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Sonny - The Spirit of Elegy

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 9 / 10 / 2008

Sonny - The Spirit of Elegy
Label: Minimal-escent Music
Format: CD


Sparse, intriguing ambience on second album from trained, former chorister, Sonny

'The Spirit of Elegy' is an oddity. In essence it’s an ambient album, but there are vocals on most of the tracks that lift it from being purely a mood piece and into more general ‘songs’ territory. It’s Sonny’s second album, the previous one, 'Twilight-World Music', having been considerably more electronic. Apparently the new record is heavily influenced by the tradition of English Romanticism, something that’s easy to believe – the artist namechecks both the Cocteau Twins and William Blake, neatly covering both ends of the romantic spectrum over the last 300 years. Sonny’s voice is impossible to describe without resorting to the two adjectives kept in the cupboard specifically for this kind of post-rock music: “haunting” and “elegiac”. As you might be able to guess, 'The Spirit of Elegy' is a very serious album. Most of the music is played on long drawn-out synth notes, with no percussion and very little other instrumentation – the piano notes introducing 'Lighthouses For The Desolate' bring a welcome change from the unrelenting waves of the previous tracks, as do the stabbed strings on 'The Affliction Of Childhood'. On its own it might have sounded rather fake – the instrumentation is not as complex as are the vocals, certainly. But it’s those haunting vocals that give the record its point and purpose. It would be no surprise to find out that Sonny was a trained chorister – the vocals on some of the tracks, such as 'Earth And Dust', are not far away from those to be found in a cathedral cloister near you. On other tracks, such as 'Lighthouses For The Desolate' and 'The Body Attains the End Which Comes To Us All', though, Sonny sounds more like Antony Hegarty (as in “and the Johnsons”). It’s hard to know where to place this album. 'The Spirit of Elegy' is no mainstream record and it’s not going to get much radio play. Neither of those are bad things, of course, but in this case the main problem is that it’s hard to tell several of the tracks apart from each other, so similar are they in style and delivery. The sparse instrumentation and plaintive, lonely vocal style will not be to everybody’s tastes, but if you’ve been waiting all your life for someone to blend ambient soundscapes with plainchant vocals – well, this is it.

Track Listing:-
1 The Mourning Mist
2 Frost Fair (London Elegy)
3 Earth and Dust
4 Lighthouses for the Desolate
5 The Body Attains the End Which Comes to Us All
6 The Affliction of Childhood
7 Solace
8 The Spirit of Elegy
9 Anthem for Radiant Trees
10 Rhapsody (After the Teares)

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