Double Echo – Phantomine (album) (Edils Records)
When you dream that you’ve “dreamed this before”. The feeling of déjà vu that is summoned when the obscure and the obsolete stumble into the realm of the oneiric. On ‘Phantomime’, Double Echo attempt to synthesize this feeling from out of half-forgotten, half imagined musical conventions we left to rot in the last century: post-punk’s insistent pulse; the processed instrumental fog of the shoegazers; a new romantic’s sense of drama and fantasy. A dusty VHS copy of Blade Runner slumbers in your attic, dreaming of electric sheep, while the world outside resembles more and more the nightmare that decays there upon the black surface of its magnetised ribbon. But this new world is too sharp, too bright… It’s time to dream of another. Solid, liquid and gas. Music to be buried in, without ceremony.
Those are the words from the press release that accompanies ‘Phantomine’, the debut album from Liverpool based “goth” duo, Double Echo, set for release next week. The words couldn’t be more true.
‘Phantomime’ follows the duo’s ‘Black Morning’ EP from September 2012 and the ‘Darkroom‘ single released a month later. Right from the get go it’s utterly mind-blowing to hear just how accurately Double Echo have replicated the sound of The Cure circa Pornography. While they may not get any points for originality, ‘Phantomine’ is a trip to listen to.
As you might just expect, ‘Phantomime’ is a dark but also dreamy record. Though epic in sound and duration (only one song is under 4 minutes…), the tempo of the tracks themselves are quick giving the songs a post-punk like urgency, ushering the listener into a swaying or foot-tapping frenzy.
As with much of The Cure’s work, each of the 10 songs on the album are driven by bass guitar. Double Echo have even gone so far as to saturate the bass with flanger – a characteristic that defined Simon Gallup’s sound of that era. Vocally however they are a world away from the distinctive qualities of Robert Smith. Instead Double Echo’s vocals range from obscured and monotone to the more new-wave crooning.
The opening title track is an absolute gem and one of the more immediate and “pop” songs on the record. “A Shadow” more accurately captures the sound of The Cure circa Disintegration with its epic qualities including the chorus-driven, hypnotic guitar melodies set against the jangly, distorted chords, bolstered together by a steady bass line and repetitive tom rhythm.
“Remains” has echoes of David Bowie set to the soundtrack of The Cure’s ‘Pornography’ while “The Wake” is dreamy mid-paced number, which lures the listener into its thick ghostly-fog. “Metropolis” is a five and half minute instrumental track that showcases similar fantastical elements to The Cure’s “Plainsong“.
On “Silent Order”, Double Echo invoke Bauhaus while “Scorched Flats” and “Hours” are two of the catchier tracks and both highlights featuring much-welcomed hooky vocal melodies.
The songwriting is well crafted and journeying, avoiding predictability. The mood is consistent, the guitar and synth work ooze melody and nostalgia. However for all of its impressive production work and attention to detail, comparatively speaking, ‘Phantomine’ falls shy without “One Hundred Years“, A Strange Day” or something of that ilk to take it to the next level. That being said, ‘Phantomine is a dark delight and an impressive, solid body of work.