It’s not necessary to be familiar with the lush desolation that constitutes Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to appreciate the atmosphere and accomplishment of The Seasons, the debut album from The Terminal Orchestra. The Marquette sextet has perfectly and wordlessly captured the lonely beauty of their northern Michigan home, the landscape of greens in spring and summer, the browns in autumn and the white of winter, as well as the expanse between outposts that remains constant in any weather.
Led by guitarist/percussionist/conductor/arranger Jesse deCaire, The Terminal Orchestra has been active for nearly six years while deCaire composed his evocative music, intimately epic soundtracks for nonexistent movies in tribute to the often daunting severity of the UP environment. And yet, even as deCaire and the Orchestra use the traditional trappings of Classical music to impart both message and emotion on The Seasons — released digitally last fall and physically this month through Cincinnati indie Phratry Records — there is also an undercurrent of insistent power. Metaphorically, it’s the vast and immeasurable strength of the glaciers that left their marks on the Great Lakes area, but in a purely musical sense, the TO delivers the same kind of sensitive heart punch that Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have inflicted with their keening and shiveringly effective score work, a glorious mash-up of Folk balladry, Classical precision and Punk ethos.
There is a song for each climate shift on The Seasons, but “Winter Song” is not unrelentingly bleak, nor is “Spring Song” unrealistically warm because, as any Michigan resident will tell you, there can be melancholy in the time of renewal just as there sometimes is indescribable joy in the harshest, deepest freeze. The Terminal Orchestra translates it all to a beautiful and majestic turn.
This 8 p.m. local show by the ensemble (who have been receiving regular airplay on NPR) takes place at Over-the-Rhine art/performance space CS13. Visit cs13.org for more info.
The Terminal Orchestra plays CS13 Saturday with guests Wizards and The Sleeping Sea.