The second album by Lumen Drones, 'Umbra', comes five years after the group's startling, self-titled debut recording, released in late 2015 on ECM Records. The long-awaited follow-up marks a significant leap forward it is no less experimental than its predecessor and certainly no less 'electric', yet in many ways a deeper and more profound expression of the trio's interests.
Over nine tracks varying from two to six minutes in length, Nils Okland (fiddles), Per Steinar Lie (guitars) and Orjan Haaland (drums) create a completely convincing musical world where the conventional boundaries separating different styles seem to disappear. Each tune has a distinct identity of its own, and imprints itself on the mind very easily, as does the aesthetic unity of the album as a whole.
'Umbra' takes us far beyond the initial, shock-effect response to the first album, and the perceived incongruity of a musician schooled in folk and classical music collaborating with members of an experimental rock band, the guitarist and drummer from the influential post-rock band The Low Frequency in Stereo. The strength of Lumen Drones seems to lie in the way the roles of the individuals are made to work within the demands of the ensemble, and in cooperation with each other.
The musical material and influences that the three principals bring to the table are also very compatible, just as the pentatonic scales and drone-like sympathetic strings of the Hardanger fiddle sound entirely at home with much contemporary instrumental music, whether jazz, experimental rock or classical composition. But if you listen to it carefully, 'Umbra' doesn't really sound like anyone else. We can move from a solo fiddle prelude played as delicately as a baroque chaconne, to a stomping, motorik-beat rocker and then to a keening, wailing, feedback-heavy dirge, and everything seems all of a piece. There might be a bit of Sonic Youth in there, along with Joy Division, John Cale, Arvo Pärt, Dick Dale, Lamonte Young, Paganini, and, well, everyone they have ever listened to, but it doesn't really intrude: Lumen Drones play Lumen Drones music.
There's also a very satisfying sense of design to 'Umbra', both on the micro level represented by the span of each separate track, and the macro level of the album as a whole. From the hypnotic opening prelude of 'Inngang', with Okland's fiddle heard at first indistinctly against what turns out to be the burbling atmospherics provided by burring guitar strings, to the absolutely epic final two pieces, 'Etnir' and 'Under djupet', where the music seems poised in a perfect form of ecstatic stasis, as if could continue forever, 'Umbra' casts a truly powerful spell. By the end, one is conscious not of three separate voices, or an opposition between the acoustic and the electric, but rather of one, powerful aesthetic unity. Lumen Drones are playing at the Union Chapel on 15th November, 2019.
- Gorrlaus Slått
- Avalanche In A Minor
- Under Djupet
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