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Unto Ashes — Orchids Grew Here
(Projekt 396, 2023, CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2023-12-15

Orchids Grew Here Cover art

Hello darkness, my old friend, I’m living inside your world once again. Unto Ashes is the New York City based band / project of Michael Laird, or at least it once was. Apparently at some point he moved to Europe following a tour of those parts, where the group was well received. The group was originally formed in the late 90s, and over the years has seen a lot of turnover in its ranks, the one constant being Laird (multi-instrumentalist, chief songwriter, singer); on Orchids Grew Here, the other members are Bret Helm and Ericah Hagle, and while no specific information is given as to who plays what and when, the instrumental palette is a balance of dark folk styles, informed by neoclassical and gothic elements, plus medieval and modern instrumentation and poetic lyrics expressing a world of joy and pain and everything in between — a dark and beautiful tapestry. One might liken their sound to a mashup of ESP-era Pearls Before Swine, Dead Can Dance, and Nick Drake with a strong element of darkwave, and on tracks where Hagle sings lead (“Starfish” for example) the vocals take on a fragile and delicate tone. Instruments may include guitars, analog and diginal synthesizers, viola da gamba, cello, hurdy gurdy, santoor, dulcimer, and possibly some software instruments as well — based on what I hear only, as few details are provided; instrumentation tends toward the sparse and delicate, strong on atmospherics and beauty. All the tracks are original with the exception of a Madonna cover (“Frozen” — I didn’t even recognize it on hearing) and there are a number of very strong pieces here. Including the opener “Even in Our Sleep,” “Passing,” “I Became a Ghost Today,” “A Song of Rain,” “Light of Asia (Book VIII),” “Orchids Fade,” and more. There are a dozen songs in all, every one either dark, pensive, introspective, forlorn... or sometimes all of the above, and hauntingly beautiful each in its own way.  Drink thy poison, and prepare for the adventure that begins at the link below.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Unto Ashes

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