Upon hearing the opening of Echo Lake’s
debut album, Wild Peace
, one wonders whether the band will be able to sustain an entire hour of this sound. The record begins with heavily effected, reverb-drowned vocals emerging in front of a gradually shifting soundscape of synthesized sound. Granted, it’s beautiful, full of droning synths, electric guitars, sustained bass notes, and a distant bass drumbeat. What separates Echo Lake from any of a handful of other drone-core shoegazing bands is not their sound, which is pretty but fairly generic, but their vocalist, Linda Jarvis.
It’s not just her voice, but her captivating melodies that nudge Echo Lake above the pack. She bursts into aural view more than a minute into opening track “Further Down”, her lyrics barely audible amongst the tsunami of reverb and other effects, and crafts a deliciously exotic pentatonic melody. Her vocal talent seems masked by the effects and how songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Thom Hill blends her voice into the thick tapestry of sound, but her skills are clear after only a few listens.
Slightly faster tempos are where Echo Lake shines, turning “Even the Blind” into a legitimate electropop dance tune. The song reaches a climax among building snare drums and layers of vocal melodies–despite lacking a certain celebratory aspect–with a complex and fascinating guitar solo before the final jam out. The sleepy and gorgeous instrumental “Monday 5AM” quietly follows, feeling like the final comedown after a weekend bender, or the optimistic beginning of a week. Once the rhythm locks into place towards the beginning of “Swimmers”, it seriously grooves, and Jarvis’ vocal glides on top of a deep reverberation of electronic sound, harmonizing with herself in a dreamy, polyphonic haze.
The question remains: Can you sustain an entire album with a relatively monochromatic sound, even with the shimmering nature of Jarvis’ voice? Wild Peace proves that no, you can’t. Songs like “In Dreams” begin promisingly but grow stale, while others lack standout qualities. Still, you can put out a few fantastic songs in the process.
Essential Tracks: “Even the Blind”, “Monday 5AM”, and “Swimmers”