Over the past couple of years, Echo Collective have risen to the stratosphere, recording and touring with A Winged Victory for the Sullen and straying outside of the post-classical genre-box to work in black metal, synth pop, and alternative rock. They’ve been in high demand, and that’s not a surprise, as their considered, eloquent arrangements and compositions are brought to the listener with hurricane-force on The See Within.
Based in Brussels, Echo Collective are primarily Margaret Hermant on violin and harp, and Neil Leiter on viola, although other musicians occasionally float in and out of the line-up. No processing or post-production took place, apart from the addition of reverb. Echo Collective have developed and nurtured a natural and expressive sound, which sits well with their general musical identity, staying true to their past.
Scored for violin, viola, cello, harp, and the magnetic resonator piano (or MRP), The See Within is an instant masterpiece. The MRP, built by Andrew MacPherson, is played by Gary De Cart, while Charlotte Danhier (on cello) co-wrote the title track; the two musicians are a part of the collective, too, ghosting in and out when necessary. There’s only one MRP in the world, and its inclusion elevates the record. The aim was to give the piano and strings equal expression and equal footing, and its presence has unified the two acoustic sounds, streamlining the entire album in the process with a smooth consistency. Usually, droning effects on piano are fed through external electronics, but on The See Within, nothing is attached to its body save for the magnets. The MRP’s magnets are fitted to the piano, so that sustains attain legendary status and notes are allowed to mimic elongations which normally befit stringed instruments.
The quality is immediately clear, beginning with the first note on its opening piece, ‘Inflection Point’. Their musical influences leave obvious fingerprints on the record (perhaps most notably on ‘From Last Night’s Rain’, which has strong AWVFTS vibes, along with a slanted chord progression), but it’s different enough to appear unique. The track is already a beautiful one, but the parallel dimension of the MRP’s sound heightens everything, extending the notes and changing them in small degrees, tweaking volume, deepening tones. Shorter, sharper tracks are also included, giving a nice balance to the whole record, and they’re more than interludes. They perfectly contrast the longer pieces, the notes taking on a different pace, sprinting instead of walking, accelerating more so than their slower, more lengthier tracks. On The See Within, their echoes continue to reverberate.