Eksi Ekso
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Eksi Ekso

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Avant-garde

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The best kept secret in music

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On Friday, March 20, 2009, Consequence of Sound will host its first annual South by Southwest showcase. Entitled simply as Listen!, this year’s event is designed to highlight six of music’s most talented up-and-comers in one night, under one roof. In the days leading up to the event, we’ll be taking a closer look at these acts…

When a band’s own bio description chalks it up as a “convergence of atypical rock instrumentation, experimentation with form, and the breath of collaborative writing via six musicians coming from very different schools” that’s “forged with a sense of triumph and hope when everything else has been eradicated”, you pretty much expect a groaner.

Thankfully, Boston sextet Eksi Ekso (Greek for “six outside”?) demonstrate a lot more finesse at writing music than press releases. Swimming about in the various tributaries of post-rock, I Am Your Bastard Wings, the group’s debut for Magic Bullet, is a densely-arranged (if hyper-produced) forest of traditional guitar, bass, and drums, supplemented by flugelhorn, trumpet, oboe, violin, viola, and piano–all of which the members of the band play. The songwriting is good, and surprisingly concise; extended jammers like “O’ God, They’ve Frozen” and “Albatross” are woven into a tight nest of brief instrumentals (“Nitnb”) and lushly-arranged pop songs (“The Choir Will Always Sing”).

What puts Eksi Ekso so far ahead of the generic chamber-rock bands, clogging the drainpipes after any particularly hard rainfall, is the fact that the musicians can actually play their instruments. And rather than sounding like a bunch of indie-teens locked in the high school band room overnight, Eksi Ekso’s supplementary musicians demonstrate an excellent sense of counterpoint and know the capabilities of their instruments–nowhere better than on the pizzicato viola and plunger-muted trumpets that haunt the darker corners of …Bastard Wings.

The band’s best moment is “Killing Texas”, 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. And while much of this may be the influence of big-name production from Malcolm Burn (of Peter Gabriel fame), South by Southwest is going to be a perfect acid test for the band. In the unforgiving live environment of an intimate club gig, and amidst the excitement of SXSW, it’s going to be sink-or-swim for the sextet–and the band’s panoply of instruments and dense sampler tracks will make theirs as interesting a show to watch as it will be to hear.

Eksi Ekso will be playing our Listen! Showcase at The Wave at 9:00 p.m. on Friday, March 20 - Consequence of Sound


Things switched drastically when Eksi Ekso came on after. What’s surprising is the Boston sextet set up remarkably fast. Given their drastic set up (e.g. violins, flugelhorns, trumpets, and keys), the fifteen minutes it took to get things rolling was quite impressive. It was a clever turnabout, however, and the act’s moody ambiance (think Arcade Fire meets the Gutter Twins) held its own. Much of the crowd huddled in front of the group, whose rising and falling sounds could have otherwise been seen as a downer in comparison to Shad’s more engaging beats and rhymes. Though he wore an apprehensive frown most of the time, vocalist Nate Shumaker was modestly pleasant with the crowd’s reactions, and the set turned quite fruitful for the Bostonians. - Consequence of Sound


The end of the year is quickly approaching and we've decided once again to escape the scramble for last minute offerings in order to bring you music we happened to have missed earlier this year. A belated message was received this past week from Lindsay and Joel of Covington, Kentucky based label The Mylene Sheath (TMS MySpace) and we couldn't be happier with the release they sent, not to mention the realization these dry-tank local folks exist just across the Ohio River from our Cincinnati home. With that out of the way, we need to get started in digging into the music. Eksi Ekso is a six piece from Boston, Massachusetts consisting of musicians Nate Shumaker (vocals, guitar), Tom Korkidis (bass, vocals, keys, samples), Clara Kebabian (violin, vocals), Beth Holub (viola), Sean Will (trumpet, keys, samples) and Alex Mihm (drums). They were previously known as The Burning Paris and eventually On Fire, but have since changed up much of the mechanics, or at least the instrumental duties involved, in order to create a June 2008 full length debut release titled I Am Your Bastard Wings under this new moniker. For those who've not had the chance to listen to this debut album from Eksi Ekso, a first exposure is definitely in order.

After taking a few evenings to explore the collection of songs that make up I Am Your Bastard Wings, we immediately discounted any genre classifications made in the handful of previous reviews we read. With music this beautifully intelligent and effortlessly focused, it almost seems a crime to describe the sound as any sort of random texture, soundscape or ice cream flavor. Instead, we will simply ask you to listen to another lovely track with us. - Milk Milk- Lemonade


official showcase at 9pm on Friday 3/20 at Wave (408 E.
6th Street)

2. How did you get your SXSW gig?

The friendly folks at the label that puts out our vinyl, The Mylene Sheath, submitted their entire roster for a label showcase. The showcase for the label wasn't accepted, I'm sure due to space, but we ended up getting accepted individually as a result. We're playing the "Consequence of Sound" showcase - which is a decent national music blog that has given our debut record some good press coverage over 2008-2009. They're good people - so
we're really looking forward to it.

