If Only a Sweet Surrender to the Nights to Come Be True

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A French female name meaning quiet and sensitive, Esmerine is a fitting moniker for the overall sound of one of the many Godspeed You Black Emperor! splinter groups. Guitars have been left in their cases for If Only a Sweet Surrender to the Nights to Come be True, a sublime chamber rock album that brings Rachel's or Wim Mertens to mind. Cello, marimba, and drums supply most of sounds here, but good luck trying to figure out who does what since the liner notes are in unreadable calligraphy. The three opening tracks are serene, melancholic, and well-composed, avoiding the quiet-loud-quiet or builds-to-crescendo device. "Where There Is No Love There Is No Justice" is a surprise with drumming driving the rest of the group in the same way most rock drummers set the pace. "Sweet Surrender Be True" sounds like a team-up between the Kronos Quartet and Harold Budd, right down to the echoing in cistern piano. "Luna Park" is the only track approaching a dud: a minute and a half of what sounds like porch doors in need of a good shot of oil far in the distance. Then the excellent drumming is back for "The Marvelous Engines of Resistance," an upbeat whirling-dervish closer. Hopefully, Esmerine won't get lost in shuffle of Montreal art-rockers; their debut is a great record, hip scene or not.

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