REVIEW: Dwelling – “Humana”

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Chain Border

HumanaCited to be dark folk and ethereal, Portugal's Dwelling has released a nine-song foray into a neo-classical spiral which "allegorically portrays various events of the cycle of human life, from the cradle to the grave, which translate into the various moods found throughout compositions much in the same way that one would balance his feelings towards life as he courses through the joy and radiance of youth into the heavy burden of old age." Released by Equilibrium Music, Dwelling's Humana is a contemporary twist upon Renaissance-themed music, an extension of Dead Can Dance's Aion, if one can be so bold to claim.

Humana is a fine art of intellectual stature. The kind of music one hoping to win over the art major love interest would do well to obtusely slip on for a good first impression. Close to perfection, the ambitious and exuberant Humana, though it totes itself as teetering on the razor's edge of Goth, is more akin to romanticism than gloom. The languid cover art featuring a pair of decayed folded hands aside, Humana is rich in the human spirit with its classical overtures reinterpreted for newer ears.

Silencio Intemporal features classical and flamenco oriented acoustic guitars by Nicholas Ratcliffe and Nuno Roberto, a sweeping melody accompanied by sweet singing from Catarina Raposo and intelligent violin work from Silvia Frietas that creates a temporal texture to the body of work. The soothing interchange of the acoustic harmony on Silencio Intemporal sets a nice tone to Humana that is carried into the following song, Teceloes da Nova Realidade. With a chamber-esque, weepy violin by Frietas and a sensual acoustic lead, the song is guided by Raposo's passionate vocals. Only does Jamie Ferriera's intentionally diverting bass offset the gusty tempo; otherwise Realidade is an emotional bit of melancholia.

The strength of The Wheel is cued by busy violin work with precision acoustic accompaniment. Frietas flirts with country on her violin in spurts then quickly reverts to her classical-mindedness. Also to note, the bridge on The Wheel is fiery and quick, leaving one breathless well before the song ends. Lingering Stupor is a quirky homogenization with fusion jazz influence to create a swaying (stupor) sensation as the song eventually catches its groove into a prog rock sound minus the electric ambience, a theme Dwelling repeats on the ensuing tracks.

Chasing the Rainbow's End has an awkward opening, chaotic but spirited, yet somehow it settles into a comfortable prog rock mentality ala Emerson Lake and Powell, content with an eventual mainstream melody amidst the frolicking violin. For a moment, Raposo dabbles into a mano narration that sounds like she's talking to herself, as if her mates have vanished and left her astray, but then the song trails into a hypnotic trance towards its powerful conclusion. Remember Virtue has a near-Zeppelin-ish acoustic melody in the opening before the song opts to switch to a more conventional rhythm, just like the couple of songs preceding it. Raposo's vocals are sharp and engaging here.

O Cinzel do Tempo is soft and restrained, carried more on the authority of Raposo's voice track, though spiced with delicate and artful acoustics. Frietas asserts herself with a lovely but somber violin, yet the song itself is more vivacious and romantic than depressing. As the Storm Chants is more playful than the other songs, treading closely to a regular jig, but it quietly assumes a dreamy quality about it carried by a flamenco-based airiness. Finally, The Reality that Remains is a joyous and festive closer, calling to mind Renaissance, Yiddish and Greek all bundled up tidily in its dance beat. The song is abruptly halted for a long, soft interlude before jumping back into its spry rhythm. The structure is almost perplexing, but utterly forgivable because of Frietas' gorgeous violin. Reality is as prog rock sounding as it gets.

Humana is very accomplished work, sure to appeal to those with classical training as well as the listener searching for something intricate but modern. This marriage between the two schools of thought creates a timeless relationship that may struggle to find an audience beyond the Goth scene, yet it's almost impossible to not be moved by this dithyrambic recording and those with a serious ear will appreciate Dwelling instantaneously.

Contact Information:
Post: Equilibrium Music, PO Box 2909, PT - 1123 – 001, Lisboa, Portugal
Phone: +351 (96) 663 6647

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