A world without Glissando would be a world devoid of a very special musical beauty. Elly Mae Irving and Richard Knox are Glissando, and The World Without Us is their second release for the Gizeh Records label. Between touring, and experimenting with various configurations of the band, the album took four years to record. It was worth it though, as The World Without Us is magnificent.
The term “glissando” is used to define the musical phenomenon of using “a sliding movement to create a smooth change in pitch between two notes.” In a larger sense, this concept applies to The World Without Us as well. There are two main approaches that the pair utilize. During some points we hear a very stark, minimalist solo piano; during others there are lush strings and orchestrations. In pairing these seemingly contradictory forms over the course of the disc (or individual songs even), Glissando achieves a very special sound.
Two versions of “Still” bookend for the eight songs that comprise the disc “Still (I)” is the five-minute opening instrumental, and it perfectly encapsulates the two main qualities of Glissando’s music. Like so many of the tracks, “Still (I)” presents a sparkling solo piano, which is complemented by a variety of string backgrounds. It is a marvelously appropriate opening salvo.
At times, Irving’s voice bears an uncanny resemblance to that of a young Kate Bush. I first noticed this on “The Long Lost.” The fact that her voice has some similarities to Bush’s is mentioned only to provide a fairly well-known reference point. The music of Glissando may appeal to Bush’s fans, but it is very much their own creation.
There is never any question as to the melodic power Glissando’s music contains. Solo piano-driven gems such as “The World Without Us“ and “Of Silence” might appear to be the polar opposite of the lush “Companion” or “Embers,” yet every song is driven by an uncanny knack for composition. In fact, the importance of the melody is key in understanding what makes this recording so special. While I may bet separating the styles of these songs into categories, the truth is much grayer. The music of The World Without Us knows no boundaries, and the various pieces are drawn from a vast number of sources. Just to muddy the waters a little more, during “For the Light,“ I found myself thinking of a favorite band from the legendary 4AD label, The Cocteau Twins.
The various tendencies of Glissando come together most effectively on the 10-minute closing “Still (II).” It is as if everything that came before was just a prelude to this outstanding piece of music. The song opens with the stark piano of Knox, then the dream-like voice of Irving enters. The track builds with strings and other instrumentation into an all-encompassing musical terrain of harmony and grace. I was especially drawn to the cello in the middle portion, yet it all moves with such a comfortable, yet deliberate pace that it is hard to pin down any particular “movements” for special mention.
The World Without Us is one of those rare recordings that can be listened to over and over, yet never quite get to the bottom of. I only hope that it does not take another four years for their next album, because the music Glissando has created here is something special indeed.
(The World Without Us is set for release on November 6, 2012)