A momentary confluence of instrumental suspense that suggests momentous consequences.
There’s a multilayered meaning to the title of this ensemble’s debut: the five musicians behind ER may have gathered for the first time to pool their talents here, on a brief run through ambient, if tangible, soundscapes which exist in the moment, yet the quintet members have previously played together as various duos and trios and noticed how their individual dots could be interconnected. Not that the music on “Once Only” ever sounds as sophisticated as it, in fact, is – on the contrary, it’s easy on the ear, but the aural landscapes offered on this album are bound to leave a subliminal imprint on the listener’s psyche. And though the bliss should prove fleeting, the record’s echo will return to one’s mind once in a while.
That’s the perpetual movement opener “Nomad” hints at by sculpting a menacingly thunderous drone out of Colin Edwin’s bass and Miguel Noya’s piano before Paul Godwin, the latter’s partner in DOGON, begins questioning, in dulcet tones, the gist of his own and the human race’s existence – the subject casting a “shadowy relief” over all the pieces on display – and Miguel Toro’s drums start to pass military march to Robert Jürjendal’s glittery guitar. The momentum seems to get lost in “The Void” with its trumpet-encrusted slow-motion flutter until the brass licks feel hot enough for the voice to come back and soothe the flow, whereas the sparse six-string sparkles of “A Medium-Sized Village” usher in a spectral scariness – submerged in the increasingly heavy beat and quietly simmering below the surface.
In its wake, “The Triggering Town” invites the urban vigor into the frame, as Jürjendal’s electric lines unhurriedly burn Noya’s acoustic ivories and rhythm section’s robust passages support Godwin’s half-whisper, but “The Bottom Of The Pond” puts forward a boiling intensity of orchestral scope – loud, albeit not too clear with instrumental assault composed from a myriad dazzling details. They dissolve in the groovy “The Sky” that hides a vocal layer underneath another vocal layer and adds more and more sonic elements to this captivating tapestry which shall vanish as a mist only to linger in the ether. To linger so wondrously as to leaving the listener wishing for “Once Only” to remain the quintet’s sole release and for the experience not to be ever trodden again.