Long Branch Records
Review by Warren Mayocchi
Julia Marcell was born in the early Eighties and “Skull Echo” is more than a passing hint to the bouncing synth tunes she would have heard during her young years from the likes of Human League, Björk, Yazoo, Depeche Mode, Tangerine Dream, and so on. In fact she says the song, “Nostalgic”, “...happens in the 80s, when life was like a music video and everybody lived in New York Lofts”. It would be difficult to put any genre to the variety of songs on the album, however there is a cinematic quality to them, sustained atmospheric periods with hypnotic repetition.
But, these are given life by instrumental interludes throughout the songs and in the case of “Which Way Is Now”, the entire song. The singing is whimsical and almost a private affair – as if you are twirling alone under the sun with your own personal soundtrack playing. As such, the whole album is probably stronger than the individual pieces, however there are more than a few excellent pieces in the mixture. So, what to make of all this noise? It is a wonderful collage in which the seams are part of the whole effect.
It works well in the background, even better on center stage, and the best has always been the last time I heard the album – familiarity breeds love. “Skull Echo” as a soundtrack is given further weight when viewing the music videos. They are an interesting counterpoint to the thoughtful music. The only human being appearing in “The Odds” looks out from a photograph, one scene in a series of human-less displays of the human landscape of the big city and small rooms which invite our far-away gaze to ponder.
Nostalgia for the people who would be present in more animated times, possibly a reference to the deserted office spaces, restaurants, streets, and various public places of these times when a virus keeps us alone together. “Infinity Halt” opens with a red astronaut in a green forest morphing to a red car in a green forest and continues into the twilight zone – it is a sight to behold and gives a possible answer to what is on the album cover (no spoilers).
At seven and a half minutes it is no surprise “Mother” is my favorite track. With space to experiment, change mood, an insistent beat, an ominous backing and a plaintive vocal it showcases what is Skull Echo in many ways. It is followed by the sparse piano driven introduction of “Time” which is in stark contrast to what was “Mother”. Would I listen to it again? Yes, I will.
Rating – 90/100
- Cerebral Bliss
- Infinity Halt
- The Odds
- Which Way Is Now?
- Houses Of Glass
- Understand Me
- Life Is On Television
- Skull Echo
- Julia Marcell – vocals, synths, programming, piano, rhodes, electric guitar
- Michael Haves – synths, programming, acoustic & electric guitar, double bass, bass guitar, percussion, kazoo
- Thomas Fietz – drums, percussion
- Thomsen Slowey Merkel – bass guitar