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Lisa Gerrard & Marcello De Francisci – “Departum” Review

Two Lisa Gerrard albums in one year? They can’t both be fantastic surely? Well as a matter of fact, they’re both darn fantastic. “Departum” see’s Lisa collaborate with MArcello De Francisci after working together of a film (Tears of Gaza) and deciding they felt so at home together they wanted to have a seperate project to let themselves go on. This has resulted in a wonderful selection of some of the best music in Gerrard’s catalogue and the most instantly enjoyable album since “Duality”.

Opening with “Ex Nihilo Out of Nothingness” a soundscape is painted into the speakers with ambient swirls and distant echoing aural screams and chasms. There’s a lot of spoken dialogue overlapping eachother that creates a paniced confusion and the ambience swells and then fades away as we decend (or ascend) into our Departum. This is followed by the absolutely magical “In the Beginning Was The Word” which signals the return of the more tribal, eastern world of Lisa’s music that’s been absent for far too long. Sitar like changs, Eastern string bows and tribal percussion signal a march forward which then pulls away to a beautiful almost coming of age where the song rises into a momentous stride with Lisa’s voice and some lush tuned bell percussion pushed to the far. The drums continue to rise and rise, it’s such a burst of life, I actually found myself nodding and bowing my head on the first listen in general awe and approval!

“Hymns of a Promised Land” has a male (Marcello I presume) talking in the opening segment in distorted voices. Once his monologue finishes a sumptuous Lisa takes over with a very pure vocal / guitar track that is over far too quickly, almost like a healing chant. Simplistic but lovely. “Hidden Garden” see’s the return of the Yang Quin too, leading an instrumental as its echoes pulsate a lifeline through an Eden like ambience of animals and running water. Perfect for relaxation with an underlying murmer of pray it seems underneath. It’s quitely spiritual without pointing to a specific religion.

“Diary For the Fallen” reminds me slightly of Serpent and the Dove from The Black Opal with its gentle acoustic guitar initially leading the way over Lisa’s calming voice. Instead this track decides to build itself into an uplifting rousing tunnel of light for me in the choruses with its hugely panning tom drums and its warm keyboard work backing up Lisa as she soars and bellows for every piece of emotion. Think a slower Now We Are Free but with electric guitar at the end!

“Renunciation” is a short one minute track which carefully replays a string bending signiture that you’ll hear a few times in the album over sawing keyboard melodies while “Himalaya” is possibly the best 36 second track ever committed to CD! Why it wasn’t then extended into a full piece I’ve no idea, but we’ll have to live with what we have!

Title track “Departum” follows as the first solace moment really in its opening section, which mixes vocal traits from previous tracks with a new chord structure. Soon the keyboards and drums are bashing away with echoing Yang Quin and the whole thing sounds magical. It’s one of the most directly foot stomping, upbeat songs Lisa’s produced to date. As with a lot of “Departum”, it would work fantastically in any film montage or end credit sequence. “Maya’s Dream” is a short keyboard/distant vocal number that with its ever decreasing chords sink down sounds more haunting on each repeat.

“To Those Who Seek Forgiveness” is an epic piece. Lisa Gerrard sounds like she is channeling pain like a Japanese war crier weeping in desperation. It never ceases to amaze me how many forms and layers Lisa’s voice can take on. The woodwind and string samples in this track are particularly subdued to let the voice take absolute centre stage. “All Things Impermanent” is a short bowed string and mechanical noise piece that continues the same musical thread inbetween the full songs before the fantastic “River Dance” graces our ears. Nothing to do with Mr Flatley, this track sounds like an extra from Duality or the Baraka soundtrack. The drums, strings and tuned percussion make for a haunting and mysterious hypnotic dance. This is the track you hear in at the beginning of the albums trailer video. Lisa joins in at half way with lots of vocal ablibs as the song continues to build and build, a signiture of a lot of the songs on the album. Lisa here, and for a lot of the album sounds much more native and wild than she has done of late and it suits the music perfectly.

“Cor Nobilis The Gentle Ones” is more etheral with its guitars, higher and cleaner vocal delivery and dramatic strings. However it soon has the dramatic filmic drums added and develops into one of the best examples of why Lisa Gerrard is the pinnacle of what she does by being both everything and very fragile all at the same time. “Addagio for a Broken Promise” is the most sombre full length track on the album and it does sound like Lisa’s vocals have been given a bit of Cher’s Believe treatment! It’s very melodic and quite close in sound to Serpents Egg and sounds quite different to the rest of the album as a result. “Sacred Journey” takes the Yang Quin echoes from River Dance and overlays it onto a thunder storm and lots of paddling through water for an effective transitional track.

“The Secret Language of Angels” is the longest track on the album at over six minutes. Put simply the track encapsultes the whole albums essence in one track. From its hymn’s humming in the opening, slowly chant on chant, instrument on instrument build up layer on layer as you continue to rise to achieve a euphoric state of being. This song alone is worth the albums price and is along with a few other tracks on the album, competing for song of the year easily!

The CD album ends with “A Kingdom Now Forgotten” which is an aural treat almost like you’ve now reached your resting place and can now drift into the ether. It’s the most spiritual track with distant church bells and gentle sweeping choral melodies in the background.

If you have ordered the CD you’ll get two additional tracks in MP3 format however. “The Lost Star of Menelik” is a very Asian sounding track with a constant low sitaresque hum swirling around with Lisa freely singing over the top of it. It’s quite a spacious track that could pass as a morning raga perhaps and is very relaxing to listen to. The second track is “Let the Children Play” which sounds almost like its from a different album and session altogether with piano and samples guitar and sound loops of children as background noise. It’s a great little track and I wonder if maybe its actually from the Gaza project instead of Departum as there’s electronic synths running through the song too. However its melody is lushious and rewarding and the song structures great.

Quite frankly, when I heard The Black Opal, my review stated this was the album I’d been waiting from Lisa for years… I was wrong. “Departum” tops that album for me and is utterly mesmorising from start to finish. There is something about teamming up Lisa’s voice with world music that is built to explode for a finale and this album has worked that out a treat. Marcello has breathed new life into everything and now this is firm favourite to go head to head with Ark for my album of the year (and thus one of the best of the last 10!) Buy, buy, buy!

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