By: Kevin Scott
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Released on February 24, 2015 via Saint Marie Records
Echodrone have done it again. Five is a gorgeous blend of shoegaze and electronica with influences that span decades coming together to reveal an album with nuggets of wonder within each minute of each track.
Let’s start with the Twin Peaks-esque opening chords of ‘Disparate Numbers’ and the way industrial beats come in just a single bar before Eugene Suh launches into sun-drenched dream-pop vocals, which are interrupted mid-verse by guitars that sound like a hailstorm. “We’re sinking together now,” sing Suh and Rachel Lopez on the chorus, surrounded by pincer sharp synth chords and ambient drums.
There is a tendency for dream-pop to be submerged in melancholy, and while it’s not absent from Five, the outlook is more upbeat – the layers upon layers of guitars providing a cushioned comfort.
Among the many bands from the original wave of shoegaze that are making a comeback, Echodrone can stand among them. The sound is softer than many of these bands, the influence of electronics more evident on Five; this isn’t all about guitar pedals and feedback. There’s innovation throughout the album. Elements of shoegaze and dreampop are thrown together with electronica to create music that is pretty much leading its way in the current pack of bands of this ilk.
It’s a long album: ten tracks pitching in at over the hour mark, but there’s nothing in the way of filler here; from the slow-paced and dreamy ‘Motion Pictures’ to that moment at 2.59 on ‘Falling From Planes’ when the guitars come crashing in and don’t let up, even while Suh and Lopez harmonise so gently in front of the sound.
‘Noisebed’ introduces heavier guitars, bigger percussion and a loop that’s almost straight from a trance rave. It’s fucking nuts. And then it’s killed; Lopez left with double-tracked vocals and a single guitar and brushed drums, the melody the opposite of what came before – and what will follow when the guitars sweep back in.
Lead single ‘When the Two Ends Meet’ launches into what seems like a rock standard before the guitars become thicker and denser. It perhaps doesn’t best reflect the band’s qualities, and there are better tracks that could have showcase the album – though the electronica influence is more in evidence here and that may have helped make the decision.
The closing cover of Wedding Present’s ‘Octopussy’ is ridiculous – it’s a huge, swelling, turbulent explosion of a track, a reminder of where Echodrone’s past lies and the direction in which the band is heading. It’s a fitting closer in more ways than one.
“I don’t want to understand why I need you / You’ve just become my family” sing Suh and Lopez. The latter has joined founder members Suh and Brandon Dudley on a permanent basis, along with Mike Funk and Jim Hrabak. Their influence is felt throughout, with even the album’s title referencing the fact this is a team effort.
Five marks a high point for Echodrone. The shift in tone indicates this change in direction may go further in the future, and who knows where that could lead…