Dealing in a uniquely cinematic form of rock music, Only Echoes Remain are a London-based band with a surfeit of ambition and enough talent to realise it on this dreamy, elegant album, ‘The Exigent’. A heady mix of carefully inter-woven guitars, judiciously chosen samples and exquisite crescendos, it certainly adheres to the notion of cinematic rock, painting vivid pictures in the listener’s head for the entirety of its all too short run time.
The opening ‘Prelude (we must move forwards)’ does much to set the scene, with barely audible bass adding a layer of unease to the piano that emerges from the darkness. Haunting, subtle and short it segues neatly into ‘dawn, a track that conjures up memories of ‘CODY’-era Mogwai with its layers of shimmering guitar and sampled voices. A beautiful piece of music, ‘Dawn’ is one of those remarkably evocative pieces of music that conjures myriad images as the guitars wash over you. It must be immense live. The spirit of Mogwai continues to loom large over the somnolent ‘Aurora’, another piece of music that drifts dreamily across time and space before huge chords are allowed to tumble over one another in a haze of distortion, opening the track wide and drawing the listener through a hitherto unseen wormhole to a parallel dimension. Opening awash in echoes, the aptly-named ‘Reflections’ draws on Sigur Ros with its heart-rending melody, but serves primarily as an ambient vehicle to bring the listener to the picked guitar of ‘distant echoes’. A track that builds steadily, it spreads, like ripples on a pond, until cascading guitar notes fall over one another before dispersing.
An utterly gorgeous piece of music, ‘Interlude (no turning back)’ sees the second half of the album emerge amidst a wash of strings and stately piano work only for the hypnotic ‘descent impact’ to edge forward with stop-start percussion and deftly interwoven guitar work leading towards some surprisingly muscular riffing. The short, sweet ‘end transmission’ seems to exist in some dark field at the end of a country lane in which teenagers come to moon over one another and stare at the stars with Edge-esque guitars drawing the listener in for one last enchanting moment in the form of album finale ‘of stone and stars’, a ten-minute plus exercise in dynamic shifts. The expanded run time suits the band and they use it well, working up an idea, only to dance it away from the listener’s grasp before it becomes over-used. It’s a perfect finale to a record rich with innovation and it ends the record on a high.
Overall ‘the exigent’ is a frequently impressive work rooted in the hazy post rock of Mogwai, Red Sparowes and Sigur Ros. If I have a criticism it is that the recording seems to lack the power that is implied in the band’s harder riffing and the crescendos don’t quite soar in the manner in which I imagine they do in the live environment. In short, this is a spectacular piece of work only marginally hampered by the fact that the production does not quite match the ambition of the band. Nonetheless, it sounds good and the record, rich in ideas and musical innovation, is a beautiful piece of work. Very strongly recommended, ‘The exigent’ is a powerful album, but I believe that Only Echoes Remain have even better things ahead. 8