Album artwork for San Fermin’s The Cormorant I and II.
By Rob Mohr and Mary Katherine Saye
Rob: It’s not often that I can pinpoint the exact moment I discovered a new band. Yet, for whatever reason, I have a vivid memory of when I discovered San Fermin. I was searching for “The Glory” on Spotify five years ago, looking for the Kanye West classic from 2007’s Graduation, when I accidentally clicked on the San Fermin song of the same name. It’s a 34 second interlude from their 2015 album Jackrabbit. I found it interesting enough to give the rest of the album a listen and enjoyed it. After that, poof, I haven’t thought about San Fermin ever since.
However, when I was looking through the newest album releases for something interesting, I noticed San Fermin’s newest album The Cormorant I and II. “Why not?” I thought to myself, and took it for a spin.
Technically, it’s a double album, hence the “I and II” designation. The Cormorant I was released in October of 2019 and now it’s been re-released with its second half. The “double album” label is a bit of an exaggeration, since The Cormorant I and II is only 49 minutes long. A lot is still packed into those 49 minutes though.
The first half of the album features really solid, unique sounds. San Fermin’s “woodland” indie rock really shines on “The Hunger” and “Saints,” which both have a little bit of edge to them. Other songs like “The Cormorant,” “Cerulean Gardens,” and “The Myth,” are a bit more folk sounding and lean into an early Sufjan Stevens influenced style. Throughout it all, nature sounds and harmonizing make San Fermin sound less like a band and more like a fairy orchestra. I suppose this makes sense for a band led by a Yale-educated composer named “Ellis Ludwig-Leone.”
The second half of the album is just as strong, with tracks like “Westfjords” and “Freedom (Yeah! Yeah!).” However, there isn’t something as attention grabbing as the edgier songs (“The Hunger” and “Saints”) from the first half. Regardless, the album’s minute and a half outro, “Tunnel Mt.,” deploys its strings, horns, and vocals in a way that gives a very satisfying conclusion to the album.
At a time when most of us are cooped up inside our homes and staying away from each other, The Cormorant I and II is a welcome escape from a socially distant reality into a sonic fairy forest. Listeners who find themselves quarantined in a big city with very little access to nature might resonate with this one particularly.
MK: In this new period of change, I have appreciated more than ever the comfort listening to music brings. Perhaps you’ve found yourself with more free time to expand on a certain hobby, or you’ve created a cozy study/work space; San Fermin’s new album, The Cormorant I & II, is serene and pleasant, making it the perfect soundtrack for this time that has forced us to slow down a little and welcome moments of quiet reflection.
The songs “The Cormorant” through “The Myth” were released in October 2019 in The Cormorant I. Released most recently was the second half of the album, which includes 8 more tracks. The first song of part one introduces the unique attempt of the composer, Ellis Ludwig-Leone, to create a story that progresses throughout the album. The piano that begins “The Cormorant” makes this song seem uplifting, yet close attention to the words produces an eerie feeling that the story Ludwig-Leone has written within the songs will provoke some deeper contemplation than the listener might have originally expected.
The second song, “Cerulean Gardens,” opens with a beautiful acoustic guitar and is joined by the deep notes of a cello halfway through. This song is nostalgic, with the singer admitting to part of him still “hiding while you go seek,” and a desire to go back to simpler times is relatably expressed.
“Little Star,” the released single of the second part of the album is a beautiful combination of the piano featured in many of the songs and an understated percussion. The bridge introduces a violin, along with the cello recognized in other songs, amplifies the loveliness of this album.
The last song, “Tunnel Mt.,” is unique as the only instrumental track on the album, but it does not disappoint, with a mix of brass, woodwind, and string instruments. This track is brief, and ends in a quiet resolution absent of the eeriness felt at the beginning of this album.
San Fermin’s new album is not for music listeners who look for a little more excitement in their music. The Cormorant I & II is for the contemplative listener who is craving a soundtrack that is thought provoking yet also appropriate as simple background music.