SBR favourite, Carline Van Roos, produced one of the finest albums of 2021 as Aythis, but most of you will know her as the voice of French atmospheric doom band, Lethian Dreams. She and fellow composer, Matthieu Sachs, started their musical journey in 2002 and have four albums to their name following the release of 2020’s A Shadow of Memories. Now they present us with an EP to collect the leftover songs from those sessions and see an opportunity to explore some of their older material. But is it one for the diehards or a record that will win new fans?
Last Echoes of Silence started as a three-track EP of new songs, but the band thought this insubstantial to justify a CD digipak release. So, instead, they reworked ‘What if the Wind’ from 2011’s Just Passing By & Unreleased Requiems and recorded an acoustic version of ‘Wandering’ from 2012’s Season of Raven Words. That leaves three original songs and the inclusion of ‘Your Silence’ from their 2020 record. In other words, it’s an odds-and-ends collection of six tracks.
Surprisingly, the new material sounds more like the latest Aythis record than the earlier works of Lethian Dreams. ‘You Remain’ starts with slow guitar picking and a counter lute of soft folk scales. Everything Van Roos puts her name to takes on a spiritual transcendence mired in end-of-life contemplations, and the tranquil mood here aches with a meandering sentimentality that can never be recovered. At times, her voice sounds like it’s breathing a cold air of frost in a freezing climate that’ll eventually kill her. The introduction of guitar distortion is subtle and more of a background texture than a crushing sonic presence to contrast the fragility of the vocals. This song cries out for an open hi-hat drum beat to accentuate the finesse, but the band choose not to use one.
‘All Seems Far’ is the stronger of the two remaining new songs. It’s a piano-led number with celestial keyboard atmospherics and a wonderful chorus of double-tracked vocals uniting in different scales. By contrast, ‘Horizons’ cries out for liberation from the banal concerns of the material world, like Anathema at their naked best. The gentle guitar strumming and delicate voice are its biggest strengths, but the vibe seems in flux and hesitant, as you’d expect from art that aims to capture the sorrow of the heart.
It’s likely this EP will favour the existing fanbase rather than expand it. The two re-worked tracks – ‘What if the Winds’ and the acoustic version of ‘Wandering’ – are the best songs on the record. That should worry you when a CD contains three new compositions that fall below the standard of the older material. Carline’s melancholy-stained voice is at its best on the 2021 version of ‘What if the Winds’. You can hear every intimate slide of the fretboard and every pluck of the guitar string underneath her heavenly presence. The guitar distortion is fuzzier and warmer than the original version, but fans will applaud their decision to turn this into a longer format.
Last Echoes of Silence is worth a listen, but those new to Lethian Dreams should start from their 2009 debut and work their way to the evolution of 2020’s A Shadow of Memories to get a better appreciation of their music. This is one for the collectors and devotees.
Release Date: 03/12/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: You Remain, What if the Winds (2021), Wandering (Acoustic)
Suggested Further Listening: Anathema – A Fine Day to Exit (2001), Aythis – Secrets from Below (2021), Lycia – Cold (1996)