Tijuana musician Pablo Dodero is a man who moves between extremes. Coming from a punk background, he was part of the hardcore band Mae Machino, and nowadays you can also catch him messing with harsh noise under his Les Temps Barbares moniker. Then there’s his project Late Nite Howl, which is pretty much the opposite of all that. His 2012 self-titled debut EP as Late Nite Howl on Prima Crush found him exploring the possibilities of space, narrowing the use of elements to just an acoustic guitar and his voice. The result was a nostalgic, slightly dark set of folk songs that still strikes chords thanks to its naked honesty and the emotions it triggers.
Three years later, he’s back with a new EP called ECTO, and while he managed to retain the rawness achieved on his previous release, he upped up his game with the inclusion of more instrumentation, placing him in a more conventional setting. With the help of some friends who contributed with drums, keys, guitars, and vocals, he crafted three beautiful and haunting songs that shine bright.
Opening track “Bathed” starts off sounding familiar, a voice sings “I bathed in pain” over a delicately fingerpicked acoustic guitar, and the rest of the instruments follow shortly after. Everything sounds in its place; every shaker roll, every cymbal crash. Similarly, “Faces, Come Alive” sets the folk tone right away, with Dodero channeling John Fahey and his guitar explorations. Dodero’s voice is soothing and calm, and his words float on top of everything, riding stunning melodies that just feel effortless. That’s why it’s so bittersweet to hear him sing “it’s easy to forget about your friends when they’re gone/we move on” in such a beautiful way, especially when you realize he’s right.
On closer “Lavender Pouch,” the atmosphere turns a little gloomier, finding him in a place linked to slowcore and Bill Callahan. He jumps from 4/4 to 3/4 time signatures, occasionally going out of tempo and breaking the magic for a second, especially when you’re immersed in the song. “We kept a healthy distance/oh didn’t we?/you kept us all distorted,” he croons, making us wonder who it is that he’s talking about. Whoever it is, it’s pretty heart-wrenching.
ECTO is a step in a more refined direction for Late Nite Howl, who in only three songs managed to paint us a vivid picture of where he’s right now, not only musically, but also personally. This is a gorgeous release you’ll want to sink into.