Promise Of Sacrifice (First Light)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
This album is Seventh Harmonic's fifth release, but only their second full-length album...and their first recordings with the present line-up. So, it's a debut of sorts, but it has all the assurance of a band who know their music backwards and forwards, and have a real vision of where they'd like to go with it. To call Seventh Harmonic 'ethereal' - the catch-all shorthand description that's often applied to them - doesn't really do the band justice: their music pulls in influences from classical, folk, electronics, and all around the world. And yet Seventh Harmonic manage the neat trick of never sounding like anyone other than Seventh Harmonic.
We've heard two of the tracks here before: 'Chains' and 'Icarus' appeared previously on the Wasp Factory compilation, 'Working With Children And Animals Volume Two'. Here, however, 'Chains' in particular sounds like it has a broader sweep, a greater depth of sound; the rolling bhangra rhythms sit surprisingly comfortably with the swooping western-classical - not Bollywood! - strings. 'Icarus' is an exhilarating percussive tumble, over which Kate Arnold's voice tip-toes with delicate precision, and again it sounds as if the song has had a bit of a make-over. I can't make up my mind whether these tracks sound better here simply because they're in context, as it were, or whether the production has been tweaked a little. Either way, these two songs are probably your best way in to Seventh Harmonic, if you're coming upon the band for the first time.
Elsewhere, 'Page Of Wands' has a baffling title, but it's a drift through an other-worldly symphony, with occasional punctuations of almost military drumming. 'Pass Within' sounds like it was recorded on a hot night in a Morocco souk, while 'Promise Of Sacrifice' itself features some splendid chiming percussion, and swathes of keyboard like silk scarves draped, just so, over the tune.
'Immortal Selene' and 'To The Mother Of Gods' are settings of Homer's hymns - and all of a sudden we're a long, long way from rock 'n' roll. On these pieces (it seems so bathetic to simply refer to them as 'tracks') Seventh Harmonic are joined by members of the Greek period folk group, Daemonia Nymphe, and there's a real sense that a door into another world has just slightly been opened. But no sooner have we got our heads round Homer than the band introduce us to another guest celebrity songwriter on 'Parisina' - for this is their setting of Lord Byron's epic poem of 1916. Somehow, Seventh Harmonic can pull in all these influences from the classics and literature without once coming across as pretentious or contrived. It seems uncannily natural: it's almost as if Homer is an old drinking buddy of the band, who agreed to let them have a crack at a couple of his numbers over a pint of Guinness one night. I think he'd be pleased with the results.
Seventh Harmonic will take you aback with their ideas, their tangents, their myriad influences: it's as if there's nowhere the band won't go, no music they won't absorb and transform into their own uniquely cool brew. This is probably the most fully-realised of all their recordings to date, the album upon which the band's tumbling ideas fall neatly into place, the first real destination on their musical journey. Listen and take the trip.
Seventh Harmonic: http://freespace.virgin.net/seventh.harmonic
Homer's Hymns: http://www.angelfire.com/nc2/musings/Homer.html
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to