Echospheric, shoegaze, tripsters Scarlet Echo have released their debut album, An Exact Portrayal of Nothing In Particular. The quartet is an edgy tsunami of sound. They have a distinct ability to sonically call forth many of their influences. Influences that are a who’s who of late 20th and 21st century giants; The Clash, Joy Division, U2, Radiohead, Jack White, Nirvana, The Foo Fighters and Pink Floyd.
Scarlet Echo in its brief existence has seen four different line ups since their inception in Essex. The core of the band throughout these changes has been vocalist/guitarist Hannah Stanbury and guitarist Jamie Burroughs. The current line-up solidified with the addition of Miles Hobbs on bass and Alex on drums. This line up has built upon each of the members strengths as they explore various musical paths. The band decided to produce themselves after encountering some serious turbulence with an engineer they had initially employed. The album was recorded in their rehearsal space and Hannah at one point recorded her vocals in a cupboard to attain the sound they were after. In many ways the album is an introduction to the band and their varied personalities along with their diverse interests and influences. It quickly becomes apparent when encountering the band that they are focused, dedicated and talented.
An Exact Portrayal of Nothing In Particular has an over arching theme of fighting against conformity and the idea that “one size fits all”. The band does not limit themselves to one genre, but instead lead the listener on a journey through different genres. They accomplish this while stressing the need to maintain humanity in a world awash in machines and technology. There is a chirpy and clever feel to both the music and the lyrics.
Rampaging drums kick the song Mainstream into action. Hannah Stanbury’s voice is a blend of PJ Harvey, Nico and Johnette Napolitano. The song itself is loaded with outstanding shoegazer effects mixed with New Order keyboards and Smiths’ guitar. The track catches your attention as the tune explodes out of the speakers. Topically the song discusses the dangers of desiring to blend in and the need to fight against conformity. Factory Floor continues the discourse on conformity. The song starts with a very industrial feel reflecting the factory of the title then bleeds into a minimalist guitar. Somewhere in the sonic threads of the song I picked up echoes of early U2 circa October. The song asks the question of whom and what exactly are being manufactured, reshaped and made to fit a mold. The lyrics continue to point out that the factory floor drains the color of life from the worker, “What is the point of this, what is the circle of life?” The selection is remarkable.
Mass Production again takes up the topic of the importance of individuality and society’s endless demands for conformity. The influence of Jesus and the Mary Chain is evident but the track is also infused with a larger atmospheric sound. The sonic reverb will immediately remind the listener of U2 with Edge like guitars and Larry Mullen’s martial drums.
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The found sounds of the pub are the intro to the brief track Technophobia. It has a lo/fi feel and is a down and dirty rocker, this belter segues into Falling Prey which is an instrumental. Falling Prey is slick and electronica laden with a feeling of underlying dread which is haunting. The first single off the debut is Emergency Exit where an engaging guitar builds into the serious bass beat. Stanbury beginning to emote as the song impels forward. A stop/start construct is utilized to produce a catchy effect. The song stresses the need to escape the dour woefulness of the world, to develop some sort of exit before being overcome by the undertow. It is a large anthem of a song and it has the power to fill an arena.
From the album climax of Emergency Exit the track Paradigm mellows out the vibe with chiming keyboards and a jazz and R&B feel. The song oscillates around messing with the tempo and is very arresting. There is a stellar jam out between the guitars towards the end that has them react to each other in a call and answer technique. Ataraxy begins with icy notes and a slab of foreboding. The track is adventurous and ambitious as it deals in a surreal and almost paranoid aura. The lyrics convey this paranoia as haunting voices are all around but no one tells the person what they are saying. This all unspools over a background of a self realization tape. The song is the showpiece of the album.
The final full song of the album is Lose Control which is filled with crystalline guitars and a great rhythm that launches the song. It again takes up the topic of humanity losing control of its individuality and ability to decide. Stanbury’s vocal knocks the paint off the back wall with this song. The shoegaze stylings are breathtaking and make for an awesome last third of the song. Lose Control is followed by a brief sombre techno glich fest that appears to build drama and then suddenly cuts out making for an intriguing and surreal end to the album.
An Exact Portrayal of Nothing In Particular is a gutsy release that shows a band with a lot of promise. They definitely go their own way but always keep the historical musical horizon in their view for a point of reference. It is encouraging to see a band aim for the fences and not stifle themselves. The album’s main idea of eschewing conformity is played out over many stylings. An Exact Portrayal of Nothing In Particular is anything but boring and keeps the listener on their toes as the band jumps from influence to influence throughout the playlist. This is a band that given a chance will do great things; I look forward to where they go next.