Glissando – The World Without Us
Posted In: Gizeh Records, Glissando, Glissando - The World Without Us, James Catchpole
Comments: One Response
Four long years have passed since Glissando last entered the world. Since then, they have reworked their live set-up and toured across the UK and Europe, performing as either a duo or even as a 7-piece group of musicians. As the years passed, the new born sister to ‘With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards the Burning Sea’ seemed to drift in and out of the ether. New songs were performed a couple of years after the release, but concrete proof of a new full length record seemed to vanish. This was no hiatus; the duo of Elly May Irving and Richard Knox have spent the last four years writing and recording new music as Glissando.
During the four year period, Knox was involved with the recent projects The Rustle of the Stars and A-Sun Amissa, which delayed any possible Glissando recording. In any other instance, the slow, prolonged pace of a follow-up, inching its way towards completion, could be a premonition of a foreboding omen. It’s true that the wait can also reflect a careful deliberation and the constant pursuit of perfection. In this instance, musical commitments postponed the final stages, but it was well worth the four-year wait. Glissando’s return is ‘The World Without Us’.
Only seconds in, aftershocks of thunder echo in anticipation for their return, although it could also represent the disturbing omen slicing through into our world. The thunder waits for the oncoming orchestral drone to gain momentum; it’s a drone that will soon scatter the world as we knew it, buried under white snow while a penetrating cloud creeps over a silent hill. ‘Still’ is their reintroduction; the atmosphere is anything but still, surrounded as it is by a swirling wind that circles around the screams of children. Elly May Irving’s breezy piano arpeggios take over as a brooding, dark drone rises to the front in a vicious surge. This is the perfect way to re-announce Glissando’s presence, and they cloak any absence without mercy.
Escaping through shattered lungs, the strings cough out the sizeable dust that has enveloped them. Their grainy, screeching tone has revealed a different world where any innocence has vanished. A suffocating atmosphere haunts the desolate streets. A thumping heartbeat sends shockwaves through the bleak winter air, setting the scene for an apocalyptic atmosphere as four horsemen ride into town. Even though the music herself pushes deep into the ground, she stays within a dramatic scope rather than an overtly ominous vision of the near future. The world may be a frightening place, but this is a truth we ‘re already familiar with, and there shouldn’t be any trepidation in following her path. The entrance of Elly May Irving’s voice promises us a safety in the mist. Her heavenly voice is our refuge.; her pale, open hand is all that is visible through the mist. Take my hand. I will walk with you.
Her vocals seem refined; in fact, they completely oppose the stringed instruments. It’s as pure as the silent birdsong, without any kind of response to her song. The opening, scraping screams in ‘The Long Lost’ cry in tortured agony. Finally, they are able to release what they so desperately wanted to say, but after four long years the voice has grown rusty and choked. Elly May Irving’s operatic voice cleanses the air, and while the instrumentation feels expansive, her voice brings an intimacy, a comfort, to our surroundings. It’s a world of decay – and the stark beauty inside this decay – and a world where barren trees bear paper thin leaves among the bare, frosty branches.
Spread open, the strings create an atmosphere strangely free of deep set melancholia. Although the cello grains tears from her bow, they don’t fall in sadness. They are tears for the beauty of this lonely voice, and she directs the emotion in the strings like a conductor without an orchestra, placing them in the background when they are so used to leading the way. The strings sound so old, blinded by the white, that they can’t always see the way forward; she must guide them.
Glissando have evolved over the years. It’s like looking at a photographic phantom taken long ago, one whose resemblance is now only faintly recognised. Cocooned for the winter, the music hangs like an overcast day in December, with only a smudge of daylight peeking through; the remainder of the day closes in early, 5 o clock shadow, setting down the shutters of darkness.
The search for another continues in the mist, looking for a ‘Companion’. We might start to believe that they may not exist, but maybe they do. We have to keep believing. Ghostly voices rise up from the dry light as the title track reveals a premonition of what will come. Cold, icy strings still sing, but they aren’t immune to the dropping temperature; they shiver as the seconds progress, encircling the vocal and freezing any dragged out hope or optimism. The strings cry a prolonged death in the remaining minutes, but there is no pleading desperation or state of depression; it’s just the way it was meant to be. Nothing daggers the atmospheric pressure, apart for one female vocal.
‘For The Light’ is a dark pool of cavernous piano chords and trickling melodies, until a celestial key change with a major chord finds us facing this light directly. Her angelic voice shines in the presence of a faint, circular tunnel of light, and through the bleakly beautiful landscape we once roamed. Her soothing voice brings peace to this decay.
Tendrils of mist continue to search for her, consuming any survivors with icy arms. Eventually, her voice is extinguished (or so we think), suffocated by one last hand of orchestral drone. As the piano creates a new dawn, the world feels different. Out of the cocoon. The world isn’t ours anymore – maybe it was never ours to begin with.
There’s a twist in the music. Her voice is the sole survivor, thawing the icy hands with her warm vocal. She won! It is a victory for everlasting love – after all that has happened, and even surviving after we have gone. The final two minutes are her victory cry, but it is one that is ghosted with loss, too, hanging over her world like inflicted, invisible scars. She survived, but the world did not. The surface is just as lifeless as the cloudy sky. Even the flaming sun loses all colour.
A world, without us.
- James Catchpole for Fluid Radio