What does Snowdrops sound like?
French chamber collective of piano, strings, synths and ondes Martenot.
The review of Snowdrops – Missing Island
On their third album, French chamber collective Snowdrops brings an earthier tone to their textured classical musings. Alongside the beautiful piano, violin and the waxing and waning emotions of the ondes Martenot, Christine Ott brings a hand-pump organ into the mix. This gives ‘Missing Island’ another dimension and depth to what is an already impressive skillset.
The organ is placed centrally in the mix for the opening track ‘Retour a la terre’ which signals a newer, more expansive sound for Snowdrops. The track wanders into folk territory with the plucked strings and rustic piano alongside the organ. It’s a lovely opener but this is an album that refuses to stay in a certain genre of sound. ‘Firebirds’ is a stunningly beautiful and lavish contemporary classical piece. The cascades of piano give gravitas to the sliding string and ondes as they dual and duel with each other to provide lilting emotions. The track is lively and colourful with an otherworldly quality to it that you just won’t find elsewhere. This is down in part to the unique instrumentation but it’s mostly down to the craft of Christine, Mathieu and Anne-Irene. Their ability to riff off of each other is difficult to fake.
Mathieu Gabry takes centre stage for the epic ‘Land of waves’. This is a deeply rhythmic synth wave that vibrates your very bones. Gabry then slowly transitions away from that deep bass pattern into rumbling piano whilst Anne-Irene’s violin shakes and shimmers like the crest of the wave. It’s something you’d expect to hear from a modular synth artist, not a chamber trio. You never know where the experimentation will take Snowdrops next and that’s why each album is exciting to unravel.
The second half of the album is more introverted than the first. ‘Nostalgia de la Luz’ is a piece that revels in the space between resonant piano notes. It is perhaps the simplest piece on the album but the melody evokes desolation and loneliness with equal beauty. ‘Radioactive breath’ meanwhile works with wind grain samples and minimal piano to create a dense atmosphere. The hand-pump organ brings a sorrowful tone to ‘Comme un souffle qui vient..’ as the synth drones and strings allow a darker, reflective side of Snowdrops to unfold. By the end of the track, the trio has whipped up suspense with all instruments quivering under the weight of the atmosphere. The drama peels away to reveal a lush angelic finale in ‘Mémoires élementaires’. The track evokes a ticking hand of a clock with the pluck of strings or a piano note. This slowly swirls into more momentum and melodies before closing out in a drowsy haze of synths as if the memories have faded.
Snowdrops effortlessly move between modern classical, sound design, modular synth, post-folk and electro-acoustic without you even realising it. The way they deftly merge ideas and themes together shows a real mind-melding of creative thinking and their compositions evoke all kinds of emotions. This isn’t an album where you’ll hear a hook and want it on repeat. It is an album crammed with feelings and minor movements that guide you towards an emotion. It’s cleverly done and deserves any contemporary classical fan’s attention.
Recommended track: Firebirds
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