Providence-based instrumental rock outfit A Troop of Echoes has a brand new experimental rock album, and this epic piece of work is truly something to be admired. Recorded in a studio fashioned from their loft in Rhode Island, the four-piece group has laid down some creative, crunchy, and uplifting tracks for not only users of the Internet and digital media, but also for those audiophiles still dedicated enough to still purchase vinyl. All nine songs on the forthcoming album are well orchestrated and make brilliant use of the surrounding music scene in Providence.
The album, entitled The Longest Year on Record, symbolizes a huge amount of work not only on the writing side, but also on the campaign–not just a Kickstarter page–to just get the record made. According to drummer Dan Moriarty, there were many setbacks in the making of the album, an undertaking that has roots all the way back to 2010. Just taking one look at the band’s story, available on the expired Kickstarter page–they did triumphantly reach their goal–shows how much of a labor of love this album is, and how a community can add to an already masterful set of tunes.
Stories behind the album aside, the record is a well-crafted, tacitly heavy example of where instrumental genres like experimental post-rock can be taken. The record features around twenty guest musicians, from war drums, to choirs, to string arrangements, however the tunes never sound crowded. The rock grooves shine through powerfully, and the more classical elements blend well; each tune has a nice balance of rising fury and delicate control. Altogether, the songs form an excellent post-rock release.
Overall, the album moves from one tune to another seamlessly, almost as if the record is one epic post-rock piece ordered by movements. Two tunes, “Kerosene” and “Broadway Ghost,” act as serene, mesmerizing reposes, separating the movements of the album and orchestrating an excellent listening experience. “Manifest and Legion,” the first track on the album, is one of the heavier tracks, brimming with crash cymbals, grinding bass and guitar, and a sax sound that deftly cuts through the powerful swell of electric instrumentation. Like many of the other tunes on the record, but best heard here, it’s as if Explosions in the Sky were thrown into a nuclear reactor with a brass big band, and the best materials extracted from the madness.
The title and second to last track, “The Longest Year on Record,” is a perfect bookend to the first tune, as it’s almost a sonic resolution to the overture, almost as if an epic journey is just coming to a close. However, the final track is where the band really shines. “Pure Alexia (is it Silent in this Room)” showcases the band’s best writing; it’s a melancholy, sweeping arrangement of sad jazz sax, ambient rock undertones, and brilliant, simple piano work. I can imagine the band speaking the words, “sorry it’s over, listener, but we shall return,” through their instruments, then fading off into a hopeful October sunset–the best post-rock has that cinematic appeal and effect.
Whether you’ve never heard a post-rock record before, or you’re a seasoned instrumentalist, this is a piece of ambient, intelligently experimental musical craft that’s not to be missed. With the use of brass, woodwind, and strings not always present in ambient rock, this release is a unique little universe all its own, with a production history that comes across in every subtle nuance of the experience of listening to it. The album is available digitally, but the best way to listen is by buying a vinyl or even a CD and just letting it play; this is not a work comprised of singles, but a singular vision that will entrance the listener. Vinyls have not yet been shipped, but that’ll be worked out presently.
A Troop of Echoes is comprised of saxophonist Peter Gilli, guitarist Nick Cooper, bass and moog synth player Harrison Harley, and drummer Dan Moriarty, now all based in Providence. They recently did an eleven show tour of the US and Canada, and are gearing up for another tour in January. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the band and chatting about their music, their lives outside the band, and their plans for the future.
Healthy listening, music lovers.