A high quality blend of ethereal and the neo-classical, this is the second album from Summer Bowman and Dru Allen (The Machine In The Garden and This Ascension respectively) which does sound surprisingly different from what you may be used to in either modern ethereal layered sounds, historical ethereal with its structural style usually close to folk, or the neo-classical strains you frequently find heavily dignified or infiltrated by Industrial pomposity. What this duo do, with the help of a few select others, to create very simple settings for subdued vocals, and to create changes in atmosphere by often simplifying things still further.
It’s obviously a world apart from their Gothier existences, and sounds like a thoughtful refuge; an austere landscape warmed by their voices. ‘World Indifferent’ is a sad sounding introduction with a discreet synth wash, dominantly woven vocals and some steady percussive rhythm. ‘The Journey’ seems more emotionally dismal again, as I assumed it’s preparation for death (if not it’s an alarming journey). It sounds like the traditional folk Ego Likeness have tackled.
‘The Vastness’ is striking in its simplicity and double stirring as a result, the vocals almost building an eerie presence and doing quite strange things in their delivery. ‘Nature Boy’ is like a church choir with a lead vocal in front and very brief with ‘The Flowers Pressed Down’ even sweeter. ‘Undercurrent’ offers a complete contrast, darker and quietly oppressive.
The twittering, bubbling ‘Il Est Bel Et Bon’ is like a merry Renaissance joust, with ‘O Maria Mater Pia’ its sadder sister. ‘Odyle’ sticks out like a wiggling sore thumb, with Cindy Adzuki Chang to the fore, the initially droning pulse giving it a bumpier fuselage but it speeds up and slims to a darting gait. ‘Angel Eyes’ then comes over like a plaintive early wax cylinder entreaty come piercing spiritual.
‘Aubade’ is a pleasing plonk of piano and high, airy vocals, and ‘A Ballade Of The Centre’, ‘Farce’ and ‘Because’ take us into more conventional ethereal pop circles, with some cornily witty wordplay and close harmony uniting. ‘Sub Rosa’ veers away in otherworldly beauty, and the album ends weirdly with ‘World Indifferent (Restoration Mix)’ which sort of works, in that it shows how strong the actual piece is that it can withstand the rather unruly, squashy shift in rhythmical assault
An album which is reassuring in its tidy glory, but also holds the listener initially at arms length, being so composed, meaning you need to work with it to feel comfortable with it, or you’re left as a spectator impressed by their control as though they’re set pieces, which can be the clinical effect of some bands (like Qntal). It’s worth the effort, and it’s records like this which remind you where the term Heavenly Voices comes from.