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Echo Ladies (Sweden) – Fabrik (sample track from recent album Lilies)

Naming themselves partly after the drum machine from one of their favourite bands, Echo & the Bunnymen, Echo Ladies have been on the scene since 2014 and have a successful 2018 debut album, ‘Pink Noise’, under their belt but took time out during the pandemic by the looks of it.

Now they’re back and have passed this way previously, back in April, with another one of the tracks, ‘Dirty Dancing’ from the album ‘Lilies’, which was released on 8th September.

In that previous review I observed that they have in the past mentioned Cocteau Twins, Lowlife and The Jesus and Mary Chain as their musical influences and that their ethos is shoe gaze and dream pop.  

That isn’t so much the case here on this sample track. But before discussing it it’s worth looking through the track list.

They have a philosophy that says “Nothing Ever Lasts”; meaning that good things can come to an end, but that bad things will also pass. I read another Swedish artist saying exactly the same thing online this week. It must be the go-to doctrine of the moment.

Mortality is dealt with in two tracks, ‘Lilies’, which concerns the passing of two friends at the same time as a bad break-up, and ‘Funeral’, which seems to speak for itself but which really concerns the state the world has gotten itself into with no prospect of an exit in sight.

Other tracks are about self-loathing, additional break-ups (there seem to be more than ever these days), and ‘Illness’, the meaning of which isn’t explained but it’s a bit too high-powered, fast-paced and funky to represent a malady.

It’s an album in some ways of the humdrum nature of daily life, it’s up and downs. I chose ‘Fabrik’, which is the opener partially because it doesn’t really adhere to the anticipated dream pop format. Closer to nightmare pop perhaps.

The track concerns,

“The fear of getting stuck in life (I misread that as ‘getting stuck in a lift, I should have gone to Specsavers), doing repetitive things, pleasing others and putting yourself second all the time (that Stepford Wives-like monotonous existence again). The song’s name, ‘Fabrik’, actually means Factory in Swedish. We wanted the sound of the synths and the drums to remind us of some sort of big factory, a repetitive loop of big sounds that shaped a rhythm.”

And they succeeded handsomely in doing that. Straight from the get-go there’s a heavy, ominous, relentless industrial underlying beat to it that sounds like it belongs in a steel works. In a weird sort of way it reminds me (not for the first time recently) of Arcade Fire’s ‘Sprawl II – Mountains beyond mountains’.

That song was about reminiscences over and longing for the suburban life experienced by the band members, one which was punctured and lacerated by the need to start mundane work and the instruction, “they heard me singing and they told me to stop/quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.”

In ‘Fabrik’ it’s as if the next chapter of that story is being told, the clock has been punched many times, there’s no escape and the operatives are stuck forever in their industrial workplace, like ‘the Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging’ in the Genesis song, counting out time until five o’clock, the end of the shift and the temporary passing of the bad times.

To add even more atmosphere there’s a Kraftwerk-like regularity to it. It could be set in 1984. The portentous nature of the track is enlivened by Matilda Bogren’s faraway ethereal vocals but they come across as siren-like rather than being rooted in the reality of the moment.

‘Lilies’ was released on 8th September 2023 via Rama Lama Records / Gazehop Records.

Echo Ladies are Matilda Bogren, Mattis Andersson and Joar Andersén.

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