Review: The Pneumatic Consort – Grotto Grove and Shrine (2007)


artist: The Pneumatic Consort
release: Grotto Grove and Shrine
format: CD-R
year of release: 2007
label: Larkfall
duration: 55:25

detailed info: discogs.com

The Pneumatic Consort is one of the side projects of Xenis Emputae Travelling Band‘s Phil Legard, and it represents the calm side of his acoustic music, based entirely on wind instruments and vocals. This is the second release after the split with Johann Wlight, and it’s again released on Phil’s own Larkfall label, with the characteristic fitting artwork scheme.

Grotto Grove and Shrine starts with the first two instalments of the “Field Prayer” series, soft serene pieces on flute and recorder, with gentle harmonium backing. Typical of the style of this project, we hear very minimal, slowly developing melodies, that seem more influenced by contemporary classical music and Phil’s own esoteric musical explorations than by folk or more romantic classical music.

Occasionally, changes of style occur on the album, such as in “Astral Bell”, a louder piece consisting of layered bagpipes. A vocal piece like “IAO” (which indeed explores these vowel sounds in repeating melodic patterns) is also a nice variation. “The Projection of Breath” and the title track also deserve mention, where the soft flute sounds are blended with field recordings of thunder and wind – I assume recorded live in the outdoors. It would fit the project and Phil’s style; always searching for the mystical in nature.

There are some downsides to this album as well, though. I think the performance leaves a bit to be desired in some places, perhaps partly due to the improvised nature of the music. The production might have had a bit more punch as well. Like this it’s all quite still in many places, forcing you to crank up the volume to be able to immerse yourself in the sound. All in all, I find the music itself to be a bit less gripping than XETB.

All the same, this is an enjoyable album when you take the time for it, and can appreciate listening to subtly developing unorthodox melodies in an almost ambient setting. Perhaps not the first Larkfall release I’d recommend to anyone, but a nice addition to your collection if you liked the earlier release, and Phil’s unique musical approach in general.

Reviewed by O.S.

Tracklist:

1. Field Prayer I (7:33)
2. Field Prayer II (2:31)
3. Astral Bell (5:03)
4. Hocroel (3:18)
5. The Projection of Breath (5:20)
6. Field Prayer III (2:38)
7. Nameless Stream (4:24)
8. IAO (5:03)
9. Sibyllia (1:24)
10. Grotto Grove and Shrine (11:40)
11. The Liminal Messenger (6:31)

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