In the Nursery

The Passion of Joan of Arc

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The 2008 entry in In the Nursery's Optical Music Series continues the Humberstone brothers' focus on dramatic electronic/classical scores for silent movies, choosing a famed 1928 production -- Carl Dreyer's depiction of the trial and death of the French national heroine -- for their efforts. While In the Nursery has long worked with themes in the mystical and spiritual realm over the decades, in some ways this is the most direct effort they have done yet, a completely opposite focus from the short day-in-the-life films that they soundtracked in Electric Edwardians. The use of certain sonic touches, particularly ringing bells at the album's conclusion "Dove of Fire," honors the medieval setting, but the general sonic approach otherwise, if very familiar to longtime listeners, has the same grace and elegance that the Humberstones have demonstrated for some time. The slow strings and soft hook of "To Tell the Truth" helps set the initial stage for the unfolding "passion," a mood conveyed most often over the soundtrack via similarly low, mesmerizing tones and steadily paced melodies. The forlorn wind howls and distanced percussion on "Lost Soul" might be the soundtrack's blackest moment, making its shift into the similarly wandering-the-wasteland sound of "Condemned" that much more powerful, a sense of hopelessness conveyed through the ruined beauty of a woodwind against a shimmering, metallic background. "The Last Sacraments," the penultimate song, feels almost like the true climax, with choral voices and a processional feeling as both film and album hit their emotional high point.

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