ARTIST: SPC ECO
RELEASE DATE: 22nd August 2107
RECORD COMPANY: ELaB Records
It seems like only yesterday I was sitting down to give a listen to the latest release by legendary producer Dean Garcia and his daughter Rose Berlin aka SPC ECO. The release in question was 'Under My Skin' and it was awarded a 5/5 by yours truly; a feat not so easy to come by. Garcia and Berlin had come together to create something as dark as it was beautiful: ethereal vocal performances were combined with shadow-filled synth passages and lyrics, all topped off neatly with drum programming and a crisp clean production. When I heard that the duo were releasing a follow up full length album (entitled Calm) I thought two things: one, it will great to see what SPC ECO have churned out this time, and two, could they keep together over the length of an album? There was only one way to find out, I guess?
Calm by SPC ECO
'Calm' opens with the MBV shoegaze-influenced fuzz of ‘Out of Sight’: its deep and rumbling walls of static back up Berlin's siren-like calls and humming. Behind the mix, Garcia twists knobs and presses buttons to give the music a focal point, hip-hop like beats guiding the rest of the instrumentation and music along slowly. Although it is a fantastic 90’s-ish track and perhaps even an album highlight, there is something blaringly obvious: this is going to be much denser, louder and wild than 'Under My Skin' (not that that is a bad thing). Somehow Berlin and Garcia follow an album highlight with yet another album highlight: the slower, but still as dense, ‘All the Voices’ utilizes a breathy performance by Berlin, backed up by a borderline industrial soundscape of the instruments behind. All the while as the track plays, brilliant ambiance and drone seeps in through the mix, making things heavier and more beautiful. ‘Rising Up’ stands as another absolutely fantastic track: the guitars again create a wall of technical fuzz and feedback, a drum beat again guides the music, but it's vocals are perhaps the most haunting found on the entire release. Things turn into some sort of wildly dark and exotically evocative dance party: equipped with songs you can dance to and songs you can have a neon-lit knife to at the same time.
‘All I Had’ captures a slower and a somewhat more sensual vocal performance by Berlin; meanwhile Garcia turns things down to a trip hop level, creating a mix of loud, noise filled dream pop-esque music. It's placement on the albums track list is also ace. Perhaps my favourite song on the entire album is the stellar ‘Pearls’ in which the vocals and instruments meet in a beautiful kind of harmonic pairing to create a downtrodden afterthought of dream pop. It’s an emotive mixture of contemplative ponderings and long winded passages of sun covered beaches with the texturally white backing of clouds amongst a blue sky. ‘Who Are You Now?’ is, however, much, much darker… Somewhat evil as well I guess. Its slow trip-hop inspired drum beat is accompanied with a creepy sample of bottles clanging together or something? Ambiance and atmospheric strings also add to the landscape even more thoroughly. ‘Ghosts’ is where things start to taste a little over-done: another slow tempo drum beat with breathy vocals make this song one of the more forgettable on 'Calm'. The more upbeat and soundscape inspired ‘When It Moves’ turns things back around, thankfully, injecting some of the elements that made previous tracks an invigorating , engaging and unique listening experience. ‘Get Lost’ is another album highlight, especially its massive, hi-hat trap inspired chorus, which underpins a sweep of ambiance and sampled noise over another brilliant vocal performance by Rose Berlin. Garcia truly turns up the ambiance on this track, weaving thin and slow instrumental sections with larger and more heavier passages of more colourful sounds.
‘Over’ seems to feature the most heavy percussion on the release: the programming with which the band uses is as thick and heavy as ever before. Behind the beats and vocals lies a bizarrely enjoyable sneaking sound of what could be the introductory music to a British detective series, full of rain, shadows and the occasional dash of neon lights. ‘Hours’ seeps all the atmospheric reverb, noise and ambiance into one melting pot of music; creating a dense and somewhat murky soundscape with which the song plays out. Berlin's voice fits well within the context of this kaleidoscopic tornado of sound, proving her graceful voice is a positive point of originality for SPC ECO.
