Monday, 24 February 2014

AZTEC CORMORANT - ALBUM REVIEW

Aztec Cormorant - Aztec Cormorant 
Aztec Cormorant - Aztec Cormorant

Back the day (the day being around four years ago) I was fortunate enough to become aware of the twisted and skewed musical view on the world that was present by the enigmatic Gilbert - a collective spearheaded by a gifted musician, Gilbert Linley. A few years later and a new project sees the return of that particular talent under the guise of Aztec Cormorant, a name that gives you an idea of how unique and off-kilter this musical adventure is. This album opens with 'Alight!', an airy, whimsical and floaty piece of loveliness that would fit with the likes of Zero 7 or Lemon Jelly were it not for the medieval, almost madrigal-esque keys and layer upon layer of undulating melodies. 'You Always Left' picks up the theme but takes the pace down a notch as the breathy vocals drift over what is an undeniably English landscape of indiscriminate age.

The opening seconds of 'Cormorant Flying' are a delightful moment of peace and tranquillity crafted from electronic sounds and organic beats blended together with those wonderfully light vocals of Maud Waret. 'And Lo' has a bit more of a modern, driving feel about it with the likes of Goldfrapp springing to mind as the seductive beats and teasing electro melodies snake from the speakers and in to my ears. What Aztec Cormorant succeeds in doing is creating a wonderfully hopeful, positive and almost elemental sound despite the use of electronic sounds that, on 'In Serenades' for example, creates an otherworldly feel with the use of trickling melodies that sound like a waterfall of sound juxtaposed with the mournfully heraldic horn solo in the middle of the track. And then, just when you think you've got a handle on things, they go and spring 'Ritornello' on you and suddenly your at a pre-French Revolution ball as hosted by Baz Luhrmann with opulent arrangements and sense of grandeur so rarely experienced in music these days.

The misleadingly entitled 'Interlude' is actually a two and a half minute electro melody which is somewhere between yoga background music and Japanese influenced wedding march. There is a woozy, 80s rom-com feel to 'A Lock Of Your Hair' and Waret's vocals are once again soothing and seductive in equal measure - worryingly like a siren from an old nautical tale. 'Novus Ordo Mundi' is just mental. To describe it would be a tricky task but if you imagine some lost incidental music from the original Star Wars trilogy (including R2-D2 on Theremin) as performed by a classical quartet, a drummer and a choir of monks and you're getting close. Oh, and throw in a ridiculously English spoken word section about wiring accompanied by some urgent harpsichord playing just for good measure. The album finishes up with 'Reprise' which makes more use of that harpsichord (a gloriously evocative instrument that is hugely underused these days) in a tune that is sparse but opulent, morose but optimistic and glorious but disappointing in that this is the end of a fantastic journey. The musical mind of Gilbert Linley is akin to a national treasure that hasn't been discovered yet and this album is like watching a complex and multi-layered film for the first time - you enjoy it and feel enriched by it but you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you've missed big chunks so you'll need to revisit this work repeatedly.

More information: https://soundcloud.com/azteccormorant?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=twitter


More information on Gilbert: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gilbert/191641350889625?ref=profile

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