album list


Electric Penguins  (Ireland)

Goodbye From the Electric Penguins  (2006,  43.59)  **
II  (2010,  51.31)  **½

Goodbye From the Electric Penguins manages to locate a finely-balanced point between indie, electronica and post-rock, the end result being as irritating as that sounds. No best tracks and what's with the bloody Autotune? Seán Quinn and Mark Cummins' 'Mellotron' flutes on Supergirl are grotesquely obviously sampled, with more of the same at the end of Blau. Thankfully, II improves matters somewhat, although that shouldn't be taken as any kind of recommendation. Cummins and Paul Murphy get the Mellotron credits this time round, with fully in-yer-face samplotron strings on Julia Stephens, sounding remarkably similar to Watcher Of The Skies, I have to say, followed by surprisingly good 'Mellotron' flutes, with more of those flutes on Nico's End. Sample use finally becomes apparent on the chordal flute work on Mother Penguin; proof positive that hearing individual sampled notes can confuse the ear, but as soon as an interval's played, it sounds wrong.

Electric Soft Parade  (UK)

The Human Body EP  (2005,  21.31)  ***

The Electric Soft Parade (originally The Soft Parade until, hilariously, they were threatened with legal action by a Doors tribute band) are a Brighton-based outfit, essentially brothers Alex and Thomas White, plus whoever's around. Stylistically, at least going by their third release, The Human Body EP, they're all over the place, although I suppose it's difficult to get bored when you don't know where they're going next. The second half of A Beating Heart sounds a bit like Cardiacs, Cold World has something of the '70s singer-songwriter about it, while Everybody Wants is full-blown orchestral pop. As I said, you won't be bored. One or both of the brothers plays samplotron on three tracks, with strings on A Beating Heart and strings and flutes on Cold World and Everybody Wants, the latter sounding particularly orchestral.

Electrolic  (US)

Live on Land  (2012,  45.15)  ***½

Electrolic are Steve Enstad and Scott Gagner, the latter's involvement making it no surprise at all that their debut, 2012's Live on Land (pronounced 'liv' or 'lyve', guys?), is a little powerpop gem of an album. Opener Hello, Hello (why am I reminded of Cheap Trick?) does everything it needs to within two minutes, other highlights including Refreshing, the acoustic Holy and After The Fall. On the (relative) downside, I'm not sure of the purpose of their atmospheric cover of The Cars' Drive (Live Aid, anyone?), not obviously adding anything to the original, while it all goes a bit sparse, almost (dare I say it?) slightly unconvincing post-rock on the last two tracks, rather disturbing the album's flow. Mellotron samples on three definite tracks, with flute and string parts all over Benefit Of The Doubt, distant strings on Here It Comes and upfront flutes on Flash. Overall, despite minor reservations, it's a Planet Mellotron recommendation: good (sometimes very good) songs and some nice 'Mellotron' work.

ElectroSquad  (Australia)

Operation: K  (2001,  47.35)  **½

The Sydney-based ElectroSquad were the duo of Peter Cooper and Craig Simmons, who were actually a lot less 'electro' than their name and reputation might have you believe. Their second (and last) album, 2001's Operation: K, is essentially a mainstream pop album with an electro feel, better tracks including opener Kylie, Cowboy Hats and pseudo-orchestral closer March To Destruction. Mellotron use is rumoured, but turns out to be sampled, with choirs on Kylie, strings on Cowgirl In My Mind and a big burst of choirs on Talking To Myself, although, oddly, nothing on Head (Mellotron Mix) actually sounds particularly Mellotronic. I can't honestly imagine that you'll be very interested in this, but I review everything I hear with a Mellotronic connection, so it's here anyway.

