We’ve found a name that best represents some of the best talent the east coast of the USA has to offer – The Transcendence. Ed Hale and his band include artists from all the way down in South Beach to the intense scene of NYC, and they’re damn good at what they do, having been together in one shape or another for a dozen years. This includes 5 core members, 5 more members on every record, in addition to another 5 artists who sit in with the band for the live production… a huge stage presence you can expect from Hale’s shows in 2012.
A concept album of sorts, Ed Hale and the Transcendence‘s All your heroes become villains is a collection of songs tackling different genres. Not too diverse to be disparate but still different enough to be dissimilar, it harks to some brit pop, some prog rock and, of course, some blues based rock.
After a strange, chaotic and almost cacophony-laden intro (‘All your heroes become villains – Main Theme’), the band goes for a more straight up approach. ‘Blind eye’ has a foot clearly planted in 70s arena rock with some good ol’ riffing (rocking moments there). It’s a wild song and it’s a safehaven after the more experimental nature of the opening track.
Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further – I had not heard of Ed Hale or The Transcendence before CUTA editor Matt passed me this album with a glint in his eye. I make this statement because by the time you finish reading this review, I’m hoping that your never having heard of them either won’t stop you from giving this cracking album a go. Because that’s what it is – a cracking album. I mean, sure, there’s a lot going on, and it’s a little bit nuts, but since the fateful day when Matt handed it over, I haven’t stopped listening to it. I’m listening to it now, while I write this review. It’s intriguing, addictive, maddening, impossible to pin down…yeah. Like I said.
Out of the 11 songs on the new Ed Hale & the Transcendence album, All Your Heroes Become Villains, there are only 3 that offer any kind of hope, optimism, or hopefulness: track 3 entitled “Solaris,” track 6 “Here it Comes,” and the album closer “Last Stand at the Walls of Zion.” The rest of the album is a dark heavy brooding downward spiral into the lead character’s disillusionment with everything in his life. From the album’s trance-hop/operatic instrumental opening, which starts with a slow dirge-like pace and rhythm and then builds to a climactic crescendo of dissonance punctuated by two competing melodies – one played by trombone and the other sung by guest vocalist Dee Dee Wilde’s gospel tinged moaning and wailing — all the way through to the album’s closing track, All Your Heroes Become Villains feels like the soundtrack to the end of the world.
Song by song the lead character vents his anger and disappointment with the society he lives in and his own personal life, aiming his rage at everything from the political system (“Blind Eye” and “We Are Columbine”) to God and religion (“Waiting for Godot”) to friendship and romance (“Indian Princess” and “Messed it Up Again”). The climax of the album is track 10, the majestic seven minute ‘suicide letter in a song’ entitled “After Tomorrow” where it appears that the lead character has had enough of blaming the world around him and has turned inward only to discover that he doesn’t have what it takes to continue any further in a world full of hate, war, disease, crime and betrayal.
And yet amongst all this drama and pathos there is the beauty and hopefulness of the song “Solaris.” In their traditional Britpop meets post-modern rock style, Ed Hale and company deliver a near perfect pop song clocking in at three minutes and thirty seconds that shines a bit of light on the stage of their apocalyptic rock opera. Sweet and tender and yet mysterious, “Solaris” seems at first to be a love song. But the female character being sung to doesn’t appear to even be alive, at least not alive on planet Earth. Rather, the lead character sounds as if he is singing to someone far removed from all his earthly troubles, someone who is far far away, living in another galaxy called “Solaris.”
Lead singer Ed Hale summed it up this way, “A girl I knew, someone very close to me, had just passed away. And I found it impossible to deal with emotionally. Right around the same time, I had a chance to see the DVD of this old film called “Solaris” starring George Clooney. The film was based on the book by Stanislaw Lem. Seeing that movie just hit me at the right time. I had my guitar with me and while I was watching the film I just started strumming these chords and creating this song about my friend… What I did really, was just place her, Julia, into the movie… in order to bring her back to life for myself. I just felt that because it was unbearable to contemplate her passing that at the very least I could make her alive in some other form, like she’s still living but in a different dimension. So the song “Solaris” is just me, or the lead character of the album if you will, saying a prayer to her, talking to her… asking her how she’s doing… like “how’s life in your new world Julia?” It made me feel better. And although it isn’t enough to keep the lead character alive by the end of the album, I think it gives him some hope along the way to his final decision… like that.”
