|San Fermin — San Fermin |
San Fermin — San Fermin
•• A pastiche of post-rock, chamber-pop and contemporary classical composition, San Fermin is strongly influenced by Ludwig-Leone’s unique background in classical music, and the album fittingly features instrumentalists from the likes of Bon Iver, yMusic, and Asphalt Orchestra. A composer of instrumental music as well, Ludwig-Leone recently finished a ballet score for BalletCollective (comprised of New York City Ballet members), to be premiered by ACME at the Joyce Theater this summer, and is currently arranging a piece with Sonic Youth‘s Lee Ranaldo for the Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop. He is an assistant to the composer Nico Muhly.
Location: Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
Album release: November 11, 2013
Recording date: November 2011 — July 2012
Record Label: Downtown Records
01. Renaissance! (4:02)
02. Crueler Kind (4:00)
03. Lament For V.G. (1:39)
04. Casanova (3:52)
05. Sonsick (4:13)
06. Methuselah (4:54)
07. At Sea (1:16)
08. Torero (3:42)
09. At Night, True Love (2:12)
10. The Count (3:54)
11. Bar (4:30)
12. In Waiting (3:15)
13. True Love, Asleep (2:14)
14. Oh, Darling (2:48)
15. In The Morning (0:25)
16. Daedalus (What We Have) (5:45)
17. Altogether Changed (2:44)
℗ 2013 Downtown Records
• Allen Tate, vocals
• Rae Cassidy, vocals
• Rebekah Durham, vocals/violin
• John Brandon, trumpet
• Stephen Chen, saxophone
• Ellis Ludwig-Leone, keyboard
• Tyler McDiarmid, guitar
• Mike Hanf, drums
• Laura Bowler Vocals
• John Brandon Trumpet
• Chris Camilieri Engineer
• Stephen Chen Saxophone
• Eric Elterman Engineer
• Joe Fingerote Engineer
• Matthew Fried Tuba
• Alex Goodman Guitar (Acoustic)
• Jennifer Griggs Trombone
• Stephen Halker Artwork, Concept
• Nick Jenkins Drums
• Clarice Jensen Cello
• Helen Kashap Harmonium
• Holly Laessig Vocals, Vocals (Background)
• Jeff Lipton Mastering Engineer
• Ellis Ludwig-Leone Composer, Concept, Engineer, Keyboards, Piano, Producer
• Helen McCreary Vocals (Background)
• Emily Misch Vocals (Background)
• Dan Molad Additional Production, Engineer, Percussion
• Rob Moose Violin
• Nathan Petitpas Drums (Bass), Glockenspiel, Vibraphone
• Nathan Prillaman Guitar
• Brian Reese Trombone
• Maria Rice Assistant Mastering Engineer
• Caroline Shaw Violin
• Nadia Sirota Viola
• Allen Tate Vocals
• Gabriella Tortorello Vocals (Background)
• Thomas Winkler Management
• Jess Wolfe Vocals, Vocals (Background)
Album Moods: Ambitious Elaborate Indulgent Trippy Carefree Confident Detached Exuberant Freewheeling Literate Playful Quirky Rollicking Theatrical Whimsical
Themes: Mischievous Playful The Creative Side © Amanda Hatfield, Rae Cassidy Klagstad at Le Poison Rouge, September 20, 2013
By Jeremy D. Larson; September 30, 2013 | Score: 7.4
•• After graduating with a degree in music from Yale, Ellis Ludwig-Leone stole away to the Banff Centre in the Canadian Rockies to write his self-titled debut LP under the moniker San Fermin. For six weeks at this artist space on the border between Alberta and British Columbia, the composer filled pages with arrangements, took afternoon walks up the mountain, and came down to blacken the pages some more.
