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Echoes of Yul - The Healing [Zoharum/Tar Trail - 2015]

Echoes of Yul are an eclectic ambient electronic rock band with a desperate apocalyptic tone not unlike Nine Nails, Massive Attack or Godspeed You, Black Emperor.  Since their self titled debut in 2009, the project has shrunk from its original duo line up to become the solo project of Michael Sliwa.  “The Healing” is one of several new albums from Sliwa within the last couple of years.

Rough electric guitar tones with rich rube amp fuzz are present at nearly all times, as Sliwa is clearly a guitarist.  He skillfully plays a number of styles, from a twangy inebriated lounge, heavy with verb and delay, to ominous minor key post rock dwells, and Southern fried doom distortion.  Rich organ tones are also evident in many places.

The album does not feel like a live performance, rather it would sound like every sound that has been recorded has been turned into a loop, and listening to the album is being immersed in a continuous stream of these loops.  The rich ambiences of this album are often sourced from feedback and e-bow tones.  To any fan of hypnotically repetitive electronic music, this is not a bad thing.

This is a one man ‘band’, and this album travels significantly in an electronic ambient direction after the first couple songs, channeling Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack with the rainy tone, understated emotional melodrama, shivering, washed out and imperfect synth textures, muted pads, dwelling within slight undulations and shifts of consonant harmonics.  Short two chord loops are repeated for several minutes, with intense hypnotized patience.

Vocoders and pitch correctors are used to skillful effect, allowing the sparse vocal work to blend into the album so as never to be too intrusive.  The experience remains largely abstract, but when the vocals do appear, they’re surprisingly soulful, sounding influenced by R&B and ambient garage like Burial.  Autotune-esque processing creates the sound of a disembodied, alienated voice nearly immersed within a repetitious current of riffs and loops.

It would seem a glacial doom metal tempo is preferred by Sliwa.  With fuzzed out bass tones, Sliwa sketches prolonged gothic metal chord progressions with pentatonic intervals.  As a long time fan of Type O Negative, I’m a fan of this kind of aesthetic.  I’m also reminded of Justin Broadrick’s Jesu project, a more shamelessly emotional dramatic band than Godflesh, which shared the cinematic angst and intensity of this album, and similarly combined shoegaze with the traditionally stoic sound of doom.

Under the guitar and bass work, there are sequenced beats which utilize samples of a real enough drum set, but still come off sounding clearly quantized and synced to the metronome.  As a result, the rhythm is closer to electronic downtempo than real rock or metal, and rather rigid at that.  The production of the album overall is rather lo-fi, feeling like a bedroom project in which some elements were given more attention than others.

However, Sliwa’s guitar textures, melodic ideas and imagination for orchestration and layering are quite wonderful.  Like the best house music, every song has a truly beautiful yet simple symmetrical progression.  The album is quite emotionally direct, effortless evoking nostalgia and melancholy longing.  The atmosphere is one I haven’t encountered in far too long, a certain feeling that was shining strong within the late 90s electro-industrial sound.  If you always thought NIN and Massive Attack were whiny or overdramatic music, you’d likely feel the same way about this, but if that feeling absorbed you as thoroughly then as it did me, you’re very likely to enjoy this.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Josh Landry
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