Once more in ‘Where have we been?’ territory we come to SPC ECO, the shadowy ambient electronic duo formed in 2007 and consisting of ex-Curve maestro Dean Garcia and dark-dream chanteuse Rose Berlin. Already, withDark Matter, six albums deep into their discography, the brief, waggish description would temptingly posit them as en echo (sorry) of Garcia’s former project rendered in sonic slow motion, as if narrating an apocalypse that’s happening at a pace so hypnotizingly deliberate we don’t even notice, which, thinking about it, is perhaps the point.
While the truth, of course, is far more complex than that, more nuanced, there is a morsel of truth to the tortured comparison if only in the fact that SPC ECO, like Curve, grabs your attention initially on a purely visceral level before revealing the chimerical secrets layered within. If anything, though – and it seems a bit surprising saying this – the great shoegazey shrouds of sound that Curve trafficked in from ’91 to ’03 pale, in terms of listener intrigue, to the explorations of menace and allure offered on Dark Matter.
From the aptly-named “Creep in the Shadows” with its echoey cadence like a tip-toeing dirge, quietly prowling bass and Berlin’s black gloss vocal, to the scraped textures and madhouse whispers of “Let It Be Always,” spare yet luxuriant and cast with a siren’s deathly hope, to “The Whole World Shines”‘ finely dissipated sheen, slightly fractured but almost unbearably magnetic, this is music that stalks you, at the same time emanating a powerfully lingering sexuality that pulls with the always irresistible frisson of danger. It’s a sultry emotional landscape first once traversed by Tricky – “I Won’t Be Heard,” in fact, reminds with shameless brio, of the errant Bristolian, signposting the path we wish the Massive Attack refugee had taken – but in SPC ECO’s hands it’s delivered with a far greater dynamism. The sprawling surety of touch may be similar but the seductiveness, somehow managing to merge the pure with the lurid, much more convincingly seduces. The transgressive thrill of “Down Low” alone, rumbling with deep urban cinematic reverb buried inside a slow thunderous groove, Berlin sounding as positively possessed as she does an enigmatic wraith come to save you, is enough to sell you on the mysterious, nocturne charms of this album. Put it on at midnight and protect yourself from the demons of ennui and mortal despair. Dark Matter runs just a breath past 47 minutes and we now know, finally, after all these years, precisely how long the ‘witching hour’ is. Released 11/20/15, pre-order here.