The Strange - Echo Chamber - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Strange - Echo Chamber

by Rob Taylor Rating:8 Release Date:2019-03-01
The Strange - Echo Chamber
The Strange - Echo Chamber

The aesthetic of the Tom Waits albums “Heartattack and Vine” or “Blue Valentine” is a rare one. Tales of destitution, wretchedness and flimsy love set to mournful jazz that, in spite of a downbeat tenor, still brings nostalgia for a bygone era. Astute observations of small-town phenomena. ‘Broken Town Blues’, on the album Echo Chamber by The Strange, accompanied dolorously by trumpet, is a track that holds a kinship with those albums. The lyric, Ice is thickening on the window/the north wind screams in the yard/I met my devil/but I faced her down/living at the edge of Broken Town speaks commonly of small victories in the face of hardship. The music is contemplative and sophisticated, even if the subject matter is stark.

The Strange is a collaborative musical project between cult Croatian instrumental surf-rockers The Bambi Molesters and American singer-songwriter Chris Eckman, the front-man of The Walkabouts, the folk-country outfit that has been a regular staple for the German label, Glitterhouse Records since the 1990s. Eckman also plays in Dirtmusic alongside Hugo Race. Glitterhouse Records have always specialised in folk and gothic country rock music from countries that have long since lost appreciation for that musical form. Like French labels did for African-American jazz for a long period.

The Strange retains Eckman’s interest in tales of ordinary humanity, but the instrumental accompaniment varies from that of Eckman’s other projects. The luxuriant spread of sound – twangy guitars, elegiac horns, nimble keyboards, a timeless pop sensibility amounts to more than folk/country. It varies in scope and takes in blues, jazz, soul, widescreen desert soundscapes and even modern classical. It’s a very adult album, likely to appeal to musicians themselves, in the way that the music of Warren Zevon appealed more readily to a professional audience, and undeservedly bypassed the mainstream. Also described as baroque-pop in the press material, and I won’t argue with that assertion.

Echo Chamber is a journey without a destination, but it’s the places that it visits that makes it feel like home.

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