In the year 2005, thus far, Montreal has become the current “it” town, to the point where CDs by artists like The Arcade Fire and The Dears have been the most numerous imported goods coming from the Quebec city to my room, outnumbering even cases of Molson. I’m not trying to jump on a bandwagon. I naturally think that a lot of the artists from our Frenchie metropolis to the north all happen to have a polarizing sound. It must be something in the drinking water. But now that Esmerine has come along, I’ll be nice and let you guess what two letters should be put before “it”. Composed around the duo of Bruce Cawdron and Beckie Foon of local multimedia madmen Godspeed You Black Emperor! and experimental post-rockers A Silver Mt. Zion, Aurora is a rather threadbare shot at a splinter group with classical influences and has been inaccurately and widespread pigeonholed as chamber rock.
“Quelques Mots Pleins D’Ombre” serves as an overture for the album that is like a warm-up in an orchestra pit that lingers in the air like the bad smell of burnt hair. The cello hums in a detached manner with a droning bassline that evokes a texture of sadness. Five minutes in, a forcible yet hollow drumbeat sidles in that DJ Shadow would want to sample in a hot minute. Again, more cello as “Histories Repeating as One Thousand Hearts Mend” has the same first five minutes as the previous track except this time it is nothing but orchestral feedback and ocean floor thrums before the cello gets haunting like the score from the show Carnivale. It even contains the clatter of a sleigh bell and a hubcap. That’s right; a hubcap. The beat comes in too tardy and just as you think a groove is about to set in, the song is over. It’s more frustrating than being constipated.
Esmerine gets a little too cinematic by making insipid songs that sound like it could be the score for a really bad art-house chick flick that has reached the death scene. “Mados” seems like the longest two minutes of your life. It’s like sitting through an opera where you keep thinking the end is near, only disappointed that someone else keeps popping up. Godspeed You Black Emperor! may contain an all-out triple guitar assault, but Esmerine stays away from them like diabetics to Snickers bars except on the sappy “Why She Swallows Bullets and Stones.” If the title of this song is a question then I guess the answer must be: because they are easier to swallow than this album.
“Ebb Tide” is just church bells and fuzzy chimes and “Le Rire De L’Ange” is the last track and overall the most digestible on the album, with its Yo La Tengo-meets-Mogwai salience. If side projects have taught us anything, it’s that they can be a good for an artist to take some time off and do what they feel for a little while so that the work in their primary band doesn’t suffer. But I think I can tell Cawdron and Foon not to give up their day jobs and to go back to wrecking havoc with GYBE! because Aurora sounds like a symphony written by a bitter composer who flunked out of Julliard.
Similar Albums (listen to these instead):
The Cinematic Orchestra – Everyday
Tortoise – It’s All Around You
Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun