The genre IDM or Intelligent Dance Music has always rung a tad hollow. True, it does distinguish itself from the bug-eyed delirium dance music while distorted hollers suggest you ‘throw your hands in the air’ or other such indecorous acts. If it was in any way sentient, it would think of itself as a chin-stroking pensive style of music, the sort to leave on a coffee table to impress any culture-less visitors. In reality it sounds a bit like New Order b-sides left out in the rain, to snap, crackle and pop.
It’s debatable if London duo Echaskech fall into either camp, or have carved out an electronica niche of their own with the likes of Jon Hopkins and James Yuill for company. But Origin, their third album, finds them stretching their knob twiddlings to new territory with massed layers of melody, emotional resonance and density.
Parts of it read like a travelogue to future distant planets, while others soundtrack a familiar urban landscape, wordless but not without charm. The moody swathes of opener Scanner are full of dark menace, rolling in like an unremitting tide, broken occasionally by shafts of higher octave melody that cast sunshine over the dark seascape. It starts off like a pretty The Album Leaf piece before morphing in its course into a slow-mo anthem full of strident banks of noise before collapsing again in washes of melody.
By way of a mood-flip, following track Voyager is positively buoyant with exploratory, shimmering chords intertwining with elevating peaks that gaze towards distant horizons. Telemore unfolds warm petals of burbling synth against an anchoring staggered beat. Metic’s dark bass thrums are offset by crisp percussive elements and building banks of icy keyboard swells. Ash-Fallen continues to push further into cosmic alien landscapes with a spacey vocal treatment swooping around the earthbound underbelly, while Colony progresses at a glacial pace of broken broadcasts and spatial awareness.
Closest bedfellows would be Boards Of Canada with their meshing of cosmic sounds to the world of bleeps and beats. Comparisons are due also to Orbital, Plaid and even Mouse On Mars, but with none of the fancy specs and glow-stick action, and also just a hint of the organic glitch of Future Sound Of London, but with none of the tye-dyed cosmic slop textures.
Origins is an album with many faces and sports atmospheric tracks that warp and mutate back on themselves like some cosmic moebius loop. It is not just an album that demands a physical response – as this combination of pulses and beats entreat the feet – but it also massages the cranium with cerebral workouts of its own devising.
It’s toward the album’s end that things perk up from the stately pace, with EP track Form I Function leading the charge with its pulsating beats and fluttering arpeggios injecting fresh energy into the mix. Swiftly on its heels comes the disjointed Sovereign System, a track that throws in high-pitched blasts of discordant melody against the bubbling beats to weave a rich tapestry, albeit one that finishes all too briefly. Anomie is full of ascending drum patterns that give way to gentle breakdown into a piano riff and a guitar line that could be from the aforementioned New Order, providing a stately end to an album that is more than the sum of its parts.
This is electronic music in microcosm, taking elements of the melodies of progressive house and the fidget and glitchy rhythms of cutting edge electronica to create soundscapes and mood switch-ups while still having a jolly old knees up, albeit one in a comfy chair with nothing stronger than a chai latte. Whether it’s intelligent and whether you can dance to it doesn’t matter when Echaskech have, with Origin, created a journey that, although not breaking any new ground, will doubtless take many on their travels.