Echo Park probably takes its name and dogma from the trail from Eco Park to Willamette river in Canby, Oregon; according to the tonal direction of the album, that is an apparent portmanteau of heartbreak and remorse, the title reflects a quiet and alluring demeanor in equal measure. To that end, Echo Park works as an anecdote that builds a home in isolation, holed up in a remote corner of the world, and grows in only to abandon it in the end. Despite the album’s gloomy overtones, there’s plenty of optimistic glows weight in Echo Park’s foundation. Spend time with it, and you’ll get a sense of what type of aura Willamette had in mind.
Willamette’s prim approach to their albums has been to strip the already constituent emotion to its meager essentials. Their sound waves out of empty spaces, full of lo-fi noises, manipulation, and undulating drones. Vinyl cracks and jaded synths permeate Echo Park, and this pace rarely goes down. At every onset of tracks there is an inkling of anticipation and hope, giving the listeners a spark of faith amidst the enormity of its desperation. Willamette went to an extravagant length to capture such an expanse in sound, almost to an extent where Echo park sounds as amorphous, and as difficult to describe, as the object of its accent.
Willamette’s following projects from 2012’s Always In Postscript, and 2015’s Diminished Composition’s precise tone matches the comprehensive timbre of Echo Park. Diminished Composition advances the vehicle for exploring the all-encompassing aspect of the artist’s first output. Yet, Echo Park isolates itself with a renewed sense of purpose and an immersive warmth from the latter. The agonizing and exquisite 3:30-minute opener “Suicide Dream”: with its billowy vocal like synth seeded with weary cassette tape noise is the brandish opener that set the mood for what “Measuring Heartbreak” affords. In a similar vein, “New York Heat” – with its warm strings delivers on the promise of “The Motorist”, dressing available spaces with layers glowing string harmonics. Slightly brighter tracks such as “We Are Still Here” and “Eco Park” with their comprehensively different tone and field elements contain a sense of tolerant contemplation; almost like in the closure of Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali.
On Echo Park, Willamette embraces the defeatism that comes in life. The album is an apologue built out of sparse material and noises, while the improvisatory synth drones extend the tonal constancy. As Echo Park marches along, it becomes bustling, even after you notice that it actually changes very little tonally with each passing minute. It holds together. Like it seems to say life is holding onto what does not work out in life as well.