San Fermin, “In This House”

San Fermin
In This House
BETTER COMPANY
7/10

Beloved as Brooklyn’s atmospheric chamber-pop answer to the question “What if you squeezed all of Stereolab into one person?,” composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone has always crafted an insular, hermetic space with just enough breathing room for his fleeting few San Fermin collaborators and his verdant melodies to seep through. For 2021’s end, however, the possibility that Ludwig-Leone and singer Allan Tate have had enough of self-quarantine finds them pairing up with not-so-like-minded outsiders for a mixed-bag approach in the form of the collab-heavy comp In This House. Sure, calling a song “In This House,” what with the cloister of COVID, is funny and not something you’d expect from nu-classical composer Nico Muhly, the winged, stringed Attacca Quartet, and San Fermin’s lot, let alone its high-plains drifting and lonely homebound imagery this imaginary theater song holds dear. Imagine Kate Bush singing the score to Dear Evan Hansen. Now, forget that.

Benefitting from a percussive clatter and a subtly epic, elevated cosmopolitan chord structure familiar to Ryuichi Sakamoto compositions, Wye Oak’s “My First Life,” buoyed as it is by Jenn Wasner, is divinity on a shaky stick. “Nothingness,” penned and played with soulful Philadelphia rockers The Districts, is soft, windy, and spindly (and the only track on the EP that featured any in-person writing) with gently paddled rhythms, prepared piano tracks, and what sounds like singers Rob Grote and Allen Tate breezily double-tracked in the name of existential ennui. Neither ensemble has sounded like “Nothingness” in their past, and must return to the studio soon to continue this aerated teaming. Also benefitting from such cottony blips and paddling is Sorcha Richardson and Lisel’s acousto-orchestrated, Roches-like “Basement Days.”

Not every moment on House is quiet and small. “You Live My Dream” featuring Wild Pink gently gallops and bucks with a funky guitar click at its start. “Dream Yourself Awake” commences harshly with an industrial, scrawling guitar line—think a blackboard nervously scratched by a nine-inch nail—before slipping and sliding through something humbler and more somnolent with Thao Nguyen before the morass. As experimental as San Fermin’s collaborations on In This House may have been, the Brooklyn collective have never sounded more sure-footed and effortlessly melodic than they do with this gathering of friends. Just as the title track asks in its first lines—“Bring what you can hold / I can make a space”—San Fermin brings a universe to bear on some awfully lovely sonic washes.

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