Elegant Simplicity  (UK)  see:

Elegant Simplicity

Elektric Music  (Germany)

Esperanto  (1993,  43.37)  ***
TV/Television CDS  (1993)  ***

Karl Bartos left Kraftwerk in 1991, after nearly twenty years' service, apparently due to frustration at their 'geological epoch' workrate, immediately beginning work as Elektric Music. His/their full-length debut, Esperanto (entirely solo apart from OMD's Andy McCluskey's lead vocal on Kissing The Machine), appeared in '93, sounding pretty much as you'd expect: dance scene-influenced techno-pop in a late-period Kraftwerk vein, better tracks including opener TV, the bonkers sampler-fest of Information and the truly deranged techno-via-Kraftwerk madness of closer Overdrive. Bartos plays (badly) sampled Mellotron strings and choir on '93's TV single, most likely from eMu's then-new Vintage Keys module, containing some of the crummiest Mellotron samples around, plus choirs on the album's first single, Crosstalk, to reasonable effect, all things considered. Incidentally, TV was released as a single edit, its b-side, Television, featuring more of those sampled strings. So; not as Kraftwerkian as Bartos' later solo work, but still worth hearing for the dedicated synth-pop enthusiast.

Element of Crime  (Germany)

Psycho  (1999,  49.15)  ***

In those pre-Rammstein days of the late '90s, a German-language outfit like Element of Crime were never going to get anywhere internationally, but with such a large German-speaking market, why bother? Their ninth studio album, 1999's Psycho, is a fairly laid-back effort, featuring, amongst the album's prevailing vaguely new wave feel, a strange French chanson air on several tracks, albeit in German. Christian Hartje plays samplotron, with flutes on Ferien Von Dir, but only just.

Elephant Stone  (Canada)

The Seven Seas  (2009,  41.09)  ***½
The Glass Box EP  (2010,  20.36)  ***½
Elephant Stone  (2013,  39.37)  ***½

Ex-High Dial Rishi Dhir formed king psychsters Elephant Stone in the late 2000s, after studying Indian classical music (it says here). Naming your new band after a Stone Roses track probably isn't the best start ever, but Dhir's combination of Eastern and Western influences makes for a potent mix that should dispel any lingering indie-related doubts. Their debut, 2009's The Seven Seas, combines those influences with aplomb, top tracks including powerpop opener Bombs Bomb Away, the sitar-driven The Straight Line and ripping, tabla-and-sitar-fuelled closer Don't You Know. Dhir is credited with Mellotron, but I suspect not, with background strings on I Am Blind, block flute chords on the title track, strings on Blood From A Stone and, in case there were any doubt re. sample use, the played-too-quickly string section on Don't You Know.

The following year's The Glass Box EP carries on in similar style, highlights including Strangers (another powerpop as-good-as opener), Behind Those Eyes and brief, backwards sitar freak-out Dhun, with just one samplotron track, with background flutes and strings on Savage Soul. 2013's Elephant Stone is almost as good as their debut, although the element of surprise has been lost, better tracks including powerpop opener (I detect a pattern here) Setting Sun, the grinding Sally Go Round The Sun and eight-minute psych-fest The Sea Of Your Mind. Again, very little fakeotron, with just background strings on Masters Of War (not that one); possibly not quite the equal of The Seven Seas, then, but scrapes the same rating, largely for the inclusion of The Sea Of Your Mind.

Eleventh Dream Day  (US)

Zeroes & Ones  (2006,  49.27)  ***

Eleventh Dream Day released their first album in 1987, but became a part-time proposition after the mid-'90s, members going on to other bands, notably Tortoise. 2006's Zeroes & Ones is their tenth album and third since they took a bit of a back seat; it's a decent enough album of its type, possibly at its best, strangely, at its least original moments. I mean, New Rules IS Cortez The Killer, Douglas McCombs or Rick Rizzo's Neil-inspired guitar work stretching the track out to over seven minutes. Mark Greenberg of The Coctails plays samplotron on closer Journey With No Maps, with flutes and a handful of string notes.

Elisa  (Italy)

Ivy  (2010,  74.24)  **

Elisa Toffoli's seventh album, the bilingual, wildly overlong Ivy, is exactly the kind of vocal showcase you'd expect of a mainstream Italian singer, i.e. Big Ballads by the bucketful. I suppose (he said, exceedingly grudgingly) it does what it does well, but to call listening to it 'a grind' would be to recklessly employ understatement. Never again. Please. Simone Bertolotti's credited Mellotron turns out to be sampled flutes on Ti Vorrei Sollevare, Nostalgia and Ho Messo Via, with possible background strings on Sometime Ago.

Elizabeth & the Catapult  (US)

Taller Children  (2009,  42.41)  **½

Rather like Britain's Florence & the Machine, Brooklyn's Elizabeth & the Catapult are essentially Elizabeth Ziman with a revolving cast. Her/their debut, 2009's Taller Children, veers between being irritatingly jolly and really quite heartfelt, making for a slightly schizophrenic release, although I suppose that's what's known as 'varied', so perhaps I should be a little less harsh [yes, perhaps you should: Ed.]. Notable tracks include jaunty opener Momma's Boy and the title track, chiefly for its lyrics, speaking of which, spot the quick Beatles lyric quote on Right Next To You. Ziman is credited with Mellotron, but the flutes on Momma's Boy are fairly clearly sampled and as for Hit The Wall's strings... So; a modern female singer-songwriter album that, while superior to the ditsy dross reviewed elsewhere on this site, still only manages to show sporadic streaks of originality.

Carrie Elkin  (US)

The Jeopardy of Circumstance  (2007,  34.37)  ***

Texan Carrie Elkin works at the country end of Americana, The Jeopardy of Circumstance being her fourth release, a sparsely-arranged collection, at its best on the searing Black Lung. I don't know why Mark Addison's credited with Mellotron, as there's nothing even remotely like one on the record.

Paul Ellis  (US)

The Infinity Room  (2006,  60.00)  ***½

Paul Ellis (ex-Dweller at the Threshold, not to be confused with Ellis Paul) is an American synthesist, or EM artist, whose third album, 2006's The Infinity Room, stands out from the mass of identi-Tangs bands, relying less on the sequencers (although niftily-titled closer MirrororriM (work it out) particularly lets rip on that front) and more on atmospherics. Several of its exactly ten minute-long tracks concentrate (if that's the right word) on drifting ambience, The Unveiling Moment possibly being the best example, although MirrororriM's delayed, sequenced runs are probably the most original thing here. Ellis adds Mellotron samples to several tracks, with a brief string part on Tick Tock, cello and flutes on The Realms Of The Unreal, with choirs, strings and flutes cropping up elsewhere. I get the feeling that (rather like the progressive genre), were any EM artist to come up with anything genuinely original, it would probably remove itself from the field altogether, which is a rather searing indictment, but Ellis comes as close as any I've heard to doing something at least slightly different with a well-worn set of parameters.

Rick Ellis  (US)

Rick Ellis  (2000,  36.44)  ***

Rick Ellis' eponymous debut utilises the talents of some top sidemen, not least Waddy Wachtel, John Mellencamp's producer Paul Mahern and musicians who've played with the likes of Larry Carlton and Bonnie Raitt. The end result is a kind-of second division roots rock effort, perfectly acceptable, but rather unexciting, probably at its best on opener Cecil Cassandra and Alienation Blue. Mahern's credited Mellotron on Dancin' In The Mystery consists of a most-likely sampled cello part.

Tinsley Ellis  (US)

Get it!  (2013,  46.57)  ***
Tough Love  (2015,  45.48)  ***

Given that bluesman Tinsley Ellis has been recording for over thirty years, I'm amazed I haven't heard of him before; just not tapped into that blues world, I suppose. 2013's all-instrumental Get it! is something like his thirteenth solo album; if you come to it expecting anything other than searing blues guitar and seriously trad workouts, though, you'll be disappointed. Best tracks? The funky, Clav-driven Sassy Strat, Detour and the rocking title track, maybe, although blues fans will find little to complain about here. Kevin McKendree is credited with Mellotron, although I'm pretty damn' sure the strings on Anthem For A Fallen Hero actually had nothing to do with a genuine tape-replay machine. Two albums on, 2015's Tough Love informs us that Ellis has a good, if not outstanding blues voice. The material is every bit as unadventurous as you'd expect, but then, to criticise a bluesman for playing the blues has something of an air of futility about it. Anyway, the tracks that caught my ear were the soulful All In The Name Of Love, complete with brass interjections, the propulsive Leave Me and haunted, Wurlitzer-heavy closer In From The Cold, the last being the sole 'Mellotron' track, although the sample use is obvious this time round.

Elmi  (Norway)

The Psychotropic Witch  (2011,  28.20)  ***

The Psychotropic Witch consists of one, near half-hour track, The Tale Of The Proselyte, The Psychotropic Witch And The Dreaming Dead. A sludgefest of the highest order, its drumless doom borders on the experimental, nearer to the almost-rhythmless approach of some extreme black metal. Around twenty minutes in, the keyboards appear, Espen Solheim adding an excellent church organ part to the mix, followed by samplotron choirs, although I can't work out whether or not the organ's the Mellotron one.

Elroy  (US)

The Case for Going to the Moon  (2005,  44.13)  **½

The Case for Going to the Moon is, largely, an Americana album, at its best on The Girl Is Trying To Kill Me and The Truth; a couple more like these and this could've clawed its way up to a three-star review. Chris Decato's Chamberlin credit is the most-likely sampled strings on You've Gone Away.

Elysian Fields  (US)

Last Night on Earth  (2011,  48.29)  ***

The Brooklyn-based duo of Jennifer Charles and Oren Bloedow, a.k.a. Elysian Fields, tread the darker side of the street and, almost certainly as a result, are apparently more popular in Europe than in their home country. 2011's Last Night on Earth is their sixth full album, better tracks including opener Sleepover, Red Riding Hood, with its highly distinctive guitar hook and the piano-led Church Of The Holy Family. Jeremy Mage's credit says 'Mellotron', but are the background strings on Sweet Condenser supposed to be the real thing? I think not. Anyway, a noirish album that'll keep, well, noir fans happy, I suppose.

Caro Emerald  (Netherlands)

Deleted Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor  (2010,  46.32)  ***

Caroline Esmeralda "Caro Emerald" van der Leeuw is a new Dutch singer, whose debut, 2010's Deleted Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor, is a refreshing blend of swing and modern production techniques, programmed drums and turntables sitting surprisingly well alongside sleazy brass and Caro's '40s vocal aesthetic. The album is actually a very listenable affair, although not something I'll probably revisit that often, if truth be told; most of the material's much of a muchness, although opener That Man and Dr. Wanna Do stand slightly out from the pack. David Schreurs and Jan van Wieringen are both credited with Mellotron, but it seems highly likely that it emanates from the M-Tron, given the MkII rhythms (and string stabs) on Stuck. We also get strings on the intro and its reiterations on Just One Dance, although I can't say there's anything especially obvious on Riviera Life or A Night Like This (maybe the vibes?), despite the strings on the latter. So; one to be played in the kind of smoky bar that seems to have been thankfully consigned to history.

Eminem  (US)

Recovery  (2010,  77.00)  *

I'm sure you all know exactly as much as you want to concerning the life and works of Marshall "Eminem" Mathers; suffice to say, 2010's Recovery is his seventh album and sounds exactly as you'd expect. And why is it on Planet Mellotron? Despite supposed 'Mellotron' sounds being used on a couple of tracks, it's essentially here due to track six, Going Through Changes. Sound familiar? Yup, it's based around large chunks of Black Sabbath's Mellotron classic Changes (from 1972's Vol. 4). Original, I'm sure. The rest of the album is largely mainstream hip-hop, with the occasional distorted guitar (or sample), possibly to add a bit of 'rock' credibility, possibly because he enjoys playing with sound. Cinderella Man is based around the rhythm track from Queen's We Will Rock You (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), but I didn't spot anything else, probably because he and I largely listen to different music. The album 'features' a panoply of tedious guest stars, who add to its appeal not one jot. Unless you're desperate to hear what Mathers has done to Changes (incidentally making this my first sample review that features a sample of a Mellotron track, rather than actual sample use), you really aren't going to want to hear this. Are you?

