The beautiful second release on the mailbox label sees El Conejo gift us with a powerful wordless lullaby on classical guitar
Although the concept of a lullaby goes back four millennia, the root of almost every one remains the same today as it did in 2000 BC. Despite differences in context across time and continents, a lullaby finds its roots firmly embedded in love, tenderness and empathy.
Typically, we look to words when we think of lullabies, although these are unnecessary when we unpack the core of the cradle song. A lullaby possesses its special power though a particular pulse and repetitive rhythm which creates a peaceful, hypnotic property.
There is a therapeutic quality to them for both sound-maker and listener. But as well as being a sleep aid for infants, a lullaby has also been considered a method to pass down knowledge or history of a particular culture or country through generations.
Whether it is one written by a classical composer – the berceuse – by Debussy or Charles Ives, or one passed down through family from one home to another, a lullaby holds a particular magic and often a message or story in its structure.
This magic is absolutely evident in the beautiful new release by El Conejo on the mailbox label. A Lullaby for Elisa is a pair of tracks recorded at home in Brazil by Bruno Nunes Coelho. Following on from his At Home With...(songs for solitude) Vol. 07 earlier in the year on his own La Petite Chambre label, the ideas of nostalgia and memories at the heart of that release drift through as wordless voices into the gorgeous ‘O, Elisa’ and its sister, ‘O, Elisa [reprise]’.
Every El Conejo release seems to capture a special spirit. A nostalgic longing that is bittersweet. On Tempestade Tropical – his second album, released last year – an eclectic minimalism of acoustic sounds, loops and field recordings offered a bird’s-eye view over a city and paired this with a personal sense of loss, as well as hope. On Lullabies for Elisa the sense of place becomes more intimate, gifting us a view of a private, sacred space.
Appearing to be equal parts a portrait of a time and place and a landscape of an internal world, this music is an aural painting blessed with the warm and delicate arrangements from El Conejo’s soothing classical guitar. This is music that speaks in its sense of space, as well as in every note.
Every note functions as an individual phoneme which talks intimately to the next one, creating a non-verbal language that effortlessly conveys tone and meaning as rich as any David J. Peterson constructed language for film and television.
No words are required when a gliding guitar in tandem with a range of sparse instrumentation, ethereal effects and subtle field recordings does all the speaking necessary.
El Conejo’s guitar is a part of him – connecting the head and the heart – the music flows out forming tonal verse every bit as powerful as a lullaby sung at dusk.
‘O Elisa’ is the sound of dancing sunbeams through shifting birdsong, cloud and shadow: gorgeous, reflective and hopeful. Fractals of shimmering light creating tiny patterns within patterns, as tempo and strumming sway and roll.
While the reprise sees a subtle mood change, the dance now a soft embrace – iridescent moonbeams glistening between constellations. It feels like hours, or perhaps days could have passed, inciting an immediate nostalgia for the first variation. And then twilight arrives and guides us home.
A Lullaby for Elisa is a perfectly formed couplet of tones and timbres which holds over us a tender power to both appreciate and lose ourselves in every passing moment.
‘O Elisa’ pulls us along gently from one minute into the next, before drifting into the coda of the reprise, echoing the magic within a traditional lullaby to lull us peacefully from one world into the next. Setting us up to listen again and again. Night after night.
These two versions of a theme are connected and separated by the transience of daily life and the small differences within our days which makes not one single ‘hello’ or ‘I love you’ ever like another. I can imagine if further renditions were ever formed they would never sound quite the same. Every time the lullaby is played it breathes anew and filters through the shimmering muse of its player.
Just like lullabies of old, this is universal music that deserves to be heard, shared and played.
A Lullaby for Elisa by El Conejo is a 2-track single available to buy digitally on mailbox records this Friday, 4th September. Purchase on Bandcamp.
Based in Bristol, UK, mailbox is a new label established this year and run by the talented James A. McDermid and Inês Ourives Delgado. Their debut release was McDermid’s split with Brad Deschamps aka anthéne, the highly recommended Transit + Transition.