Absolute Probability Recordings (label)
22 June 2021 (released)
20 May 2021
In the last few decades, the prog moniker has come to represent lightning riffing and confounding time signatures, often bridging into metal or heavy rock. There was a time in the late 70s into the '80s when progressive music was beholden to a different aesthetic. The music was no less based on technical innovation and deft instrumental prowess. However, instead of the gear-grinding churning of current prog, the mood was light and lofty. Artists were seeking to float above the clouds not bore into the earth's core. Bands like Genesis, Marillion, and Tangerine Dream sought to create pleasant dream worlds, putting the vision of sun rays poking through the clouds into music.
Portland duo Echo Us carry that mission with them. Multi-instrumentalist Ethan Matthews assembles lush heavenly textures over which to explore transcendent and existential subjects with the help of vocalist Charlotte Engler. The Windsong Spires combines classic glowing '80s FM synthesis with Renaissance-like strings and dramatic, empyrean vocals. When needed Andrew Green joins the fray with drums to give certain songs that earthly pulse.
'We Seek Descending Levers' opens the record with an intriguing mix of welcoming celestial pads with swooping driven synths and bird call noises echoing through the air. A beguiling atmosphere to spark curiosity. The vocals are reverent and holistic, blending in with the dense sonisphere. Playful guitar lead licks drop down into a '90s Pink Floyd Division Bell era half-time groove. All breeze and clouds.
'If You Can Imagine' capitalizes on the duetting capabilities of Matthews and Engler. This track about setting the imagination free gets its light nimble tone from the music box-like hammered dulcimer and the soaring scope of possibility from Matthews ascendent slide guitar. 'When the Windsong Spires', the track which inspired the album's title has a mix of earthly tribal drums, dulcimer, and Engler's 'voice of Mother Earth' sublime vocals. The combo compares to the work of fellow New Age conjurers Dead Can Dance.
Side B standout 'I'll Wave You In' again draws on late Pink Floyd-style soundscapes. Matthews' glimmering strat tone playfully dodges around the billowing dry ice-like pads. His vocal inflections flicking like Roger Waters when he's dialled up to a medium simmer. The low-rising rhythm crashes into the high descending solo like a waterfall meeting the river below. Reverberant bass holds the epic mood throughout, finishing the track by sending ripples out into the ether.
The Windsong Spires ticks all of the boxes of those looking to tap into the earth's core and see out into the galaxy. The record runs the gamut of otherworldly New Age stylings from delicate ethereal Enya to the tribal rush of Juno Reactor. Matthews uses the many colours on his palette to make some gorgeous sound paintings over which the pair can communicate their spiritual musings. A fitting soundtrack for the coming season in the sun.