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Cicada: Farewell

Farewell is so natural a companion to Cicada's 2015 flau outing Ocean, one could simply treat it as an extension of that earlier release by the Taiwanese chamber ensemble. And just as Ocean drew for its content from 2015's Light Shining Through the Sea and 2013's Coastland, Farewell re-presents fourteen songs that originally appeared on the EP Over the Sea /Under the Water, mini-album Let's Go, and debut album Pieces. That the selections are early works by the group matters little, given that the material will likely be new to Western ears.

On album concept grounds, Farewell deals with the aftermath of a romantic breakup, specifically the challenge of facing the future alone and recovering from the heartache of a relationship's end. It hardly surprises, then, that the tone of the material is often melancholy, bittersweet even, though moments of brightness emerge, too, as if to suggest the willful desire to leave sorrow behind and engage with life anew.

Cicada's music is easy to warm up to, given its sweetly melodic core; so melodic is it, in fact, that it could be labeled pop-classical, though such an association might for some listeners carry with it a connotation of superficiality. The group's supple blend of piano, violin, cello, and acoustic guitar makes for a ravishing result, and, much like Ocean, Farewell's lilting swoon proves seductive. As before, the acoustic guitar imbues the new recording with a pastoral character (see “Pieces,” for example), just as the piano and strings lend it the refinement of classical chamber music.

It's a special outfit that can conjure the carefree experience of childhood in little more than a few minutes but Cicada does exactly that in “Boom,” and if ever an outfit seemed like the ideal choice to create music for a Hayao Miyazaki film (Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, etc.), it's Cicada. So many of the qualities commonly associated with the Japanese director's films—innocence, nostalgia, longing, and joy, among them—are also audible in Cicada's music, and it's so evocative a soaring, high-spirited piece (“Breakaway”) or plaintive reverie (“Lake's End,” “What Do I Do?”) engenders no small number of Miyazaki-like visuals as the music plays. Adding to the release's appeal is its length: though the track total is generous at fourteen, the recording's fifty-five-minute total is more effective than the overlong, seventy-minute running time of Ocean.

April 2016