For a while, I associated the name of Charlotte Church with Andrew Lloyd Webber due to ‘Pie Jesu’. Then it sort of went quiet, as we don’t always get all the music the United Kingdom creates every year back in Mexico. When news came out of these EPs, ONE, TWO and THREE coming out over the course of a year and a half, I was curious what style she developed in her adult years.
Barroque and ethereal are the two words that popped once Three, the last EP from this series finished. Let’s put some context here, shall we? ONE came out in September 2012. 4 songs, slightly pop but with enough layers to give it an extra edge. From ONE you can hug ‘Beautiful Wreck’ for as long as you want, as it’s a perfectly put together song that quite hits the spot.
TWO, released in March 2013, was a slight contrast from ONE. Sure, it’s still pop, but it’s akin to the small glass figurines you can buy in the city of Puebla, México. Small details that you can’t see from afar jump on closer inspections and what you realise from TWO is that the mood is more grey; songs full of longing and electronic elements that not only adorn the pop structures throughout but also helps them achieve flight. ‘Glitterbombed’ was a perfect choice for a single, as it appears to be an easy going track with gorgeous instrumentations, but there’s something else, luring us into a darker shade of music. ‘Nerve’ embraces that often ignored genre called Trip Hop and creates a song as rich as sandalwood incense, lingering through the halls of a church even after it’s completely burnt out. ‘Lasts, or Eschaton’ completely abandons any semblance of pop, slowly smouldering towards an explosive ending.
And now, it’s time for THREE to grace the stereos. 7 songs, as far from pop as you can get and more into a territory that mixes the Baroque communion of sounds that is Chamber pop with post electronica elements to create a more stylised format. ‘Sparrow’ starts as a rite to shake away any sadness still left over from the previous EP and it’s more broodier moments. ‘Remains’ works as a segue piece for ‘Like a fool’, the definite prime cut of THREE. ‘Like a fool’ takes a few steps back and the strides forward and jumps into an abyss, hitting the right notes and emotional nuances to meticulously strung the nerve endings of your spine. ‘Magician’s assistant’ is almost like the closing song of the first act of a dark musical, as the entire mood and pace seems to be gearing towards a cliffhanger.
What is the resolution of said cliffhanger? Judging the mood of ‘House upon the sea’, it seems it’s not a good one. Full of sadness, Charlotte Church‘s voice conveys a sense of longing that upstages the beautiful instrumentation. ‘I can dream’ is slightly more upbeat, blame it on the ambient electronic arrangement, akin to a lighter shade of drum n bass, with a sweet layer of IDM. That’s for the first half, as the second half spirals into a pandemonium of emotions, with guitars and drums spiraling into chaos. The storm leaves and the sea returns to a calm sway. ‘Water tower’ bookends THREE, a sort of response to ‘Sparrow’ as it follows its structure, but with a more upbeat denouement.
Some classical pieces have three movements. The first one, a lively song (allegro). The second movement, an andante or an adagio, slow, thoughtful and sad. The third one usually is a livelier, strong piece that ties some motifs and offers some sort of denouement. In the case of these trilogy of EPs by Charlotte Church, you have a whole piece with an artist testing herself in a whole different genre while still keeping her essence (a mighty voice) intact.
I’m still wondering about the 4, 5 and 7 thing. I’m an absolute dolt.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López