’s* the range on this EP. A beautiful whistle opens an odd combination of electronica and beats before an acoustic guitar comes in. The song starts out a bit sparse but builds energy to the chorus when it seems to lift up from the air and stomp along with an added flanged synth, making my toes tap. This 8-minute songs ends with an electronica breakdown.

We’re All Alright Tonight – I’ve never listened to an EP like this. I don’t even know how to classify this anymore. Dare I say this song has a hint of Devo? Omg, is that autotune? And now a flute is playing alongside a soft synth that sounds stolen from an old 8-bit Nintendo game. At the same time, this song is so orchestral, my brain really doesn’t know what to make of it.

Two – Annnnd we close with a soft piano playing a classical piece. I thought it was merely a sample of a classical song at first being used as an intro, but oh no. This track is purely piano, and purely a beautiful way to pay homage to the classical side of the musical world. Nicely done.

Conclusion: This is a fantastic debut EP that takes all sorts of unexpected twists and turns down all different kinds of genres, constantly converging the new with the old. Sophisticated orchestral rock/pop indie is the only way to begin a description of this diverse album and makes one very excited for the upcoming full length album. If you like your music to sparkle, pick apart your mind and throw you up in the air only to catch you and set you gently back down on the ground again - don't just grab one song, get the entire EP.

Get the EP on iTunes

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