Persistence pays off sometimes. I’m not saying to annoy me to death, but some bands have learned how to coax me into listening to their album. Don’t get me wrong, I love listening to anything sent my way, but sometimes my backlog is so large that I have to prioritize this or that. Well, Esthesis sent me their debut back in 2020, and I listened to it a bit, and liked it. They’ve been gently reminding me of their sophomore release, Watching Worlds Collide, over the last couple months. I’m glad they did. The album released on August 19th.
Esthesis hail from France. There are quite a few artists at work here in addition to the main lineup. The band consists of Aurélien Goude on keyboards and vocals, lap steel guitar, guitar, harmonica, and programming; Baptiste Desmares on lead guitar; Marc Anguill on bass guitar; and Arnaud Nicolau on drums. Not part of the band, but pretty deeply involved is Mathilde Collet on backing vocals. You will also hear Maceo Le Fournis on tenor sax, Axel Foucan on trombone, Yannis Beugré on trumpet, Mathieu Vilbert on violin, and Vincent Blanot on banjo, electric banjo, mountain dulcimer, and percussions.
You can tell just by the list of musicians and instruments that this is an eclectic album. I’ve seen some people recommending them for fans of Porcupine Tree, which is pretty typical and mostly true, but I don’t think that is the sound we have here. The band combines a jazz rock fusion style with an atmospheric, melancholy vibe. The vocals are especially spacey, but the rhythm section is active, dynamic, and pretty damn groovy. At times, waves of rock edge flow into the music, making for yet another layer.
Let me list some things I admire about this album, as I think that will give you an idea of what it is like. First, I admire the classiness of this record. Nothing about this music is hard-hitting or explosive. No, this album is performed with utter grace and flair. It is incredibly calming, honestly, how jazzy and rhythmic it can be. In that way, it is full of class and maturity for such a young band.
Second, the rhythm section is outstanding. Marc’s bass guitar is some of the best I’ve heard this year. Again, it isn’t great because of kinetic, fiery bass lines, but because it is an ever-present, groovy, voluptuous element. It feels bluesy and comforting in how it weaves around the other instruments. Arnaud’s drums, too, are low key, but intricate. I especially love his cymbal work as you can tell that he is both deft and delicate of hand as he plays softly, but masterfully.
Another thing I admire here is the interaction between Aurélien and Mathilde on vocals. Now, Aurélien is the lead vocalist and offers the bulk of the delivery, but I must confess that my favorite moments might be when they are both in action. They sound amazing together when singing as a duet, and I also like when Mathilde simply provides a sort of haunting harmony to accompany him. This element of the music is one of its greatest strengths.
I also admire the piano and guitar here. Aurélien’s piano style is quite sparkling and classic in its sound, which is something I love. The tone adds a dash of class and melody to every moment. I also like Baptiste’s lead guitar. He lays down some stunning solos, yes, but I especially like when his riffs invade a song, taking it to a new level. There are a couple moments where the guitars are actually pretty heavy, making for a terrific contrast.
I love all seven tracks. The opener, “Amber”, might be one of my favorite tunes this year. It has a deliciously dark, jazzy groove with quick-paced piano and little rhythmic elements that are subtle, yet powerful. “Place Your Bets” comes next with its slightly paranoid guitar work transitioning into stunning keyboard solos, superb saxophone work, and a grand ending. “Skimming Stones” is yet another winner, this one being far more ambient and slow burning in its approach. I love the violin in the second half.
The last four tracks are just as good. “Wandering Cloud” is extremely catchy and will get your head moving, for sure, and features whistling, which is a lost art. Then the band throws in horns to liven up the track even more! “Vertigo” is a cool as hell instrumental with a quick pace and James Bond levels of class. “57th Street” should impress anyone, though, with its 12-minute journey through some very shadowy and ambient sounds. I love Mathilde’s harmonies on this one, as well as the overall decision to keep this track reserved and haunting in tone. Finally, “Through the Lens” is a tremendous closer. It has more rock in it than the other tracks, and lots of intricate cymbal work. I daresay it sounds Polish in its dark atmosphere, and the guitars really, really shine.
There you have it. Esthesis is completely successful in their second album, and I should have listened to it earlier. I’m really enjoying how smooth and flowing it is, and how rich and luxurious the various layers sound together. I know I’ve used the word groovy several times in this review, but that is truly one of the best ways to describe this album. It just grooves to the moon and back, no lie.
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