?Stare of Dawn? is the debut outing for the Family Elan. The album is primarily the work of Chris Hladowski, who also plays in the groups Nalle, the One Ensemble, and Scatter. Hladowski is a virtuoso of sorts with stringed instruments and plays bouzouki, guitar, baglamas, fiddle, gimbri, and a variety of other instruments. Hanna Tuulikki offers additional help with flute, recorder, and vocals. Said to be inspired by the artists and music of Greece, the Middle East, and Eurasia, the resulting album is packed with beautiful, intoxicating folk. Every piece pulses with energy and skill as they transcends musical and geographic boundaries.
What is most striking about ?Stare of Dawn? is the elegance and richness found in every one of the five tracks. Layers of stringed instruments create a flurry of rhythms punctuated by vocals and occasional percussion. The sound is so full that it is easy to think that dozens of instruments are playing at any given time. A deep emphasis on the arrangement of instrumental sounds and complex musical structures makes this album extremely compelling. One could try and focus on an individual instrument, but that seems almost impossible as each part is woven so tightly to the rest.
One of the most striking pieces is ?Cascade/Danse of Airs? which spans a whopping sixteen minutes, yet passes as if it were only a quarter of that length. In the opening ?Cascade? portion, gorgeous, layered lute music plays out alongside light hand drumming as both Hladowski and Tuulikki sing. ?Danse of Airs? picks up where the introduction leaves off and energizes the song with tight overlapping melodies and rhythms from the arsenal of stringed instruments on hand. The result is surprising in that it is both exhilarating and soothing due to the momentum of the tempo and the lushness of the instruments and arrangements.
Listening to ?Stare of Dawn? truly feels like stepping into another world for forty-five minutes and amazingly, this feeling does not lessen with repeated spins. Given the deep complexity and beauty of the music, it seems unimaginable that this album would ever stop sounding fresh and exiting. On so many levels, this album is a precious gem worthy of careful listening and untold hours of enjoyment. 10/10 -- Matt Blackall (24 October, 2007)