Ecovillage: Phoenix Asteroid
Quince Records

That two songs on Ecovillage's Phoenix Asteroid were co-produced by Jonas Munk (aka Manual) and Jakob Skott (aka Syntaks) should tell you something right away about the character of the release. Yep, it's shoegaze-styled dream-pop, this time from the Swedish duo of Emil Holmström and Peter Wikström, and, though it clearly draws upon the musical and production styles of Cocteau Twins and Robin Guthrie, it's also expertly done. So thoroughly worked out is the group's sound that little distinguishes the Munk track (“The Sun Will Shine On”) from the rest of the album's material (the Skott co-production, “The Key,” hits harder due to the inclusion of aggressive electronic beats). As they do elsewhere, Holmström and Wikström build their vocals into huge choirs and arrange the musical elements into an epic mass that's equally psychedelic and euphoric. The duo's own sound palette is augmented by guests who contribute cello, flute, sitar, and Greek bouzouki, among other things, but in truth such sounds are largely subsumed into the Ecovillage whole and blended into the total sound mass.

Once a pretty little overture (“Small Bright Points”) is out of the way, Ecovillage's electro shoegaze style immediately asserts itself in “Arise From The Ashes: ethereal vocal melodies and harmonies buried in synthetic washes of electric guitars, keyboards, bass, and drums. Veronica Aston also makes a strong impression when her voice floats through the Cocteau Twins-like rapture of “Horizons and Beyond.” Some instrumentals appear alongside the largely vocal-oriented album, such as “Lost in the Tides of Time,” a piano-and-electronics interlude of New Age rapture, and “Dawn Was Brand New” and “When Souls Collide,” which opt for blissed-out ambient calm. The album's major anomaly is the ecologically themed title track which isn't a vocal anthem but instead sixteen minutes of blissful ambient soundscaping featuring cellist David Feldman and trumpeter Mårten Larsson. While it's certainly an accomplished enough piece, it also lacks the immediate sugar rush that the songs deliver.

February 2010