Saturday, December 9, 2017

Beyond Desire

Dead Leaf Echo
(Moon Sounds Records)

Here’s a NYC band that I have known of and read about for most of their ten plus years of recording history, yet somehow, until last weekend, I never actually heard their music.  This second full-length album was released a couple of months ago, so this review comes a little late, but music is music and the best of it is timeless. 

I love the name of this album.  Beyond Desire.  What does this actually mean?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it’s one of those ‘giving a 110%’ things, but the implication is that this gang are striving for a higher level of engagement than what is even possible – way past the basic human needs and wants – and that all seems like something really good to strive for.

This album contains a musical thread that pops up at the beginning intro instrumental (“Desire”) into the title track opening side two and as the closing portion of the epic finale “It’s Starting to Happen.”  This unifying theme gives this collection an added weight that harkens back to the days when people had the patience to listen to their albums over and over again, because it wasn’t so easy to access music at any moment and those rare and possibly adventurous purchases were treasured (okay, old man, shut up!).  Similarly, I had always heard Dead Leaf Echo referred to as a modern “shoegazing” band, but what I hear goes back further in its lineage.  Beyond.Desire strikingly reminds me of those luxurious goth-tinged 4AD bands of the mid-80s (the sleeve design is by 4AD’s Timothy O’Donnell), or some of the Projekt bands that came along later (especially the amazing Mira), or all-time favorites The Autumns.  I drift in and out of this style, but when it’s done right, as the aforementioned artists, and on this album, it can be captivating and invigorating.  What sets this band apart is the busy and distinct rhythm section of Kevin Kahawai and Steve Schwadron and the really strong vocal harmonies between guitarists LG Galleon and Ana Breton.

I just downplayed DLE’s “shoegazing” influence, but it sure comes out in spades in the cranking “Temple,” which explodes out of the dreamy opening intro to become one of the highlights of this collection.  This song immediately captured my attention with its dramatic live feel, impassioned vocals and stratospheric guitar washes.  Plus there’s the pre-LP single “Strawberry.Skin,” also a catchy straight-ahead pop song that will get one’s head bopping around.  The echo chamber reverb of all the best dream pop splashes the bittersweet “Lemonheart,” as well as the tragedy of The Cure-like downward spiral of the downbeat “Drifting.Inside.” 

My favorite two songs come back to back and speak to the breadth this band has at it’s disposable.  Both songs are quite different, but sound great paired together three quarters of the way in the album.  First is the spacious “Cloudancing,” which absolutely dances and sways as it glides along the buoyant bassline and sparkling guitar fills.  Second comes The Sundays and The Ocean Blue inspired nugget “Sunlessoul,” which is easily a rainy day comfort song worthy of both of those excellent bands.

Don’t overlook Dead Leaf Echo, as I have for so many years, they are worth being heard.

 Dead Leaf Echo "Beyond.Desire"