Rachel's are a group who have always seemed to have a definite theme or concept behind the music on their releases. Although the first disc (Handwriting) was their least cohesive of the three in terms of styles, it was pulled together by artist names at song titles. Continuing that theme, they did an albums worth of music that revolved around the troubled life of an artist on Music For Egon Schiele. Finally, they went even more conceptual on the high-seas themed The Sea And The Bells. With Selenography, things are different, but the same, which is good for those wanting another amazing album from the group.
The first thing that's noticeable about the release is that it comes issued in a fairly standard clear jewel case instead of the intricate paper packaging of the past. The inside photographic work is beautiful, though, and it perfectly invokes visions of the album title (which roughly means "the study of the surface of the moon"). The second thing that is different about the album is that there's really no conceptual theme holding everything together as there has been on albums past. Recorded over the course of three years and at least four different locations, it's more of an anthology of sorts. Of course, it's not even something that's too noticeable over the course of 12 tracks and almost 60 minutes of music that finds the group trying out a few new things with great success.
The first track on the disc is a fairly standard one for the group with guitar, drums, piano and some stringed instruments, but it gives way to the haunting second track entitled "On Demeter." After a long intro in which the different instruments swirl in and out of the foreground, they all start falling into place one by one until it's clear that they're working as a whole. The strings and piano move the song through sort of a slow, sad waltz while the guitar occasionally strums in a few Morricone-esque notes. The third track "The Last Light" moves in nearly the same direction, except with the addition of some ambient noise like muffled jangling coins. It conjures up images of the group playing on a dark corner somewhere in a dark corner of town as the last lights of the sun settle down behind the horizon.
The sole instrument on the fifth track is a double-manual harpsichord, but it's really all that's needed. "Honeysuckle Suite" moves through several different movements over the course of almost 6 minutes, starting out with a fairly slow piece before going into a final two minute stretch that is simply mind-blowing. The one instrument emotes more feeling in one song than entire albums I've heard. The sixth track "Artemisia" is a stripped-down number featuring something you never thought you'd ever hear on a Rachel's album; a drum machine. Before you freak out, let me say that it's nothing that could fuel a dancefloor. Instead, it's a simple little wet thump that accompanies some chime-like keyboard textures and washing sweeps while a voice (sounding like it's coming through on a bad short-wave radio) weaves through it all.
The eighth track again features some unconventional (at least for the group) instrument use with more keyboards and a vibraphone. The slowly-building "An Evening Of Long Goodbyes" layers on and peels back the different sounds just at the right moments and it makes for one of the better tracks on the release. The short "Cuts The Metal Cold" features a swelling chorus of piano and stringed instruments, as well as the muted accompaniment of a trumpet. As if it needed to be, it makes things even a little bit more melancholy. That crazy drum machine is back on "The Mysterious Disappearance of Louis LePrince" and in combination with the creepy sound effects and other eerie noises, convinces me that the group might do a good bit at coming up with scores for movies. The song alone conjures (there I went and used that word again, but it's very true) up images of the strangest sorts, and it's much more creepy than any of that over-the-top theatrics that are so prevalent in some other genre's (not naming any names, of course). That's not even all. After another great track of the likes that the group is known for, the album closes up with a somewhat different version of the aforementioned track "Artemisia." On "Hearts And Drums," that same voice . Starting out with only the voice of Giovanna Cacciola again, "Hearts And Drums" moves along with a very muffled drum machine (sounding like a heart). It flourishes a bit before dying off again into the "thump-thump" of the heartbeat.
Overall, the disc is another great release by the group and although some things have changed with the music, they're still basically the same group of indie-rock fringists. Sure, they're trying some new things, but it's nothing that they don't work into the context of the music that they're creating. If anything, the varied release shows that the group isn't stuck in a rut. I know I hope to hear a lot more from them in the future.