It’s been four years since Dead Leaf Echo released the brilliant Thought & Language. Since then, we’ve seen an EP and many singles released through Moon Sounds Records. This four-piece shoegaze powerhouse of a band has been touring nonstop with the new tracks from Beyond.Desire in tow and, I have to say, the band is in top form. Ana Breton (Guitar/Vox), LG Galleon (Guitar/Vox), Steve Schwadron (Bass), and Kevin Kahawai (Drums) have constructed a brilliantly cogent offering in Beyond.Desire, evoking the title of the album throughout. To say that the album exudes passion is an understatement. It moves from desperation to embrace to dream states. Floating, ethereal moments evoke the likes of 4AD artists from the label’s heyday. The undergirding goth sensibility of the band remains, with post-punk elements working really as a foundation for the more shoegaze and dreampop elements.
Beyond.Desire begins with “Desire” which has reverb drenched snare, dreamy guitars, that beautiful bass tone Schwardron always has, and a brief, bright melody. This short introduction to the album is utilized like a ring composition, with the ending of the album playing a similar or the same song. The track is seductive and leads straight into “Temple”, which is an almost spoken word, passionate explosion right out of the gate. Swirling guitars roll over the listener as they are strummed in a gunshot staccato tempo. Breton’s dreamy background vocals create a bed for the fuzzy erupting guitars and Galleon’s earnest vocals. There is a controlled chaos here that really plays off the theme of desire set up by the first track. “Temple” ends as short feedback instantly introduces “Strawberry Skin”, a single that came out earlier this year. Bouncy with eddying guitars, driving bass and drums, and Galleon’s earnest vocal coupled with Breton’s soaring backing vox makes this a standout track. This is indeed the darker side of dreampop and it’s glorious.
“Lemonheart”, the first single off of Beyond.Desire, follows with a hazier feel as the vocals are buried in the mix with reverb spreading them out. This effect gives the track a dreamier essence. The guitars are also spread out, creating a dense cloud of sound over brilliant bass and percussion. Splashy and enveloping, “Lemonheart” gives way to “Tear.the.Heart.in.Two” which begins with these amazing guitar tones singing out through the speakers. There is a swinging quality to the tempo here as the vocals mesmerize the listener with their breathy magic. “Beyond.Desire” harkens back to “Desire” but this time with Breton’s gorgeous vocals floating in the aural mist. Gorgeous in its execution, “Beyond.Desire” is slow, patient, and seductive. It’s an ambient laden piece begging to be listened to in a dark room, with headphones on, and at high volume.
This leads into my favorite track on the entire album. “Cloudancing” is a dreampop wonder, with cascading, radiant guitar tones shimmering over Galleon’s sensitive vocals. The guitar layers in this song are just gorgeous and I hear something new on each listen as they chime in and out of the mix. This is also, and I say this happily, one of the longest tracks on the album. As the layers float through the speakers, there is a hypnotic quality to the track because of the length. Dead Leaf Echo casts their spell on the listener and it is indeed powerful. “Sunlesssoul” breaks the listener out of their hypnotic trance with bright, dancing high hat and duel vocals from Breton and Galleon. With the verses getting one’s body to move and the chorus moving one to stop and pay deep attention with its punctuated vocal cadence, “Sunlesssoul” drifts into the ether in the bridge and takes the listener in and out of so many aural landscapes. That said, the track is cohesive. Piano eventually enters the mix, giving what I think is my favorite sort of micro-moment on the album.
“Drifting.Inside” has slow, reverb drenched percussion and vocals. Acoustic guitar floats amid a slow-moving drone wall as the bass holds any semblance of a structure together. Fuzzy guitars swell as the acoustic guitar drops out. The vocals are melancholy and have a desperation to them. There is an empathetic pain here that just leaps out of this piece. “It’s Starting to Happen” has a tom heavy beat with synths playing overtop. The longest piece on the album, “It’s Starting to Happen” features those recessed vocals and a slow build. At about 4:18 into the song, layers peel away, whispered vocals give a ghost-like feel, the bass begins to have a “boing” sound in it, and glacial, grinding guitars fill out the void. It is an amazing moment on the album to be sure. Then, at about 6:35, the drums and bass drop out and the guitars howl in fuzz and feedback. This devolves into “Desire” again as that ring composition happens. It beckons one to return to the begin, start anew, and harken back to how this musical odyssey called Beyond.Desire started.
Everyone wants their favorite bands to progress while still sounding like themselves. For me, Beyond.Desire really demonstrates the brilliance of Dead Leaf Echo as well as their progress as a unit. Utilizing “Desire” as a connective tissue on the album, Dead Leaf Echo produce a unified vision most bands can never achieve. With themes of desperation, desire, love, loss, and so much more snaking their way through the extensively varied aural landscapes, Beyond.Desire is a masterpiece of blended post-punk, dreampop, and shoegaze that juxtaposes experimentation alongside dreamy single worthy tracks. One last thing needs to be said before closing out this write up. Schwadron and Kahawai are incredible on this album. Percussion choices and bass tones really fill out the album. Sometimes the rhythm section doesn’t get enough praise and, in this instance, it’s well deserved! That said, get a copy on vinyl, cassette, or/and CD. You won’t be disappointed.