•• In that isolated environment, with years of classical training, inspiration from working with Nico Muhly, and a playlist that included the avant pop of Sufjan Stevens and Dirty Projectors, Ludwig-Leone's ideas started to only fit on grand scales. The final score for his debut required over 20 players, including a string quartet, a brass quartet, a vibraphone, and operatic sopranos. Coupled with inspiration from Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (Ludwig-Leone grabbed the name "San Fermin" from the famous Pamplona festival where they hold the Running of the Bulls), William Henry Hudson romance novels, and the self-imposed profundity that comes with being an anxious love-lorn 22-year-old college graduate, San Fermin arrives as an ambitious chamber pop debut. It’s a loose concept album that grazes, and sometimes dives into the complexities of young love, and slips in and out of dreams that often are just as absurd as the idea of a relationship actually working out.
•• Ludwig-Leone wrote lyrics for the baritone voice of Allen Tate, as well as the breathy sopranos of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the band Lucius. The three interweave parts across the album, trading off leads, and joining back together for ornate duets. Some initial thoughts may run to how much Tate sounds like the National's Matt Berninger, not just in register, but in cadence, inflection, and sometimes lyrics. Or how Wolfe and Laessig’s whispery, hyper-accurate voices recall the women in Dirty Projectors' tight harmonies as well as the kind of choirs used on Illinois. The mosaic of sounds on San Fermin align with much of what has often been done before in chamber pop and indie, and on a song-by-song basis there’s plenty of side-eyeing. •• But the album works best as a cycle, as a series of movements rather than individual songs.
•• In that regard, Ludwig-Leone’s world, imbued with a fanciful style that balances the pop and the obtuse, is very much his own. The two “characters” Leone created are representations of ideologies, with Tate’s low voice handling the maudlin pleas and Wolfe and Laessig working together as his dry, world-weary counterweight. “I will tie to my body some roses/ I will fly till I get you alive” Tate sings on “Methuselah” an early-morning acoustic ballad in the first half of the album. It’s a bit much, but soon enough the female character undercuts the purple prose: She’s introduced with the line “I wouldn’t worry/ Your melodramas are embarrassing” on the aptly named “Crueler Kind”.
•• The conversation between the two places San Fermin directly in the current of high-stakes love. At its most turbulent, Ludwig-Leone writes palms-up climaxes deftly executed at three tentpoles on the album: the early highlight “Sonsick”, the finale “Deadalus (What We Have)”, and the beating heart of the album, “Bar”. Of all the exalting pleas for emotional catharsis, “Bar” is by far the most successful. On the track, the thrill between the two is like "a drug in the arm/ makes you weak when you’re young," a line that's sung in a thick blanket of harmonies between the singers. It’s one of those perfect 21st Century indie arena songs, the kind you play through your iPhone with a crush, the ear buds split between the two of you while you watch fireworks go off in the distance. That said, when you hear Tate sing “Dead of the night/ I’m alone with the tigers” you might have a difficult time not also hearing “It’s a terrible love/ and I’m walking with spiders.”
•• Hiding around the three peaks are several interludes, and it's in these mini neoclassical compositions that Ludwig-Leone really shines. The pieces offer a rest from the broad-spectrum emotions found in the proper songs, also texturing the album with more curious sounds like spitting cellos, a xylophone under dissonant string drones, and a surprise crackling of a faulty synth patch. They manage to cut down some of the weight of the sung pieces, casting them in a more unique light, while giving San Fermin much needed tension and even a bit of violence.
