Eksi Ekso
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Eksi Ekso

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Rock




"Obscure Sound - Review"

With a quivering tone of audible melancholy complementing other instrumental forces at work, string instruments are widely said to “weep” their way into recognition. Weeping strings… it just sounds so natural, doesn’t it? Classical composers have provided a good dose of variety in channeling the variety of emotions the instrument can convey, but the most common perception of string instruments is still applied to circumstances that are somber and melancholic. That being said, when a contemporary indie-rock artist makes significantly prominent use of strings in their sound, they must be able to also recognize the influence it has in the resulting tone and thematic involvement of their work. They can successfully allow the implementation to make the result more grandiose and majestic, or they can falter and simply cause the instrumental addition to be an overly desperate and overwhelming attempt at emotional relevance. Consequently, when I stumble across an artist who uses strings as one of the domineering aspects successfully, I take note of them. Thus, Eksi Ekso has caught my eye in delivering one of the most striking albums of the year. While their varied use of strings coincides with all of the revered aspects previously mentioned, it is in their instrumental collaboration between all the instruments involved that truly separates them from most other rock groups.

Based out of Boston, Eksi Ekso serve as the remnants of previously acclaimed Boston post-rock collective On Fire. Nate Shumaker, one of the several founders of On Fire, stands strong as one of the main creative forces for Eksi Ekso, carrying over a sound that should satisfy both old fans of On Fire and listeners who may have previously considered On Fire’s instrumental post-rock to be not accessible enough for their liking. What Eksi Ekso does is deliver a similarly epic form of post-rock that solidified On Fire as one of their more impressive groups to come out of Boston recently, but now with a broader focus on hooks that are easy to grasp without being even remotely conventional. Thanks in part to ominous strings and intensely engineered rhythm sections, the sound remains brooding and haunting within intricate structures that seem to naturally get better upon each progressive listen. The tracks on the group’s debut album, I Am Your Bastard Wings, diversify themselves remarkably in structure, length, and style. Progressive and post-rock are the most consistent forces at work, but glimpses of shoegaze on tracks like “The Gallows” and serene electronic on “Albatross” cause the album to be an unforeseen journey. The vocals of Shumaker and multi-instrumentalist Tom Korkidis (also ex-On Fire) bellow throughout most of the album, emitting a deep and sonorous vocal display that complements the highly involved instrumental accompaniment to occasionally breathtaking results.

As I previously mentioned, the word “striking” is a good one to describe I Am Your Bastard Wings. In addition to some excellent songwriting, this can be attributed to the eclectic instrumental arsenal of the band. Apart from conventional post-rock staples like guitars and bass, the uses of instruments as varied as trumpets, flugelhorns, violins, violas, and oboes are prevalent. Eksi Ekso takes pride in having their 6 members derive from different musical approaches. They refuse to be classified into one category of rock music, as they openly regard anything from jazz to new-wave as being prominent influences; this explains this instrumental diversity quite well. Listening to one of the album’s standout tracks, “Killing Texas”, serves this ideology nicely. The vocals are initially whispered over a minimum of percussion and the trickle of keys, with a sharply executed violin appearing out of the midst to signify the track’s entry into a more expected form of intricacy. A series of guitar progressions then clash with the strings as the rhythm section remains steadily consistent; the vocals are paused for a moment so the listener can take notice to the memorable instrumental involvement occurring. Picking out singles may not be an easy task for a band of Eksi Ekso’s ambitious vein, but this may very well be a great choice.

Another highlight is “O’ God, They’ve Frozen”, an outstanding effort that invokes the past efforts of On Fire. Eksi Ekso’s decision to involve vocals so heavily on the album was most certainly a risky one, but the album fares well for the most part and “O’ God, They’ve Frozen” is one of the tracks indicative of the methodical success. It is not the vocal melodies which make their mark most, but the precise timing and emotional baggage in which they carry; they seem to hold as much instrumental leverage as most other instruments in play. When the spine-chilling entrance of brass occurs about two minutes into “O’ God, They’ve Frozen”, most will hopefully be able to audibly recognize this high level of achievement. “The Choir Will Always Sing” is mainly led by guitars and keys, though the role of rhythm and strings is just as productively vital. It lacks in overall ambition when compared to tracks like “O’ God, They’ve Frozen”, but that does not stop it from being one of the more memorable efforts on the album. When the group propels into a near-jam session in its concluding minutes, the sheer rush of clashing emotions conveyed is one of remarkable awe. Considering that the majority of the album is delivered in the same vein, I Am Your Bastard Wings serves as an extremely impressive post-rock release. - Obscure Sound