While some elements of 'Under My Skin' (and perhaps SPC ECO themselves) are evident on 'Calm' (think the atmospheric and somewhat trance-inducing instrumentals, as well as the waveringly beautiful vocals), overall it seems the duo have created something somewhat noisier and denser than ever before. Where 'Under My Skin' relied on the atmosphere of each song (which it did very successfully) 'Calm' instead pulls down any filters that Garcia placed over the music previously; opening a flood gate of wall of sound type feedback, and more intricate and involved instrumentals throughout the album. Because of this, 'Calm' is at times more difficult a listen than 'Under My Skin', and while I champion noise, feedback and wall of sound song writing; I can understand why some listeners just may not connect with the album. Similarly, each tracks basic foundation (with some exceptions) is the same: a slow(ish) programmed drum beat plays over soundscapes while Rose Berlin smoothly dances between her upper register and mid-tone, spoken word style sensual vocal deliveries. Thankfully, I can acknowledge and see where the difference between tracks lies, and furthermore how much skill is required to write such music… I just assume some will not. Garcia and Berlin remain as beautifully beguile as ever: some tracks sound as though they should be on film soundtracks, some tracks sound like they should be played in the most warped and harrowing dance club in the world, others just sound completely and utterly mesmerizing in their beauty. Besides, it all really comes down to the artists and the music: a well seasoned and ridiculously talented producer doing what he does best, accompanied by some of his equally talented and interesting friends… And his daughter, who happens to have the kind of pipes that you can play at a demented carnival or a hypnotic lounge-type dinner party. Together they produce a strong, original and commendable album, achieved through programming, production and sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian based heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
by Primal Music
RELEASE: Under My Skin
RELEASE DATE: 10th February 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
From the mind of CURVE genius Dean Garcia comes the ridiculously good, cold air beauty of SPC ECO; a duo consisting of Garcia and his daughter Rose Berlin, who are set to release the mesmerizing, slow yearning five track EP 'Under My Skin'. It’s honestly an EP I wasn’t exactly bending over backwards to hear as I wasn’t a huge fan of Garcia’s previous collaboration S T F U. But I revoke such reservations to conclude that 'Under My Skin' is in fact a 5/5 EP. It’s choir/orchestral like moods combined with the slow daze of trip hop and a touch of dark wave, helped along by the trance inducing-beauty of Berlin’s vocals make it a slow moving, heavy classic; showcasing the genius of Garcia’s as a producer and acclaimed multi-instrumentalist.
Under My Skin EP by SPC ECO
'Under My Skin' opens with the moving title track that establishes the sound of the project. Built around a slow dream pop inspired keyboard line and the utterly brilliant vocals of Berlin, the song moves into a sweeping orchestral key and remains heavy and drowned for the tracks entirety. The lyrics aren’t anything substantial, but coupled with the music, they make fantastic and meditative tones for the listener. ‘Meteor’ is the duos greatest streak at trip hop; the song builds around a similar group of sounds as the opener, albeit slightly more upbeat, though this time said sounds are reinforced by the slow hits of a drum machine, programmed slowly and swinging in time with the music and the soundscapes within the song. ‘Meteor’ sounds less cinematic than the opener, switching out the orchestra swell for a more synthetic sound; which does wonders for the song.
This beat/darkwave style of synthetic/programmed sound continues on 'Creep In The Shadows' which is perhaps the least significant track on the EP. That’s not to say, however, it doesn’t have its positives; the synthetic notion of the music is enhanced to include a neat reverbed bottle rattling sound in the background of the drum pattern that sits comfortably behind a confusingly auto-tuned/vocal FX enhanced Rose Berlin. And that’s exactly why I feel this track to be less significant than the others; because it is perhaps a little too comfortable. Thankfully Garcia and Berlin turn things in a different direction with the deep electronic track ‘Let It Be Always’; a song that revisits the projects earlier tinkering’s with dream pop but abstracts it using neat and intelligent experimental production techniques.
‘Found’ is the most meditative, dreamy and soothing song upon 'Under My Skin'. It’s truly beautiful stuff; slow and spacey, echoed and hovering vocals hang over the mix. The instrumentation and production turns minimalist while the lyrics suggest of gentle contemplation, of discussion and speech between Berlin and somebody or something that has lost its way. It’s a song about light that doesn’t actually hold much light within itself; ‘When you get lost and found/ And when you get lost for a noun/ Like I lead you there/I will lead you there’ sings Berlin, as she offers a kind of shimmering light to counteract the darkwave undertones of 'Under My Skin'. It’s intro and outro are as slight as each other, and when Berlin's vocals sway away, it’s as if the listeners been gently touched by the singers voice. A truly fantastic song.
Apparently 'SPC ECO' have had the title track featured on MTV’s popular show Teen Wolf, a show that I don’t watch. The main thing that I can deduce, however, from that decision is that for the most part the producers must have very good taste. So good of a taste in fact that I applaud them for featuring it on their show and hope that from doing so, more viewers and listeners out there go out searching for 'SPC ECO'. They definitely deserve it. For this EP deserves recognition; whether it’s for the stellar and professional production, the sweeping instrumentation, the stellar arrangements and instrumentation or if it’s for the breathtaking talent and stature of Rose Berlin’s vocal deliveries. After a few listens of the EP I can say that the father/daughter combination of music and vocals/instruments and lyrics is a 5/5 collaboration that highlights everything creative and interesting about dream pop, trip hop and a genre I generally don’t listen to much of - darkwave! This collaboration puts their strengths forward and creates an engaging and musing piece of music, achieved through top notch production, performance and sound.
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
RELEASE: Favourite Colour EP
RELEASE DATE: 12/08/16
RECORD COMPANY: Saint Marie Records
SPC ECO just dropped a brand new album 'Anomalies' on August 12th, then on the same day, they also released this excellent new EP. There is no song overlap, but the songs do seem like they’re part of an ongoing theme or series. Dean Garcia and his daughter Rose Berlin are surfing some gorgeous dark wave here, filigreed with gossamer vocal strands and icy cold synths. Ominous bass bubbles up from a deep well and Rose’s light, airy vocals float to the surface.
Favourite Colour EP by SPC ECO
This is especially true of the opening track, 'Out Of Your Control'. And wow, the second track 'Favourite Colour' is even more stunning, with its slow burn and ultra trippy vocal layers. It is a complete mind gasm, spinning its web and ensnaring the listener, holding tight and never letting go! It is one of the best tracks I’ve heard in this genre this year, and one I hope the band continues to explore. 'In Doubt' is a moody miniature soundtrack for a noirish spy flick or murder mystery, red fingers of blood spreading from a dead body, a moment stopped in time even as civilization rushes by at breakneck speed. My head is bobbing and weaving as I type up this review, and this EP continues to be a great listen as I work my way through it. 'Trouble' is dark and mesmerizing, a mesh of dreamy trip hop and glacial beats that drags you along in its wake.
'Whisper' is a witch’s cauldron overflowing with noxious sounds, edgy and hallucinogenic while it builds slowly in intensity, unfurling like a deadly nightbloom until it lulls you into submission. Truly, I do like hearing the band explore its darker side with this smoldering short collection of mostly extended jams. Highly recommended for all fans who enjoy their dark wave with a lot of dense layers and glimmers of light threaded throughout a sonic tapestry.
Pick up a copy of this EP over at spceco.bandcamp.com And check out the band’s many other releases while you’re at it.
Music has always been a driving force for Elizabeth Klisiewicz, which she days "continues to define my existence". During and after her college years, she ran a weekly radio show at WMUA FM Radio and also at a community station in Springfield, MA, in addition to writing music and concert reviews for the college newspaper. At present, she writes for The Big Takeover Magazine and The Active Listener Blog, and recently began producing a semi-regular Mixcloud-based show called The Kitchen Sink. In the real world, when not writing technical manuals, she gets her thrills from reading mysteries, birdwatching, and can always be found with a camera and a maxed-out storage card full of music.
RELEASE DATE: 19/08/16
Wow, another release from the prolific SPC ECO, the father-daughter duo consisting of Dean Garcia (Curve) and his daughter Rose Berlin. Let’s get one thing out of the way, OK? The band can’t help but remind listeners of Curve; it’s in Dean’s bones, he’s never really escaped from his musical past. And that’s cool, because 'Curve' was an amalgamation of shoegaze with psychedelic-drenched dance beats, and nobody else did it better. So now we have the current project, and it contains less of the hard edges you’d expect from this team, and more of the softly blurred dream pop that they do so well. And thankfully, not a voice synthesizer in sight. I have to mention that, because they erred in messing with Rose’s beautiful voice on last year’s Dark Matter.
