Nerve Magazine Review of
'the end of the rain'
It is an album that gives you value for your listening time: the songs are generous both in musical content and in length and give a variety of mood and counterpoint.
And I did appreciate the crisp endings of the songs.
Discernible influences on this band are folk based, with echoes of the Beatles, Irish music that catches your dancing feet, the mournfully melodic REM, psychedelic music, Indian music, a bit of Paul Simon and some vocal reverberations of Bert Jansch. There is a variety of instruments: bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, cello, bouzouki, banjo, recorders, accordion, organ, percussion, mouth harp, drums, electric piano and tables. They work together with the vocals to create a rich musical experience somehow imbued with a feeling of river wind, sea shore and far horizon – the interface of departure and new beginnings. The landscape is delineated in the first track, the end of the rain: “listen to the wind moving the river”. This song of hope after a period of bad experiences speaks of “the spark of hope in desperation,” and “the sun at the end of the rain.”
The second track: asylum provides a mournful contrast to the jaunty folkie atmosphere of the previous number. A more sombre tone is set by the cello. The song has a minor feel and there is a tender poignancy in the voice and further contrasts between the quieter parts in the verses and the more climatic elements in the chorus.
The juxtaposition of Tracks 5 and 6 also creates a strong musical contrast: another ship has moody electric guitar work creating some haunting emotion and then the crashing of the cymbals forms a sea swell. If you want to create do a slow guitar solo and this is what happens here for “a distant dot on the horizon” which “disappears for ever more”. Save me, on the other hand, has a quieter mood and the space has shrunk to the intimacy In the voice.
sweet life, at nearly six minutes, is the longest track on the album. It starts rhythmically with the tabla achieving a twangy Indian sound and instruments: guitar, violin,electronics, vocals … are added in to create textural depth. What with the mesmerising rhythms and the electronic droning it’s very hippie and psychedelic and follows on well from the previous song cold ashes which has echoes of the later Beatles music. sweet life grants itself the right to meander through the possibilities of sound: modifying, distorting, contrasting, creating crescendos, fading, amplifying … The counterpoint of the instruments and vocals near the end is interesting and climatic but the music plays with our expectations, like life does, and just when you think it will fade and finish it weaves back in and the caravan twists on like those saffron–robed monks who used to dance through city streets. It’s he only track that has a fade-out ending.
From the first note of Sonnenberg’s the end of the rain album one is struck by the clarity of the vocals so it is interesting to find the vocal experiments in tracks such as maces of meaning where the instruments appear almost to dominate and he maya which presents jangly mandolin movement. Here the vocals are indistinct behind the strident backing – how important the bass is on this track – and at variance with it, until vocal freedom is asserted. After all the restless lingering of the previous track, the road ahead, this one’s on the move with the cymbal-swish of excitement and – one presumes – an intentionally threatening amount of sound underpinned by a loud, steady drum beat. “Something is pushing me on” say the lyrics. Certainly is.
Taken as a whole, the album addresses the sometimes nostalgic attachment we have to the past, co-exist with the desire to move on; the instinct to have the asylum of emotional security in the arms of a lover and the compulsion to disappear over the horizon. It is the tension of the shoreline where the traveller lingers before the sea swell claims him as a passenger to who knows where. These themes are reflected in the very effective CD cover showing a dog – by Elke Zinsmeister – and a sky – by Zoe Zinsmeister.
A dog is tethered by its animal needs, its routines, its attachments. It is a social animal, a pack animal, and the same can be said to a great extent for human beings.
But human beings have more choices, more opportunities to respond to the feel and sound of river and sea, the beckoning horizon, the watery winds. They can see the magnitude of he sky and dance there.
The album ends with an alternative version of the first track. Not radically so. end of the (t)rain – home made version has birdsong, which has its own evocative power and provides another vocal dimension, a bit of cello and a train going by, then the guitar playing quietly. The pun in the title is apt because of the journey theme and because there is the sound of a train on the track. We are back to the strong, clear lyrics and the jaunty optimism of the resurrection song. But we haven’t gone back; you can’t go back; the song has subtly changed.