September 24, 2015 by Robb Powell
I must apologise in advance that this is not a proper full review such as the album duly deserves. That said, I cannot just not share anything on the blog about the outstanding Esteesee by Ange Hardy. Released this very day but as I pre-ordered it I have been in the wondrous vividly painted world of Coleridge for a few weeks already. Indeed, I am still struggling to find words appropriate to express just how incredible, beautiful, evocative and wonderful this collection of songs and music are. None I find do justice to the immaculate end result of this project. Curated and created by Ange with a suite of other top musicians and guests lending their artistic skills to produce a true dynamic masterpiece.
As Ange explains in the inlay: Esteesee is an album inspired by, and indeed it celebrates, the life and work of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) who was so utterly “disgusted by the dull and vile plumpness of his own Christian names”, by the time he was 16 years old he was referring to himself as S.T.C often spelling this as Esteesee.
For those unfamiliar with his work, he is perhaps best known for the The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, counted William Wordsworth as a friend and with whom he is credited as founding Romanticism. Through the songs on this record, Ange shines a light on the fascinating and complex poems and on the areas of the poet’s life that resonated most strongly with her, thus representing a snapshot of his life through her eyes.
The huge level of respect and admiration with which she manages to weave Coleridge’s words around and through her own is something one appreciates almost instantly. As an artist, musician and creative herself, the way this amalgamation has worked is nothing short of divine. It is as though destiny has aligned them so this work could result. Furthermore it has encouraged me to seek out some of the original works of Coleridge as it will many others who hear this work of magic.
Trying in vain to narrow down songs for a podcast playlist I’ve had to settle on sharing four. I often bang on about how it is always hard to select single tracks to play from albums that are of epic quality but seriously this time I have been well and truly beaten. As The Foster-Mother’s Tale is such a stunning and beautiful way to be greeted when hitting play on a brand new album for the first time (and every time thereafter for that matter), I settled on this opening track as the first. However, I then hit the wall of NEEDING to play them all. Every. Single. One. And thus opted for title track Esteesee as the second of four. The other two I am still to pick so the podcast that follows my first new one in a while may be postponed until that is done. When a record touches me such as this one has, though, you must appreciate it feels like a betrayal to leave any out at all.
The arrangements, the additions, the layers that build up around your ears breathe singing, talking, walking, moving pictures into the mind. Some play about you while you feel completely immersed in all the surrounding splendour. My Captain for instance, possesses me so forcefully that I find myself having just finished some kind of traditional folk-dance come the end. Even when sitting down I can’t be tamed to stillness.
Title track Esteesee itself I have perhaps listened to the most as it is, as mentioned on my next podcast playlist (but be under no illusion I have been playing the album in full on endless repeat) but also it was featured prior to release on Folk Radio UK. The heavenly depths conjured up by the lyrics, Ange’s serene vocals, the heavenly harmonies, the music, the angels, the EVERYTHING! Those four angels reveal themselves through the song in all their angelic glory touching every fibre of your being. As I am a total music geek (no surprise there), I am left with goosebumps from music on a regular basis but once again with this single song, those goosebumps rippling over and through me reach an entirely new level while experiencing Esteesee. Yes, I say experience because the entire album is something you don’t just listen to but these songs constitute an experience. And a divine one at that.
One more thing about it both astounds and confounds me (in very good ways). Even though the music and style are inherently very traditional folk in nature, the skill and creativity poured into them and thus the resulting output breaks down ALL walls of genre, transcending far beyond so that whether your usual preference is folk (of whatever sub-genre) or anything else right across the entire music spectrum, Esteesee is a record your life cannot and should not be without. Do yourselves a HUGE favour and BUY IT NOW! This is not only some of the best folk music out there, it is some of the best music overall!
There is also the Along The Coleridge Way tour kicking off October 3rd running right about The Coleridge Way. If you are in the area DO NOT MISS it! http://www.alongthecoleridgeway.co.uk/
Finally, and this is completely selfish on my part but with the formidable level of quality Ange Hardy has reached with Esteesee I would love to see and hear what she would create on a similar project concerning Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. An album like Esteesee put to that world would for me, be akin to me reaching those white shores of Valinor in the uttermost West. In fact, listening to Esteesee takes me right there anyway. http://www.angehardy.com/
You can listen to the album in full below and it is available via:
As well as from the >>shop<< on Ange’s website.