April 2004 by Duncan N Glenday
When I was a kid, in defiance of my parents’ rules, I used to sneak into a third-rate movie theater on the wrong side of the tracks called the Mascot. There would always be a batch of movies showing back to back, and it cost about a buck and an afternoon to see three flicks. Most of these were those ‘60s and ‘70s B-movies that the real theaters wouldn’t show. You remember them? They were about zombies and evil scientists and all those monsters, and … Martians attacking the Earth.

Eccentric Orbit’s music could easily be used on the soundtrack of one of those sci-fi B-movies. You see, Attack Of The Martians is an all-instrumental concept piece about little green men attacking us – a fun, somewhat cynical look at sci-fi stories, narrated by some serious music. The only way you’ll be able to follow the storyline is by the song titles, though, because there are no liner notes, and the band’s web site doesn’t spell it out.

Attack Of The Martians is the debut album from Eccentric Orbit, a Massachusetts-based Progressive Rock band with drums, bass, keys, and wind-synth. Wind what? Some of the most important sounds on this album are produced by Madeleine Noland, a classically trained saxophonist, whose instrument of choice is the wind synthesizer – or electronic clarinet. It looks a bit like a woodwind instrument, although it makes no natural sound of its own. Manufactured by Yamaha and Akai, these "controllers" generate an electronic signal which is fed into a synth module that routes them through instrument patches to generate a variety of audio sounds. There are patches for all the standard wind instruments, as well as a ton of interesting effects.

But despite these synthesized sounds and that Martian theme, this is not space music. Well, not entirely. It is a rather simple, deep-toned, very dense sound. If you like bass guitar work, you’ll love this album because songwriter Bill Noland’s bass features very prominently. And bless them – Eccentric Orbit have avoided the use of a drum machine, opting instead for the elegantly light touch of Mark Cella, who also owns the M&M Records label.

This is symphonic, progressive music, with a touch of fusion and some funky bass-driven passages. The juxtaposition of electronica, the analog piano, drums and bass, and the Mellotron, Hammond, Rhodes, Wurlitzer and Clavinet combine to form a unique sound. A personal favorite is track 4, “Forbidden Planet," a 14-minute slow rocker led by a very deliberate piano melody, played mostly in the base clef. The whole piece is dark and moody and strongly supported by Bill’s imaginative bass and Madeleine’s electronica.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sit back now, kick my heels up, and let those rich, intense bass tones transport me back to the dollar-a-day afternoons at the Mascot. Well recommended.
Rating: 3.75 / 5

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