Thursday, 22 December 2011
The Weeknd - Echoes of Silence
For the Weeknd's third mixtape, the focus is all on widened horizons and a greater sense of ambition than ever before - it's plain to hear right from the start in the bombast and swagger of Michael Jackson sampling opener D.D.
The Echoes of Silence mixtape, third in the singer's critically acclaimed trilogy, feels all at once more precise yet more loose than the previous two efforts. The electronics are more precise, more melody based, the vocals more wrapped up in a sense of hook and response. The beats verge out more to a position where they lead the track, where previously they curled and smoked in the background.
Montreal feels almost tribal in the way it paints the picture of a foreboding urban jungle. This is the Weeknd pushing himself forward, foisting himself onto the back of sharp, attacking percussion - it's a man eager to prove that even after two stellar bodies of work, the third is still worth the time and investment. Outside continues the worly influences with its oriental wood-block chimes - its these sounds the push the Weeknd envelope, keep the innovation coming on a torrent-like river of slick ingenuity.
It's beautiful and powerful all at once, and where the Weeknd brand was previously all about the lush ambient soundscapes, while these still remain, they're now packing added force, additional power. It's a potent cocktail, and at its very best moments, Echoes of Silence easily matches the sense of wonder and awe we all felt on hearing House of Balloons for the first time.
This tape's lengthy epic, seven minute XO / The Host is the most in line with previous Weeknd material, a trippy synth-driven motorized skyscraper of a track. Where the 'long' Weeknd tracks of the past tended towards sprawling groove moments, dripping in the sweat and haze of sensuality, XO / The Host feels more vital and alive; a sparky, up-beat piece that grows and grows towards a guitar-laced climax. In its latter half, the track positively snarls with bassy feedback, all subdued and submerged like some vast threatening aquatic beast, just waiting to burst from below.
Initiation pumps the feedback into Arabesque rhythms and fuels it with an injection of snap-quick borderline rap. The vocals here are so affected with production effects they become disturbing inhuman, a demonic presence of inconceivable evil. Above all, Echoes of Silence feels like the most dark moment of the trilogy, the enter-stage-left of the piece's villain-antagonist. But if there's a villain here, it's one of the shadowy hitman-assassin kind, a daggers-at-night force who'd rip your guts out without a qualm.
And then comes Same Old Song like a wash of healing remedy, a composed counterpoint to the album's start - clean, medical and intelligent, it pushes the Weeknd brand to the future with its sci-fi city vibes and sleek on-rails pulse. As with everything else here, the sense of pacing is to a staggeringly prescient degree - creating music that doesn't just sound great, but that feels 'just right' is a rare skill, and it's one the Weeknd nails with almost effortless ease.
Piano ballad Next makes for a beautiful highlight to the mixtape's closing moments - for as much as The Weeknd tapes feel like one long extended piece, it's fitting to see tracks like this - which definitively exist as individual songs - also exist. It's on these songs, like Wicked Games from the first tape, that the initiative and creative flair of the Weeknd crystallises in its most complete, individual form. It's here that we see through the constructions of delivery and format, and glimpse the artist at the heart of it all.
What's most remarkable is that in such a short space of time, the Weeknd has created three album-length creations which all contain genuine merit and proper consistency from end to start. There's no odd one out here, no third wheel - every part of the trilogy has its place and position.
While one might argue that what the singer is doing here is just repeating his past successes, working to a formula, the truth is that taken together as one 27 track behemoth, the implication of the songs becomes even clearer. The talent speaks for itself and its a message of intent, a landmark achievement that rests on the confidence of some of the best crafted R&B of recent years.
You can download the Echoes of Silence mixtape for free from The Weeknd's official site here.