•• The menagerie of baroque sounds on the album can be a bit more decorative than purposeful, but under the brambles, it's really just a story of two people wrestling with the love that exists between them. There’s a recurring phrase peppered throughout San Fermin, something about falling asleep in someone’s arms. It’s hard to say exactly what happens to these two people in the end, as the album closes with a ghostly Gustav Mahler-type epilogue that leaves both the music and the story unresolved, but San Fermin is less about a narrative plot and more about abstract ideas and those lucid dreams that happen just before sleep. (http://pitchfork.com/)
Review by Fred Thomas | Score: ****½
•• After composition student Ellis Ludwig-Leone graduated from Yale in 2011, instead of giving in to post-college feelings of aimlessness and "what next?" confusion, he set about to work on the epic master statement that he dubbed San Fermin. The self-titled debut is a massive collection of densely layered orchestral pop stuck between the technical tendencies of classically trained musicians and the summery electro-pop curiosity of chamber-leaning indie acts like Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, and Sufjan Stevens. Ludwig-Leone acts in a "man behind the curtain" fashion for San Fermin, conducting more than a dozen musicians and vocalists through his songs and only contributing piano and keyboards himself. The vocals are handled by Allen Tate and the duo of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, also known as Lucius. Tate's dry baritone floats stoically over tracks like "Methuselah" and the bounding, eerie rocker "Torero," while Lucius' shimmery high-register unison vocals add brightness to the album's more pop-centric moments. Of those catchy standouts, "Sonsick" is the strongest, with a huge beat serving backup to huge melodic keyboards and a staggeringly triumphant chorus, boisterous with interlocking horn and vocal melody lines that recall the beautiful, melancholic marching feel of Beirut at their best. As the album winds into its final third, it takes a turn away from pop structures and into more droning compositions and drifty chamber pop experiments and interludes. Somewhere between Grizzly Bear's Yellow House era sounds and a tamer version of Scott Walker's later solo albums, San Fermin creates a layered and colorful sound that hides its subtle surprises in any of the dozens of secret compartments Ludwig-Leone built into his songs. With 17 incredibly complex songs clocking in at almost an hour, the San Fermin listening experience is a commitment, but one that rewards greatly. Getting to the end of the album, with all its obtuse hooks and unexpected turns, is surprisingly similar to the satisfaction of finishing a classic novel. While that feeling is probably part of what gave birth to the critics calling certain sects of indie rock "literary," San Fermin does something different with it, finding a fearless balance between the instant gratification of a good hook and the sometimes difficult results of an intentful vision. © Amanda Hatfield, Rae Cassidy Klagstad at Le Poison Rouge, September 20, 2013
•• San Fermin is the work of Brooklyn composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone. •• After finishing his musical studies at Yale, Ludwig-Leone wrote the album in six weeks while holed up in a studio on the mountainous border between Alberta and British Columbia. He focused on life´s top-shelf issues — youth, nostalgia, anxiety, unrequited love — and tied these vast themes to different characters through vocal contributions from longtime friend Allen Tate, as well as Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius.
•• San Fermin is not an album of singles but rather a sweeping, full-bodied listen with multiple distinct peaks and ambitious thematic connections. Ludwig-Leone composed all of the album’s arrangements and lyrics in full prior to collaborating and recording, noting that “writing for a large group of unknown musicians infused the writing process with a kind of operatic scope.”
•• The first track released from the album, “Sonsick,” tackles many of these larger themes head-on. ”It’s like a panic attack disguised as a birthday party,” Ludwig-Leone says. ”I realized that the most intense moments are the ones in which conflicting emotional worlds exist inside you, equally, at once.”
•• The eight-member live outfit is comprised of Allen Tate and Rae Cassidy, lead vocals; Rebekah Durham, vocals/violin; Stephen Chen, saxophone; John Brandon, trumpet; Mike Hanf, drums; Tyler McDiarmid, guitar; and Ellis Ludwig-Leone, keyboard.
•• San Fermin is available on CD, vinyl and digital outlets via Downtown Records, and will be available abroad on November 11, 2013. The name is pronounced [SAN fur-MEEN]
•• De l'indie pop racée et sophistiquée en provenance de Brooklyn, un premier album trés varié d'ou se dégage une musicalité exceptionnelle. Découverte conseillée.
Label: Downtown Records http://downtownrecords.com/
Press: Kathryn Frazier | ; Ryan Cunningham | (US); Caroline Beashel | (UK); Mavis Harris | (Canada)
Agent: Ryan Farlow | (N. and S. America); Nick Holroyd | (UK/EU); Sam Wald | (Australia)
Management: Tom Winkler | Votiv Mgmt. |
Brooklyn Vegan: •• http://www.brooklynvegan.com/archives/2013/06/villagers_and_s.html
Extra Music New:
San Fermin, Alexandra Stewart @ Le Poisson Rouge — 9/20/2013
Photos by Amanda Hatfield
|San Fermin — San Fermin |
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