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Fernwood - 2015 - "Arcadia"

(42:30,’ Fernwood’)


1. Bells Spring 3:44
2. The Pan Chaser 4:56
3. Vision at Vasquez Rocks 3:59
4. Red Hill Trail 3:52
5. The Lost Night 4:21
6. Crossing the Divide 3:49
7. Owens Hideaway 3:51
8. Young Mountain Memory 3:18
9. After the Big Sky Falls 2:42
10. Escape from Sycamore Canyon 4:46
11. Winter Way 3:12


Gayle Ellett – keyboards; guitar, bass; flutes; exotic instruments
Todd Montgomery – guitar, sitar, bouzouki, banjo, mandolin; violin 

Prolusion. The US project FERNWOOD is a collaboration between Gayle Ellett (of Djam Karet fame) and Todd Montgomery, both of the musicians specializing in string instruments of various kinds, as far as I know. The Fernwood project was launched in 2008, and three studio albums have been issued under that name so far. "Arcadia" is the most recent of those, released in 2015.

Analysis. The premise of this album appears to have been to create music of the kind that resonates with the associations one gets when seeing the name Arcadia. While it is a physical location in Greece, I suspect that the more mythical associations given this name as a utopian, pastoral landscape has been the main aim here, although musically there are recurrent elements of what I'd describe as Mediterranean music here as well. I should perhaps further add that this isn't a progressive rock album as such either, but more the kind of album that resides somewhere on the borderlands between folk music, world music and ambient. Plucked string instruments form the backbone of the greater majority of this album as a whole. Gently wandering acoustic guitar movements, firmer, more impact oriented acoustic guitar licks and echoing notes from the same instrument are more often than not accompanied by at least one other string instrument, at times another acoustic guitar, but also a wide array of other plucked instruments with a lesser or greater exotic tinge and timbre to them. Banjo, bouzouki and sitar can be mentioned. Further expanding the scope are the careful use of other instruments with a more textured general sound like the violin, organ and Mellotron, with careful piano details and occasional use of sound recordings further enriching the soundscapes created and explored. The end result is what I'd describe as a rather earthly type of music. In terms of genres it blends details from folk music and world music together, with what might or might not be trace elements of Americana and bluegrass, and perhaps even some jazz-oriented touches at times, brought in as flavoring to a subtly exotic world music-flavored context. The sitar in particular adds a slight sheen of mysticism to the proceedings, mildly psychedelic, perhaps, but more of a careful coloration than a dominant element as such. This is like a trip into an ancient forest of some kind, but an old Earth-based forest rather than a place like, say, Fangorn. This is the kind of music that brings to mind the smell of leaves slowly decomposing on the forest floor, the musky fragrance of mushrooms growing in the shade and the refreshing aroma of pine-trees and pine-cones. Earthen music, fairly tranquil, with careful mysterious sounding details lingering in the allegorical shadows.

Conclusion. While I do not see this as an album that will have a vast and broad appeal, those who love and cherish instrumental music with a dominant acoustic foundation might want to take notice of this production, and then in particular those who tend to enjoy recordings of this kind with careful, exotic details as ongoing features woven into a general context of folk and world music. Those generally fond of music that invites to associations towards untamed, untouched nature landscapes should probably also contemplate top give this one an inspection.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: October 8, 2016
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