Lutine - White Flowers - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Lutine - White Flowers

by Steve Rhodes Rating:5.5 Release Date:2014-09-29

Sharing a name with a hobgoblin can pre-destine opinions of your sound and Brighton-based duo Lutine do little to sway from this with their debut album, White Flowers, a pastoral, enlightened record, with strong nods to medieval instrumentation and song structures, and Olde English folklore.

Opener 'Espera' is a neat starting point, beginning with a Farfisa-style keyboard sound, which remains constant and unobtrusive, like the noise of an electricity sub-station, backing the hypnotic dual vocal of Heather Minor and Emma Morton, whose range and synthesis, without histrionics, reigns over the song. Like the musings of early Miranda Sex Garden, it is a nice opening, even if the song doesn't really venture anywhere.

With just a piano for company, 'White Flowers' further showcases the impressive vocals. A more conventional number, it feels like a lighter variation of ‘Wild Horses’, but like a great deal of the album possesses little verve or substance; the pace barely flinches away from plodding mundanity. 'Synnove' likewise, though containing subtle keys and a barely-strummed guitar with the borderline a cappella vocals seeming more operatic, lacks drama or a hook to cling onto. 'All I Have Is Gold', again impressing with impeccably shrilled and underplayed vocals, is so lightweight it could float out of existence in a moment.

Thankfully, this safe formula is not uniformly prevalent throughout, with moments and touches that wrench the album from its sleepwalk. Though an accordion is often as welcome as a legion of detuned bagpipers, here it adds tinges of medieval melancholy on 'Death and the Lady' and weaves effectively with its repetition between the vocals, to a hymn-like reverence. 'So It Goes', with it’s melody that sounds more like a music box, lacks the inventiveness of Pram or CocoRosie, but at least has the volume turned up, while possessing more heart and emotion.

'Come Wander' finally introduces some minor-key and a deeper tone: “He came from the sunset/ He came from the sea/ He came from my sorrow and could love only me”. The vocals take a more solemn, mantric stance, reminiscent of Picastro and Blue Roses, and are matched far better with the sparse but effective instrumentation.

It's 'Sallow Tree', however, that truly stands out, feeling strongly akin to Kate Bush's Aerial. With guitars and strings backing and often following the vocal, and a moving piano added partway through, it is a beautiful song tinged with sadness, texture and warmth which adds depth and character to the exquisite vocals.

In an age where every note of a vocal is regularly strained, treated and overwrought to an inch of its life, it's great to hear an album where a truly natural and beautiful voice dominates throughout. It's just a pity that with White Flowers that the songs don't really back up this talent, with too much of a reliance on a thinly-veiled accompaniment that often adds little, and a stagnant snail-like pace which fails to invoke weight and memorability, perfectly summed up by album closer 'To the Sea', with its anaemic piano backing. While it showcases incredible vocal prowess, it also highlights that without a strong support, it's difficult to maintain significant interest throughout an album.

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