Ebony Tower came to be in 1996 as an outlet for guitarist Wilson Mcqueen’s original compositions. They describe themselves as “mixing classic strut and swagger, elements of gothic rock with a healthy dose of prog and rock ’n’ roll” and their new four track EP The Magic Box Pt 1 certainly manages to span several of those genres.
Recorded in Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios, and mastered at Abbey Road, the opening track The Passing begins with an almost-tribal drum beat—it’s amazing what happens to a drum sound when you omit the cymbals. We’re then joined by female vocals courtesy of Zanda Kinley and electronic violin, which features heavily throughout their music. The vocals to this track aren’t what you’d expect either—they’re much heavier, sometimes angry, and tell an almost-bitter story about how things change when you no longer see the world through a child’s innocence. The rich guitar helps to tie everything together adding a dark edge to the music.
Track two The Labyrinth begins with a melodic guitar quickly joined by Zanda’s vocals, which on this track are strangely reminding me of Shirley Bassey opening a James Bond movie–she has a wonderfully-strong way of singing without overpowering the rest of the sound. This track has more of a bass sound than the previous one, which adds a melodic undertone to the piece, combined with full-on cymbals for a more rock feel. Towards the end, I’m reminded of Pink Floyd with a brief interlude of Great Gig in the Sky and guitar sound reminiscent of Animals.
The Mirror has a very country feel to it with a whirling Hammond organ opening the piece. Zanda has a softer edge to her voice here, which lends itself well to the overall sound. This is also the first time where we hear her overdubbed duetting with herself, which sadly the previous tracks were missing—much of this EP would benefit from some strong backing vocals. This lightness makes this track a more cheerful counterbalance to the previous two.
The final track LSD (Long Summer Days) is much more straight-forward fare. It begins with a quiet, melodic guitar and piano duet, before jumping into drums and bass with a straight-rock sound. Again we hear Zanda overdubbing herself, which again is wonderful and helps to give the song that extra punch. The chord progression here gives the track a pop-rock feel, so it’s the least progressive track of the EP, but still worth the listen.
Overall, The Magic Box Pt 1 offers four tracks in four different styles, so it’s bound to have something that you’ll like. It’s definitely missing some backing vocals in places, but it makes up for that with strong vocals up-front and a great heavy sound. With a full album due out this summer, Ebony Tower are definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Electric Freedom Rating: four out of five
The Magic Box Pt 1 is available to download for free at SoundCloud:
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