Cartographer by E.S. Posthumus

 

 

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Cartographer by E.S. Posthumus

Also from
E.S. Posthumus

Unearthed

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cartographer by E.S. Posthumus

Cartographer
Composed by E.S. Posthumus
Wigshop Records (2007)

Rating: 8/10

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“One might expect them to have pushed the envelope with an even more aggressive stance, but, in fact, the opposite is true.  CARTOGRAPHER is a much more introspective effort, although hardly less sublime. ”

The Last Voyage of the Niva
Review by Christopher Coleman

Some 6000 years ago from a small island, Numa, which once sat off the southeast coast of the Dark Continent, a small sea-vessel set sail on its sixth and final venture to complete the Numadian mapping voyages.  Instituted by the Island's king, Oraan II, the great sailing vessel, the Niva, her crew, and their captain, Sollentus, were commissioned to sail as much of the known seas that they could within 5 years - detailing all they discovered.  Returning, after just 3 years at sea, full of new foods, animals, art, music and knowledge, the Niva and her crew found their island-home swallowed by the sea with only the top of Mount Isonova left above water.  Atop the holy mountain, stood The Great Tree of Numa.  The men of the Niva cut down the tree and took it with them as they sailed on to find a new home.  Everyman, still heartbroken, was ordered by captain Sollentus, to write their life-story and knowledge of history on sheets made from the bark of the Great Tree while they sailed all the seas they had just returned from. Most wrote stories of their lost wives and children.  Others wrote great poems, others songs, but one committed his memory to all that they had seen in their voyages to maps.  There was no record of the Niva's final voyage, her crew, or their writings...until seven years ago.  The Numadian vessel was unearthed at Islas Malvinas and to this day new discoveries are made at the dig site illuminating our knowledge of their culture and history.

I wish I could say that was the story behind E.S. POSTHUMUS' latest release, CARTOGRAPHER, but it is mostly a figment of my imagination. Except for the Numa references and the other proper names employed, it's all a bit of story from my head.  I have little doubt that this firing of imagination, albeit brief, was not so far from the intent of the duo - to get us to wonder what both the lyrics and music is saying to us.  It is almost the antithesis of traditional scoring, where the beats of the story are already set in stone and the music must follow the established lead, but for CARTOGRAPHER, instead of writing music to underscore a movie or game, the duo came up with elements of story and a language to support their music.

In 2001, this enigmatic duo, Helmut and Franz Vonlichten with their first release, UNEARTHED burst onto the film music scene...via the burgeoning industry of thematic production music. Their music was heard in an ever-growing parade of major movie trailers including: Spider-Man, Planet of the Apes, Minority Report, Curse of the Golden Flower, and The Other Boleyn Girl.  It wouldn't be until late 2007, that the young, composing siblings, would release their next full CD...actually a 2-disc release. It might be expected that their second release would be "more of the same" - the same great stuff that so many couldn't get enough of back in 2001. And who could blame them if they had done just that? On the other hand, Unearthed has since set-off a wave of would-be's and sound-a-likes, which could have made this new release a little redundant if the duo merely tramped back across the tundra they had themselves pioneered. So then just what does E.S. Posthumus do as a follow-up to their groundbreaking 2001 effort?

They build.  Instead of simply producing "more of the same" the group takes their well-established sound of full-force orchestra, rock-band elements, and synths, and adds a new layer: lead vocals.  The biggest and most immediate difference heard in CARTOGRAPHER is the introduction of vocalist LUNA SANS. One might expect them to have pushed the envelope with an even more aggressive stance, but, in fact, the opposite is true.  CARTOGRAPHER is a much more introspective effort, although hardly less sublime.  The first disc, containing all original pieces and are somewhat difficult to classify.  It might be best to say that their expected symphonic elements have been infused with a pop-smooth-jazz-flavor, in addition to the intoxicating vocals of LUNA SANS. The second disc is primarily comprised of "remixes" of tracks from disc 1 and,  because they are sans-San's vocals, are somewhat closer to that "cinematic" style that fans have come to expect from them, yet decidedly mellower than their previous effort.

Disc 1 demonstrates a romantic side of E.S. Posthumus. Exemplified in the opening track "Nolitus" - we hear the very smooth vocals of LUNA SANS with elegant string-work, piano, woodwinds, and a chill-outesque rhythm. The lyrics on "Nolitus," as well as the other vocal pieces, are all written in a language devised by the composers themselves. In fact, the two, motivated out of their own passion for archeology, invented more than just a language but an fictional island, Numa, and a culture to give their language, Numadian, some substance. Their hope was for their listeners to experience an even greater sense of wonder and mystery while listening to each piece.  Clearly, in my case, that's exactly what happened.

