9 Oct 2012

Music Review: The Eleventh Hour Initiative

Where to begin? Again I have left it a while before writing another review, mainly due to writing more fiction, but I haven’t been listening to any less music. The observant amongst you may have noticed on the Music Review page there is a line that says:
If you have any music recommendations or suggestions of who should be next on my review list feel free to email me!
Well, after reading a fair few tweets by my Twuddy* @CrustyToon about a certain band called ‘The Eleventh Hour Initiative’ I decided that I would check them out and see what he was making all the fuss for and then he suggested I jump on the bandwagon ('scuse the pun!) and write a review of their latest Album 'Escapism'. So having had no other suggestions, how could I say no? Now, if any of you have been reading all of these reviews or have read the very first one about Amida then you may well remember I listed a step-by-step method that I was going to use when writing a review. For the most part that is what I have done but these guys have been subjected to a shake up in my method! This time around I had started writing the review before finishing the research! Scandalous isn't it? Something else also happened that doesn't normally...someone asked me about the band, yes, normally I am locked away and avoid people and distractions whilst writing, on this occasion I ventured outside only to be asked:
  1. What are you writing about?
  2. What are they like?
The first question is fine, answer - I am writing a music review, the second question is one that I hate. I hate this question because I am a listener. I have no musical talent. I have not misspent a childhood/teens obsessing over bands their influences and what they sound like. I guess I am getting that now. But, I don't feel confident in saying that they are this or that or they sound like this as I am not sure I can with any certainty and isn't it all subjective anyway? I had just listened to the album again and this was my answer:
‘old-school-indie-rock-with-layers-&-light-raspy-vocals-&-melody-that-connects-each-song-regardless-of-tempo-or style’
...and I am sticking to that description. When I looked at their band site I may have squealed a little with glee at the fact that they had a blog. I love to have an insight into the people in the band and this definitely did that. It also discussed the themes in the album track by track. You definitely need to read this! Definitely. Anyway, this review has proved to be really quite difficult to do, its not a case of not enough information but a case of what can I say that's different. They have already had some great reviews, TV and radio interviews and of course the wealth of information on their blog. So I am sticking with what I know and that's my opinion! :P So...drum roll please....
Courtesy of TEHI
The Eleventh Hour Initiative (TEHI) band are made up of two members: Emrys Hughes & Bill Ryan. If you have read their blog, seen any of their interviews or even follow them on Twitter/Facebook you will know that they have never met in the flesh. All their interaction has been of the ‘virtual’ variety. Here’s a snippet from their blog: "We had so much in common that we just had to make our combined voice heard. The special factor is that despite all we have in common there are also those differences that give our music the edge. There are things that he does that I would never dream of doing and vice versa. We are not just two artists in collaboration. We are a band. We have a group spirit. We are not just two people working together. We have a collective ambition that drives us forward and inspires us to produce the very best music that we possibly can." If you want to know more about the band, their viewpoint on each track on the album, Phillip K. Dick or mint choc ice cream then check out their blog. I guess I get the advantage of showcasing some of my favourites (yep, back to me again!) from the album. I have listened to the album a fair few times and it was probably on the third listen, from beginning to end, that it really clicked for me. It was early on Saturday morning, when I decided to take notes whilst listening, that I felt that 'whole album feel' that they were determined to produce. I am a bit dense so some of you may/may have felt that on the first listen. But for me, one listen of an album is never enough to hear everything or appreciate it all. Its like a really good movie, that with every viewing you appreciate it more and notice more things that you hadn't that first time. The third track on the album called 'Escape Plan' reminded me of a movie soundtrack:
'Escape Plan'
and prompted me to ask them...
If 'Escapism' was a movie, which would it be?
Emrys: Hmmmm... it's a toss up between "Citizen Kane" and "Zoolander". Bill: ''Zoolander''? haha I'd say Steven Spielberg's 'E.T.' in that it has a sort of coming of age theme mixed with some sci-fi/strange elements. No songs about Reeses Pieces though! In all seriousness, this is a tough one. I'm a big Joseph Campbell fan. He studied the works of psychologist Carl Jung and wrote many books including 'The Hero With a Thousand Faces'. Essentially he tried taking all of the worlds stories and religions and distilling them to their core. He asked, 'What do all of these stories have in common?' "What elements make them resonate so much with so many people?" I could write a small novel on his work, but it did inspire me a great deal to try and take my own experiences and 'melt them down' so to speak and find what might be universal in those experiences. So what I'm saying is I see 'Escapism' as a sort of coming of age tale with many of the same elements of movies that explore similar themes. I know that's probably not specific enough so….ummmm….E.T.! Now I should share with you my nickname for this band, it came about when I first listened to them, the very first listen – and all I could think was that these guys are:
‘the kings of the intro!’ 
Don’t let that fool you though, the whole tracks are good. But I found that as each one started I was drawn in and eagerly listening. Its like when you here the intro to a favourite song, and you instantly recognise it and get excited that any moment now the lyrics will kick in and off you go - they definitely are masters of the build up. I couldn't choose my favourite TEHI intro but one of my favourite tracks is 'Try and get some sleep'.
'Try and get some sleep'
So with me unable to choose an intro, I asked the guys...
What do you think is the best intro on the album?
Emrys: Well, "Escapism" is an album full of great intros... but I would probably go with "Chasing Chaos". It is a song that can catch people off guard and make them spill their tea! (I'm also putting forward "From Shipwreck to Shore" for the great way I say 1,2,3,4) Bill: It's hard to choose, but I'd go with the intro for 'The Calm and the Storm.' We wanted to make it sound like it how it feels right before a thunder storm hits.(all that kinetic energy in the air) That one still gives me chills when I listen to it, and the ending of the song is still a favorite of mine as well. When I listened to the album, I favourited some of the tracks on that first listen, one of which was 'Mean Machines'. Something about it reminded me of the 90's. I do think that this would be a tricky track to perform live, have a listen:
'Mean Machines'
But it did get me thinking about what seeing them perform live would be like, and so I ventured to ask them...
It's been a couple of years and you are yet to meet or play at an event together, do you think it is something that is still a long way off happening or just around the corner?
Emrys: I think the beauty of TEHI is the fact that it HAS to be about the music. The Beatles decided at a certain point in their career that they were going to devote themselves to the studio... and from that point on they made some of the most wonderful, innovative music of all time. As TEHI, Bill and I skipped the rehearsal rooms and the touring. We sidestepped the support band slots and the hours of loading equipment into vans. We formed this band and immediately set about creating our Sgt Pepper. And more importantly, I've been trying to cultivate a walrus moustache (unsuccessfully!). There is no need for us to rush to play live. We are accomplishing everything we set out to right here from our (well separated) arm chairs! Bill: I agree with Emrys here, except I'm not trying to grow a mustache! Though we are experimenting with recording songs live over the internet, right now all of our focus is on album two. I don't think it's out of the question for us to do something live after we're finished this album, but both of us are pretty satisfied just making these songs. I'm really proud of how 'Escapism' turned out and I think this next album will be yet another big step for us. While it would be awesome to be able to pull off a huge stage show showcasing these songs, right now hearing them all take shape is enough to keep us both happy. When I keep listening to an album it is inevitable that I will at some point spontaneously start la-la-ing the tune or da-de-da-dumming. What I never know is which song its going to be! Then the other morning I woke up with 'Pitfall' in my head. Its the shortest track on the album and had found a space in my mind.
'Pitfall'
As it was a song that had remained in my brain, I asked...
The government decides to make a time capsule and chooses TEHI to contribute one track from 'Escapism' to it, which do you choose and why?
Emrys: I'm putting forward "Escape Plan" as it defines the album. I would have to dress the song up a bit though - perhaps wrap it in a long scarf, give it a screwdriver and insert it inside a metal dog. Time 'capsule'? ahhh... I see, that's different to a time 'machine' then? Bill: I agree with Emrys here. I can't pick a favorite song on the album, but 'Escape Plan' is like a microcosm of the themes we explore on 'Escapism'. How do you balance the reality of every day life and your dreams of who and where/what you really want to be? I think it's one of those positions that many of us silently struggle with. Like Emrys said, if we could get scarves, a metal dog, and a time machine that would be really great as well!
Now Emrys says in a post:
"For we have dedicated ourselves to making this “collection of songs” the very best set of songs that we can possibly achieve." 
...which is good to know because it shows their mentality and outlook at the time that the album was being made and you want them to strive for that.  I have listened to some of the work in progress since 'Escapism' and I think there are still better things to come, and I hope he doesn't mind me saying that. The philosophy behind the album is expressed on their blog posts that I keep mentioning. For me, with every listen of the album I have enjoyed it more and realising that I could relate to some of the thoughts that Bill had at the time of writing the lyrics has meant that as a listener I get more from it. Whats amazing about music is  that it is tuned into your emotions, whether you are the composer or the listener and a favourite and the final track on the album with a tender performance by Emrys is 'When the start begins':
If music has to die though, where would that leave the rest of my interview questions? Music is everywhere! 
TEHI have agreed to be on a TV show as the band playing at some event, what TV show is it?
Emrys: I'd like to be the 'house-band' in a remake of "The Crystal Maze". A shout of "Will you start the fans please"... TEHI start playing... counting down those 5 second crystals... and... end. Majestic. Bill: I'd like to be the Tartus House Band on Dr Who. As a two person all male band, I wondered if they had ever written any song that would be enhanced by a featured artist. I tried to think of who myself but in the end reverted to the experts...
On your next album, one of you suggests a feature artist sing on it (you can fight it out as to who came up with this idea), who do you agree it has to be (can be dead or alive)?
Emrys: I'm having a hard time deciding between Shakira, Kylie, Britney, Debbie Harry or Stevie Nicks in their prime... Hmmmm, which one would 'sound' best? Pass me that bucket of ice-water! I'm gonna go with Eric Burdon. Bill: John Lennon, and if I had to pick a living artist it would be a toss up between Damon Albarn and Natasha Khan from Bats for Lashes. And I always ask this question...
You are on BBC Radio Live Lounge, what track do you cover?
Emrys: That's a sneaky way of asking "What is your favourite song?". I think TEHI should cover a-ha's "The Sun Always Shines on TV". Bill: My favorite song changes depending on what day you ask me. At the moment I've been listening to a lot of older Soundgarden so I'd have to go with 'Just Like Suicide' from their album Superunknown. And something that you will all want to know now you have heard them...
What are TEHI plans for the next 12 months?
Emrys: We are currently writing and recording our second album. This album is going to be an absolute beast!!! Bill: Yep, the next album will be a bear to finish, but it's worth it! I can't wait to finish it and unleash it on the world! What else can I say, have a listen, comment below and tell me what you think of the band, check out their blog (I may have mentioned this!), follow them on Twitter and buy the album! Links http://www.eleventhhourinitiative.com https://twitter.com/TEHIband https://www.facebook.com/eleventhhourinitiative Reviews http://indiedunes.blogspot.co.uk/ http://www.atlinernotes.com/ http://www.reverbnation.com/theeleventhhourinitiative http://beneatheverythingradio.squarespace.com/fyd/tag/the-eleventh-hour-initiative

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