Driving – Echoglass (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

I always find it hard to categorize Echoglass’s music. Not because it is particularly way out nor genre-hopping but because any label that I apply never comes remotely close to doing it justice. Pop seems too transient and lightweight a word to really capture what is going on and indie too hipster and faddish, though their music does lie somewhere within those realms. Still, worrying about genres is largely a thing of the past now, let’s just call it poised-pop or deftly crafted indie and have done with it. Onwards…

Driving, the latest release from this mercurial band, sees them opting for a defter and more delicate sound, not that they were ever particularly heavy-handed in their sonic delivery, but here they head into an almost balladic space and the song seems to lilt gently and passionately past the listener, floating rather than driving (pun intended), grace more prominent than groove.

It reminds me of the musical territory explored by the likes of The Beautiful South, Black or The Divine Comedy, all bands who defied close categorisation, whose music always felt too smart to be part of the pop pack, whose tunes seemed tinged with the sort of integrity and baroque touches of the past rather than the present. And in my book, such reference points are very high praise indeed.

Driving shimmers and chimes along, and does so in an understated and minimalist fashion. Pianos offer sparse chords and delicate musical runs, the beat is unfussy, just enough to create a structure, never driving too hard or dominating too forcefully, and bass notes punctuate and underpin perfectly. And above all of this, a gorgeous and whistful vocal paints scenes and tells tales of romance and car journeys, seeming like an extract from a black and white film, furtive glances in the rearview mirror, images of love and laughter, the sound of the voice slightly melancholy and wonderfully measured, giving just enough to the song to match the elegance and restraint of the music below it.

The song is fantastic. They always are. I feel that Echoglass are a cautious band when it comes to releasing music. Unlike many artists today who seem to need to release salvos of songs as soon as the last words fade away and the tape stops rolling, every song written, every word uttered regarded as a timely and necessary addition to pop culture, Echoglass wait for the right moment. Their back catalogue is a testament to quality rather than quantity, their songs always have something to say, they are not big but they are bloody clever. Young artists could learn a thing or two from Echoglass. Young artists should learn a thing or two from Echoglass!

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