This is the second disc from Constellation’s MUSIQUE FRAGILE 01. Les Momies de Palerme, comprised of Marie Davidson and Xarah Dion, create ethereal music that would not be out of place on NPR’s Echoes (wonder if John Diliberto knows about the album).
There is a female vocalist who has qualities of Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser (big surprise there) as well as early Lush. But while the music is often swirling and intriguing, it is also sometimes odd. There are moments in “Solis” which remind me of Pink Floyd’s “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.” (That’s the second time I’ve mentioned this song in just over a month).
“Incarnation” has a vaguely middle eastern feel and works more in a Dead Can Dance kind of vein and “Le Cerf Invisible” has some really cool sound effects that spring up throughout the song.
The title track has a spoken word section that reminds me of the spoken word part in Sinéad O’Connor’s “Never Get Old” from The Lion and the Cobra (probably because it’s spoken by a woman and is in a foreign language, although on Sinéad’s album it’s Gaelic (spoken by Enya(!) and on this one it’s French). I rather like it.
Most of the songs are longer than five-minutes, but there are two short ones: “Médée” is just under three and “Outre-Temps” is just under two, but they retain the same style of music, although “Médée” introduces acoustic guitars.
“Je T’aime” ends the disc with a bit more acoustic instrumentation. The album kind of becomes more grounded as it goes along. But it’s always ethereal. It’s a neat experience.
Their website has a great front page, too.
[READ: January 23, 2012] Five Dials Number 22
Most Five Dials issues are chockablock with different ideas: contemporary issues, flashbacks to the past, fiction, poetry, ethics, music. A wonderful melding of interesting ideas. But Number 22 is entirely different. Simon Prosser and Tracy Chevalier co-edited this issue and as they say in the editor’s note, they asked a group of contributors “to write grown-up fables about nineteen trees native to the UK.”
This issue is also promoting trees by highlighting the work at http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk, an organization with three aims:
1 Work with others to plant more native trees…
2 Protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future…
3 Inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees…
Simple but noble goals. You can even buy a copy of this book in print from them at their store.
Even though I love nature and like being in the woods, I don’t know a lot about different kinds of trees. I’m always stumped when it comes to tree identification. So this issue was kind of enlightening for me. Each fable has a picture of a leaf (presumably from that tree) which were painted by Leanne Shapton. The fables also create backstory for what tree-lovers know about their favorite trees, and so this was also helpful just to learn what people know about trees.
But at the same time, it makes me uniquely unequipped to really talk about these fables. So I’m just going to list the authors and their trees and say a word or two about their style.
WILLIAM FIENNES-“Why the Ash Has Black Buds”
This was a good piece to start as it sets the tone for the kind of fables contained within. It shows how trees learned about paper and how they were excited to be able to communicate.
JAMES ROBERTSON-“The Quaking of the Aspen”
A good fable about trees and magic and voices.
RICHARD MABEY-“Why Nothing Grows Under the Beech (or Does It?)”
The story of how two surface dwellers caused a beech tree to grow from under the ground.
TRACEY CHEVALIER-“Why Birches Have Silver Bark”
A tale of romance using trees as a marker for a tryst.
SUSAN ELDERKIN-“This One (or How the Blackthorn Got Its Flowers)”
A depressed, rather ugly tree grows bitter (and thorny) because no one pays attention to it. But when someone does, it grows a beautiful flower.
RACHEL BILLINGTON-“The Cuckoo and the Cherry Tree”
This story is the first that differs from a kind of creation myth. Rather, this one talks about how the Cuckoo loves the cherry tree, but that the tree is not impressed by the dopey bird. I have no idea if cuckoos like cherry trees, but I enjoyed this fable.
BLAKE MORRISON-“Why the Chestnut Tree Has White Candles”
This story goes into outer space. It has all the makings of a genuine fable.
MARIA McCANN-“Why Crab Apples are Sour”
This story has Biblical origins; that the crab apple is cursed. Until a woman realizes that good things can come from sour apples.
TERENCE BLACKER-“Why Elms Die Young”
All trees are proud, but the elm is arrogant. To tame this arrogance, the willow introduces a beetle to the tree, which learned to cut it down before it could grow too unruly.
JOANNE HARRIS-“Never Cut a Hawthorn”
A man is so closely connected to the hawthorn that any damage done to it is done to him.
PHILIPPA GREGORY-“Why Holly Berries are as Red as Roses”
No one plants a holly tree, and yet it is always there in our lives.
CATHERINE O’FLYNN-“The Stickiness of Lime Trees”
This one really appealed to me as the trees try so hard to do something nice for people but they are completely misunderstood. It was sad but beautiful.
TASMINA ANAM-“The Music of the Maple”
After having a wall built around them, the people of Awaaz took a tree from the lonely grove of maples and made a cello from it. The music changed everything.
MAGGIE O’FARRELL-“How the Oak Came to Life”
A beautiful boy is born. When people see him, they all say “O.” The music of that gives the oak its name.
AMANDA CRAIG-“Red Berries”
Another tale of magic and trees, witches and wives. This one was really cool.
ALI SMITH-“Scots Pine (A Valediction Forbidding Mourning)”
This was the least fable-like of the bunch because it is a story of two people driving in a car. But as they talk, they see a Scots Pine and they each tell the other everything they know about the tree. To the anger of the other one. This was a great story.
PHILIP HENSHER-“Why Sycamore Seeds Have Wings”
This was a proper fable about a mean, nasty old tree and the children who wish to flee from it.
SALLEY VICKERS-“Why Willows Weep”
Willows are sad because of the way humans treat the earth, but they no longer have a voice because of an act of generosity.
KATE MOSSE-“Why the Yew Lives So Long”
The yew must stand witness to violence done, ever vigilant.
Even though I love Five Dials for its diversity, this issue of fables was truly magical. keep up the great work!
For ease of searching, I include: Sinead, Brulez, Medee