Estradasphere
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It seems lately that I've been asking myself the same question a lot: “Just how much further can music go?” When you receive a release like Estradasphere's new DVD on The End Records, “Palace of Mirrors Live”, you realize that there's so much more left to be accomplished. There was so much about this DVD that inspired me that I'd have to write a novel just to describe it all. This is a rare gem, not because the music itself is a rare find, if anything i'm sure this is one of The End's best sellers, but because Estradasphere are a group of musicians that come from different walks of life, different backgrounds, and even different parts of the country, but have all come together to write as one collective, flawlessly, with an unimaginable amount of talent at their disposal.

The Palace of Mirrors (Live) is split into three sections: The Live Show, The Opening Set, and the Palace of Mirrors Documentary. The live set spanned nearly their entire Palace of Mirrors album, only cutting the track “Six Hands”, and arranging a few others (like opening the set with the powerful and heavy The Return.). The tracks have been arranged in such a way that the screen behind the band can display an experimentally shot movie that involved the band members as the cast amongst others named in the credits. Its slightly confusing what the movie itself is supposed to entail but the song names combined with paying careful attention to what's going on should make it a little easier to follow. There are also times when the members of Estradasphere act out the movie on stage, including the ending which has a rather humorous song with vocals at the end.

The Opening set is built on the live performance as well, but as tracks for, you guessed it, the opening. This tour doesn't appear to have had any other bands accompanying Estradasphere so having their opening set was probably a must. The songs played in this opening segment were all written by other composers with the exception of Hunger Strike. The songs featured were of a strong classical and/or jazz background and worked to show off that side of the band's background more so than perhaps the actual live set which would appeal more towards experimental rockers. This segment helped to prove that Estradasphere is a band that any type of person with classical, metal, or experimental asperations can enjoy. There's so much here to say and so little room and time to get it all out. This band is one in a million and its hard to even fathom how they've gotten to the point where they are now. They've built their own studio in Seattle, WA which is capable of playing for private audiences. This is a beautiful thing.

In fact, it hardly seems logical to believe that it gets any better than that. As a classically trained musician who has been in both metal and jazz bands over my life, Estradasphere seems like a chance in a lifetime for the musicians who are currently playing in its folds. These guys are living a dream that i've only been able to think about. It is most deserving, their skills to exceed what they've attained and I believe that there is so much more for them in their future.

The only complaint that I really have is that I wish the documentary section had been longer. It's always nice to get a close up view of the band in question and to get to know them as people through film. Cradle of Filth have become masters of giving long documentaries of band-related film with their DVD's and it would have been nice to see this for Estradasphere as well. I'm sure there was a lot more that could have been used other than Mr. “I am your potato” head, but I suppose we must settle for what we get right? Excellent release, excellent concert, excellent band. If there were a rating system intact here at Heathen Harvest, this one would be getting a 100% for sure. My only regret is that I'm stuck living here in Cincinnati and that finding a collective of musicians with minds open enough to attain the goal that they've reached will be nearly impossible. Buy this one or you don't deserve to have aural sensory nerves.

- sage
http://www.heathenharvest.com/article.php?story=20071229170928433 - Sage


Chamber metal? If you've never heard the music of California's Estradasphere, that might be a good term to describe their sonic attack, which is sort of like a cross between Univers Zero, The Mars Volta, King Crimson, and Mr. Bungle. This DVD features a live concert of the band playing their latest release Palace of Mirrors in its entirety, along with other songs from the bands repertoire, with plenty of tour footage mixed in for cinematic effect. Although it's essentially a live concert, with all the film elements added in it comes across more as a musical documentary than anything else. Their stage show sees the band members playing instruments such as guitars, trumpet, accordion, violin, banjo, Shamisen (Japanese stringed instrument) bass, and drums, with a large screen behind them flashing plenty of psychedelic and colorful imagery, making for a powerful sensory experience to say the least. One minute the band lurches into a metallic, Crimson inspired wall of sound, the next they settle into a mix of jazz & classical chamber rock scenario, always keeping the viewer in anticipation of where they are going to go next. Unfortunately, with all the constantly shifting and undulating visuals, you really don't get too up close and personal with the band much as opposed to other concert DVD's that you might see. Overall, this is fun stuff, a real enoyable way to watch a classy avant-garde metal band do their thing.

- Sea of Tranquility


Few are the contemporary albums that immediately bring to mind words like imaginative journey or superb composition.

