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Radiohead Reimagined: Echo Collective play 'Amnesiac'

  • The National Concert Hall Dublin (map)

Featuring members who have toured extensively with A Winged Victory For The Sullen and Stars of the Lid, Islander is delighted to present Echo Collective, a Belgian ensemble of musicians who will perform Radiohead’s much loved ‘Amnesiac’ as part of MusicTown 2019.

Neil Leiter and Margaret Hermant, aka Echo Collective, have worked with some of the most important players, both in the recording studio and for concerts worldwide. Initially the members were essentially players for hire for live shows, extensively touring the first album – but then when the Atomos soundtrack project was commissioned, they became much more deeply involved. For Atomos, they were a vital part of the processes: recording, orchestration, fleshing out musical ideas, preparing performances with the Wayne MacGregor Dance Company, and then again touring the live show culminating at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the BBC Prom concert curated by DJ Mary Anne Hobbs.

All this time they were also playing in related projects: with Stars Of The Lid, with O'Halloran's solo work, with Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. And of course, through the course of the mid 2010s, the atmospheric sounds these acts were playing was snowballing in popularity. Acts allied with AWVFTS – the likes of Nils Frahm, Peter Broderick, Ólafur Arnalds and more – were achieving huge success, while composers like Jóhannsson were making ever deeper inroads into Hollywood (he is now probably best known for his scores for films like Arrival and A Theory of Everything).

As they toured and recorded with AWFTS they increasingly crossed paths with Kurt Overbergh of the Ancienne Belgique concert hall in the heart of Brussels, and he eventually invited them for a concert residency which allowed them to develop some material of their own. They experimented with many things, including their own compositions and improvisations and even interpretations of black metal records, and very quickly found that they had a musical voice of their own: one which had the spacious, contemplative accessibility of the music they'd been making with others, but reflected their own training and experiences too. They were making music with real depth, and their own inimitable personality running through it.

Part of the Ancienne Belgique commission was to interpret either Kid A or Amnesiac; they chose the latter which they felt “had more layers, more complexity, was a little more esoteric, so there was more to chew on and add our sound to,” and arranged it for string trio, harp, piano, bassoon/contrabassoon, clarinet / bass clarinet / baritone saxophone, and orchestral percussion. And it was this which grabbed the attention of German music hub !K7's new sub-label 7K! - who have signed them for a two album deal: first to release the Amnesiac reinterpretation, then for a record of Echo Collective's own compositions.

This ability to flow easily from black metal to Erasure, Radiohead to Stars Of The Lid shows exactly what kind of musicians Echo Collective are. Without prejudice, without over-reverence, without particularly caring about genre boundaries - but always with utmost seriousness - they take on challenges set by others and put their own mark on them, they dig for the musical motifs that work for them. In short, track by track, performance by performance, they are evolving into a musical act with an incredibly distinct voice of their own.

“… an experiment in textures and translations that exceeds expectations. Echo Collective expose the songs from Amnesiac for the complex musical gems they are, as well as reflect their versatility and virtuosity as a tight, progressive instrumental ensemble. 9/10"  Andy Jurik, Pop Matters.