Self-produced at home by Charleston multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Loyd Van Horn, Escape is a 75 minute journey through both the artist’s musical imagination and the titular concept itself and all its derivatives – departure, flight, liberation. Taking his inspiration from everything from classic and prog rock to blues and ’90s alt/grunge, Van Horn boils up quite a stew from track to track, but never lets the listener’s appetite wander, thematically. There is a story here for those who care to venture with the singer.
From the start, attachment to ’70s prog like Pink Floyd will reign supreme on Escape. “Chasing the Dream” begins with a soundscape meant to induce the experience of travelling. Prefiguring a passage for escape, it also reminds me of earlier sci-fi themes like the one from the original TV version of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy“, that good old kind of ’70s electronica that plays a part in so much nowadays from avantgarde black metal to those songs you dig on Stranger Things. Radical shift on song two, but it’s a one shot- “Divided and Conquered” is a heavier track focused on the singer’s dissatisfaction with our nation’s current zeitgeist of cultural discussion or the lack thereof and it’s a bit of a jolt. Van Horn’s obsession with modern prog band Coheed and Cambria meets its match with a song worthy of Black Album-era Metallica. Winding and intertwined guitar solos function well with Loyd’s singing on this one – he could pull a passable simulacrum of Ghost singer Papa Emeritus here. “Carrying On” is one of the focal points here and it’s my favorite. A busy and thick bassline drives the hypnotic guitar to its endpoint; it’s like some great solo Robert Plant song from the ’80s (in other words, awesome). “You Think You Know Me” is old-school rock showing Loyd’s bluesy guitar chops and also a shout-out to all his haters in the music biz. “Escape” has a funky Pink Floyd vibe mixed into some bass-heavy ’70s blues rock. I love the power of the bass on a lot of these tracks and I’m glad they were mixed this loud and heavy to create a feeling of propulsion, its perfectly in line with the idea of escapism inherent in this record. The singer says it has a Stevie Wonder vibe and there is no doubt, but it’s like SW busting out with some modern indie rock; it’s the centerpiece of the album’s thematic journey. After a Floyd-like instrumental, the song “You” tackles some proggy funkiness and “I Have it All” is a languid but ultimately sweet tribute to his wife. “Brand New Day” supports the positive aspects of the concept of escaping and “Don’t Drink the Water” begins with some scrambled sound effects and leads to a laid back ’90s alt-rock affair, with a surprising metallic guitar crescendo at the end. There are also bonus versions (demo/live) of a couple of songs and Van Horn says he will release a live version of this whole album eventually.
The age of Pro-Tools can sometimes come up with magnificent results. I would have never guessed this was self-produced until Van Horn told me he did all himself. It’s incredibly well-produced alt-rock with a hard rock edge and lots of old-school guitar power. Sometimes introspective, sometimes shoegazey/ proggy, its a fine example of what “Indie Rock” can be in the hands of a determined solo musician. The amount of talent on display here is amazing, don’t sleep on this guy!
Recommended if you like: Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Radiohead
Sean Knight is a native South Carolinian who has spent his life bouncing back and forth between SC and Texas, playing in bands you probably never heard of in both states and stinking up open-mic nights in the Low Country for many years. He plays, collects, listens to and probably spends too much of his life obsessing over music.