Fernwood — Almeria
(no#, 2008, CD)
by Henry Schneider, Published 2008-12-31Fernwood is the new all-acoustic instrumental creation from Gayle Ellett of Djam Karet and Todd Montgomery who play all of their music by hand on instruments constructed from wood. On Almeria, their debut release, Todd plays Irish bouzouki, sitar, mandolin, and guitar while Gayle plays Greek bouzouki, ruan, harmonium, oud, guitar, bulbul tarang, gobijen, dotara, organ, Rhodes piano, electric 5-string bass, and upright bass. I’ve never heard of some of these instruments but the resulting symphony of acoustics is incredible. And when you think of Djam Karet, this music is about as far away from them as you can get. Gayle and Todd, drawing upon their 30+ years as musicians, weave a colorful tapestry of sound demonstrating what talented musicians can achieve by returning to the basics. Almeria is strongly cinematic, crossing many cultures and presenting traditional instruments in new and interesting ways. The frail and haunting compositions touch on the spiritual, every now and then recalling Florian Fricke and Popol Vuh. Some of my favorite tracks are “Hungarian Holiday,” “East Window,” and “Nightingale.” This delightful journey through pastoral, European, Asian, and middle-Eastern music is over far too soon. So you may be left thirsting for more, and the good news is that Todd and Gayle have already begun work on a second Fernwood CD that they plan on releasing in the first quarter of 2009. Almeria is a breath of fresh air and is a welcome addition to today’s electronic and synth dominated music.
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