Songs of the Banshee

In the league of modern British pop-rock,she stands out,as Ceremonials illustrates.

Written by Pallavi Pundir | Published: December 3, 2011 12:16:19 am

Ceremonials

Florence and the Machine

Island Records

Rs 295

Rating: ****

For those blind to the magic of Florence Leontine Mary Welch and her “Machine”,remember her upbeat Dog days are over as the backdrop of Eat Pray Love,when Julia Roberts is gorging on Italian pizzas,or the ghoulish Heavy in your arms in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse?

If,with the band’s debut album Lungs (2009),listeners were gasping for air from Welch’s pop-meets-rock-meets-baroque voice,with just an ounce of romance in it,then Florence and the Machine have taken off to a new level with their latest “chamber soul” (self-anointed term for soul music and chamber pop) album,Ceremonials.

Welch couldn’t have come back with a more confident and vibrant album,complete with its high-strung orchestra of organs,percussions,violins and chorus reminiscent of dark,Mozart-inspired Evanescence,minus the goth. In the league of modern British pop-rock,she stands out,as Ceremonials illustrates.

Ceremonials,a dramatic homage to death and devils,is not for the faint-hearted. The first track,Only if for a night,starts with a quaint,dream-like tinkering,and builds up to rhythmic pounding and choral deliverance. In the second track, Shake it out,Welch’s vocals rise and drop as she struggles to “shake off the devil”. What the water gave me and Never let me go are soulful ballads,with slow,sensual vocals.

The track,Breaking down,is simply delightful. Its occasional,climactic violins and chugging percussion highlight Welch’s hollow voice. The album picks up from here to a playful Lover to lover,which is reminiscent of a church choir number,with pining altos and soaring sopranos. The next few tracks,like No light no light and Seven devils are darker,have a dominant chorus and are full of doom,but are tempered with Welch’s earthy tones. Probably a hint at the actual ceremonials. The final track,Leave my body,is a theatrical declaration of absolution.

Huge doses of orchestral works never seem to drown Welch’s pristine baritone. One will find fine details of electro tunes merged into the thunderous sounds. Listen to her for a revelation and revel in her multi-layered experimentation which she calls music.

pallavi.pundir@expressindia.com

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