So, when someone says Costa Rica to you, what comes to mind? Naturally; coffee, Central America, rugged terrain, lush jungle atmosphere and Mesoamerican culture to name but a few of the many attributes of the country. But it also has a Prog scene that is growing down there and spreading throughout Central to South America and beyond as the genre begins to make more and more headway with older Prog artists like David Gilmour, Roger Waters etc now performing in countries outside their standard boxes in their more than likely soon to be last tours of their time. With so many different facets of the musical culture down there its no surprise that bands are incorporating as many of them as possible in to their own unique styles and sounds. That is exactly what Erth has done with their debut full length album, b. A quintet that expands and stretches the envelope of musical influences in to one mass wall of sound creating their own unique brand of Prog.
The album opens up with Uriel that creeps in to the albums commencement and builds up to a flowing melody of gentle chords and bass lines that careen over the shuffling drum patterns and the cascading synths. We’re then graced with a tempo/timbre change at the minute and half mark with a shift towards a Latin funk groove that has you gyrating in your seat and bopping your head to the soulful beats then they shift it up again and drop in more Latino beats and sounds that change the tempo/timbre yet again to an upbeat bounce that has you seeing three phases in the song all within three minutes! The bass has a recognizable King Crimson a la 90’s feel and sound to it and the drums shift and sway without flaw and tender ease throughout as the guitars play the passenger seat to the synths driving lead. A great opening track that sets the precedence for the rest of the record. Nu follows next and we’re thrown in to a synth’d start off and a dark entrance to the rest of the band as it spins in to a whirling spiral of notes that cascade down the rabbit hole and we’re launched back to the mid 70’s Prog scene as the music takes control of your memories with the way the band dances around the room with this one. A Prog carnival atmosphere is what you imagine here and it takes you to rides that only a real Prog fan would laugh at or get but everyone else is content to go along for the ride and enjoy the vibes and scenery. The band pull back halfway through and the song has the Canterbury Prog feel to it a la Egg’s Visit to Newport Hospital vocal section sans words as it fades in to obscurity and ends quickly. This track could have easily taken on another 4 to 14 minutes and been grand but the band decided they said what they came to say in this one in just under 3. Short and tight patterns that fell and landed before we could see them descend. Blissful. C Fiestero picks it up in a very placid entrance as the band pulls out the classic gentle ballad like tones here in true Prog sense as we’re swept away in the synthscapes and calming guitar notes that pause us in a lull. With what starts off like almost an outtake from Pink Floyd’s ’94 Division Bell album it shifts to the Erth sound as the band establishes a multi-layered song that is pillow soft and silky to the touch. The cascading guitar pulls and synths that throw wave upon wave of electric blankets over top and the drums that spin it to a jazzy waltz in the middle where it takes us back to King Crimson’s Lizard album from ’71 and the rest of the band follow suit and kick it up a notch to allow the song room to breathe and flow freely. The last section of the song shifts it to a careening downward feel as it slows it up and applies the brakes to a gentle finish.
Shut Up Baby! is the next track in the record that keeps you guessing as to what the band will do next with a title like that. To pop a bonnet on to this little jaunt of a tune it starts off with a smooth groove and swings to and fro with some flashy piano riffs and synth leads that do all the talking here and the rest of the band comes along for this bouncy ride and whimsical interjected piece. It’s like a complicated tango that goes awry yet the music keeps steady and straight forward as the band shifts gears with great ease and joy of being a part of it. The quick start/stops add a spicy inflection to the song as it characterizes the presence and feel for the song to an even deeper sense of not shutting up at all for another few minutes. The drumming is tight and snappy as well as being complex with the rolls and trills that are intermittently thrown in for added flare. The guitars work the song like cats playing with string in a maniacal sense where you are just trying to keep up with them and the bass is consistently being the bottom end of all this controlled mayhem providing the beat that has you up and out of your seat. Rrorro feeds our heads next and it most certainly does as the band continues with the tempo/timbre changes a plenty and shifts it from one style to another and back again creating waves of fury and intense musicianship here. To what sounds like an implosion inside your head they complete this progression in two minutes and cram as much as possible within it. Fast and paced out like a stampede of horses in the meadow with a snippet of serenity in the middle the band pulls this out of left field and has you re-playing it again to see what you just missed.
Miau brings the drummer to the forefront in the beginning to give us the tribal sounds of the kit as the song embellishes the psychedelic sounds of the synths and filling the parts in between with some intense stellar bass playing and contemporary jazz fusion chords. It showcases the band’s tight musicality and keen attention to tight formation playing together. This is the no stitch out of place track in my mind as the band comes together to bring us the cream of the crop of their playing here. Not that the rest of the album isn’t that but this track truly shows off their strength as a group that is well connected mentally as well as musically emotionally. The track has the feel of live Snarky Puppy material but done the Erth way where it infuses the jazz, Prog, psychedelia and moderne touches to it making it a stand out track. The bass aside from being intense again has that King Crimson influence going on which is grand to hear as well as the clean guitar sound that just borderlines on fuzz in the solo giving it that slight edge making it shine just a bit more. Albino Eucalipto the second longest track on the album coming in at 7:32minutes breaks us past the halfway mark of the record. A subtle start off to it gives you the feeling of serenity then it drops in to a swaying picnic of instrumentation coming from every direction as the band leaps and bounds in this track with multiple facets of styles throughout. The beginning sounds like an opera piece where the main character is in turmoil and about to sing about it as the band takes the music to the depths of emotion and works together as a body of musical water then at the two minute mark we jump in to a frenzy of shark infested notation as they switch gears and drivers altogether and throw us in to this face paced car chase feel. Organized chaotic tapestries of sound as the band gives us intense Latino vibes and uses everything in their studio stock on this phase of the song. Close to the 4minute mark we continue on with the jazzy and Latino blending being poured out on to the floor and by 5minites the band has shifted the gears somewhat again and the piano and synths are in full swing to a fabulous bass and drum beat where they can just cut loose then a minute later the guitar cuts in with a slice of electrified gracefulness to add spice and romance to the track that carries it to the finish line ending it off with style and panache.
