Orla Wren ‘the one two bird and the half horse’ (flau).
Arrived here packaged and bowed in a hand crafted textured tracing paper like envelope, its contents I don’t mind admitting have had us mesmerised and transfixed in a way that in recent memory only outings from Smile Down Upon Us for Static Caravan and Susuma Yakota’s recent ’mother’ set has come close to touching. From the moment ‘first wooden words’ creaks, yawns and stretches into life your already lost to its enchantment, as though arriving through some fog glazed day breaking haze, it falters, stumbles as though uncertain of its surroundings, unsteady and shy eyed it focuses itself – by then the magical dye is cast. ‘the one two bird and the half horse’ is the second full length by ambient folk alchemist Tui (Orla Wren) following his acclaimed debut for Expanding in 2006.
These days something of a nomad he’s since shunned the trappings of society opting for a back to nature lifestyle or to quote the accompanying press release who more pertinently describe him ‘a be dreadlocked, laptop wielding, sounds cape creating neo gypsy’ who, if you keep your eyes peeled, can be found relocating through the wiles of these fair isles with Rima (Staines) in a converted Bedford TK horsebox. In some respects that may well account largely for the mysterious spell charms that emanate with intoxicating bewitchment from the grooves of this his first release for the small but perfectly formed Tokyo based Flau imprint.
Featuring contributions from Keiron Phelan (who you may well have seen briefly amid various record racks under his shared guise as Ellis Island Sound, State River Widening and the aforementioned Smile Down Upon Us) and Simon Scott (Slowdive, Televise, Seavault et al) and vocal accompaniments courtesy of Clare Whyte, Jessica Constable, Joanna Joachim, Russudan Meipariani and (Smile Down Upon Us’) Moomlooo, ’the one two bird and the half horse’ is an awakening, quite possibly unlike anything you’ve heard previously in your life, it provides twelve fleeting moments or perhaps timeless recitals captured and framed for posterity. Best appreciated and dare we say enjoyed nay marvelled in the passing of a quiet moment that way the intimacy and close attention it so richly deserves can be assured. Bathed in pre natural raptures that tap into a long lain dormant collective conscious as though some kind of hypnotic regression unlocking echoes of distant long forgotten memories, these porcelain pirouettes are possessed and woven of a beautifully demurred tapestry that‘s all at once untamed and pure, not so much primitive but rather more natural, the melodies appear like daydreaming serenades, barely there, as though like flickering apparitions caught from the corner of the eye, willowy and fragile, partly hazy and blurred seemingly just out of focus, their free spirited timbres idyllically teased with an unreal arresting tenderness as they sway murmuring like woodland opines caught adrift upon a delicate breeze – case in point the chilled reverence applied to the spectral bowed chime cortege of the haunting hollowness of the glassy ‘33 feinting spells’ with its seducing ornate Japanese temple setting. Its to this end that makes this album such a fascinating and richly rewarding adventure, adopting a less is more approach, by way of the sparse rustic (lullaby) detailing Tui has crafted something genteel, captivating and yearning, a beguiling ramble up a secret path to some enchanted twilight world which acts as a safe haven drawing a mid way point between the early career shy eyed faintness of Mum and the dimpled delicate brushstrokes of Inch Time the former particularly recalled mainly for Clare Whyte’s vocal on ‘tugboats and railroads’ casting as it does a lulling lullaby like calm atop a seductive pastoral framing that imagines both Nick Drake and Robert Wyatt rescoring elements of Giovanni’s ‘wicker man’ reprises.
Which leads us rather nicely to the vocal arrangements. What can we say – but perfect, serving to enhance the overall effect and perhaps into the equation add an air of mystery and ethereal spiritualism to the aural canvas, each provides in their own unique way a sterling performance of some measure, from the absolutely adorable child like chuckles and dizzy murmuring of Joanna Joachim on ’two note winter’, the bracing birdsong neo operatics of Jessica Constable on the accordion swathed ‘some tales wait shy’ to the extraordinary ghostly cooing yodels of Russudan Meipariani whose softly purred scale shifting shimmering and exquisite vocal quiver as displayed on ’book of frost’ would put even Liz Fraser in an enviable shade while her bashfully playful light headed navigation around the beautified Oriental chimed motifs of the shanty like ‘the fish and the doll’ frankly need to heard to be at all believed. Of course dare we forget to mention Moonlooo’s brief but beautifully peek a boo hushed sensuality on ‘the unbowed hand’.
Key tracks –
The first born daughter of water
Book of frost
33 feinting spells.
first aired May 2009