Monday 25 June 2012

Echo Lake - Wild Peace

Album review by KevW

Since hearing 'In Dreams' back in 2010, Echo Lake had been on my personal radar and I'd been looking forward very much to hearing their debut, a promo of which I was lucky enough to receive prior to release. After listening to the album repeatedly I began to gather my thoughts with regards to writing a review. Part way through doing so, the tragic and shocking news broke that drummer Peter Hayes had passed away just days from its release. This puts a rather different perspective on the album and the way in which it could be reviewed. What follows is the review as it would have been from a totally objective point of view and without the sad news that broke this weekend, although naturally my thoughts and condolences go out to Peter's family, friends and band mates.

As with much music that comes under the shoegaze/dreampop banner, getting the mix right is crucial, and the genre's past is littered with tales of months of tweaking in the studio and pushing back release dates in the quest for sonic perfection (hello My Bloody Valentine, Spiritualized and more). It's fair to say that this debut album from London's Echo Lake has been a while in construction, and it's pretty clear that much of that time has been spent getting it to sound just right. Initially formed by Thom Hill (producer/songwriter/instrumentalist) and singer Linda Jarvis, the band began to flesh itself out for live dates, but studio-wise it was very much Hill who masterminded the project.

As for that all important mixing, well that works a treat. Jarvis' vocals are mainly pushed back to be engulfed by the other numerous layers of sound. The effect is a bit like deliriously seeing a mirage of Elizabeth Fraser appearing in a scorching desert of reverb. While the voice and depth feel warm, the clanging guitars and snappy drumming are far more chilling. 'Wild Piece' is an icy record and you could say that the warm colours covering the snowcapped mountains on the sleeve is a suitable visual metaphor for the music. Even when the compositions are relatively barren, as on 'Monday 5AM' there are no gaps in the sound, a gentle and comforting hum is always present. Right from the off the treated vocal washes drift back and forth, swirling around like ghosts in the ether.

As lovely as the more atmospheric pieces are (and really, they're done incredibly well), it's when Echo Lake spring in to song mode that they're at their most memorable. 'Another Day' is indiepop forced through several echo chambers, 'Last Song Of The Year' is otherworldly and haunting, 'Even The Blind' is post-punk played through the tinniest of AM radios and the sublime 'In Dreams' is still truly wonderful with it's motorik beat, distant voices and sharp, simple guitar chimes. While 'Wild Peace' isn't quite as solid as could have been hoped, it's no let down either. The impression here is that Thom Hill is finding his feet, discovering new ways to manipulate sounds and combining them with traditional pop. It's a commendable album but you suspect the very best is yet to come.

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