One of our favorite recent discoveries, Taiwanese female chamber ensemble Cicada, came to our attention via their compilation Ocean. That album combined most of their two latest albums under a single theme. The latest set collects earlier works in similar fashion, packaging them for a global audience. The theme of this collection is the cycle of a relationship, and includes tracks from the band’s first three releases (2010-2012), as well as their last two singles (from 2013 and 2015).
The cover art implies a certain condescension, a male hand reaching out as if to reassure a female, the female’s face turned downward. Is the end of this relationship the male’s fault? We think so. We side with the female – or in this case, the females. After all, these males haven’t given us any music. Shame on them, for being so mean. The women of Cicada are just fine without them. The opening tune, “Farewell (in a pretentious way)” makes a strong statement right from the start, implying that power can be found in the healing unity of a band or a circle of friends. The track contains some of the ensemble’s most dramatic string work, balanced at the end with some of its most tender ivories.
While the album reflects a relationship gone sour, it never itself sounds sour, or even heartbroken; Cicada is too happy to be playing together to ever get to that point. The closest tracks to melancholy are the wistful “Happily Ever After? ” and “Encrypted Desire”, but neither reaches three minutes. The fact that Cicada includes four tracks from their most upbeat album (Let’s Go!) indicates that they are prepared to play, not to mourn. Even tracks such as “Drowning in the Fog of yours” include upbeat breakdowns. Ironically, the happiest track is “No Words”, marked by intense percussion and a swift tempo. The most recent piece, “Land’s End”, is similarly fast-paced and is also the most memorable, thanks to a prominent four-chord motif.
When encountering such an approach to career compilations, one becomes interested in hearing what has not been included. There’s still about 44 minutes of Cicada music out there, although not enough for any single theme: six tracks about sun and rain, three about floating and flying, one about a cat, and two others that might have been included on this album. “Fading Affection” is the only obvious omission, as “Finally … we’re still together”, lovely as it is, implies a different ending than the title of this collection. Will we see these tracks collected at a later date? I couldn’t wait; I bought them all. (Richard Allen)