Let’s start with the elephant in the room. This album sounds a lot like Sigur Rós, specifically the band’s melodic mid-period. But we like Sigur Rós, and the band has since deserted that sound, while Jónsi has gone vocal with a tendency toward art-pop. Sigur Rós split with their drummer, and Jónsi split with Alex, so we may never heard such sounds again … from them. Now Australia-based Argentinian artist Francesco Sonur has cheekily ~ yet successfully ~ picked up the discarded template and adopted it as his own. Thanks to Time Released Sound, he’s also landed some fine deluxe packaging, though the album is also available in a standard (but still hand-assembled) edition.
The intercontinental nature of the artist, coupled with the Icelandic influence, feeds into the theme of travel dreams. The whole world is itching to visit somewhere else right now, waiting for restrictions to be lifted, hoping to see loved ones and to enrich their global experiences. The deluxe edition’s subway tickets, atlas pages, star maps and snapshots spark associations, while the music is simultaneously down to earth and airborne. Family voices are sprinkled throughout the set; the artist admits that the album was recorded between homeschooling shifts. Combine handmade and home recorded, and Morning Trials becomes an intensely personal album, warm and engaging. If these were “trials,” they’ve been overcome.
The album starts with a tape recording of a music box playing “Jingle Bells” ~ a double form of removal that nevertheless sounds intimate. The music box is put away and the piano begins to play. Shaking instruments and children’s toys enter; we read that Francesco is a father, and credit the fact that he’s made the composition a family affair. When the bells, high-pitched utterances and drums appear, we’re transported to the ethereal world we once called Hopelandic. The full album feels like an escape, or the dream of an escape, just as intended. This is drift away music, the emphasis on away. All the while, Sonur has been working on his bus Spirit, anticipating the chance to tour his adopted nation.
Halfway through the album, a mother-daughter-xylophone segment breaks the third wall. This is the aural equivalent of looking through a Viewfinder at the happy family zipping up their luggage and packing the bus. The title “Sunflowerchild” is perfectly chosen; it’s summer in Australia right now, and Spirit sounds like The Who’s magic bus.
Just as one thinks the album has shared all of its surprises, Juan Aout’s French horn appears on “Friend Like Oars,” chasing the cold away. Soon there will be a fire, and crickets, and “Medias De Lana” (“Wool Socks”). The lessons have been put away. Daddy is playing by the campfire. If we can’t get away just yet, there’s always a way to make a backyard an adventure, as we dream of all the adventures we will have, once upon a time, not too long from now. (Richard Allen)