Empty Space Orchestra have been likened to an instrumental version The Mars Volta, which works out perfectly for those who aren’t fans of Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s distinctive voice. But even though The Mars Volta similarities do run throughout the Orchestra’s self-titled album, there is more than enough originality to make the band stand out on their own.
It’s less spastic, but still has the unpredictable time-changes of math rock and schizophrenic horn sections. The guitars and keyboards conjure up psychedelic rock one moment before evolving into jazz or heavy metal. Their self-titled second album is nearly an hour long with only nine songs, but almost every song has this unique capability of switching half-way through and propelling the listener into a different riff and rhythm. Looking at it that way, there could almost be 18 songs on the album.
“Brainjar” bustles out of the gate with all the bells and whistles: Horns blaring, drums raging at a schizo frequency, guitar riffs that soar before pummeling you to the ground. The second song “Exit Strategy” has a long build up that eases you into a song reminiscent of Godspeed You Black Emperor with moodiness disguised with delayed beats before it explodes into rapid fire drum hits and blistering keyboard work. On this song the horns, key, guitar and bass all play alongside each other seamlessly, driving the point home.
“Get Some” tricks the listener with a psychedelic groove filled with funky organs and booty-shaking bass and drum alongside one hell of a catchy horn riff. It’s a long song but it’ll have you wanting to “get some” the whole way through, especially when there’s yet another mid-song tempo change that gets your heart racing and keeps it there to the end. There are slower, more delicate songs too: “The Hangar” is a short snippet reminiscent of Muse (back when Muse was good) – all piano and fuzz.
Empty Space Orchestra is recommended for anyone who wants Volta-esque songwriting with a little more order, the strings and melody of Godspeed with a bit more punch and pace, or Explosions in the Sky with horns and a math rock spin. Or it’s just for anyone who wants instrumental music that incorporates different genres and spits them out on a rollicking, skillfully random album.