This month marks the ten year anniversary since Nova Echo launched their first album in October 2009. I wanted to write a blog about them, because listening to Nova Echo music, is the closest I get to consuming poetry.
Most of their songs fill me with a sense of hope, positivity, and the kind of dreamy longing for companionship and love that a lonely astral traveler might feel, crossing the paralyzingly vast depths of space time. And if that’s a bit too abstract, a better metaphor may be that they sound like a rocket engine blasting off with stars harmoniously singing in the heavens, reaching out and… You know what. Maybe I don’t have a good way to convey how their music makes me feel. But what I’m saying is that I like them a *lot*.
To be fair to anyone unfamiliar with them and curious to have a listen, it’s not like their 2009 album is 100% perfect. Some songs repeat a bit much, fade out rather then concretely end, or sound otherwise a bit unfinished. ARCADIA for instance, sounds like they still had to add that fantastic rocket engine sound that they have in some other songs, but somehow didn’t get around to doing it (that’s probably not the case, but it just sounds that way to me).
Also, I would have LOVED if they would have had included a female singer in the band. A female voice would have perfectly solidified the astral romance they sing about.
Here’s the thing.
I am a big proponent of taking dreams seriously, because dreams can give us very rich and profound experiences. Every night all of us have a chance to go on fantastic adventures with endless possibilities. For me, most dreams are not lucid, meaning I have no conscious control over the flow of events. But I do have a reasonably good recall upon waking. I visit a lot of places in dreams, and I meet a lot of people. And while most dream characters seem to mostly be following a scripted role in a play, there are also some of them that act with seeming agency. In a handful of dreams, I’ve met such characters, and in other cases witnessed two of them finding each other and realizing how special and unlikely their meeting is. Only to realize at the end that in moments the whole dream stage will fall away and they will be separated again. The combination of sadness for their impending loss, mixed with the joy of having met each other at all, has left a strong impression on me upon waking that last to this day. It’s that feeling that The Nova Echo absolutely nails in lyrics like these:
This passage in time
Burns like a sin in your heart
A message sent down from the stars
I promise you I’ll come back to you
The drone of machines fills my mind
The oceans of stars clear in sight
And I hear your voice in a dream
I promise you I’ll come back to you
But you’re fading away And If you can hear me now
If you’re not already gone
I’ll be there with you
When you dream
I know if we bring this back to life
We’ll be back in the sky
And you want to see the other side
We’ll get there in time
I heard a voice inside a dream
Whisper from a mind other than mine
It felt warm like the morning sun
Then she returned to the silence
A fading vision ending with the shadow of you
I hope this connection is meant to lead me to you
Did you know i never wanted you to say goodbye (never returning again)
All I know, you are the only one I need to bring back to the origin
There is a place
Where the seas are calm and golden
Out of this world
Light years beyond the furthest galaxy
And I’ll see you there
When this life begins
But it’s not just the lyrics that impress me so much. It’s the mix of HEAVY guitars, clean vocals, and futuristic strings that deliver the words perfectly. Let’s take the track Arrival for example. It’s one of those few songs that can move me to tears, and I’ll try to put in words why.
The song starts off with a gentle, meditative background harmony that sounds like electric water. The singer describes an infinitely distant place that may as well be heaven (in whatever shape you care to visualize it). He tells someone that they will meet there (again?), as soon as life begins. I don’t interpret this in a “die and go to heaven” way at all. Rather, it feels more like the song is talking about an awakening of some sort. Somewhere beyond the stars, connected by fleeting dreams, there’s someone to whom you’ve made a promise.
Then, the song suddenly takes off (reminiscent of how dreams can just change in the middle) and it’s like you are on a rocket ship just BLASTING through space on an epic journey. There’s a brief and beautiful guitar solo, and the singer says “WE’VE GOT THE SIGNAL!”. And this is where I tear up, because it feels like he was looking for something meaningful, and now he finally knows how to get to it.
Beyond this there is a lot to the song, but it all basically sounds like getting closer to the ultimate whatever at hyper speed. I know that this is a way too subjectively specific description of the song. Maybe Nova Echo even meant to convey a completely different message. But to me, this is pure poetry and I just love it to bits :D.
Also worth mentioning: There’s a song named V, that really lets the singer’s personality shine through. Caleb Hanks (singer and songwriter of the band) has said that he wrote the lyrics of V to make no sense at all. His “V challenge” for listeners is to figure out what could be the meaning behind the song. Personally, I haven’t come up with anything, but the sound of the song is very positive and laid back, and it just sounds fantastic.
In ten years time I have not heard another band that sounds quite like them, though there are some movie soundtracks that come close. Some of the music in Titan A.E. (which is a childhood favorite of mine) has a similar feel. In fact, Nova Echo’s music is such a great match for Titan A.E. that even someone with just basic editing skill like me can put the two together, and you can barely tell the movie and music weren’t purposely made for each other.
Now, Titan A.E. is an old animation movie from 2000, which is nearly a decade before Nova Echo released their first album. But there are a lot of new movies like Valerian, and games like No Man’s Sky that would have been perfect for them to make music for.
Sadly enough the band just never quite took off, and as far as I can tell, they’ve been inactive for a while and won’t be creating any new music.
They seem to have released a last single in 2018, but lead singer Caleb Hanks is working on other projects now, and he basically *is* The Nova Echo. In fact, his new creative outlets like The Clerk Chronicles (which involve music and drawn artwork) are like a continuation of the story that The Nova Echo started ten years ago. The music he makes these days sounds a bit different. It’s more electronic, more adult, and has a lot less oompf. The graphic novel art he makes is ok, but there’s nothing there that really connects with me emotionally in the same way that The Nova Echo music does.
The world may never see anything else quite like the Nova Echo, which is a shame. More so, because hardly anyone has heard of them to begin with. I feel lucky to be one of the few who got to discover and enjoy their music.