In the mid 1990’s the producer driven high-energy keyboard heavy sound called euro-trash was all the rage, not just in Europe but the world over. Pulsing through car radios at 130-140 bpm’s European acts like La Bouche and Corona pumped out hits like “Sweet Dreams” and “The Rhythm Of The Night”. At the clubs European studio acts like Netzwerk “Memories”, Black Rose “Melody”, Nina “The Reason Is You”, and the Dolphin Crew “The Light Is By” kept the dance floors packed with beat hungry patrons. Italy’s Energy and Media records were two of the main producers of this sound and gave us boatloads of euro trash studio acts like New System and Cappella. As a result a deluge of euro-trash compilation CD’s assaulted record stores beginning in 1994, but by the end of 1998 the genre known as euro-trash crashed and burned out.
Now in the 21st century, from the influential ashes of euro-trash rises Echo Image. Let there be no mistake Echo Image is no producer’s studio act, they are in fact a real functioning and performing synth pop band out of Norway. All synth pop bands have their influences; some are influenced by Depeche Mode, some by Kraftwek and others by Visage. Not only is Echo Image influenced by Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk and Visage, they are influenced by every synth pop legend from the 80’s from Anything Box to New Order to Yaz. Not only that, they are also influenced by euro pop/dance bands as well like Modern Talking, Bad Boys Blue and Dead or Alive. All of these influences mesh together creating a mammoth electrical amalgam an electrical fire spitting synthesized dragon. To give this awesome electrical creature a stinging byte Echo Image also throws in the added influences of ‘90’s techno/trance music. Now can they control this monster they’ve created?
Like 21st century electric knights Pal Magnus Rybom and Fredrik Hansen wield their sweeping, colourful and piercing synth washes like electronic swords that don’t slay the dragon but reflects it’s electronic energy straight into you. Trine Bilet’s strategically placed sometimes trance like vocals weave an intricate mesmerizing hypnotic spell numbing the electric behemoth long enough to harness it’s energy in a studded electrical leash made of the still smoldering ashes of ‘90’s euro trash. This combination causes the ashes to re-ignite and the amalgam of synth poppin’ euro boys and sizzling euro trash erupts into musical flame reborn into an electrical phoenix called “Compuphonic” the CD that is the boy trash sound of Echo Image. It’s a fierce electrical creature not seen since Erasure’s fearsome electrical creation “Supernature” the non-album b-side included on their “Blue Savannah” CD single.
With a sizzling electric scream the electronic phoenix of “Compuphonic” snatches you up with its piercing electronic talons and swallows you whole. As you become one with it’s synthesized rhythms you can feel all the above mentioned influences mesh together in an throbbing electronic grid and then precede to trash and burn every nerve ending in your body, and it feels so good it puts a smile on your face. “Compuphonic” begins with an intro that sort of goes through an electronic systems check prior to “lift-off”. When “Compuphonic” lifts off you are taken on a fantastic and exhilarating synthesized electronic journey to a place where the vocals are sometimes electronically altered but never robotic. The bpm’s thump at a breakneck speed and beat you to a pulp, but you love every second of it as your head rings with a shimmering synth blitz that keep pace with the pounding beats. As “Compuphonic” consumes you you realize that there is a lot going on in the music. As all sorts of sounds go on in the background you begin to realize the intricate complexity of the layers of musical patterns they’ve created. It’s then that you want to hear not just more, but everything, down to the faintest electronic blip you want to hear and feel it all so you give yourself to the music.
Loaded with catchy well-crafted clever and dark lyrics each track of “Compuphonic” is an electronic feast. You will love the ricocheting electric vocals of “Standing Alone”. There is also the dizzying Cappella-ish synth work of “Need to be Proud” with dark and cryptic lyrics delivered in Soft Cell sighs. “Messing with Love” contains an Erasure-ish electronic elegance. “Skulk” is simply dazzling and has keyboard work that sounds like electric droplets drizzling from a weeping sky over the open sea. It reminded me of the keyboard work in the techno act Utah Saint’s “Trance Atlantic Flight”. There is also a hint of euro-trash maven Jobeth’s “I Got The Rhythm In Me” tucked in here too. You will find the techno influence of Transformer 2 in the track “Like a Child” as an electronic twitch reverberates though the track.
Echo Image uses the same engaging and irresistible electrical black arts that subdued the amalgamated dragon to subdue you the listener. They cook up bubbling overflowing cauldrons of caustically creepy electricity. The combination of Magnus and Hansen’s mind numbing synth blitz and Trine’s electronic siren songs pull you deep into the album’s recesses. Cobwebs of intricate electrical lace begin to cloud your mind and you realize that you’ve contracted an electronic infection. It’s an infection that no anti-biotic can cure and that’s good as you’ve no desire to be cured, let the infection burn. You hear the call of “Compuphonic” through out the day, at work, in the car, everywhere. While in the mall I didn’t hear the pedestrian drone of mall muzak, oh no I heard in the back of my mind the electronic siren’s whispered haunting refrain, “to be proud”. It’s haunting black electronic magic that leaves you spellbound.
Now there is a line that divides synth pop acts like Visage, The Human League and Ganymede from dance pop acts like Modern Talking, Bad Boys Blue and Dead or Alive. Like the Pet Shop Boys, Echo Image don’t straddle this line they rise above it creating their own little niche in the electro universe. Fellow Norwegians a-ha blurred the lines between dance, rock and synth pop and gave me one of my top 5 all time favourite songs, it’s the brilliant “The Sun Always Shines On TV”. Echo Image’s “Compuphonic” almost reaches that level of brilliance.
Artist Link: http://www.echoimage.com