Album Reviews - - by Sam Liddicott

ALBUM REVIEW: Nils Bech – Echo

ALBUM REVIEW: Nils Bech – Echo Photo Credit: Benjamin Huseby

Nils Bech is one of those artists hard to discover and find out more about – unless you happen to speak Norwegian. The thirty-five-year-old has been making music for a while but his popularity has not fully extended across the globe. That is a shame because Bech is more intriguing and original than a lot of new artists coming through. The Vikersund-born musician combines art and music: his songs are more like performance pieces and Bech has acted/performed in galleries, clubs and music festivals – including Oslo Live, The Great Escape and Rockslide Festival. In fact, Bech has played across the U.S. and Europe – not many dates in the U.K. so far. That should all change with the impending release of Echo.

Please Stay has just been shared online and already picked up its fair share of effusive comments and impassioned feedback. Many fans and followers have been keen to express their satisfaction with the track – noting how beautiful and romantic it is; powerful and emotive too. When describing the track; Bech assessed it in these terms: “The song speaks of the desperation of realising your partner is leaving you. The lyrics in the songs are gibberish ‘Please stay… don’t you leave me now.. don’t go… I’m lost.. somehow… You’ll live your life and I’ll live mine, but I’ll be waiting for you’- repeated over and over again describing the devastation of the one who’s left behind. For me the beat represents the anxiety and sorrow turned into anger, and the harmonies the love that has been..”

This follows Waiting: the album’s lead single which brought to life Bech’s minimalist vision and martial drums – all augmenting a weightless, beguiling and entrancing vocal performance. Already well-known in his native Norway: Echo is a turning point for Bech and a sonic departure from his early work. Introducing beat-maker and D.J. Drippin into the fold: this collaboration brings new urgency and invigoration in but retains Bech’s natural beauty and otherworldly beauty. This strange but immediate blend showcases juddering bass and five-alarm snare drums; orchestral stabs and reflective piano lines. Echo brings Bech out of Norway and fully into the world – a musician keen to embrace everyone and take his music to a wide audience.

Waiting begins Echo and opens with twinkling, spacey and bewitching electronic snippets. Putting your mind in the cosmos – floating around space in search of civilisation – it is replaced by a warm and cinematic hum. Mixing the tender with epic in the blink of an eyelid: Bech’s pin-sharp, choirboy falsetto brings spectral shades to the song and puts hairs on end. Choral, floating and uplifting: you get caught in the stillness and dance inside the song’s waves. Harder beats and chopped snares introduce the second half and a more savage and attacking number – still keeping that soft and comforting vocal pure and protected. Glimpse of Hope finds the hero embracing a girl’s heart and capturing a special look – one that has buckled his knees and creating serious longing. Backed by simple electronic ripples and the suggestion of strings: the composition starts to build and grow heavier; the vocal climbs and strengthens. A Michael Jackson-esque falsetto works in the background: contrasted by a more masculine foreground performance. All the time the lyrics unfold; one finds Bech struggling to get the girl and shrug off the beauty and seduce – wrestling with the conflict between desire and restraint.

Drip Drip gets us past the half-way mark and introduces new elements into the album. More edgy and club-bound than any number before – it is a juddering, assault-rifle slam that places phat beats and a sensual vocal inside a dichotomy of calm and chaos. Finding two lovers clinging to one another: the passion is slipping away and the bond is starting to melt. One senses that desperation and hunger: the need to keep the love strong and not let the girl go. With its heavy and racing start; the nervy and vibrating electronic pulses: it is one of the headiest tracks across Echo. Again, it places its soul between the club floors and the open moors – a partnership and insatiable beats and across-the-oceans vocalisations.

Nils Bech is a musician who has ambitions of worldwide recognition: Echo is the album that will help him get closer to that goal. In terms of the vocals; one will notice similarities to Sigur Rós and Jónsi. Like Jónsi; Bech has the ability to get into the soul and evoke something quite spiritual and irrational – a power reserved for a chosen few. Tracks like Waiting and Drip Drip demand repeated listens but across the album – even at only nine songs – there is a feeling of repetition and fatigue towards the end. Bech’s voice is nimble and the compositions varied but a few of the songs do blend into one another. That said, there is plenty of beauty, talent and variety to get new fans in and hook existing ones; lyrics that address love and self-doubt in a new light; consistently commanding vocals that add nuance and depth to every line. Echo is an album that might take time to resonate with those not familiar with Nil Bech’s distinct sound and artistry. Once it does hit: you are happy to be drawn into the music and let the tracks seep into the senses. Not quite the crowning achievement for Bech but an album that has plenty to recommend and an endless supply of beauty. If that is not your bag you might want to look elsewhere: those who are tempted by that will certainly not be disappointed by Echo.

Echo is released on 14th October via DFA.

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