New To Me – New To You – San Fermin

There’s a rich history of “classical” composers getting involved in pop music. Van Dykes Park is the godfather of such things!

Now 70 years old, he’s still probably best known for his work with Brian Wilson on his lost, then re-found classic “Smile”, but that was in the 1960s! The fact he’s still so well respected and admired 50 years later is a testament to his genius.

His recent work with Joanna Newsom first introduced me to Parks, he took Joanna’s hypnotic harp playing, and gorgeous story telling and turned it into an ambitious, string-laden thing. Some likened it to a Disney film sound-track in places and their was certainly a playful childish air to the collaboration. All in all it it showed Parks ability to take a track and make it go where it needs to go.

The beautiful mix of his classical, orchestral backing and the heart and soul of pop or folk music often led to a match made in heaven. San Fermin main man Ellis Ludwig-Leone is surely an admirer of Van Dykes’ work, indeed he’ll hope to follow in his footsteps, and if he gets anywhere near he’ll have done very well indeed!

San Fermin is largely the work of twenty-four year old composer and song-writer Ellis Ludwig-Leone. He’s been joined by a number of musicians and vocalists. Most notably male lead vocalist Allen Tate and the two female leads Jess Wolfe & Holly Laessig. They’re bulked out by a revolving cast of musicians on record and live.

Ambitious, orchestral pop-music. The fact Ellis worked with Nico Muhly is no surprise, and there’s similar ambition to acts like Dirty Projectors or Sufjan Stevens. There’s a beautiful back and forth approach to the vocals with the baritone male voice counter balanced by the soprano females. There’s a fair whack of brass and string as you’d expect from a classically trained composer.

Once again we have another act based out of Brooklyn! Though their debut album was written on the mountainous border between Alberta and British Columbia apparently, which sounds a rather different setting doesn’t it?

Apparently the debut album was recorded in 6 weeks, it’s only been out for about a week or so here, as it’s basically just Ellis writing tracks though it’s hard to say when “the band” started. He’s 24 which means he was probably born in 1989 though, which is a tad depressing!

Fans of complicated, arty, intricate arrangements and ambition look no further! Complicated rhythms, varied instruments, and stunning vocals it’s got a lot going for it.  Fans of the opera and classical music too would probably find a lot to love. Basically if you like your pop, highly articulate you won’t go far wrong. Fans of Dirty Projectors look no further you have a new favourite band in the making! The wonderful male vocalists performance is a superb antidote to all the dense complex music on show and Tate recalls Lambchop singer Kurt Wagner in places, there’s even a hint of Matt Berninger, he’s certainly off a similar octave!

Why not?
It might be a bit dense for some, and for all Ellis’ attempts to step away from classical and into pop, there’s an awful lot of his classical influences on show. Some might find it easy to admire and hard to love, but I doubt anyone could fail to be impressed by it!

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