Release Date: Sep 17, 2013
Record label: Downtown
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
After composition student Ellis Ludwig-Leone graduated from Yale in 2011, instead of giving in to post-college feelings of aimlessness and "what next?" confusion, he set about to work on the epic master statement that he dubbed San Fermin. The self-titled debut is a massive collection of densely layered orchestral pop stuck between the technical tendencies of classically trained musicians and the summery electro-pop curiosity of chamber-leaning indie acts like Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, and Sufjan Stevens. Ludwig-Leone acts in a "man behind the curtain" fashion for San Fermin, conducting more than a dozen musicians and vocalists through his songs and only contributing piano and keyboards himself.
Two years ago, the Johnny Jewel-led band Symmetry released Themes for an imaginary film. Speculation was that Jewel had originally been asked to make the score for Nicolas Refn’s masterful Drive, and it was easy to hear why. Themes had an ‘80s-styled sound filled with pulsating synth lines and Eurythmics-esque drum machines, but beyond that Themes nearly fit the label of concept album.
San Fermin is the brainbaby of Brooklyn composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who wrote this ambitious debut record while holed up for six weeks in a studio in a Canadian mountain range. A mixture of classical composition and bombastic pop, Ludwig-Leone's suite of songs is connected with common themes and characters that manifest and recur across San Fermin's 17 tracks. It's not quite a concept record, but a record stuffed with concepts.
After graduating with a degree in music from Yale, Ellis Ludwig-Leone stole away to the Banff Centre in the Canadian Rockies to write his self-titled debut LP under the moniker San Fermin. For six weeks at this artist space on the border between Alberta and British Columbia, the composer filled pages with arrangements, took afternoon walks up the mountain, and came down to blacken the pages some more. In that isolated environment, with years of classical training, inspiration from working with Nico Muhly, and a playlist that included the avant pop of Sufjan Stevens and Dirty Projectors, Ludwig-Leone's ideas started to only fit on grand scales.
Ellis Ludwig-Leone has a music degree from Yale and years of classical training. As hard as anyone may try to avoid them, this backdrop brings with it a number of pre-conceptions when entering the world of San Fermin; this is going to be an album existing on only the grandest of scales. San Fermin was created in the solitary surroundings of the Banff Centre in Canada, which describes itself as “the largest arts and creativity incubator on the planet”.