Review: Echo Lake – Wild Peace
Published on July 6th, 2012 | Theo Gorst
Up to this point Echo Lake’s career has been characterised by comparisons to a certain girl/boy duo of Baltimore dreamers, yet one half of the band – Thom Hill [the other member is vocalist Linda Jarvis] – is at pains to be seen as closer to the Beach Boys than Beach House. Hill’s love for Brian Wilson shines through, not in the melodies the band produce – they undoubtedly do resemble Beach House – but in his meticulous approach to production.
Like Lush, or more recently DIIV, the name Echo Lake can be seen as self-descriptive, and also evocative of the sound the band hope to produce. Nowhere is this clearer than on album opener Further Down; here the gentle sighs of reverberated vocals fade into the track before being underpinned by hypnotic chiming keys. The track doesn’t surge forward like a wave from a tidal body of water so much as softly ripple, working as a graceful introduction to Wild Peace.
Similarly dreamy is the title track; the way it begins with rolling keys, recalling a more ambient Animal Collective [circa Merriweather Post Pavilion] and then expands with the introduction of Hills thick production, is stunning. The addition of a distant bass drum and hopeful vocals makes for a beautiful, slowly evolving four minutes of dream-pop, which sets the tone for the rest of the record.
Unfortunately, however, the LP is unable to sustain the magnificence of its first twelve minutes with various problems preventing the band from reaching complete brilliance. Specifically when stepping outside of their self-imposed dream-pop parameters Echo Lake are responsible for breathtaking pop music, yet frustratingly the band seem reluctant to do so. “Young Silence”‘s wall of sound teems with bubbling aggression and thus cries out for something like a wailing My Bloody Valentine guitar to release, yet this never arrives and as such the track falls flat and is merely pleasant.
The same could be said of “Swimmers”, a track that ultimately fails to develop into anything other than a series of amiable textures. In truth this is the record’s greatest flaw: at times it’s little more than pleasant, and although this is a relatively small fault it becomes frustrating in light of Wild Peace’s considerable peaks.
Arguably the record’s strongest moments arise as a result of the south London duo embracing different types of instrumentation besides the hazy vintage synth that dominates most tracks. The simple and fey instrumentation on “Another Day” recalls a gloriously innocent version of Galaxie 500’s “Blue Thunder”, yet it’s the concluding change in tempo and emphasis on greater percussion that elevates the track to breathtaking heights.
Elsewhere the glam-rock guitar that sees “Last Song of the Year” out wouldn’t sound amiss on the latest Smith Westerns release; therefore it’s particularly unexpected, and yet it works brilliantly.
Perhaps Hill should embrace his love of Wilson and treat their next record as something that metaphorically has the limitations of the beach, not a landlocked body of water like a lake. Indeed regardless of the amount of echo his production can lend, lakes have the ability to turn stagnant as Wild Peace so nearly did.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!