Even beyond Luna Sans captivating vocalizations, E.S. Posthumus' flair for the exotic pours through. Whether it is the sound of mandolins in "Isonova" (2), or the feel of a whirling dervish of "Mosane" (6) or the steel-guitar in "Nasivern" (13) a truly worldly, or even otherworldly, feel is exuded. What will surprise some is just how subdued disc 1 is if compared to Unearthed. In fact, with the exception of "Sollente" *8) and "Orannu" (11), [which is is the most upbeat/hopeful piece of the entire release], the second half of disc 1 is dominated by full fledged ballads. Among these are a few that contain truly memorable melodies: "Caarano" (9), "Raptamei" (10) and "Nivaos" (12).

Disc 2 of CARTOGRAPHER provides remixes of thirteen tracks contained on the first disc and are likely more akin to what most were expecting from E.S. Posthumus to begin with. There are two original pieces as well.  "Ashielf Pi" starts the disc off with an ultra-aggressive edge that is strongly reminiscent of "Rise to Glory" - the title theme from the NFL ON CBS. That edge is short-lived at only 1:30 minutes and then with the less aggressive "Oraanu Pi" (15) immediately following. What tends to be the largest difference in these remixes, aside from the absence of Luna Sans' vocals, are more dramatic introductions to most of the tracks.  Concluding this double disc release is "Odenall Pi" (28), which, like "Ashielf Pi" is not a remix of any of the disc 1 tracks. It ends this experience on a distinctly positive and upbeat note where all of the key instruments from the entire release are afforded moments to shine: from guitar and penny-whistle leads, to acoustic drum spotlights, to full orchestral blasts.  Oddly enough, just how much you enjoy disc 2 depends on how often you listen to disc 1.  Having become accustomed to LUNA SANS' vocals featured so heavily on the first disc 2, no matter the variations in arrangement or mix, the "instrumental" versions can feel as though something is missing.  No doubt, if you spend the majority of time on disc 2, you'll avert this inconvenient occurrence.

In the end, CARTOGRAPHER ends up being quite a different experience than UNEARTHED. Back in 2001, UNEARTHED was novel and was a new sort of listening experience...the kind many film and game score fans love to sink their ears into. And E.S. POSTHUMUS established a very clear voice for themselves - a sound that managed to not remind us of anyone else, which is not an easy feat. Now for CARTOGRAPHER, the group has dared to set sail from the well-worn trails - trails they blazed themselves.  Fair warning: this release may be surprising, if not disappointing, to some who are merely looking for a variation of Unearthed. Helmut and Franz Vonlichten, have simmered things down and managed to reinvent themselves to some degree here. The collaboration of this new trio provide a sound that could find a home on your local smooth-jazz station as easily as your favorite internet-soundtrack-station. I have to admit that I found myself a little disappointed with CARTOGRAPHER at first, but after a few successive listens I found myself a little bit in love with nearly every track of the first disc and the listening experience to be ultimately more satisfying, and even more inspiring, than their previous work.  I recommend giving this release a chance to set your own imagination on a new voyage.

 

Rating: 8/10


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Nolitus 4:30  *****
2 Isunova 5:29  ****
3 Vorrina 6:12  ****
4 Selisona 5:05  ****
5 Marunae 4:53  ****
6 Mosane 4:14  ****
7 Decifin 4:37  ***
8 Sollente 5:11  ****
9 Caarono 3:35  ****
10 Raptamei 5:20  ****
11 Oraanu 3:57  *****
12 Nivaos 5:12  ***
13 Nasivern 5:35  ***
 

Total Running Time

63:56  
       
Disc 2      

Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
14 Ashielf Pi 1:32  ****
15 Oraanu Pi 3:38  ****
16 Marunae Pi 4:52  ****
17 Mosane Pi 4:16  ****
18 Isunova Pi 5:41  ****
19 Nasivern Pi 5:41  ****
20 Selisona Pi 4:31  ****
21 Raptamei Pi 5:54  ***
22 Caarano Pi 3:35  ****
23 Nivaos Pi 5:13  ****
24 Sollente Pi 5:12  ***
25 Decifin Pi 4:36  ***
26 Vorrina Pi 6:14  ***
27 Nolitus Pi 4:26  ****
28 Odenall Pi 5:06  ****
 

Total Running Time

70:22  

 

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