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Continuing pretty thoroughly in Ima's vein, ESCM is another collection of ambient-progressive electronic music with as much interest in new age blissouts as dancefloor action. This said, ESCM is stronger all around, with a more varied sense of overall rhythm dynamics than the basic build-and-release trance climaxes that were the bread and butter of Ima. Opening track "Firewater" shows this well with its initial rhythm, a shuddering, slightly distorted tribal drum stomp instead of a straight pulse. Swooping synths and ecstatic vocals mix with deep spoken-word vocals about "fire in the sky," and when the main beats kick in, it's shuffling funk that carries the track to even higher and stronger levels. Concluding with acoustic guitar and rough, soulful vocals, it makes for quite a stunning start, signaling the album's greater ambitions and success at delivering the same. While "Orbitus Teranium" sounds like it should be a tribute to the Orb, the crisp drum machine generated breakbeat punch of the track is much more BT's affair, spiked up with sudden stops, interjections, and laser sounds. As the album continues, hints of polite if active drum and bass influences and other recent beat touches crop up on other tracks even as the more familiar techno beats kick in, while quirky, abrupt synth stabs lend a slightly retro air to the proceedings as well. In that vein, the most retro and most successful track at once is "Lullaby for Gaia," with a high bassline clearly cloning Peter Hook's groundbreaking work for Joy Division and New Order. Jan Johnston's lovely, ethereal vocals, sounding a touch like a very polite Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins, adds the finishing touch to a perfect number. Not everything works, admittedly -- "Solar Plexus," an attempt at semi-industrial rock, has nothing on, say, Prodigy.

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