There’s music, and then there’s inspired music. What qualifies something as the latter is hard to pin down exactly and even harder to describe, but somehow inspired music gives itself away in that regard immediately upon first listen. It’s kind of strange to think about how different combinations of the same notes can get a listener feeling that way or not — but some artists just have a knack for putting together music that ultimately sounds like a breath of fresh air.
Reading, PA’s Ethan McKenna is very much one of those people, and his newest release, an EP entitled Rain, is in turn very much that kind of music. The EP, inspired by his experiences in Malawi, traverses ample ground considering its short tracklist: while opener track “Lilongwe” is a gorgeous solo percussive acoustic piece, the following two tracks contain plenty of surprises past that: some borderline progressive metal parts, a gorgeous vocal performance from McKenna, all sorts of interesting percussion, and even some fantastic bass grooves courtesy of Black Crown Initiate bassist Nick Shaw (who also handles the production end of the EP as well).
While the first two songs are fantastic in their own right, final song “Dzaleka” in particular is an absolute standout track. After the more upbeat “Blantyre”, the EP takes a much more sombre turn here. The string section in the lush intro eventually gives way to a poignant verse interspersed with tribal percussion, all before the song gradually builds up once again to an incredible climax reminiscent of those found on last year’s Our Oceans release. In a nod to “Rain” from previous album Embracing Uncertainty, which this EP happens to be an expansion of, the lyrics evoke some similarly emotionally charged imagery, but with the themes of personal reflection to be found in “Rain” replaced with a haunting story about loss.
The Rain EP is available as of April 19th, and can be purchased through the bandcamp player below.