Barrett Elmore: Woodlands
"Barrett Elmore was founded in 2008 in Sweden. It started out as a trio and at first played raw instrumental blues. Soon they moved on to psychedelic and psychedelic-inspired music. When the singer Mikaela Eriksson, joined the band, they finally found the sound and style reflected in their music today. This has resulted in their debut album "Woodlands." Pink Floyd is obviously one of the big influences, Nordic woods, the theme of the album, further emphasized by the elements of melancholy Swedish folk songs" (http://www.trailrecords.net/index.php, 2012).
This is already one of my favorite albums of the year. One of my best discoveries this year after Xandria and AtomA. Barrett Elmore is made up of Claes Mikael Svensson, on drums, percussion, and backing vocals; Max Karlstrom, on bass, vocals, organ, harmonica, and synthesizer; Mikaela Eriksson, on vocals; and William Friman, on guitar, piano, and organ.
Pink Floyd, yeh…this is like a journey back into the early 70s…but a lot has changed since then. Barrett Elmore has the experience and time behind it to add some important variations on the psychedelic theme laid down by the masters of space rock. One day we might even remember Barrett Elmore as one of the modern innovators of this genre they love. Their addition of Swedish folk themes truly breathes new life into the genre and that is rare to find these days.
"Entrance", and what a grand one it is. I often wonder if bands give as much thought to how they start an album and how well that experience effects the way listeners enjoy the album as a whole. I would say this band understands the importance of this consideration very well. The beautiful piano and cosmic Floydian guitars mixed well with birdsong is simply something that must be experienced to be truly understood…then they pop in synthesizers and organ and you were just launched back into the 70s. Close your eyes, slip back in the easy chair, put on the phones and get ready….
"The Creek", with Mikaela Eriksson's beautiful dreamy vocals, hits you like a great cross between a young Grace Slick or Clare Torry, mixed with that "little-girl" innocence that will knock you over like a feather. It doesn't hurt that this track also opens with beautiful trickling water as well. The soft echoing guitar helps paint the perfect entrance as soft drums, organ, keys and that pinging guitar return again and again. The calliope – like keys makes you believe you're right back in the Summer of '69. Absolutely amazing.
"I See A Man", took me right back to the feelings and emotions I felt with one of my favorite albums of last year, Jonathan Wilson's Gentle Spirit. Only this track is full of Mikaela Eriksson's now hauntingly soft and dreamy vocals. The piano is a perfect rhythm keeper to the pace of the beating heart of the song. Over in only 1:30, it is definitely time well spent.
"The Nixie" brings a new sound to the scope of the music. Male vocals sounding a lot like a whispering Jim Morrison, with eerily haunting Manzarek, Doors - like organ sounds takes you on a "Crystal Ship" – like journey. Only to be topped by the echoed chorus of "come to me", like the echoed chorus of "the blue bus is calling us", from "The End". They bridge back to Floyd with, "all that you do and all that you want", like a ripple from the Dark Side of the Moon, before the Pink Floyd acid guitars make their re-entry with vigor. The smashing guitars and drums towards the end make you almost forget the lush opening. An incredible transition from opening to close and one of the best tracks on the album.
"Drowning" opens with that amazing cacophony of laughs and guitars made famous by the masters of space back in the early days. The grinding and grooving guitars bring back memories of the past, this time with a Robby Krieger flair. The drumming is amazing. The vocals are full of that Morrison influenced melancholy.
Well it is a "Storm" after all. So this one starts with thunderclouds and the sound of rain. Yeh, "Riders on a Storm", after that last track. But this time Dick Dale's playing guitar, before the rhythm kicks in and the heavier Floydian buzz – like sounds begin to take over. Yeh, the kinda storm you dream about. With thick, menacing clouds and plenty of furry, and just a hint of light provided by the excellent organ work.
"The Brook Horse" took me right back to the Doors again with that magical Manzarek organ. More excellent Morrison – like vocals. Hard to understand the lyrics, but the way the vocal tones are used, makes words less important than sounds. Blistering, then haunting, guitar work designed to amaze. At 5:03, one of the longest tracks and well worth every minute.
Frogs and crickets, well what else would you expect, "Lost in the Swamp". Nice calliope sounding keys mixed well with excellent bass and lead guitar work. One big soaring Gilmouresque lead guitar solo before the calliope keys take you away ala "Strange Days", or "See Emily Play"…ah the 70s relived, for 2:25 minutes from the perspective of the 21st Century. You'll be glad you took the trip. Definitely one of my favs.
"Dusk (Dance of the Pixies)" opens with that cool echoing ping of guitar and is followed by even more deep bass echoing trance – like guitar. Then Eriksson's beautiful dreamy vocals are back to overwhelm and amaze you. The wind driven key and organ notes just take you away from every, daily care, as Eriksson's voice calms any nerves left untouched. Another favorite.
"Woodlands", the title track, is full of that Jonathan Wilson "Gentle Spirit" magic, only this time with Eriksson's haunting, soft echoing oohs and ahs, and the birds in the background take you at times to a higher level. The guitar, soft but solid bass, and the wonderful piano sooth well. Then the soaring guitar and Eriksson's equally matching vocals take you on a journey through the Nordic woods. The returning piano brings back memories of so many early 70s favorites…too many to list.
You knew this band had to have a yearning to try to equal the past masters they have looked up to, with an epic of their own, and "Psilocybe Semilanceata", may have been their best attempt so far. At 12:06, it is the longest track on the album and a wonderful bonus.
The opening sounds like something on the level of the live Pompeii Floyd show. But then they take you in a wonderful direction with magical piano and birdsong, filled to the brim with soft acoustic guitar and bass.
Not to be outdone, the acoustic guitar takes over with a soft smooth ride, combined with haunting echoes from sound effects and electric guitar. The effect is amazing. Taking you back, yet pointing you in the direction of the future with more sophisticated electronics available.
A short drum track brings back memories of so many songs you remember from the past, before the acoustic returns, this time with the accompaniment of golden, deep piano notes that will solidify your love of this album.
Sitar like sounds and more of that Pompeii – like drama and wind tunnels of imagination follow that simply dazzle the senses and make you an instant fan.
Imagine if you could bring the Doors and Pink Floyd, together, into the 21st Century…well this is probably the closest we're gonna get. There is not a bad song or moment on this album. It is best when appreciated in its fullness with headphones, but is equally appreciated in the comfort of your car on a long distance trip. Nothing is missing here. Music, like it used to be. Celebrated for its integrity and majesty. Every note a clear signal of the message. They did not spare expenses on the production quality either. This is a well mastered work…hats off to the band and George Dugan at I-Heights Studio, New York.
In two words…get this…well…three…NOW! ;^)
2. The Creek
3. I See A Man
4. The Nixie
7. The Brook Horse
8. Lost in the Swamp
9. Dusk (Dance of the Pixies)
11. Psilocybe Semilanceata (Bonus Track)
Added: April 14th 2012
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link: Barrett Elmore Soundcloud
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