Prog Rock music takes commitment and concentration to create and sometimes even to listen to. If requested to express spontaneous keywords that describe this style of music, the spectrum encompasses intellectual, unusual, off-beat, story-telling, conceptual, left-field, left-bank, innovative, challenging, technical, proficient, and soundscapes – before a rapid argument then ensues… People begin to reminisce about rhythmic & percussive innovations, weird chord and key changes, poetic & lyrical worlds of wonder wrapped in interesting cover art and spice dusted with the artistic influences of sci-fi, fantasy, and on occasion all veering off into the realms of serious WTF, before settling down to a good, hard bitch about what is or is not true Prog! All good fun and, why not?
Ebb have redefined themselves as ‘Art Rock’…. Writing and playing in their own style; telling their own stories and wrestling with their own concepts seemed the way forward for the five women and one guy.
And about that: they are nearly all women…. Was there a problem with the ‘old guard’ fans of the genre? Well, despite dire warnings from musical friends… No. Not at all. Prog people of all walks, ages, and genders have been warm, inclusive, and receptive to the band. So there! It’s the power of music, people!
This one nearly passed me by, I received an email inviting me to listen to the promo from Scotland-based art/prog/rock band Ebb’s new release, “a concept album about the love and friendship that grew between an old dying ex-army musician and his housekeeper cum part-time sex worker…”. Yes, really, unfortunately I was snowed under at the time and I didn’t follow it up. Which could have been my loss because ‘Mad & Killing Time’ is definitely one of the more intriguing and compelling releases I’ve heard this year so far.
What you get with Ebb is brilliantly constructed songs, incredible musicianship and an odd, quirky attitude that is entirely unique. Imagine King Crimson and Hawkwind rocking up with Magenta in tow and a persistent urge to record something that sounds like bastardised 70’s Canterbury scene progressive rock with a modern harder edge and you won’t be far wrong. There is true musical theatre here but musical theatre from a parallel universe of steampunk infused science fantasy, progressive rock written by Michael Moorcock and Raymond Feist perhaps?
Saxes, trumpets, flutes, clarinets, superb guitars, fluid keyboards and an elegant Hammond organ combine with a dynamic rhythm section to deliver a vibrant, occasionally chaotic soundscape that is utterly addictive at times. All of this vibrant musical wonder is held together perfectly by the sublimely seductive vocals of Erin Bennett, I’ve not heard anything that sounds like Ebb before!
The highlights on this incredible release come fast and thick with the atmospheric, slow burning The Animal Said: ‘I’ and the faster paced, funky Tension leading the charge. Deliciously dark, mysterious and intense, Hecate stands tall and proud and the wistful elegance and melancholy of What Under What is sublime. The thunderous energy of Violet Is Tits gives this enjoyable baroque instrumental a life of its own and Krystal at the Red Light is another brooding and compelling listen with touches of King Crimson giving it a complexity all of its own. Confess adds more of the same and then we are treated to the utterly brilliant Mary Jane, an imposingly majestic piece of music where the glorious vocals hit you hard and this exceptional song closes the album out on a complete high.
When you listen to as much new music as I do, it takes something truly special to stand out and ‘Mad & Killing Time’ is just that, Ebb delivering a musical highlight of the year and one that is totally unique to this incredibly talented bunch of artists. Go seek it out, you will not de disappointed in any way at all.
Released 1st November, 2022.
Order from bandcamp here: