With their self-titled debut album, Polish progressive rock act Echoe managed to deeply impress with their genre-defying musical leaps, fiery riffs and funky interludes. Now returning with their sophomore effort, it is fascinating to see how the band have built and expanded upon their original sound, incorporating new ideas whilst staying true to their roots. Mixed and produced by the band themselves, it is noticeable that Echoe now sport a distinctly classic rock edge with crunchy guitars given prominence in the mix, whilst that funky edge that intruded on the last album has now become a full-blown vibe thanks to a near-omnipresent groove that threatens to sweep the listener off their feet on more than one occasion. The album is also surprisingly short, the band clearly adhering to the old adage that quality rather than quantity matters, and the song-writing here is pared to the bone with six songs dispatched in a mere thirty minutes. However, what is key is that there is not a single ounce of fat to be found anywhere upon the release – ‘spot for us’ is, quite simply, a killer album that aims for the jugular and stays there tenaciously throughout its run time.
Opening with the cleverly written ‘lucky bastard’ which pairs the hollow boasts of the titular character with a chorus that asks how he can “feel so alone”, a dichotomy that brings to mind the frequently vast gulf between what people post on Facebook and other forms of social media and how they really feel. The music, meanwhile, has a funky, bluesy vibe that you instantly want to turn up to neighbour threatening volumes, as the band veer between vintage Clapton (think a slowed down ‘Cocaine’) and Spock’s Beard. It’s a brilliant introduction to the album and the warm sound of the gently distorted guitars provides the perfect backdrop for Michal’s rich vocal tones. ‘Secret place’ has a funky strut that makes you wonder if the song was written for sleazy strip bars, the guitar and bass awash with wah, the drums pounding out a hypnotic tattoo and the overall feel one of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers playing Porcupine Tree covers – that it sounds immense should go without saying… but we’re going to say it anyway. The first time the pace drops is on the gentle, meandering, progressive ‘Twisted little lives’, a beautiful, subdued number that uses keyboards to haunting effect and draws from the worlds of both progressive and soul to deliver a song that has plenty of light and shade, whilst Michal delivers one of his most nuanced vocal performances. It is a sublime piece of music, one that should garner the band far greater attention than they have received to date, and a perfect summation of the band’s remarkable skills when it comes to drawing the listener in to a sonic web and capturing them there.
Clearly having delved too far into the realms of progressive pop for one day, the band indulge in a flight of musical fancy heavily laden with awkward time signatures, extravagant, Yes-aping keyboards and multi-layered vocals on ‘Where’s the spot for us’, an over-the-top piece of pure progressive rock that would make even Rick Wakeman’s head spin. If you’re a fan of the complexity that progressive rock can bring, then this is the track for you, and it provides the perfect counterpoint to the restrained grandeur of ‘twisted little lives’. With an explosive opening that threatens to hit Soundgarden-levels of hard rock heaven, ‘Fantasmagorian’ actually emerges from the swirl of guitar as a funky beast that sounds like a cross between Faith No More at their most outré and the Flower Kings. That just leaves ‘gone for a second’ to close the album with Maciek’s sombre toms underpinning the subtle guitar work of Michal and Alex, for a track that draws heavily on Jeff Buckely for inspiration. Like Buckley there’s hints of the band using music as a medium for a wider communion between band and audience, that feeling of being emotionally connected to the music in a way that makes you feel a genuine sense of loss when the album spins to an end. It is testament, once again, to the skills of the band and there is no question that you’ll be setting the album off again so as to absorb more of the band’s wonderfully imaginative music.
‘Spot for us’ is a near perfect album. The vocals are delivered with passion and precision, the songs kept sensibly to a length where they frequently inspire but never outstay their welcome and the musicianship is frequently excellent. In some ways the one thing missing is a suitably long epic where the band could indulge their more exploratory side, but then perhaps that would lessen the impact of this marvellous piece of music and, in showing such restraint, Echoe have delivered an album that is all but impossible to fault. Clearly the band have progressed and developed their sound since the first, already impressive, outing and we can only hope that ‘spot for us’ gains the band the respect and attention they so richly deserve.