A Chorus Of Storytellers Album Review

Andrew Perrin

The Album Leaf

A Chorus Of Storytellers

8 out of 10

Highlights: Blank Pages, Within Dreams, Summer Fog, Until The Last, Tied Knots

For those of you who are not aware, post rock is a form of music that uses classical and instrumental focus to achieve a “full” sound. Ambient is a genre consisting of relaxing distant sounds and dynamic contrast. The Album Leaf has made a spot as one of the most well known and prominent Ambient/Post Rock bands, and A Chorus Of Storytellers just supports their position even more. Since the beginning of The Album Leaf, Jimmy Lavalle performed most of the instruments himself, and it was considered completely his own project. He has collaborated with one of the most legendary Post Rock bands of all time, Sigur Ros, and Lavalle and Sigur Ros are very friendly together. Lavalle broke this one man band image with the release of A Chorus of Storytellers, where he was accompanied by a whole supporting band.

The album still retains the original Album Leaf sound, but with some changes such as prominent vocal lines, and rock sounding melodies. The album starts with a track called Perro, which opens with a simple organ sound in an epic ascending progression. As the song moves forward, you can begin to hear an adult and a child conversing. The drums begin to become more prominent and a vocal and piano line begins to fade in. The song does build, but never to the point of a purely satisfying peak. The track ends with conversation of an adult teaching a child. Next is a heavier rhythmic track called Blank Pages. The drums have a very electronic feel, until there is a sudden stop and a violin distantly cries a melodic line over the electronic piano. The song slowly builds, and more instruments begin to come in and the whole song becomes louder and full sounding. The peak comes, and the song immediately ends.

The next track called A Distant Wind, has a very rock influenced feel and the vocals play a major part in the song. This was a shock to hear, because this song is very different from the previous hypnotic ambience that the album leaf normally releases. We then return to a very classic Album Leaf sound in the track Within Dreams. A constant electronic drum beat leads, and slowly gains the normal electric organ and piano sounds. The song is one enormous crescendo, and instruments gradually pile on. The chord progression resolves into a catchy and beautiful sounding melody that eventually becomes very complex. Another change from the usual Lavalle style comes in the track Falling From the Sun. A drum beat leads the song, and Lavalle begins to sing about the sun coming to close, hiding with stars, and falling. Although the song has lyrics, they are so simplistic that it still contains an instrumental sound.

Stand Still comes in strong with another electronic drum beat. If there was one downside to this album, it would be the repetition and prominence of the drums, but one could argue that the drums add a constant rhythm that lulls you into the feelings of the song. Like a film or a book, Lavalle writes his songs with a buildup, a peak and a falling outro. The particular song structure creates a sense of story to the songs without lyrics. The instruments tell their own experiences, and the listener can interpret what they would like from the music.

Summer Fog creeps into your ears with a synthesizer note that resembles a wave. Then, a pause. Piano and strings come in strong and send shivers all throughout your body. You close your eyes and let the instruments ring through your veins and muscles, putting you in a pure state of relaxation. The chords and melody are so beautiful that someone could mistake this masterpiece for music written by a famous classical composer, like Brahms. The song builds upon itself, and goose bumps arise all through your body. The need to close your eyes is unavoidable, and the song brings you into a hypnotic swirl. The next track, Until the Last is very similar to Summer Fog. An orchestral sound is layered on top of a computerized drum pattern and a synthesizer. The blend of two opposite styles is incredible; they fit together like a puzzle. The peak is eventually reached and held for a minute or so, and suddenly ends, leaving you refreshed and satisfied on a cymbal roll.

If there was one track that the album could do without, it would be We Are. The song itself is nice sounding, but the presence of a constant AC/DC like drum beat takes away from the feel of the song. The beat never changes, and that it takes away a huge amount from the song. Almost There takes advantage of Lavalles soothing voice very well with a combination of organ and a hypnotic drum beat. The track is overall very soothing and satisfying. The album comes to a close with another orchestral masterpiece titled Tied Knots. It starts with an electric piano melody and is followed by a drone of strings that slowly fades in. When the root of the melody eventually changes, the song begins to move forward. The piano and strings is accompanied by a distant falsetto voice that stresses the beauty of the song. The chord change sends even more shivers all throughout your body and also an overwhelming sense of conclusion and relaxation. This song could be the happy ending to the story of the album. Just like his songs, Lavalle shaped this album in the form of story that the listener tells.

I recommend this album for all music enthusiasts, and for people who are stressed out and need to relax. The musical aspect of the album is stunning, with its perfectly resolving chord progressions, and even its clever lyrics. For those trying to get a break from the normal high school stress and drama, A Chorus of Storytellers (along with any other works by The Album Leaf) is perfect to listen to with a pair of stereo headphones. The haunting melodies and the rising shape of the album can result in deep relaxation. For people new to the genre, this album may be considered boring but I urge all of you to give it a chance, for the results can be very rewarding. Even with an altered style of music and a full band, Lavalle continues the Album Leaf story with this fabulous orchestral addition to his hypnotic and beautiful discography.

-Andrew Perrin