RF & Lili De La Mora: Eleven Continents
Rowing At Sea / Time Release

Though the inclusion of Joanna Newsom's gleaming harp may be a key drawing card for trainspotters, Eleven Continents, a stunning debut collection of graceful ballads and swooning lullabies by multi-instrumentalist Ryan Francesconi (RF) and vocalist Lili De La Mora (The Year Zero), impresses very much on its own terms (Francesconi, incidentally, played tambura on Newsom's Ys tour). In a dozen elegiac and introspective settings, tastefully restrained acoustic arrangements wrap themselves around the breathy whisper of Lili De La Mora's entrancing voice. The songs are boosted by haunting melodies, cases in point the “Daring aerialist demanding wonders” and “Silver-hands severe lines” hooks that elevate “Hundreds of Threads” and “Steep Ravine.” Familiar Trees' vocalist Fabiola Sanchez takes the lead on the string-laden “Kings” though the similarities between the two singers' fragile voices are such that the casual listener will perhaps hardly notice; in other songs, they weave around one another (“Newt Crossing,” “11:11,” “Eleven Continents”) in mesmerizing manner. The album's pitch-perfect arrangements impress as much as the material. Flute and trumpet playing enhance the breezy bossa nova feel of the quietly jubilant “Fascinated” while trumpet and strings add subtle daubs of colour to the stately lilt of “Miles and Miles.” The radiant cascades of Newsom's harp playing lend the title song a gleam and sparkle, and the closing “Lifetime” a poetic grace. Wafting like the gentlest of breezes, this rather unassuming release is an absolute delight, a perfectly-realized collection that can't be recommended too highly.

August 2007