Echo Park Orchestra have a gift that is rarely found in contemporary music, to be able to take extremes and weave them together into a middle ground experience that ticks more boxes than you were even expecting to be presented with. I’m not talking about extremes in mere musical terms, more in concept, as they match deft, deep and devilishly clever word play with accessible, pop aware, yet progressively fluid music.
They offer a range of subjects from the grand and existential to the comparatively small and contemporary, and manage to work with those contrasts so sublimely that rather than sound like jarring juxtapositions they instead take on a wonderfully holistic nature. And it is the exploration of the idea that whatever the lyrical subject matter, whatever the musical reference point, making music is the weaving of universal threads, no matter how disparate and seemingly detached, everything connects somewhere.
And so it is that, aided by a very revealing set of sleeve notes to help unravel these colourful wefts, you find songs which conjure images of the galaxy set to classical Indian groove, dirges to the demise of the modern song form evoking an ancient Sumerian hymn and flamenco flourishes documenting the humble realities of love and much, much more. But if the idea of trying to find common musical ground between such a wide-ranging set of ideas and influences seems a spinning gyre that the centre cannot hold, then think again. The very essence of Echo Park Orchestra is the glue which holds these wonderfully diverse elements in place and which provides a cohesive a recognisable sound.
To build a sound which is as pop-aware as it is experimental, which explores world music but still sounds from its very own self-contained culture, that can pun as well as it probes, can offer lyrical sagacity as easily as offers musical sass and for which the term eclecticism is an understatement, is something all creative pioneers strive for. Many take a lifetime to realise such a concept, some never do. Echo Park Orchestra manage to do it in one album and still find that they have something just as conceptually mind-blowing to offer next time around. How great is that?