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Madrona Records

Esmerine is a Canadian chamber rock ensemble (although I hesitate to use the word "rock", since there are precious few guitars, bass or drums here), featuring Bruce Cawdron of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Beckie Foon from A Silver Mt. Zion.

If you're familiar with those two groups you'll have some idea of the delights of this CD, although Esmerine's music is wholly instrumental and somewhat more placid, though no less majestic. Richly recorded cellos dominate, but a wide array of other instruments such as glockenspiel, piano, marimba, and some identified found sounds also make an appearance.

There's an impressive range of textures and atmospheres here; pieces such as "Histories Repeating as One Thousand Hearts Mend" and "Mados" are drifting, cello-led drones that bring to mind ominous cloudscapes or rolling waves, in much the same way as the mighty Stars Of The Lid (although their music is mostly generated using processed guitar feedback). I'm also reminded of The Verve's "Stormy Clouds", one of the most evocatively-named songs of recent years.

Variety comes by way of the beautiful, piano-led "Why She Swallows Bullets And Stones", and the drums that make an appearance towards the end of the first piece and all the way through the last. "Quelques mots pleins d'ombre" is particularly evocative of Godspeed ... in the way it builds from gentle cello to full-on, driving rock at the crescendo. The mood then settles almost into ambient terrority (although this is definitely not background music) until the final, propulsive "Le rire de l'ange" (which I think translates to "The Angel's Laugh", somewhat appropriately) brings the experience to a close and begs you to hit the repeat button.

Perfectly accompanied by its sumptuous hand-packaged sleeve, this is a perfect CD for early mornings or late nights, with an absorbing view to contemplate or a good book to curl up with.

-Gareth Bowles

Track listing:
1. Quelques mots pleins d'ombre
2. Histories repeating as one thousand hearts mend
3. Mados
4. Why she swallows bullets and stones
5. Ebb tide, spring tide, neap tide, flood
6. Le rire de l'ange

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