Emma's Imagination  (UK)

Stand Still  (2011,  33.15)  **½

I hate to say it, but I feel that Emma Gillespie's imagination must be somewhat limited, going by her sole album to date, although we shouldn't expect a lot more of someone who came to the public's attention via a Sky TV talent contest. It's one of those wispy 'couple of tracks would be perfectly acceptable' releases, but a whole album of this kind of mournful introspection, even one this short, quickly loses its appeal. Emma's lack of imagination. Claes Björklund's 'Mellotron' turns out to be no more than the faintest-of-faint, vaguely Mellotronic strings on closer Keep.

Gert Emmens  (Netherlands)

Asteroids  (2001,  72.06)  ***½
Wanderer of Time  (2003,  69.07)  ***½
Obscure Movements in Twilight Shades  (2003,  69.40)  ***½
Live: A Long Way From Home  (2004,  72.10)  ***½
Waves of Dreams  (2004,  72.00)  ***½
When Darkness Falls Upon the Earth  (2005,  75.26)  ***½
The Tale of the Warlock  (2006,  78.43)  ***
A Boy's World  (2007,  78.59)  ***
The Nearest Faraway Place Vol. 1  (2008,  70.48)  **½
The Nearest Faraway Place Vol. 2  (2009,  71.39)  ***½
The Nearest Faraway Place Vol. 3  (2010,  76.51)  ***

Like many progressive musicians born at the wrong time, Gert Emmens has had to wait a while to get the career he's presumably always wanted. After a mainstream pop album in 1995, his first EM album, 1999's Elektra (Emmens was already over forty by this point), was a surprisingly proggy effort, consisting largely of structured material full of key changes, multiple parts and all the other prog paraphernalia, although nothing that sounds like a Mellotron.

Unfortunately, his first samplotron effort, 2001's Asteroids (a CD-R release, I believe), backs away slightly from this approach, although it's still far more structured than many electronic albums I've heard, Pallas possibly being the best thing here. Emmens uses his Mellotron samples with taste, refusing to overdo it, sticking choirs on pretty much every track, plus strings on Geographos, very obviously sampled. 2003's Wanderer of Time drops back into the groove, the title track and closer The Voyage Of Voyager I notably being 'electronic prog' rather than semi-improvisational EM. Most of the samplotron work here is choirs (sometimes running over the eight-second limit), with the occasional slightly ropey string part.

Unfortunately, I seem to be hitting my EM tolerance limit around now, as Emmens' second album of 2003, Obscure Movements in Twilight Shades, strikes me as merely more of the same. Yes, a load of work has gone into it, compositionally and in the playing/recording, but it just sounds like... another EM album. Sorry. I'm not sure I'm ever really going to understand this stuff, although this album's perfectly pleasant and every bit as good as its predecessors, with the usual amounts of fake Mellotron. 2004's Live: A Long Way From Home, is possibly the most 'studio'-sounding live album I've ever heard (including Judas Priest's Unleashed in the East). Seriously, you would have absolutely no idea this was live if it didn't say so in the title. Not all that much fakeotron, actually, with choirs on maybe three tracks, but not one of Mr. Emmens' more major nearlytron works.

Waves of Dreams, from later the same year, expands the envelope slightly, with a soprano voice on the title track being the one thing that makes it stand out from its predecessors. Loads of sampled choir, with strings added here and there, just for a change. The following year's When Darkness Falls Upon the Earth is (within EM limits, of course) a more 'commercial' album than its predecessors in some ways, its early tracks only needing a couple of tweaks in the percussive department to turn them into chill-out classics. The whole thing's vastly overlong, of course, but who wants a 'vinyl length' EM album these days, eh? Me, actually, but there you go. Thin on the fakeotron again, with naught but distant choirs on a couple of tracks, but a decent effort all round.

But what's happened on 2006's The Tale of the Warlock? Is it just me, or has Emmens lost his mojo? I'm having trouble putting my finger on the problem, but it sounds like he's simply allowed the sequencers to run themselves, the end result sounding completely by-numbers, even in a fairly by-numbers genre, not to mention the near-techno feel to a couple of tracks (dodgy ground, there...). A fairly typical level of samplotron choir and strings, but I wouldn't recommend this as your first port of call for Mr. Emmens. The following year's A Boy's World isn't much better, or have I finally reached my EM limit (again)? It seems to me that you've got to be a serious fan of this kind of stuff to get very excited about anything that isn't jaw-droppingly good and frankly, this isn't jaw-droppingly good. Totally competent, completely professional, but all a bit uninspired, at least to my ears. Even less samplotron than before, with naught but a few background choir and string parts here and there for our edification.

Things get no better on the first part of Emmens' The Nearest Faraway Place trilogy; most of its contents have (of all things) a slightly MOR bent, chord sequences just that bit too 'sweet' for comfort. In total contrast, Vol. 2 is possibly Emmens' best album. Why, when it consists of exactly the same kind of blips and drones as all his previous releases? Impossible to say; for this listener, his influences all come together at their best here, in an irritatingly indefinable way, not to mention the 'original feature' of a woman's voice speaking French on Part 13. Reasonable levels of sampotron, too, the most major use being the full-on strings on Part 10. Vol. 3 falls somewhere between the previous two volumes, being, essentially, just another Gert Emmens album, although the sequencer patterns on Part 17 are particularly good and we get some interesting vocoder work on the relatively brief Part 21. Usual old samplotron stuff, barely worth mentioning.

Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij  (Netherlands)

Return to the Origin  (2004,  70.39)  ***½
Blind Watchers of a Vanishing Night  (2005,  73.45)  ***½
Journey  (2007,  74.38)  ***½
Silent Witnesses of Industrial Landscapes  (2008,  78.56)  ***½

Alongside his solo works, noted Dutch synthesist Gert Emmens (above) has also produced a handful of albums with Ruud Heij, the first of which, 2004's Return to the Origin, has similarities with Emmens' solo work, but is a rather darker proposition all round, at least to my ears. Not that much samplotron, either, its chief use being the major string part on closer So Long. More Klaus, less Tangs. The following year's Blind Watchers of a Vanishing Night is recorded live, with all audience reaction removed. It starts well, with the opening title track (incidentally, one of the best pieces from this genre I've heard for a while), although the three-quarter-hour A Journey Through Time is possibly pushing it a little. More fakeotron than before, with choirs all over the title track, choirs and strings on A Journey Through Time and bits on the rest of the album.

2007's Journey doesn't differ significantly from its predecessors, making it a highly competent yet somewhat unoriginal EM albums. More samplotron than before, mostly choirs, with a couple of strong string parts. The following year's Silent Witnesses of Industrial Landscapes is, sadly, less industrial (in a real, not Ministry-esque sense) than I'd hoped, although Heij's darker influences remain at the fore. Unfortunately, Setting The Wheels In Motion features a four-note sequence that reminds me of The Jam's Eton Rifles, albeit in an entirely different context; I rather doubt whether the duo realised. As before, higher levels of samplotron, although it's all fairly obvious.

Emmerhoff & the Melancholy Babies  (Norway)

Electric Reverie  (2005,  49.56)  **½

Emmerhoff & the Melancholy Babies are a Norwegian indie/psych outfit, whose second (?) album, 2005's Electric Reverie, is one of those infuriating releases that could be really good, but isn't. It certainly has its moments - Into The Black, Towards The Within takes the prize for 'most psych track on the album', complete with Leslied vocals - but too much of it wallows around in the indie shallows, not to mention that it's probably ten minutes too long for its own good. Jørgen Træen plays 'Mellotron', with squeaky string lines on opener Meltdown and Major/Minor and regular strings on Into The Black, Towards The Within, although I find it highly unlikely, from the sound of it, that they actually sourced a real machine. So; an album with definite moments, but too few of them to make it particularly worth your while.

