Shanti and Buck Curran are a multi-instrumental psychedelic folk duo based in Maine who draw inspiration from sources such as wind and water & poets and trees. Elusive yet intimate, quietly confident and close to the soil, their previous records have received praise from the Rolling Stone, BBC and of course Folk Radio UK. The couple’s upcoming album Fortress of the Sun is all set to continue the journey and sounds like an Indian summer with a hunch of apocalypse.
The songs thrive on Buck’s versatile guitar melodies and Shanti’s ethereal vocals telling nature’s half-stories, glimpses of what has been and what may be . “Pale Horse Phantasm” is a comfortingly wuthering tune for spooky walks on cliffs, where you may well find yourself in want of a line such as “freedom fevers my skin” to describe the sense of exhilarating fear. In “Ghost”, the album uproots itself with a whispered banjo-led solo by Shanti. A similar turning point is Buck’s instrumental “Rue das Aldas” with a flute and acoustic guitars.
The album alternates between movements and moments. With exceedingly beautiful “oohs” and an upright bass, “Daughters of Man” advises its addressees to gather their seeds and take action. “After the Flood only Love Remains” conjures biblical imagery as its determined guitar progression drives home the insight that “Time is a war we cannot wage”.
In contrast, “When I Was on Horseback” turns to one specific person. Offering only the moment before his fall and a scene at his burial, it is a country ballad in glimpses which leaves plenty of room for the listener to construct their own story. Until they notice the footnote, according to which, Buck Curran based the lyrics on the civil war cavalry commander J. E. B. Stuart. An ironic portrayal then?
Another moment Arborea describe is Joseph’s initial reaction to Mary’s immaculate conception. And how cherry trees come into it. “Cherry Tree Carol” is a traditional with a long line of covers by the likes of Pentangle, Joan Baez and Emmylou Harris. None of which feel quite as eery and the-great-outdoors-y as Arborea’s version.
These attributes also hold true for the couple’s photographs, which accompany the lyrics in the booklet. The photographs of ruffled seasides, sunlit ruins and ghostly reflections heighten the album’s sense of nature slowly but inevitably overtaking us. A sense of vastness and space, reminding the listener to pay their respects. And, perhaps, plant a tree, as the credits encourage.
Review by: Anne Malewski
Fortress of the Sun is released on Esp Disk Ltd April 30th.
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