Echo Lake’s second album Era begins with a song which starts as the sort of foreboding electronica suggestive of the intergalactic apocalypse of Fuck Buttons. It then transforms itself into something properly unexpected: the shimmery, sparkly, reverby shores of Echo Lake’s first album.
Well, ok. Not that unexpected. On that first album, Wild Peace, the band set out a pretty clear formula. Melodic, dreamy songs distorted through sheets of noise. Not the most novel idea, but one that, when done well, can get solid results.
But while it was a likeable enough debut, the bits of Era that impress the most are the ones where Echo Lake do expand on that original template. Not that it’s ever gone far. You’re never lacking for a fuzzy, shoegazey guitar or a breathy, barely understandable vocal. It’s fair to say that Era is definitely not cut from a different cloth than the debut, but it is at least bold enough to try wearing the influences in a slightly different fashion.
Probably the most obvious manifestation is the increased willingness to allow songs to build and develop, creating swirling maelstroms of sound and then leave the listener bobbing along for an extended period. It means Era seems more epic: across 45 minutes we only get seven tracks; only two are under four and a half minutes long. Although handily, the songs which are drawn out are the ones which work best. On Light Sleeper, Linda Jarvis’ hooded voice, the processed drum roll and delicate twinkle of keys all bed into the swirling feedback that underpins to create a vortex of sound, dragging you round and round with a certain sense of doomed inevitability.
The first three minutes of Dröm throb with a celestial drone before the rest of the song emerges, while Heavy Dreamer cycles around a slash of guitar and Jarvis’ wafting vocal for minute after minute after minute after minute, and somewhere within that repetition something clicks and takes you off into something blissful.
The more succinct moments, not so much. Maybe all Sun and Nothing Lasts needs was to be drawn and stretched to a more epic length, or at least charged with some of those cataclysmic synths, but here pacing along with the same metronomic beat and the same plodding bass, they just feel slight.
Era is not a bad follow up. Indeed, it offers enough to suggest that Echo Lake are more than just another woozy pop band with too many Cocteau Twins albums. But with a bit more definition, a bit more purpose and just a bit more consistency you wonder if it could have been great.