The overdue and overproof sophomore Young Echo album is finally upon us, dispensing an epic 24 tracks of subby, red-eyed and distinctively Bristolian vibes set to dank-out smoky dwellings everywhere. Arriving five years after Nexus, their eponymous second album features cuts from each of the 11-strong mob, framing a fractious mosaic of style and pattern rooted in dub and the dancehall, but unafraid to fxck with noise, techno, ambient pop and grime in their own way.
It’s a proper group effort, playing to their strengths in diversity and unity in the best way by keeping individual track credits close to their chest, only allowing the album to be taken as a whole. Yeh, of course everyone’s going to have personal favourites, but they’re only facets of a much bigger body, and it’s to their credit that the whole thing feels coherent, a shared experience, and doesn’t simply sound like a compilation of music by like minds.
Young Echo have always been a bit of sore-thumb in the scene - are they a band? A label? A soundsystem in the mould of The Wild Bunch? The one takeaway from all their material is a sense of shared purpose and democracy - not in the usual, arrogant indie band style, or in-your-face political militancy - pivoting around mutual ideas of economy of expression and a sensitivity to space, rhythm and tone that effectively all pulls back to dub, no matter their individual heritage.
Young Echo is an organic complex where light hardly penetrates its papyrus-like walls, and much of the most crucial communication is made via infrasonics and atonality, relaying messages and emotions both as metaphorical/physical vibes and quite literally thru a morphing voice, which might be gruff poetic realism of Rider Shafioque one minute, the crisply enunciated diction of Jabu or Chester Giles the next, while a number of ghostly, sampled characters also haunt its corridor, perfusing half-heard messages thru their smoky matrix.
It adds up to an album symptomatic of the times in which it was made, yet does so timelessly, bridging the original, super plush studio trip hop creation of their geographic forebears, Massive Attack or Portishead, with a more road-level appreciation of economy and soul which might be best recognised by members of their generation, but should also be felt by any open-minded and empathetic souls the world over.
It’s definitely not another fxcking coffee table record, we’ll give you that for free.