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Ectogram - Electric Deckchair

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Artist: Ectogram

Album: Electric Deckchair

Label: Ankst

Review date: Nov. 3, 2005

“Hackles rising, cold, so very cold,” intones vocalist and guitarist Ann Matthews somewhere amidst the structured scree, squall and clatter of Ectogram’s fourth full-length, and she might as well have been describing much of the material on Deckchair. Over four albums in some ten years, this trio from Wales has developed a fresh take on “psych” and “drone” that is never nostalgic but always pays proper homage, never overly theatrical while still avoiding unnecessarily “hip” detachment.

The wise decision has been made to break the set up into two more palatable discs, each containing one epic and several shorter tracks. The band states that the only overdubs are vocals, and that composition and improv were captured live in the studio, then fashioned to form two discs of standard LP length. If focus was the goal, it was achieved brilliantly; none of the tracks meander, with even the more lengthy ventures maintaining a sectionalized formality without any threat of overcomposition. For me, the stand-out moments occur in two-minute gems like “Cloud Trouble,” a powerfully beautiful punk ballad with Matthews’ soaring and tastefully effected vocals floating above what can only be described as power-pop.

“Cloud Trouble” is actually one of the few instances on Deckchair where effects gain so much prominence. While they are certainly omnipresent in the overdriven noise-drenched symbiosis that typifies Matthews and Alan Holmes’ guitar dialogues, there is a dryness to the group sound, a stripped-down certainty that confirms instrumental mastery and long-fostered group telepathy. It’s especially evident in what I take to be a three-part minisuite, beginning with “Overstopped.” Maeyc Hewitt’s propulsive drumming and the motoric Krautrock vibe throughout conjures images of Faust – entirely appropriate, as Ectogram tours the UK with the legendary experimentalists in late October and early November, and whose “J’ai Mal aux Dents” they made their own on an earlier EP.

Ectogram’s is not music that thrives on volume, but on clarity and precision. When moments of increased dynamics arise, they are earth-shattering, momentarily dispelling the agreeably chilly gestalt in favor of amplified heat; just sample the end of “Overstopped.” With Matthews' pure and flexible vocals a perfect foil to the intricacies laid down by Hewitt and Holmes, Deckchair is now the definitive statement from these sound sculptors, and I await any future releases with great anticipation.

By Marc Medwin

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