Glissando: The World Without Us
If there's a strong sense of unanimity constellating around Gizeh Records' recent album releases, it's due at least in part to the direct involvement of the label's overseer Richard Knox: not only does he partner with Elly May Irving in Glissando, Knox is also a member of A-Sun Amissa (featuring Angela Chan) and The Rustle of the Stars (with FareWell Poetry's Frederic D. Oberland). In keeping with that kind of inter-group cross-pollination, Glissando's sophomore album, The World Without Us, includes contributions from Oberland, who's credited with reed organ, harmonium, bells, space echo, bowed pantophone, and electric piano on the project. And while Knox (guitar, organ, drones, field recordings, piano, voice, drums) and Irving (voice, piano) are central to the album's sound, other musicians beyond Oberland appear too, including Chan (cello, viola, violin, glockenspiel, erhu), Aaron Martin (cello, bowed banjo, bowl), and Fieldhead member Paul Elam (guitar).
Arriving four years after With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards the Burning Sea, the Leeds-based duo again serve up a haunting set of slow-motion, vocal- and-piano-based moodscapes. If the debut album's title sounds like something one would more associate with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Glissando's angst-ridden, strings-heavy sound also at times resembles the Montreal band's, if in more concise form—until Irving's voice appears, that is, to give Glissando its individuating character. So while the brooding instrumental overture “Still (I),” with its heavy emphasis on oceanic strings and piano, invites the comparison, the subsequent song “The Long Lost”—despite the sombre cello and tremolo guitar shadings—presents Glissando as an entity unto itself the moment Irving's hushed “Take my hand / I will walk with you” vocal appears.Irving's fragile voice assumes an even more ethereal, even angelic quality during the title track; in the strings-drenched meditation “Companion,” on the other hand, her singing is so plaintive a sense of desperation seems to set in. As haunting is the supplicating “Of Silence,” which receives an additional boost when Irving's vocal lines are doubled by a male voice, presumably Knox's. The World Without Us reaches its culmination in the finale, “Still (II),” whose elegiac, ten-minute journey is undertaken ever-so-patiently and consequently is all the more powerful for doing so. Though Glissando's soundworld is suitably rich and expansive, especially when filled out by the recording's many contributing musicians, identifying Irving's voice as its core element (piano, strings, and soundscaping textures close seconds) isn't a misrepresentation of its distinctive sound.