Review Summary: Hardcore may never die, but this is better.
"The Echelon Effect was an attempt to fall back in love with music"
-Echelon Effect Biography (www.EchelonEffect.com)
It's kind of a soundtrack for spring, which is appreciated because every time I walk outside I'm reminded that I need it. Not that winter isn't picturesque, with it's driving blizzards and frozen mountains, but picturesque just doesn't cut it when the windchill is negative five, the snow is a foot deep, and the sky is greyer than a corpse. The unanimously decided worst part of season is that it lasts for months on end, seeming to hold on far after you've had enough of it. (Apparently weather patterns are impartial to human feelings). What's amazing thing about winter, though, is that on the first day of spring, it's all worth it. When you walk out onto the sidewalk at 7 in the morning expecting that sharp wind to cut through your skin, and instead you feel sunlight beaming down on it. That moment...well holy shit guys..that moment. Well it's rather hard to describe it in words, and lest we forget that this is a metaphor, we don't need words. The Echelon Effect describes it much more effectively. A project by David Walters, The Echelon Effect is an optimistic combination of post rock, ambience, and electronics, a surprisingly fresh take on post rock, which avoids all the cliches and tripes of it's genre, and provides a hell of a experience, just like that moment.
David Walters generally doesn't work in crescendos, he works in atmosphere. And what catches your attention in the album isn't the crescendo's, it's everything else. It's nothing new, several post-rock bands have done it in the past as some extraneous artistic statement, or an attempt to break the very tightly wound mold, but very few have pulled it off so naturally or with such grace. The atmosphere The Echelon Effect have created in this album is intoxicating, Created by an ambience which is often calm but frantic, simultaneously, always threatening to burst with kinetic energy, but always contained, and always with a hint of beauty . This ambience is what holds the music together. While it is in the foreground on Cascade and Fractal, David Walters music is far from just ambience. Additional instruments appear on every track. The Nobility of Loneliness bursts with strings, Guitar and Keyboard dance majestically In "What makes Us So Uncommon."And a xylophone is even showcased in "While You Were Gone."
The percussion though is what makes this music stand out. Steve Tanton is the driving force that creates the peaks for this album, his frantic drumming often appearing louder than the music itself, and the lack of him is what creates the valleys. While not nearly quite the same league of Bryan Devendorf of The National, his drumming has the same effect. He doesn't just control the beat, he defines it. You don't just hear the creeks starting to come to life, you see them bursting. Tanton's strongest performance is "The Continuum of Time" where the drums unexpectedly fade into the background, where they thunder ominously but dimly. As the song reaches it's highest point though, the drums enter in at full volume with brute force, propelling the songs climax. Considering that it's a guest drummer for an artist who, a couple of months ago, was only sharing his music on Myspace, the performance is remarkable.
The Echelon Effect most closely resembles an ambient Explosions in the Sky , but despite the majority of bands which emulate Explosions In The Sky, The Echelon Effects music never comes off as formulaic. This guy shows an understanding for music that a lot of his peers don't. This album won't change your views on post-rock, nor will it redefine the genre with new conventions. Hopefully though you'll find yourself surprised by the quality of the music, and in time, completely immersed in it's atmosphere.