Art d’Ecco is an enigmatic British Columbia-based singer/songwriter and grizzled Vancouver music scene vet, who once played in a band with acclaimed producer and ACTORS frontman Jason Corbett. In 2018, he emerged as dark bobbed hair wearing, androgynous and charismatic glam rock with the release off his full-length debut Trespasser.
Since Trespasser, the British Columbia-based art rocker has been busy: he played a live session for Seattle’s KEXP and played more than 75 clubs and music festivals across North America. Continuing a busy period, d’Ecco opened for acclaimed British psych rock act Temples right before the pandemic struck. “Trespasser was the start of a two-year ride taking me to all sorts of places I’d never been to,” the acclaimed British Columbia-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “Seeing how different cultures interact with entertainment was the genesis for In Standard Definition. A lot of this record was actually written on the road late at night in motel rooms – with the flickering light of a television in the background.”
Released yesterday through Paper Bag Records, the Colin Stewart-produced In Standard Definition was recorded on two-inch tape with a handpicked, rotating cast of musicians that featured jazz and blues-trained horn players, Victoria Symphony Orchestra string players, soul singers and his backing band on a 50 year old console at The Hive. Sonically, the album finds d’Ecco further establishing a sound that some critics have described as neo-glam. But interestingly, the album’s overall sound and aesthetic sees d’Ecco and his backing band pushing the sonic boundaries of glam rock as far as they can, as the material draws from a diverse and eclectic array of influences including 50s pop, psychedelia, , Velvet Underground-like art rock, Grimes-inspired electronics, Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and Brian Eno among others. “I’m obsessed with tape, film, and sounds of yesteryear, so recording could only be analogue – in standard definition – the way entertainment was once created,” d’Ecco explains. “I wanted to go back in time, exist in a different era and breathe my creativity through it.”
Thematically, the album holds up a mirror to pop culture and explores our obsessions with entertainment and celebrity. “No matter where you live or what language you speak, there’s an entertainment god for you,” d’Ecco explains in press notes. “Whether on TV or writing the books you read, it’s an odd sense of purpose we allocate to these humans whose talent is in distracting us from the doldrums of daily life. We’re constantly searching for something… glued to our phones… consuming various forms of entertainment. We feel less close with each other, and closer to the strangers who make us feel good.”
In the buildup to the album’s release, I wrote about four of In Standard Definition’s previously released singles:
“TV God,” a synthesis of ’77 punk, Ziggie Stardust-era Bowie and Pleasure Principle-era Gary Numan, centered around anthemic hooks, twinkling piano stabs, punchily delivered lyrics, soulful backing vocals, propulsive bass lines, a scorching guitar solo and squiggling synths.
“Head Rush” an infectious boogie that owes a sonic debt to Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, complete with an enormous horn line and glistening synths.
“I Am The Dance Floor,” a shimmering and strutting disco take on glam rock that may remind some of Bay City Rollers “Saturday Night,” Echoes-era The Rapture and In Ghost Colours-era Cut Copy.
“Desires,” a jangling and densely layered glam anthem that sonically is a slick synthesis of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, Gary Numan and The Cars. “A tale born inside the dark underbelly of old Hollywood, then repackaged and reimagined as a rock and roll tragedy,” d’Ecco said of the song in press notes.. “’Desires’ is about the entertainer at the end of their career — soon to be phased out by the next wave of rising talent, and shifting audience tastes. For the old guard, this spectre of change is a constant existential threat that will challenge their ability to keep up with the times and to remain relevant in this brutal industry of show business.”
In Standard Definition’s fifth and latest single “Good Looks” is a shimmering and slickly produced synthesis of classic rock, New Wave and glam influences — i.e., think Queen, David Bowie, Gary Numan and The Cars — with the song being centered around an angular and propulsive bass line, four-on-the floor, crystalline synths arena rock friendly hooks and punchily delivered lyrics, But underneath the rousingly anthemic hooks, the song is a withering look at the artificiality and superficiality of online dating: The song specially points out that while we’re swiping left and right, we’re not actively taking part in the world.