Guest at LA Music Awards – ESTER
REVIEW: Ester, Default State (Thirsty Ear)
– Joann D. Ball
The pronouncement that rock is dead has more to do with the decadent state of rock radio than the lack of good rock bands making music. The Los Angeles-based quartet Ester is one of those fresh new bands that proves that spirit of rock and roll is very much alive. One need only to play Ester’s debut record Default State for proof.
Under the direction of lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Paul Garvey, Ester takes the rock and roll high road. Ester’s draws upon jazz improvisation, the intensity of the blues, and the fullness of acoustic folk for a progressive approach to rock. Ester avoids the trappings of bombastic heaviness and grandiose productions in favor of evenly balanced guitars, bass and drums / percussion (and the occasional saxophone). These instruments are skillfully interwoven, and provide ample room for the gentle huskiness of Garvey’s vocals. The result is a whole, organic sound ideally suited for Garvey’s intelligent lyrics. To his credit, Garvey manages to explore the world of emotions, ideas and perceptions in a way that is not rendered incomprehensible by abstraction or arcane references.
While Ester can be considered a “thinking” band, volume is not central to Ester’s sonic vibe. But like the best albums by groups like Rush and Queensryche, Default State is a full volume of work with different but connected many parts. The record starts with the aggressive, high energy track “Heading Through.” “Mongoose,” on the other hand, is a refined, slow-tempo track, precisely the type of song that Alice and Chains and bands of that ilk wish they could deliver. On the instrumentals “Mexicali,” “Broken String” and “Intro,” Ester displays the range of musical format influences, and are exactly the types of pieces that could infuse some life and spirit into the monotonous format known as smooth jazz. But the epic “Sun Tune” is by far the most adventurous cut on Default State. The jazz-rock fusion parts of the song bring to mind Sting’s early solo work with Santana accents, while the middle section suggests a volume-compressed Metallica.
Ester has a musical versatility that is all too rare among contemporary rock bands. It is a foundation that makes Default State a notable record with excellent form and quality material. And that’s exactly what has always been critical to the life and livelihood of rock music.