Echo Trails – Live review – The Waiting Room 18/03/14
Dotting their songs with otherwordly overtures and an Alice in Wonderland feel, it's fitting that tonight Echo Trails are holed up in a colourful basement, away from the blistering cold wind outside. The Cambridge-bred troubadours have been steadily acquiring a growing fanbase, the Familiar Strangers, through an extensive merry-go-round of incessant gigging, and are met by a quietly expectant, receptive audience. Like a tiding of magpies, Echo Trails have seemingly gleaned shiny threads from a vast geographical musical space(from England to Greece to Eastern Europe and back), fusing flourishes from each of their distinct cultural backgrounds. The resulting sound is a colourful hotchpotch of rhythms from far and wide, underpinned by a homespun smattering of British folk. Resplendent in her gladrags with an enormous tousled mane of hair, singer Dimitra Tzanakaki leads the pack with the sort of radiance that makes you sit and gawp. Slight burlesque, Balkan overtones bring Gabby Young and Other Animals to mind, but in tracks such as 'All About the Cloudless Skies' Echo Trails feel more rooted in the wilderness than in Young's sequinned and plumed haberdashery. Carried away by a fiddle and a silver spoon and a double bass, 'Ode to the Familiar Strangers' (also the name of their upcoming album) shines like the jewel in the crown at a clandestine gypsy party in a clearing in the woods. Comparisons to Gogol Bordello spring to mind, and yet again fall short of the mark. What Echo Trails create is a many-headed beast but they ride it well - and the bravery is especially apparent in Dimitra and Julia(on viola), infusing procedures with a healthy dose of fun. Echo Trails contrive an irreverent pilfering of all kinds of traditional music, thrown together to create something unhinged and current and unpredictable. The disparate, centrifugal forces in each member’s contribution to the melting pot are coerced together by Tzanakaki’s vocal magnetism. In a psychedelic reverie they move on to a previously unheard track (whose name I didn't catch) and soak it up with enough energy to make sparks fly. This coming Summer should help cement these merry pilgrims' footprint on the musical landscape with the release of their debut album on June 2, and there could be no more fitting time - Echo Trails are full of mischievous wandering fun, and feel like a band best enjoyed under a star-filled sky by the roar of a bonfire and a flagon generously filled with rum.