Blending genres. It’s pretty much what every modern band nowadays does. Influenced by a variation of styles, bands continuously challenge music reviewers and critics to classify them, and, if that’s not possible, to create a new genre. Quite often this merging of styles comes across as very natural. Metal and hardcore punk for example are ideal partners to combine.
A little less often, bands combine genres that don’t seem all that compatible at first.
This usually sounds unnatural due to the fact that bands seem so obsessed over creating their own original sound, it becomes a forced process where the band is chasing something it can’t achieve, adding elements into their sound that aren’t at home and creating a half-cocked concept of what it wanted
to create. The difference here is that when a musician is influenced by a band, it shapes their understanding of music, it becomes a part of them.
So then there are bands who create music that shows such a wide range of influences they’re basically unclassifiable. One of the, (if not the
) first band to do this was Mr. Bungle, who incorporated numerous types of music into their sound yet remained remarkably recognizable. Then you have bands like Unexpect who effortlessly weave gypsy violin passages between death metal guitar riffs.
While there are not enough bands around to truly give this type of music its own genre, (although avant-garde comes to mind, that still is quite broad.) they have similarities. There are few bands however, that can pull it off as well as Estradasphere. While reading an interview with a band member, he said that a lot music reviewers are not musically knowledgeable enough to truly put out a well informed review of their music. There is pride in your work and then there’s arrogance, but to an extend he is right. Classical music, surf-pop, jazz, electronica, metal, latin, funk as well as a wide range of roma music (gypsy, southern-European, greek..) As you can see, it took me two sentences just to name all the various genres offered here, and I might have missed some.
The scary part lies in how effortlessly this band seems to write its arrangements.(you can barely call them “songs” even though most of them aren’t particularly long.) Most bands would have an incredible struggle incorporating so many styles and make it work. Why Estradasphere make it work lies in the fact that they’re influenced by all of the aforementioned genres. The band doesn’t try
to play in a certain style, they just do it.
As a result, the band shapes their own sound and a very cohesive album, like the soundtrack to a movie that was never made.
Another one of Estradasphere’s strengths is the fact that it’s emotional. All music is, of course, “emotional” but Estradasphere is a band that seem to have more in common with the spirit of a punk-rock band or a blues guitarist than with prog-rock bands. This isn’t just one wankery solo after the next to show how technically proficient the band is. Rather, the band uses their proficiency to express themselves and create music that is constantly demanding the listener’s attention and sets a very strong mood. It’s the kind of music that is strong enough to put a visual image in your head of what this music could be the soundtrack music to, and never has a dull moment. There is a great variety of moods here as well. The title track could have been something out of a Tim Burton movie, and it’s easily on par with Danny Elfman’s own work.
To discuss the music here is a daunting task though. Seriously, every song could demand at least half page of description, and the shortest song on here is 1:12 minutes long. What is important to note about the sound is that the band doesn’t really merge genres, and rather lets the song flow from one thing to another. This can often lead to various moods within one song. A perfect example would be “The Terrible Beautypower of Meow” which starts off with a moody classical piece, only to launch into a Beach Boys influenced surf section, hooks included. In fact, when the band does
chooses to do blend genres, it can get somewhat predictable. (metal guitars with gypsy violin soloing is fun but a little old.) But as I mentioned before, the band is more concerned with conveying a certain mood with a (part of a) song rather than focussing on fusing as many genres as possible.
It’s worthy to mention the appearance of the Japanese shamisen here, as its appearance is rare in most forms of western music. Besides that, the band doesn’t use a particularly wide range of instruments(nor does it have a vocalist), or at least nothing that you wouldn’t expect from a band like this.
What makes Palace of Mirrors
a milestone is not that it’s groundbreaking; it isn’t. Instead, it’s something that’s pulled off incredibly well in a genre which very nature defies categorization, which is what Estradasphere embodies.