The Echo Veils - The Calm Beneath The Noise

The Echo Veils – The Calm Beneath The Noise

It was in 2021 that I first came across the talented Mexican musician and songwriter, Guillermo Garcia Herreros, and his band Electro Compulsive Therapy. Their debut release was a captivating mix of melodic and atmospheric prog and art rock with contemplative and melancholic vocals and hypnotic, flowing instrumentation.

So I was intrigued when he told me last year that he had been working with a lifelong friend and musical collaborator called Policarpo Elizondo (or Poli for short) on a more intimate and song-driven project called The Echo Veils. Their musical vision was to find a sonic contrast between his intimate, dreamy and reflective vocals and ethereal soundscapes, especially on guitar, from Poli – all framing a lyrical content looking at love, fear and loss, the past, present and future, but with the emotional angst balanced by hope.

The Echo Veils

The creative result is a truly beautiful and engaging album, called The Calm Beneath the Noise, that is lyrically intense with atmospheric instrumentation, that can switch from pure, yearning intimacy to sweeping and ‘widescreen’ soundscapes. An intriguing musical tapestry mixing the richness of art rock and progressive influences with singer-songwriter delicacy and fragility.

This is a real labour of love for Guillermo and Poli, with some songs tracing their origins back decades and most waiting to come out for a long time. Over the last three years these songs have been created in a calm and fluid way and from the many written in this period, 13 have been chosen for the album to produce a coherent musical and lyrical journey to savour.

Guillermo’s vocals, piano and keyboards provide the rich and deep musical foundation to the album, but it is Poli’s soaring guitars and keyboards that make it instrumentally take flight and create such a delightful synergy. Both have shaped the orchestral arrangements, but they are well supported when needed by the exceptional progressive jazz bass of Marco Renteria (of Caifanes), and the telling contributions of Alejandro Villarreal on drums. The track Love is Shining sees an appearance from Rodolfo Gonzales of Electro Compulsive Therapy on bass and Diego Almaguer on drums – both of whom played on a previous project of Guillermo and Poli’s called The Fi Rules. These are all trusted rhythm section musicians that add that sprinkle of lovely magical dust to the music here and there.

Most of the songs on The Calm Beneath the Noise have personal and private meanings for Guillermo and Poli, but they are sufficiently open to individual interpretation to connect to the listener on many different levels. I have gone into some detail in analysing each of the tracks (there is a lot to say), although I appreciate it is only when you listen to them yourself that my references may be of use.

The Old Light is a lovely, smooth opening to the album which gives a good glimpse of what is to come. Guillermo’s dreamy vocals, with his subtle Mexican accent giving the lyrics a melancholic and longing edge, look back on past places and emotions over a relaxed bass and drum rhythm, with some touches of piano, before building in depth, tempo and intensity with Poli’s electric guitar swirling as the vocals push fully, before a soft and delicate coda.

Ocean was the first track I heard, last year, and it remains a highlight of the album, even after so many repeat listens. Marco’s rich bass notes and Poli’s ethereal, acoustic guitar are exquisite, whilst Guillermo’s vocals, full of smoky emotion, dreamily imagine an island in an ocean where maybe love remains or can be found, if you take the time and find the faith to reach it.

“I’ve found a place, where we can dream away tonight. It’s going to take a while. It’s on an island, where we can dream away tonight.”

It’s a truly beautiful song of love from the start, but the electric guitar solo takes it to another level, rising above the orchestral back wash, with the yearning chorus staying long after the final notes:

“You are the always on my mind…. love remains. You are the ocean in my heart.”

Dashboard Song, in contrast, has a much sadder and regretful tone, with simple stabs of piano, and carries an emotional weight and angst in the lyrics, like a classic 80s power ballad. The first electric guitar has an intriguing, deep, submerged feel to it, as if played through a Leslie rotating speaker, but it is the second, lyrical and melodic solo that takes flight and soars high like a lonely bird heading far away into the clouds. The closing door sound at the end adds to the poignancy.

Seasons has some very effective acoustic guitar patterns (like falling rain), and ghostly e-bow effects, and it is another reflective, melancholic contemplation of the past, full of deep emotion. This is music that dares to bear its heart and soul – expressing intimate, personal and cathartic feelings of love, fear and hope. In many ways I am reminded of some of the work of Bruce Soord and The Pineapple Thief on many songs.

The double-edged sword of love and separation is revealed on the wrought Love That Kills, with e-bow effects mingling with the chiming acoustic guitar harmonics and then mournful electric guitar emphasising the lyrical content:

“This is the love that kills in silence… You are the thief of my heart.”

There is certainly a duality here, with the chorus lines interchanging between minor and major chords hinting at this dichotomy regarding the most intense feelings of love.

Love is Shining, with Rodolpho and Diego driving the rhythm strongly, has a more upbeat feel, both in tempo and positivity. The switching between 4/4 and then to 6/4 is effective and the Mark Knopfler-style guitar, along with Guillermo’s higher register vocal harmonies later on, give the song a really contemporary. Is there an echo of U2’s ‘With or Without You’ in there too – especially on the bass? The later chorus of “I love you, 3 simple words. I love you, 3 simple words… to you. Love is shining all around!” adds to the accessibility as well and this track has great cross-over potential for the band.

