Arborea s/t Fire Museum Records
"Arborea S/T Album Physical CD is Sold Out, Digital Album is Available".
This self titled collection is the second release for Arborea. Hailing from Maine, the duo of Buck and Shanti Curran (on vocals, guitars, banjos, percussion) are joined on two numbers by Helena Espvall of Espers on cello. Here they conjure up a musical offering that is equal parts Appalachian music, traditional English folk music, and contemporary psychedelic folk with experimental touches creating a sound that stands out as unique while touching upon something that feels as ancient as the urge to create music.
Rare is the record that takes the listener to fields both verdant and desolate in the same journey as this release does, and it does so in a way that makes both equally powerful and inviting. The duo possess an alchemy that makes their collaboration feel as natural as the trees from which their names comes from.
Following upon the success of their debut effort Wayfaring Summer, Arborea have outdone themselves with this release, a recording that establishes them as masters of their craft. This is a group you will be hearing from for years to come.
LIMITED TO 500 COPIES
Arborea is a Maine-based husband and wife duo that creates earthy, spirited music with a hearty nod toward folk music of the past. Really, their music is a strong mix of old-world and American folk traditions, with a smattering of other elements, both modern and antique. For their sophomore album, Buck and Shanti Curran incorporate vocals, guitars, banjo, violin, and percussion into their beautiful works. Their previous album was called "Wayfaring Summer," but this self-titled effort seems to evoke the fall season with its deep, brooding music and melancholy sound. With only 500 copies pressed, you should make sure you get your hands on this quickly, before the opportunity passes.
One of the most striking aspects of the duo is Shanti Curran's clear, powerful voice, which anchors most of the songs. It's direct, but never overbearing as it balances with the rest of the instruments. On the opener, "Forwarned," her multi-tracked vocals intertwine with spare percussion and electric guitar to set a dark, moody precedent for the album. Another excellent track is the hazy, bluesy song "Seadrift." The light guitar and simple, subdued vocals evoke ancient blues recordings. Still, Arborea keeps things fresh and unpredictable with a small touch of violin. Throughout the entire album, there are moments like this, where a song is seemingly one thing, but quickly becomes another in the blink of an eye. The instrumental tracks on the album prove themselves no less powerful. One example, "Leaves Among the Ruins," is a simple, meditative acoustic guitar track, but has the same strong impact as the more fully arranged pieces.
This album by Arborea definitely grows better as it becomes more familiar. There's a lot going on, but much of it is quite subtle, so you might not hear it all right away. Do yourself a favor and give yourself ample time with this album to hear everything there is to hear. The Currans put some amazing ideas to tape and its well worth the effort to get to know their music. 8/10 -- Matt Blackall (13 August, 2008)
NPR.org, September 9, 2008 - Shanti and Buck Curran, who write and record under the name Arborea, are pitched as a husband-and-wife folk duo from Maine, but there's very little in their songs that resembles traditional roots music. Arborea's self-titled CD reflects the sepia-toned landscapes and creaky acoustic instrumentation of backwoods Americana, and the minor-key narratives tell sinister tales in the spirit of English murder ballads. But Arborea is mostly an experimental album, with the Currans bowing and plucking their stringed instruments to create spacey, ambient drones more than standard chord progressions.
Most of the music on Arborea consists of first-take improvisations, which accounts for the album's amorphous structure. It's not that it's an indistinct mush of sound: Each song has a clear beginning and end. But the soundscapes tend to drift quietly into frameless, psychedelic territory, with only Shanti Curran's hypnotically beautiful voice anchoring the mix.
The instrumentation is an incredibly bare-bones mix of banjo, various guitars, violins and cello. There's virtually no percussion to speak of, except for the occasional frame drum or distant bells. The result is chilling at times, with Arborea using the empty spaces and silence as much as notes to create a remote and eerie world.
"Red Bird" is Arborea's most accessible and traditional track (it'd fit well on any Gillian Welch CD), while "Black Mountain Road" is one of its more experimental. The song begins with Shanti Curran's voice backmasked against a reversed banjo line. Played backwards, she sings, "Follow me where the north wind goes to the end of Black Mountain Road." It's a line repeated throughout the song, before building to a swarm of fluttering strings.
Arborea is a bit melodramatic at times (the recurring rain stick could have been left out of the mix), and the spareness can leave listeners wanting something meatier. But overall, Shanti and Buck Curran get it right, with memorable songs that linger in the ether long after the last track ends.
- Robin Hilton, producer NPR
June 2008 Issue 292/UK
An aura of stillness and isolation hangs, foglike, over the second album from husband and wife duo Buck & Shanti Curran. Like many of their freefolk peers, the range of music drawn upon here – Appalachian banjo, melancholy English ballads, psychedelia and Tahoma-style guitar instrumentals – puts paid to any pretence of being genuine hermits. But in contrast to the summer nostalgia of their 2006 debut, Wayfaring Summer, Arborea evokes the Currans' Maine home as a place of murky pine forests, snowbound winters and unquiet ghosts. According to the CD sleeve, most of the music is here a first take improvisation. Presumably this refers to the sung melody or guitar lines that form the core of each song, for much of the record's charm comes from the blending of Shanti Curran's vocals, which bring a more desolate edge to Vashti Bunyan's breathy purity, with sparse but carefully conceived accompaniment. On opener "Forwarned", the menace hinted at by her lilting melody is made apparent by a counterpoint of piercing, discordant cries like the wailing of supernatural mourners, trickling percussion and guitar plucked with lingering vibrato. "Red Bird", meanwhile, adds a moan of cello from Espers' Helena Espvall to a crisp lament. Psychedelic touches are used sparingly but effectively: "ides of March" pairs slide guitar with backwards drones redolent of dragging tides, whereas "Black Mountain Road" starts out like a hillbilly nightmare of reversed banjo and glossolalia before an about turn revels its flipside to be an ethereal ballad, a rare sunny moment made more fleeting by the darkness that surrounds it.
