Release Date: Dec 21, 2011
Record label: The Weeknd
Review Summary: A completely brilliant beginning to what hopes to be a long and bright careerIn a year following the overhyped, yet worthy My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, it is unfortunate that the hip-hop genre has done almost nothing to pick up where Kanye left off. We saw the emergence of a new production demigod in Clams Casino, yet the artists he pairs with leave much to be desired. Danny Brown continues to do his best Lil Wayne-in-Detroit impression, yet falters in the beats department (hint hint Clams Casino).
“It’s gonna end how you expected, girl, you’re such a masochist,” Abel Tesfaye warns. That spoiler alert shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Canadian smoothie who records as The Weeknd has helped make R&B a creepier place, crooning too-honest come-ons over cavernous, ballad-slow tracks that balance leering sensuality with vague menace.
The Weeknd has come a long way since last winter. House of Balloons was the sound of a young man trapped in a world he thought he wanted and Thursday was the same man becoming desperate and torn. Echoes of Silence is when he embraces what he has become with confidence. He embraces the debauchery, the dishonesty, the late nights and the drugs.
The WeekndEchoes Of Silence[Self-released; 2011]By Will Ryan; January 10, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGAt this point it’s worth applauding Abel Tesfaye for simply accomplishing what he set out to achieve in the amount of time he said he was going to achieve it. For all we know all three Weeknd mixtapes could have been finished around March when House of Balloons plopped onto the web, but somehow, judging by the lyrical evolution and self-awareness found on each subsequent tape, I don’t think so. Enough can’t be said for musicians/artists/people working hard enough to make good on promises and deadlines, especially when, with regard to The Weeknd, you’ve stacked time and quality expectations against you (not to mention effort made elsewhere).
"Baby, I got you/ Until you're used to my face, and my mystery fades," Abel Tesfaye sang on "Rolling Stone". It was a surprisingly self-effacing line for a singer whose mystique is a central part of his appeal. And he's not wrong. By now, we know most of Tesfaye's tricks: his choir-worthy voice, his debauched lyrics, and the rich tapestry of synths and samples that backs it all up.
There is a theory that the internet has conclusively done for rock and pop music's sense of myth and mystery, but clearly no one told Abel Tesfaye, better known as the Weeknd. He is a very 2012 kind of pop star, who releases his material for free on the web, declines interviews and instead communicates with his audience entirely via a gnomic Twitter feed and a Tumblr headlined Til We Overdose, on which he posts new music, photos of himself looking impressively off his knackers – boggling at the wreckage of a hotel room, fag in mouth; head in hands on the floor next to a bottle of cognac – and, occasionally, worrying handwritten notes: "mama I understand why you're mad – it hurts to accept what I am and how I live and what I did. " All of this is of a piece with his songs, which push Drake's self-examining take on the R&B loverman persona into more disturbing territory.
Drake may be the high priest of the new church of hybrid R&B weirdness, but the Weeknd (a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye) is the missionary, delivering the good news from a pulpit of tear-soaked synths. On this final entry in his lauded mixtape trilogy, Tesfaye’s velvety melodies infuse his trippy minimalism like incense smoke, getting lost only on the too-woozy title track.
In just under a year, Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, has seen one of the most rapid ascents into music’s upper echelons in recent memory. Completely unknown at the start of 2011, Tesfaye began making huge waves in late March with the release of his debut mixtape House of Balloons, which quickly garnered all manners of acclaim including a Polaris Music Prize nomination in his native Canada. Since then, he’s dropped another acclaimed mixtape, and he’s worked alongside Drake, specifically on this year’s much-lauded Take Care.
Though Echoes of Silence leaked just in time to qualify as a Christmas gift to the Weeknd's already sizeable fanbase, it sounds and feels more like something left over from a particularly creepy Halloween party. Up to this point, Abel Tesfaye and his collaborators have worn their black hearts on their sleeves (the title track from House of Balloons sampled Siouxsie and the Banshees, while Thursday's spooky sonics channeled downtempo, industrial, and trip-hop), but for the final act in their trilogy, they let their gothic fixations run amok, trading in the purgatorial abstraction of the limbo-like Thursday for something altogether more hellish. “Don't you pretend you didn't know how all of this would end up,” Tesfaye sings on the closing track, and he has a point.
Echoes of Silence is the Weeknd’s third release in the last year. A project of Canadian-Ethiopian singer Abel Tesfaye, the Weeknd has maintained a steady trajectory in his releases. The first, House of Balloons, startlingly used R&B to explore not love and longing, but hostility, depravity and disregard. Tesfaye’s threatening vocals were combined with industrial clatters, menacing synths, and excruciating guitars.