Review Summary: We get some new Lone with not enough “new” Lone
Matt Cutler has been on this trek to manifest the sound of sun-wrecked cassettes as music. Inspired by Boards of Canada’s dreary aesthetic and old cassettes warped by exposure to the sun, Lone’s early career (and youth) saw him playing around with music trying to capture this sound as his own. With his first 3 albums, he succeeded at making the psychedelic, distorted music of his dreams, defining a unique sound of his own all the while. His sound expanded to Emerald Fantasy Tracks, a somewhat polarizing album that is both loved for its lively allure and magic, and also found bland for its repetitive yet slightly overreaching sound. I personally loved the piece, and I have nothing against Echolocations, his follow-up EP, but this makes me wonder if Lone actually might be running out of ideas when old habits die hard.
With his Echolocations
EP, Cutler doesn’t make any real changes to last year’s melodies or playing style, unsurprisingly seeming like a pack of Emerald Fantasy Tracks
misfits. Nothing here is bad
, but as a whole the album runs together inheriting too little of Emerald Fantasy Tracks
’ mojo. Even with EFT came some repetitiveness, despite it alone being magical and charming. But with an EP following in said LP’s footsteps comes a lack of inspiration, recycled ideas and not enough new direction to make it stick out. The worst of this comes from the lookalike tracks “Rapid Racers” (ala “Cloud 909”) and “Explorers” (ala “Aquamarine”), which parallel their peers far too close to stand on their own. Somehow the EP loses some of Lone’s psychedelic imagery along the way too, replacing it with more straightforward instrumentation that leaves less room for daydream evocations. This can be bad since this woolgathering trait has always been one of Cutler’s strongest suits, leaving Echolocations
a bit pale and jaded compared to his other works.
While it may be a bit stale, Echolocations
isn’t without its unique Matt Cutler sheen. The EP continues off Lone’s kaleidoscopic and glossy sound, most similar to that of the sound he defined on Emerald Fantasy Tracks
. One example is “Explorers”, which uses a whistling undertone and a clean hip-hop beat to carry a nostalgic, beamy melody to show off the album’s sparkly production. Songs generally follow a similar trend, but Cutler maintains variety on the likes of “Coreshine Voodoo” and “Dolphins”, with the former’s tropical xylophones and the latter’s silvery, angelic strings adding some erraticism to the album’s sound.
does certainly have its similarities to Cutler’s last LP, but some of it’s used for the better. For one thing, the album took notes from livelier tracks like “Aquamarine” to sustain an energetic tropical feel while being less relaxed and exuberant. While the songs here do have somewhat of a hypnotic sound to them (“Dolphin”), the songs here are generally active and danceable. With album opener “Coreshine Voodoo” and aptly titled “Rapid Racer”, which is one of Lone’s faster-tempo songs, Echolocations
opens up to an overall more bouncy, get-up-and-go feeling. To the album’s advantage, Lone’s ingenious fusion of “relaxing” and “vigorousness” is in full force here, playing songs that one can bring to a beach party and would feel perfect for both the sunbathers and the volley-ball players. The vibe of the album is narrowed down a bit as a result, but ultimately proves that Lone reaches both ends of the “active” spectrum.
Interestingly, Lone cracks open some 8-bit melodies on “Blossom Quarter”. Cutler has never been one to show Nintendo influence in his music, but what’s here does a good job of expanding on Lone’s nostalgic tone and lifting the song in a humble, light-hearted climax. This makes “Blossom Quarter” the most dynamic track on the album and, with dragging songs being the main offender here, serves as its highlight as well. Granted the song‘s still no real advancement of his sound, one can be left curious if Cutler will expand on this 8-bit approach in the future.
Seeing as it’s only an EP, it isn’t expected to blow up in listeners’ faces with some multifaceted new work of genius, and Echolocations
modestly fits those expectations: it’s just more Lone music. The disappointment comes when it restates EFT
’s issues showing little signs of correcting them without even spicing his sound up a bit. Adopting the sound from EFT
there are flaws and advantages, though he may be stretching out past what he originally dreamed to make with music in the end. This EP still has repetitive issues (most noticeably with percussion), and is ultimately a chip off the Emerald Fantasy Tracks
block, but what’s here is still genuine Matt Cutler music, which is enough to satisfy fans of Lone. Echolocations
is still a vibrant, colorful EP with sharp production and plenty to be enjoyed.