Íon – Immaculada

Posted on March 21, 2011

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Restricted Release

1/18/11

 

Full disclosure: if there’s anything that warms my coal black heart, it’s gorgeous female lead vocals. Take a decent but disjointed album and mix in some of that silky vibrato and I practically melt like a candy bar. Ireland’s Íon seem to have my number, as their third full-length is a mishmash of styles that never quite comes together, but frontwoman Lisa Cuthbert tries her damndest to destroy any credibility I may claim as a critic with her golden pipes.

Apparently multi-instrumentalist mastermind Duncan Patterson crafted Immaculada during a period in which he travelled between Ireland (his homeland) and Greece on numerous occasions, the music and culture of both influencing his writing in equal parts. A little too equal, in fact. The album’s largest hindrance is Patterson’s tendency to segregate the two styles, so we get a wispy Prince of Persia soundtrack followed by a Celtic ballad straight out of that scene in The Wicker Man where that pagan woman gyrates nakedly in her room in an attempt to seduce the pious protagonist next door. Patterson’s instrument selections for both largely remain the same: an eclectic mix of mandolins, woodwind and modern strings.  Tracks like “Temptation” ride the Dead Can Dance vibe pretty hard, a cyclical Middle Eastern jangle coils its way around lub-dub tablas and Cuthbert’s ghostly clarion call.

Things get confusing on the one-two punch of “Invidia” and “Cetatea Cisnadioara.” Stop/start mandolin rhythms set the pace for the former as Cuthbert and a glittering flute share the mainstage, the tempo abruptly leaping to a gallop as we’re swept across an endless ocean of sand dunes under a crescent moon. It’s all epic, Arabian Nights worthy stuff until we’re hit with 10 minutes of sparse piano and wordless arias during the latter track. A lengthy ambient piece seems somewhat out of place in what is essentially the beginning of the album’s second half, but sequencing doesn’t seem to be a real concern here. This is ethereal, unpredictably assertive music for people who curiously peruse the “World” section at their local record store but can never muster the courage to bring that Enya CD to the counter.

 

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