Loud, an instrumental duo based in Vancouver, has been together since 1996. Echo and Flow is just their second album. Feel free to do the math but refrain from getting hung up about it, because after hearing the results it is clear that what many would perceive as a lack of ambition ought to be more readily considered the prioritizing of quality over quantity.
The members are Eileen Kage and Elaine Stef, who play taiko drums and electric guitar respectively. Most music fans probably never even see such a setup, but Loud delivers in full without ever allowing their unusual combination of instruments to suck them into gimmickry. Most of the compositions drip dramatic tension, to the point that it becomes easy to believe they must get steady offers for work on film scores and the like. Stef has a pleasing guitar style, sounding like she was taught how to play by some string sage on the Mediterranean shore and then got really into the breezy qualities offered by her amplifier. Kage brings a refined drumming style, and the two players are quite adept at leaving one another enough space to put their own signatures on each song.
While the tone of the album may be too close to uniform for some listeners, there are not really any bad tracks. Of course, though, some stand out above the rest. “A Sea Change” is the most obvious example of the intensity described above, “Slide” manages a neat trick by staying bouncy amidst a plodding rhythm, while “Unsung” is a stellar show of dynamic interplay that I rate as the finest gem of the bunch. (Independent, taikoelectric.com) Daniel Emberg