Rowan: Morrison – Bury The Forests EP Review

Rowan:Morrison

Bury the Forests EP

Miller Sounds 2018

https://rowanambermill.bandcamp.com
Rowan Morrison 1

The aptly and splendidly named Rowan:Morrison (who are wyrd folk outfit The Rowan Amber Mill with singer Angeline Morrison) present the Bury the Forests EP, a specially chosen selection of tracks from the forthcoming and much anticipated long player In The Sunshine We Rode The Horses alongside some essential non-album cuts. Both The Rowan Amber Mill and Angeline Morrison should be familiar to those of a folk horror bent; the Mill for their pursuit of the uncanny and the unusual in their own unique take on acid folk that can be heard on (highly recommended) recent recordings such as The Book Of The Lost and Harvest The Ears, Angeline for her previous work with the Mill as well as her delicate yet eerie releases with Emily Jones as ‘Emily & Angeline’. Thematically the new EP and album stand together, described by the band as exploring issues ‘of our beautiful natural surroundings, and how the pursuit of profit guides us to learn ‘the cost of everything and the value of nothing’, paving the way for the scarring of the landscape with fracking, HS2, retail parks and so on…’ These ideas and values permeate the songs with a gentle yet stubborn melancholy and a quiet but persistent sense of foreboding, of something beyond a monetary price which is inexorably being lost to us all. The album itself will take the story further as the land itself reacts to decades of man’s interference and destruction and promises to have a Play For Today styled edge to this unfolding narrative. One to watch out for indeed.

The EP begins with The Buzzard and the Nightingale, flute and harp encircling Morrison’s repeated intoning of ‘the light cometh in’. At once bewitching and otherworldly, the song’s ritual chants and delicate woodwind evokes an enchanted space; the most hidden part of the forest, somewhere liminal. Regal and richly detailed, this opening offering casts a persuasive spell which then does not falter for the duration of its fellow songs. Indeed, Bury the Forest is arguably best listened to as a whole, a song cycle with its own inner narrative, pace, mood and concept. We Rode The Horse, a melancholic and sepia tinged acoustic slice of perfect psych folk is swathed in orchestral sweeps and cascading piano, however, whilst truly beautiful, there is an air of dread and tension that befits the subject matter. Rowan:Morrison hold this dissonance masterfully throughout the EP, the interplay of darkness and light only serving to enhance each aspect and provide a finely crafted and nuanced take on the outer edgelands and more haunted furrows of folk. Likewise Gather Around, with its vintage electronic squeals and throbs weaving and wefting into both the warmth of its central cello and Morrison’s lilting vocals, is a lament as much as a call to arms. Its successor, The Meadows Call (Ridgeway) offers an effective musical crossroads whereby psych folk meets analogue electronics, the latter perhaps an area more usually associated with ‘hauntological’ artists such as Belbury Poly, The Advisory Circle or, journeying further back, Broadcast. Indeed those in thrall to the work of Trish Keenan and James Cargill will find much to admire here in Rowan:Morrison’s eye for the eerie, period detail and folktronic orchestration. The EP proper finishes with the somnambulant and beguiling Fall To Sleep, a baroque and wistful piece of chamber folk that would fit equally at home within Paul Giovanni’s The Wicker Man soundtrack as it would PJ Harvey’s piano led and ghost filled White Chalk. Two further bonus songs that will not feature on the soon to be released album peal the closing bell for Bury The Forest; these feel equally as crucial as their predecessors and would be a significant loss not to obtain by missing out on this release. The Meadow’s Call (Original), whilst an alternate take on a previous song, is a strikingly different version and holds its own individual approach and emotional impact, its layered strings and synths offering a more strident, stirring and ornamental interpretation. It is the last of the additional tracks however which feels utterly indispensable; At The Circles End marries an evocative spoken piece on the precarious state of the land to huge, filmic swells of strings and a resolute and reoccurring harp melody that seems to hang in the air itself, all framed by the constant chatter of birdsong. That such a strong piece of work is considered a bonus song demonstrates the level and quality at which Rowan:Morrison are operating.

Beautifully housed in a metal tin replete with badges, prints and stickers (and available in both a monochrome or colour version), Bury the Forests is a carefully crafted and sublime slice of psychedelic folk. This is the real deal, a genuine artifact that doesn’t simply seek to emulate or provide an imitation of the original, antiquated acid folk recordings of the past but which instead carries on and furthers the tradition in an individual and fascinatingly unique fashion. It also bodes extremely well for the release of In The Sunshine We Rode The Horses, creating significant anticipation for the album itself. Both the CD versions and a download of the EP can be found at The Rowan Amber Mill’s Bandcamp page; haste ye there.

Grey Malkin.

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