Echodrone has certainly come some distance since their 2007 self-titled EP. While “shoegazer” is probably still the best genre in which to place them, their debut full-length The Sun Rose in a Different Place reveals that that’s not the most accurate classification to make. True, the layers of shimmering guitars and sighing vocals are still there, but the band is clearly in the process of honing and refining such elements — which is both exciting and somewhat frustrating.
On the one hand, it’s always nice to hear a band tighten up their songwriting and rely less on effects pedals for their own sake. While the album starts off on a hazy note with the aptly titled “Sway and Drown,” the band’s refining really becomes apparent with “Pack of Wolves” (which reveals Meredith Gibbons’ smoky, sultry voice as the band’s pièce de résistance). And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention their droney cover of The Cars’ “Drive,” which strikes a balance between poignant atmospherics and more intense noisiness.
On the other hand, the band is still feeling out this change to their sound. While the stronger emphasis on songwriting is welcome, it hasn’t fully manifested itself yet. The album, as a whole, could benefit from a greater sense of economy: several tracks pass the six-minute mark without really needing to and end up either meandering or drifting into moments of indulgence (e.g., the couple minutes’ worth of “experimentation” that closes out the otherwise solid “Adrift in a Metaphor”).
Additionally, there are moments where I wish Echodrone had taken a different route than they did. “Seeing the Forest For the Trees” begins with one of the album’s loveliest moments, a graceful slow-burn reminiscent of Au Revoir Borealis. However, it changes its tone entirely about one-and-a-half-minutes in and opts for something more aggressive and straightforward. Would that Echodrone had stayed on that initial path: it was much more captivating and sublime.
If it sounds like I’m being nit-picky there, it’s actually because there’s a lot going on in Echodrone’s music that I do like. I like the fact that they’re attempting to move beyond their influences without betraying them or throwing them under the bus. I like the fact that they’re focusing on songwriting more than relying on guitar effect bliss-outs. And I like the emphasis on Gibbons’ voice, and hope to hear more of it.
In the end, The Sun Rose in a Different Place feels very much like a “transition” record to me, and as such, it ultimately leaves me more interested in their next release, to see if they deliver on the promise contained within this one.