SMS #71 | EBB – Mad & Killing Time


Erin Bennett, now there’s a name synonymous with Small Music Scene. She was among one of the first ever acts I covered on the site back in 2015, and 2022 has been a big year for her for 2 main reasons: 1) she finally gained British citizenship, so now she’s “one of us, one of us, one of us”, and 2) she and the rest of the exalted prog-rock crew EBB have a new album out, and it ranks high in their arsenal.

A dish and dash of flutes, saxes, tickling bass notes and other miscellaneous noises resound as we enter into the instrumental opening piece Vorspiel / Grieg’s Diner, which has this sublime theatrical flavour, but it properly gets going with The Animal Said I, primarily led on by Nikki’s lovely piano melody; that’s not to say the rest of the performances aren’t great obviously, everybody’s on top form. The song has an entrancing dark, mystical quality, and the amazing unified vocal trio of Erin, Suna and Kitty tell of a tale of a poor woman’s tragic life and her want for freedom and to be released from all the pain she sadly suffers.

The band then proceed to dig deep into the archives for reimagined versions of two old classics from the pre-EBB days. Firstly is Tension, which unveils through a wave of lush organs then is eventually joined by a combo of cool riffs, Bad Dog and Anna’s bloody superb rhythm unit, and sweet deforming electronics that generate this phenomenally rousing energy. It’s flawlessly crafted, it’s their piece de resistance, and no doubt you’ll be headbanging to this one.

The other redux is Hecate, again with more pretty piano notes at the start before it kicks into a higher gear. The tune’s about being stuck in a lost state and eventually in due time breaking out of your shell with a whole new confidence and into a brighter positive light, reflected so amazingly through all of the singers’ insane spirit and passion, like seriously, holy Christ on a bike, they are stupendous.

A pleasing flute solo signals What Under What, initially a more low-key and sombre cut full of self-examination, but then through a warping conversion complete with thumping beats and a crunching bassline, a fierce fire lights within Erin and she goes off in a bold tirade. The joyfully titled Violet Is T*ts, is another electrifying progressive display from the entire party, then comes Krystal At The Red Light, which harnesses both a dark ambience and a real dynamic bite, with the keys, rocking guitars, and drum sprints in particular standing out, and the lyrics are so effective in setting the scene of a city furnished in the night.

Confess rings with a tint of folk and the emphasis on brass is nicely done, the track sinks in deep with its thoughtful and philosophical writing, questioning your faulted actions over your life as you grow old with time, and concluding matters is Mary Jane, a beautifully uplifting and encouraging number where the titular character is reminded of all the qualities that make her special through touching words of support.

Mad & Killing Time is an extraordinary effort from the group, and upon repeated listens, it now comes without a shadow of a doubt that this is their apex. Whether dishing out these epic intoxicating bangers or grabbing you tight with emotional powerhouse themes, this album is a fantastic journey.

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