The Village Orchestra: Et In Arcadia Ego (Highpoint Lowlife, 2005)

by Brent

The Village Orchestra Et In Arcadia EgoHot on the heels of their contribution to the highly regarded compilation Some Paths Lead Back Again, The Village Orchestra has just released their own full-length CD of atmospheric, dreamy electronic music. Entitled Et In Arcadia Ego, The Village Orchestra’s debut full-length contains 9 tracks of otherworldly ambient instrumental compositions. The Village Orchestra is actually the recording moniker of Ruaridh Law, one-third of the Scottish electronic artists The Marcia Blaine School for Girls, and on Et In Arcadia Ego, Law takes all of the artistic liberties one would expect from a solitary approach to writing and recording music. The music on this chilling disc sounds eerily isolated, yet warm, as if the music was inspired while standing alone in a lush valley watching the gentle breeze sway the unending grasses. Indeed, this image, conjured up by the often dense yet serene music, is mimicked in the artwork of Et In Arcadia Ego, with its pictures of forests and valleys.

It’s hard not to describe the songs on Et In Arcadia Ego without such references to serenity and semi-consciousness, especially when the CD opens with a song like “COSHH”. It begins with a slightly piercing drone, and only the fully trained ear would be able to determine whether the high pitched sound, which vibrates and rings in the ear fascinatingly, is made by a guitar or keyboard. A subtle under-girding rumble of a sound fades into the mix. Almost imperceptibly, yet rapidly, the song expands into a Windy and Carl-sounding full rush of gorgeous sound. “COSHH” is wonderful introduction to the CD, and what follows is another highlight. “Jacob/Bad Hand At Cards v2” is a much more dense in production (but equally hypnotic) compared to “COSHH”. The track features a myriad of beats set under pulsating keyboards and bloops, and ends in a short postlude of moaning keys and lyric-less vocals (so, I guess there are vocals on this CD, but no lyrics…only the occasional background singing that is used as another instrument, rather than the main feature of the compositions). “Dawn” begins with static-like glitches infiltrating the listener’s headspace, and only diminishes subtly as the intertwining electronic melody fights to take over. “Bryan’s Tricky ‘Do You Like the Drummer?’ Question” features a simple but undeniable melody, played by broken and distorted keyboards, before launching into another tripping beat. The sounds The Village Orchestra uses, such as the bi-aural assault of whooshing percussive noises at the end of the track are often mind-boggling, yet perfect in how they are used to support the music.

“All The Little Lights Going Out” is an 8 minute long song that is one of the most fully realized pieces on the CD, meaning, I suppose, that the song is the most conventional in terms of its usage of melody, fuller arrangements, and sense of flow. That does not mean that the song is not interesting or inventive, though, as Law incorporates layers and layers of weird and wonderful sounds to play his ultimately soothing melodies. The song ends in a delicate drone, supported by buzz-saw like effected vocals that are quietly mixed into the music. The music-box sounds of “Love Theme From ‘Two Man Rumble’” introduce this track, while undulating and intertwining keyboard parts are patiently introduced. The gentility of the music is upset slightly by a quaking beat that adds a tension and darkness to the otherwise breezy music. As the beat subsides, new melodies are played more slowly and deliberately by The Village Orchestra, and the song eventually runs its course by fading away delicately. “Sunken” sounds like a soundtrack to viewing the quiet remains of a shipwreck, as downcast droning keyboards float slowly while distant clouds of atmospheric strings watch on. The song builds in intensity as a windstorm of dense feedback and noise threaten to overtake the listener. “Many Rooms In My Father’s House” is another fully realized and dense composition, featuring even monk like chanting as well as sophisticated beats. Finally, the 9 minute and largely experimental track “In Arcadia” ends off the CD. Featuring faux accordion and violin sounds, warbling beats that sound like bubbling water, and other strange oddities fill this track, and yet they flow so effortlessly, leading the listener to a satisfying and mysterious end to the experience of Et In Arcadia Ego.

The Village Orchestra has been able to capture a sense of the unknown on Et In Arcadia Ego, which is no small feat given the nature of electronic music. To be able to convey a sense of organic wonder using cold lifeless technology is something that cannot be overlooked as a fluke for The Village Orchestra, because on Et In Arcadia Ego Law does it again and again. Another fine release from the The Marcia Blaine School for Girls collective, Et In Arcadia Ego will please fans of ambient music, electronic-experimental music, and atmospheric music in general.

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