Brave Timbers - Hope [VINYL] - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Brave Timbers - Hope [VINYL]

by Steve Rhodes Rating:8 Release Date:2016-02-26

Formerly the solo project of Lanterns On The Lake and Fieldhead violinist Sarah Kemp, Brave Timbers has branched out into a duo, with the addition of pianist Andrew Scrogham for sophomore album Hope, a title so perfectly embodied with eleven instrumental tracks of wall-to-wall relaxation that takes you on a unstrained journey of optimism, without making any effort to rush you along.

Opener 'Sun Through Leaves' is aptly named, like taking a warm bath in the open countryside, as tender piano and ripples of strings lead the way. 'Swimming In The Isar' again just possesses piano and strings, though uses layering in building up the song, before it effortlessly releases its grip and any potential tension is averted, hinting at Australia's finest Not Drowning, Waving or a pastoral Dead Can Dance. The combination of the two instruments in 'Stillness' and the method by they subtly compliment each other, can draw out a wealth of emotion from even the hardiest listener, especially when Sarah's chirpily positive strings appear on top of the luscious piano and violin chords.

While there's no denying the beautiful fragility and absorbing texture of the album it does tend to suffer from a lack of diversity, where an absence of change in mood, pace and tone reveal shortcomings in tracks such as 'A Break In The Clouds', 'Hands In The Earth' and 'After The Rain', which fail to engage and simply drift by unnoticed. Listening in its entireity you yearn for something to leap out of the songs, to haul you out of the slumber and though Hope doesn't exactly achieve this by kicking and screaming, there are subtle changes from track to track that draw the attention and reward. Such as the higher-range piano on the exquisite 'The Well Worn Path', a tinge of sadness on 'Fledglings' and the soaring, all-enveloping closer 'In The Long Grass', a gorgeous epitaph.

The stronger numbers however are where the duo deviate ever so slightly from the norm, such as the replacing of piano with an acoustic guitar on 'Seasons Past', a more melancholic, atmospheric track, where the strings work expertly in harmony with the guitar on the descending chords, a combination that leads to an entrancing and hypnotic reflection on the past, and 'First Light' where Sarah employs pizzicato to her weaving strings as Andrew's guitar drives the song's motor, a track with so much more going on than most of the album, that touches on the ambiance of Julia Holter or Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's playful, medieval phase.

An album that is so relaxing it should come with a warning to not be listened to while driving or operating heavy machinery, Hope will anaesthetise pain and dispel any worries for a short while. Eno would be proud.


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