Dead Leaf Echo: Pale Fire (Independent, 2008)
Dead Leaf Echo is a promising trio hailing from the sophisticated city of New York City, and the sophisticated music found on their latest EP release, Pale Fire oozes with all of the energy, poise, and chic of their urban surroundings. Utilizing vocal melodies that are somewhat reminiscent of a My Bloody Valentine/Slowdive/Serena Maneesh hybrid (with swooning male vocals gliding over female harmonies) while playing music that is equal parts atmospheric, aggressive, and dense, Dead Leaf Echo relies on a tried and true approach to music making. Their beautifully-produced EP (even containing) a song mixed by Ulrich Schnauss is far from formulaic, though, as the band’s uncomplicated melodies burn into the listener’s heart, leaving a lasting impression of swirling guitars and vocals.
After a brief opening mood-setting track in which main vocalist LG croons over a swelling guitar effects, the track blends into the delicately sullen “Thought Talk”. With its steady understated drumming, chiming guitar and keyboard parts, and LG’s perfectly lazy vocals sliding up to high notes, this track is immediately takes hold of the listener. As the track continues, it builds to an epic post-rock jam with dense guitars, nice male-female vocals, and aggressive drums, ultimately showing different sides of the band’s versatility in one song. Sounding like a long-lost Kevin Shields demo, re-recorded for 2008, “Tears” deftly meanders its melody over solid ‘dreampop’ playing. The band’s drums here show more movement and dexterity than the average “shoegaze” band, setting Dead Leaf Echo apart as a post-rock band with a very keen sense of melody and songmanship. But, the real beauty of “Tears” lies in the way that the band sensitively matches the forlorn lyrics of the song with this musicianship. In what I originally thought was a part two to “Tears” (due to the plainly smart song sequencing on the disc), “Cry the Sea”, follows with its more fervent and jangly approach to music. Next is the huge-sounding title track, mixed, as noted above, by Schnauss. “Pale Fire” begins as a gentle, whispery song, with luscious echoing guitar lines cradling soothing male/female harmonies. It doesn’t take long for the song to build to grandiose guitar arrangements and crashing drums that almost completely engulf the sweet vocals. The song builds impossibly to more and more intricate levels, eventually blasting out at a volume reminiscent of Sigur Ros’ most powerful moments in ( ). The song works wonders, though, still conveying a sense of delicate beauty in the midst of such immense sonics. A cello floats in the midst of the noise, keyboard sounds fade in and out, while those emotive vocals hush in the midst of the powerful sound. Finally, and in a way that almost outshines the title track, “Reflex Motion” ends off the EP with a more stripped-down sound, as up-front vocal melodies anchoring the chiming ebbing guitar lines.
All in all, Pale Fire is a gorgeous second EP release from this band. Dead Leaf Echo plays with a confidence and a, yes, sophistication that belies their relatively new entry into the world of music. With production values that capture the intricacies and hugeness of the band’s sound, with songs whose melodies resonate with the listener well after the songs are stopped being played, and with playing that varies nicely from soft atmospherics to overwhelming walls-of-sound, Pale Fire is an impressive EP. My only complaint is that, at around 30 minutes, the EP is too short; Dead Leaf Echo leaves me begging for more. An impressive EP that is highly recommended for fans of post-rock/shoegaze/dreampop, or just music lovers in general looking for something solid, beautiful, and sincere.
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