With Dalmak, the Esmerine quartet (Bruce Cawdron, Beckie Foon, Jamie Thompson and Brian Sanderson) deliver their first album since 2011 and what an aural feast it is. Here again, some background on the album’s genesis is important to getting the most from it. “Dalmak is a Turkish verb with many connotations: to contemplate, to be absorbed in, to dive into, to bathe in, to rush into, to plummet. As a title for Esmerine’s new album, ‘dalmak’ refers in a literal sense to immersion in the culture and music of Istanbul but also appropriately evokes the range of music that emerged from this immersion: a collection of songs that shift between meditative pulsing and enveloping restraint to headlong flights into rhythm and groove.” “Lost River Blues”, “Barn Board Fire”, and “Translator’s Clos” form the up-tempo core of the album and the dynamic collaboration with a variety of guest players which are then ensconced between by more subdued pieces such as “Learning to Crawl” and “White Pine”. Superb.
The Old Century
I bought the first three Innocence Mission albums upon their release between 1989 and 1995 and then inexplicably lost track of them while they proceeded to create their finest works. Part of the joy of rediscovering them was learning that guitarist Don Peris has also created some lovely solo works, of which The Old Century is the most recent. It is an elegant homage to the guitar on several levels as Peris explains, “I studied classical guitar in college and have spent the subsequent years enamored with the poetic voice of this humble instrument. I also love the atmospheric tone that can be created by the electric guitar. I use a 1954 Gretsch Electromatic hollow-body, a Gretsch 6120, a numerous assortment of 60′s Guild nylon-stringed guitars, my 70′s Guild D44 steel string, a noisy Princeton Reverb amp and a recycled 3/4 size student cello.” Through the album’s 15 tracks, he sketches in both classical and folk idioms to weave a spellbinding web of nostalgia in the warm sepia tones of his instruments.
The latest album from Maria Papadomanolaki, as Dalot, is essentially a modern classical EP complimented by three diverse remixes of the title track. The story behind the album is essential for a proper appreciation of it: “In December 2012, I spent two weeks going through and sorting out the photographs, notebooks and paper clippings found scattered in the drawers of my grandfather’s desk that was left untouched since 1996. ‘Ancestors’ is a reconstruction of fragments, not concerned with the accuracy of images and moments but with opening up the flood of memory mechanics to imagination and transformation… What may sound as a nostalgic look into childhood, in ‘Ancestors’ takes the role of a playful escape from the actualities of ‘now’”. In the hands of Dalot and her collaborators on guitar, cello and vocals, the title track is delicate and beautiful. Then Dryft, Northcape, and bvdub each re-imagine it, expanding the scope of the record deeply into ambient and downtempo territory. All in all, a spellbinding and lovely package.
Orbit Over Luna
Earlier this year [in 2013], Shannon Penner announced that he would be taking a break from his Orbit Over Luna project and then surprised us with a summer release that was as beautiful as it was unexpected. Transit is a purely ambient album that came together from a variety of demos and experiments in tone and texture and the artist’s own irrepressible drive to create. There are seven tracks, each with an eloquent and evocative title perfectly suited to the soundscape it represents: ‘the breathing of roots’, ‘saturnine’, ‘chambers of the sea’, ‘sungazing’, ‘Ylla’, ‘un jardin des cieux’, and ‘in the decay of shadows’, and each one unfolds patiently like the unhurried blooming of a flower. Also as a talented graphic artist, Shannon created art for each track, making this a very appealing package and perhaps the most fortuitous musical “accident” of the year. Be sure to check out two other more recent self-released EPs: 京都/奈良 – Kyoto/Nara (2012) and 広暇／宮島 – Hiroshima/Miyajima (2013). It may help to know that these digital-only releases were mastered by Taylor Deupree.
Words by Brian Housman of Stationary Travels