Estradasphere’s latest release, “Palace of Mirrors”, is a soundtrack to a nonexistent movie. Those who know the history of the fantastic global genre, however, know that a great soundtrack doesn’t need visual stimulation.

“Palace of Mirrors” is what happens when you listen to Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota while mastering instruments like the accordion, drums, guitar, shamisen, upright bass and violin, while also wanting to push your instruments to their limits, thus simultaneously pushing the heavy metal envelope.

What’s a Japanese shamisen? Don’t worry about it; just know that band member Kevin Kmetz won 2nd Place at the annual National Tsugaru Shamisen Tournament. That means he’s really good.

“Palace of Mirrors” is sometimes metal, sometimes jazz, usually indescribable and always pushing the boundaries of your expectations. The transitions between styles within the tracks are part of the amazing feat of the album.

You’ll be immediately sucked into the magic by the first two tracks, “Title” and “Palace of Mirrors”. The upbeat violin intertwines with intense ballroom dance music (never thought I’d put those four words together), occasionally dipping into a mysterious gypsy style for a few seconds and back again.

“A Corporate Merger” gets a little funkier, a little more traditional in the pattern of the sounds, and then the shamisen breaks the habit. Before long the guitar, violin and drums are rocking a storm that would give the Furies pause.

“The Terrible Beautypower of Meow” starts with a longing violin piece and melts into a sound I can only describe as a mixture of spaghetti Western and surf music.

“Colossal Risk” will keep you moving through a spectrum of instruments taking the reins in a cautiously upbeat way. Nothing very fast, or very slow, just an interesting mix begging to be called psychedelic spy music. I guess psychedelic spying would be a colossal risk.

“The Unfolding/Pause on the Threshold” is a darker song with drawn-out drums and ambience that shifts to a somber, but also disorienting, guitar and violin ending.

“Smuggled Mutation” is just crazy fun. Pay special attention to the drums, because not many people in the world can sound like that.

“Six Hands” would be perfect for your gypsy montage.

“The Debutante” reminds us that brass isn’t to be forgotten. Jazz can progress, Estradasphere can show us the way.

“Flower Garden of an Evil Man” begins evil indeed. The low-pitch background noise is soon overtaken by an even eviler guitar as the rest of the band puts on their Evil Hats too. Warning: If you suffer from post-traumatic-Mario-Bros.-castle-music syndrome (PTMBCMS), do not attempt this track.

“Those Who Know…” are here to tell you that the shamisen is underappreciated, but no longer! The spaghetti Western influence is unapologetic with the string instruments, but that’s not a bad thing. Whereas most directors would have just bought the rights to a Morricone piece for this scene in their nonexistent movie, Estradasphere went the extra mile and added their own beautiful twist to the style.

“Palace of Mirrors Reprise” is, as the title implies, somewhat of a comedown. The sounds are just as precise and thoughtful as the rest of the album, but we’ve reached the bass-laden denouement, or have we?

“The Return” won’t let you go that easily. Everyone is out in peek heavy metal form. Six minutes of musical destruction await all as they exit the Palace of Mirrors.

The only bad part about this album is…is…well, I tried.

What could be better than this album? This album live: http://www.estradasphere.com will have the tour dates you seek. Reliable sources tell of Nino Rota tracks having been covered, surprise.

- By J. Brock McCoy - J. Brock McCoy


This is the first I've heard of Estradasphere, though "Palace of Mirrors" is their fourth full length album. I wish I'd known about them earlier! After one listen, I became a fully converted Estradaspherian, gave up my earthly possessions, shaved my head, and am currently wearing a robe covered with esoteric magical symbols and a pointy hat. Okay, fine, not really, but damn if this isn't some whacky cool music that makes me want to do all that.

There must be something about Santa Cruz, CA that brings out the weirdness in musicians. Having been there once or twice, it has great atmosphere that is conducive to just the kind of musical experimentation Estradasphere are conducting. So what exactly is it about "Palace of Mirrors" that has my tidy whiteys in a wad? The music contained within these thirteen tracks is like the soundtrack to a dream, or perhaps to a movie written by Umberto Eco while on acid, directed by Klaus Kinski on a bad hair day, with art direction and cinematography by Salvador Dali. In fact, this album makes me want to conjure up a movie to fit the music, instead of the other way around.

