Personnel: Jason Schimmel (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lap steel guitar, organ, keyboards); Tim Smolens (electric guitar, harmonica, keyboards, double bass, electric bass); Jennifer Cass (harp); Fabrice Martinez, Sarah Hart, Ben Blechman (violin); Elena Doroftei (viola); Aria Disalvio, Renata Bratt (cello); Aaron Seeman (accordion); Shelley Phillips (English horn); Robin Anderson (trumpet, brass); Scott Harris (bass trombone, brass); William Winant (glockenspiel, timpani); Dana Robbins (double bass).
Audio Mixer: Andrew Kapner.
Recording information: Jasons House; Pine Forest Studio; The Studio.
Arranger: Fabrice Martinez.
While most progressive minded bands (for lack of a better term) pride themselves in mixing and matching unrelated musical genres together, Santa Cruz's Estradasphere take it a step further by inventing and then naming entirely new hybrid styles! Among the crossbreeds slated for inclusion in 2006's Palace of Mirrors: "Romanian Gypsy Death Metal," "Spaghetti Eastern," "Bulgarian Surf," and damn it if these outrageous cocktails aren't masterfully realized in the likes of "Smuggled Mutation," "Six Hands," and "The Terrible Beautypower of Meow," respectively. Also to be found on this wild ride of an album are the industrial noises of "The Unfolding Pause on the Threshold," the beautifully arranged soft jazz of "The Debutante," the far-Eastern-funk-video-game-jingles of "Those Who Know," and symphonic orchestrations both lush, stately and relaxed (see the title track), and swinging, strutting, pouncing and lounging like a Monty Norman Orchestra James Bond theme (see "Colossal Risk"). Elsewhere still, the nightmarish "Flower Garden of an Evil Man" comes off all growling bass and ominous tones, while "Palace of Mirrors Reprise" wafts from polka, to circus music, to music box lullabies, to haunted castle organ music, and, finally, "Corporate Merger" trades in keening Arabic violins for metallic blastbeats and heavy electric guitars during a cathartic finale that's pure post-Mahavishnu (mountain-toppling closer "The Return" is even more intense in that last regard). Oh yeah, and all this without a word -- Estradasphere have gone instrumental on the whole of Palace of Mirrors, which winds up shining an even brighter spotlight on their impeccable and astounding musicianship. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia