Echo Collective

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“Post-classical”, “neo-classical”, “non-classical” : nobody knows what to call this music – but Neil Leiter and Margaret Hermant, aka Echo Collective, don’t mind one bit. Orchestral instrumental music from outside the classical establishment has become huge over the past few years, and Leiter and Hermant have witnessed the evolution and extraordinary rise of this movement right up close. They’ve worked with some of the most important players, both in the recording studio and for concerts worldwide. And though the Echo Collective members themselves very much do come from within the classical music establishment, they don’t care which side of the fence they are seen to be on.

Echo Collective essentially came together around A Winged Victory For The Sullen: the duo of Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran. The American-born Leiter was introduced to Wiltzie by their mutual friend, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and musician Caroline Shaw. Belgian violinist and harpist Hermant was also recruited to play with AWVFTS and she and Leiter gradually began to find common ground as they contributed to the project. Initially they were essentially players for hire for live shows, extensively touring the first album – but then when the Atomos soundtrack project came to life was commissioned, they became much more deeply involved. For Atomos, they were a vital part of the processes: recording, orchestration, fleshing out musical ideas, preparing performances with the Wayne MacGregor Dance Company, and then again touring the live show culminating at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the BBC Prom concert curated by DJ Mary Anne Hobbs.

All this time they were also playing in related projects: with Wiltzie’s much revered other duo project Stars Of The Lid, with O’Halloran’s solo work, with Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson.

As they toured and recorded with AWFTS they increasingly crossed paths with Kurt Overbergh of the Ancienne Belgique concert hall in the heart of Brussels, and he eventually invited them for a concert residency which allowed them to develop some material of their own. They experimented with many things, including their own compositions and improvisations and even interpretations of black metal records, and very quickly found that they had a musical voice of their own: one which had the spacious, contemplative accessibility of the music they’d been making with others, but reflected their own training and experiences too. They were making music with real depth, and their own inimitable personality running through it.

This ability to combine and flow from genre to genre shows exactly what kind of musicians Echo Collective are. Without prejudice, without over-reverence, without particularly caring about genre boundaries – but always with utmost seriousness – they take on challenges set by others and put their own mark on them, they dig for the musical motifs that work for them. In short, track by track, performance by performance, they are evolving into a musical act with a distinct voice of their own. Nobody might be sure what to call it or where to place it, but with music this buzzing with influence and inspiration, who even needs to?

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