If you remember Ecco you’ll likely remember the games difficulty, comprising of underwater mazes, and the limited oxygen supply which was realistic for the time, but it also had some stunning 16-bit graphics and a wonderfully composed soundtrack of ambient, retro synth-wave and light electronica, perfectly encapsulating the cool, underwater atmosphere…well as it happens, if you take the core elements of that mood and aesthetic, add some percussion and a little attitude, oh, and make the dolphin wear eyeliner, you may as well have today’s artist; EKKO THE STRANGE. (I really need to calm down on these segue’s, fucking hell)
Ekko The Strange was formed very recently in and around Warsaw, Poland, by C Bock Vermeer, who had previously done a 10-year stint in American post-rock outfit REVOLT REVOLT. Wanting to escape these trappings, he traveled the world looking for inspiration before eventually settling in the Polish capital to complete the brand new mini album “Haunting Me”, courtesy of Hi-Fi Mantra Records. At only eight tracks long with a half an hour run-time, it’s a brief blast from the post-punk past. Ecco was a difficult game…so let’s see if Ekko is a difficult listen.
We open up with “Noc Shift” and it sets the tone for the record as well as sets your expectations low from very early on quite sadly. Yes it has some deep, fuzzy electronica that gives off this pulsing, almost hypnotic vibe, but it’s as monotonous as it is deep, with very little of any interest happening over its run time. Given its simplicity, and the repetitive loop that it’s on, I’d say at best this could be one of those pre-set practice pieces that come built into keyboards (True story, I have a Yamaha keytar that has “Last Christmas” by WHAM built in that I enjoy more than this), I can’t see any other practical use for this track. “Soft Decay” then improves so much with the mere presence of vocals and the sound takes on a whole new direction. There’s a darkness to the track that channels the likes of BAUHAUS and JOY DIVISION in an eerie, simplistic, indie approach , allowing for ample atmosphere, sounding like it’s been plucked straight out of the early 80’s, and this works well.
Continuing in this vein is “Transylvania Found Me” and it harbours those same despondent musical influences; maintaining its steady, cold electronic rhythm while also incorporating a certain, retro-futuristic vibe akin to say, ALIEN SEX FIEND, combining the past with the future for a synthetic mind-fuck. “Mutante” despite its instrumental nature provides the albums only other highlight, sounding like it’s crept right out of a horror movie soundtrack, with its hollow, chilling keys and atmospheric delivery…you can picture the black & white b-movie now; you’re being stalked by the creature, the alien life form, he gonna eat yo’ ass! This is what’s playing in the background. Other than that, the album fails to inspire…
The few tracks left, are fairly monotonous…”Future Mirrors” despite some almost, Arabian instrumentation fails to inspire despite the cultural appropriation, while closing track “Ekkos Of A Dead World” is literally depressing. Remember the bit from Monty Python’s Holy Grail where they cry ‘bring out your dead?’ Imagine that with no humour…just pile on the corpses that died of boredom because of this track. Musically, this is the Covid-19 equivalent of counting cadavers only less entertaining. Is there an audience for this? Possibly there is…but with a death toll already in the thousands, we don’t need to add suicide to those statistics. Forget haunting me, I’ma call Zak Bagan to exorcise this record…it’s reached its final destination; hell.