Woods, for me, has always been a go-to band, no matter the mood. They are astoundingly good. After all, it isn’t easy making experimental lo-fi electronic-noise folk accessible and beautiful so that anybody could get into it and appreciate any aspect of the music.
“At Echo Lake,” the band’s fifth release off Woodsist, is a well-composed follow-up to “Songs of Shame,” which garnered them praise for their homemade electronic fuzzy experimental sound and their dedication to songcraft that made Woods an “anomaly in the world of freaks.” But with a simple Google search, you can read all about that sort of praise by people who can say it much better than I could.
Instead, if I may, I’d like to interpret the album beyond the admittedly complex aural aesthetic.
I’ll start by telling you that this album, especially, is particularly Proustian in its perception of time. Throughout the album, there are faint suggestions of previous albums, songs and emotions we might have felt at particular points in our lives that we had originally experienced when hearing that sound, that lyric, that word.
And so, as I listen to “At Echo Lake,” my heart is flooded with memories from “How to Survive In + In the Woods” in 2007 when my aunt suffered multiple heart attacks and strokes, and died. Soon after, a very dear friend of mine, for whom I’d always been concerned, suffered a series of unexplained seizures.
I remember unreliably how I found out about it just before a ‘psychology of dating’ course I was taking and what a pitch-black joke that was, that everything was. It brings of memories from “Songs of Shame” in 2009, when I was taking my girlfriend’s father out to a bar in Austin, Texas, swollen with beer and mosquito bites, trying to convince him and myself that my life had promise and direction.
These little stray moments in the composition of the album bring back periods in our lives we thought were lost forever. Woods answers these moments with beautiful bits of concern for life and the importance of the time that we have wasted and the uncertainty of the future. The opening track “Blood Dries Darker” implies that pain and lost time and “numbers make no difference unless you shine, like you should.” “The Suffering Season,” likewise, has an almost anti-suicidal message of “who knows what tomorrow might bring?”
“At Echo Lake” is, in the end, another notch in time, another album listened to, another reflection, another chance to examine our place in time so that we may find ourselves aged. It is an opportunity to realize that we are aging and find meaning in our lost time and in the time we have yet to waste.