"Boston Globe - Review"

Eksi Ekso formed from the ashes of two promising Boston-based rock bands: On Fire and the Burning Paris. Like its peers in fellow Massachusetts band Caspian and Texan label mates This Will Destroy You, this sextet loves the emotional epic and favors a moody, engulfing sound. Unlike those two purist post-rock bands, Eksi Ekso - that catchy name comes from the phonetic pronunciation of the Greek words for the number six and outside: six outside - includes wonderful vocals from co-frontmen Tom Korkidis and Nate Shumaker. Guitars burn and soar, and subtle loops and samples sometimes add a trip-hop aura, but these sophisticated arrangements also include violin, viola, piano, synthesizer, oboe, trumpet, and flugelhorn. Contemplative and heavy, "Albatross" bears obvious comparison to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Magnificent strings drive the haunting "O' God, They're Frozen," and in a lighter moment a trumpet plays a plaintive jazzy refrain, introducing the record's lead track, "Wintering, The" - a title that suggests this six-some doesn't choose a path well-trodden if there's a less obvious way to go. [Linda Laban] - The Boston Globe

"The Weekly Dig - Review"

Forming from two other bands (On Fire and the Burning Paris), this sextet's album is all moody strings ("O, God They've Frozen"), atmospheric loops and vocals. Everything about them, from their name (phonetic Greek for "six" and "outside") to their complex chamber section melodies is unconventional in the best sense of the word. eksiekso.com - The Weekly Dig

"The Noise - Review"

"I Am Your Bastard Wings" 12-song CD

Seamless. Subtle. Soaring. Atmospheric. Sophisticated. Actually, a local art-chamber-prog-rock sextet that gets it right from almost every angle, through every melodic twist and instrumental turn. These are cinemascopic compositions presented as a suite, driven by a powerhouse drummer, Alex Mihm, triggered by an inventive, stellar string section, Clara Kebabian (violin) and Beth Holub (viola), and given extra shape by trumpet & sampler, Sean Will. For the past several years, the main composers Nate Shumaker (vocals/guitar) and Tom Korkidis (vocals/bass/keys) have been toiling with this usage of grandiose songcraft, constantly crafting its implications. Their previous group, On Fire, almost nailed it and now after a few personnel shifts, their vision has taken wing!
My only complaint is the gossamery, ghostly presence of half-vocals, buried quite low in the mix, presenting a struggle for lyrical context. Obviously, this is their raison d'etre (another major disconnect in establishing a personal identity?), so all that is sung remains nebulous and sonically inferred. Still, this does not deter the rock grandeur in this wonderful music, following a path set by Pink Floyd, King Crimson, or Can and carried on by contemporary groups such as Sigur Ros, Porcupine Tree, Caspian, or Final Fantasy. Pieces like "Killing Texas", "The Gallows", "Albatross", or "The Choir Will Always Sing" create swirling tones of color and dynamics. This CD is a major statement, lovingly co-produced by Malcolm Burn (Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris, Daniel Lanois), filled with endless promise and musical grace. Bravo! - Harry C. Tuniese
- The Noise

"The Boston Phoenix - Quote"

“the local chamber-rocking sixsome are one of the city’s more adventurous indie bands” - The Boston Phoenix


I Am Your Bastard Wings - Magic Bullet (2008)
Kills of the Flood Tide (7" Single) - The Mylene Sheath (2010)
Brown Shark, Red Lion - The Mylene Sheath (March 2011)



Since releasing "Brown Shark Red Lion" on the Mylene Sheath in early 2011, Boston's orchestral pop trio Eksi Ekso officially showcased at SXSW, toured the east coast twice, charted on the CMJ Top 200 for 3 weeks, landed national press from My Old Kentucky Blog, Alternative Press, All Music Guide (4.5/5 Stars), TrebleZine, The Boston Globe, and Consequence of Sound (aside from a number of other blogs and some international press). Scott Riebling (Fall Out Boy) and Scott Solter (Spoon, Pattern Is Movement, Mountain Goats) both worked on what's been hailed by Alt Press as “complex, layered affairs full of lofty aspirations”, while My Old Kentucky Blog says, “Brown Shark, Red Lion is the most interesting and challenging pop album I’ve heard so far this year.”


