What started with an album recorded in the back seat of his car, and took a hard right turn with the discovery of a wig in a (or I guess, THE) Victoria mall, is now the closest thing you’ll find to a genuine, glam-rock experience in 2021.
Art d’Ecco is the eclectic and electric inheritor of the restless quest and search for clarity through sound that animated the stark experimentation of Lou Reed and the various transmogrifications of David Bowie during their most evocative ’70s periods. His latest, and third overall, is In Standard Definition, a reflection on the way that media shapes us and the relationships we form with the icons who we visit us through the black mirrors that we pore through each day.
There is some heavy subtext to the relationships that Art d’Ecco is examining on In Standard Definition, such as the cycles of anonymity and the hounds of fame that trap and encircle people who attempt to escape the crushing alienation that we all experience (“I Remember”), or the way that images on a screen can invade our lives in unexpected ways, cause us to redraft the narrative of our lives, and augment our reality (“In Standard Definition”).
While stories and musings are an important aspect of Art d’Ecco’s In Standard Definition, and shouldn’t be underplayed, the point of the album is to entertain the listener with bright sounds, vibrant grooves, and seductive melodies in the most sensationalist manner possible. This is a rock album at the end of the day, and rock it does!
Art d’Ecco’s previous album, Trespasser, was primarily focused on themes of isolation and detachment. Ironically, the album he released during a pandemic, when isolation is mandatory and detachment guaranteed, is one that leaps through the speakers, takes you by the hand, and invites you to own the dance floor with it.
This is never more apparent than on the disco-ball-moon worshiping, brash-hearted, slap, grit, and grind of the bombastic “Head Rush” which rides Elysium waves through T.Rex-stasy into a deliriously delicious night of joy and self-discovery. The preceding track, “I Am the Dancefloor,” takes a more Roxy Music approach to founding a disco-dynastic regency that extends its will over you and demands that you dance for its pleasure (and your own) with angular beats, thick and slick bassline, flighty, futuristic synths, and guitar solos that light up and collapse light burning buildings.
The ’00s have had a deep tradition of glam affiliated acts, from Louis XIV to Of Montreal of fellow Canadians Arcade Fire. As exciting as these groups could be at times, they were always self-consciously seeking a revival of ’70s sounds by interpreting them through contemporary trends. Art d’Ecco is different, in that his work on In Standard Definition literally seems to erupt from the past, like a beautiful phantom. A creature, that while tethering to the past, is somehow untouched by the passage of time.
Part of this timeless quality is probably due to Art d’Ecco’s acknowledgment and embrace of the way that glam passed through the new romantic period and the advancement of studio technology that lead to various forward-looking sound experiments—best exemplified by the Tangerine Dream-esque interludes “Channel 7 (Pilot Season)” and “Channel 11 (Reruns).”
It’s odd that something like this could feel so pertinent to this moment, but I think this is due to the font of optimism from which the album owes its source. In Standard Definition is the work of a musician who takes care to keep himself in constant motion and in a state of perpetual evolution, and in pulling from musical traditions that saw a more enlightened future as not only very likely, but which saw themselves as playing a major role in bringing this future state of affairs to bear. Music like this can’t help but inspire some vigor in an era when it is seeming more and more likely that the future will be more like the present, and even more like the past.
Buy and stream In Standard Definition here.