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AAA Music | 24 April 2024

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ECHO TRAILS – Ode To The Familiar Strangers

| On 05, Jul 2014


Ode To The Familiar Strangers presents the listener with many elements, which the Echo Trails fuse to produce a sound that is rich with various cultural flavours and a trademark bohemian quality.  This is the debut release for this five-piece London/Cambridge collective.

Beth Orton, The Cranberries and Arcade Fire are just a few similar sounding influences that seem to root the album from assertive vocal lines, unpredictable rhythmic turns and full-on outbreaks of heavy rock. Perhaps you could portray Echo Trails as a gypsy-folk, alternative prog-pop band, with some world music mixed in for that added interest!

Each song is individual. You can hear how every band member brings their own voice and cultural/musical background into play with subtleties coming from the world of Jazz, Greece and Eastern Europe. A psychedelic opening sets the tone as ‘All About the Cloudless Skies’ begins with its quirky rhythmic character and bouncy melodic charm, with pizzicato strings and snappy violins. The track settles into quite a stable pop-rock feel before a corner is turned and an interesting timbral experience underlies the ethnic vocal nuance to come.

The eeriness of ‘Weightless’ aptly signifies the band’s characteristic style – ethnic pitch-bends, rumbling percussion and echoing cymbals work together in transporting you around this geographically woven album. The deep tone of the piano resonates as does the dissonance from the lead vocal, which sets the mood for the changing time signatures and melodic elements to come. And there is definitely something for everyone here, as you are suddenly surprised with a ’70s Prog-Rock inspired guitar figure. Unexpectedly, Genesis have arrived on the scene!

‘Ode to the Familiar Strangers’ is the indie inspired title track which stabilises the folk/rock feel. Elements of Brit-Pop combine with organic folk instrumentation in order to deliver this story-driven track. Simplicity, forceful vocal lines and slightly wandering tunings contrast the previous songs. However, a seductive and almost tribal atmosphere returns with the opening of ‘Hazy Horizons’. Catchy and interesting to the ear, I feel as if this is the epitome of this band’s sound with gorgeous Balkan harmonies, folk-festival style flamboyance, danceable percussive beats, standard rock episodes and memorable riffs.

A moody and bluesy ballad presented in the format of ‘Love Me and Leave Me’ is a welcoming divergence, which allows the lyrics to come to the forefront whilst the folkloric vocal turns remain. The following track, ‘Boogie Man’, is theatrical and dark and exposes an almost haunting cabaret-esque nightmare. Bizarrely, we enter a section of contemporary experimentation with scratching strings and unnerving piano chords.

The album culminates with a track that does exactly what it says on the tin: ‘The Neurotic Episode’. A crazed but clever finale to an overall remarkable album with sonorous jazz chords; gypsy gaudiness with an air of indulgence.

To conclude, a very exciting listening experience with almost too many elements to digest!

Maddy Sutton