I had vaguely heard of Glissando before, but for some reason we got on their promo list, and they sent a dozen messages about the band. They were opening for Stars of the Lid on their recent tour (a tour which, i must note, took SotL nowhere near me at all. And yes, i am bitter about that fact.), and i got lots of messages about that. Then, suddenly, this CD appeared in my mailbox.
I put it in the player with 4 other promo CDs that came in at that time and went about my business. However, i never got to any of the other promos that night. Nor did i get any cleaning done. Instead, i sat on the couch with the cats and just listened to With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards the Burning Sea. This is a simply beautiful record, and it filled my attention so completely that i could do nothing but listen. As a music critic, you live for those moments when something really lovely and special stumbles across your plate, and this is one such record.
There is a term for this: duende. It is a Spanish word that original referred to some sort of goblin, but later began to be used to refer to something that seems magical and mysterious, and yet is at once completely familiar, especially in the arts. In music, duende is that moment when something shocks you by being both completely fresh and totally expected at the same time. It is that moment of "why hasn't someone done that before". When the violin kicks in during The Dead Flag Blues on the first Godspeed record is a prime example that most people (at least, those who read EvilSponge) will be familiar with. Remember how that made you feel the very first time you heard it? The sheer majesty and at the same time wonderment that it took people so long to put all of those elements together. Godspeed made it seem so ... obvious. That is a part of the duende.
Those of us who become music junkies (and most critics are junkies) live for that moment. It drives us. We are always searching for the next hit, for the next thing to give us that chill, that shudder of shocked recognition. (Maybe this is what being addicted is all about?)
Glissando deliver, on track 3, Floods. This starts with a simple piano riff and main vocalist Elly May Irving singing lightly. The piano builds and her voice gets more forceful, and then, suddenly, inexplicably, wonderfully, the male voice of Richard Knox is there singing counterpoint to her. Not just two voices singing, but a powerful emotive harmony. A moment of sheer beauty. Seriously. They sing in duet like that for perhaps a minute, and the song slowly fades out to reborn as a strings and piano affair. Truly, utterly, lovely.
Another standout track is Grekken, which again featured them singing duet. Here there is a strummed guitar accompanying the piano, and Knox's voice is deep in the front of the mix (like the singer in a goth band sitting right on top of your stereo), while Irving is far in the background. He is speaking quietly, she is wailing away, and the piano plinks and the guitar whirrs, almost overpowering both voices. Very lovely.
The rest of the record is good as well. Glissando make a sort of classical style music. It is all slow piano notes that linger, delicate strings, and Irving's voice, delicate at times, forceful at others. The whole thing blends together for one fascinating listening experience. At times they even do "mainstream ambient" (if that is not a term, then i am making it up right now!) -- that type of stuff that is echoed droning sounds that fade in and out, with voice that makes no words but utters long notes. They do that rather well too.
So you see, this is why i do this. This is why i sit through innumerable promo records made by very earnest women with acoustic guitars (why are there so many of these people in the world?), or Radiohead-derived bands, or, well, any of the other shit we get in here. (And there is a lot of shit, believe me.) I do it for these few magical moments.
All i gotta say is, "Wow". Just wow.
And it's not just me who thinks this. I made Tracers listen to Glissando one night when she came over before we went to see some show or other. Her words, "Wow. I would listen to this."
In a year seemingly full of great ambient releases, Glissando have given us another one. Seriously -- you need to hear this record.