Photo: Osha Cawdron
Esmerine was co-founded by percussionist Bruce Cawdron (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and cellist Rebecca Foon (Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Saltland) in 2001, soon after the two met while recording the first Set Fire To Flames album Signs Reign Rebuilder.
Esmerine released two critically-acclaimed albums of minimalist, expressive modern chamber music in the first half of that decade on their own Madrona Records imprint: If Only A Sweet Surrender To The Nights To Come Be True (2003) and Aurora (2005). These albums had one foot in the new music/experimental terrain of contemporaries like Rachel's or Town And Country, and the other in a more visceral and lyrical instrumental landscape, as cultivated by the likes of The Dirty Three (and Godspeed themselves).
Foon parted ways with Silver Mt. Zion in 2008, Cawdron returned to the GY!BE drum chair for a couple of years (when Godspeed reunited in 2010 following a long hiatus) and Esmerine began charting a course of renewed activity and an intentionally collaborative agenda through this period, in the spirit of the annual Montréal concerts that the duo hosted throughout the 2000s, which featured diverse arrays of invited guest players.
The group have released four albums to date on Constellation: La Lechuza (2011), Dalmak (2013), Lost Voices (2015), and Mechanics Of Dominion (2017) - each grounded in a specific set of collaborations that expanded the band's sonic and stylistic palette, while remaining anchored by Cawdron's mallet playing and Foon's expressive cello. Most recently, Esmerine has solidified into a core quintet, with Cawdron and Foon joined by percussionist Alden Roberge (Ian Tamblyn), multi-instrumentalist Brian Sanderson, and bassist Phillippe Charbonneau (Scattered Clouds).
Dalmak won the Juno Award for Instrumental Album Of The Year (2014) among other accolades, and the group released their follow-up (and third record for Constellation) Lost Voices in October 2015, once again nominated for Juno's Instrumental Album of the Year award. Lost Voices featured extensive collaboration with Montreal's award-winning Clyde Henry Productions on the album's artwork packaging (itself also winning a Juno), and the stunning stop-motion animation video for opening track "The Neighbourhoods Rise".
On Esmerine's fourth album on Constellation, Mechanics Of Dominion, the band collaborated with celebrated Montreal visual artist Jean-Sebastien Denis, who beautifully echoed the album's compositional balance of abstraction, tension and emotional colourations. This album also featured collaborations with two videographers: Brad Todd and cinematographer Geoffrey Boulangé, who each created multiple narrative videos for the band's richly textured music.
Esmerine's fifth album on Constellation – and seventh overall – was announced in early May 2022, and is slated for release in September 2022. Entitled Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More, the album is the final piece in the band's triptych exploration of what living through the anthropocene means. Lost Voices explores what is being 'lost': languages, cultures, species and ecosystems. Mechanics Of Dominion continues this process by examining our species' hubris of exploitation and 'dominion' over everything else for our own benefit. Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More closes this chapter with a meditation on shortsightedness and the underlying angst of what will come, now that we have crossed the rubicon of an altered climate.
19 Nov 2023 - Lascelles, QC @Magasin Général de La Pêche
29 Nov 2023 - Ottawa, ON @Shenkman Arts Centre
30 Nov 2023 - Peterborough, ON @The Theatre on King (part of LiSTEN MuCH? music series)
01 Dec 2023 - Wolfe Island, ON @Wolfe Island Hotel
02 Dec 2023 - Montréal, QC @La Sala Rossa
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