Much like the art that adorns it, Lambwool‘s Vanish EP is starkly beautiful. French label OPN releases their CDs in oversized gatefold envelopes influenced by the packaging for 7” LPs, which means there’s plenty of room for the art to make an impact. Before you listen, you’re introduced to Vanish via the gray-toned photography of Jerome Sevrette: images of a cracked and barren asphalt road winding through desert scrub beneath a clouded sky. It’s like the work of Ansel Adams through a shaded and muted filter. Lambwool isn’t aiming for the majestic grandeur of Adams’ ice-capped peaks and glass-like lakes, however, but for a personal and introspective journey through an empty place where beauty dwells on the fringes, within sight, but far away.
Cyril Laurent is clearly aiming for a cinematic edge on Vanish; it’s easy to imagine his swelling chords and emotive sweeps as background for a film (or a photography exhibit). Every moment of the four-track, thirty-three-minute LP is steeped in drama, whether it’s the isolation of the title track, the deep longing of “Closed Door,” or the hope-drenched “Farewell.” Laurent has grounded his soaring keys with piano (Margaux Laurent on “Twisted”) and violin (Albane Geslain on “Closed Door” and “Twisted”), and these moments are the EP’s strongest. Lambwool owes much to Geslain in particular: these two tracks are coursing with strong emotion, largely on the strength of the violin. It wouldn’t surprise me if Laurent built the entirety of both tracks around the sorrowful keening of Geslain’s performance and the desolate atmosphere it invokes.
On its own, Lambwool’s music on Vanish isn’t quite versatile enough to completely avoid the lurking trap of overdone sentiment. “Farewell,” with its bold washes of cymbals, overly bittersweet melody, and well-trodden choral samples, is particularly guilty of this. Fortunately, the track is an outlier both in structure and mood; the rest of Vanish sticks much closer to the open-country aesthetic of the American West, hinted at in Sevrette’s photos.
There’s something broken yet humane contained in Vanish—something cowed and uncertain yet brimming with hope. When listening, one gets the sense that a journey is beginning through a harsh landscape akin to what is depicted on the cover. The middle two tracks are the highlight, of course; I’d love to hear what Laurent and Geslain could do with a longer format. There may not be a lot of length to Vanish, but there’s a surprising amount of depth.
03) Closed Door