I encountered an interesting parallel story during a recent weekend in New York. During lunch with musician pals Richard X Heyman and Edward Rogers, an obscure British musician named Jimmy Campbell came up. Campbell wrote a few mildly successful hits in the mid ’60s during the full flush of the British Invasion. Few Americans know of Campbell, but Hale sure does. His label, Dying Van Gogh, has a multi-artist tribute planned and Rogers is contributing a track to the effort! Anyhow, here’s the rest of my little chat with Mr. Hale.
Endless war, exploitation, lies. Turn the anger and outrage into a guitar riff, and you have the pulsing heart of “Blind Eye,” the latest release from All Your Heroes Become Villains by Ed Hale and The Transcendence. The riff, accomplished by some tricky open-D tuning, and then mirrored by syncopated bass (Roger Houdaille) and drums (Ricardo Mazzi), sets the emotional tone, giving the listener more than a hint where the song is going.
“It’s cynical as hell but I think it’s how a lot of us feel right now in the US; and around the world,” says Ed Hale. “You [politicians, elected officials] can do whatever the fuck you want to. I’m sick of your lies. I’m sick of your endless wars. So here’s the deal: do whatever you want to. I’m sick of fighting you. So I’m going to turn a blind eye to you and your wicked bs. But just don’t mess with me or my family. Don’t come near my home. And don’t ask me to help you in your quest to destroy the world around us.” Hale’s haunting lyrics, “Everything I hear/And everything I see/I won’t be afraid/You won’t bother me/All your evil ways/With everything you do/I will turn away/You won’t bother me, ” are delivered with such steady resolve that you can almost picture him turning his back silently afterward. The refrain, “Murder Greed Destruction Exploitation Rape Sex and Violence/Take your money Take your money Take your money” whispered quickly and venemously, came from a list Hale wrote at Fred Freeman’s, the producer of the album, suggestion. About halfway through, “Blind Eye” begins to spin, vocals, guitar, drums, bass and effects coming together in a representation of the chaos and evil present in the world today. Download “Blind Eye” now.
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Photo Courtesy of Gina Rowland: pictured from left to right are Ricardo Mazzi (drums), Zach Ziskin (guitar), Ed Hale (vocals, guitar), Fernando Perdomo (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Allan Gabay (piano, keyboards), Karen Feldner (background vocals), Roger Houdaille (bass, vocals), Kamran Green (DJ, Remixer), Leor Manelis (drums)
The new album, All Your Heroes Become Villains, is now available for pre-order on iTunes.
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Ed Hale and the Transcendence, All Your Heroes Become Villains is certainly titled appropriately for the times we live in. Like a shadow of today’s chaotic world, “The Villains album,” due out November 15th on the Dying Van Gogh Record label, is dark, moody and heavy, and yet every now and then it glimmers with hope and those catchy ear-candy melodies that fans of the band have come to love and expect.The collective, which reached up to 12 members during the recording process of their latest, weaves together their trademark post-modern rock meets Brit pop — creating an unforgettable aural soundscape that is larger than life and will leave you humming.
Hale and the band worked for over a year, bringing in other musicians when needed as varied as a gospel singer, a second drummer, a Los Angeles DJ, and various horn players. The result is a mashup of sounds but highly cohesive as an album still recognizable as having “that Transcendence sound.” Haunting melodies, bold sonic experimentation and Hale’s richly layered and impassioned vocals all come together to create a highly memorable and moving listening experience. Sounding more like a rock musical or a concept album, the songs both musically and lyrically tie into one another seamlessly in one cohesively bold brash and powerful listen more akin to Pink Floyd or David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs.
The fourth studio album by itinerant project Ed Hale And The Transcendence brings together new contributors and a collection of songs intertwining the talents and influences gathered together. The album opener offers uplifting soul vocals accompanied by a blissful piano and trumpet melody which ebbs and flows during the eleven tracks. Intermittent phrases of dialogue, another recurring motif carried throughout, consolidate a cinematic feel of the LP as the prelude segues into the next.
‘Here It Comes’ is the track infused most with the spirit of Britpop; the anthemic instrumentation, the rousing chorus and the soaring strings all present and correct. Hallmark elements of the Britpop sound also surface in ‘Solaris’, where Hale’s vocals, carried along by jaunty acoustic guitar chords, echo Bono and Alex Kapranos in parts; ‘After Tomorrow’, seven minutes in length, apes the likes of the mellow vibes and extended outro of ‘Champagne Supernova’ and the close backing harmonies of ‘Hey Jude’.