Bears in the Woods, Volume 1
all songs improvised live (no overdubs) to 1/4"
8-track tape at home by ged in one day some time in early june, except the
last song, which we recorded a couple days later. all instruments played
by ged + cy. we used martin, silvertone, burswood, and fender acoustic
guitars, memphis and epiphone electric guitars, drums, wooden flute,
tambourine, tapes, buddha machine, moogs, pedals (rc-20, delays) chord
organ, our voices and whatever else we had around to bang on. mixed by ged,
mastered by grant capes. volume one of a five album series.
CD-R edition of 123.
OUT OF PRINT
Volume 2 coming soon!
Newly established and
self-styled micro-label House of Alchemy bursts out of Buffalo, NY, by
releasing the first in a projected five-volume series of albums by The
Antique Brothers. The duo play with an ease that belies their youth,
perhaps because Cyrus & Ged Clayton are real brothers. If you go down
to these woods, you'll find the bears mellowing out to a warm acoustic
stew of Fahey-beholden guitar playing. "Trail in the Woods" is a smoky
swirl of echoed finger-picking that segues into the dense sweat lodge
of the mystical "Bear Wedding", while "Kodiak Habitat" has a ray-gun
tremolo guitar line that sounds like a signal to visitors from the
stars. There's a timeless backwoods folk mood here put into collision
with glowing rocketship guitars to create a space-folk as big, furry
and fierce as the bears the brothers so clearly adore. Febraury 2007
What else could you possible
follow a Volcano the Bear review with but some 'Bears in the Woods'?
The Antique Brothers, from Los Angeles, have themed their gorgeously
packaged album (carved, pasted and die-cut card with mottled and
glassine paper inserts) loosely around the subject of bears, and even
more elusively around their woodland habitat. There's an epic,
open-air feel around their instrumental folk-guitar songs which lends
their sound a backwoods feel, very much in the mould of early Six
Organs of Admittance, which belies the fact that the album was
recorded by Ged and Cy (this is as much as I know about the band, I'm
ashamed to say) at home on recycled 1/4" 8 track tape. Opening song
'Grizzlies at Dawn' sets the mood, a gently thrummed number which
gradually builds to introduce various guitars, pedals, chord organ and
drums. 'Trails in the Woods' finds our intrepid pair following some
decidedly strange, haunting sounds in the night, and 'Bear Wedding',
appropriately perhaps, erupts after a gentle interlude in an explosion
of shouts and percussion akin to a small riot on a cutlery factory.
'Opium Dreams' (subtitled 'Hibernating' to place it into a bear
context) is a piece of outrageously gorgeous, ethereal stoned chanting
with an acoustic (possibly Martin) guitar paste-over. The sixth and
final track 'Grizzly Dwellings' is the stand-out for me though; a
simple yet gorgeously effective, incessant guitar riff gently picked
over the top of some increasingly strange sounds which wouldn't have
sounded out of place in an early sci-fi programme scored by those
alchemysts of sound BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
The album's apparently the
first in a series of five, although whether that's five
bear-influenced albums or five Antique Brothers albums is unclear at
present. Either way I shall be looking out for the next one with eager
anticipation. (Phil McMullen)
The music of the Antique Brothers is quite an
adventure... Blending somewhat hesitant acoustic guitars with a variety of
sonic features (which include some highly versatile drumming, sparse
wordless vocals as well as many unusual sound devices), it always makes
the most of its low-fi aesthetics. In a way, it is possible to compare it
with a walk into some kind of mysterious woods with its lot of surprises
and unexpected encounters.
Consequently, the music often feels like it’s discovering its actual paths
as it is being performed. It is thus no surprise to find out that all the
songs on this album were improvised live without overdubs. Everything can
Most tracks begin with fragile, yet slightly assured acoustic guitar
chords. Slowly, the ghost of a more asserted melody may surface
(“Grizzlies At Dawn”), unravelled as it is by the high level of
interaction between the musicians.
This is particularly palpable on the third track “Bear Wedding” for
instance. First, the melody is briefly hinted at. Then it gradually spins
into a decisively uplifting note which reinforces the track’s peculiar
dynamics – full of joy and unsettling tension. Each musician remains
pretty attuned to each other; yet, they clearly prefer listening to what
appears in front of them rather than choosing to respond too quickly.
Every collective gesture is thus imbued with a certain sense of
unpredictability and controlled chaos which is only heightened by the use
of scraping metallic noises, tapes and other dub effects.
