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Dead Leaf Echo – ‘Thought And Language’

Some years ago, somebody coined the expression ‘nu-gaze’. In fact, it was probably the same person who came up with ‘post-rock’, ‘the scene that celebrates itself’ and ‘new wave of new wave’. Right now, there’s probably even somebody out there frantically attempting to come up with an expression which describes female music post- Adele , in case she decides that the music industry is no longer for her and it’s time for another heartbroken female to step up to the microphone to pour her misery out on a discerning public who’ll lap up her CD by the lorry load. As long as it’s not Gabrielle Aplin

The fact that there’s a new shoegaze scene in 2013 is pretty amazing actually. I loved many bands linked in with the original scene during the 80’s and though it was lambasted by some at the time ( NME Magazine seemed to have their own fixed agenda which included ramming Public Enemy down everybody’s throat as far as possible while ridiculing any bands that their direct competitor Melody Maker wrote about), it’s clearly been a big influence for a number of bands from 2000 onwards including Ringo Deathstarr , Amusement Parks On Fire , Belong and Ulrich Schnauss . Dead Leaf Echo , from New York, can be added to this list.

Sort of.

Parts of Thought And Language , their latest album, are dreamlike whilst it has to be said that other parts are sugary sweet. Chiming guitars, vocal harmonies, feedback, reverb – the archetypal ingredients of a shoegaze album – are all present and correct. However, I worry that the sugary sweet bits might be a little too sugary for some. ‘Conception’, the opener, is a nice builder which is almost entirely instrumental except for a few bars of vocals towards the tail end of the track. I like it; there’s a good balance of darkness and light. However, the verse of ‘Kingmaker’ is way too summery for my ears after the excellent opening track. There are some wonderfully distorted guitars in play once the track opens up.

‘Language Of The Waves’ has a Robin Guthrie -style bass guitar but the song doesn’t really lift the album. ‘Memorytraces’ fares much better, though I can’t shift the thought that this track sounds like a cross between Catherine Wheel (in the vocals department) and The Belltower (especially the guitars). And what guitars!! They really bite during the middle-eight. I also can’t help the feeling that ‘Memorytraces’ sounds like it was recorded at a different time to the rest of the album. I’m probably wrong, but it sounds quite different to the rest of the album in production terms.

‘Dream Of The Soft’ lifts the second half of the album. There’s a good balance of jangly guitars interspersed with synths. It could easily be a single. ‘Heavensent’ kind of continues with the same theme, though the guitars are more dreamlike, covered in swathes of reverb.

Who’s going to like this? Firstly, Dead Leaf Echo are certainly not shoegaze revivalists in the sense of Ride , Curve , Lush , My Bloody Valentine et al. DLE’s sound is more shimmery, summery and breezy. None of the original shoegaze bands really even compare. Possibly the closest comparison is Cocteau Twins – clearly not in the vocal department – but DLE lack the ‘danger’ present in many Cocteaus tracks.

In summary, the album’s not bad, but for me it lacks real bite. The dreamlike sound which characterises the sound of Thought And Language might be considered too pedestrian by some, relying on single ideas for songs rather than fully developing verses into choruses and middle-eights. This is particularly the case during closing track ‘Flowerspeak’ which appears to take a single idea and expand it across six whole minutes, but there is enough here to satisfy fans of dreampop or summery pop (or should that be post-summery pop??!!)

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