What does Lisa Gerrard and Marcello De Francisci does like?
A melting pop of otherworldly vocals, contemporary classical themes and exotic instrumentation.
The review of Lisa Gerrard and Marcello De Francisci – Exaudia
Having collaborated for a decade, the multi-instrumental composer Lisa and Argentine producer Marcello have embarked on a new chapter of work with “Exaudia”. It is a mixture of cinematic orchestral landscapes, deep delves into exotica and Arabian motifs all beautifully and emotionally topped off by Lisa’s once-in-a-generation vocal. It is musically diverse and difficult to categorise but that’s what makes it a compelling album to listen to.
The opening track is an evocative mix of pounding primal drums, brooding brass and sci-fi synth bass lines. It starts off with a slightly ominous tone but as Lisa’s vocals join the track, it’s as if the ray of light is Lisa’s voice itself. The song feels like a stage setter as it parades around many themes and styles we’ll then visit across the next six tracks whilst being its own unique voice too. “Until We Meet Again” is almost exotica pop and one of Gerrard’s most accessible pieces to date. It has a striding beat that’s underpinning a twinkling cascade of jangling guitars, keyboards and harplike zithers. Vocally, its also one of Lisa’s most restrained as she takes a soothing backup role to the power of the rhythmic shimmer that the piece provides.
The title track is a fascinating centrepiece. It has a lavish sheen to it, like most of the album has, but here it is really physical. The track simmers away using Lisa’s vocals as a distant siren collective. The Middle Eastern flair of the vocals and instrumentation quickly takes shape in a power punch of orchestral stabs that build tension and melody. This builds to an almighty climax where cinematic drums, brass swells and Lisa’s powerful voice command your ears in a display of power and opulence. Sometimes, music that is designed to sound grande and awe-inspiring can tilt over the edge to give a slightly sinister edge to it. National anthems do this to instil glory, might and fear. There is currently a version of “What a Wonderful World” being used for an advert for NEOM which I feel crosses this boundary too. It’s that very nuanced balance of might, scale, and overwhelming fear that “Exaudia” nails and it sends shivers down my spine at the climax. “Fallen” follows a similar vibe but in a more cinematic and mystical way. The Middle Eastern influence in the instrumental hooks alongside the ebb and flow of the energy of the track makes this another standout.
Totally switching gears, a beautiful acoustic guitar and a distant skipping beat lead the dreamy “Stories of Love, Triumph & Misfortunes”. There’s a lot of digital manipulation of Lisa’s voice as she is drenched in reverb, along with the percussion, to give a lullaby edge to the piece. “Stay With Me” turns towards more familiar territory for Lisa’s music. Initially, synth orchestrated with pitter-patter acoustics filling out the mix. The track has a warm and sensual first half before erupting into a hazy vocal outro with all the percussion crystal clear and loudest in the mix. A choir ensemble joins in the brass lead as fits of tom drums march around the melody. Again, it sounds physical and with the unusual percussion front production, the huge changes in volume are a staple trademark across the album. “Exaudia Reprise” closes out the album with a reworked alternative version of the title piece.
“Exaudia” is another magical entry into the catalogue of Lisa Gerrard and Marcello De Francisci’s respective catalogues. Both continue to bring out interesting elements of each other and no single project retreats old ground. Whilst I’m sure some will be aghast as vocal manipulation being used on Lisa’s voice, and others may be startled at the use of volume to create visceral peaks in the music, the album is chock full of ideas and expressions. “Exaudia” is lavish, opulent and brimming with a feminine poetic nature that balances sensuality and power. It also is one of the most accessible releases featuring Lisa Gerrard’s talents too. If you’ve ever been on the fence, here’s a safer place to start your journey.
Recommended track: Exaudia
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