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: dis​cogs​.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)