Not only does this CD have one of the coolest packaging designs I've ever seen, but it has some of the nicer music I've heard in quite some time as well. As a group, Rachel's have been around for several years now with an ever-changing lineup composing themed orchestral music that always manages to move me. This release is no different.
Like their other releases (Music For Egon Schiele, Handwriting), there is a definite theme to the entire album and this time around they've moved from the world of different artists to sea travel. As a whole, it's probably a little more experimental and fractured than their first two releases, but it works really well as a concept album and a cohesive piece of work. Many times on the album, the music simply drifts off into ambience, while other sounds like the rocking of a boat and the creak of wood make their way into the mix. Instead of being a distraction, however, it simply adds to the atmosphere of the recording.
The disc starts off with the fairly rambunctious (for the Rachel's) "Rhine & Courtesan," with piano and backing strings before dying down a bit into one of the segues that I spoke of above. When the song takes off again, the strings and piano part attack even more before winding down into the simple beauty of "The Voyage Of Camille." A piano again takes the center stage in the next two tracks, including the amazing ever-changing fourth track entitled "Lloyd's Register." The album holds onto the meloncholy for most of the first half until unsettling itself with the eighth track, "The Sirens." From there, the album drifts again through several amazing pieces and concludes with "His Eyes." Overall, the disc continues the group's penchant for somewhat haunting music, but they manage to pull it off every time.
Basically, if you've heard the group before and enjoyed them, you won't be dissapointed by this disc. It's their longest release to date and probably their most ambitious in terms of what it accomplishes. With 17 different musicians contributing to the end product, the instrumentation is some of the most varied and intricate and the group has definitely tried some new things. It shows what former indie-rock artists can do when they get ahold of an orchestra. It's one of the rare albums that I know I'll still probably listen to 30 years down the road.