Written by: Lauren Espina
Since its inception in 2008, Dead Leaf Echo has mastered a dark, pensive brand of new wave that drifts in a realm somewhere between dream pop and shoegaze. The Brooklyn-based outfit released its debut LP, Thought & Language, in 2013, capturing its wandering sonic aesthetic on a full-length effort for the first time after having released a steady stream 7″ and EPs. Dead Leaf Echo makes a return to the shorter format on its latest offering, the true.deep.sleeper EP, which officially drops on February 25th via Moon Sounds Records.
Before hitting play, the stylization of the record’s title and track listing summons memories of the past that perhaps only people in their mid to late 20’s will understand: AIM profiles, LiveJournals, Myspace pages, and any online platform that allowed adolescents to showcase their alternative nature by typing.sentences.like.this. (Which was way cooler than tYpInG LyKe tHiS.) Perhaps in an ode to simpler times when the grip of social media was more like a timid but mutual hand-holding, the EP’s period-littered, all lower case text, in the context of today’s music scene, mirrors the flow of this album–it begins earnestly, burgeoning forward with warmth before cooling down and wandering far away from earth.
Kicking off at its highest point with the title track, the record lurches forward with an onslaught of drums and shrill, muffled screams that are countered by lead vocalist LG’s calm, “ah-ahs.” Womping guitars create a relentless, atmospheric soundscape as tambourines cut through the wall of sound to add a punchy undercurrent. Together with the second track, another piece driven by washes of keys and guitar and anchored by a driving rhythm section, “true.deep.sleeper” fills out the dream pop half of the EP before it slows into darker territory.
Swelling and pulsing in minimal layers, “blind.island” digresses into open space, encapsulating a chilling, spectral air. LG’s vocals become increasingly ethereal, as he begs, “Warm our clothes.” The temperature drops further with the final track, “heaven.sent.sleeper,” when the vocals become muddled, acting as another instrument instead of a vehicle for lyrics, and subtle echoes meander aimlessly, building the track into the longest, darkest moment of the four-song effort.
While the first half of the EP weaves and wraps you in a warm fabric, the closing half leaves you exposed to the elements. What Dead Leaf Echo pulls off so well is that both halves of true.deep.sleeper are equally exciting, though for different reasons. The record is endearing, encouraging, uplifting and ultimately unsettling and disorienting, in a way that leaves an aftertaste of mystery and possibility.