Lord Echo "Harmonies"
Harmonies is the new long player from underground super-producer Lord Echo. Hotly anticipated for the last few years by his growing entourage of fans, many were frustrated by his descent into obscurity in the industrial backwaters of New Zealand where he lived alone and went completely insane trying to make it.
But those frustrations are finally at an end, and the wait was worth it - for fans at least.
The new album solidifies his already distinctive mutations of reggae and rock steady with disco, African soul, techno and spiritual jazz. In other words, the Lord has returned from the wilderness with a bounty for his followers. Eat of the bread of life and enjoy access to his crazy World of Sound.
Harmonies draws to a close a process set in motion a decade prior:
“When I first conceived of this project I wondered if it would be possible to make the same album three times, mostly because I thought it would be funny and because people always try and do something different so why not try and do the opposite? This shows how rebellious and brilliant I am. So that’s why all three of my albums have the same type of cover, have the same sounding names (Melodies, Curiosities, Harmonies) and why they feature the same artists.”
That repetition of the same themes, the same sounds and the same personnel lends a unity and consistency to the trilogy of albums that is rare in today’s topsy-turvy musical landscape. His range of collaboration is decidedly un-global - all the participants are inhabitants of the same small locale - a small suburb in a small city on the edge of the earth.
There’s Toby Laing (Fat Freddy’s Drop), the long time associate and advisor, Mara TK (Electric Wire Hustle -the golden voiced poster boy of soulful experimentation, Dr Leila Adu - the enigmatic and unique composer, songstress and muse, Lucien Johnson - the charmingly well read saxophonist and composer, and of course the fabulous Lisa Tomlins - who slayed everybody with her raw and soulful performance of ‘Thinking Of You’ in 2010.
The album was produced in his studio World of Sound, which he built by hand in an abandoned plastics factory in the backwaters of industrial New Zealand. His only neighbours were a lone skinhead, a handful of gang members and ‘TK’s’ - a brothel frequented by long haul truck drivers whose route terminated nearby.
“I lived alone out there for 3 years. It really was very odd. Of course I went completely nuts. But I also had periods of strange, other worldly happiness. Though that was mostly during a period in which I gave up trying to make music. I was a terrible alcoholic. I did a lot of yoga. I’m glad it’s over.”
It was in many ways a classic midlife crisis. Quitting his cushy gig in iconic New Zealand band The Black Seeds and facing financial and psychological ruin he ploughed ahead into the darkness.
“The midlife crisis is, for me, a time when two things happen. One, you start to really confront death if you’re that way inclined, and two you have been alive long enough and experienced enough stuff that it’s time to consider the things you’ve done and learnt and try to figure out a way to keep living. In other words, you think to yourself ‘how the hell do I keep doing this, what do I want?’ And after fumbling about in the dark for sometime, you either decide to just give up and sleep walk through the rest of your life or you decide to get rid of the shit that doesn’t turn you on and fill your life with the things that do.”
So with the completion of this album such a personal milestone, you would think the Lord would have time for a well deserved break - but his religion doesn’t allow for it.
“Really, I think working is the most important thing, working is the point. You’ve got to have something to do in this god forsaken world. The making of something is the part where you exercise that uniquely human muscle - to make something just because you can or because you want to. Thats what draws us closer to the gods. Does it matter if it’s good or not? Ultimately, no. Let other people worry about that. Carry on working, don’t look back”
The Lord details his philosophies of music:
“One of the things I like the most about music is that it’s invisible. It can still be magic; it can still cast spells. The reason why I prefer the sound of older recordings is because they leave space for you, for your imagination in them. The don’t spell everything out to you crystal clear like a lot of modern music does. It’s like a movie compared to a book. A movie is very good, incredible! But it dominates all your senses and overwhelms them - a book leaves room for your own image/ feeling generating impulse. And that is the source of all creative output.”
“I think the main challenge of being human has always been trying to create meaning in a universe that probably has none. That and dealing with the awareness of your own inevitable death. And I think that’s harder to do for the modern human to do than for the human of old. One of the most surefire ways to create meaning is also uniquely human - to do something for someone else that is of no benefit to your own personal self. And I feel pleased to be a musician if only because I feel like music is one of the arts that is the most directly useful in daily life. Can you imagine your life without music? Awful. At least my selfish art form is potentially of real practical use to someone, that’s how I try to console my self.”
Had enough? Just listen to the music. As Lord Echo says, ‘please enjoy’.
Artist: Lord Echo
Label: Soundway Records
Distribution: Kartel/ Indigo