Fernwood — Arcadia
((Not on label) no#, 2015, CD/LP)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2015-03-07Fernwood is the duo of Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett, the latter better known as one of two guitarists (or is it three now?) from Djam Karet – but Fernwood is a very different animal, where the duo plays mostly acoustic stringed instruments made of wood from around the world (OK, the Mellotron is the exception – well, I guess they contain some wood), taking them out of the folk and traditional context that they would normally be played in, and applying the sounds to their own original pan-cultural compositions, which tend to take on a more cinematic approach. The sound is delicate and gentle in its approach, evoking bits of imagery to pique the listener’s imagination as one travels through this eleven track journey. No one instrument is dominant, other than possibly acoustic guitar, and that gives the material here plenty of variety. I could easily spend the rest of this review on Montgomery and Ellet’s instrument list, but I’ll limit it to some of my personal favorites: mandolin, Irish bouzouki, Greek bouzouki (yes, there is a difference, both in the structure of the instrument and the string tuning), dlectric mandola, tenor banjo, violin, dobro, upright bass, sitar, tenor ukulele, ruan, tanpura, harmonium, surmandal, bells, chimes and much more. There are no drums, per se, so the unique characters of the various stringed instruments stand out strong, providing their own rhythms, and don’t get buried in a mix of other sounds. The duo overdubs on most of the cuts, but the album was wisely recorded without any compression or sonic manipulation so the true dynamics of every sound in the mix can be heard clearly. A wonderful and exotic musical journey that needs to be heard.
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more