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Oct 07

[review] Echostream: The Duality of Courage

A preview review for the Far East to East Showcase

The multicultural New York City has a history of incubating bands that cross the borders between Japan and the United States, such as Cibo Matto, Peelander-Z and Gelatine. By mixing sounds—and sometimes band members—from both countries, they challenge our assumptions about what constitutes a Japanese or American music act.

Ambient band Echostream occupies common ground between the American gothic and Japanese Visual Kei scenes. The members hail from both the United States (Tony Grund, CJ and Jen) and Japan (Ryoko, Tomo Asaha). While they’ve earned VK cred from touring with Blood, their English lyrics and moody ambient-rock mix hold a broader goth appeal.

One of Echostream’s greatest assets is one that sounds like a weakness on paper: Ryoko’s thin voice. A stronger singer could have made songs such as “Contagious” overdramatic—at least from the perspective of someone who’s not a fan of Visual Kei or goth music—but Ryoko’s human fragility reins them in.

The Duality of Courage closes with an atmospheric track of bells, thunder and other sounds (“Disturbance at 8 am”), a silent track and two untitled songs. The choice is interesting, but these songs don’t transition smoothly from the ones that precede them. For example, the volume is significantly lower on “Disturbance at 8 am.” I felt like I was listening to a different album.

That said, Echostream put on a fun show when I saw them at last year’s Far East to East Showcase, and they help bridge the Far East to the West. If you dig goth or Visual Kei culture more than I do, you’ll probably find plenty to enjoy.