Album Of The WeekOne particularly striking quality about The Orchard is the stunning array of vocal harmonies on display, the harmonies themselves being one of the band's greatest assets.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Fire On Fire
By Jeff Terich
Michael Gira's Young God label cornered the market on weird, arty folk some
time ago, having introduced Devendra Banhart, The Angels of Light and
Akron/Family, among others, each with a unique and paradoxically fresh and
classic sound. Each of these bands shares an affinity for the rustic and the
surreal, a folk music less concerned with the physical world so much as the
supernatural. However, the latest in Young God's new weird American
discoveries isn't so much a new band as an old one, recontextualized. Fire
on Fire, formerly known as Cerberus Shoal, traded in the electric guitars
for banjos, mandolins, upright bass and any other varieties of acoustic folk
instruments, and holed up in a house in Portland, Maine. As one might
surmise from the description, they couldn't have ended up on any label but
With the label comes a certain level of quality, and Fire on Fire not only
meet but actually surpass many of their contemporaries with their vibrant,
haunting Goth-folk compositions. They've been described as The Carter Family
meets Grizzly Bear, which isn't too far off the mark. But where Grizzly Bear
tends to douse their spacey pop in effects, Fire on Fire leave their
instruments bare, sometimes ringing gently in meditative fashion, as on
"Flordinese," or rattling with percussive fury, such as on "Assanine Race."
That Fire on Fire adhere so strictly to the acoustic approach gives the
album the feel of being a crisp, progressive folk recording from decades
ago, rather than contemporary indie, though "Sirocco" and "Heavy D" do sound
a bit like The Decemberists.
One particularly striking quality about The Orchard is the stunning array of
vocal harmonies on display, the harmonies themselves being one of the band's
greatest assets. On a track like "Heavy D," the male/female dynamic is
reminiscent of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, as is the interplay on
"Hartford Blues," itself a rollicking banjo hoedown of sorts. And yet the
high-pitched female vocals on "Assanine Race" have a significantly more
old-timey feel about them, sounding even more like a lost 78 from the
archives, or perhaps a feminine version of Sixteen Horsepower. Given that
many of the lyrical themes on the album deal in spiritual and mystical
realms, the band comes off strongly like a rural, mountain gospel ensemble,
each line delivered with an ambiguous sort of conviction.
While the traces of Cerberus Shoal's prior sound have all but disappear,
Fire On Fire still have a bit of cosmic spaciousness about them at times.
"Grin" is an open and expansive track, with melodies and vocal harmonies
utilizing space innovatively, while the eerie flute intro of "Tsunami"
segues into a gorgeous and eerie ballad that maintains a minimal approach
and tighter tension than anywhere else on this album. In sound alone, Fire
On Fire may appear old-fashioned, but don't be fooled—this music is