Monday, 2 July 2012

Echo Lake - Wild Peace

 

Forgive me for saying this, but if there's one negative to take out of My Bloody Valentine's 1991 masterpiece Loveless, it's that the shoegaze-defining record brought about a torrent of four/five-piece female-led bands, all of which presented themselves as spelling out similarly deepening intentions of heavily-layered, softly-textured deliverances. Effect-heavy, sound-clogged rock music...all with unsurprisingly varying results. There have been those that have managed to, maybe not so much transcend, but add extra depth to that original benchmark. But there have been the others too - the tried, tested, later forgotten - who come across less like a band with concerted intentions and more a huddle of musicians with little more than a vague realization that if it sounds different, it must be good. Echo Lake are no exception to the 50-50 deciding question of 'is it worth it?'. 'Wild Peace', the bands debut, aims to highlight the mystery and psychadelicism that this genre has proven itself comparable with. And while the content is present, the conformity of its sound has a lot to answer for.

So starting off we have the track 'Another Day', which in its initial starter of drone-like hollowed vocals, suggests that this is a band with a lot more of a gentle and distant approach to their sound. But soon, the traditional strumming of guitars and tweets of keyboard playing found on any indie pop album come into play. The track opens up, its once-enclosed warmth soon coursing a straight of heated shoegaze-like progression - all of which, paced and handled in such a way it sounds almost krautrock influenced in its rhythm. While the instrumental choice can be credited as interesting, the way this selection's been arranged and mixed further suggests less time focused here than that on the song's content. 'Breathe Deep' on the contrary, feels a lot fresher and refined, while still maintaining that let-loose care-free vibe typical of today's rock scene of late-20's band members. The track itself continues on with the swooning warmth of guitars strumming both at the foreground and the background alike. The pacing here too is more contemporary and present-day, the band sticking to something a lot more inviting to the broader geographic.

But it's not all effect-laiden drowning on this record. While there is still a hefty use of electric guitars and vocals that aren't exactly clear-cut, 'Wild Peace' does however feature this very out-of-the-ordinary quirky organ in its mix. Though it starts off the track in a somewhat secluded state of mind, it ends up gelling into the song quite well, even if it remains repetitive note-wise. 'Even The Blind' too shows the band using more key-oriented instrumentation in line with the tradition of guitars and drums - a shudder of synthesizers leading into a more raw and less-conserved territory. However, this is a tiny improvement on variety when taking into account how similar - and so too, how basic - some of this band's ideas come across as. And further to that, I sense that even by the half-way mark, while I'm feel myself caught in the swirl and fog of echoing effects and claustrophobic strings, above everything else I'm longing for something to change...to see something other than a vocalist laying out a spell of lyrics against a cloud of guitars, drums and the odd keyboard playing.

Past the half-way checkpoint though, and there is very little to suggest otherwise. But to suggest I am judging this record based entirely on its variety would be a massive mistake. Though I am intrigued by any band and how they (hopefully) go about providing an array of differing content and ways in which to perform this, I am just as happy, and find enjoyment, in hearing something that invokes a sort of kindred of emotions or feelings. And here, that's something I find incredibly lacking.

The track 'In Dreams' while starts off with some interesting balance between percussion playing and the placement of vocals, the song never seems to get fully going, instead limiting itself to a wavering swing to and fro. It almost sounds too slightly lacking in effort as if the band aren't even trying to perform it right - the frontal side almost feels non-existant, like this is a track with a non-existant foreground. 'Last Song of The Year' admittedly is a far superior showcasing of both musical variety and musical deliverance. The vocals here are less packed and burdened and are more honestly-expressed. Music too shows vast improvement - the lead guitar providing a swinging riff that catches the opaqueness of the band's sound and pushes it forth into this architecturally sonic deliverance it actually feels less like a jumble of noise and more a beating of passionate performing. Wild Peace's closer 'Just Kids' is a lot more delicate and self-aware of its delivery. Lasting nearly 7 minutes, it stands as the band's longest piece, but by far one of their more provoking deliveries, because of it. The pacing feels considered, the rhythm and even the timbre of these clogged guitars and percussion hits have a lot more going for them - every brief pause for thought dripping in a pool of its own proto-ambience and post-stargazing realization. It's certainly a track for the most metaphoric of reflections, but this only reiterates how well the band manage to make this track shine amidst the dull and the dry of this album's catalogue. Such is the way the band manage to organize and relay their sounds, the music becomes more than just a string of notation and chord-changes, it naively loses focus and lets attention drift into the individual's own creation.

It's quite comforting that I'm ending this album on a high note, because not only does it help sweeten the fact that this isn't entirely a strong record (even if some might throw the ill-placed excuse that it's only their debut), but it also gives a glimmer that this five-piece will get better and [hopefully] learn from their mistakes. I don't think it's necessarily fair to criticize every notion of choice and decision on this album, this is a record more-than-open about where it's influences lay and makes sure it . But this is something that comes hand-in-hand whenever the tag of shoegaze crops up - for every appliance of effects and positioning of sounds on a mix-deck, there is just as many potential pit-falls or traps one could fall into over trying to make a particular sound or piece unique or dependent on deliverance. Well, Echo Lake certainly have the means to a delivery, but as to whether there's enough variety in their pockets, is a matter that will only be resolved in later years. For the minute though, 'Wild Peace' can be seen only as promising. And this might be their strongest means of deliverance. But so too, their only means.
~Jordan

6.0

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