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Echo Lake - Wild Peace

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Artist: Echo Lake

Album: Wild Peace

Label: Slumberland

Review date: Aug. 29, 2012

Echo Lake, a duo that grew from London, first made waves with the 2011 EP Young Silence, a disc whose title track’s muscular, distortion-blurred guitars brought comparisons to My Bloody Valentine. This new full-length, Wild Peace, eases back on the drama, blurs singer Linda Jarvis’s coos into rainbow mirages and edges into dream pop, a la Mazzy Star, The Sundays and, especially, The Cocteau Twins.

Echo Lake started more or less in Thom Hill’s head, in a series of instrumental tracks he recorded in his college dorm room and played for Jarvis. The former choir singer offered to lay some vocals on top. Demos slapped up on MySpace caught the attention of England’s No Pain in Pop label, as well as offers to play live. Hill scrambled to put a band together – tapping old friends to fill a two-piece into five – and the group recorded Young Silence. By the time Wild Peace neared its release date in June, Echo Lake had existed for just 18 months. Then, sadly, the band’s drummer, Peter Hayes, died at 25, just days before the album release. (No cause was stated, but donations were directed to the British Heart Foundation.)

So, Wild Peace is a work in progress, a document of a band on a very fast track, but still figuring out exactly who and what it is. For the most part, Echo Lake seems to have jettisoned the harsher, noisier elements of shoegaze, settling instead into a gauzy, bleached-out melodic textures, warmed by occasional guitar jangles and punctuated by the distant thump of Spector-ish drums. Consider, for instance, the title track, taxi-ing out in a blurt of keyboard triplets, lifting off in a dreamy sweep of Jarvis’s vocals and permeated by a slow, heart-beat syncopated pattern of drums. The song is friction-less, effort-less and curiously inhuman. Compare it, for instance, to the Cocteau Twins’ “Heaven or Las Vegas,” and you hear Elisabeth Fraser far more distinctly, her words more sharply articulated, her voice enriched with a small amount of vibrato. Jarvis, by contrast, sings almost like an abstraction of a female voice, pleasant, remote and not entirely real. “Wild Peace” may be the best track on the album, but it’s slippery, chilly and hard to remember.

“Even the Blind,” the other highlight, is a bit more propulsive, emerging out of a trebly, trembly Blue Orchid-ish keyboard line, flanked by programmed rhythms and adorned by high, resonant guitar. You might make the connection – in Jarvis’s aura-spinning vocals and Hill’s piercing guitars – to Felt’s “Primitive Painters,” the song that Elisabeth Fraser sang on, setting lush pop ease against Lawrence’s nervy lyricism. And indeed, as the chorus picks up, layering Jarvis’s voice over itself and amplifying the drums, there is a lovely, upward bursting momentum. Yet here as elsewhere, Echo Lake recedes into pretty anonymity, treating the vocals until they hardly sound human, swallowing the riffs, such as they are, in a blind eddy of white noise. You’d like to see this band dig their fingernails in, to take a break, once in a while, from all this pretty dream and drift. Gossamer is fine, in its way, but how about giving listeners something to hold on to?

By Jennifer Kelly

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