The first album by Swedish duo Ecovillage is released on Darla, the spiritual home for all things shoegaze. If one could imagine My Bloody Valentine at one end of the spectrum with their ear-bleeding tunes of distortion, Ecovillage are at the opposite end with music that is designed to be heard whilst sitting in a bath surrounded by scented candles.
Most of Ecovillage’s songs consist of breathy harmonies floating on clouds of effects. Their USP, if you can call it that, is the use of sitar although it tends to get submerged amongst the layers of music around it. Sadly, some of the time their output sounds as tough as their chosen band name and those who dismiss shoegazing as watery and insubstantial will find plenty of ammunition to support their argument here.
However, on the unusually strident ‘Here And Now’ and the elegant instrumental ‘Dawn Was Brand New’, they seem to be on to something good. For ‘Horizons And Beyond’ the duo decide to employ a female vocalist and it pays dividends with a glorious melody that adheres to the Cocteau Twins’ school of dreampop whilst ‘Mustard Seed’ makes use of another lady singer and adds an hitherto undiscovered air of mystery. Even the sixteen minute mood piece ‘Phoenix Asteroid’ is superficially attractive but it is basically New Age.
Part of me thinks ‘Phoenix Asteroid’ is a work of genius developed by two men who have successfully unified nature and sound, yet the cynical part of me wonders whether I’ve been duped in to listening to a relaxation tape to help me unwind after the daily grind of work. In the final analysis, the album is best described as background music; pleasant and ethereal but too undemanding to make it essential.
M83, Ulrich Schnauss, Cocteau Twins