Val Emmich  (US)

Slow Down Kid  (2003,  35.40)  *½

Val Emmich (a geezer, in case you were wondering) is a modern indie singer-songwriterly type with a vaguely punky edge, displayed on a couple of tracks on his first full-length album, Slow Down Kid. Confusingly, the album first appeared in 2002 on Childlike records with a different sleeve and tracklisting, being reissued the following year on Red Ink (an Epic subsidiary), the version reviewed here. Now, far be it from me to lay into something with a twenty-pound sledgehammer (what, me?), but this is truly awful, from the unimaginative, sub-sub-Velvets rhythm guitar work to Emmich's largely wispy vocals, doubtless relaying messages of great portent, or possibly merely whining on about his shit life. Actually, mate, you've just made mine slightly worse, too, as I've now spent over half an hour listening to your dreadful record. Emmich and Wayne Dorell allegedly play Mellotron, but the faint background strings on Medical Display and vague stringy things heard briefly elsewhere sound little like a genuine M400 (or, indeed, any other model). I'm not even sure this should go into samples, but given that it's credited, I'll grudgingly make an exception. Incidentally, not only has some of Emmich's music been used in TV shows, but he's even acted in some. You have been warned.

Empire  (US)

Driven By Rock  (1996,  46.08)  **½

Baltimore's Empire formed from the ashes of Basement Floor, apparently, almost certainly a covers outfit; while their debut, 1996's Driven By Rock, is all-original, the overwhelming feel of the album is 'bar band records own second-rate material'. Musical pointers? Midwest '70s rock, Bon Jovi, '80s Kiss. Sounds like your bag? Good luck. In fairness, many of the songs are as memorable as the material on lesser albums by major names, but this is music to drink by and, having done so, bellow along to. Vocalist Tim Miskimon is credited with Mellotron, amongst various other keys, but the flutes and not-very-Mellotronic strings on the balladic Do You Really Love Me and You Can't Stop Love (guess what: another ballad) sound more like the then-recently-released Roland sample set than anything. So; not one for anyone wishing to hear a real Mellotron, or, for that matter, anything more ambitious than bar-band material. And what, exactly, is with the 'jokey introduction to jokey country song' that ends the album? Amateur hour, guys.

Empires  (US)

Orphan  (2014,  38.10)  **½

Unfortunately, after 2012's not-too-bad Garage Hymns, Orphan, from all of two years later, sees Empires taking the king's shilling and aligning themselves with the indie mainstream, complete with worrying bursts of 'Bono vocal' from Sean Van Vleet. I'm not sure there are any 'best tracks', although material such as opener Silverfire, the title track and the gentler Lifers are typical of the album's overall style. Bobby Sparks is credited with Mellotron, but the chordal strings on Hostage and Stay Lonely and a suspiciously-speedy string line on Please Don't Tell My Lover whisper 'samples' to me, gently but insistently. Anyway, the album's nonsense, so I wouldn't worry about it (like you were).

Empty Days  (Italy)

Empty Days  (2013,  60.51)  ***

Empty Days sit in the hinterland between the quietest end of progressive rock and ambient, making it all the more surprising that they manage to hold this listener's interest over the course of an hour-long album. Despite the Crimson reference on closer This Night Wounds Time (what d'you mean, you don't recognise it?), I wouldn't call the Crimson Kings an obvious influence. Occasional samplotron strings and choirs, but not the reason you should hear this.

Empyrium  (Germany)

Weiland  (2002,  50.45)  ***½

Empyrium were the duo of Markus "Ulf T. Schwadorf" Stock and Andreas Bach, one of those European death metal offshoot bands of the kind that discover their inner dark, Germanic symphonic folk side (see: their offshoot Noekk). 2002's Weiland (presumably not a tribute to the 'legendary' Scott?) was their last album and second non-metal release, which, despite its on-off overly-gloomy approach, is actually a very listenable record, highlights including opener Kein Hirtenfeuer Glimmt Mehr, classical guitar duet Nebel, the lengthy Waldpoesie and Fossegrim, although the gothic male vocals (not to mention the very occasional metal grunting) on a few tracks work less well. Sample use is obvious from the off, the album opening with (realistic) 'Mellotron' flutes on Kein Hirtenfeuer Glimmt Mehr and a string part that drops well below its operating limits, with more strings on Heimwärts, although the rest of the album's string parts appear to be either synth or real. Overall, then, an album that probably takes itself a little too seriously for its own good, but if you don't mind a little pompousness and a dark prog/folk crossover sounds like it might appeal, you could do a lot worse.

