Review: Cinders Ensemble – Lonely Eskimo

Texas chamber ensemble Cinders have returned after more than a decade of no recording with Lonely Eskimo, a traditional chamber music approach which incorporates some interesting post-rock stylings. The record is comprised mainly of sombre, orthodox tunes which are incredibly polished. Despite being their first release in 15 years, the album irritatingly errs on the side of caution when it comes to the more out-there ideas it is clearly aiming to tackle. For example, the quick percussion on ‘Petey Goodbye’ which contrasts with the overall slow tempo of the album is accompanied by a dull piano line and a guitar solo which would sound uninspired if it were on a ‘70s prog rock album, let alone a post-rock album from 2016.

The main problem the album suffers from is being incredibly passive, with a slow tempo throughout. With most songs bringing a drone-like approach to the strings without properly embracing that style, it is easy to find your mind wandering off rather than remaining engaged with the music. ‘Saguaro’ contains the only vocals on the album, and yet manages to soften any impact it might create by setting this vocal element to repetitive lounge music which does little to compliment the garbled EBM type vocals that appear in it. However, the album does have highlights. The stand-out track is ‘Port, She Said’, a complex piece with a kitschy aesthetic. Using the eastern-European folk music stylings, the ensemble continually build the sound more and more on the foundation of the back and forth piano rhythm. As much of a study in minimalism as it is novelty world music, the track is impressive and uses the traditional instrumentation in a more novel way than any of the pieces backed with electronic noises.

The bonus track by Benoit Pioulard provides the album with its second highlight. Restyling the last track ‘Rosy Siege’, Pioulard replaces the Fripp-pastiche of the guitar drones with a Tim Hecker style electronic drone.

Ultimately, the band are obviously accomplished musicians as the performance is impossible to fault, yet you find yourself yearning for more interesting and engaging moments, with the album being a smorgasbord of dull chamber arrangements with a more post-rock approach shoehorned in. Their creations are impressive in a technical sense, yet they are far too delicate to really make for a consistent interesting listen.

Max Smith

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