It began in June 2019 when San Fermin unveiled the first part of ‘The Cormorant’, a lush, swirling record constructed around a male and female character, voiced by Allen Tate, taking on the male role, while the female protagonist is voiced by a revolving cast of contributors: Claire Wellin, Karlie Bruce, Sarah Pedinotti and Samia Finnerty. The Ellis Ludwig-Leone helmed project is now due to reach its natural conclusion via its second instalment as San Fermin dispense with the complete collection of ‘The Cormorant’s dual parts.
‘The Cormorant I & II’ is an emotional voyage through the life of two interlinking personalities, one that documents the tender moments of our early years, the topsy turvy period of teenage-dom, the rollercoaster feeling of being an adult and then the inevitable slide into old age and the eventual death of the two lead roles. Spread out across 16 tracks San Fermin’s fourth outing is something of an epic but with a calm subtlety. This is attributed to the varied sonic layers of swooning strings, brass and delicate electronics, while the myriad of singers that narrate your way through ‘The Cormorant’s twists and turns, add a resplendent soothing tone to the album’s traversal through life’s big journey.
The record commences with the LP’s eponymous track; a playful bounce of piano that’s wrapped around little nuances and taut strings, as our female lead sets the scene of “children playing in the playground/golden light is streaming in/floating dust above your bed”. It’s with an immediacy you feel the comfort and warmth of childhood, one that’s full of wonder and giddy happiness. As the record gathers pace, we skip through many scenarios, like the growing pains of ‘The Hunger’, one that recounts something close to romantic turmoil as our female lead sighs the following relatable tales of a relationship that’s hard work “eventually I’ll fall for another disappointment” and “so feed me all your valentines/your chocolates and your cheesy lines” .‘The Living’ is where the two lead roles combine to document something more reflective, as our male character ruminates “life is for living/so take me to the beating heart/it’s hard to describe/like we’re part of something bigger.” Strings, percussion and brass create a simple canvas for the story to be daubed across before the song blossoms to something more grandiose. As we reach ‘The Cormorant’s final third, you can feel things slowing down; ‘Westfjords’ plays out like a reflection back on a life well spent as someone requests “tell us all a story/something we can all laugh at”. This reflection comes with a cautionary pang, as layers of horns rouse an emotive swell “you only get one chance at this/you only get one chance/running from the future/think of all the things you’ll miss”. The syncopated handclaps at the heart of ‘Do Less’ beat out a ritual chant of a choral hue, as a sea of voices state “can we take a moment before we go again”. ‘Freedom’ is bizarrely jubilant but at it’s heart, you get the feeling the two main characters are realising they’ve not got much time left “I’m not worried about the kids/I’m not trying to make the list/there’s no need to be exhausting”, which sounds like someone baulking at the notion of making a will. The heavenly hue of ‘Tunnel ML’ guides our way to heaven, as quivering strings and an angelic chorus of voices part the clouds and takes the record’s subjects to their final resting place as ‘The Cormorant I & II’ comes to a celestial close.
‘The Cormorant I & II’ is a tender, vulnerable, soul searching recount of human fragility; one that’s both heart-warming and heart-breaking.
Words and Thought of Adam Williams
The Cormorant I & II by San Fermin comes out on ,March 27th via Better Company/Sony Music