Technically it’s not new out, but it’s pretty new to us. Brooklyn quartet Dead Leaf Echo released Thought and Language back in the spring, but we were only alerted to their brilliance a short time ago. The group, Ana B. on Guitar, Keys and Vocals, LG on Guitar and Vocals, Bassist Steve S, and Kevin K on drums describe their sound as Nouveau Wave, which translated (through listening to the record) means that its loosely elements of 4Ad (a stated influence) mixed liberally with noise, drone, shoe(new)-gaze, Indie and dreampop into this cacophony of blurred sound.
It does make the album, loosely based around the birth and early life of a child, a difficult one to pin down, but that sort of works as one of its advantages with the record contantly inventing and reinventing itself as it goes on.
Opener Conception (well, where else could it begin) swirls around almost aimlessly before rushing into this noise/feedback drenched sound, the band repeating this As it clears so we hear the vocal, as dreamy as the music, similarly soaked in this blurred vision. Kingmaker shifts gears into roper dreamy shoegaze territory, but underneath the sound soaked sheets is a bed of pure indie-pop, beautiful, catchy and loveable.
Language of the waves has this underlying sound of the Cocteau Twins covering New Order records, and it builds, swells even, as the band open their musical wings and swoop and flutter around the room before resting to let the music relax, drenched as it is in its own sound.
Memorytraces moves in darker, harder circles than its predecessors, LG’s vocals sounding more impassioned, clearer than before, its chorus urging, questioning. Kevin Shields would definitely approve. And so we come to Birth and its simple, but drenched in echo and keyboard sound, disguising this from what it is, a great pop song. the voices on this track in particular in the album sound dreamy LG’s delivery with a touch of the TIm Burgess about it, at his lost and tripped out best.
Child delivers a breath of fresh air. Its open and clear and for a time the dizzying claustrophobic fog that enveloped all that came before is gone. Instead it’s open, a time to relax. It does flower into more than it’s initial parts, but it retains that feeling of openness.
Two shorter songs follow Child, Thought and Dream of a soft. Thought retains some of this new clarity, but its a dreamy, idling sugue sort of track. Dream of a soft is more a complete song. It’s achingly beautiful, all bassline melodies, keyboard loops and plain old jangly guitar work.
And then it’s gone. Heavensent starts with this alternating electro drum pattern/ambient keyboard sounds, before morphing into movement era New Order once again, only with that now familiar mist(myst?) and Ana. B’s soft vocals adding the ethereal. She Breathes starts the process of bringing proceedings to a close, with this late night feel, added to by this winding down vocal section, the sparseness of the accompaniment and harmonising making it an almost religious call.
And so to the end. Flowerspeak is the last, and longest song on the album, and the track burns softly, slowly even. If it had been earlier in the album, you would have expected in to burst open into a huge tidal wave of sound, but this, the final sentiments from this brilliant debut, ebbs and ebbs and then ebbs away.
What it sounds like is a difficult thing to assess. What it is, is easy. Very, very good. Indeed.