Midnight Choir

Unsung Heroine

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Having spectacularly demonstrated a new, astonishing power with their music on Amsterdam Stranded, Midnight Choir sought to continue in that vein with Unsung Heroine, which they did with flying colors. The production and engineering team of Chris Eckman and Phill Brown once again did the honors, resulting in the same understated, emotionally tender, yet still full and layered sound as on the previous record. DeLoner's music, again with piano rather than guitar as lead instrument at most points, continues its mesmerizing, haunted way through an elegant vision of old Nashville meets a very late night Las Vegas, all hamhanded clichés boiled away to result in a teary-eyed but perfectly elegant sorrow. Where guitar appears more prominently, as with "Snow in Berlin" or "Painting by Matisse," the mood remains the same, and deservedly so. Flaata's singing is all the more his own -- he could easily stand against many of his role models now, American or European -- his tone inviting, clear, and warmly human. When at its total best -- which is on practically every song -- the partnership is perfectly organic. Consider the piano/vocal start to "Where Love Resides," at once formally stately and just that subtly downcast, or the quietly astonishing title track as exquisite examples. Eckman's crack production team once again helps out -- Mark Nichols' string arrangements add a beautiful melancholy feel nearly track for track, while both Eckman and Carla Torgerson appear as well, the latter's duets with Flaata on "Empty Streets" and the epic-length "Painting by Matisse" particular highlights. An intriguing array of guest players further helps; the Talk Talk connection is cemented further by the appearance of percussionist Martin Ditcham, while noted session guitarist Robbie McIntosh, Faithless vocalists Pauline Taylor and Rachael Brown, and avant-garde Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer all take turns on this intoxicating album.

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