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To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, 1697
Just over a year ago or so, my life was made much richer by the discovery of E.S. Posthumus, a "group" of two brothers, Helmut and Franz Vonlichten. The music on their first CD, "Unearthed" transcended anything I'd ever heard. Closing my eyes and listening, I was whisked away to ancient Egypt in a caravan of camels. Transported to the midst of an audience being enlightened by the likes of Aristotle and Socrates. Carried on the eastern winds to a place of sacred Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines
I learned about E.S. Posthumus after hearing "Nara", which is used as the theme for "Cold Case", a tv show I've never seen. I was flipping through channels when I heard this music that spontaneously and instantaneously mesmerized me. That rarely happens, so I immediately searched the internet to find out more about what I'd just heard. I found the E.S. Posthumus web site and was completely hypnotized by what I experienced. I had no idea who was responsible for these celestial harmonies of orchestration and voice or what the music was about (though I should have known by the sensations the music aroused in me).
And, in one of those fortuitous happenstances that had just begun to manifest so often at that point in my life, I learned that "Nara" is an ages-old Japanese city known for its Buddhist temples. This music found me at a time in my life when I first questioned the religious beliefs I'd held for so long and as I was turning more to the ancient philosophies of the far east, to meditation and the dogma of karma and non-duality. The music of "Nara" was just the beginning, though; every song, named for an ancient city, moved me in a different way. It spoke to my soul of other lives and other times. My past lives of long ago ages? I'm still unsure of how that works, but it would certainly help to explain some of the mysteries of my life.
"Unearthed" has been so much more than just a collection of 13 songs on a CD. I experienced the music on a nearly-daily basis. It has helped me to become the person I finally believe I'm supposed to be. An altruist. An idealist. A compassionist. A spiritual being. I feel the music spans time and space, and perhaps that's why it reaches so deeply into my soul, into all those selves I have been. The Buddhist philosophy teaches that the impermanence of life has each of us being reborn after death, to experience yet another life until we finally get it right...to reach Nirvana, or that state of bliss marked by the absence of negative emotions and suffering. I haven't reached Nirvana...yet. I sometimes feel very close, though, and if nothing else, my transformation has made me a happier, more accepting, compassionate person. Judging by those criteria, my next life should be a piece of cake if I don't actually reach Nirvana in this life.
When I learned that E.S. Posthumus was working on a new album, "Cartographer", I was understandably enthusiastic. Of course, I didn't think that there was any way possible that this new music could be any better than what they'd already created. How could it be? In any case, it seemed that no one knew anything about the brothers Vonlichten, or when the album would be released, or what would be on it. Searching the net turned up an enigmatic lack of information which only fanned the flames of curiosity of E.S. Posthumus' fans. Then, one day, a new link appeared on their web site. A delectable hint about music inspired by the ancient island of Numa and its civilization of seafarers. And being temporarily placated, I waited. And waited. And just when I thought I could wait no longer, I checked the site again...and the music was there! Samples, but enough of a taste to know that this music, like that which had preceded it, would be life-altering. I know how dramatic that sounds, but my new life has brought a new awareness of who I am and how my senses react to stimuli.
The E.S. Posthumus site linked to the MySpace page of Luna Sans, a talented young lady who sings the vocals on the first of the two discs of "Cartographer". I added her to my list of friends and sent her a message of appreciation for the music that would, I know, add dimension to my already blessed life. At the time I contacted her, I was unaware that the CD had been released a day or so before. On investigating whether or not I could pre-order it, I discovered that it was available, and so, was one of the first to eagerly place my order. I kicked myself for not paying the additional paltry sum for faster shipping, but as it was, the CD arrived much faster than I thought it would. We have since exchanged a few messages and comments. I know very little about her, but for some inexplicable reason, I feel a protective connection to her. I know better than to shrug off feelings of deja vu; I never ignore and rarely question the immediate sensations and emotions I experience because they give me insight into my life. Like a Buddhist koan, I may not understand the meaning, but the contemplation expands my consciousness.
Just as when I discovered "Unearthed", I've been listening to "Cartographer" nearly non-stop. And, as with "Unearthed", I will not tire of "Cartographer". In fact, the two discs have enough contrast that if one doesn't suit my mood, the other will. The first CD, with Luna Sans, is a detour from what E.S. Posthumus fans will be expecting. The music is still incredible, but Luna Sans' vocals add softness. It's smooth and comfortable. Sometimes uplifting, other times mournful. Romantic, longing, contented, subtly defiant...her voice is ineffable; with the wildly varying styles of music, she sings the vocals for each perfectly, capturing the mood I'm sure the Vonlichtens intended.
