My introduction to Nottingham, England’s Lorna came by way of their guest appearances on two of Somewhere Cold favourite Coastal’s releases, This Ageless Night and Halfway to You. The result of this trans-Atlantic collaboration was beautifully eerie and moody music. “All Children Sail Home” (from This Ageless Night) was an odd mixture of lingering guitar and keyboard lines, field recordings, and spoken word, while the members of Lorna’s contributions to Halfway to You were more subtle (though resulting in perhaps the two best songs on the release, “Eternal” and “So Close”). So, when I heard that Lorna was set to release a full-length CD on Words on Music (the same label that released Coastal’s full-length CD’s), I was quite intrigued. For, though the collaborations with Coastal only hinted at the sound that Lorna was capable of, one thing was apparent: the members of Lorna seemed to be gifted in creating original sounding music, even in the context of a collaboration.
To say that Lorna’s new full-length release, Static Patterns and Souvenirs, showcases a gifted and talented band seems like an understatement. In what might be Words on Music’s strongest release to date (no easy feat with the stellar releases this label has had in the last three years!), Static Patterns and Souvenirs bubbles over with creativity, beauty, and musical sensitivity. With a basic musical foundation rooted in the type of pretty pop that Scottish and Scandinavian artists seem to be able to craft, Lorna incorporates a flourishing array of sounds and influences that include (but are not limited to) folk, dreampop, classical, and slowcore. While all of this may appear as if Lorna lacks focus as a band, the exact opposite is true: Static Patterns and Souvenirs is the sound of a band that is not fumbling around trying to carve its own niche. Rather, on this wonderful 11 track full-length release, Lorna portrays themselves as a confident group of artists who have a clear vision that is implemented expertly.
Static Patterns and Souvenirs features a broad collection of musical instruments, such as pedal steel, trumpet, flugel horn, harmonica, flute, French horn, viola, synths, keyboards, field recordings, and smatterings of electronica, in addition to the standard guitar, bass and drums. As a result of this wide range of sounds, Static Patterns and Souvenirs has a lush, orchestrated feel. Yet even with the at-times dense production, Lorna is always able to let their spring-like melodies shine through. For instance, the opener “Understanding Heavy Metal Parts I and II” shows the band playing strings, electronics, guitars, and warbling keys while supporting and featuring a tender melody. The song eventually blends into an extended outro, complete with subtle electronic beats, a muted trumpet, and other random noises flowing in and out of the cascading musical arrangements. With three vocalists (2 male and 1 female), Lorna is also able to support their gorgeous melodies, such as on the slow and folky “Homerun”, where male-female vocals sing delicate lines. “The Last Mosquito Fight of Summer” is a sumptuous-sounding blending of inventive percussion, delicate strings, meandering guitar lines, quirky snyth lines, and a strong vocal performance from Sharon Cohen. “Remarkable Things” sees Lorna metamorphose into a folk/Americana-influenced band, with the banjo and steel pedal dominating the musical landscape. Yet, the band never loses its pristine Euro-pop sensibilities, and somehow the blending of rootsy American sounds with English pastoral pop works sweetly.
“Swans” is relatively understated (yet deceivingly dense), as the band lets their smart arrangements and well-crafted melodies shine. Following the country-influenced “The Swimmer”, Lorna shines on the moody “Be Forever”. On this track, the Lorna that collaborated with Coastal makes it appearance, as a slow lingering guitar line, feather-brushed percussion, woodwinds, and a languid pace supports Cohen’s broken-hearted vocals. Strange keyboard sounds fade in as the song ends, giving “Be Forever” an even more magical quality. Static Patterns and Souvenirs’s strongest song may be “Snow Song”, a song (written by Aaron Jasinski) seemingly ready for ready with a classic pop melody sung with male vocals, and a simple instrumentation played sadly and elegantly. The stripped-down “Will You Love Me Yesterday” showcases the band’s ability to sing male-female harmonies, and the loungesque “He Dreams of Spaceships”, with its jazzy percussion, flute and trumpet, also demonstrates the band’s ability to blend two genres into one new ones as the band also incorporates strange keyboard effects into the music. Finally, “Illuminations”, with its slow-building multi-instrument outro, ends Static Patterns and Souvenirs with class.
Indeed, Lorna proves their mettle as a wonderfully talented band creating the sophisticated kind of music that the band members were meant to play. In fact, as I listen to the intelligent song structures and instrumentation of this CD, it’s a little hard for me to imagine music fans who are not interested in subtlety enjoying Static Patterns and Souvenirs. Yet, the band accomplishes this subtlety throughout their music with a mastery that is well beyond their own years as an active band. Though it’s early in the year still and I’m always hesitant to make bold predictions, the fact is that there will be very few releases in 2005 that could stand up against Static Patterns and Souvenirs in terms of execution, inventiveness, and sheer beauty. A wonderful collection of music that will appeal to a wide variety of music fans looking for something elegant and a little quirky. Highly recommended.For fans of: Swedish and British pop a la Club 8 or Belle and Sebastian, American Analog Set, Coastal, Low, Camera Obscura, Mazzy Star.