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Tape Deck Mountain - "Echo Chamber Blues" | Album Review


by Mike LeSuer (@zebraabraham)

Travis Trevisan is among the few brave souls to power through the incomprehensibly negative reception of late-’00s DIY pop projects that wore their influences on their unironed flannel sleeves. While many of his Lefse labelmates called it quits when comments sections and shoutboxes indolently noted similarities between the label’s roster and Merriweather Post Pavilion after the album dropped at the dawn of 2009 (see: Keepaway, Sunglasses, Ganglians), Trevisan’s Tape Deck Mountain project seemed impervious to being wrongly reduced to merely “more My Bloody Valentine worship.” In fact, it’s oddly telling that the group’s Bandcamp page refers to the project as “shoegaze” (quotations theirs), as the sounds TDM emit recall an otherworldly interpretation of Kevin Shields’ hazy din rather than a mere carbon copy of it.

Though Trevisan’s output with TDM has been as inconsistent as the band’s lineup over the past decade, Echo Chamber Blues proves just how little he’s allowed such passive disregard to affect the uneasy reverb of his 2009 debut. With little more than a healthy dose of Satanism to shade the cathedral-of-a-bedroom pop of 2013’s Sway a darker hue of greygaze, Echo Chamber likewise evinces little deviation from TDM’s initial premise save for a newfound astronautical affinity. From the hazy, kaleidoscopic proper intro “Looper of Bushwick” to the volatile “I Will Break U”—and the ultimate recession into the eerie unknown on “Locations”—Echo Chamber Blues makes Spiritualized look like Apollo 13 in the wake of its bold 2001 opacity.

What most sets Echo Chamber apart from Sway, though, is the album’s cohesion: The natural transition from the pummeling outro of “Break U” into the hellish sparsity of “IQU” before picking up again with the crescendoing “Halo” is a step up from the haphazard tail end of TDM’s last effort. Additionally, the pop sensibilities Trevisan has exhibited in the interim—toying with unfaithful covers, glum holiday singles, and an expression of eternal gratitude to Daniel Johnston’s delay pedal—surface on “Halo,” a clear standout among the album’s lengthier, more ambient tracklist. Yet with a chaotic breakdown to rival that of “Break U,” the track properly paves the way for a behemoth send-off with the seven-minute closer.

Nearly a decade since the project took off, it’s become significantly more difficult to realign Tape Deck Mountain with their perceived subject of worship, as the moniker has developed a wholly individual personality over three albums covering disparate themes mostly untouched by MBV (well, it could be argued the jump from “Scantrons” to “Slow Hell” isn’t much of a thematic stretch). Despite Echo Chamber Blues fitting comfortably in line with its predecessors, its unique structure draws the listener slowly into its black hole, culminating in the haunting disorientation of its final act (“we don’t know where we want to be,” Trevisan repeats), once again proving just how high Tape Deck Mountain’s peak is.