Esmerine ~ Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More

A few weeks ago, Esmerine surprise-dropped a new digital album, with the official physical release set for August 26.  This is a pretty rare feat, typically reserved for the likes of Beyoncé, but Esmerine is a luminary in the post-rock world.  Way back in our Winter Music Preview, we listed a new Esmerine album as one of our top musical wishes for 2022, and now, here it is!

This is neither a typical Esmerine album nor a huge departure.  For the most part, the tone is reflective and restrained, leaning in the direction of modern composition.  The piano is prominent ~ each player has a turn at the ivories ~ and the world music vibe is subdued.  This insular approach is explained by the title, Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More.  For the past two years, the entire world has felt an unshakable sense of loss, along with a shifting of expectations.  Many things once taken for granted were exposed as finite.  Cracks appeared in every institution.  The members of the collective, often recording alone, can reflect feelings of loneliness, lethargy and emotional stasis because they have lived such things themselves.  Titles such as “Acquiescence,” “Imaginary Pasts” and “Wakesleep” serve as chapter headings in the band’s pandemic diaries.

One might call the set a soundtrack to the inexpressible.  The album begins with great foreboding, the dark cloud of “Blackout” spreading shadows across the ground, like news warnings watchers know not how to heed.  The first half of “Entropy” comes across as abject mourning, mourners unable to embrace, separated by an invisible, incomprehensible barrier.  Halfway through the nine-minute track, the band explodes, if not in anger, at least in frustration, producing a sense of catharsis and the album’s first pure post-rock passage, the next arriving in the wake of a waltz.  Time and again, the piano reemerges, resolute, joined by brass in “Fractals For Any Tonality,” producing a sense of pushback, a refusal to allow the cement of the new normal to dry.

When glockenspiel cuts through the forest of “Foxtails & Fireflies,” a corner is turned.  Survivors emerge and begin to poke through the wreckage.  They take inventory of what they have and what they have lost.  The immediate danger is over, but the cloud still lurks.  The whistling “Wakesleep” seems a statement of defiance; then the chimes toll and the clouds burst.  This final piece operates as an aural Rorschach test.  Are the last notes hopeful or resigned?  Are we better off knowing that nothing lasts forever?  Will the loss of our illusions lead to a greater sense of gratitude?  The fuller instrumentation of “Number Stations” suggests a return to community or a huddling together for safety; either way, it serves as a statement of unity in the aftermath of tragedy.  (Richard Allen)

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