Just how many errors have humankind made over the last decade? Clearly enough to inspire the surprising return of Clorinde, whose last release is a distant but deeply imprinted memory (proof: it placed in our Best Experimental Albums of the Decade list). Needless to say, we welcome their return with a warm embrace.
A lot changes in nine years. The world has become smaller and our frailties both collective and individual more visible. Where 2013’s The Gardens of Bomarzo was a sprawling creation rooted firmly in the homeland of the band’s Italian founders, Andrea and Simone Salvatici, as well as the mind of the titular garden’s creator, on The Errors of the Human Intellect the brothers broaden their gaze outward, in all directions. Song titles reference literary characters, cultural objects and mythic religious figures from all corners of the globe, and the cowardice, skullduggery and hollowness they reference provides a tangible throughline. These are our collective errors.
Naturally, the brothers’ musical throughline remains their singular meshing of metronomic folk textures with restrained post-rock, to lulling and at times mesmerising effect. Often a quiet or at least mezzo-piano band, Clorinde are nonetheless experts in dynamism, making judicious use of sustained bass and large-drum tones to provide stark contrast with the busy, treble-centric string or percussive instruments, whose innate lack of sonic presence is accentuated by playing style or looping structure. Listen to “You, a Kokeshi Doll?”, when four sustained bass notes offer a cavernous environment in which the chiming stringed instruments can resonate ~ suddenly the pretty melodic loops attain an ethereal, almost haunting quality. On the subtler end, a drumstick gently bounces off a floor tom in the first half of “HaHum”; while quiet, the drum reverberates nonetheless far below the arpeggiated banjo at the other end of the sonic scale. In such occasions does the drummer deploy his kit more like timpani.
In choosing which of their bounty of instrument trinkets will define or colour each piece, the band match the record’s thematic conceit by again waxing more global. Returning is the mandolin that regales like a troubadour its medieval tales, but this time more often in a supportive role, woven into a plucked guitar tapestry alongside acoustic and electric models, banjo, sitar ~ and likely many more alongside. The kalimba adjoins its percussive brethren but again is deployed more selectively, in the likes of tightly woven “The Great Return of John Frum”. Usually a single voice will dominate the mix, such as the glitchy, almost staccato woodwind in opener “Don Abbondio”, but occasionally the brothers relax some restraint in service of the full ‘band’ (or maybe ‘folk orchestra’?) experience. Third track ~ and longest on the record at seven minutes ~ “Be Horse Again” certainly boasts something approaching this: a muted electric guitar progression alongside mallet- and stick-based percussion, while a sitar warbles over the top. Drums and bass in time fill out the low end, driving but restrained, then unexpectedly make way for an untethered final third, pulsing electronic sounds and synth arpeggios forcing our gaze to the skies. This track also exemplifies small steps toward more narrative composition, guiding us through sequential phases and building layers that was less in the DNA of the prior record, whose journey was across the totality of its tracks, each representing a single, static garden monument.
As we get deeper into the set, the band shed their emotional reticence. The wonderful “Worriors in Love” unleashes pounding drums and frenetic mandolin scratching beneath a mournful chord progression (I also love the ambiguity in that title. Is it warriors who worry? Worriers who fight?), while salvation is promised by the comforting voice heard in “Our Love Will Save the Earth” ~ a surprising musical tangent of fuzzy synths and trip-hop beats. ‘Today we are starting again to bring together our hearts’, the woman intones. It’s a sermon of hope that the intellect of humanity ~ not the errors ~ will prevail. (Chris Redfearn-Murray)