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Seamus Egan / Ivan Muela / Eleuteria

Last updated on January 21, 2020

I’m always excited and embarrassed when I get press about a legendary artist in a genre I’m not familiar with. I’m excited because what better way to get to know the genre? I’m embarrassed because shouldn’t I know the name of legendary artists in most genres? Oh well.

Seamus Egan has a resume that’s convincingly legendary and a new album that’s convincingly beautiful. Egan’s latest, Early Bright, is progressive Irish acoustic music; the type of work that has clear Irish folk overtones but puts them backseat to the new directions he’s charting. It’s still folk music, of a variety; fans of Balmorhea and other acoustic post-rock bands will find themselves cheering throughout. There aren’t any clunkers on here–this is high-level work from an artist who knows where he is going. From the rousing to the delicate, this album is a fun one to listen to.

Highlights include the statement-of-purpose “6 then 5,” the mellifluous “Everything Always Was,” the adventurous “Simon Nally Hunt the Buck,” and the near-ambient title track.

Speaking of ambient, I spent a lot of time listening to ambient in 2019. One of the albums that I listened to but didn’t manage to sneak in under the wire was Ivan Muela‘s How Much Left GoneMuch ambient music tends to be ethereal, floating, wispy, delicate music; Muela’s is instead very earthy and grounded. It’s built out of found sounds and loping melodies, which makes everything feel heartily more real than ambient music usually is.

The subtle clinking and clanking noises in the background of “Oak Forest” remind me of the noise of workers’ docks by the ocean and thus give a nautical feel to the subtly-pulsing synth clouds; “Expecting (at least)” has a similar vibe but with bell-like sounds that remind me of buoys in the midst of highly minimalist work. The near-cello of “triumphantly bewildered” contrasts with a skittering, percussion-esque sound, creating a propulsive tension that yet resists the feel of electronic music. “A shiver through the” is a bit too earthy for my taste, as its exploration of tape hiss and static is a bit much for me at times, but closer “Spine” splits the difference between the earthly concerns and the traditional ethereal ambient vibes beautifully. Ultimately, it’s a satisfying collection of (mostly) long ambient pieces with a strong perspective.

As I continue to venture farther afield from the folk-pop that I spent so many years loving (and loving without regrets, I should add), I get more and more and excited for strange concepts, weird fancies, and generally odd ideas. “Rework three classical pieces with only cello, piano, and wordless voice” definitely counts as a strange concept, but lo if it doesn’t work in Eleuteria‘s In My Chest. 

These four tunes are stripped down to their barest of bones and then gifted with a sometimes-elegant (“Gnossienne No. 1), sometimes-aggressive (“Theme from Symphony No. 7”) vocal performance. The one original in this quartet is the title track, which leans on pizzicato plucking, distant bowed notes, and hummed/sung notes in diverse tones. It is a ghostly, diffuse track. Closer “Cello Sonata in E Minor (Largo, Allegro)” is an adventurous piece, interwining the vocals and cello deftly.

This is an unusual, experimental, fascinating EP, and I look forward to more from Eleuteria. The EP drops January 22 on Lady Blunt Records. —Stephen Carradini