San Fermin – The Cormorant I (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 25:15 minutes | 276 MB | Genre: Indie Pop, Indie Rock, Chamber Pop
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © Sony Masterworks
San Fermin have today announced their new album, The Cormorant I. The follow-up to 2017’s Belong is due out October 4th on Better Company, the new Sony Music Masterworks imprint from bandleader Ellis Ludwig-Leone. Lead single “The Hunger” dropped back in June, and now a second sample has been shared in “The Living”.
Though it’s intended to work as a standalone piece, The Cormorant I also serves as the first entry in a two-album story following a pair of characters from childhood to death. This first part takes a chronological path, but the to-be-announced second record will feature a “more jagged” timeline. “As I was writing, I was thinking a lot about how memories change over time,” said Ludwig-Leone in a press release. “The stories you tell yourself and the actual events aren’t always in synch.”
Vocalist Allen Tate takes on the male role in the tale, while his female counterpart is sung by a rotating cast of contributors: violinist Claire Wellin, new member Karlie Bruce, Sarah Pedinotti of Lip Talk, and Samia Finnerty of Samia. Also joining the San Fermin collective for the records are trumpet player John Brandon, saxophonist Stephen Chen, percussionist Michael Hanf, guitarists Tyler McDiarmid and Aki Ishiguro, the Attacca Quartet, and harpist Lavinia Meijer.
The first installment of a two-part release that revolves around themes of childhood and loss of innocence, Cormorant I sees the ever-evolving Ellis Ludwig-Leone-led ensemble deliver another richly detailed set of sinister/sweet chamber pop confections. A fitting avatar for a deep dive into the unreliable nature of memory, the mercurial cormorant has been casting its shadow over art and literature for centuries, appearing in medieval heraldry as a symbol of sacrifice and serving as a vessel for Satan to spy on the nascent inhabitants of the Garden of Eden. Written in a small fishing town in Iceland where the spectral, hook-billed birds would make daily trips to the docks, the eight-track set, despite its sweeping sonic vistas and ebullient arrangements, feels downright ominous. Utilizing longtime baritone Allen Tate and a rotating cast of female vocalists that includes violinist Claire Wellin, Karlie Bruce, Sarah Pedinotti (Lip Talk), and Samia Finnerty (Samia), San Fermin has crafted a deeply felt and unwaveringly honest meditation on the passage of time. Stocked with the usual gallery of ghouls, ghosts, and mythical beasts, death is always looming over the proceedings like a massive storm front, lending the album’s more palliative moments, like the Tate-led “Cerulean Gardens,” extra hues of grey, and the otherwise luminous title cut with an undercurrent of existential dread. At just over 25 minutes, it’s tempting to wish that San Fermin had just dropped the whole thing off in a single package, but perhaps Ludwig-Leone has a narrative arc to complete, and part one is simply the preamble. Either way, it’s another compelling and reliably idiosyncratic effort from the group. ~ James Christopher Monger
01. The Cormorant
02. Cerulean Gardens
03. Hickman Creek
04. The Hunger
05. Summer by the Void
07. The Living
08. The Myth