Last updated on July 23, 2020
While Muse’s last record was basically an unapologetic EDM record, the ur-text for Muse (the one I mean when I say “it sounds like Muse”) is 2009’s The Resistance: a record so audacious that it includes a three-part symphonic suite, a tune called “United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage)”, and the absolutely unhinged bombast of the title track. I applaud such self-aware attempts at transcending the pop straight jacket, even if they escaped so effectively that they pretty much left earth and went into orbit. Escaper carries that mantle from Muse. Apotheosis is similarly an ambitious record that throws genres in a rocket and sends them to space. There’s no point classifying Escaper as anything but a band: rock, jazz, funk, space-rock, ambient, dance-rock, jam-band, and more are all part of this collection. And, unlike (uh) some Muse records, the work is all distilled into a singular vision and served as a consistent offering.
Six-minute opener “Vista” is the perfect example of their work: ambient waves of reverbed clean guitar notes cascade into rhodes keys and a massively funky bassline. The percussion starts as a four-on-the-floor bass kick before introducing a high hat pattern with interspersed snare (dance-rock!). Hand percussion also appears (jam band!). The guitars come back in, making this some of the most elegant, chill dance-rock you could imagine. They’ve just made it to 2:30 in the 6:22 runtime. There may be only six songs here, but there are ideas for days. Follow-on “Open Sky” filters all of that into a spacey, Steve Miller Band-esque vibe and turns out … a pop song? A damn fine pop song, thank you very much. The chorus is catchy and fun without compromising their chill-space-jazz-funk thing. “Superhead” goes full jazz, letting the bassist pop off excellently while the rest of the outfit contributes supporting efforts. Also big-band horns and heavy distorted guitars appear, why not, they hadn’t covered all the genres ever yet.
“Apotheosis” is Escaper at is absolutely most Muse-ian, layering the romantic/classical keys performance with big rock guitars, chanted vocals, and jazzy breakdowns. Matthew Bellamy would probably be jealous of the glorious racket that occurs about 5 minutes in to this one. “Res Magna” returns to space-jazz-dance-funk with some tightly coiled percussive energy; this one is for the jam fans (7:21! Hopefully longer when performed live!). “No Strings” closes out the collection with a straight-up funk blast (well, as straight-up a blast as a space-jazz-dance-funk outfit can create), complete with iconic vocal patterning / delivery. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of the rest of the record, but those are very high bars. It is no discredit to the record, but I’ll take “Open Sky” and “Superhead” first. If you’re into bass (so much bass, so much excellent bass), chill-space-jazz-dance-funk, or Muse, you’ll love this record.