November 10, 2005

The Montgolfier Brothers "Journey's End"

In 2000, a British pop duo calling themselves The Montgolfier Brothers quietly released their debut album. Their music--a quiet, melancholy affair awash in many shades of gray--impressed the few who heard it. Label problems and indifference to the band's gentle technique unfortunately muted the duo's output. Sure, the duo went on to solo projects--muti-instrumentalist Mark Tranmer formed Gnac, while vocalist Roger Quigley formed At Swim Two Birds--but neither quite satisfied the palate. Thus, the arrival of the four-song EP Journey's End--and the news of a new album, All My Bad Thoughts, would soon be forthcoming--has made this writer quite enthusiastic. After all, very few records have come close to matching the sheer pop beauty of their previous album, The World is Flat.

Though Journey's End consists of only four songs, it's hardly a brief affair. "Journey's End" is a long, sad tale about the fleeting nature of life and love. It's a dark, melancholy song; Roger Quigley sings with a hushed longing that's deftly highlighted by Mark Trammer's funereal piano melody. It's a sad, haunting song that feels like a dark, snow-covered English street. It's haunting and it's beautiful, and it's easily the Montgolfier Brothers' best composition. The other three songs follow suit; they're gentle, hushed affairs. "Bridestones Revisited" is a gorgeous instrumental, with gentle piano, strings and woodwinds creating an absolutely heavenly affair. "Koffee Pot Blues" and "Koffee Pot Brass" are variations on the same song; the "Blues" version finds Quigley accompanied by piano and guitar, while "Brass" finds him accompanied by harp and a brass section. Journey's End also contains two videos, one for the title track, and another for the instrumental "Operation Laff."

It's hard not to feel a tinge of sadness when listening to The Montgolfier Brothers, but at the same time, it's hard not to be wonderfully overwhelmed by the utterly beautiful music they make. Journey's End serves as a beautiful reminder of their brilliance, and it also hints that their forthcoming full length All My Bad Thoughts may very well be one of this year's best records.

--Joseph Kyle

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