It’s a fair sign there’s something right going on when your debut album ends up getting produced by legendary Killing Joke member Youth. If anything, there’s a certain mystique it lends, a mystique that acquits a band like Echotape well. But importantly, the five piece’s debut is more than just artfully administered production gloss for the sake of it – there are songs in here too, and good ones at that.
That said, it’s difficult to know where Echotape fit into the modern climate of budding young guitar acts. On one hand, there’s an icy, clinical resolve to them – throbbing through tracks like Far From Heaven in a way that recalls early Bloc Party or Editors. Essentially, the kind of sharp-edged, vital intensity that’s been long missing from the current crop of British pretenders.
But equally, that same intensity lends itself to a sort of quasi-aloofness that seats the band outside the wider circle of their peers. Not a lack of accessibility, but moreover an intelligence that doesn’t deign to stoop low in order to pander to the masses. Either you get Echotape on their own terms, or you don’t get them at all.
One might imagine that if Pink Floyd had begun their journey in 2013 as opposed to 1963 – a copy of NME in one hand, a copy of Kerrang! in the other – they might have sounded a little bit like this. There’s that same aching progressive spirit, stretching at its bonds, and the band’s songwriting capacities, calling for the medium to convey itself properly. On Hades, they craft a neat homage to David Bowie’s Heroes – and it’s here perhaps where they settle most easily into an equilibrium of their disparate parts.
Strangely, the band’s most accessible moment – epic krautrock-inspired number Spinning – is absent from this LP after serving as a single late last year. Half early Simple Minds, half stadium-straddling U2 anthem, the track offered a warmth quite apart from the largely steely resolve present in most of the album here; an arms-aloft inclusiveness that seemed to actively open the group up to baying arena-ready hordes.
Perhaps in this sense then, Echotape operate very much in the old sense of things. At nine tracks long, the LP feels how albums used to be – a body of work separate and beyond the bulk of any preceding singles; a canvas for more considered, experimental movements, a thought-space for the already converted. And on that front the record succeeds.
Halfway Home sees the band providing a satisfyingly muscular late album highlight; driving guitar-work powering a course through towering walls of sound, futuristic synth embellishments lending it the deftness of some high-octane Ridley Scott sci-fi thriller. When Echotape do ‘big’ – which they tend to do rather frequently – they go about it with no half-measures.
Collective, as an album, is far from perfect – parts of it tremble with that embryonic state that affects so many debut efforts. But throughout its course, from the sprawling, multi-layered textures of its tracks to the die-cut artistry and polish of its packaging, it represents a level of attention to detail that can’t be ignored. Whether Echotape’s means measure up to their vision yet is questionable, but in that vision – a sound, an image, a story that needed telling – they leave an aftertaste of memory that lingers in the mind like the last remnant of a fading dream… or maybe even… an echo?