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Arrowwood: Beautiful Graves

Mysticism and folklore are often active ingredients in music, be it in the works of an unsigned artist or the newest LP by a major band, such as Led Zeppelin. On her newest record, Beautiful Graves, Arrowwood (a pseudonym for Albion native Chelsea Robb) channels plenty of aesthetic paganism and atmospheric grace. Although it's not always sufficiently involving or lively, the album definitely provides a sonic world in which to get lost.

Self-described as "gentle, ethereal and sometimes even ghostly…" Arrowwood uses only acoustic instruments, such as reed organ, flute, various stringed tools, and even hurdy gurdy to complement her vocals. On Beautiful Graves, she also duets with Pythagumus Marshall (frontman of Novemthree), whose voice provides a great juxtaposition to hers. The end result is an enchanting array of tranquil, ethereal music and singing that is sometimes a bit too calming and sparse for its own good.

Haunting yet alluring, "Under Root a Winding Stair" starts off the album with ominous simplicity. Behind her eerily serene yet seductive voice lay chimes and a foreboding buzz, which makes the entirely of the piece greater than the sum of its parts. "Midnight Carnival" is a modest instrumental dominated by earthy percussion, while "Northwood" incorporates woodwinds and acoustic guitar arpeggios, making it feel more fleshed out and vibrant than its predecessors. This combination of Celtic timbres and endearingly innocent vocals makes the song a highlight for sure.

Later on, "Ballad of the Hanged Men" captures the medieval urgency of mid-period Strawbs classics, and "Sonnet 87" features an affective guitar pattern worthy of the most forlorn ballads. As for the title track, it begins with naturalistic sounds, such as breezes and birds, before Robb leads us from a sparse ode to a dense trudge. The piece is very impressive from a production standpoint. "We are Dark Wells" and "The Stag's Head" pair nicely, as the latter is basically an instrumental continuation of the former. Both pieces would've fit well on a Fairport Convention or Phideaux release.

Overall, Beautiful Graves captures wonderfully the essence of period pieces like The Lord of the Rings, Beowulf, and Game of Thrones. Truthfully, there isn't a lot of diversity or excitement to be had, but one gets the feeling that the work sounds exactly as Robb wants it to, which means that her vision must be respected. In the end, Beautiful Graves creates a vivid and unique world that's best to explore a little bit at a time.

Track Listing:

1. Under Root A Winding Stair
2. Midnight Carnival
3. Dreaming Knoll
4. Goblin Market
5. Northwood
6. Ballad Of The Hanged Men
7. Foxglove Meadow
8. Greenwood Bird
9. Sonnet 87
10. Beautiful Grave
11. We Are Dark Wells
12. The Stag's Head
13. Flowerleaf Coffin

Added: August 20th 2013
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Bandcamp Site
Hits: 2804
Language: english

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