August 2005; Vinylroolz
Eccentric Orbit's debut album Attack of the Martians was one of 2004's highlights for me. From the cover art to the last note, this is an album steeped in concepts and sounds from the Golden Age of 50s B-movies and 70s prog.

While the keyboards sound authentically analog (Mellotron, Hammond B-3, Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, Clavinet D6), they are in fact digital samples and reproductions. Extremely good reproductions! The organ, piano and clavinet sounds are generated by a Nord Electro keyboard. Nord should pay these guys for an excellent demo of the equipment! This old keyboardist couldn't tell! The mellotron sounds are samples triggered by a synth, with other keyboard sounds generated through a wind-controlled synth. The end-result is a wonderful collection of 70s era prog sounds.

This album of (thankfully) all instrumental music is composed by bassist Bill Noland. His wife Madeleine operates the wind-synth and other keyboards. Derek Roebuck handles even more keyboards and Mark Cella ably handles drums and percussion.

Of course, it's hard to escape influences in music like this, so you will hear echoes of the usual suspects like ELP and Genesis. But you will also hear other parts that channel the likes of Anekdoten, Jan Hammer, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Happy the Man, Gentle Giant and Egg. I probably missed a few, but you get the idea. While there are certain passages that are extremely obvious, the album as a whole is very original and fresh. In other words, Eccentric Orbit doesn't intentionally try to sound like any one band. Rather, the end result is a conglomeration of Bill Noland's musical DNA.

The keyboards and drums are all very competently played, with the only real virtuosity being displayed by Bill on the bass. As composer and bandleader, his playing drives the music along with a sometimes-hammering intensity. His sound is sometimes positively Zeuhlish in nature on much of the album, though his fretless bass work on "Forbidden Planet" is outstanding.

I'll spare you a track-by-track breakdown. There are clever time changes, recurring themes, variations of themes, and the rhythm section kicks ass. Yet sometimes, the compositions have too many open spaces, are too atmospheric and function more as soundtrack or other backround music. Maybe that's the intention. The solos, for the most part, are simple and somewhat uninspired. At times the music cries out for an electric guitar or another keyboard with attitude. But if Bill's motive was to create a soundtrack for the listener to create his own visual accompaniment, then it's perfect!

I guess if that's my only complaint, maybe I'm looking too hard. This is an excellent debut and I look forward to hearing the next one. Any fan of vintage keyboard sounds, as well as excellent bass playing, will do themselves a favor and grab a copy. I'll give this 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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