The fifth album of Maine duo came as a push of a fresh air to modern folk rock scene. Album connects artist`s views of life with melancholic sound in their music. Buck and Shanti Curran recorded this album during the last winter, which probably contributed to the atmosphere itself.
It opens with beautiful song “Pale Horse Phantasm”. In the interview for “It`s Psychedelic Baby” Shanti describes the song as “an age old tale about facing your fears”. This single already attracted a lot of attention of the audience, especially as it was published on the website of Rolling Stone Magazine. Real introduction into psychedelic folk comes with the second track “Daughters Of Man” where Shanti expresses range of her gentle but powerful vocal combined with mystical instrumental environment. Third track “After The Flood Only Love remains”, individually probably one of the best tracks from the album, is a spiritual song about love and positivity as the only saviors: “Life is a battle we cannot gauge/ Time is a war we cannot wage/ Blood is the price we all must pay/ Love is the shelter we all must save”. Next is a dark and mysterious poem “Ghost”, performed by Shanti`s whispering voice and playing on harmonium and banjo and followed by “Rider” with Buck as the main vocalist. “When I Was on a Horseback” are a farewell words of a Cavalier who`s coffin is being carried by four white horses. “Rua Das Aldas” is an instrumental inspired by travelling through Spain and Portugal, eventually called after the street in Porto where the band made some video shooting. Album ends with a cover of old traditional “Cherry Tree Carol” - Bible inspired story of a Joseph and Virgin Mary.
It is hard to conclude this review without saying that this is a true masterpiece of poetry combined with beautiful music and produced in an album. Arborea did a very good job in making the folk music sound not only psychedelic but contemporary and innovative. It follows the best traditions of good, intelligent folk artists, where music is not only melodies to listen, but words you can absorb like reading a beautiful tale entitled “Fortress of the Sun”.
In order to get closer Arborea to our readers, we wanted to talk with Buck and Shanti about their life, inspiration and album itself. Although busy with tight touring schedule, they found some time to extensively answer a couple of questions for “It`s Psychedelic Baby”.
© Shylah Curran
Hello guys. For a start tell me what inspires you to write such a spiritual music?
Shanti: Our music is inspired by our ways of thinking, our ways of living and our essence, our energy itself. It's a reflection of what we strive for, what we are always seeking and finding...the songs, every note and every space between the note is US, a culmination of our dreams and desires, a cohesive representation of our lives and how we choose to live...
I read in an interview from 2008 when you said that you've played some really fine gigs, but not as many as you'd like. Has the situation changed from then? Do you play more often now?
Shanti: At this point in our lives we have played so many amazing places and many terrible ones too...We've performed at enough venues in various cities to know that the most important thing to focus on is the energy of a place and the people that are there. Are they present fully, consciously participating in the creating, sharing and receiving of our message? That is all I am concerned with in regards to playing shows now...
As a couple, is it hard to be an artist who plays, records and travels and parent at the same time?
Shanti: It WAS hard for so many years, but to balance it all is a learned skill. We learn to live in the moment, reduce expectations, divide tasks and chores, NOURISH each other and ourselves individually and only focus on the positive, pay no attention to that which we have no control over, and above all ENJOY the life that we have created through our hard work and our dedication to our music.
Buck do you still work for luthier Dana Bourgeois and make guitars?
Buck: I stopped working for Dana Bourgeois at the end of 2009 and we started touring full time at the beginning of 2010. Between 2006 and 2009 we could only tour part time because of my work schedule building guitars. I absolutely love making acoustic guitars, but performing and recording music is where Shanti and I want to channel our creative and physical energy.
With almost a decade of making music and performing together, tell me have you met and played together with some of your music idols?
Buck: We don't have any musical idol's per se, but we have toured with quite a few of our contemporaries who are brilliant artists and beautiful people....Helena Espvall, Victor Herrero, Ben Chasny (200 Years and Six Organs of Admittance, Glenn Jones, Chuck Johnson, Marissa Nadler, Low, Mariee Sioux to name a few. We are playing a show a show in October with Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) that we are really looking forward to.
Your 5th studio album “Fortress of the Sun” was couple of months ago. You got some good reviews in Rolling Stone, Mojo and many other magazines. Can you compare its popularity to the previous one “Red Planet”? How long did the recording last?
Buck: We started recording 'Fortress of the Sun' at the very end of last Summer (2012) and started with 'When I Was On Horseback'. The album picked up speed by the middle of Winter and the last two months of Winter were spent mixing the album and preparing the artwork and release of the album. We always work best in the Winter because it's quite cold here and you are forced to stay inside and not travel. Everything we did with this album just felt more complete as we were at a higher level. We were stronger as musicians...individually as well as a duo, and also as a couple. It's also been a real pleasure working with Bernard Stollman and the folks at ESP-Disk'. Our release coincides with the label's 50th Anniversary and it's an honor to be on a label that has released albums by legendary artists such as Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Pearls Before Swine, and Ornette Coleman.
