The Village Orchestra: Et In Arcadia Ego
Highpoint Lowlife

Ruaridh Law, one-third of Glasgow's Marcia Blaine School For Girls, characterizes his solo project The Village Orchestra as being “like an allotment or garden shed.” It's an ideal description, considering the manner by which his compositions organically build, layer upon layer, from skeletal beginnings into billowing sonic grandeur. The title Et In Arcadia Ego is significant too, given that 'Arcadia' refers geographically to a region of ancient Greece but more pertinently a setting of pastoral simplicity and contentment (appropriately, the album's closing drone, “In Arcadia” couples natural sounds of birds and insects with swirls of rustic string plucks).

Throughout this marvelous set (Law's full-length debut, incidentally), the material hypnotically flows from placid slumber to bubbly clicking rhythms and shuddering pulsations of choral whispers and church organ themes. Every piece distinguishes itself in one way or another: sombre waves unfurl in “Sunken,” faint glimmerings of light puncture dense electronic haze (whirrs, clicks, ripples, and tears) during “Dawn,” and throbbing drum patterns warp into spasmodically mutating organisms in “Bryan's Tricky 'Do You Like The Drummer?' Question.” In “Jacob/Bad Hand at Cards v2,” shudders careen and echo before silken flutter and skipping pulses escalate into a percolating tech-house broil of steely syncopations. Best of all, though, is “All the Little Lights Going Out,” an absolute marvel of construction whose development Law engineers with finesse. Opening with sprinkles of percussive clusters and surging strings, a buoyant techno pulse comes into view, soon surrounded by staccato clatter and handclaps. Streams of glistening tones eventually push their way to the forefront until, in the piece's most sublime moment, a warm bass motif suddenly appears, piercing the hallucinatory veil to anchor the nebulous array. It's merely one stunning moment of many on this ravishing collection of symphonic splendour—sonic sculpting of the first rank.

November 2005