Estradasphere - Palace of Mirrors
The End Records
Instrumental Avantgarde Rock
13 songs (58'28")
Release year: 2006
The End Records
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

First, a general statement reflecting on the recent discussion about The End Records and their mailorder. I was really taken aback by some of the comments posted with a bit of news announcing a discounted sale because of the label relocating to NYC. Sure, we can argue all we want about the depth of the discount, CD prices, and extent of the mailorder or, especially, its clearance section. A few bucks more or not, I sometimes choose to support the label I respect from the creative standpoint by shoveling those few more bucks their way by using their mailorder (this is not at all saying that Sentinel Steel or Sensory mentioned in the same discussion are putting out stale product). Everybody has the right to use their preferred outlet for their CD purchases – that is clear, mine was simply a recommendation. However, let’s not go overboard and label The End “emo” if you didn’t like their pricing schedule. Emo standing for emotive music, that I would accept, but never the notion that The End is tending to a pissy whiny crowd. For me, that label would always represent the daring and unafraid to take chances, signing the acts that would not fit anywhere else on a strictly “metal” label. The place that brought us Agalloch, Green Carnation and Winds deserves a “thank you” at the very least, and, furthermore, my personal utmost respect.

Having said all that, gone are the days when I would simply buy blindly The End’s next release. There are some recently released discs still languishing on my “to review and bash” shelf. Reading the biosheet of Estradasphere I was afraid that here comes another overreaching album, trying to marry together the many incongruent walks of life. Romanian Gypsy Death Metal? Here is the one my MR colleague Misha can take a crack at. However, remembering about the recent sermon of being a “music lover” first emanating from these very pages, I did approach Palace of Mirrors with an open mind. Provided you keep this opening the size of the gaping all-music-genres-encompassing hole, you will enjoy the album as well as I did. Estradasphere is a non-conformal, eclectic display of diverse music art. And, no, you will not find a lot of “metal” here.

I do not have enough fingers on both of my hands to count all of the styles Estradasphere touches upon. The title track is orchestral and bright, a chamber string ensemble using the piano, oboe, triangles while playing moviescore music in the well-lit ballroom. In its original interpretation this is a butterfly jaunt, with variations on the theme in Palace of Mirrors Reprise appearing towards the album’s end. From my well-forgotten classical music background I can say that writing variations on the theme might be the most difficult thing the composer has to do, but Estradasphere pulls off tango, harp, Hammond organ, xylophone and synthetic celestial drone versions. Also, this six-member unit goes in as a jazz combo playing rhythmically mind-boggling Mediterranean sirtaki enhanced by accordion, violin and other string instruments I can’t name (A Corporate Merger). They can also personify a Paul Moria famous orchestra (The Debutante) or they can start out with Tchaikovsky and switch to 60s beach rock found on Pulp Fiction (The Terrible Beautypower of Meow), only to enhance the latter style further with a rockabilly twist I remember the old Soviet band Bravo pulling off seamlessly with their mysterious singer Zhanna Aguzarova at the helm (Colossal Risk). Mr. Tarantino should really visit Santa Cruz, CA to make an acquaintance with Estradasphere for his next weirdo movie. It is an excellent choice that the band is completely instrumental. Vocals, of any kind, would simply pollute this eclectic mix.

The Gypsy motifs are represented here as advertised. Actually, Smuggled Mutation is more of a gathering of Hungarian villagers starting to play chardash. Suddenly, some of the crowd members, trying to take turns with the traditionalists, introduce blastbeat rhythms and heavier chords. The closer The Return features rare on Palace of Mirrors heavy guitar riffs suitable to the progressive technical death metal bands and Romanian Gypsy violin melody leads and fills.

I am not going to pretend I understood, and thus accepted, every single track on Palace of Mirrors. Whoever says that is an outright poser. Three quarters waltz of Six Hands is criminally short, and, as ELEGANT as the rest of the record is, distorted plodding noise of The Unfolding Pause on the Threshold and Japanese twisted dark jazz edging on cacophony on Flower Garden of an Evil Man simply do not jive with the rest of the record. See Boris and Sigh for that music, respectively.

If there is Chaosphere and Hatesphere, then surely Estradasphere has got the right to exist. At the very least, the moniker fits the style, “Estrada” being the podium from where the music artist is entertaining. Palace of Mirrors is surprisingly an easy listen and immediate enjoyment (for the most part). Just remember to keep that mind swung completely and wide open.

Killing Songs :
Palace of Mirrors, A Corporate Merger, Smuggled Mutation, Six Hands, The Return
Alex quoted 79 / 100
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