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that is when he turns us golden
Artist:  Ester Drang
Label:  Red Crown Record Empire
Length:  9 tracks / 22:56 minutes

Recently, Forever (sample)
Always (sample)
Huskavarna (sample)
Shoegazers in space.  Ester Drang follow the lead of My Bloody Valentine and early Starflyer 59 with their slow-tempo swirling distortion and soft vocals, but this is further out there.  It's at the edge of the galaxy.  Picture yourself all alone in a deserted, dilapidated space station, with some faraway pretty pop music drifting through the zero-gravity solitude.  Except the frequent feedback, distorted drum breaks, and occasional electronic beeps make it sound like a bad frequency with too much treble and interference from other signals.  Song titles like "One Hundred Seventeen Days Adrift" further accent the whole lost in space vibe.

There's something artistic, serious, and potentially important about it all, but that is when he turns us golden is not going to do it for most people. Despite the consistent drum beats, it's all too loose.  There's not enough substance of song to hold onto, and the tracks are mostly way too short.  It would make for hip background noise for the indie-rocker if it was only longer, but small chance of that now.  No lyric sheet either--an annoying habit of bands like this, who want to sound like they have something to say but find some pleasure in hiding it from us.  Still, you can make out lines like "Your love's all I need," "You're with me always," and "I know I'll make it through with you," which point to a definite and hopeful dependence that the Creator will rescue them from their aimless drifting among the stars.  Let's hope he provides them with a spiffy new spaceship full of real songs they can share next time. 

Josh Spencer   11/21/99 


Josh Spencer, contributing senior associate editor for The Phantom Tollbooth for over two years, is also publisher and editor-in-chief of spiritual pop culture webzine Stranger Things.  Reviews and articles by him are usually simultaneously published in some form at http://www.strangerthingsmag.com.

Have you ever seen those music comparison charts at your local Christian bookstore? Have you ever bought an album thinking it would be similar to the band it was suggesting? I saw one that compared Wu-Tang Klan to KIIS. That's like comparing Gigi Allen to Burt Bacharach. Those charts have no merit. Many people have been amused by their comparisons, therefore they should update it and put a new comparison edited in: "Fans of Radiohead or Starflyer 59 would love Ester Drang." Yes, I said "love," not like. This album is boldly recommended to anyone that's even remotely interested in emo/indie/shoegazer or any other sub-genre you can make up that pertains to the alternative rock world.

This group first fell on my ears on the Sparkler compilation and I thought, "Oh no!  A wannabe Nirvana group," but much to my delight this band is unique, experimental, and hardly a wannabe anything. They were able to play on my emotions and tug on my heartstrings like no album has since SeBADoh's Bakesale, and they still manage to keep the music uplifting and spiritual.

The album seems to fit the criteria of a concept album, having all the songs tie together to form one song, and flowing so easily from one song to the next that you will catch yourself looking at the display to see if the song had changed.

Rather than letting the lyrics guide you, you are directed by the music, and rediscover that sometimes you say the most without saying a word. The music does the talking, and it has a lot to say. The band incorporates static, keyboards, and just plain noise to make a chaotic feel to an album that never sounds pretty, but at the same time is attractive. This focus on the music doesn't mean that Ester Drang doesn't have intelligent lyrics, but rather that they are overshadowed by the music. And as the last song came to an end, I made up my mind to start recommending it to my friends, and now I recommend it to you.

To sum it up; this is an awesome and uplifting album, with sad melodies full of angst, and yet a ray of hope. It's one of those few albums that can let you feel the pain, and yet feel uplifted

Justin Jones

Any band that tries to follow in the footsteps of Jason Martin, the genius behind Starflyer 59, has to be admired. But a band that not only follows, but follows well, is truly to be respected. Ester Drang is that band, as festival-goers at Cornerstone and Tomfest found out.

While following one unfortunate trend, the short CD, Ester Drang manages to pack quite a disc into this 23 minutes. The lack of a  lyric sheet, unfortunately, makes the message perhaps harder to grasp than it should be.

If you believe the hype on their (firmly tongue-in-cheek) website,  that is when he turns us golden is supposed to rank with albums such as the Beatle's Sgt. Pepper's, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, and Radiohead's OK Computer. They're not quite there yet, but their on their way. Next time though, do you think they could give us a road map to follow?

Josh Marihugh 12/9/99

The chaos of a Training for Utopia only with a mellow SF59 "we're more indie then indie" vibe, Ester Drang digs into noise and chaotic distortion with their low tempo guitars, drums and Jason Martin influenced vocals.  Swirling loosely connected strands of music intertwine with walls of slightly melodic noise and singing to make an EP  that borders on complete "indie music" yet also manages to sound fresh. Sure, song structure would have helped, but if it had structure and a 4/4 beat, it would be modern rock and not Ester Drang.  Accessible?  No, but it wasn't meant to be, and knowing your audience never hurt anyone.  Let's hope the boys continue their space-age alchemy

Joe Rockstroh 1/18/2000

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