OK, so technically Rainbow Shark’s A Light Echo isn’t an album but a four song EP, but #albumoftheday sounds better than #epoftheday. Now that we’ve got that cleared up…
Rainbow Shark is a duo hailing from London and consists of Jack Levy (vocals, keys, laptop) and Bill Wright (guitars). Initially, it was Levy’s solo project, simply starting out as something he worked on in his back room in Manchester, but he eventually did live performances and it simply reached a point where his songs were too intricate for him to do everything himself, hence him adding a second set of hands in the form of Wright. The duo’s self-titled EP was released in 2013 and rewarded with local and national radio airplay in addition to garnering them a huge number of positive reviews. More importantly, it helped them grow their fanbase substantially, hence the high level of anticipation surrounding their new, self-produced EP, A Light Echo.
The duo’s sound has an instantly familiar quality, since it’s inspired by R&B, trip-hop and old school electronica, yet it’s also quite exciting because it mixes these things in ways you wouldn’t expect. For example, traditionally those genres aren’t heavy on electric guitars, but they’re all over the EP and the resulting sound is quite charming.
The EP opens with “Make Me Heavy,” which begins with a clapper set on high speed and the sound of someone breathing heavily before a splash of guitar and the arrival of some very smooth, grade A bass guitar playing. In a sense, it’s catchy, but the synthesizers and vocals are far from being pop, pouring on a heavy dose of melancholy and transforming the track into something that splits the difference between post rock and post trip-hop. “Try to roll with the punches, but you’re knocking me out,” sings Levy, sounding disappointed if not devastated. Clearly, he’s involved with a real heart-breaker and he’s already anticipating the fallout.
“We lay awake in the nighttime,” Levy sings many times during “We Lay Awake.” It’s the sort of song you’d write if you had a bad bout of insomnia and needed to focus on creating something instead of letting those miserable hours be a complete waste of time. To that end, I would not be surprised if those were the circumstances under which this one was written. Like all of the songs on the EP, it’s music best listened to at night, preferably under dim light, perhaps in the back of a dark nightclub or bar. I’ve been listening to it around 5PM recently, as it’s now getting dark at 4:30, which I find entirely depressing; it’s music that matches my mood, serving as a welcome companion.
“Falling For You” reminds me of FKA twigs a bit with its hard beats that walk the line between trip-hop and dark R&B. “What’s a boy to do? I’m falling for you,” Levy sings, this time feeling upbeat about the possibility of a relationship instead of fearful that his heart is going to be torn out and left in a dirty puddle on a street corner. The synth here is very gloomy, however, giving the song an ominous vibe that counteracts the joyfulness it might otherwise convey. That’s not a bad thing though. These songs are not supposed to be happy-go-lucky.
The final track is called “Kerosene” and it begins with throbbing bass that sounds like a rapid heartbeat with a slight murmur. It’s a seductive sound and it’s followed by keyboards that sound like music from an old Atari game, the song ultimately proving to be the most upbeat and infectious track on the EP. I love the little electronic pitter patter here, which reminds me of French singer/songwriter Emilie Simon’s early records. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was inspired by her sound. “You only give me what I’ve already got,” Levy sings. “Kerosene on love.” Love he’s about to throw a match on as he burns with frustration with his partner. One thing is for certain — one of these guys has been dealt some serious heartache at some point in his life and draws on that when he writes songs. And you’ll be glad about that when you listen to this, and we just so happen to have the whole EP posted above for your listening pleasure.