The ghostly ambience of Late Night Train, with resonant piano, and rounded jazz bass, is the perfect contrast from the previous track. Acoustic guitar and e-bow add to the haunting, mysterious atmosphere – heightened by the contemplative edge of the vocals:

“Fading ghosts out in the distance, waving goodbye, and still we chase our shadows running around in the dark. Faces pass us by, of lives that we don’t know at all. The late night train never stops, regardless of who we are.”

Last Exit has a much heavier feel, due to the use of a C# tuned guitar and the echoing drums. The climax, when it hits, is a powerful cry for help, as Poli’s soloing almost screams in pain, before the bass and drums drive the song to its heavy conclusion and sorrowful refrain. There is real despair here, as the lyrics seem to contemplate the end of things – even death, perhaps: “Bury me in my pink leather suit. I’ve got my two coins for the boatman. Stay until the end. Make sure that I stay dead. Keep pushing on!” The long delay echoes on the guitar harmonics were apparently the origin of the project’s name – The Echo Veils.

The Echo Veils

The Calm Beneath the Noise is a softer, more serene song which starts with extended piano chords giving a sense of space and peace, accompanied by some muted delay guitar playing and nuanced bass, painting an exquisite musical palette. Once again, Guillermo’s emotive vocals are close-up and personal, but by the time the chorus begins, we have hypnotic tom-toms and the vocals rising up to an arena-style climax, although only for a short time. I’d have loved to have had several more minutes of that, to be honest – but maybe it is an example of less is more for Guillermo and Poli.

Broken is relatively short, but continues the melancholic ambience, with the piano joined by synths and effects, giving a richness of sound as the music accompanies the sense of despair in the lyrics: “I think I have become one of the hallow, and every minute is so painful. I don’t think I want to let you go, and I refuse to surrender” – emphasised by the ominous closing guitar solo with octave notes slowly going higher, as if they are trying to break free.

Starlight is the longest song on the album and is a deeply affecting contemplation of personal loss and pain. Repeating, echoing, black key piano patterns (like tears, perhaps?) an ever-growing orchestral synth swell, sombre blues guitar lines and despairing vocals produce a haunting and hypnotic flow of emotion that sweeps over you without you noticing, even if it is almost too painful to endure from an emotional perspective. It imagines dusk closing in and the stars starting to appear, with each a memory of a loved one gone. The climax imagines the sky filled with the light of shooting stars. Almost baroque in places too, this is possibly the most progressive and avant-garde musical arrangement on the album, and it’s one that grows on you with each play – revealing hidden depths.

No Surprises is effectively a musical conversation about desperately seeking at answers to questions about the nature of love “Is it love or just a chemical impulse?” Musically it is dominated by atmospheric effects and eventually six acoustic guitars in unison playing major chords – producing a darker feel that is matched by the more powerful tone of the vocals, with later touches of piano working well, with the changing key seemingly bringing us back to another question.

The final track, Places, brings us back to the central theme of the album of love and longing. Has love been lost or is it forbidden? A final outpouring of emotion vocally, but with the acoustic guitar, piano and string synths maybe hinting at some hope and resolution by the end, as the sound of rain drifts into the distance.

At over 64 minutes of deeply personal and intimate music, you certainly feel you have come through an intense, cathartic and emotional musical journey when listening to The Calm Beneath the Noise in one sitting. Yet what prevents you from being drowned under the sea of angst is the way the musicians continually refresh the instrumental template that supports the lyrical content. Each track has its own character despite the commonality that Guillermo’s vocals exude, and the music is not tied to a particular genre or style. It creates an intriguing musical tapestry mixing the richness of art rock and progressive influences with singer-songwriter delicacy and fragility. An outstanding creative alternative rock album that deserves a wider audience beyond that of Mexico, which I am sure it will receive. I wish The Echo Veils all the best on their debut release and highly recommend it.

01. The Old Light (4:47)
02. Ocean (4:50)
03. Dashboard Song (4:32)
04. Seasons (4:51)
05. Love That Kills (5:04)
06. Love is Shining (6:20)
07. Late Night Train (5:23)
08. Last Exit (5:50)
09. The Calm Beneath the Noise (3:21)
10. Broken (3:04)
11. Starlight (7:30)
12. No Surprises (4:24)
13. Places (4:11)

Total Time – 64:07

Guillermo Garcia Herreros – Voice, Harmonies, Piano, Keyboards, Orchestral Arrangements
Poli Elizondo – Guitars, Keyboards, Orchestral Arrangements
Marco Renteria – Bass (1-5 & 7-13)
Alejandro Villarreal – Drums (1-5 & 7-13)
~ With:
Rodolfo Gonzales – Bass (6)
Diego Almaguer – Drums (6)

Record Label: Independent
Format: Digital Platforms (Digital, Dolby ATMOS)
Country of Origin: Mexico
Date of Release: 16th May 2024

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