Gentle strings clash with the ebbing of a haunting vocal harmony in “Descripción.” Melodies that are as delicate as spun glass are woven into a spellbinding web that will prove impossible for us to escape in “Como La Flor.” Brooding lyricism is only one gripping element that we’ll discover in the painfully poignant serenade of “Butcher Boy,” and though “La Llorona” is only one of the thirteen songs comprising Dorys & Eli, the new album from Dracula out now everywhere that independent music is sold and streamed, it encapsulates the magic and mysticism that I can only imagine this incredible acoustic unit brings with them into the studio every time that they record new material. Dracula are holding nothing back from us in this multilingual debut album, and while theirs is a songcraft that is rooted in the sophistication of classical music, colorized by the emotive textural expression of Latin folk, and tempered under the blistering heat of a contemporary acoustic tonality, even the most casual of music enthusiasts would be a fool to dismiss this new record as anything other than a smart sonic oasis in a season that has been uncomfortably dry.
“Viente Años,” “Down in the Willow Garden,” “もののけ姫 (Princess Monoke Theme Song)” and “Cruel War” are so supple and delicate instrumentally, and yet the emotion present in their lyrics is hardly as minimalist-inspired as their song structures are. Dracula is a band that isn’t afraid of the duality in their sound, and though there are a couple of instances in Dorys & Eli where their ambitions get a little ahead of their skillset – “Te Exaltaré/Las Diez Vírgenes” and “Tiny Sparrow” – there’s never any doubt that they’re playing to their strengths and giving us a compositional depth that few of their peers, if any, are capable of producing. I’d have to hear more of their music to make a complete judgement, but going off of these tracks alone, I would have to say that Dracula have found a niche in their genre that appeals as much to millennial folk music fans as it does to older, more conservative acoustic aficionados as well. There’s a lot of raw potential here, but even at its most unvarnished, songs like “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “La Zenaida” and “Como La Flor” are nevertheless as memorable as anything else you’re going to hear out of their scene this season.
Dorys & Eli is a deeply engaging listen that doesn’t ask a lot from us in exchange for a treasure chest of evocative tones, rich textures and unforgettable melodies that will leave you wondering where this chilling band has been hiding all this time. There’s a few rough edges that could stand to be sanded down a little in future efforts, but by and large, I don’t know that you’re going to hear another acoustic-oriented album this spring that has as much soul and sublime emotion as this one does, and I say that knowing full-well just how many great LPs are due for release this month. Keep a close eye on Dracula as they move forward – I know that I definitely will.