Enchant  (US)

Juggling 9 or Dropping 10  (2000,  64.24)  **½
Tug of War  (2003,  65.42)  **½
The Great Divide  (2014,  55.18)  ***

Enchant's debut album, 1995's A Blueprint of the World (***½) is actually rather good, being progressive metal without sounding too much like Dream Theater, albeit displaying a noticeable Rush influence. Sadly, it seems that their own sound has slowly been subsumed over the years into 'prog-metal by numbers', at least going by 2000's Juggling 9 or Dropping 10, which displays few signs of a band attempting to progress in any manner whatsoever. No, it's not all bad, but it's extremely derivative (the first notes of opener Paint The Picture are copped almost directly from Rush's Xanadu, of all things), overlong and, I'm afraid to say, rather dull, the tracks merging into one long widdle-fest, guitarist Doug Ott showing off a few too many times. Forty minutes of this might be just about acceptable; over an hour approaches torture. Oddly, the rather surprising supposed Mellotron isn't played by keys man Mike Geimer, but by Ott and drummer Paul Craddick, with background strings on Bite My Tongue and something credited but entirely inaudible on Broken Wave. 'Strings' are credited on three tracks, too, but sound like real ones.

Two albums and three years later, Tug of War is, basically, more of the same, only fewer tracks spread over slightly more time, which is not a good thing. Far too many of Enchant's songs really don't have enough ideas to sustain their lengths, to be honest, although this album's best bits are generally better than Juggling 9's. I've also just realised: future Spock's Bearder vocalist Ted Leonard's voice really grates after prolonged exposure - he sounds like he'd be just as happy in an AOR band; also not a good thing. New keyboard player Bill Jenkins doesn't get to play the samplotron any more than his predecessor, with Ott having another go on the naffly-titled Progtology on what are quite clearly rather poor Mellotron choir samples. 'Mellotron' indeed... While no classic, 2014's The Great Divide is a rather better effort than the band's early 2000s work; more cohesive and less unoriginal, anyway. Best track? Possibly Deserve To Feel. Why? Not sure, but it seems to do slightly more with their fairly limited range of influences than the rest of the album. Ott's credited with Mellotron again, but all that's changed is that his samples have improved, with strings on Circles, the title track and possibly elsewhere.

Enon  (US)

Motor Cross/Burning the Bread 7"  (1999)  **

I believe Enon were led by John Schmersal, a.k.a. John Stuart Mill, releasing six albums and a slew of singles in their decade of existence. Motor Cross is their second single, a mournful piece of low-fi drone, as is its flip, Burning The Bread. Indie, Jim, but not as we know it... Speaking of Jim, alt. hero Jim O'Rourke is credited with 'Melotron' on the flip, but the distant strings aren't even good samples, frankly. This stuff has its adherents; sadly, I am not among them.

Ensemble of Lonesome Fellas  (US)

Homeless for the Holidaze  (2007,  49.57)  ***

I can't tell you anything much about the Ensemble of Lonesome Fellas, but Homeless for the Holidaze is an amusing Christmas-themed record, freely mixing blues, soul and jazz on mutated standards (The Strippers Holidaze, Santa Claus Is Shufflin' To Town) and equally mutated covers (Carol of The Tubular Bells). On Ghosts Of Christmas Past, Fleetwood Mac's Albatross morphs into Norman Greenbaum's Spirit In The Sky, riffing, I presume, on Peter Green's real name... Greenbaum. I'm really not at all sure why Mark Bentz is credited with Mellotron.