The deep timbre of the plucked notes of an upright bass stand in beautiful and stark contrast to the mystifying call of Swedish vocalist Lisa Isaksson on ‘Horse Heart’, the opening track of this compelling debut.
Lüüp, the brainchild of flautist Stelios Romaliadis, is essentially a work of opposites: at times dark and archaic, at others light and melodic it is a mysterious and introspective concoction combining the talents of some 19 musicians including Greg Haines, Andria Degens and David Jackson (Van Der Graaf Generator/Peter Gabriel). Employing these talents over eight tracks and through collaboration via different couplings of these artists, Meadow Rituals prides itself on a sound that is drawn from a whole range of genres, continents and epochs.
As its title may imply, this is an album which places nature at its core, and the abiding themes throughout draw upon the relationship between man and his natural surroundings and as such; the album is an examination of man’s primitive nature.
Stirring string arrangements form the backbone of the majority of tracks, while harp and flute lend a lighter air to the dark moods the cello and violin often connote. ‘Taurokathapsia’ is full of fierce, scrapping strings contrasted with fluttering trills from Romaliadis, while ‘Roots Growth’ intersperses minimal noise art with bassoon, oboe and sax and breathy, barely-there violin to create almost a hybrid between prog-rock and world musical influences. ‘See You in Me’ layers a paean incantation “you are the river/mountains/sky/sea” over sparse ambient electronica and similarly unobtrusive Nordic folk touches. While album closer ‘Northern Lights’, penned and performed by Romaliadis, is coast call; all dual floating flutes on a musical palette of greys and blues.
Although Isaksson’s lyrics appear sparingly there is something hypnotising about her tone which feels wholly organic and pure; thus perfectly complimenting the theme and natural core Romaliadis wished to express here. And while the words do in place feel a little too pointed as on ‘See You in Me’, there is a feel throughout the album of a session of musicians conjuring up the elements, the airy flutes light as a dusky wind, and the often jarring strings mirroring the dread of the impending dark of night. It’s an album of many moods, and an intriguing tapestry of artists and instrumentation.