Normally, I avoid this type of CD but am also a sucker for a good orchestrated concept LP. The group here is actually two brothers, Helmut and Franz Vonlichten, and their ensemble name is cryptic: "E.S." refers to "Experimental Sounds" and "Posthumus" means "all things past ". Cartographer is their second CD. The first, Unearthed, sold so well that it became CD Baby's 3rd biggest seller before going into mainstream distribution.
This is a 2-CD set, the first with Luna Sans singing, the second a remix of all the first disc's songs, but with choirs and instruments substituting for her (with a number of emphatic shifts), plus a couple of extra tracks. Perhaps the best way to identify it would be to imagine Enya having co-written, co-arranged, and co-produced Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds with him, minus all the rock instruments. I loved War, and this has a lot of the same qualities: taste and restraint, gorgeously lush environments, threnody, importation of modern modes and devices, etc., but is also almost completely devoid of highs save for the occasional symphonic weeps
Luna Sans has a Karen Carpenter register but Carpenter was rarely this moody (she could never get that Pepsodent smile out of her voice), and the proliferate strings are romantic as hell, Impressionistic, environmental. A few lead instruments are discreetly phased in and out but the general tone is of a good Merchant Ivory film (and that may well be an oxymoron). Sans sings in Italian, so unless you're a paisan, forget the story line. The remix disc adds more blood and pulse but remains silky smooth. It's sufficiently augmented to merit the re-listen. In fact, I suspect many will like it as much or more than the Luna Sans version. The Vonlichten Bros' very impressive talent lies in an extremely judicious arrangement process where nothing crowds out anything else, there's plenty of ebb and flow, the descriptive powers of the pieces are strong, and only a very short listen informs the audient why E.S. Posthumus is in demand to score movies and such. For the progheads out there, think Sebastian Hardy, the Peter Meyer Group, laid-back Alan Parsons with Andrew Powell, a tranquilized Trans-Siberian Orchestra, that sort of thing…then you can luxuriate with the rest of us.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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