3. Is this your first time at SXSW?

This is out first time playing at SXSW, yes. We're 1 for 1!

4. If you've gone before, have you performed (how did it go) or were you
just in attendance?

Some of us have attended or been involved with the festival in years past, but not in a band/performing capacity.

5. How important do you think it is to have an official showcase?

I'm not sure how important it is, truthfully. I believe it's kind of an honor to get an official showcase because your band is on a list with other groups and there is some degree of anticipation at the onset, but as soon as you get down there it probably doesn't matter as much whether a show is official or unofficial. There are still people and music everywhere. all
induced by BBQ, booze and sun. not to mention hundreds of choices: perfect for adult ADD.

6. What do you hope to achieve by playing at SXSW?

We hope to achieve a BBQ/booze induced Vitamin D coma. We're all dealing with a little winter "depresso" so to get a hint of sunshine is a much anticipated highlight. Really - we just want to see some good shows, run into some friends, meet some new people and hope our show goes well from a performance perspective - the rest is kind of out of our control.

7. How do you plan to use the conference (beyond your show) to promote yourself?

Maybe we have a bit of collective humility or we're older, but the self promotion aspect of music is sometimes self defeating and a detraction from the music and art itself. If you think of the number of bands down there vying for attention and saturating the streets with paper - it seems rather futile - when most people probably already know what they're going to see. We're not trying to be high-brow art school assholes, in fact for playing what some consider to be somber music, we're really a bunch of jokers. but I think most people are down there to have fun and that definitely goes for labels with dwindling T & E budgets. Sure we'll mention our show and maybe hand out some flyers but we're not going to go crazy.

8. Are you attending any of the actual conference? Are you attending other shows, what shows/bands are you looking forward to?

We have intentions to do a lot but all bets are off as soon as you get down there. We're definitely looking forward to seeing some bands. Tombs, Janelle Monae, Black Cobra, Grizzly Bear, Okkervil River, Caspian, Akron/Family, Efterklang, Decemberists, etc.

9. Do you expect that Boston will have a strong showing this year?

We haven't seen the entire list of Boston bands, but I do know that there a shitload of international bands this year - and that's a great thing for everyone in Tejas. - Boston Band Crush


Originally released in June by Magic Bullet Records, Eksi Ekso’s debut album is now being released on vinyl by the fine folks at The Mylene Sheath. Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, Eksi Ekso could easily be labeled with terms that have no inherent meaning to them at all. While some will call Eksi Ekso shoegaze or chamber rock, there is no genre accurate enough to describe the band, and there simply doesn’t need to be one - their instrumentation speaks for itself.

I Am Your Bastard Wings owes much of its success to the band's chamber section (a medley of violins, violas, and a trumpet) that brings their sound full circle. While certainly drawing inspiration from Godspeed! You Black Emperor, the band is in no way another post-rock group content to follow the same formulaic song structures numerous other bands are. Instead of long buildups and sonic climaxes, Eksi Ekso play within their own scope, never overstepping their bounds. The songs are certainly not quick or fast, but rather they are to the point, without a minute of unneeded self-gratification.

The vocals of the band, coincidentally this is the first album to be released by The Myleane Sheath that contains vocals, add more of an atmospheric and ambient vibe to the music. While three members of the band sing either separately or as one, the vocals take more of a supporting role, very present in every song but overshadowed by the breath of the violin and viola.

The one downfall of I Am Your Bastard Wings is the length of the album, with no one individual song rising above the rest. The album is a collective work, meaning nothing if not listened to as a whole, but tedious and time consuming nonetheless. Perfect for a long drive to get lost in your own thoughts, the album is still incompatible for anything less than a complete run-through.

I Am Your Bastard Wings is certainly worth the time for post-rock fans looking for a breath of fresh air, or hitting the road for a stretch of time. Record collectors also take note: The vinyl version of the album comes as a 2XLP on colored vinyl and an etched D side. It doesn’t get much better than that.

--Cory Kuklick - Decoy Music


Even with six people, the orchestral grandness of Eksi Ekso’s debut, I Am Your Bastard Wings, sounds like it coming from many more. Throughout the record, the Boston-based sextet take a strings-based chamber approach to post-rock’s grandeur, often leaving the vocals behind (it’s fitting that half the band takes a hand at lead vocals at one time or another, as on Bastard, they’re just another instrument, and not the primary one at that). The band’s more classical sound could be dull, but instead rises and falls quite well.

