Album review: LUNA ROSSA – Sleeping Pills & Lullabies

LUNA ROSSA - Sleeping Pills & Lullabies

Firefly Music [Release date 10.06.13]

Panic Room have been one of my favourite bands to emerge over recent years, and Anne-Marie Helder one of the finest vocalists on the circuit.  So I was looking forward to this ‘side project’ from Panic Room’s main songwriting team of Anne-Marie and keyboard maestro Jonathan Edwards.

The pair have formed Luna Rossa as an outlet for their more acoustic work, and while the focus of the project are Anne-Marie’s fantastic vocals and Jon’s magnificent grand piano playing, there’s subtle embellishment from the duo in the form of acoustic guitar, autoharp, celeste sample, flute, organ, Rhodes and wine glass samples.

Andy Coughlan, Leah Evans, and Tim Hamill lend a hand on double bass, cello and dobro/electric guitar respectively, and there is some splendid strings accompaniment from the Luna Rossa quartet (Artern Kotov, Rebecca Brown, Ronan MacManus and Leah Evans).

And ‘Sleeping Pills & Lullabies’ doesn’t disappoint,  less overtly acoustic than you may immediately anticipate, it opens with ‘Dark Room’  a number that would grace any Kate Bush album, as would the exquisite ‘Clouds’, before sliding gracefully into ‘Heart On My Sleeve’  a beautiful piano and strings lament.

If you’ve been enchanted, as I have, by Anne-Marie’s vocal work on Panic Room’s three sublime albums, then ‘Sleeping Pills & Lullabies’ is heaven sent:  just listen to the inspired semi bossa nova style ‘Mad About You’, or the delicate cover of ‘The Book Of Love’ (the Magnetic Fields number also covered by Peter Gabriel).

‘Scream At The Sky’ with just Anne-Marie’s voice, Jon’s piano | acoustic guitar and Leah’s cello is another stand out, as is the closing number – ‘Gasp’, a pulsing Anne-Marie voice/ piano/ synth bass solo piece.

But Jon’s striking piano playing must get equal recognition on this quite arresting set – the instrumental ‘Leaving For the Last Time’ – a magical last minute improvised duet between piano and flute captured in a single take – evokes cherished memories of King Crimson circa 1969 that will almost make you weep, and is the perfect complement to the ‘deluxe miniature gatefold sleeve’ packaging.

A very beautiful album in every sense, one not that far removed from Panic Room, and one you’ll want to listen to time and time again.  Now, that’s what I call music.  *****

Review by Pete Whalley

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