Jun. 29th, 2014

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For this Off the Rack entry, I'm taking a break from the letter C to jump back and plug one of the holes missing from one of the other letters I've already listened through. Nestled in between several albums by The Beatles and a best of compilation by Berlin is a CD I purchased a few years ago because I was DJing a Halloween event and wanted to spin a particular song. The disc in question is Bel Canto's 1992 set Shimmering, Warm & Bright. The setlist for the aforementioned Halloween event was posted online and that's about the extent I'm going to speak of said event for the time being.

"Bel canto" translated from Italian means "beautiful singing." The dictionary definition is as follows: "a lyrical style of operatic singing using a full rich broad tone and smooth phrasing." I am hard-pressed to recall a musical group with such an appropriate name as Bel Canto. It's a bit funny – to me, anyhow – that I'm jumping back out of C instead of pressing on. The next group in C is a marathon of albums by the Cocteau Twins, which would bookend quite nicely with Bel Canto (hear also, Claire Voyant, Lush, The Sundays, etc.).

Shimmering, Warm & Bright is a quick listen, at only 46 minutes in length. I wonder how it would be divided as a record, because tracks five and six ("Sleep in Deep" and "Buthania") run together. Judging by the durations of the final four songs, I think track 6 would close side A with track 7, "Le Temps Dégagé" opening side B. I wonder if this album was even released on vinyl – by the early 1990s, record labels pretty much ceased doing vinyl releases as CDs were the favoured format (especially since labels made more money with every CD sold over every vinyl record sold). I'm betting that Bel Canto's first two albums, both released in the second half of the 1980s were released on vinyl.

Not that it matters so much for me in the here and now...I'm listening to MP3 versions of my CD copy.

I've made it up to "Spiderdust," which, as far as I'm concerned, is essential for a Halloween playlist. Anneli M. Drecker is all but yelping during the chorus, which is surrounded by lyrics comparing love and lust – two states of emotion so indistinct as to be interchangeable and intertwined – to black magic. Is a burning in the heart really so different from a burning in the loins? Is desire just a coin with two sides?

Shimmering, Warm & Bright is a perfectly sequenced album. Opener "Unicorn" draws you in and from there the songs ebb and flow in a wonderful journey which concludes with the near-eight minute coda that is "Mornixuur." If the Cocteau Twins and In The Nursery ever collaborated, I think something akin to "Mornixuur" would be the result.

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Seth Warren

May 2017

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