(New Album Review) Ecovillage- One Step Above

Ecovillage are a dream pop duo from Sweden, and their new album One Step Above will no doubt go down as one of my all-time favorite submissions to this blog, as well as one of my favorite releases from this year!

Ecovillage (Emil Holmström and Peter Wikström) make dream pop for the dub techno and ambient set. Their previous efforts left me with mixed impressions: Phoenix Asteroid and With Fragile Wings We Reach the Sun deserve credit for some attempts to fuse languid pop tunes with ambient exploration and some intriguing spiritual and ecological lyrical themes, but for some reason I felt as though the execution of these ideas fell a little short. The truth is, awkward vocal delivery can make a huge difference on a song. They were on the cusp of making something great, but I was not one-hundred percent on board with Ecovillage with regards to their choice to meld pop melodies with ambience. On this rich, lovely new album, Ecovillage play to their strengths and bring their unique vision of pastoral pop music to the fullest realization it’s had yet.

One Step Above was released on the ambient label Nature Bliss, and though Ecovillage fall in line stylistically with electronic shoegaze producers like M83, their new music also summons up a whole bevy of more interesting loosely associated ancestors: Seefeel is one of the most obvious, but even moreso this record evokes the Arctic ambience of fellow Scandinavian Geir Jenssen. And yet, as I have said, Ecovillage are really rather unique in their approach. To get an idea of what this album is like, think of chilly 90s ambient music with a warm heart– dreamy melodies echoing in a tundra. These songs are for the most part wordless, aside from some spare vocal features here and there, the most memorable of which is Hjalmark Norberg’s on “The Beating of Your Heart”. Though this album is very much minimal in its overall approach, these musical spaces are crowded with delicately beautiful details. One Step Above is one of 2014’s finest hidden treasures and a masterpiece of ambient music.

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