Back in 2009, Poland’s Echoes of Yul (effectively Michał Śliwa, Jarek Leśkiewicz, and assorted guests) released their eponymous debut, a great if not mind-blowing entry into the leagues of the doomy, sludgy, and riffy. Perhaps the nicest touch on their debut was the way Śliwa and Leśkiewicz incorporated samples and elements of glitch into their overall sound, leavening their mix of guitar, bass, and drums with a broader instrumental palette. Justin Broadrick‘s long shadow pretty much defined the parameters of Echoes of Yul’s sound, but it was all generally rather pleasing and was fresh enough to avoid mimicry. The following year’s Untitled split (a three-way split, unsurprisingly, with Guantanamo Party Program and Sun for Miles) was more of the same: mostly sampled vocals over slow-shutter riffing and muted electronica.
Then, for almost three years, there was nothing to be found from the project but silence—that is, until 2013’s Cold Ground appeared. Their second full-length was basically a retread of the first, except that the electronica was more overt (the track ‘Cold Ground’ could almost have been an unreleased Daft Punk B-side) and some tracks (‘The Message’, for instance) evidenced a growing interest in dub and a sound that verged on trip-hop. Two minor releases followed in 2014 (Tether—four new tracks and a bunch of remixes—and another split, this time with Thaw), both of which followed the trajectory of Cold Ground with the same mix of glitchy electronica and leaden riffs, with the electronics and especially the burbling synths playing a greater role. Whereas previously the electronics had been atmospheric, some tracks on Tether were driven by synth melodies. The single track on the split (the twenty-five-minute behemoth ‘Asemic’) pulled together everything Echoes of Yul had done up to that point in one almighty blow-out of endless single-chord doom through synths that bubbled like tar pits, ambient washes of sound, sampled vocals, and stumbling drums that kept pace with one’s shadow like the tricky footsteps of their uneasy conscience. Some of this material was Echoes of Yul’s strongest to date, with a maturity in the blending of their rock and electronic vocabularies into a unity that had previously only been hinted at.
As good as Tether and ‘Asemic’ were, the unspoken question remained: where could Echoes of Yul possibly go now? If ‘Asemic’ was the achievement of their telos, what remained to be done? Here, finally, is the answer, in their third full-length release, The Healing. Almost at once it becomes apparent that this is a very different Echoes of Yul. So different, in fact, that there are only a couple of tracks here (‘The Trick’ and maybe the closer ‘The Better Days’) that would not have sounded out-of-place on any of their previous releases. Effectively, what seems to have happened is that Śliwa and Leśkiewicz have taken their usual musical palette and turned it on its head. With the exception of the aforementioned tracks, the distorted guitars are gone, the piledriver drums are gone, and the prevalent sense of doom is gone. In their place are, well, pretty much everything else that Echoes of Yul were, exacerbated. The Healing is, in essence, an album of slow-motion electronics. Cinematic, glitch, dub, hip-hop, trip-hop, and with the odd hint of Kosmische, what The Healing sounds like more than anything is a record by the slothful bastard offspring of DJ Shadow and Portishead who’d been locked in the cellar by Tricky and raised by PJ Harvey on a diet of pins. It’s bleak, ominous, and rather unsettling, and it’s overwhelming feeling is of unease.
Overall, this is a brave move for a band previously so wedded to distortion and riff. The Healing is a very much more abstract effort than any of their previous records, and all that much more difficult to categorise, but Śliwa and Leśkiewicz must be congratulated for abandoning the formula they had previously used so effectively and taking a step into new territory. There’s the odd stumble here and there, but fluency in this new vocabulary isn’t far off, and the next album should be something special indeed.
02) The Trick
04) Apathy Rule
07) The Healing
08) The Better Days
Written by: Matt Leivers
Zoharum (Poland) / Zohar 106-2 / Digipak CD
Tar Trail (Poland) / TT001 / Digipak CD, Tape, Digital, 12″ LP
Drone Doom Metal / Cinematic / Glitch / Electronic / Trip-hop