“Lïan” is the debut solo album from French vocalist Rïcïnn, known for lending her vocal talents to the likes of Avant-Garde Doom band “Öxxö Xööx”, of which Laurent Lunoir provided guitar and backing vocals on this recording, and the eclectic and extremely twisted Death-Breakcore act “Igorrr”.
This debut release blurs the lines of Gothic Doom, Avant-garde Baroque music and arrangements very reminiscent of a cinematic film score.
Opening with the haunting, ghostly lament of “Uma”, there are moments in this song that remind me of Lisa Gerrard, only far more darker. The piece is mostly orchestral, with elements of Western and Eastern strings and a piano, but offset by electric guitar and drums.
Second track “Onde” offers a departure from the opener with reverberated tribal drums and both powerful, dark lead vocals and choral passages.
“Orchid” on the other-hand features a dissonant and unsettling tone with a desolate, Doom-tinged atmosphere and completed by clean electric guitar.
Experimenting with more instrumentation, a sombre, solo Accordion groans its way through “Sïen Lïan”, accompanied by wavering low-end hum. This desolate atmosphere dominates the first half of the piece, with its mournful, muddy atmospherics. The tone switches as the orchestration builds mid-way, with the dynamics slowly growing, edging ever closer towards the whispering and sung chants that in turn make way for a lovely harmonic section. “Sien Lïan” is almost on the verge of being epic, yet never loses it’s dark undertones, before shifting yet again into a more Gothic territory, ending with melodic, mantra-style chanting and ghostly banshee screams in the background.
“Little Bird” is perhaps the most fragile and sombre in nature on the whole album. It begins at a very gentle pace, complete with melancholic tone. Sweeping metallic sounds ebb and flow whilst the song develops and as it peaks and dips. As the song progresses, the pace picks up with the addition of percussion and the introduction of a Harpsichord compliments the rhythm, but this does little to provide any respite from the chilling tension this track conjures. There’s a distinct urgency that develops in this piece, growing increasingly frantic with each build and there is the sense that “Little Bird” is creeping it’s way ever closer to a climactic crescendo. If there was ever a style called “Baroque Doom”, this would be the definition of that genre.
Reaching the mid-way point of “Lïan”, the style changes once again. This particular point in the album is my personal favourite, especially “Orpheus” and “Drima”, which both feature Rïcïnn’s extraordinary vocal range; a powerful, heart-felt performance that Hans Zimmer would be proud of. The compositions are truly exquisite and when the guitars finally sound, the song hits a dramatic peak. Both pieces are cinematic in style and could easily have been written as part of a film score for a dark and twisted big-budget movie.
Winding down the album towards its close is “Ohm”, a piano track that begins with an accompaniment of heavily processed vocal effects. It’s very hypnotic, almost inter-dimensional, like a representation of the shifts in a hypercube or perhaps transcendental meditation. Subtle use of fluttering, mechanical electronic percussion and ambient samples adds a cosmological feel. Perhaps this is exactly what Rïcïnn was aiming for, as according to the press release, “a probe orbiting Saturn, made available by NASA” was one of the samples used in this piece.
“Laid In Earth”, the final track of this album, is Rïcïnn’s own take on Henry Purcell’s aria “When I Am Laid In Earth” from “Dido and Aeneas” and if the the mournful lament of Rïcïnn’s vocals aren’t enough, the orchestration, with its regular switches between major and minor key and descending scales, creates a very foreboding, unsettled atmosphere. It’s an astonishing, darkly beautiful performance that warrants much replay value in this one piece alone.
Technically, the works presented on “Lïan” are highly accomplished and the avant-garde, Neo-Classical influences are very evident. Considering the sheer scale of work involved in compiling material going back many years, some of which are recordings from up to seven years ago, there is also a surprising amount of narrative within this album. When simply comparing each track individually, the flow may seem somewhat disjointed but this doesn’t come across when listening through in its entirety. That said, I do find myself picking out certain tracks that seem to reflect my mood, preferring to revert to the opening and closing pieces, along with “Orpheus” and “Drima”, rather than listen to the darker material on offer.
My only concern about “Lïan” is the mournful tone expressed throughout the album. I consider myself open-minded and objective when listening to music, though I found myself having to take a break from Rïcïnn’s material at times, especially when tired or emotionally drained. Whilst not heavy, it’s very gloomy and from personal experience it can appear to resonate with negative energy if emotionally sensitive.
Video: Rïcïnn – Uma