“I hear fragments of Bowie, Eno and Peter Gabriel, but Eksi Ekso is way more than the sum of their influences. Brown Shark, Red Lion is the most interesting and challenging pop album I’ve heard so far this year." - My Old Kentucky Blog

"when said power fully clicks together for the group, it's breathtaking..." - All Music Guide

"Brown Shark, Red Lion showcases a more playful Eksi Ekso with vocals taking a more prominent lead." - CMJ

"Complex Rock Anthems" - Alt Press

"with an album this beautifully written, not to mention wonderfully packaged, pressing play again should be no problem at all..." - Treble Magazine

“Eksi Ekso soars, slashes, and burns and chimes again on its sophomore full-length, Brown Shark, Red Lion,’’ - Boston Globe

“…a near-perfect synthesis of the band’s ambitious statement of intent and secret love of pop. Linking up sampled noises, instrumental breaks, and chamber swells, Eksi Ekso takes the every-song-is-a-huge-crescendo mentality of general post-rock and arc-welds it to great verse-chorus-bridge popcraft that belies the band’s youth.” – Consequence of Sound

“Eksi Ekso has caught my eye in delivering one of the most striking albums of the year… the sheer rush of clashing emotions conveyed is one of remarkable awe…” –Obscure Sound

“the local chamber-rocking group is one of the city’s more adventurous indie bands” – The Phoenix (Boston)

"Addition by subtraction" is a cliche often quoted by the unoriginal (as well as the mathematically-impaired) that nonetheless offers a fair assessment of Eksi Ekso-- a band that has gone from six to three full-time members and still somehow expanded its sound by refining it.

When writing began for the follow-up to 2008's I Am Your Bastard Wings, the three current members of Eksi Ekso: Tom Korkidis (vocals, guitar, bass, keys), Alex Mihm (drums, loops, percussion), and Sean Will (keys, synths, trumpet, samples), found themselves increasingly constrained by the inertia of a large band seemingly doomed to stay within its post-rock tendencies. As the three spent more time working together, it became clear they had a very real momentum with myriad ideas that would never survive the democratic process of a six-piece group. If it sounded good, it stayed, with any concerns of conforming to some pre-existing musical identity being summarily dismissed. Eventually, the split was obvious and the other members left amicably, with one (Beth Holub, viola) remaining in a collaborative role.

The band's newest record, 2011's Brown Shark, Red Lion, shows a band comfortable exploring areas of orchestral pop, synth-soaked dance, and hard-hitting rock in ways that can appeal to the crowd who just want a catchy vocal line as well as the kids who go to the front of the stage to see what's in a band's pedal boards. The vocals are memorable and well-arranged, the melodic instruments make hooks out of refreshingly atypical chords and melodies, the rhythm section pummels with a deft blend of creativity and back-beat. Strings and brass are not haphazard novelties that show up when the band runs out of ideas; they propel the song when need be or billow beneath the din when subtlety is best.

The record was tracked in various New England studios, mixed by the esteemed and darling Scott Solter (John Vanderslice, Spoon, Pattern is Movement), and mastered by Dave McNair of Sterling Sound in New York. The end result is a departure from contemporaries' "I know a guy with Pro Tools" approach to recording.

So is this band just a bunch of aural high-horse pioneers and music-math wizards? Yes! Er, I mean... No. While the band is never content to rehash rock traditions and does not shy away from deviant instrumentation or the occasional odd time signature, none of the exploration is ever done for the sake of being different or self-aggrandizement. It is simply done for the sake of the song. The wide range of influences emerges maturely-- no funk verse followed by a heavy metal chorus, or exercises in instructional video wanker-dom. This is rock written for discerning ears, played by gents who know their instruments but have no jaded illusions about what makes music fun: hooks and a good f