This is how you make a travel album
As my go to hang drum player, I’ve been slowly catching up on some of Manu Delago’s back catalogue having only joined on his musical journey since the amazing Metromonk album. This year he took an ambitious project where he and a small handful of musicians decided to tackle climbing the Alps, stopping at various points to create and play music as they go. The result is a wonderful album and also a 30-minute documentary film which is available separately.
The album itself is 31 minutes long and has the percussive hands of Delago front and centre, but also sounds of the Alps itself interwoven with brass and wind instruments to create a slightly jazzy, slightly Tibetan and slightly otherworldly instrumental troupe. Opening the album are the amazingly seductive and uplifting “Parasol Woods” and “Alpine Brook”. It has a great melody and poise to it as the brass and drums interact with each other to create pace and anticipation for a battle or in this case an uphill struggle. The water recordings give you an audible projection of the journey beginning as do the wildlife noises. The noise the Alps gives the album will change over time as when he hit “North Cluster”, its all about crunching snow, ice slips and the chill they bring alongside some absolutely gorgeous woodwind instrumentation. It feels like a wonderful collaboration of Nordic roots and Asian winds to give a very unique feel to things. “Ride View” turns our attention to the mountain winds they rumble throughout the recording like a deep ASMR blowing video. It sounds tiresome and weary and the instruments channel that onward plod and the battle of the elements perfectly alongside the sheer beauty and danger of where they tread. The album is storytelling perfection.
Having survived that windy journey “Lake Serenade” is an eerie snake charmer of a track that blends wind and harmonium organ instruments together to create a track that feels like a wintery mirage. It’s a short but charming piece that moves effortlessly into “Listening Glacier” which plays with so much audio trickery you’ll be left guessing what you’ve actually heard. What I guess is a mixture of tin whistles and radio frequency tunings merge with strings and woodwind instruments… and huskie dog barks. Underneath the main eerie lamenting cry of the melody is a collection of background noises. It’s a very expressive and haunting piece that feels very lonely and perhaps a statement on how glaciers are melting away into ghosts themselves. After the quieter and more internally gazing middle four tracks “Parasol Peak” returns us back to the opening theme’s dynamic and uplifting moments with strong melodies and troupe efforts. It’s like a mini gipsy symphony and I love the instrument collection and how they all fit together, underscored with the noise of the mountains around them. The big finale is saved for “Base Camp” which sounds like a live recording of a Final Fantasy XI tune at times with its mildly Arabian twists to its brass arrangements and battle like cries in its chords and percussive rolls. It means the album climaxes with a huge bang rather than something reflective as we’ve reached home again.
Manu Delago and his travelling troupe have created a wonderful piece of art and music with this live travel music expedition. I have literally one quibble. I want more! At just over 31 minutes, I could have easily had another three or four tracks exploring other themes or thoughts they had. I haven’t personally watched the film that you can buy separately from the album, but when I do I’ll review it separately. This album works as a standalone album regardless and anyone looking for something relaxing, melodic and contemplative – or for a classical/folk crossover album – is will be right up your street. Superb.
Favourite track: Parasol Woods
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