A sequel of sorts to 2015's Lost Voices, Esmerine's latest offers a dynamic response to the dire state of the natural world we're bound to in eight crossover chamber pieces.
"The Space in Between" sets the tone with a dramatic neoclassical lament, the title evoking the mounting frequency of so-called natural disasters. The piece rolls out like a montage soundtrack for climate change, at first plodding then hurtling, passages reflecting a world spun out of control. You can feel ice caps melting, floodwaters rising, wildfires consuming in every tumbling phrase. Every rest is more fleeting than the last, and the closing note rings suggestively through the song's final seconds, as if it could all be too late. "La Lucha Es Una Sola" echoes its sombre environment in its depressed drones, but if this is the beginning of the end, there's the suggestion of hope in a twinkling music box, and as a curious marimba starts to bubble underneath it all, a trumpeting horn and tension-shattering drums march steadily onward.
"La Pénombra" finds space for more resilience, riding a persistent ngoni vamp into a burgeoning world washed in heavenly vocal dubs and gliding strings. The swelling patience of "Northeast Kingdom" feels like the answer to the album's opening track, while "Piscibus Maris" caps it all off with a knowing, glacial composition that suddenly melts into a mournful coda, as if to remind listeners what a grave place we've come to.
While casting a doubtful lens on destructive 1% policy-making, the album reiterates Lost Voices' emphasis on community and diversity, welcoming a cast of guests (Godspeed You! Black Emperor violinist Sophie Trudeau and album engineer Jace Lasek (of Besnard Lakes) both make return appearances) larger than the team behind 2013's Dalmak, while the bulk of the album explores new sounds and instrumentation. "La Plume des Armes" emerges from a watery synthscape; "¡Que Se Vayan Todos!" steers a mountainous noise squall into a virtuosic explosion of jazz-inflected drumming; and the title track is a regal piece of quiet-loud post-rock.
It's a delicate, cautious demonstration, but Mechanics of Dominion is a bold, gripping and brilliantly nuanced addition to Esmerine's gorgeous catalogue, swelling with hope and brimming with energy. (Constellation)