Europa String Choir – Lemon Crash (2008)

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by Tom Johnson

I awoke at 3 a.m. and that was it. My sleep was over. I laid awake for hours, mentally shaking an invisible, frustrated fist at the darkness. It wasn’t the first such night; it won’t be the last.

In moments of calm coherence, I thought to myself, “Think about Lemon Crash, think of something to say.” I’ve been trying to say something for weeks, wanting to come up with something clever and meaningful about it, pairing it with relationships. Europa String Choir’s Lemon Crash, you see, is one of these oddball albums that few know about yet ranks as one of my all time favorites, and I continually feel a need to spread the word. Not quite classical, and not rock, it straddles a weird line between the two that is perfectly comfortable territory for the group, who, with like minded peers such as Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Kronos Quartet, mix in instruments that fit in multiple genres, play with typical rock abandon, yet approach their music with orchestral grace. ESC’s two guitars, violectra, and Warr Guitar yield an unusually lush sound.

But that’s the thing. That’s as far as I can get. In being one of my favorites, it sits closer to me than I can comfortable speak about, occupying a space that is almost sacred. It’s a safe-haven album – hectic times call for Lemon Crash soothing, lulling beauty. And lately life has been hectic.

In speaking about Lemon Crash, I wanted to mention the power of growing lineups. Europa String Choir began, like any relationship, as duo, and grew over time to be a trio. The trio, as I have always been fond of thinking, is a powerful, strong unit. Triangles have great strength over their three sides because no one side can easily be crushed — all three sides divide up the stress, supporting the structure of the unit. Each side, however, is responsible for more work. We can see this in most rock trios, where each member has to make up for what an additional member might have provided. I can easily point to Rush here — a band of great musicians to fill the space between them with strong, supportive music, and it’s a relationship that has worked for nearly 35 years.

For Lemon Crash, Europa String Choir grew to a quartet, adding the 8-string touch guitar talents of Markus Reuter on Warr Guitar. It’s Reuter’s work that keys me in on this album — where I found the previous trio album, The Starving Moon, a bit dry, here his rich, deep basslines provide an anchor around which everything pivots. Sometimes trios simply need to expand to quartets for it to all make sense, and that’s what makes Lemon Crash make sense.

This record got me to thinking again about trios and quartets. My wife and I once formed a trio with our daughter, and eventually we expanded our lineup to a quartet with a new addition. It was new territory for me, an only child, part of that venerable trio I spoke of earlier, and old-hat for her, one of a sextet, the mechanics (and sanity) of which I still have a hard time grasping. Where we go from here, however, is anyone’s guess. The sheet music is blank, but I’m sure the air will be filled with a lot of sound.

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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Tom Johnson
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