THE BLACKHEART ORCHESTRA: MESMERANTO
CD / DL
Available 11th October
It might seem a little naff to tag The Blackheart Orchestra’s Mesmeranto album as ‘mesmerising’ but if truth be told, it wouldn’t be an injustice. To put it in simpler terms, the Manchester-ish duo turn out their best album.
Although don’t be fooled by the usual image of Chrissy Mostyn on the sleeve. She may be the face (and the voice) of The Blackheart Orchestra but in Rick Pilkington has very much an equal role in terms of the musical partnership.
Mesmeranto finds the duo at their peak with a set of songs that explore themes of Chrissy’s personal journeys and experiences. It’s a plot that takes up the theme of life and how we fear, cherish and cling to it. Inevitably we lose our grip and need to prepare for the end. Fear, anger, loss, grief and joy are all part and parcel of an intense and often life-affirming passage. Steven Wilson may have called his last work To The Bone, but if you want something that’s genuinely profound and evocative, Mesmeranto delivers a roller coaster of a route towards Another Lifetime which builds slowly into a string-laden awakening into whatever comes next.
We’ve written enough about them in the past and been successful in generally managing to avoid mentioning Kate Bush. However, having just done it, we may have to bow to the inevitable and liken a couple of moments – the “oh God you said this wouldn’t hurt” line in Back To Earth and the exquisite gossamer vocal on the opening Ennikur that wouldn’t be out of place on Hounds Of Love. Having finally done the inevitable, we can settle down to extolling the virtues of this glorious album. Ennikur is a genuinely moving piece of music and could easily be the best piece they’ve written. A haunting ambience underlies the “carry you home” / “the weight of growing old” / “falling like stars” lyric is both a beautiful but emotionally taxing listen. A classic example of music that evokes an emotional response – overwhelmingly so.
So how to follow that? There’s plenty of hope and affirmation in the sequencer led and anthemic chorus of I Am and the relationship testing, Abba-esque Try and the switchback continues with an outpouring of anger in the charging synth pop of Drown Me Out. However, we’re taken back to the core with the fragility and desperation of Back To Earth and the self-doubt that emerges in Never Do, Do I and the heartbreak of separation in Violet. Songs where a musical ‘less is more’ approach provides a devastating garnish. They may have an orchestra at their fingertips, but the most insightful pieces are the ones where they play just enough. A demanding listen at times, especially considering the very personal expression in the songs.
You may spot some recurrences that suggest the thread runs deep. The wolves in Wolves make a return in Back To Earth which in turn contributes a “falling back to Earth” line to You And I. It’s like the old days when we’d delve and dig deep into the lyrics to search out ‘the’ meaning or relate to our own experience.
Songs of doubt and optimism, of frailty and strength, blend with a sonic accompaniment and a quality production that’s both rich and fragile. Mesmeranto immerses us in a life-enhancing listening event.
Here’s the first glimpse of the album – Left To Right: