Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bowerbirds - Upper Air

The Bowerbirds first full length was charged with a subtly confrontational earthy-ness, ripe with commentary of the destructive hands of man upon the brow of mother nature. Charmingly marked with modest recording set ups from a couple (singer/guitarist Phil Moore, accordionist/singer Beth Tacular) who notoriously lived off the grid, night-writing by candle light, in an air-stream trailer. They were joined by drummer Matt Damron for Hymns for a Dark Horse in 2007 (re-released in 2008), a mystic, high-grass brushed odyssey with dirt under its fingernails – mixing the slight supernatural whine and warble of freak folk with traditional folk and pop but refracted through a sensibility recalling lo-fi basement indie rock…albeit through a simple bass drum, steady strum and occasional accordion furls. Above all, there was a reverence, for nature, for love, for life, that shined on Dark Horse and yes, still continues onto their latest Upper Air.
Though the initial vibe is a bit darker and the melodies are not as immediate, Upper Air nicely captures a band that’s grown (thus avoiding a potential pigeonholing as those anti-electricity-hippie-folksters) not just by incorporating more instrumentation and a thicker mix (see the warm enthralling buzz of “Under Your Tree”) but also brought in a drum kit and allowed the accordion to weave its way up front, explore more sinewy melodies that give it this gypsy air under Moore’s quavering vocals (which also line up in duos, more often than before, with Tacular). Though the gloom may have thickened, most noticeably lyrically, its inevitably a more intricate album in construction and style – while still maintaining that idyllic camping-trip theme song air (“Silver Clouds”, “Northern Lights”) with guitars and radiating vocals that seem to emanate the crackle of a bonfire.


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