Loud surpasses all expectations on Echo and Flow

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Echo and Flow (Independent)

On the material plane, Loud’s Elaine Stef and Eileen Kage don’t have a lot to work with: more often than not they perform with just a single electric guitar, an amp, and a handful of taiko drums. It’s a luxurious day for the instrumental duo when they can add a cymbal or two; keeping it simple is the essence of what they do. But the number of road cases a band carries isn’t indicative of its collective intelligence, its imaginative prowess, or its ability to function as a unit. On those levels, these two Vancouver women surpass all expectations.

Loud’s basic template is to set a fast-strummed guitar, usually unaltered by electronic processing, atop a bed of surging percussion. Several songs on Echo and Flow follow that pattern, which ought to make for a monotonous listening experience but doesn’t. Instead, these pieces establish an almost hypnotic momentum; at times they sound like minimalist compositions recast as electric folk music.

That said, some of Echo and Flow’s most effective tracks break the mould. When a distorted, single-note melody enters on postrock stunner “Brenda B.”, the music takes flight, and the Middle Eastern touches on opening track “ESP” are earwormishly seductive. Most of the time Kage and Stef needn’t depart far from their formula, though, because it’s a winning combination.

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