Anomalies by SPC ECO
So what do we have here? Another solid, darkly inflected release of dreamy trip hop. “Out of My System” is an obvious single, with its catchy melodies and spacey sonic backdrop. It’s the most like their earlier material, which means total ear candy, but it’s not a big step forward. Whereas “Incomplete” is richly layered melodic architecture, slow and sultry as Rose’s breathy vocals roll over the musical waves. It’s quiet and slightly sinister, and ever so beautiful. “Bare To Lie” is bleak dark wave, yet at its core it’s a stunning piece of work. I could totally see this used as a film score, it has that noirish feel I love so well. “Your Own Way” is gorgeous, gauzy dream pop, another killer tune that you need to hear immediately. This is yet another example of how perfectly suited this pair would be for film scoring. “Silent Maybe” reminds me of vintage Curve, and please know that is the highest compliment from me. It’s all about the heavenly vocals and the nearly symphonic landscape that Dean paints around Rose’s voice.
“Think Twice” is icy, slow burning and could be the soundtrack for your favorite spy flick. The lyrics are empty and sad, and leave you wondering what it’s all about. “Revived” is alive with bubbling synths and an upbeat feel, despite the feeling that it’s about the aftermath of a break-up. “All In Time” is heavier synth pop under a starry sky, bits of light sprinkled against velvety darkness. “Lost In a Crowd” closes out this set of songs, and it’s much quieter than the other songs, a great showcase for Rose’s lovely vocals. It’s all rather solemn and almost like a chant. So, what you can expect is another really good album from this duo with a variety of tones, beats, and moods.
'Anomalies' will be available to buy/download on the 19th August 2016 via: saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com
RELEASE: Dark Matter
RELEASE DATE: 03/05/15
RECORD COMPANY: kaboommusic / Saintmarierecords
This release came out about a month ago to no fanfare. Reviews of Dark Matter have been impossible to find online, so with nothing to go on, I have to wing this one. Oh, wait, there are some nice words from fans on the band’s Bandcamp page, so there you go. Dean Garcia and his daughter Rose are frighteningly prolific, often releasing two albums of new material per year. For a time, they tried changing their name, but that thankfully didn’t pan out. Their work is something you can rely on, and I don’t mean that it’s pedestrian. Rather, they continue laying down this engrossing sonic architecture of darkwave and electronica laced with dream pop. Dean is a master of studio trickery and plays a zillion instruments, and Rose has the voice of a dark angel. But they are not creatures of light, not really.
Dark Matter by SPC ECO
And let’s get the Curve comparisons out of the way - “The Whole World Shines” is hands down my favourite song here, and it stylistically resembles vintage Curve, but Rose sounds nothing like Toni Halliday. So there you have it. Cool tune, with its retro beats and darkly ominous bassline. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves as I have jumped forward to the bottom of the playlist. 'Creep in the Shadows' opens the album, and is marred by the voice synthesiser on Rose’s vocals. It is a pretty song, and I love the other spacey elements, but I can’t get past these synthetic enhancements. “Different Kind” continues this unfortunate trend; I would have much preferred to hear Rose humming over the hypnotic backdrop. “Let it Be Always” is the perfect soundtrack to your nightmare, with that creepy, slow backbeat, and then it shifts into lightness unexpectedly. It reminds me of the sort of sinister electronica that used to dominate TV shows like La Femme Nikita back in the 90s.
“Playing Games” is a gem, floating along with found voices deep in the mix to bolster Rose’s gorgeous vocals, and Dean has woven a mesmerizing sonic tapestry. More like this, please! “I Won’t Be Heard” should be a single, and is equally beautiful. “Meteor” veers toward somber dream pop and also appears on their brand new SPC and Time - Vol 2 compilation. I can see myself hitting repeat often on this song. “Down Low” has interesting electronic elements and I really like when the guitar kicks in. “Breathe” dials it back to simpler patterns, letting the music speak for itself without too many complicated layers. “Under My Skin” (also on the aforementioned compilation) is gauzy and magnificent dream pop, and is a fitting end to this release.
Recommended for fans of dream pop, Curve, and chilled out dark wave.