On its second full-length album, this orchestral collective from Austin - the roster of which includes between 15 and 20 rotating members - plays a combination of baroque chamber music, indie rock and of-the-moment folk-pop. Skeptics initially might be tempted to scoff at the novelty of such a large group, but I find the group's rich arrangements, robust playing and canny songwriting to be engaging and emotionally moving.
Mother Falcon's instrumentation includes cellos, violins, winds and brass, pianos, glockenspiel, guitar, mandolin and at least five lead singers. Music buffs may recognize similarities in this music to that of Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene or Antony and the Johnsons, but the Mother Falcon sound is even bigger than those. It also may be the only act that contains elements that will remind you of Kate Bush, Philip Glass and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Mother Falcon's tunes can be sweet and melodic, or they can grow dark and aggressive; sometimes this happens during the same songs. On "Porcelain," a spare folk arrangement of acoustic guitar swells as a gang of string instruments piles on. In contrast, "My Majesty of Madness" is a dramatic slice of avant-garde musical theater, and "Dirty Summer" sounds like a full orchestra on folk-punk rampage, with an expansive choral conclusion. "When It Was Good" is a gorgeous rocker with a shifting palette of strings and minimalist horns and a jazzy sax solo.