Autumn Electric — Make Me a Tree
(Bandcamp no#, 2012, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2013-07-26
I had never heard of Autumn Electric before I saw them open for Johnny Unicorn at a dive bar in Seattle. Since that time I've been metaphorically kicking myself for not paying more attention to the local music scene. What a discovery! The band is largely the vessel for Michael Trew's songs, though the band (Naomi Smith on keys, Barton McGuire on lead guitar, Daniel Desrosiers on drums) plays an essential role throughout. In the credits, producer Johnny Unicorn is thanked for "letting us 'prog out' when necessary." Unicorn also handles the bass parts on the CD — when I saw them live, Smith covered the bass parts on a keyboard, and Max Steiner (who also plays with Alex's Hand and is in Unicorn's touring band along with Smith) handled the lead guitar, so it's a cozy little Seattle scene. The sound is a kind of jangly folk-rock with noted psychedelic elements, and they're not afraid to stretch out. One of the highlights is the eight-minute "Spaghetti Western," which weaves its way through numerous sections of varying tempos and intensities, with Smith's keys playing an important role. The lead guitar parts are dextrous but unpredictable, the perfect foil for Trew's warbly voice (a bit like Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes) and delicate melodies. And the backing vocals are luscious, very full and on-key without sounding too stuffy, made up of a variety of voices instead of a single voice overdubbed. Occasional guests provide strings and other nice touches. This is music to float away on, unearthly beauty grounded by earthly emotions and the flaws of real people playing real instruments with great art and little artifice. Lovely!
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From the press release:
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water takes from Echo Us' past and spins it into a whole new direction, one closer to traditional acoustic Celtic music than ever before.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water was composed and recorded during the first few months of 2017. Although Celtic influenced and comprised of a number of re-workings of Irish folk tunes and Breton aires, the album is still in large part new and original Echo Us music that fits right in the Echo Us ‘canon’. “Wake” is a natural progression from “A Priori Memoriae”, which was released to critical acclaim in Europe in 2014.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is Echo Us’ ‘Celtic’ album that was planned for a long time but never executed because of the work on the trilogy that came before it. The album title is a typical ‘Echo Us’ play on words which one can find their own meaning.
“It is also both evocative of the Oregon rain, which I am told is not too unlike the rain in Ireland.”(Matthews)
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is also a comment on conception- which was unintentional when the lyric was written. Matthews surprised himself a few months after writing it, realizing that the song was actually about the nitty gritty, biological workings of what happens when a child is conceived. The folk song it derives from musically describes a courting ritual, one that even today we can all relate to in our own way.
“Come With Me Over the Mountain" in acapella was the musical inspiration for the song, and came into my consciousness after the lyrics were written a few months prior. “ (Matthews)
As with all Echo Us recordings, a number of seeming coincidences resulted in connections being drawn where prior there were none. Another experience of similar capacity was found in oboe samples from A Priori Memoriae that echoed the traditional “May Morning Dew’, also reworked for guitar on the new album.