Estradasphere is a six piece band, utilizing drums, upright bass, accordion, organ, guitar, violin, and Japanese Shamisen to create their aural visions, and the music can be... well, almost anything. And I mean that. They blend so many musical forms... eastern and western, orchestral, metal, rock, jazz, folk, cinematic... that it's impossible to easily describe. At the same time, instead of just mashing all this shit together willy-nilly, the album maintains a high degree of compositional awareness that makes it very listenable. At least to me! If grinding gut churning distortion is what makes you squirm with glee, you'll likely injure your face doing contortions of confusion while listening. Man, get over it, and come join us on the other side of the musical spectrum. There's room for everyone. In my review of Behold... the Arctopus I noted that I'm a huge fan of bands that take chances and push musical boundaries. Estradasphere satiates that urge.

I had to listen to this many times before writing the review. Once was while riding my bike through midtown and downtown Atlanta, providing a soundtrack to the ride that was second to none. "Those Who Know..." throws it all at you in five minutes, a bizarre erotic environmental piece that would make Ennio Morricone proud. The title track follows that, and you know, words just fail me. Next time I trip the light fantastic, next time I'm on the bus, "Palace of Mirrors" is going to be my music of choice. It's weird, strange, compelling, and fascinating. Reviewer bias is high on this one, but I think people with open ears should find this as enjoyable as I have.

Reviewed by S. Gregory ( deadtide.com) - S. Gregory


While most progressive minded bands (for lack of a better term) pride themselves in mixing and matching unrelated musical genres together, Santa Cruz's Estradasphere take it a step further by inventing and then naming entirely new hybrid styles! Among the crossbreeds slated for inclusion in 2006's Palace of Mirrors: "Romanian Gypsy Death Metal," "Spaghetti Eastern," "Bulgarian Surf," and damn it if these outrageous cocktails aren't masterfully realized in the likes of "Smuggled Mutation," "Six Hands," and "The Terrible Beautypower of Meow," respectively. Also to be found on this wild ride of an album are the industrial noises of "The Unfolding Pause on the Threshold," the beautifully arranged soft jazz of "The Debutante," the far-Eastern-funk-video-game-jingles of "Those Who Know," and symphonic orchestrations both lush, stately and relaxed (see the title track), and swinging, strutting, pouncing and lounging like a Monty Norman Orchestra James Bond theme (see "Colossal Risk"). Elsewhere still, the nightmarish "Flower Garden of an Evil Man" comes off all growling bass and ominous tones, while "Palace of Mirrors Reprise" wafts from polka, to circus music, to music box lullabies, to haunted castle organ music, and, finally, "Corporate Merger" trades in keening Arabic violins for metallic blastbeats and heavy electric guitars during a cathartic finale that's pure post-Mahavishnu (mountain-toppling closer "The Return" is even more intense in that last regard). Oh yeah, and all this without a word -- Estradasphere have gone instrumental on the whole of Palace of Mirrors, which winds up shining an even brighter spotlight on their impeccable and astounding musicianship.

Reviewed by Eduardo Rivadavia ( allmusic.com) - Eduardo Rivadavia


For newcomer to the weird and wonderful world of Estradasphere, Palace of Mirrors is as good a starting point as any. Though the album lacks the vocals featured on the bands previous releases, due to the departure of vocalist and contributing songwriter John Whooley, it is by no means weak as a consequence. The album works well as an instrumental piece and the absence of lyrics allows the listener to draw their own meaning and interpretation from the music. Simply put, Palace of Mirrors is brain-candy for your imagination and will almost certainly get your head-cogs turning.

Each track conjures up an intriguing landscape and story, whether it is passing through some Arabian bazaar (as with the title track) or following the fantastic escapades of some 60's super spy (on "Colossal Risk"). "Palace of Mirrors" sounds as if it's jumped right out of Danny Elfman's repertoire, the score to some as of yet undreamt Tim Burton feature, with just a hint of Balkan gypsy flavor. "A Corporate Merger" and the standout "Those Who Know..." keep the far-eastern sound alive, managing to throw a hint of funk into the mix in the process. Though it would be easy for such a pick-and-mix of musical styles to become little more than a chaotic mess, Estradasphere manage to hold it all together. The band continues their genre world tour by splicing surf rock and strings on "The Terrible Beautypower of Meow.Things even take a turn for the sinister on "Flower Garden of an Evil Man" and "The Unfolding/Pause on the Threshold," with some electronic-come-industrial beats thrown in for good measure.