– Abi Bliss
Raven Sings the Blues, U.S.
A beautiful and stirring second album from the Maine duo of Buck and Shanti Curran, known better as Arborea. Lilting and desolate folk that's as beautiful as it is lonesome; and as their name might suggest tinged with dark earthen overtones. The eponymous album feels almost disconnected from urbanity, the calm dry heat of songs like "Ides of March" choke your throat with the dust of stretched gravel roads, the endless repetition of wheat. Elsewhere the pair turns decisively off the path, with rolling clouds replaced by a canopy of trees and twigs underfoot. The sweet loneliness of isolation mixed with the creak of oaken chairs on floorboards and the smell of wet dirt. The pair aren't totally isolated, however, as they enlist the help of fellow traveler Helena Espvall of Espers whose mournful cello adds nicely to the mix. The album is quite an accomplishment and it's often hard to believe that this is only the group's second offering but as with their first album (which is also well worth tracking down) it's the natural ease and unpolished edge that makes it most alluring.
Boston Globe June, 10, 2008
A magical mystery tour
The second album from this northern Maine acid-folk duo floats like a day dream in and out of song and form. Ideas are tacked together with loose improvisations, ringing notes, and lush strums echoing as they drift through spare atmospheres. Words are sung when the mood allows, riffs and phrases played until they no longer amuse. But unlike most albums that double as aural wallpaper, we're sucked in, along for Arborea's ethereal ride through a psych-holler reshuffling of Appalachian and British folk music. On "Dark is the Night (in the Wind)," a banjo kicks out a rhythm emulating the clop-clop of horses, while "Red Bird" tracks like the title song of a melancholy movie. Though Shanti Curran's violin and vocal hosannas are often more tone fragments than melodies, they have a synergy with Buck Curran's guitar and flute, leaping and sliding in concert with his plucked resonances and diving overtones. Arborea can be too precious; it's usually a warning sign when musicians list the details of their wholly ordinary-sounding "custom" instruments. But overall Arborea turns its pretenses into alluring mystery. [Tristram Lozaw]
Electric Roulette, U.K.
When I reviewed Arborea's first LP - Wayfaring Summer - I uttered the word "masterpiece". It was a big claim. However, it was a big claim that was completely justified. So, here I sit with their second long player - an eponymous cut - and I'm pleased to say that this is a band that gets better with each release.
Normally, a band has to find their feet before really hitting stride, however, Arborea aren't your average group. Like The Band, which they share a certain woody charm with, this is a band that has landed fully formed. Where The Band did the Rag Mama Rag, Buck and Shanti Curran make beautiful, timeless albums that seem to almost make time freeze like the winter stopping streams. And if you think that's flowery, you ain't seen nuthin' yet. This is a band that demands you get your poetic hat on.
If the first album had something of Pagan sexuality about it, then this album continues in the same way, only this time, with the help of the sirens. 'Arborea', slowly fades in with a cinematic peer through the mist with the creepy Forwarned before melting into the breathtaking Red Bird. If Forwarned was the opening credits, then the opening dialogue of Red Bird really sets the tone. With some cello help from Helena Espvall of psychedelic folkies The Espers, the earthy strings, coupled with the rootsy pickings of the Currans, are a marriage made in heaven.
Many folk LPs are intent of doing little more than listening to Nick Drake albums. Of course, very few match their influence. However, Arborea seem to drag influences from every corner and twist and forge them into their own unique shapes. There's drones, the ghost of Smithsonian Folkways field recordings, Celtic music, murder balladry, psychedelic backward guitar, even the leafy weirdness of Goldfrapp's 'Felt Mountain' can be heard in some of Shanti's delivery.
If you think that folk music, which this undoubtedly is, is a lesson in real ales and cardigans, you couldn't be more wrong. Arborea are a band that, on record at least, aren't afraid to get naked and draw blood. There's a toughness in their sound that says 'don't mess'. This isn't a band that will fist-fight you in the street, but rather, cast a spell that will leave you in the forest - lost. I'd like to say that they are in fact in league with a band of demonic witches who will cast a wicked spell on you if you don't buy this album as it's that good. However, amongst the sinister magick is some truly wonderful, sensual, hip-shaking twang.
If this album was released on some obscure label in the early seventies, you'd be stumping up £300 for it. Black Mountain Road has a timeless quality... it could be a Joe Boyd production... it could be found on a discarded reel-to-reel in the middle of some remote outpost of the Hebrides... it's a staggering track. There's something of the Watersons about this record. There's something of Pentangle. I can't rate this highly enough! In short, you can't live without this album. It's the way albums are supposed to be - exciting, beguiling, enchanting, intriguing - quite simply, it's superb and needs a place in your home now