Echo Lake – The Lexington, London 01/10/12

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A band’s debut album release is their first creative milestone but when tragedy hits, the realisation that there is simply more to life than music is undeniable, despite what High Fidelity tells us. 

Just days before their captivating new record Wild Peace hit the shelves, nearly four months back, Echo Lake’s drummer, and sometime Best Fit cameraman, Pete Hayes sadly passed away.

Understandably the promotional campaign trail was put on hold while their record dropped to unprompted but largely universal (albeit muted) fanfare. A few months on, the band convened to mark the release and pay tribute to their late sticksman – with a proper celebration, throwing what must be dually the most belated and eagerly-anticipated launch show for one single release.

The jam-packed bill, featuring Evans The Death and Ides (filling in at short notice for Virginia Wing), means that the upstairs space at The Lexington is uncomfortably full, as the crowd – friends, family and regular fans alike – all cram in to see the band’s first run-through of their new material. And it’s perhaps that which makes the evening so special, with large pockets of the audience responding actively to a record they’ve been listening to nearly constantly for the past couple of months.

Up first though is Ides, the solo project of Joanna Gruesome singer, and former Evans The Death bassist, Alanna McArdle. One of the many frequently-tagged “bedroom musicians” simply for not having reached the point of every day studio access yet, the singer’s rather brooding material is more pertaining to such a setting in terms of her subject matter, with her entire back-catalogue fraught with the kind of post-break up anguish that would keep curtains closed for days on end.

Evoking comparisons to early EMA at her best, the set is emotive, confessional but, like a good poem from Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop or the like, never verges on uncomfortable or intruding for the listener. McArdle, during her relatively lengthy set for a first billed support, somehow manages to convey and create so much through such little instrumentation used and precision-perfect appropriation of open-space, with frequent St. Vincent-like bipolar turns from clean-cut guitar to sudden overdriven penetrating to your very core.

Fresh-faced Evans The Death find themselves in an entire different situation to the acts flanking them. Neither readying a release or celebrating an album, the group are at the end of a touring stint surrounding their April debut. The record showed a sense of humour and carefree ease not heard since Los Campesinos! got all glum, with tongue-firmly-in-cheek lyrical highlights such as “sleep is a party but my name’s not down so I’m not coming in” on the aptly-named ‘Sleeping Song’ and the particularly great line “the sun is coming up like a hungover socialite”. However, tonight, the Fortuna Pop! label stars seem to have great difficulty in recreating and transferring some of this fuzz-pop magic that is plentiful on record to the evening’s performance, throwing in some new material, but with each buzzsaw riff or jangled hook seeming, sadly, a little flat and indistinguished.

By the time Echo Lake appear, the band and their loved ones alike must be racked with the kind of anguished anticipation that most only experience in the dying minutes of cup final football matches. The set kicks off suitably – as does their album – with ‘Further Down’, as Linda Jarvis’ cooing vocals get lost in a haze of feedback and chime-like keys. The song slowly morphs into ‘Another Day’, one of the most straightforward and lucid moments on the LP, a nigh-four minute gem of jangling and rattling 80s-indebted glassy-eyed pop. After the infectious ‘Even The Blind’ and guitar-driven ‘Last Song Of The Year’, the band end their rather modestly-timed set with ‘In Dreams’, dedicated to Pete, and we can think of nothing more fitting that this krautrock-infused number that somehow manages to balance in a limbo of being both haunting and vivid.

It’s easy to imagine what a hard time these past few months have been for the London fourpiece and you wouldn’t be surprised for many a band to fall apart under such stress and grief. But from their performance this evening, featuring two new members making their live debuts, the group are exceptionally tight and remarkably unified considering the situation. And it’s this triumphant return against the adversity, and the opportunity to finally celebrate an album he was such a big part of, that’s perhaps the biggest tribute possible to Pete.

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