Escher’s Enigma For A Moment
Escher’s Enigma is an unique father-son duo hailing from the New York area. Their first full album, For A Moment, has a strong singer-songwriter slant that will appeal listeners seeking interesting textures and inventive approaches. Ultimately, the album plays as an unique synthesis of the band’s personal histories. It’s easy to hear distinct strains of modern and traditional structures in the music and strong production highlights their virtues. Acoustic guitar guides every song, but this isn’t easy listening music. It demands a listener’s complete engagement and rewards it accordingly.
Brian Miller’s vocals on the first track, “Should Have Known”, immediately captured my attention. There is a faint nasal quality to his vocals reminiscent of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson and he twists words in his mouth with an easy confidence. His strong enunciation highlights strong lyrical content. The songwriting takes a layered approach and blends instrumental textures with an almost painterly instinct for feel. A melodic, bluesy guitar solo is brief, but provides the song with a good exclamation point.
The pseudo-classical orchestrations kicking off the improbably titled “Bonfire Rings and Heated Pools” accompanies Miller’s plaintive vocals well. This is a well-written stroll through youthful experiences and has a sharp wit that cuts through any potential sentimentality. A tangible melancholy permeates the piece beneath its pastoral invocation of youthful memory and it leaves a bittersweet aftertaste. Ingenious wordplay largely powers “Hide Behind The Text”, but the wordplay wouldn’t be quite as successful without Brian Miller’s imaginative and playful vocal. Compression is another positive quality. An almost literary compression in their lyrics matches the band’s unerring focus and avoidance of wasted notes. On For A Moment, everything sounds distilled down to its essence and this track is one of the best examples of this technique in action.
A minimalist aesthetic dominates much of “Bixby Canyon Ridge”, but its crescendos revisit the pseudo-classical flare heard in the earlier “Bonfire Rings and Heated Pools” to splendid effect. Those touches add a great deal to this track, but even without them, this is a small but sparkling gem in the band’s portfolio and has much of the same compositional sensitivity distinguishing the rest of this album. “Beauty in the Flames” is a marvelous song accomplishing much through surprising imagery and specific detail. There’s ample humor here as well, particularly from the startling contrasts presented in the lyrics. This is likely too idiosyncratic for the public at large, but those appreciating a fresh take on the well-known “us against the world” song type will recognize the inventiveness here.
The sensitive acoustic stylings of “Beginnings” promises more intimate fare than earlier songs and delivers. There isn’t any pomp or pop flourishes found during this brief track – just lyrical acoustic guitar and Brian Miller’s strong, if not a little unusual, voice confidently moving through another thoughtfully crafted lyric. Escher’s Enigma closes things with a nearly unrecognizable cover of the Guns n Roses classic “Sweet Child ‘o Mine”. Giving a virtual standard an acoustic setting isn’t shocking, but slowing down and stressing its melodic strengths in this fashion is a minor revelation for such a familiar song. Revelations abound on this album. It’s eye-opening to find two musicians so sympathetic to each other’s aims and willing to craft such distinctly unique music and, when the duo defer to commercial expectations like the final song, they carry it off with such identifiable grace that one cannot help but admire their skill.