[sic] Magazine

Marram – Sun Choir

Sun Choir is one of two releases curated by the Scottish arts community Transgressive North, the second a 29-track compilation featuring exclusive material from the likes of Four Tet, Gang Gang Dance, No Age, Dan Deacon, Bear in Heaven and Deerhoof. The proceeds from their seven-year Everything Is New project – a collaboration with Edinburgh-based charity Scottish Love In Action – will be used to clothe, house, educate and provide medical care for Dalit children at the Light of Love Home and School in Andhra Pradesh.

Each track on both releases features the 1000-strong children’s choir, those on Sun Choir also benefitting from non-paid celebrity contributions. All the same, the Edinburgh-based band Marram are new to me so I don’t know what they sound like without a cast of thousands. What’s certain though is that if they didn’t already sound like Canadian composer Owen Pallett and his lush brand of symphonic pop they do now that he’s on board as part of the project.

Pallett’s clash of composition and popular culture always bring the Disney classic Fantasia to mind for this reviewer and so do passages of this vibrant LP, never more so than on the dramatic “With Us Instead”, which features Pallett’s vocal as well as his trademark orchestral flutters that chase any notion of shadows from the busy mix. He also puts the choir through its paces with some soaring scale work, the stunning multi-voice choir elsewhere providing a hugely uplifting ethnic footprint to these Avant-pop structures – tracks like “Icarus Hope Choir” proving themselves the ideal companion for intrepid, tasteful backpackers.

Of the other contributors Jarvis Cocker is probably the best known though he’s unobtrusive at best during the Animal Collective-gone-gap-year-style “What If We”, making much more of mark on “Falling From The Sun”, his iconic vocal festooned with many of the album’s 200+ instruments. Never less than interesting and engaging, “Amma” is more of the same, which is to say intelligent art-pop, the parp of brass particularly resonant in the joyous mix. Perhaps most surprising, musically speaking, is “Valuables”, on which both Irvine Welsh and doseone (the Anticon label founder) appear, the latter of whom drops a mid-track rap to support the dark, hybrid beats and unintelligible whispers of the choir.

Many of Sun Choir’s best moments however are when it manages to pull off both triumphant and understated at the same time, the sombre context of the LP sometimes winning out. “We Fly A Kite”, for example, which features the introspective mewing of Scottish folklorist Margaret Bennett is nevertheless smartly arranged with orchestral swells, guests White Hinterland also managing to keep Marram at bay during passages of “The Butterfly, The Moon” with their city-limits frostiness.

Despite the extensive list of involved parties in Sun Choir there is, all the same, only one star and that is the children’s choir, the silver lining to a very black cloud. Props to each and every one of them, equally to the goodwill and hard work of Marram, Transgressive North and their partners for bringing this very worthwhile project to fruition.

www.everythingisnewproject.com | www.transgressivenorth.com | www.sla-india.org

Best tracks: “With Us Instead” and “What If We”

~Sun Choir is released 20th January 2014 on Transgressive North.~