Virgin Passages - Distance

Jorge Costa 10/07/2008

Rating: 3.5/5

Having spen the last couple of years releasing a handful of EPs (including ?'Mandalay' - their well-received collection of early recordings and CDRs), 'Distance' finally represents Virgin Passages' first 'official' record. Described as a 'mini-album', the six tracks presented here show, like their earlier recordings, the band's knack for creating dreamy, jazz-tinged folk music.

Like tall grass caught in the light breeze of a hazy summer day, the instrumentation in these songs lilts lazily and seductively with guitars played gently over unhurried percussion. The coolly epic “This Is Not The End Of The World Again” shows the band at their improvisational best with instruments and vocals cascading and tumbling along for nearly seven minutes giving you the impression that the band would not look out of place playing in the cushy corner of a bohemian Montmartre café. One can imagine that this is what Espers would sound like had they grown up in Staffordshire and had been subject to country walks in the sun; the hymnal wails heard in the creaky and earthy “Who Do You Love?” and “Because Of Sad Austerities” even almost sound like Meg Baird's ethereal vocals. Consisting mainly of simple chants and absent-minded humming, singing tends to take a backseat to the instruments on this record, but when it finally does come to the forefront, the effect is emotionally raw and helps to make “I Want You To Sleep” the most achingly gorgeous moment on this album.

Though the unvarying languid tempo leaves them at risk of losing your attention (even as the runtime clocks in at just over twenty minutes), and that you can't help but feel that, vocally, they should do more, this record nevertheless shows that Virgin Passages has a gift for ambience and the kind of melodies that sneak up on you when you least expect it. 'Distance' is a good preview, a positive indicator of what this band can do.