Echo is the duet project between the underappreciated singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joy Askew (known to some as the essential keyboardist and backing vocalist in bands led by Laurie Anderson, Joe Jackson, and Peter Gabriel) and Japanese producer, multi-instrumentalist, DJ, and songwriter Takuya Nakamura. There are other players involved as well, but the closest co-collaborator is Roli Mosimann, best known as a founding member of the late, great Swans. Like everything Askew does, Echo is a deeply sensual project; feelings and sensations are embedded in the songs because the grain of her voice eases deep into the sacrum of the listener and remains there. While not as searing and raw as Tender City, Echo, with its laid-back downtempo electro grooves, touches some of the same spaces. Nakamura's programming layers itself around Askew's honey-dripping vocal, stretching its reach into the nether realms of jazz and soul. While the album opens with a largely effluvial version of Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin," it's a momentary distraction. "Sparks From a Wheel" and "Can't Walk Away" quietly smolder from the backbeat to the ethereal basslines, and Askew's vocal swoons at the feet of the erotic, sensually charged mix; the listener can feel the caress of intentionally seductive fingers reaching for a secret place. On the other standards such as Porter's "Love for Sale," "Night and Day," Harold Arlen's "That Old Black Magic," and Jobim and de Moraes' "The Girl From Ipanema," the treatments are concerned with nuance and groove. Sounds and rhythms coalesce to bring a certain detachment to the lyrics that isn't kitschy at all, but hungrily detached. On "Night and Day," Askew pulls off the simmering desire in Billie Holiday's reading without stretching, as Nakemura's rubber-band sampling and elegant funkiness offer the tune an entirely new dimension. Just before the album closes (with a reading of "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" that would make Frank Sinatra blush), the pair's "Surrender" comes dreamily wafting from the gauze of the speaker front. Askew is in full confessional mode, seduction and its aftermath and the unexpected result that is love come running from her mouth like warm water onto a lover's bare chest. Skin upon skin, spirit baring spirit, more naked than nude, languidly drift onto the soul-deep terrain where sex, love, and need commingle to create willful surrender, the sweetest sensation this life has to offer. This is a fine debut -- beautiful and full of modern beats, sounds, and electro twists and turns -- that allows jazz its place in the mix, but aims for chill-out room fare or late-night dancefloor swoons, or better yet, the shadowed elegance of the lovers' bedroom.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek