|Esmerine — Dalmak (2013)|
Esmerine — Dalmak
♣ Esmerine refines the art of breaking hearts on new album Dalmak.
♣ Splinter group Esmerine is a chamber rock ensemble formed by Bruce Cawdron and Beckie Foon, members of Godspeed You Black Emperor! and A Silver Mt. Zion, respectively.
Location: Montréal, Québec, Canada
Album release: September 3, 2013 (UK)
Recorded: Istanbul, Montreal
Record Label: Constellation
1. Learning To Crawl 3:23
2. Lost River Blues I 7:27
3. Lost River Blues II 3:18
4. Barn Board Fire 4:08
5. Hayale Dalmak 3:55
6. Translator’s Clos I 3:53
7. Translator’s Clos II 6:52
8. White Pine 3:59
9. Yavri Yavri 5:21
• Rebecca Foon, Bruce Cawdron, Jamie Thompson and Brian Sanderson
• Hakan Vreskala: bendir, darbuka, erbane, voice (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9)
• Baran Aşık: meh (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9)
• Ali Kazim Akdağ: barama, saz (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9)
• James Hakan Dedeoğlu: electric guitar (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9)
• Sarah Neufeld: violin (tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9)
• Aaron Lumley: contrabass (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7)
♠ Recorded by Barkin Engin + Metin Bozkurt at Tercüman Çıkmazı, Istanbul and by Jace Lasek + James Benjamin at Breakglass, Montreal in autumn 2012. Mixed by Jace Lasek, Ian Ilavsky + Esmerine at Breakglass.
♠ Mastered by Ryan Morey.
♠ Front/back cover photos by Aylin Gungor.
• Ali Kazim Akdağ Saz
• James Benjamin Engineer
• Metin Bozkurt Engineer
• Baran Aşık Meh
• Brian Sanderson Bass, Tenor Banjo, Violin
• Bruce Cawdron Glockenspiel, Marimba, Music Box
• James Hakan Dedeoglu Guitar (Electric)
• Barkin Engin Engineer
• Beckie Foon Cello
• Aylin Gungor Back Cover Photo, Cover Photo
• Ian Ilavsky Mixing
• Jace Lasek Engineer, Mixing
• Aaron Lumley Contrabass
• Ryan Morey Mastering
• Sarah Neufeld Violin
• Jamie Thompson Drums, Glockenspiel, Marimba
• Hakan Vreskala Bendir, Vocals © Esmerine 2011 Photo by Brigitte Henry
√ IT ISN’T LONG BEFORE THE MUSIC CONTEMPLATIVELY BROODS, SETTLING DOWN FOR AWHILE BUT NEVER FOR LONG; THE ATMOSPHERE, MUCH LIKE THE CITY, IS ALWAYS ALIVE, CONSTANTLY FLOURISHING WITH SOME BEAUTIFUL, EXOTIC HARMONIES THAT HAVE BEEN LEFT TO FREE-ROAM THE STREETS, MEANDERING WITH PURPOSE AND UNPREDICTABILITY. SNAKING MELODIES BORDER ON THE MIDDLE-EASTERN; A SOUND THAT IMMERSES ITSELF IN THE VERY ATMOSPHERE OF ISTANBUL.
√ When Esmerine surfaced with La Lechuza in 2011, the album signaled many things: the band's first new recordings in six years, an expanded line-up, and a song cycle inspired by and dedicated to the life and untimely death of a dear friend and fellow musician. What wasn't immediately clear was whether this acclaimed record would mark the opening of a new chapter for the band, or stand alone as a singular work of eulogy and homage driven by emotion and circumstance.
√ Esmerine's new album Dalmak emphatically confirms that the group has indeed continued writing, exploring and collaborating - definitively extending its horizons in this new iteration of the band's trajectory. Bruce Cawdron (marimba) resigned from his seat as drummer for Godspeed You! Black Emperor in 2012, allowing him to focus more fully on Esmerine alongside co-founder and cellist Rebecca Foon (Silver Mt. Zion, Set Fire To Flames); the two principals also recruited percussionist Jamie Thompson (Unicorns, Islands) and multi-instrumentalist Brian Sanderson as full-time members to solidify the group as a writing and performing quartet.
√ European tours in 2011-2012 brought Esmerine to Istanbul, where the group's enthusiastic reception led to an invitation for an artist residency in the city. Dalmak is the fruit of that visit: the majority of the album was recorded in Istanbul, where the band's four Canadian musicians were joined by an equal number of Turkish guest players: Hakan Vreskala, Baran Aşık, Ali Kazim Akdağ, James Hakan Dedeoğlu on various instruments.
√ 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. With Dalmak, Esmerine presents some of its most richly minimal and intimate music alongside what is surely its most explosive, energized and ornate. The album is a tour-de-force of cross-cultural music-making, emotive but unsentimental, deeply textured and detailed but never precious, superbly guided throughout by a balance of DIY rock, new folk and modern classical/contemporary sensibilities.
√ With initial recording by Barkin Engin and Metin Bozkurt in Istanbul, Esmerine laid down the live bed tracks for the up-tempo rhythmic songs at the album's core: "Lost River Blues", "Barn Board Fire" and "Translator's Clos". Marimba, cello, drums, tenor banjo, bass and trumpet are joined by bendir, darbuka, erbane, meh, barama, saz and electric guitar from the local players for these centerpiece tracks, where extended melodic themes are passed around and woven through staccato grooves and polyrhythmic vamps in deeply satisfying fashion. The sessions continued back in Montréal at Breakglass Studio, where Cawdron and Foon tracked the more studied cello and marimba songs "Learning To Crawl" and "White Pine", and where the album's gorgeously saturated warmth, depth and pulsing grit was achieved courtesy of Breakglass head engineer Jace Lasek (Wolf Parade, The Besnard Lakes, Suuns) and Ian Ilavsky, who mixed the album alongside Beckie and Bruce.
by Sam Shepherd | 30 August 2013; Score: ****
√ As might be expected from Esmerine, a band that features members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Bruce Cawdron) and Thee Silver Mount Zion (Rebecca Foon), Dalmak is a dense, intriguing, and overall, utterly spellbinding listen. The band has expanded recently bringing Jamie Thompson and Brian Sanderson into the fold, giving them greater flexibility; Thompson’s percussive work over the course of the album is nothing short of inspired.
√ The genesis of Dalmak began following a successful European tour, when the band was invited to take an artist in residency position in Istanbul. Immersed in the culture and sounds of the city, it was inevitable perhaps that Foon and Cawdron would draw on the experience for their music.
√ The word Dalmak means to dive in to, or immersion and the influence of Istanbul on the sound of the band is clear from the outset. They not only take on the musical signifiers of Instanbul, but the album makes full use of authentic instrumentation and local musicians too. Bendir, darbuka, erbane, barama, saz, and the quite brilliantly named meh are all added into the mix, alongside more familiar instrumentation such as banjo, electric guitar and of course Foon’s evocative cello.
√ Opening with the swooning classical cadences of Learning To Crawl, the influence of Istanbul is not immediately apparent to the untrained ear. The sheer depth of sound however is quite breathtaking however with aching violins and a mournful cello setting the mood wonderfully. It’s only when Lost River Blues I begins that Istanbul begins to make itself fully felt as it drifts through an ambient meditation. Wooden percussion provides a clattering beat as the band evoke a shimmering heat, like summer rain on cobbled streets. It only really bursts into life with introduction of Lost River Blues II which suddenly injects more pace and energy, as if the city has burst into life after a period of dormancy. At times it is almost militaristic, particularly in terms of percussion, but somehow that only adds to the excitement.
√ Barn Board Fire is perhaps the most accessible track here. Vibrant and energetic right from the off, it drops any notions of sadness that have flavoured previous tracks (most notably the cello motif at the heart of Lost River Blues I) and indulges in something that borders on the celebratory. There’s slight aggression in the repeated refrain perhaps, but there’s something almost joyous in the beats, a hypnotic call to dance; the musical equivalent of a punch up at a wedding.
√ Following the somewhat darkened drone of Hayale Dalmak, Translator’s Clos I & II return to more traditional fare. At times bordering on contemporary sounds, there are moments when it could be construed as pop music. Indeed these particular tracks break away from the ambient moods found elsewhere and pulse with jubilant life. That it occasionally sounds like Secret Chiefs 3 is a particular bonus. White Pine leaves the bustle of Turkey behind and explores a different world entirely.
√ The percussive guitar line might well reference the beat of Lost River Blues, but the droning strings are in a different place altogether. Somewhere not bound by place. The glorious tinkling sway of Yavri Yavri compliments White Pine perfectly, providing the light to its darkness. The vocals retain the Eastern feel that pervades much of the album, but there’s more space here than elsewhere on Dalmak. There’s no bustling cities or wild parties spiralling out of control; instead it’s far more peaceful and elegant. √ (http://www.musicomh.com/)
Artist Biography by David Jeffries
√ If Only a Sweet Surrender to the Nights to Come Be True Splinter group Esmerine is a chamber rock ensemble formed by Bruce Cawdron and Beckie Foon, members of Godspeed You Black Emperor! and A Silver Mt. Zion, respectively. Unlike their other bands, Esmerine lacks guitars, instead focusing on drums, cello, and marimbas. After gigging around Montreal, they released their debut album, If Only a Sweet Surrender to the Nights to Come Be True, on the U.K. label Resonant in May of 2003. Exactly two years later, the group followed up their debut's success with Aurora on the highly revered Ninja Tune imprint.
BY LAURENCE DAY | 27 AUGUST 2013 | Score: 7.5/10
√ Over a decade since the release of their debut, If Only a Sweet Surrender to the Nights to Come Be True, Canadian chamber minimalists Esmerine are dropping their fourth studio effort, Dalmak. The quartet, comprising co-founders Bruce Cawdron (of Godspeed You! Black Emperor fame) and Beckie Foon, as well as recent additions Brian Sanderson and Jamie Thompson, spin a fine web of noise — it’s fragile, tempestuous, pensive and sprawling — as they experiment with languid strains of clinical harmony, exploring avante-garde themes in neo-classical music, electronica and post-rock.
√ After lengthy tours of Europe brought Esmerine to Turkey — Istanbul specifically — the group were invited for a residency in the city. A significant portion of Dalmak was then recorded and written in the ancient metropolis, and the band were joined by a spray of Turkish session musicians for various tracks. The word ‘dalmak’ itself is Turkish, roughly translating to ‘to be absorbed by’ or ‘to dive in’; the LP is about the foursome submerging themselves in an utterly different culture, and also about trekking into your mind on voyages of self-discovery; there’s a meditative aspect to the album, between titans of hysteria and goliath frenzied welts.
√ ‘Learning To Crawl’, one of the tracks recorded at home in Montréal, has a stronger reliance on quivering cello harmonies, greyscale soundscapes and classical-folk rhythms. It’s a lament, pure and simple, with the strings echoing tears of mourning. Where a lot of the album focuses on a very particular culture and region, it’s a portion of ‘white space’ if you will, where your ears can rest. Not that it’s dull by any measure, but it requires less active listening than, say, ‘Barn Board Fire’. ‘White Pine’ is another cut that’s less about the Turkish inspirations and more a showcase of Foon’s prodigal cello talent; a pitter-patter of repeated motifs collude with strings that pirouette and sashay like ballerinas. Gradually, the cellos and violins engorge. What begin life as minuscule anxious threads rapidly becomes something colossal and all-encompassing; Esmerine summon music to drown you, relying on minimalist techniques to build a claustric effect.
√ ‘Translator’s Clos I’ is a cinematic trove of exotic instrumentation (such as the apathetically named ‘meh’ and the urbane erbane) and brooding, shadowy passages. As the ode unfolds, and expansive sonic worlds become quasi-tangible, you get the niggling sense of familiarity — perhaps not for everyone, but for some, there’ll be a sudden realisation. You’ll want to leap between sandblasted abodes, through multicoloured bazaars and past scimitar-wielding Janissaries — yes, the Assassin’s Creed series rears its head. It’s probably due to the fact that Turkish music isn’t common in British/American pop and rock, so the little exposure we get to it forms the basis of comparison. Regardless of if you’re familiar with the series or not, the drama and pace and tension with ‘Tranlator’s Clos I’ will ignite a burning desire to partake in parkour. ‘Tranlator’s Clos II’ is considerably more Arabian sounding; the repetitive plucked strings and wild percussion rekindle memories of Omar Souleyman, sans vox, and though the timbre is poppier and groovier, it’s still overbearingly cinematic. It could easily soundtrack a desert-based film caper.
√ Album number four has Esmerine departing (mostly) from what we’ve come to expect from the outfit. They’ve made a cracking collection of songs on Dalmak that are immersive and highly visual — even without lyrics, the four-piece are adept at weaving tabula rasa backings on which vivid imaginations are free to roam and gallop like free-range chickens. Though the first link to be drawn when it comes to electronic, cinematic Turkish-flecked music was to Assassin’s Creed, the band do ensure that the similarities aren’t too strong, and they ultimately craft gorgeous, sparkling experimental noises that blur the line between post-rock, minimalist electronica and Turkish folk. It’s a humbling concoction that’s all too easy to get lost in. (http://thelineofbestfit.com/)
♠ Michael Panontin (http://www.canuckistanmusic.com/index.php?maid=344)
♠ Fluid Radio: http://www.fluid-radio.co.uk/2013/08/esmerine/
♠ If Only a Sweet Surrender to the Nights to Come Be True, Madrona/Resonant, 2003
♠ Aurora, Madrona, 2005
♠ La Lechuza, Constellation, 2011
♠ Dalmak, Constellation, 2013
♠ Rebecca Foon, also credited as Beckie Foon, is a Canadian cellist from Montreal, Quebec. Foon currently records under the alias Saltland.
♠ Foon was a member of several groups associated with the post rock, experimental and chamber music scene of Montreal, including Esmerine, Set Fire to Flames and A Silver Mt. Zion. In 2010 she began working on solo material, enlisting the help of Esmerine member Jamie Thompson on percussion and programming. This culminated in the release of an LP for Constellation Records in 2013 under the name Saltland, entitled I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us.
|Esmerine — Dalmak (2013)|