In The Nursery
ITN Corporation, 2011
I’d fixed myself a mug of Earl Grey and sat down to give In The Nursery‘s latest a proper listen. Midway through opening track and lead single “Artisans Of Civilisation”, I went to take my first sip, only to spill the whole thing all over my lap. As I was yowling, cursing the gods, and mopping the mess up, it occurred to me that said Earl Grey was much like In The Nursery’s entire body of work: capable of reassuring, awakening and inspiring, but also able to deliver an unexpected shock to the nervous system…like a mug of tea dropped on your lap. (One tortured metaphor with every neoclassical record review! That’s the ID:UD guarantee!)
Anyway, 30 years into their career, the brothers Humberstone remain workhorses (one would expect nothing less than martial dedication from the group once termed “the gods of bombast”). They’re likely releasing more new material nowadays than every before thanks to their dedication to composing soundtracks (both for new films as well as classic silent works). Crimony, I think I have about a dozen of their albums and that’s nowhere near half of them. Blind Sound feels very much like a continuation of 2007’s Era, which is both a curse and a blessing. The former in that I’m not sure that any real new ground is being broken here, but the latter in that Era was perhaps their best release since 1990’s L’Esprit (one of my favourite LPs of all time and the perfect starting point for ITN), so I’m not complaining about more of the same.
While their soundtrack work makes use of subtly interwoven interludes and refrains, ITN’s albums proper have evolved to be very direct affairs, collections of individual compositions. For a band that draws heavily from the symphonic tradition but also works within the time limits of pop songcraft, this makes for a lot of dense pieces. “Past Glory” and “Crepuscule”, for example, are textbook ITN tracks: string and horn sections build an atmosphere of tension and drama, setting a path for the band’s trademark, the mammoth timpanis which carry things to a climax which seems impossible to build to in just under five minutes. (Have a giggle, I’ll be here when you’re done) I’d describe it as fantastically epic stuff were that word not overused beyond all recuperation – capable of imbuing whatever you happen to be doing at the moment you’re listening to it with an unparalleled sense of gravitas and urgency. Never before will you fold a load of laundry that means so much as the one you fold while listening to In The Nursery. (It should go without saying that ITN records are the best soundtrack to a night of Dungeons & Dragons in the world)
There are some exceptions to this formula for grandiosity on Blind Sound: the intimately plucked strings of “Coloured Silence” and the understated piano of “Crave” which recalls L’Espirit‘s most delicate moments. If I’m being honest with myself, I think I prefer these gentler tones in ITN’s palette, and at times I do wish that they’d give them more space to shine on their LPs. That’s a purely subjective gripe, though, and shouldn’t be taken as a mark against Blind Sound. It’s yet another solid effort which suffers only in comparison to the best of In The Nursery themselves, who remain committed to a singular form of composition of which they remain the undisputed masters.