Esmerine, Dalmak (Constellation, 2013)
Only one member of Esmerine (co-founder/percussionist Bruce Cawdron) is actually from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but let’s be real here: it’s nearly impossible to review a Godspeed side project—and there have been many, from Set Fire to Flames to Fly Pan Am to Thee Silver Mt. Zion—without acknowledging the sinister shadow that band casts over the thorny branches in its family tree.
In the past, we’ve always considered Esmerine the chilly chamber-pop counterpart to the sheer bombast of Godspeed’s assaultive albums and endurance-testing shows. Dalmak changes that duality up a bit though, channeling a recent trip to Instanbul with the use of local musicians and a sound that moves from subtle to slamming without batting an eyelash. Also helping Cawdron and cellist Rebecca Foon (Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Saltland) hit new heights are two touring members-turned-session playera, Jamie Thompson (Unicorns, Island) and Brian Sanderson. The only thing missing is the puppetry and projections of frequent collaborator Clea Minaker, although the songs on here are so evocative they don’t really need ’em.