RePLAY: San Fermin – San Fermin

It’s not very often that an album swipes your pounding heart clean out of your chest within the first 15 seconds. But then again not every album is San Fermin’s debut.

Brooklyn-based Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s previously makeshift outfit finally came good in 2013 with the release of self-titled LP, San Fermin. This 17-track opus is a true testament to what intelligent song writing and musical craftsmanship can accomplish. (Yes, we can be grown-ups sometimes.)

Ludwig-Leone is a Yale graduate with his colours in composition. The self-described “isolated composer guy” retreated to the secluded Banff Centre for Continuing Education in Alberta, where his debut album was carefully pieced together. The result is a story book, telling the tale of something that is largely left to the listener’s imagination but that sounds suspiciously like a drawn out mess of human interaction. Bascially: we can be such bitches to each other sometimes.

“I can’t fall asleep in your arms” is a lyrical thread that sews this collection of tracks together, making an appearance in several nooks, with both male and female vocals providing an additional dimension to the tale. Allen Tate’s deep and delicious tone does true justice to the poetic lyrics and delivers the melodies with ease, while Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig provide equally sensational vocals and harmonies, almost unrecognisable from their equally brilliant retro hot-pop duo Lucius.

Renaissance! earns its exclamation mark, letting you know that this is one serious serving of orchestral pop. Beautiful lyrics teamed with elegant harmonies and sweeping strings set the scene for all that’s to come, leaving plenty of room for the marching percussion and a hefty dose of brass to join the party later. It’s a hell of an opener for a hell of an album.

Crueller Kind introduces a more electronic setup and keeps things quirky, leading into the first interlude. Musical interludes on a pop album have the potential to be massively wank – well yes, they usually are, but there is nothing usual about this record. The interludes are cleverly placed and interesting, evoking many a feeling if you’re open to that sort of thing. Which you should be. Or rather, you will be after you’ve heard it done right.

The standout track on the album is single Sonsick, the kind of singalong track that makes you throw your arms in the air, along with closing behemoth Daedalus – together they’re likely to induce a nasty bout of laryngitis.

Perhaps the most important thing about San Fermin is that everything is in its right place. This is not an album you can listen to on shuffle – that would be silly, like listening to an audiobook on shuffle. So just don’t do it. Don’t tear this story to pieces. Treat it with the respect and attention it deserves, and you’ll have yourself a favourite for years to come.

Nikki Gandy

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RePLAY: San Fermin - San Fermin
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RePLAY: San Fermin - San Fermin
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