Ephemerals ‎’Egg Tooth’ (Jalapeno) 3/5

Ephemerals are a UK-based soul group, comprising of seven members, with ‘Egg Tooth’ being their third album, which again uses traditional musical instruments of piano and keyboards, guitar, bass and drums, which are then further augmented with an additional horn section and harp on specific tracks, but this is essentially a vocal-led album, sung by vocalist Wolfgang Valbrun – or Wolf to his friends. The rest of the group consist of guitarist and songwriter Hillman Mondegreen, James Graham on keys, Adam Holgate on bass and Jimi Needles on drums. Ephemerals are additionally supported by horn players Damian McLean-Brown on trumpet, Thierry Lemaitre on saxophone and again, the Cordicella Strings are utilised on ‘Egg Tooth’ as they have been on previous Ephemerals albums.
The CD contains 12 tracks although two are short interludes (the vinyl edition removes these), but the others are all vocal driven pieces that range from funky soul cuts, jazzy ballads and radio friendly catchy pop numbers, and so, this is not an outright soul album or group. But highlights include ‘The Omnilogue’, with its imaginative harp elements and downtempo production, the infectious ‘In & Out’, which could be a strong single release, plus, ‘And If We Could, We’d Say’ sees Wolf delivering a rap/poetry vocal performance over a funky rhythm track with the final minute or so incorporating reverse instrumentation, which was an original touch. Others worthy of attention include ‘If Love Is Holding Me Back’, a very Beatle-esque string heavy song and the funky organ driven ‘Get Reborn’, which supports the album’s main lyrical focus of rebirth and reawakening.

‘Egg Tooth’ contains many diverse sounds and themes but all amalgamated together within a pop/soul format with strong production components, with this diversity probably due to the broad background of the group, including the vocalist Wolf being a New Yorker living in Paris, songwriter Hillman coming from Nottingham, Thierry is from France, while the keys, trumpet and rhythm section are from Bristol, London and Sussex. Band meet ups must be a nightmare. And I suppose this can be a positive and a negative when forging a ‘sound’ that an audience can relate to. But this is an album that could breakthrough to the ‘mainstream’ – whatever that is, especially as they are not an outright soul group and the album not aimed at hardcore soul fans but more general music listeners.

Being very generalistic, I would argue that Ephemerals closely fall into similar territory as UK artist Michael Kiwanuka and US singer songwriter Leon Bridges, soulful but not exclusively a soul outfit, and thus, there is a demand for artists of this type that can crossover, but it lacks some of the depth that more natural soul artists possess, and the album could be seen as a little old fashioned in parts, but it’s pleasant and enjoyable enough if not groundbreaking.

Damian Wilkes