Even with the backseat role played by vox, only two tracks are truly voice-free instrumentals: the sub-thirty second intro “The Wintering” and minute-thirty-plus middle bridge, “Nitnb”. However, it is the sweeping nature of the instrumentation, not any vocals, which plays center stage on Bastard; only the penultimate “(Spouse of) The Blind Hunter” puts the onus on voice (and that leaves it a little preening). Mostly high post-rock, with a focus on strings, there is still variation amongst the pieces, from the haunting atmosphere of “O’ God, They’ve Frozen” (which also possesses almost smooth jazz-like horns) and “The Gallows”, to the washing waves of “Albatross” and finisher “Russian Excuse”. Eksi Ekso are better at haunt than wash, though: “Frozen” chills, while “Albatross” feels somewhat affected.

There’s also a mix in size, from small echo to epic grandeur, and the band knows how to bring a big build & crash at a number’s end, such as on “Killing Texas”. Adding extra effort on certain tracks helps vary the record, strengthening the darker-tinged “The Choir Will Always Sing” and dramatic tale “Just Leave”. All of the record, big and small, haunting and wash, all of it comes together on premier piece “Mavri”, which sees some of the band’s best instrumentation.

Like much of what may be labeled ‘post-rock’, I Am Your Bastard Wings isn’t easily categorized, as the band also draws from the orchestral grandeur of nineteenth (and earlier) century (akin, though not alike, to such acts as The Dresden Dolls or The Most Serene Republic – QRO spotlight). Somewhere between yesterday and today, chamber, atmosphere, and the night, lies Eksi Ekso. - QRO Magazine


Upon initial observation, Eksi Ekso‘s I Am Your Bastard Wings might seem like a peculiar release for Magic Bullet, a label more known for it’s instrumental behemoths and punk/hardcore bands. Upon closer inspection though, Eksi Ekso is actually made up of some former members of previous Magic Bullet alumni, The Burning Paris and On Fire. Eksi Ekso are an extremely mature rock band and some might even categorize the band into modern rock categories. But, that would be a gross understatement. Eksi Ekso are far too intelligent and ambitious to be confined that easily. From an instrumental standpoint, Eksi Ekso are certainly grandiose enough to match just about any post rock band. With a full string section for much of the record Eksi Ekso excels in creating illuminating soundscapes. Quite similar to a band like September Malevolence, Eksi Ekso have the might of a post-rock band with the subtle addition of vocals. The band’s musicianship and arrangements are stunning to say the least. I Am Your Bastard Wings is 50+ minutes of rising and falling, of pain and pleasure, of simplicity and elegance. While the album certainly illicits certain moods, Eksi Ekso’s I Am Your Bastard Wings is most certainly not just a mood piece that is meant to be left to the background. Turn the volume up on those headphones and realize the depths of what Eksi Ekso are creating here. - Sound as Language


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 gui - Obscure Sound


Eksi Ekso is a band made up of members from The Burning Paris and On Fire which happen to be two bands I have never heard of before. Since I’m not at all familiar with those bands I didnt’ know what to expect out of this one, but what I expected based on the track record for this label was it was likely some really good post-rock band that I’ll end up playing repeatedly for quite some time. My assessment was a little bit off as Eksi Ekso actually has vocals, and that’s not all!

On top of having actual vocals (and multiple vocalists no less), the band also has a small orchestra behind it. This is in addition to the traditional drums/bass/guitar foundation. The result of all these instruments is best described as orchestral post rock with vocals! Imagine if you put together the Rachels with one of the more intricate and mellow post-rock bands and added some soothing vocals to it and you’d have Eksi Ekso. The songs are very melancholy and atmospheric and at times downright soothing. While I often prefer harder edged, angry music I found this album to be quite appealing, making me wonder if I’m starting to mellow with age.

The album comes in a standard sleeve and is pressed on two 12? records. The music spans three sides and the fourth is etched. There are two different colored vinyl editions of this album: orange/black swirl (mail order edition of 200) and a white vinyl (regular edition of 600). The label is also offering a discount package for those who want to purchase both variations that knocks four dollars off the total price.

Having really enjoyed this album, I now find myself curious to check out the bands that spawned this one to see what they are like.
- Punk Volt


Eksi Ekso's dramatic bio makes the bold claim that their sound takes as much influence from Can as it does from Talk Talk. I'm here to disagree with that. Parts of I Am Your Bastard Wings sound like nothing so much as a band trying to write the lost sequel to Laughing Stock. In and of itself, that could be a great thing, seeing as Mark Hollis and Co. penned two of the greatest post-rock albums ever before the genre even existed; and to Eksi Ekso's credit, they've sent me on a month-long Talk Talk binge. To their detriment, however, is that my immersion in Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock has served as a pretty stark reminder of just how short Eksi Ekso fall.

Measuring a band against such a yardstick might seem absurdly unfair, and it is. Eski Esko is pretty good at what it does, "what it does" being a sort of vocal-heavy, guitars-and-strings variety of post-rock; imagine if Explosions in the Sky had actually been Bark Psychosis, and you'll get the idea. The vocals - and the occasional horns - are what's giving me the Talk Talk vibes, but overall the sound is pretty close to the guitar-driven sound that's come to pass for the standard definition of post-rock these days. That said, besides the vocals - which are pretty good, and I'm the first person to cringe at melodic vocals - the insistent drumming pulls this far closer to actual "rock" territory than post-rock typically ventures. Seeing how stale the quiet-loud instrumental formula has gotten over the past few years, this is pretty refreshing, and bodes well for the future of the band.

Most of I Am Your Bastard Wings is lovely in the way that's obligatory for bands of this ilk; large stretches of it are actually compelling, too. In particular, the album's first half makes the most of the band's vaguely unique style with some careful songwriting; the sublime duo of "Killing Texas" and "The Choir Will Always Sing" both sport a well-developed sense of orchestration and release that probably owe something to the fact that Eksi Ekso is, for all intents and purposes, the third incarnation of a band that's been around since 2000 or so (see: On Fire and The Burning Paris). If anything, the impact of these early songs proves a difficult act for the band to follow, but it's not so much that the songs afterwards are of lesser quality. Rather, the impact lessens because of all the reasons that Eksi Ekso ain't Talk Talk just yet - they've hit upon a personality of their own and matched it with an ambitious and admirably bullshit-free sense of instrumentation, but they haven't yet mastered how to take all that intelligent texture and curve it into the narrative arc of an album. Isolate any stretch of I Am Your Bastard Wings and it's engaging, but over the course of the fifty-minute running time, it becomes a bit blasé.

If it sounds like I'm being a bit hard on the band, I am. I was pleasantly surprised by Eksi Ekso and I enjoy this album more than I initially expected to.I Am Your Bastard Wings is a good album and comes with my recommendations if you're into the current crop of guitar-driven bands. There's promise in this band and I'm curious to see what they'll do next, but they're clearly aiming for "classic," and they've still got a ways to go.

-Lucas Kane - Silent Ballet


Eksi Ekso, is made up of “leftovers” from two previous bands, On Fire and The Burning Paris, and in 2008 this Bostonian Sextet presents their first offering, I am Your Bastard Wings. Having no knowledge of both of the ancestors to this band, I came with a clear head and prepared to see what they have in their stock. I must say it was a pleasant discovery.


With a rich engulfing sound, supported by, in addition to the usual rock instrumentation, a chamber section consisting of trumpet, violin, viola and sampling, Eksi Ekso forge a captivating, melancholic atmosphere. Those additional instruments give a valuable orchestral sound to the band, enhancing and adding valuable layers to their sound. The use of three different vocalists (singing either together or separately) also adds to the variety this album offers. What dominates their sound is the big, epic-like aspect which is highly reliant on the strings and trumpet mentioned above. They enrich and add a majestic and certain splendor beauty to the music, increasing the “volume” of the music.

I’ve heard Eksi Ekso compared to a post-rock band with vocals, and there’s merit to this statement, though it is not strictly post-rock that the band delivers. “Killing Texas,” for instance, presents a less dense, more upbeat side of the band. Moreover, the overall mood, while not far from that of post-rock territories, is given a positive boost towards a good solid rock sound.

Eksi Ekso don’t opt for the characteristic long and slow track development style of some post-rock bands. Most of the song songs are not too long, and usually get to the point quickly, in a more typical rock way; and in those nicely flowing tracks, they manage to achieve a successful and efficient effect which is also well executed. The beauty of the music and the way it’s performed is enchanting and thrilling. Dramatic, ambitious and grand, it surrounds and fills the listener. This album seems to me to fit an autumn spirit: somewhat gloomy, yet charming, uplifting, and occasionally optimistic. A fantastic surprise this summer. Highly recommended. - Sonic Frontiers


Discography

I Am Your Bastard Wings CD/ Digital (2008, Magic Bullet)
I Am Your Bastard Wings 2xLP (2008, The Mylene Sheath)
Brown Shark, Red Lion CD/Digital/2xLP (2010, The Mylene Sheath)

Photos

Bio

When only 1/3rd of the band is made up of original members, you alter the instrumentation and write 12 new songs. When you finish a record, establish a new directive, and rid yourself of curses, etc... it's time to rename your band:

Eksi Ekso (pronounced ex-ee ex-o)'s debut release I AM YOUR BASTARD WINGS was produced by the band, Michael Davidson, and mixed/co-produced by Grammy Award Winning producer/engineer Malcolm Burn (Daniel Lanois, Emmylou Harris, Peter Gabriel). The album is slated for release on June 10th, 2008 through Magic Bullet Records.

Read more: http://www.myspace.com/eksiekso#ixzz0zeK79usI