The post-rock act fusing chamber music with near Eastern folk music tradition, Esmerine releases Mechanics of Dominion, offering a complete testament to their vision.
Even within the experimental music scene of Montreal, Esmerine tends to stand out. Formed by former Godspeed You! Black Emperor drummer/percussionist, Bruce Cawdon, and former Thee Silver Mt. Zion cellist Rebecca Foon, the band displays an affection towards the post-rock base and its minimalistic quality found in the other bands of the scene, but also explores further intricate concepts.
Forming its sound around a neo-classical and chamber music perspective, and with the inclusion of Turkish and near Eastern folk motifs has provided Esmerine with a very distinct sound, that has propelled them to release a series of excellent works, starting with
If Only a Sweet Surrender to the Night to Come Be True.
Esmerine went into a state of hiatus after their second album Aurora was released in 2005. Without missing a beat the band returned in 2011 with La Lechuza and went on to put out a couple more works in Dalmak and Lost Voices. Returning now with the sixth full-length, Mechanics of Dominion, the band's inspiration is fueled by the current state of the world and the dangers of climate change. These are concepts that have always been central to the Montreal scene, and once again are able to provide the necessary fire kindling for an immersive experience.
What is immediately noticeable with Esmerine is the richness of the instrumentation presented, bringing an array of unconventional elements to the fold, including marimba, glockenspiel, piano and amplified music box. In addition, Brian Sanderson, who joined the band in 2011, performing a variety of these instruments sees his role augmented in Mechanics of Dominion, contributing more heavily on the songwriting front, which results in a rich and more diverse work, filled with acoustic strings and horns that awaken the ritualistic element of Esmerine's lyricism. The percussive elements are as brilliant as the melodic additions, as is illustrated in “La Penombre" which opens up a whole new realm with its busy and powerful percussion, adding to the textures that create the magical feeling of the record.
The classical perspective is tied together with the folk influences, as Esmerine balance the two in crafting a unique result. On one hand the progression and arrangements display a kindling to classical music, modernizing its functionality with a chamber music setting, while on the other end the Turkish folk touches expand the scope, as is the case with “La Plume De Armes" which sees the classical concepts tempered with a non-traditional instrumentation. The horns appearing in “La Lucha Es Una Sola" is an instance of this open-mindedness, allowing this world music perspective to run through the music, seeing the two worlds colliding to craft a new reality.
Still, the band features the post-rock edges and experimental aspect that its members are also known for. The title track features a more standardized post-rock progression, which leaves behind the chamber music minimalism. Similarly, Esmerine inject the song structures with looping forms and sharp effects, letting an avant-garde perspective to arise. Heavy drones are molded from the robust feedback in “La Plume Des Armes" and noise is injected in “Que Se Vayan Todos", comprising the background on top of which the melodies can flourish.
In the end it is the subtlety of the melodies, and at the same time the expansive power they hold that are responsible for Esmerine's tour de force. The way “The Space in Between" is introduced, where a few simple keys can build so much emotion, sums also the nature of Mechanics of Dominion. Minimalistic on its outlook and yet with a rich instrumentation, traditional on both its inclusion of classical and folk influences, and still forward-thinking and experimental. It is an act that has been standing between these worlds, bridging them together better than ever in their most potent work yet.