| Faraway:Far from the Madding Crowd|
(Resurgence - 1998)
A sweet ethno-world endeavor featuring a mix of exotic and modern instrumentation and soaring female vocals, Far from the Madding Crowd sounds very much like a Dead Can Dance release, with Liz Van Dort and Harry Williamson playing the parts of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry.
The liner notes list a myriad of strange instruments, including (but not limited to) the underwater tabla, silicone orchestra, aeolian angel guitar, charango, synthesizer in pythagorean tuning and blackbird. Equally varied are the time- and space-spanning sources of inspiration for Williamson and Van Dort's songs; a traditional Japanese nursery rhyme, a 16th century love song, a Roman sacrifice, an Inca maiden. If this sounds like your cup of tea, then I'm sure you'll be drinking deeply...
Japanese lyrics figure prominently in The Boatman, as do soaring electric guitar passages and insistently pattering percussion. (The only really overt electric guitar, if that sort of thing bothers you...). Liz' voice, singing a medieval/folk-styled melody, is layered over a bed of droning synth in The Apple, a short (2:19) track. Percussion levels are increased for The Morning Glory and Liz trills in a more operatic way. More solemn, Oo Sa Gi drifts on ebbing/flowing synth waves while Ms. Van Dort's vocals (in a more Oriental/Opera mode) snake throughout, closing on a deeper a capella passage.
Symphonic strings form a backdrop for Stars; more operatic wailings (Liz was, after all, originally trained in opera before exploring international vocal stylings) with synth, piano and reed accompaniment eventually give this piece a bit of a "Grand Ballroom" feel. The Morning Glory (Dawn Dub) is a slightly longer reprise of the 3rd track, minus the lead vocal; an improvement to my ears (but I'm generally anti-lryic,so...). Faraway goes for baroque, with Shall I Come a melancholy violin-backed piece. Nicely arranged and sweetly sorrowful, if you don't find Thomas Campion's lyrics too maudlin.
A wordlessly wailing chant over quietly droning electronics marks Nearer, another short track. Decadence sways back and forth in a tipsy waltz (and isn't that a moxéno I hear? You know... the traditional Andean instrument used to honor the dead.) I'm realizing that if one were to really enjoy opera-style vocals, this disc will score extra points as there's quite a lot of it here. The track becomes more ethereal and dissolves at its end.
Ethnic flutes and soft string accompaniment welcome Espiritu Andina, which strengthens the DCD-comparison, when Williamson adds his vocals, reminiscent of Perry's flat stylings. At 8:21, this is the longest track and it covers several different sonic areas during its evolution. Ringing dulcimer strings introduce Jaminji; merrily plucked acoustic guitar and percussion round out this pleasant little instrumental, which segues on light drone, becoming Farther, wherein Liz' golden tones float through an ethereal haze. Sparse, harp-like strings accentuate the rise and fall of the background drone in this most "ambient" track.
|File Far from the Madding Crowd under Ethno/World/New Age. I find it to be quite nice, though more straightforwardly musical than my usual listening fare. I've got to raise a thumb and say, "Let the zampoña play!"
You can learn more at the Faraway website.