Bel Canto

Shimmering, Warm & Bright

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    9
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AllMusic Review by

Jenssen left before the recording of Shimmering to pursue his solo career as Biosphere; arguably he took some of the harder and darker edges of Bel Canto with him, but by no means all, and the band was not crippled as a result. The duo of Drecker and Johansen here create another bewitching array of songs with sources young and old, resulting in another exquisite fusion of modern technology with haunting touches from the past. The two strongest songs open and close the album respectively. "Unicorn," embracing low-key techno á la Ultramarine, but still dressed with the sparkling keyboards and lush orchestrations of previous releases, is perfectly lovely. Drecker's delivery infuses the almost fairy-tale lyric to lovely heights, building to an evocative conclusion. Even more soul-stirring is "Mornixuur," a slow growing ballad that eventually sweeps to an awesome climax, with Drecker in excelsis with the music. The remainder of the songs generally achieve the same quality of previous albums, though there's a more organic flow here and a touch less of the dramatic feel throughout. Drecker's voice is in utterly excellent form consistently, and if sometimes she sings lyrics that don't read that well on the page -- "Waking Will" almost ends up like a psychoanalytic diagnosis on dreams -- her vocals make everything sound perfectly bewitching nonetheless. The title track is an especially strong number, with another fairy-tale narrative supported by one of the most explicitly folky arrangements that Bel Canto has ever done. Mandolin and other acoustic instruments mix with both real and machine percussion sounds along with shades of post-punk Cure/Cocteau Twins guitar. Other standouts include "Spiderdust," a quietly intense tale of voodoo and passion, and the French-language "Le Temps Degage."

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