Nov 20, 2013 Issue #48 - November/December 2013 - HAIM
San Fermin is the brainbaby of Brooklyn composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who wrote this ambitious debut record while holed up for six weeks in a studio in a Canadian mountain range. A mixture of classical composition and bombastic pop, Ludwig-Leone's suite of songs is connected with common themes and characters that manifest and recur across San Fermin's 17 tracks. It's not quite a concept record, but a record stuffed with concepts. And at its high points, it's brilliant.
Ludwig-Leone (who studied music at Yale and has assisted Nico Muhly) worked with at least 20 musicians to build the complex chamber pop arrangements that surround his resonant lyrics. Vocals are largely handled by Allen Tate (whose calm baritone is similar to The National's Matt Berninger's) and Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from Lucius. The latter get the most strenuous workout here, with tracks such as "Sonsick" and "Crueler Kind" leaping impressively across their full vocal ranges. Keeping up becomes exhausting in the final stretch of its 55 minutes, but the experience is never anything less than rewarding. (www.sanferminband.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10
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