Actually, the band’s choice of instrumentation is as essential as the
playing/ instant compositions of the musicians themselves. Some tracks
thus display a few abstract characteristics every now and then (“Trails In
the Woods” and “Kodiak Habitat”). However, they always allude to the
presence of a more melodic ground behind them all.
By the time we have reached the fifth track (“Opium Dreams
(Hibernating)”), the many-sided soundscapes created by the band almost
seem familiar now. Nevertheless, they’re still unwilling to disclose all
of their secrets. Indeed, the introductive acoustic guitar meanderings
rapidly make way for some distant vocal mantras, dubbed-out flutes as well
as a vast array of other eerie sounds (such as the Buddha machine). Yet,
they all remain pretty much understated as the music can now be considered
to form one multi-sided organic block. The mystery remains unresolved
Actually, as we listen on, the music seems to be getting more and more
surreal. In this respect, the last track “Grizzly Dwellings” is
particularly impressive. It kind of sums up the whole approach favored by
the Antique Brothers: the delineating of some highly complex territories
displaying a series of intricate interactions at their very core. In
addition to the song titles and the name of the album, the label’s own
motto gives us another clue that is not to be discarded: “where bedlam
No doubt there is a certain comfort to be found in such uncertain paths.
Whether it is filled with joyful noise or radiating a feeling of troubled
elation, the music offers a contrasting ensemble of emotional colors that
is utterly spellbinding. And though you may find similarities with other
like-minded artists (Niagara Falls, Thuja, etc.), the tensions that can be
felt throughout this recording sound totally unique to me. I’m telling
you, it is quite something to walk along those “Bears In The Woods”. 8/10
-- Francois Hubert (11 December, 2006)
House of Alchemy is a new micro label from Buffalo,
New York and if you ask me it’s pretty much impossible to kick things off
in a more impressive way than with this lovely deluxe packaged CD-R. I
don’t know an awful lot about these brothers but I do know that we’re
immediately thrust into a kind of parallel sound universe, a sonic
equivalent to a forest exploration on a particularly hazy summer morning.
The sound, constructed from guitars, drums, flute, tambourine, tapes,
moog, chord organ and voices, is not always easily described since the
moss-clad folk melodies at hand are more like a chaplet of different tones
and colors than actual songs. Antique Brothers continuously get lost in a
beautiful maze of acoustic improvisation, corrosive drones, ragas and
string-clad melancholia. But don't get me wrong, this isn't the sort of
dire dish that only will appeal to apocalyptic folk freaks, it just
happens to hold elements that tend to nourish the contemplative side of
Bears in the Woods comes wrapped in a stunning kind of intimacy,
which might or might not come from the ragged looseness of these
improvised folk ramblings. What’s certain though is that this material
sounds personal in the way that Matt Valentine and Six Organs of
Admittance does – not as intensely disconnected or subterranean, perhaps,
but as personal and distinct. Beauty and inspiration rain down like tiny
droplets in these sessions, recordings both wonderfully focused and
distilled, yet free. Essential to say the least.
What a package! The paper gatefold has pictures attached with those little
corner dealies, oil-paper fold out inside the cover, hand-stamped disc and
hand-numbered cover, plastic sleeve, and - get this – vellum catalog
inserts! Man! Inside, the music is packed loosely in thick summer air. The
Brothers thank Death Chants in their notes, which is a nice reference to
their sound - lightweight and a little dusty. Despite the ursological
titles (“Grizzlies at Dawn”, “Kodiak Habitat”), I don’t hear the damp,
dark environment which suggests ‘Bears in the Woods’; centered around
western acoustic-guitar meanderings inspired by Fahey, Chesny, Grubbs, and
Carter, the pieces play like a guitar-slinger wandering an open desert of
scuttling sounds; tambourine, tape loops; a flute here, an organ there.
Voice is used in a single chant (“Opium Dreams (Hibernating)”) and to
mimic animal voice, and then as sparsely placed as the countless other
embellishments that appear along the xeriscape. Second only to the
guitars, drums roll through like thunder, breaking into the occasional
tantrum which drowns out everything, showering sheets of metal. Recorded
with no overdubs, the improvised songs are both organic and
nicely-executed. The songs stick to the theme and cohere without
repetition. The insert says this is volume one in a series of five. They
must have a lot of material. Here’s to hoping it keeps pushing along.
Limited to 123 copies.