When Esmerine surfaced with La Lechuza in 2011, the album signalled many things: the band's first new recordings in six years, an expanded line-up, and a song cycle inspired by and dedicated to the life and untimely death of a dear friend and fellow musician. What wasn't immediately clear was whether this acclaimed record would mark the opening of a new chapter for the band, or stand alone as a singular work of eulogy and homage driven by emotion and circumstance.
Esmerine's new album Dalmak emphatically confirms that the group has indeed continued writing, exploring and collaborating - definitively extending its horizons in this new iteration of the band's trajectory. Bruce Cawdron (marimba) resigned from his seat as drummer for Godspeed You! Black Emperor in 2012, allowing him to focus more fully on Esmerine alongside co-founder and cellist Rebecca Foon (Silver Mt. Zion, Set Fire To Flames); the two principals also recruited percussionist Jamie Thompson (Unicorns, Islands) and multi-instrumentalist Brian Sanderson as full-time members to solidify the group as a writing and performing quartet.
European tours in 2011-2012 brought Esmerine to Istanbul, where the group's enthusiastic reception led to an invitation for an artist residency in the city. Dalmak is the fruit of that visit: the majority of the album was recorded in Istanbul, where the band's four Canadian musicians were joined by an equal number of Turkish guest players: Hakan Vreskala, Baran Aşık, Ali Kazim Akdağ, James Hakan Dedeoğlu on various instruments.
Dalmak is a Turkish verb with many connotations: to contemplate, to be absorbed in, to dive into, to bathe in, to rush into, to plummet. As a title for Esmerine's new album, "dalmak" refers in a literal sense to immersion in the culture and music of Istanbul but also appropriately evokes the range of music that emerged from this immersion: a collection of songs that shift between meditative pulsing and enveloping restraint to headlong flights into rhythm and groove. With Dalmak, Esmerine presents some of its most richly minimal and intimate music alongside what is surely its most explosive, energized and ornate. The album is a tour-de-force of cross-cultural music-making, emotive but unsentimental, deeply textured and detailed but never precious, superbly guided throughout by a balance of DIY rock, new folk and modern classical/contemporary sensibilities.
With initial recording by Barkin Engin and Metin Bozkurt in Istanbul, Esmerine laid down the live bed tracks for the up-tempo rhythmic songs at the album's core: "Lost River Blues", "Barn Board Fire" and "Translator's Clos". Marimba, cello, drums, tenor banjo, bass and trumpet are joined by bendir, darbuka, erbane, meh, barama, saz and electric guitar from the local players for these centerpiece tracks, where extended melodic themes are passed around and woven through staccato grooves and polyrhythmic vamps in deeply satisfying fashion. The sessions continued back in Montréal at Breakglass Studio, where Cawdron and Foon tracked the more studied cello and marimba songs "Learning To Crawl" and "White Pine", and where the album's gorgeously saturated warmth, depth and pulsing grit was achieved courtesy of Breakglass head engineer Jace Lasek (Wolf Parade, The Besnard Lakes, Suuns) and Ian Ilavsky, who mixed the album alongside Beckie and Bruce.
Thanks for listening.
1. Learning To Crawl
2. Lost River Blues I
3. Lost River Blues II
4. Barn Board Fire
5. Hayale Dalmak
6. Translator’s Clos I
7. Translator’s Clos II
8. White Pine
9. Yavri Yavri
Running time: 00:42:16
LP is pressed on 180 gram virgin vinyl at Optimal (Germany) and comes in a heavyweight jacket with black poly-lined audiophile dust sleeve, credit insert, pull-out art poster and download code for 320 kbps MP3 copy of the album.
CD comes in a custom gatefold jacket printed on thick 24pt. paperboard with a printed CD dust sleeve.
Hakan Vreskala: bendir, darbuka, erbane, voice (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9)
Baran Aşık: mey (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9)
Ali Kazim Akdağ: bağlama, saz (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9)
James Hakan Dedeoğlu: electric guitar (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9)
Sarah Neufeld: violin (tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9)
Aaron Lumley: contrabass (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7)
Recorded by Barkin Engin + Metin Bozkurt at Tercüman Çıkmazı, Istanbul and by Jace Lasek + James Benjamin at Breakglass, Montreal in autumn 2012. Mixed by Jace Lasek, Ian Ilavsky + Esmerine at Breakglass.
Mastered by Ryan Morey.
Front/back cover photos by Aylin Gungor.