How to classify all of this? Big-band gypsy jazz funk folk metal is about the best I can come up with, and that in itself is really no clear explanation of what to expect from Palace of Mirrors. It's almost as if Estradasphere can hear critics and fans alike trying to pin them down under one genre, but always manage to slip away at the last moment. It's even more difficult to compare Estradasphere, concretely, to any other artists perhaps with the exception of Mr. Bungle, or other genre-bending Mike Patton projects. The broken mirror on the cover of Palace of Mirrors seems suggestive of all of this: the fractured sound, the absence of a clear-cut identity. All of this may seem a little bizarre and daunting at first, but if you're willing to go into Palace of Mirrors with an open-mind, I doubt you'll find yourself disappointed.

-Jen J. - Jen J.


The band that recorded this album bears small resemblance to the Estradasphere fronted by John Whooley. Their music is still a Frankenstein's monster built from scraps of gypsy music, klezmer, jazz, metal and God knows what else, and it's still friendly to video game samples and sudden changes in tempo and time signature. But where such devices often sounded tongue-in-cheek in the past, they now simply sound inventive. Like Inspector Gadget, Estradasphere is always pulling out a new trick, making Palace of Mirrors worthy of many listens. These guys' rhythms have a funny way of crawling into your head and setting up camp, sometimes bristling with triplets so fast that they sound like tremors. What the band may have lost in sheer spaz-out instrumental savagery since the departure of Whooley and drummer Dave Murray, they've made up in scope and depth. There are still moments of sarcasm, the schmaltzy "The Debutante" fills the listener with an irresistible urge to play shuffleboard, and the last minute of "Those Who Know" sounds nostalgic for the days of Battlestar Galactica but on the whole, Estradasphere has taken off the clown nose, so to speak. The highlight of this instrumental, sci-fi-themed album is quite possibly the final track, "The Return," which brims with positive, punish-your-problems intensity. Hopefully the band will continue to trade the carnival flurry for greater emotional depth more grandeur, more despair, more passion, more yearning.

- Damion Orion - Damion Orion


The band sounds highly equipped and skilled, most probably due to the experience it has garnered with its previous releases.

Now, don’t expect any Mr. Bungle-like weirdness or Hella-like inferno. The music here has indeed some lunatic flavors, but these are mainly reflected throughout the blurring of genres’ boundaries rather than being idiosyncratic, estranged or wacky.

While Palace of Mirrors does not scream "avant-garde," the band manages to explore its varied influences and combine them with a true sense of dedication and every bit of musicianship that is necessary in order to execute the diverse instrumental compositions.

As a result, the transition between genres is seamless: on "A Corporate Merger," a basic theme is given the snowball treatment, being wrapped first with gypsy music, then with slight funk, middle-eastern shades and eventually metal grinds (it’s only a shame it ends on such a low note); "The Terrible Beautypower Of Meow" and "Colossal Risk," which mix classical orchestration and jazz with spaghetti movies themes, have Lalo Schifrin written allover them; while on "Smuggled Mutation," Romanian folklore lives side by side with distortion and drum rolls. These are but a few examples of course, just to give you an idea as for what is going on in this genre-embracing release.

The only complaint I could come up with was that the compositions don’t quite make the symbiosis they manage to achieve between the genres on the album level — it is like every track is for itself (which really makes one wonder about the necessity of the first, intro track, especially as it is so airy). Regardless, Palace of Mirrors treasures plenty of fun, and at least an equal amount of cleverness and musical potency.

- Avi Shaked

- Avi Shaked


Is it any wonder that Trey Spruance (Mr. Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3) discovered Estradasphere? A six-piece out of Santa Cruz, CA who utilizes classical, rock, and ethnic instrumentation to formulate scores that range anywhere from “chamber ensemble, jazz combo, gypsy metal band,” to film soundtracks and ‘60s pop, Estradasphere are carrying the torch (albeit in a much more domesticated and “pleasant to have tea with” manner) left behind by Mr. Spruance’s former band. Middle Eastern melodies collide with Japanese Shamisen, Romanian rhythms crunch to the thunder of Metallica riffs, vocal harmonies atop of Coltrane-like arrangements… yup, this shit is out there alright, just how I like it. And although Estradasphere are much more subdued and streamlined in their ideas and execution than the schizophrenic assault of Mr. Bungle, the multiple personalities still get to rear each and every one of their beautiful heads. Will you be able to put Palace of Mirrors on at a party? Nope, but certainly on Halloween night or as the background to an avant garde play!

By Tim Den
- Tim Den


This is just a magnificent work of art in the whole extent of the word; Estradasphere created an incredible artistic album and developed their concept inside the music, the cinematic booklet, and the overall experience which can only be described as the score from a non-existent movie.

