May 2004 by Mark Hughes
In many ways Attack Of The Martians by Eccentric Orbit is the US equivalent of Trion's 2003 album Tortoise (a review of which can be found here). Both groups wanted to record an album that featured classic 1970s keyboards - analogue synths, Rhodes electric pianos, Hammond organs, Wurlitzers, mellotrons and the like. Both groups put the instrumentation to the fore by cutting out the distractions a vocalist would cause and concentrating solely on the music. The main difference between the two bands is that the American group do it all without the aid of a guitar player. Eccentric Orbit's line-up consists of Bill Noland on bass, Derek Roebuck on keyboards, Madeleine Noland on additional keyboards and MIDI-controlled wind synths and Mark Cella on drums. With no guitarist the emphasis is placed firmly on the keyboards although Bill Noland's bass has some very interesting lines that are occasionally brought to the fore to carry a melody. His exceptionally strong playing dominates several pieces but, in particular, sections of Forbidden Planet takes the bass where it's not often heard! Interestingly enough, considering the album is so dominated by keyboards, the sole composer of the material was actually Bill the bass player who makes his presence known right from the opening of Star Power with a rough and heavy bass growl that resonates through the body.

One can't help but draw comparisons with Emerson, Lake and Palmer, although stylistically the music on Attack Of The Martians bears little relation to much in the ELP cannon. However, the odd bar here and there will set the recognition neurons firing and several of the sounds achieved can be traced directly back to Emerson's technical manual. Not that this is a criticism, one of the ideas about recording such an album as this is to utilise the keyboards in a manner akin to the great groups of the 1970s. That they have achieved this suggests the raison d'ĂȘtre of the band has been accomplished; that they have produced an original, interesting and entirely enjoyable album in the process is much more than the icing on the cake.

The album possesses an inherent menace to it, mainly bought about by the aggressive bass sound. There is a fair degree of variety though particularly during the 14-minute Forbidden Planet which could well be a lost soundtrack to an episode of the classic television show from which the track takes its name. Split into four sections, the first section (The Arrival - Innocence Lost) opens with a spacey wind-synth sound that Hawkwind would be proud of. Piano melodies, played mostly by the left hand, are elegantly entwined around some great bass work on the second section (The Insider) while the third section The Krell is given over to the analogue synthesisers. Finally, the piano and bass are reintroduced for the conclusion of The Departure.

In many ways, the last track The Enemy Of My Enemy distils the elements of the previous 39 minutes into a glorious summation. Lovers of the sounds of mellotrons will delight in this piece, although I believe that samples were used as opposed to original instruments (if it is authentic enough to pose the question, what does it really matter? Some people can be rather too precious!). If you liked the Trion album (and plenty of people did!), then Attack of the Martians is a perfect companion piece, different but complementary. I always find it great to discover an obscure band from the past but end up being frustrated that, for whatever reason, the band only recorded one or two albums. With Eccentric Orbit I feel that I have discovered a previously unknown band from my favourite musical period, but one whose musical trip is just beginning!

Oh, it's a groovy cover as well!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

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