The second CD more closely resembles what fans of E.S. Posthumus have come to expect, with hard-hitting orchestration and a heraldic chorale. Once again, their music is unlike anything else, and perhaps that's where the magic lies. Perhaps that's why it speaks to me, and those like me, who know that there is real magic in the universe. It is the sound of my spirit running in overdrive...the music that sings to my soul, that reduces me to those subatomic particles so infinitesimally small that I cease to be anything but energy, and as such, I swirl in the cosmos to the tune and rhythm. I become part of the music as much as the music becomes a part of me. No other music I know has wrought the changes in me as "Unearthed" and now "Cartographer". Oraanu Pi builds to a musical climax that has me literally conducting an unseen orchestra of my own making, waving an invisible baton with the biggest, most goofy smile both on my face and in my heart. Mosane Pi...well, all I can tell you is that you'd better be hanging onto something when you get two minutes into the song. It is then that you will be teleported from the comfort of an extravagant, exotic palace to the back streets of ancient Arabia, chased by evil genies on magic carpets.
The two CDs of "Cartographer" will enhance my very being. How do you even begin to thank the artists who created the music for something that huge?
I did purchase the 'double album' that included the Luna Sans vocal tracks as a part of it. If I had my druthers, I would definitely have skipped the ones that featured Ms. Sans on them. They are the same as the ones without, just with her vocals added to them. While her voice is fine, technically, it is too "pop-ish" sounding for these pieces in my view. Much better vocal choices (if you need them at all!) would have been Azam Ali (of Vas and Niyaz) and long-time soundtrack vocalist, Lisa Gerrard (formerly of the band, Dead Can Dance). The sound is large, historical and epic. If you love great soundtracks, this is the music from the same artist that has been featured in countless films and television shows.
E. S. Posthumus is great music to listen to while commuting, working around the house or writing with it playing in the background.
Luna Sans' vocals are a surprisingly welcome addition to the project, providing a soothing texture over some brilliant orchestral and percussive production. Some listeners have criticized the use of a made-up language, however, as in the case of other musical projects such as Karl Jenkins/Adiemus, this fictional dialect enhances the listening experience, allowing the vocal line to be heard as simply another beautifully melodic instrument, intertwined amongst lush harmony, rather than a vocal line isolated from the rest of the production. For those still not fans of the invented vocals, disc 2 provides the dynamic film score and choir sounds reminiscent of the first ES Posthumus album that proved so popular when first released.
There are in my opinion 2 or 3 weak tracks on album, mostly on disc 1, but for a grand total of 28 tracks, these are few and far between, and `Cartographer' has for me been well worth the very long wait! Highly recommended for fans of Adimeus, Karl Jenkins, Hans Zimmer and Deep Forest, this is one of the most enjoyable and melodic albums I have listened to in several years.
I have been waiting for this album a long time and now that it is here I must say that I am somewhat happy but for the most part I find myself significantly underwhelmed. The first CD, featuring Luna Sans (who has a great singing voice btw) is very mellow and not at all what I was expecting. It is not terrible, it is just too floaty and does not carry enough weight on many of the songs. Another thing that hampers this first CDs impact is the 'new' language created by E.S. Posthumus that is supposed to represent what some fictional civilization used to speak. I'm sorry but on all of the songs that have good melodies on this CD I keep wanting Luna to sing in English or any real language as there were a few good melodies but having this completely unrealistic language that mostly sounded like bad Spanish or Latin hampered the experience for me.
The second CD was where I was hoping to fall back in love with E.S. Posthumus. It opens well enough, the heavy bombast of the first track had me seriously jazzed for what was to come. The second through fifth tracks continued my elation and I was beginning to think this album would go down in history as a pillar of awesomeness. Track six gave me pause as it was almost completely nondescript. Track seven is very good as well so my hopes rose again. This track is very much in the mold of 'Nara' from Unearthed. I would be seriously surprised if this track does not become the opening song to some new TV show this season. So what happens after that? The album then takes a turn for the worse as even after listening to the album multiple times I couldn't hum you the melody of the next 7 tracks. Each one is almost if not more boring than the last. I began getting very depressed about hearing the same lame combination of choir, strings, and light reeds again and again and again over the next half hour. This was not what I was expecting. Luckily the last track on the CD goes back to what I think E.S. Posthumus does best and so the CD ends on a good note. Another thing to note is that even on the great songs I feel like E.S. Posthumus is resting on their laurels a good deal. On tracks 4 and 15 which have two of the best orchestral riffs on the CD, it feels like they wrote these riffs and then called it quits as they repeat the phrase over and over without any progression. One great four measure phrase is not enough to keep fully vested in a song for five minutes.
Overall, I am seriously let down by this CD but there are about 6 absolutely awesome tracks on this set of CDs so I had to give it at least 3 stars.