On June 9, a full-length album called The Vanity of Reason was released by Estan Beedell. Originally from Ottawa, he’s just moved back to the 613 from Montreal for an indefinite amount of time, see “for life.” Released simply under his first name, A Vanity of Reason is the symphonic exploration of his tastes in electro rock-pop complimented by a vibraphone, marimba, alto, tenor & baritone sax. As a consistent contributor to a variety of other bands, he seems to have had no trouble finding his own collaborators including Harley Alexander of Sheepman & Emperor Bulash, Chester Hansen of BADBADNOTGOOD, saxophone player Julian Selody, and drummer Luke Graves, among many others.
This is a concept album. The liner notes in the vinyl start with a quote by J. Castell Hopkins from his 1898 Life and Work of Mr. Gladstone that lists many human intellectuals controlling and domineering their fields or professions. Estan also manipulated the instrument that drew the cover art to his album, which depicts little people chipping away at the foundation of their civilization to build it higher and higher. The quote sums this and the concept of the LP with its climax: “…the whole human race seems to be moved by a supernatural impulse to assert its dominion over every force […] which might impede its progress.”
I’m feeling the influences of Manhattan Transfer, chamber music and barbershop harmonies here. The peppy tracks don’t last in their pop, they soon dip into contemplative and pleasant experimentation. The fact is Estan’s voice sounds like a kind of key-operated instrument on its own. There are traces of gospel mixed in with an overabundance of jazz. The whole album would be a wonder to see performed live, and there are potential July or August concerts to come. It remains, for now, a perfect background LP on the first few plays until you really hear “Common Sense Revolution“. Then you can’t really help but listen to it from start to finish. On top of being a masterful display of many instruments—of which Estan plays thirteen!—the subject matter and range of his vocals are very enjoyable. If the call-to-arms of the fourth track don’t grab you, then “House Torn Down” or “Lodyzhensky” might.
This one-man project will surely last longer than the time it took to put together. I don’t doubt it had a lengthy gestation period and my expectations for it will be surpassed. Cop a feel below:
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