Review Summary: An ever-blooming fantasy
Austrian percussionist Manu Delago has made quite a career for himself, building upon his noted proficiency playing the hang to accumulate a strong solo discography, a series of collaborations with plenty of esteemed musicians (perhaps most notably, backing Bjork's live performances), and appearances as a soloist with (among other institutions) the London Symphony Orchestra. Snow From Yesterday
, therefore, marks only the latest chapter in a burgeoning body of work.
This album finds Delago joining forces with the three-woman vocalist collective Mad About Lemon alongside six other musicians who bring various woodwind, brass, and string instruments into the equation. The results are just as rich and lush as you might expect. There’s a nice mix of singing-oriented tracks with instrumental tunes, but the throughline of absolute sonic beauty and warm feeling remains constant.
Snow From Yesterday
is a total vibe
, if nothing else. The album’s Bandcamp page notes the record’s aims thusly: “it can at once tackle mammoth climate issues, while conveying moments of incredible intimacy
”. In truth, the delivery on both of these intentions may be somewhat oblique, given the lyricism here, while lovely, is often abstract and the words themselves frequently feel like a secondary piece within a tapestry of enriching aural beauty, but there’s no doubt that this LP dips deep into the feels. Packaging a potent blend of ambient, jazz, folk, and chamber music, Delago has managed to craft a piece delivering a particular form of cosmic grandeur - dreamy, pristine, and reflective.
With those adjectives in mind, it’s no surprise that this is a very mellow listen. But, as long as you’re not expecting music for a vigorous workout or the like, there seems to be something for everyone scattered amid this eleven song tracklist. Vocally-driven tunes like opener “Modern People” and first half standout “Polar Bear” are quite catchy, the former totally gorgeous in a placid way, the latter more upbeat. “Paintings on the Wall” and the closing title track, meanwhile, aim for delicate and affecting lyricism. The instrumentals apply a different framework, but manage to capture much the same sense of thoughtful emotion - “Ode to Earth” is rich and ornate, dominated by sonorous brass, while one of its second-half counterparts, “Immersion”, is gentle and profoundly philosophical. There are a few weaker moments - “Stay Afloat” may be a nice song overall, but its long-winded recitation of the names of world cities doesn’t work so well, while the vocal snippets in “Little Heritage” work well enough, but feel rather disconnected from the rest of the LP. Nonetheless, taken as a whole, Snow From Yesterday
is not only deeply pretty, but quite consistent in mood - no small feat given the varied approaches these tunes take towards their common destination.
To close out this review, what better way than to ponder this album’s final moments, with the aforementioned title track breaking out into repetition of assorted variations on the lines “the snow from yesterday, it’s all water under the bridge
”. This feels rather profound - an acknowledgement of the grim reality that a now-unchangeable past will literally drown low lying areas in the very real present and in an ominous future - but also a call to stop lamenting that same unchangeable past, learn from it, and better ourselves and our world. At its best, Snow From Yesterday
represents that kind of balance, capturing a sense both of tragedy and of hopefulness. Better yet, even if those broader themes evade you, at the most surface level these songs are extremely tranquil and soul-cleansing. Can’t argue with that.