Back in the ’70s and ’80s, children would create a time capsule and bury it in their background. In this tin box, they would add their favorite toy, maybe an award they won, a letter they’ve written to their older self, and a mix tape. Names like Talking Heads, David Bowie, Thompson Twins, Human League, Bananarama, Pat Benatar, New Order, The Cure, Prince, and Sheena Easton would occupy the cassette’s track listing. Now fast-forward to present day and imagine opening the capsule. The first thing one must do is fine a tape deck, play the mix tape, and let nostalgia set in. For you, this little item is unearthing the greatest musical treasure and unlocking the energy of your youth. These feelings and the sense of wistfulness are shared on Trespasser, the new album from the enigmatic Art d’Ecco.
Hailing from British Columbia’s Gulf Islands, Art d’Ecco is Byrne, Bowie, and Benatar rolled into a single individual. Like these legends, his creativity is limitless, and his musical prowess extensive. New wave, psych-pop, glam-rock, and synth-pop and an unbridled energy fill the LP’s ten tracks. Trespasser, in other words, is for the most part an ’80s dance party wrapped neatly in a package for all to enjoy. The bubbly glam-rocker “Never Tell” gets the event started. A stuttering melody induces uncontrollable head jerking, which stupendous saxophone solo and a piano interlude interpret at different points in the song. Art d’Ecco’s lyrics, though, resonate with a creepy darkness, as he admits to being fearful in sharing his secrets to anyone. He is even afraid to mumble them because someone is always listening.
The tantalizingly dark “Nobody’s Home” recalls New Order with a bass line that echoes Peter Hook. Its storyline builds on “Never Tell”, as Art d’Ecco through his enchanting falsetto sings about how “the world is watching” while you dance alone at home. It is a clever take on the notion that privacy is no longer ours to own. Following the summery delirium of the psychedelic-pop overture, “Joy”, Art d’Ecco enters art-rock territory with the dizzying, “Mary”. It’s David Byrne colliding with Arcade Fire and The Raveonettes, as strings seamlessly merge with searing guitars and throbbing rhythms.
At the heart of Trespasser lies its centerpiece, the extraordinary “Who Is It Now?”. Combining the scintillating disco-punk of Blondie with the haunting darkness of Pat Benatar, Art d’Ecco creates a sinister yet overwhelmingly stunning soundscape. It’s like diving headfirst into Berlin’s underbelly and being surrounded by unexpected characters, images, and pleasures. This place, however, is where we seek not gratification but instead to discover our true selves within the midst of the chaos. To find the answer to the question, “Am I the only one?”
This questions about identity and what is real permeate across the album’s second half. On the methodical electro-rocker, “Last Line”, Art d’Ecco seductively asks, “Is this a thing?”, questioning if he is allowed to be himself. He later answers, “It’s just a thing called love”, which offers reassurances that it is still possible to be human. On the gentile, orchestral pop number, “Lady Next Door”, the artist delivers a tale of a lonely woman who long has been misunderstood. She spends her days in a rocking chair, just “quietly sitting there, waiting her turn”. The eerily exhilarating rocker “Darker Days” is The Runaways taking a gloomier tone. Gritty guitar riffs and sizzling synths still burst through the darkness, offering the perfect canvas for Art d’Ecco’s tale of one man’s desire for someone from afar. But is this love or merely infatuation or even a figure of one’s imagination?
The album’s closer, “The Hunted”, is a mini-epic that transverses the many genres that inspired Trespasser. It is cool and sultry at the beginning before building into a raging wall of fiery guitars and trembling synths. This is the song of a people who are trying to escape the unknown. There is, however, nothing to fear. As Art d’Ecco says in a dead pan voice, “Don’t fear the sound. Let it take you over”. He encourages us to embrace it and become one with it. Only then can one truly understand something or someone that is at first challenging and unfamiliar as well as to appreciate its brilliance, much like what Trespasser is.
Art d’Ecco and friends are on tour right now in Eastern Canada. Dates and information are available here.
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