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Wild Peace ()

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A spiral of heavily processed vocals is the sound that begins Wild Peace, the debut full-length from South London shoegaze duo Echo Lake. The delayed melody lingers a little bit before sharp organ tones and burnished guitars amble in, eventually coagulating into the lushly woozy album opener, "Further Down." The relatively short tune still manages to seamlessly introduce layer after layer of sound, ending abruptly in a much bigger place than it started. Throughout Wild Peace, Echo Lake's greatest gift is their ability to marry strong songwriting to sonic micro-management, decorating their wistful and sometimes dour pop tunes with constant peripheral motion in atmosphere and production. The album's range is indicative of its perpetual push, too. Starting out with the blissfully summery, pop-like "Another Day" or the cloudy title track, the band switches gears on "Even the Blind," taking Linda Jarvis' multi-tracked vocals out of the murky reverb haze and dropping them in the dead center of the band's most immediate and driving number. Jarvis' presence on much of the album is in the form of ghostly whispers or underwater cooing, and "Even the Blind" acknowledges this by burying the vocals on the verses in a fashion typical of the rest of the album before peeling back a layer of reverb and upping their volume remarkably for the choruses. The effect is just short of shocking, and works to accentuate an already catchy song by driving the chorus that much further into your brain. Echo Lake's shoegaze exists very much in a post-My Bloody Valentine world, so "Monday 5 AM," the fractured instrumental that comes at the album's halfway point, has more in common with similar exploratory moments from Deerhunter or A Sunny Day in Glasgow than the instrumental sidetracks on Loveless. Influences from other contemporaries of the band pop up as the record goes on, from the Real Estate-like beachy guitar noodling on "Last Song of the Year" to the Beach House-like "In Dreams." By the extended album finisher, "Just Kids," Echo Lake have woven a rich album that borrows from classic reverb-pop and shoegaze pioneers like Galaxie 500 and Cocteau Twins as much as it concocts its own densely layered sound. Wild Peace is a largely subdued affair, but there's so much happening just below the surface of the music that it's easy to miss some of the album's buried brilliance while you're distracted by its glimmering melodies. ~ Fred Thomas, Rovi Hide synopsis

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