Airy Choral Rock
In Peggy Sue’s first studio release since their Kenneth Anger soundtrack revamp Peggy Sue Play the Songs of Scorpio Rising, the band has decided to sing about singing. It might be a novel concept. The Brighton trio have pulled it off. What is exceptional about this album, aptly titled Choir of Echoes, is that it often sounds like what its title suggests. That’s thanks to the band’s synthesis of silence and vocal harmony. It’s as eerie as hearing an echo.
Besides the meta-textual focus on voice, the instrumental music is tightly wrought and lovely. Simple guitar riffs blend with intricate licks set to drummer Olly Joyce’s versatile percussion. “Figure of Eight,” for instance, is an impressive exercise in shifting tempos and styles. It shows off how well the band plays together–they carve a sort of musical figure eight by rhythmically slowing down and speeding up–and how good they sound when they do it. “Always Going” has a simple one-note guitar riff for a skeleton, reverb-laden licks for flesh, vocals for a soul. That’s the anatomy of nearly every song. It works. It’s full-bodied. You might get tired of every track beginning quietly, then exploding with percussion and accompaniment, or you might love it.
This album is all about the vocals– or, at least, it insists it is– so one should pay attention to them in order to appreciate what Peggy Sue has set out to do. Choir of Echoes opens with “Come Back Around,” a short but poignant choral piece. The vocal duo of Rosa Slade and Katy Young stack layers of harmonies over one another to create a haunting wall of voices. The most recent analogy to this sound is Fleet Foxes, but it really is as stirring as a classical madrigal. Considering how the album is mostly guitar rock, something fans will be expecting from them, this moment makes for a daring digression. It also opens up a record which strives for, and grasps, the deeply moving quality that is characteristic of choral music. From then on, you can’t help but notice that quality in every track.