I can easily picture a younger band listening to Ennio Morricone's scores; the whole album unwraps itself within a surreal concept that involves a made-up story that ends where it begins, complicated for you? Well that's exactly why this album worths so much, it will make you think a lot!

Musically we're facing towards a very complex face; the band has NO physical genre whatsoever, the album goes from technical Jazz, to multi-faceted orchestra and even a couple of truly agressive bits here and there (faster than many Grindcore bands out there actually), it's of course an instrumental piece, similar to what Kaada did in "Music For Movie Bikers" only with a more hardcore and rockish glance and without the chanting vocal solos.

"Palace Of Mirrors" is a brilliant album, for smart people only; while closed-minded listeners won't have the chance to fully attract the core and concept of this record, many of us will take our times to analyse every single hint and every part of this artistic package. The final result is incredibly worthwhile, spastic over the skin, technical veins, progressive rampage and incompatible music, more than what most people can take in one sitting.

- by Herzebeth - Herzebeth


Discography

Palace of Mirrors Live
(DVD - 2007 - The End Records)

Palace of Mirrors
(CD - 2006 - The End Records)

These Are the Days
(DVD - 2004)

Passion for Life
(DVD+CD - 2004- Mimicry Records)

Quadropus
(CD - 2003 - Mimicry Records)

The Silent Elk of Yesterday
(CD - 2001)

Buck Fever
(CD - 2001- Mimicry Records)

It's Understood
(CD - 2000 - Mimicry Records)

SIDE PROJECTS -
Jason Schimmel - The Grand Hoax - 2008

ISS - "Forget About the Girl" - 2002 - Mimicry Records

Don Salsa - "Koolaide Moustache" 1997

INSTRUMENTAL APPEARANCES

Amanda Palmer: Amanda Palmer – Roadrunner Records - 2008

John Zorn: Masada – Xaphan: Book of Angels Vol.9- arranged and produced by the Secret Chiefs 3 - 2008

Mr Bungle - " California" - Warner Bros - 2000

Secret Chiefs 3 - "Book M" - Mimicry records - 2001

Secret Chiefs 3 - "Book of Horizons" - 2005 - Mimicry records

Fishtank Ensemble (DVD) -Live at the Freight and Salvage (2007)

Fishtank Ensemble - Super Raoul (2006)

Impaled - Death After Life (Century Media, 2005)

Peter Garland - Love Songs (Tzadik, 2005)

Photos

Bio

Estradasphere's "Palace of Mirrors Live" (2007 DVD) marks their second release since signing with The End Records in 2006. The Palace DVD's cinematic music and imagery connote a narrative that cuts across time, space, and genre. The line between cinema and album has been freshly blurred...

"Palace of Mirrors Live" is a psychedelic-sci-fi-gypsy-metal-jazz epic performed by the six musicians of Estradasphere, a live-cinema projectionist, and an innovative visual team. As the themes of the music associate with the enigmatic video projections, a dynamic film is created in which the members of Estradasphere are both the characters and the soundtrack orchestra. The mind melting Palace feature is counterbalanced by an entire opening set of 60's foreign/domestic film music, cartoon and bebop jazz, anachronistic Classical music interpretations, channeling of a non-existant American truck commercial, classic Estradasphere Gypsy Metal, and 50's Gospel favorites. Among the interpreted composers are Raymond Scott, Nino Rota, Frederic Chopin, Camille Saint-Saëns, Bud Powell, Sam Cooke, and Bernard Herrmann.

Estradasphere's diverse instrumental (violin,contrabass, jazz/metal guitar, accordion, drums, clavinet, trumpet, organ, shamisen) land stylistic palette enables them to execute a vast array of orchestrations and even forge entirely new genres such as "Bulgarian Surf," "Romanian Gypsy-Metal," and "Spaghetti Eastern." After forming in Santa Cruz, California in 1999, Estradasphere's first three studio albums were released on Trey Spruance's (Mr. Bungle) Mimicry Records. Members of Estradasphere have also recorded and performed with Spruance's current project, Secret Chiefs 3 as well as John Zorn's Masada. Estradasphere will be touring in 2007-2008 as the backup band for the solo project of Amanda Palmer from the Dresden Dolls, in addition tog producing tracks for her upcoming solo releases. Estradasphere's four studio albums, three live concert DVD's, six international tours, and ongoing "psychedelic-cinema-thon" concerts have earned them a loyal and growing following worldwide.