[14 January 2003]
Try as you might, it would be next to impossible to find a sound anywhere near as bizarre and disjointed as that of Finnish band, Echo Is Your Love.
Formed in Helsinki in 1998, the band had one goal—to record everything they ever produced with almost no rehearsal. Their lead singer, Nea Helsto (sounding like a frightened mouse, unsure of whether or not to come out of her abode inside somebody’s kitchen wall) apparently performs her vocals while standing in the corner of the band’s “rehearsal room”, while the rest of the band try as hard as they can to sound like Sonic Youth—a band Echo is compared to no less three times on the press release for their latest album, 8 Hours.
Sure, a lot of bands currently creeping up the charts today sound as though they rarely practice before laying down their tracks, but Echo Is Your Love want to be blunt and out of tune on purpose.
And, boy do they succeed.
While such an approach to making records is surely unprecedented and definitely unusual, the band’s daring experiment rarely works on 8 Hours. Apart from the already less than appealing thought of listening to a band that seems to care so little about the mechanics of creating music that it’ll throw practically anything onto a CD, the album is, generally, 50 minutes of cacophonous muck that only gets louder and more discordant with each song.
8 Hours opens with the overly long “Turn It Off” (would that I could) which, instrumentally, starts out fairly neat until you realize the whole thing is just a pointless six-minute-long repetition of the same chords, and the same line.
“Unable” is similarly disastrous, with the band attempting again to prove that noise equals music. The opening of the song—again roughly six minutes long—sounds as though someone dropped a truckload of stainless steel pots and pans into a garbage disposal and from then on remains entirely free of melody, with just a smattering of incomprehensible lyrics throughout.
“Wake Up” is even worse, opening with the whiny squeal of a microphone too close to the amp, before those loud, distorted guitars kick in once more, this time all but drowning out the vocal track. When the vocals can be heard, it doesn’t really matter, as they’re just Helsto again repeating the same line over and over.
There’s absolutely no discernible point to any of this nonsense, especially considering the guitars sound like they’re just being beaten against a wall, and whatever message attempting to be delivered in the politically charged lyrics is lost beneath all the clatter.
That said, 8 Hours is not a total loss. The bizarrely titled “Useless Spells U-S-E-L-E-S-S” is a great few minutes of punk rock, with an addictive drum beat and relatively subdued guitars. The lyrics are some of the best on the album, berating political correctness and conformity (“Used to work so hard / To find some meaning / Went to Vietnam / Learned the word useless”).
Equally impressive are “Memories” and “It Swallows Everything”. “Memories” begins with a crazy dance beat, masquerading as a happy-go-lucky pop jam, before suddenly becoming intensely haunting as Helsto sings about the death of free will in an ignorant and evermore intolerant world.
“It Swallows Everything” similarly features a gorgeous and upbeat melody betraying Helsto’s depressing lyrics (“Welfare is a fucking deep throat / Finish your life with a long rope / Hanging at the end / Of everything you own”). This juxtaposition on both tracks is works quite well, and thankfully, with “Swallows”, the band manages to keep the whole thing under four minutes.
These songs easily suggest Echo Is Your Love is has talent, yet the band’s desire to stay as far away from the mainstream as possible means that the good stuff will probably stay hidden, leaving way for the band to remain defined by its odd experimentation. 8 Hours may feature a few charming surprises, but it’s essentially a bloated bag of bangs and crashes that needs a hell of a lot of toning up before it will resemble anything close to interesting music.