Mother Falcon

Saturday

SXSW Records

Mother Falcon

Alhambra

The secret is out. Mother Falcon's five-song EP last year, Still Life – even at the time – was merely a dress rehearsal for the neo-classical tour de force performance that is Alhambra. Evoking the grandeur of Spain's Moorish palace, Austin's wunderkind chamber orchestra soars into its full-length debut on confident wings fully extended. "Overture" rises first, naturally, the listener entering a chamber of musicians stirring to life. As "Fireflies" exhales with its layered vocals – Nick Gregg, Claire Puckett, Tamir Kalifa – the 18 instruments become airborne. "I'm off in another place," Gregg repeats in "Sanctuary," the group filling the ear with the acoustic glory of its recording site – Austin's Central Presbyterian Church – as the strings pluck, lure. Such is Alhambra's emotional rush, lifted on orchestral swells and instrumental crescendos amid ethereal vocals. Its many moods – "For Papa," "Serpent Tongues," "Drown Me in the River," "These Things," "Just To See Her Smile" – are romantic, thrilling in their unexpected pleasures; "Rabbit Run" builds for two minutes before Gregg and Puckett chime in; "Kathryn" and the wordless "Waltz" are pure and utter romanticism; and "Alligator Teeth" makes Puckett one of Austin's most intriguing female artists of 2011. Even on this grand scale, Alhambra is simple proof that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Even when the parts are excellent. (Sat., 10:30pm, Austin Music Hall)

****

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