Plumbiferous Media

At Echo Lake - Woods

May 16th 2010
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At Echo Lake - WoodsWoods
At Echo Lake
Score: 23

Brook­lyn indie-folk group Woods, formed in 2005, released their fifth album, At Echo Lake, on the 4th. Like Woods’ ear­li­er work, At Echo Lake com­bines the folk base of the band’s music with psych-rock to cre­ate the band’s own brand of psych-folk. How­ev­er, though there’s plen­ty of poten­tial in that par­tic­u­lar blend, At Echo Lake has far too many flaws to bring every­thing togeth­er in a way that does it justice.

Instru­men­tal­ly, At Echo Lake switch­es between the jam-band sound of “Blood Dries Dark­er” and the more ele­gant folk sound of “Death Rat­tles,” attempt­ing to mix the larg­er sound­scape of that for­mer style with the folksy sound of Jere­my Ear­l’s gui­tar. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the styles end up doing more in the way of col­lid­ing than they do com­bin­ing. Large­ly thanks to this split approach to the­mat­ics, much of the album seems far nois­i­er than it should, shad­ow­ing out the more suc­cess­ful parts of the album - for exam­ple, on “Mornin’ Time,” where the dis­cor­dant noise that ini­tial­ly floats through the back­ground of the track is effec­tive­ly mashed into the main body of the music, result­ing in a track that, by the end, has become entire­ly clut­tered. The lo-fi sec­tions that crop up through­out the album cer­tain­ly don’t help this, as, with­out care­ful posi­tion­ing among the sound as a whole, they do lit­tle but intro­duce sta­t­ic that fur­ther exac­er­bates the confusion.

Ear­l’s quite high tones might, with a good bit less unnec­es­sary empha­sis, work well with Woods’ diverse sound. How­ev­er, as it is, he instead seems to whin­ing his way through At Echo Lake, such that his voice adds a fair­ly unpleas­ant sharp sound to already lack­ing music. It does­n’t help that much of the album’s vocals have been put through a fil­ter that suc­ceeds only at mak­ing them sound worse, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly hol­low and in an even more acute whine than the unmod­i­fied sec­tions. This would per­haps have been excus­able as a tem­po­rary exper­i­ment - but when it sticks around for most of the album, it’s just not a good idea.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, At Echo Lake isn’t saved by great writ­ing. Instead, it’s large­ly filled with rep­e­ti­tion and large­ly non­sen­si­cal qua­si-poet­ic lines, such as “Death rat­tles in torn-up shoes / Love lies in the cut-up roots / The painter sur­vives just to be by your side,” from “Death Rat­tles.” Giv­en that the rest of the album is cer­tain­ly less-than-mediocre, this can’t hurt it that much, but it cer­tain­ly does rein­force the album’s greater failings.

At Echo Lake is, quite sim­ply, not a good album. There are good bits here and there - the most folk-inspired moments of the music, when they stick up, are sol­id, and some of the noise-imbued sec­tions are inter­est­ing - but for the most part, too many things are wrong with the album for it to come near suc­cess. It would be much eas­i­er to blame At Echo Lake’s many issues on mis­guid­ed exper­i­men­ta­tion were the issues not so wide­spread, but as it is, At Echo Lake is inex­cus­ably weak.

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