First single “Pale Horse Phantasm” from the new album, has a lot of views on Youtube and downloads from Rolling Stone Magazine website. Tell us more about this song. What inspired you to write it? What is the story behind it?
Buck: Shanti had written a poem titled 'Pale Horse Phantasm' and one day I picked up the guitars and the chords and the structure of the song magically happened. Shanti can explain more about the poem and what she brought to the song. Some of the lyrics I helped write were inspired by the dreamy imagery she was conjuring in that poem. As for the music, I spent quite a lot of time building on layers with different improvised guitar lines. Everything unfolded in such a Beautiful way...Shanti's vocals, all the guitar parts, the drums (played by Anders Griffen) and lastly the addition of my vocals.
Shanti: The story of Pale Horse Phantasm is an age old tale about facing your fears. The Pale Horse is Death and in the song, she is riding towards me, and though I am lost in confusion and sleeping (my unconscious), the sound of her hooves begins to wake me and I rise and walk, knowing instinctively that something is coming for me. The fear grows and I attempt to escape death, and fear by running from it, and yet still she follows...in the end, there comes the realization that one cannot outrun Death, or Fear of Change and so I turn to face this Pale Horse and climb upon her back and ride with her. What happens when you face your fear and discover that it isn't what you thought? What happens if you find that death is only the other side of the curtain, or the other half of Life itself? It becomes your diamond truth and it frees you. NOW you can live FULLY. So the Pale Horse was only a phantasm, a spirit meant to guide you and lead you to the other side of life...she teaches you to release your fear and embrace her, ride the wind with her...
What is the story behind Rua Das Aldas? Was this instrumental inspired by some of your visits of Europe?
Buck: Rua Das Aldas is purely an improvised moment of music played on the acoustic guitar and then I went back and added bamboo flute. It was inspired by my adventures with Shanti and our friend Victor Herrero...who we toured with all over Spain in the Summer of 2011. The title of the piece came from a visit to Porto, where we all did a video shoot on the oldest street in Porto...'Rua Das Aldas'.
What are the plans for 2013?
Buck: We'll continue playing shows and slowly begin working on a new album and planning more shows for 2014. We also hope to tour in Poland, Serbia, and Croatia in the future.
How would you describe modern folk rock scene in USA and Europe? What new bands and artists can you name as those who inspire you? Which new albums did you like lately?
Buck: The folk rock scene in the USA and Europe is alive and well! There are so many talented artists creating important music today...but it does seem more complicated for artists to find a large audience due to the fact that there is so much out there on the internet and many musicians do not have the resources or finances to properly promote their albums. You really do have to dig deep to find the best music. It's never been any easy path though...for Folk, Jazz or Blues musicians. Without the backing of investors and major labels it's a challenge to get the music out there the way it deserves. Even legendary groups like Pentangle, and artists like Bert Jansch to this day are still not household names. Look at how many decades Bert Jansch performed and how many albums he released...and still, when opening shows for Neil Young a couple of years ago...not many people in the US knew who he was. Some of the new albums we are listening to that we really enjoy aren't necessarily psychedelic folk. Sam Amidon's 'Bright Sunny South' is great. We also love some of acoustic pop artists like Laura Marling and Ben Howard. Josephine Foster has a new album 'Blood Rushing' that's quite beautiful..and her husband Victor Herrero has a gorgeous album titled 'Estampida'. Maine based musician Micah Blue Smaldone has a great album out called 'Ring of the Rise'. I'm definitely looking forward to the November release of the Jimi Hendrix 'Miami Pop Festival' album.
Do you have any message for the readers of “It`s Psychedelic Baby”?
Shanti: When you wake every morning, don't move your body for at least 3 minutes. Take good care of your teeth. Don't drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day. Don't think bad thoughts about other people, ever. Release the idea that time and space have anything to do with reality. Ask yourself every day what makes you happy and then do that. Sit in the sunshine and sit in the rain. Love yourself until you are weak with Joy. Move your body. Release resistance to ANY and EVERYTHING. Desire beyond all practicality. Desire until you grit your teeth and want to scream from the wanting of it, and then release your desire and breathe. and Smile. Lift your head up to the sky and say to yourself..."There are over one hundred billion galaxies out there somewhere." Never coerce any human. (or animal if you can help it) Walk barefoot and take cold showers every once in a while. Eat less. Be with those that make your heart sing, but realize that it is never forever and don't ever blame them when the song stops. Seek out good music. Go to shows, there is something completely magical about hearing music performed live and the people who are playing the music NEED you every bit as much as you need them. Walk softly and share your light.
Review & interview made by Andrija Babovic/2013
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