idylls - 'carefully out of Nowhere"
idylls is a chamber-folk' group who describes themselves as a "troupe laureate of the (perhaps fictitious) nation of Mystopia." The project was started by Adam Black alongside long-time friends from around the world: Zhao Liang,guzheng (Chinese harp), Jeremiah Moon, cello; Lester Wong, violin; Angeline Armstrong, vocals; Alex Joakim, clarinet; Joseph Cheek, piano; Caleb Buse, moog (keyboard) and Jack Thomson, percussion. Lyrically inspired by the works of ee cummings and William Carlos Williams and by artists like Steve Reich to Peter Gabriel - idylls mesmerizes with traditional and contemporary composition combined.
The impressive 12-song album opens with “forgotten hallelujahs” which you will not soon forget. This gorgeous song starts with a melodic cello line then moves into an acoustic picking texture filled with delicate phrasing on multiple instruments. The introduction sounds like a full plucked orchestra. Adam sings, “I’ve been assembling words.” This is an under-statement as Adam is a true poet. The song has an Americana feel with some bluegrass elements. The chorus is extremely strong. “ unhang the harp from the willow tree! holler through the hollow from the hymnal sheet!" A great opening, “forgotten hallelujahs” is highly memorable.
“every once was looming” is the second track. “"tracks: faded lastings of what was;" ” With a nice percussive pizzicato and swishing percussion at its foundation, “every once was looming’ showcases the exceptional composition abilities of idylls. Against the pizzicato/percussion landscape, melodic accents dance freely. The blend of instruments march forward, lightly and purposefully. A surprising humming section utilizes the voice like an additional instrument. The song has a deep, introspective feel.
"stirring of birds “is up next. With strong folk sensibilities, the rhythm is sweetly syncopated. Sung with great tenderness, Adam delivers a stellar performance. “"take my hands. little as they are it’s all i have." “stirring of birds is”...stirring. Following is track 4, "mourning marrow". “mourning marrow” is a feast for the ears that you will want to listen to over and over. There’s a dance-like feel to the song with strong hollow drums. The song explores the side of human nature that falls short, the “flesh and bone.” The arrangement is classically inspired yielding a full orchestrated sound of color and texture. Another notable song is “in the arms of a man.” It has a charming essence captured in the duo performance of Adam and Angeline. Adam and Angeline sound wonderful together - their voices complement each other like earth (Adam) and sky (Angeline).
Finger-picking is pronounced in “you devil disappear!” The percussion is sparse but powerful. Longer phrasing is heard by cello and violin. Mid-way, sounds pop in and out that mimic nature or perhaps birds calling. Interesting harmonies highlight the track. A line that repeats and captures the listeners attention is, “Oh dear, you’re toothless” Perhaps this is a statement about the limited power of evil or maybe it isn't, but either way, idylls consistently offers up original poetic lyrics that paint vivid tales for the imagination.
“enter Spring" starts with running scale work, muted and articulate. It's a great foundation that yields an exciting classical-contemporary vibe. This scale- work is heard throughout creating an intense energy. Interrupting the running scales are longer phrasing on the cello and violin during the chorus. Suddenly the song bursts open like sunlight.
idylls isn't a band to skim over - they offer way too much substance for a quick listen. Like the
stories and the poetry they share, their music has layers upon layers of sophisticated nuance and brilliant musicianship. It would not surprise me if this group landed an indie music award along the way.