Rhythm & Views

The Ecclesia

These kids today! Eric Graf, Mitchell Manger and Brandon Kreitler are barely out of high school, but their Ecclesia instrumental project is stunning in the maturity of its vision and musicianship. The trio has the rare knack of making electronic music sound organic and life-affirming; it's an altogether youthful outlook, spiritual if not explicitly religious. Birdsong is as hypnotic as a mountain stream in its soothing, rippling, chiming ebbs and flows. Its synthesis of acoustic instrumentation, found sounds and electronic effects create an abstract dreamscape, the antithesis of youthful angst.

"Screenery" moves from a gentle, chimey opening into almost Friends of Dean Martinez-like afternoon pop. "Majik Fugue Real Estate" inspires anything but the frantic note gluttony of its 17th century forbears. There's counterpoint aplenty, though. What sounds like singing birds evolves into a tennis game-like exchange of subtle electronic surges, before an orchestra of effects swell into the only identifiable tension on the record. Even "Fatigue" has the feel of drowsy, impending resolution, the good glow of rest that only comes at the end of exhaustion.

The trio grew up and formed a band together in Phoenix, then headed, variously, to the UA, the University of Pennsylvania and Arizona State University. They reunite only on school breaks and exchange mixes and ideas via e-mail. Birdsong has been in the works that way since the summer of 2004.

Now I'm waiting for the first project composed entirely via cell phone. I expect it will come from a pack of middle schoolers, and it might just be lovely.

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