Review Summary: Finding beauty in the everyday
Welcome to Echo Lane Afterschool Inc., the creative anthology of a Texas based artist who’s released a series of albums and EPs under an array of names; Echo Lane Afterschool Recreational Dept., Echo Lane Afterschool Hike & Bike Committee, and Echo Lane Afterschool Book Club. All of these adorn the overarching Echo Lane Afterschool Inc. aesthetic of homemade and childlike cover art by way of shades of gentle crayon and simplistic kindergarten-grade suburban scenery. The music heard throughout these adolescent chronicles fits alongside a similar context; suburban-esque field recordings act as the foundation (and sometimes the template entirely) of tracks that are accented, eschewed, and emphasized by faint electronic tones, gentle noise, rattling cell phone cameras, minimal piano sustains, and his own distinct vocals. His latest album is released under Echo Lane’s Laugh Foundation and continues to build upon these themes, suggesting that “all proceeds go to laughing”, which is appropriate considering bikes clouds cranes phones
evokes all kinds of sugary facial expressions in that it's his most in-depth, subtle, and accomplished collection yet.
Framed around a windy field recording, the title track and centerpiece of bikes clouds cranes phones
starts things off with gentle micro-melodies of various soft electronic tones accented by the occasional ringing of a phone and disjointed bleeps that oscillate further in the background. This seemingly disorganized yet confident and relaxing excess of small sounds manages to capture the subtitles and beauty of an ordinary spring day; a tame drone of wind and a barely discernible recording of children playing can be heard in the background while a scatterbrain of photosynthetic textures carry rich optimistic vibes. Later on this playful sound becomes eschewed by a nasally set of vocals that peep their way through the pastorally affluent mix that causes the micro-melodies and electronic tones to slowly disappear by way of tape scars and murky noise bursts that rip a fissure into the recording. It's through this fissure the windy field recording falls, leaving the hushed, childlike vocals and ripping of soft turf to guide the track to places unknown; resulting in a mix of the whimsical and optimistic feelings nature effortlessly evokes pressed against the pessimism it can so easily mask (ie: the feelings we hold inside).
However, when the vocals come to a halt the windy blast trails back and is guided by a series of bleak tones, faint cars driving distant, and remote humming. While this collection turns into a meditation after some time, all of the sudden it collapses and transforms into the micro-melodies and soft tones of the track's inception, only this time instead of a phone ringing in accent we hear a disconnected phone humming; which could be seen as a metaphor for disconnection and separation from where the track began. Continuing on this separation theme is a series of lush glitches that bring to mind Oval’s 94 Diskont
and the subtle stuttering of Gas’ Pop
while being accompanied by a single piano key that sustains into a gorgeous minimal rendering as the track closes out finding delicacy and elegance amidst the unpredictability of everyday life.
The next series of songs are all short sketches based on simple themes and act as more accessible extensions of the title track. ‘The ‘happy birthday’ song’ features an impromptu melody on a toy instrument alongside floating tape hiss that evokes imagery of ramshackle tree forts and video reels of babies simultaneously confused and awe-inspired take on the everyday. ‘The pocket song’ features breezy guitar plucking that emulates the random nature-inscribed melody of a wind chime while a field recording rattles against fabric inside a pocket, inspiring an improvised and richly organic sound. ‘The cameraphone song’ collects similar impromptu toy melodies in comparison to ‘The ‘happy birthday’ song’, however, here these sounds are fleshed out by an impressionist piano melody and a series of light snapshot sounds that suggest the preservation of its pastoral atmosphere. In a way it kind of resembles Disco Inferno’s ‘All Burnt Out & Nowhere To Go’ in the way it used snapshot sound effects and pastoral instrumentation to create mood, however, here its far more sparse and stripped down. Closing out bikes clouds cranes phones
is the meditative ‘The lawnmower song’ that captures desolate electronics and faint guitar strumming tied around a live recording of a lawnmower that can be heard moving in and out of the track as it chops fresh grass blades away and brings the album to a close.
Much of bikes clouds cranes phones
brings to mind the carefree, stripped down, and utopian sounds of the original Animal Crossing soundtrack, but none more than the ‘The Waiting Song’, which takes the album's play on minimalism even further as it gently caresses gentle guitar strums and piano tones that resemble Brian Eno’s Music for Airports
. It's music for a real life portrayal of the atmosphere and actives presented throughout Animal Crossing; fishing by the creek on rainy April showers, throwing coins into a wishing well, chopping down trees for delicious fruit, casual conversations with neighbors, or collecting seashells by the infinite bay side. When you download bikes clouds cranes phones
it comes with a series of eleven photos of various scenes; there’s one of a gloomy bayou, a series of rocky terrain, a plant pot obscured by a sunset's rays, shutters overlooking dusk, a skyline hovering over a city’s horizon, and a window drenched in evaporated rain. These pictures affirm the idea that bikes clouds cranes phones
is a celebration of the commonplace and ultimately about finding the beauty in the everyday through ideas, concepts, and situations that bind us together through the trails of the human condition as interpreted through the guise of music.