Monday 9 November 2020

The See Within from Belgian ensemble The Echo Collective

The See Within; The Echo Collective; 7K!

The See Within
; The Echo Collective; 7K!

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 9 November 2020 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
The Belgian post-classical ensemble moves into the spotlight, from supporting other artists to creating its own material

The Echo Collective is a Belgian ensemble of classically trained musicians founded by Margaret Hermant (violin, harp) and Neil Leiter (viola), which has made a name for itself working with artists such as  Winged Victory For The Sullen and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, as well as performing with artists in genres as diverse as alt.rock, synth-pop and black metal. Now the ensemble has produced an album of its own material. The See Within on the 7K! features music composed by members of The Echo Collective performed by Margaret Hermant (violin, harp), Neil Leiter (viola), Gary De Cart (magnetic resonator piano) and Charlotte Danhier (cello).

The disc is the first appearance on record of the Magnetic Resonator Piano (MRP), an instrument invented by  Andrew McPherson which uses magnets fitted to a piano to create the kind of sustain and crescendos that can be achieved with strings. This means that whilst some of the disc's sounds resemble electronics, it was in fact all produced acoustically. The music is produced without complex written explantation, it is there simply for us to experience and think about.

The disc features eight tracks, Inflection Point, The See Within, From Last Night's Rain, The Witching Hour, Glitch, Unknown Gates, Respire and First Brightening ranging in length from under three minutes to over ten minutes. The style is very much post-classical or new classical with strongly thoughtful, contemplative element to it. The music itself is highly varied and can be complex in its structures, and within this the group produces some intriguing textures and combinations of timbres. There is a feeling that different tracks deliberately feature different instruments, so that The See Within is all watery harp textures, whilst From Last Night's Rain seems to have the MRP to the fore.

A work like The Witching Hour might only be a little over five minutes long, but it features a lot of material within its structure. The world here might be post-classical, but there is a strong sense of the performers' classical roots. There are many adjectives to describe this music, approachable, thoughtful, contemplative, atmospheric, intriguing, but simple or simplistic is not one of them.

The Echo Collective
The Echo Collective

With a track like Glitch, the range of sounds makes it difficult to believe that we are listening to acoustic music (the only electronic manipulation was the addition of reverb), yet it is not just fascinating for that reason and the performers use their tools to create intriguing soundscapes which draw you in.

The See Within
The Echo Collective -
Margaret Hermant (violin, harp), Neil Leiter (viola), Gary De Cart (magnetic resonator piano), Charlotte Danhier (cello)
7K!  7K024D 1CD [40:38]
Available as CD, Vinyl or download from 7K!

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