Review Summary: Ravaged yet romantic invocations for a long winter.
Hibernal gloom dawns in the first moments of Nature And Organisation’s ultimate album Death in a Snow Leopard Winter
as a lone, grave piano sounds the sparse notes of a simple theme. In time, crooning violin, viola, and cello hoist the melody from the hoary earth and expand upon it before sending it back, leaving it even more desolate than before. What transpires from there serves as the score for mourning a lost loved one by the fireside on a winter night. The mood is often cold, like the sensation of tears freezing to the face, but not without the glimmering warmth of some misplaced hope.
Composed in the autumn and winter of 1997-1998 by Current 93 contributor and first-generation neofolk bastion Michael Cashmore, Death in a Snow Leopard Winter
is an oft-overlooked pearl in an understandably maligned genre. Rather than leaning on industrial pomposity or baseless political sentiments, these 12 unnamed tracks reap inspiration from contemporary classical music and feature nothing more than Cashmore’s piano and string quartet accompaniment. The result is a stunning record that could be considered Cashmore’s absolute masterpiece.
Subtitled "A Dream of Joy in a Sleep of Sorrow", the album is remnant of an incomplete work, a larger musical vision abandoned by Cashmore for personal reasons. Once there was a grander design for the music on display here. The arrangements were to be fleshed out by oboe, flute, bassoon, timpani, and vocal sections, but were cut short for one reason or another. Still, Cashmore opted to release the collection as is “in the hope that it may still be of interest to at least some people as a documentation of a work that was in progress.”
A full orchestral version is certainly more ambitious. Without that final product in hand, the disappointment may be comprehensible for some, but Cashmore is perhaps selling himself short by labelling this album as unfinished. The fragility and minimalism is what regularly fosters the music’s appeal. These compositions, which alternate evenly between delicate piano passages and full sweeps of strings, are unceasingly beautiful in their sparsity. Cashmore displays his uncanny skill as a pianist with these ravaged yet romantic invocations for a long winter, performing with Debussy-like grace and intimacy as the emotive swells of strings saunter in and out of earshot. Slow crescendoes that falter before their peak capture the human condition of striving for but falling short of one’s potential. Really, nothing more is needed.
Long out-of-print, Death in a Snow Leopard Winter
is about to see a long-awaited re-master and reissue, alongside its seminal predecessor Beauty Reaps the Blood of Solitude
, in the two-disc compilation Snow Leopard Messiah
, which is slated for release in September via the German label Trisol. This is fortunate, because this record, though considered incomplete, is one of few examples of an album that fully transcends the genres that bore it.