Paz has the bass coming in with the harmonics at first glance at the track and accompanied by some slow drawn out synth remarks that has it feeling like a scene from an old western then we hear some chanting type vocals in the background that come gurgling up out of the blue and the guitar sets out on a journey of notes that take you down the gravel roads. The drums are rampant and every bit of the kit is used and I think parts of it that weren’t there were used! It was so much involvement that they really stole the show here. Very articulate drum patterns and they made the track a powerhouse piece by the time it got in to full swing just passed the three quarter point. You can hear a lot of influences in this track from the 70’s onward. Un Día De Suerte has a jovial bounce to it which changes it up from the other tracks on the record which shows the band’s ability to be diverse as well as straight forward in songs but again they trick you and throw you off just over a minute in to it and change the tempo/timbre up just for a second but enough to let you know they have all kinds of things going on in their music making it a pretty complex group here very much like the feel of how Gentle Giant made you sit up and say wait what just happened there and put the needle back and start the song all over again. Albeit short and I feel that again like some of their other shorter tracks this one could have gone on for several minutes and taken to other plateaus above its starting point the band said what they needed and wanted to say in those 2:52minutes. A combination of sound and emotion poured in to the blender and we’re served up a dish full of influences again which one can easily find so many bands that have brought this group together to create their own page in the Prog genre. The softer synth and piano leads are welcomming here as the guitar takes the passenger seat here but keeps the grooves going with the bass and drums in a well catalogued fashion here. Every decade of Prog is well represented here from the 70’s-00’s without batting an eye. Espíritu Americano a well crafted jive piece that has some great guitar work in it as well as some more tempo/timbre changes bringing in the complexity again and some tight late 60’s sounding synth leads that has you reaching for your pile of records to see who it reminds you of as the band does this spiralling drop in notes every so often in the track that is as intense as it it furiously overwhelmingly insane like a tornado of notes that just fly out of control but stay in place. That section of the song is very profound to the rest of the track and adds such fierceness to it that it just wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t there. It’s like a carnival ride’s music played at supersonic speed but you’re still moving at the same pace. A very diverse and complex song holding the track 10 spot quite nicely.
Cantin Latin Chain jumps right to it and the band has the song itself jumping around as the staccato piano and synth notes run away with the song like a train with no brakes as the guitar follows suit with the runaway theme. The song pulls back a bit and we get this sound of what comes across like a duck quacking throughout a section of the song over top the music as the song spills out in to a frenzy of a washout feel to it before it jumps back in to the chaos of runaway notes. The fastest song on the album wonderfully demonstrates how tight this band is musically as they are all in the right place at the right time here and so very well rehearsed here that it would be a highlight to a live show for sure. It ends on a soft landing to bring us back to earth(Erth) as it were in a gentle segue out of the song and in to the comfort zone we started in. A very Latin Vaudeville type track is what I took away form this piece and it definitely has you playing it again to hear what you missed the first time around. The last and longest track on the album, Beto (Lucyferzam pts 1-3) closes out the record for us and the band does the classic Prog move of saving the longest for last here. The title signals an homage to the early Pink Floyd days with Syd Barrett and Lucifer Sam from their first album in ’67 most likely. It flares out with somewhat of a reggae feel to it and some great 60’s psychedelic synth sound effects coming through in a dizzying way as the song shuffles along in its reggae form here. What has more of a heavier Bob Marley and the Wailers touch to it the song isn’t without its changes and change it does around the 3:15minute mark as it winds down to a crawl and we begin phase two of the track where the synth and bass command the audience and take the lead here. The jazzy-Prog chord progressions also have a Floydian touch to them in spots then we’re thrown in to another tempo/timbre change and the guitar has the helm here but only for but a minute before the song traverses the path again and again. The band switches up the leads between the guitar and the synths creating diversity among the solos as they spin whirlwinds around the room through your speakers. The band takes no one style to heart but embraces many throughout the entire album and within each song allowing us to absorb not just one feel to their music but as if they listened to what everyone wanted and created a very unique style that captures everything form A to Z in one record. They draw it back a bit at 9minutes to bring back the spaciness before we go back in to the reggae swing of things again. The shuffling drum patterns are easily recognizable to the style along with the guitar flicks and it’s this wavelength the band closes the song out with to have us at ease that their journey through this record was intense, satisfying and full of just about anything you could think of.
Erth has shown us that no one genre is left behind in Prog music and that it can be incorporated in to anything you put your mind to. They have certainly demonstrated that in this album here, b. Much anticipation is held for their next record and very curious what their live shows are like! They will do well in the genre and go beyond the boundaries of Costa Rica in the future as a band that has much to offer musically and they will go far. Enjoy
https://vimeo.com/116114019 (short film about the band. In Spanish)