Review: Oikos – Ecotono

“An ecotono, or ecotone, is a habitat created by the juxtaposition of distinctly different habitats; an edge habitat; or an ecological zone or boundary where two or more ecosystems meet. It is a transition area between two distinct habitats, where the ranges of the organisms in each bordering habitat overlap, and where there are organisms unique to the transition area. An ecotone region provides conditions of both the types of neighboring ecosystems and thus supports a greater variety of life forms.”

Guitar: meet electronics and processing. What makes Ecotono so appropriate for its title is the way its components are simultaneously merged and kept separate. Thick surges of ambience and distortion carry plucked guitars – reacting to them, dictating them – yet one is never fed into the other. Even during its most intense moments, Ecotono never becomes a “wall of sound” exactly; it’s more like a mass parade of distinct elements, united by a single cause but never compromising their unique sonic qualities.

The “organism” that rises out of this interaction is compelling in itself. The atmosphere is often murky and cold (as is typical of much of the Utech roster), yet its more organic and relatable elements prevent it from delving too deeply into grimier territory. Melody is often present as streams of guitar and piano, with rhythm occasionally rising as electronic patters that gently nudge the soundscapes along. Ecotono is tethered to musicality in a way that allows for subtle breaths of warmth to gush into its most claustrophobic areas – the duo stoop to their most heartfelt during “Boreas”, with echoing guitar chords sending somber minor key shivers down dark and endless caverns.

The 10 minutes of “Red Forest” is perhaps the only occasion that the quality slumps down a notch. Piano, electronics and strings entwine aimlessly, muffled and muddy like unearthed relics, devoid of sufficient purpose to warrant their re-exposition.  Thankfully,“Threshold” veers the record back on track again with warped electronic loops and tar-black jets of static, while album-closer “Jatavena” turns the atmosphere on its head with a delicate surge of positivity and radiance – a flickering orange glow, like a dying light bulb spurting out its last few flashes of life. It’s a fractured image of a breaking dawn; a weary and temporary snapshot of harmony, haunted by the inevitable descent into the darkness that plagues every second of Ecotono.