Glissando - The World Without Us

by Steve Rhodes Rating:9 Release Date:2012-11-05

It's been some time since we've heard from Leeds two-piece Glissando since their 2008 acclaimed and understated debut With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards The Burning Sea, though their absence was hardly unexpected with guitarist Richard Knox involved with A-Sun Amissa, The Rustle of the Stars project and tied up running his own Gizeh Records label. It was still a surprise, however, to hear that a new Glissando record was not only finished but how complete and strong a progression this album is.

With a much fuller and richer sound, utilising a number of guests and adding a plethora of instrumentation, The World Without Us benefits by eschewing some of the 15-minute-plus songs which seemed too prevalent on their debut, resulting in a strong and cohesive album which captivates throughout and could fit neatly on Constellation Records' impressive roster.

The instrumental 'Still I' starts slowly with field recording samples and the sound of things being opened, interjected by a patient piano, taking its time to break through. Mournful strings are added part-way into the piece. It is a simple and brooding opener, hinting at Rachel's, Threnody Ensemble and label-mates Her Name is Calla, and neatly introduces the album.

'The Long Lost' continues the patient, building pace, where scratchy, then fuller strings and a polite guitar plot the path to the introduction of Elly May Irving's enchanting vocal, a delightful mix of Kate Bush and Miranda Sex Garden, or a classic olde-English folk take on Lisa Gerrard. The lyrics - "Take my hand/ I walk with you/ through the snow/ like I promised you" - are simply backed by a bass drum and a subtle xylophone, until the band join in vocally. A delightful, heartbreaking ode.

A key ingredient of the album is the space between the melodies and the atmosphere this conjures, such as on the wonderful 'The World Without Us', where a slow piano and intricate guitar dynamics, similar in DNA to Bristol's Blueneck, set the backing for Elly and Lidwine's mesmerising vocals, and 'For The Light' and 'Companion' where distant, apocalyptic guitars, strings, percussion and a barely-audible harp provide a sometime unsettling ambiance for Elly's dominant piano and vocals.

Piano, strings, guitar and ominous drums showcase a natural advancement of Glissando's sound on album-highlight 'Of Silence', which combines the death mantra of 'Grekken' and the optimism of 'Floods' from their debut album. Elly shows her range with a lower octave vocal and a beautiful delivery which seems at odds with the eerie subject matter "She finds out you're waiting/ that's how he cares ... At the bottom of the ocean waiting to drown". Again pastoral and almost medieval in mood, it is a gorgeous song that's quintessentially English, but also other-worldly in tone.

Reprising the piano from 'Still I' but adding Elly's vocal, 'Still II' is a haunting and mantric closer, particularly when other voices join in. Similar in texture to Kate Bush's 50 Words for Snow, it's a triumphant finale that maintains the slow but steady build-up of the bulk of the album, while standing out on its own.

Definitely an accompaniment for those cold, winter nights, The World Without Us takes you on a journey to a place somewhere else deep in the imagination, like Pan's Labyrinth directed by Brian Eno. A joyous listen from beginning to end. Go see them on the Silent Bells Tour later this month.

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