Clara-Lane Lens, Denzil Delaere, Claron McFadden; The Fourteen Storks Ensemble
DG 483 9745 60:42 mins
Nick Cave describes lockdown as both apocalyptic and boring. Unfortunately, the same could be said for L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S, the vocal work composed by Nicholas Lens to text written by the Australian singer. The 12 litanies are intended to echo a liturgical style, with recurring phrases reflected in the repeated musical motifs. Whereas Lens and Cave’s previous project, Shell Shock, followed the general shape of a chamber opera, L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S lacks a clear narrative – there’s no sense of how this music might translate to stage.
Cave has not written a libretto, but rather a dozen disparate reflections on life, death, love and suffering – wrapped up under a guise of spirituality that verges on polite parody (‘Love comes to pass / Nothing ever lasts / Never lasts for long / For like an even- / An evensong’). The composer’s daughter Clara-Lane Lens’s uncluttered, breathy vocals lend an unsettling, dramatic quality to ‘Litany of the Sleeping Dream’, and the catchy ‘Litany of the Forsaken’ recalls pop vocals of The xx. There are several meandering instrumental sections, such as at the start of ‘Litany of The Unnamed’, as well as some enjoyable orchestration – the saxophones and strings in ‘Litany of the First Encounter’ provide colourful interest.