This is the long awaited second album from Emmalee Crane which follows her well received debut album ‘Crux’ released last year on The Streetlight Farm label founded by Miles Fender in 1998. This new album comes from the same San Francisco based label which is now the home town of the Toronto born artist.

Emmalee is a classically trained musician drawn to the sounds of the  oboe, clarinet and English or French Horns, but her versatility extends way beyond these familiar orchestral instruments into the realms of experimentation utilising ‘circuit-bent’ toys and gadgets, analog and digital synths plus myriad found sounds gathered through the process of field recording or sampling. This whole spectrum of sound is blended into a musical output which crosses genres and is best described as a form of ambient, orchestral drone.

On Formantine we hear many combinations of these sounds layered in the mix with careful distortion, reverb and signal processing to produce a highly engaging series of 2-5 minute tracks that each have a distinctive quality. It is often difficult to identify the origin of the sounds in these tracks as the rich organic tones of the oboe, clarinet and horns metamorphose seamlessly with the electronically derived textures and tones. It is clear that Emmalee’s production techniques have matured and widened in scope hugely since the Crux album to give a richer, more complex and self-assured sound.

Highlights on this album for me (and there are many)  include the searingly epic quality of Gight Vaulting; the interesting use of audio vocal samples on tracks such as We Came from Monsters or Inersion and the wonderfully experimental You Stare to be Seen with its hissing intro. of unstable warbles, resonant notes and soft pulses, leading into deep synth pads and distorted guitar which are overtopped by horns and woodwind interjections. Finally we have the track Formantine itself which opens with a haunting electronic drone that is joined by a beautiful rising wave of horns that rest on a bed of shimmering strings. Snatches of audio samples from an old song broadcast drift in and out then a piano melody sweeps us to the perfect end. The best was certainly saved for last on this album!

I thoroughly enjoyed this new release and have no hesitation in recommending it to previous fans of the Crux album, or anyone who might like a fresh approach to the drone ambient genre. This album puts Emmalee Crane firmly in the mainstream of current artists working in the experimental and electro-acoustic scene.

Emmalee Crane – Formantine. The Streetlight Farm SLFEC05. 2010. Released November 23rd as CD and Download

The Streelight Farm label http://www.streetlightfarm.com/  

For more on Emmalee Crane please go to http://emmaleecrane.com/index.html

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