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Tall Firs - Tall Firs

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Artist: Tall Firs

Album: Tall Firs

Label: Ecstatic Peace!

Review date: Sep. 10, 2006

Folk today can appear a most frizzy, weird and warbly thing. Painted with freak stripes, it is amorphous bordering on anarchic, and, even when unbearded and sober, looks to the elements with a nearly mystical concentration. Their evergreen name aside, New York's Tall Firs have more in common with Codeine's The White Birch. Eleven stately, small songs make up their self-titled debut: a tangled crystalline mass carved out of white space.

Signed to Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace! Imprint, Tall Firs feature Sonic Youth's engineer and touring soundman Aaron Mullan, so it shouldn't be a surprise that these 11 tunes resemble Moore-penned slow-burners minus the alien tuning and excursions into formless regions of caustic voltage. Handling acoustic and electric guitars, Mullan and Dave Mies coax warm currents that twist and wreathe haunting melodies. When singing, one with a twangy softness distinct from the other's rumpled languor, the duo's voices are wounded but hardly resigned.

Entropic forces are always slightly removed like a far off storm whose brilliance and boom are lessened by sheer distance. They are called upon, as when "Us and Our Friends" shifts to a faint lock-groove of errant clicks, looped organ curves and assorted electronic fizz or the trebly mist of modulator grease coating "Road to Ruin", to add color and texture to this greyscale flux. "Go Whiskey", its title perhaps the most direct acknowledgment of the liver-pickling habits hinted at in their sad-eyed lyrics, incorporates a purring organ and tinkling glockenspiel tones. The few tracks that include drummer Ryan Sawyer find him churning a muffled maelstrom of rhythm. Splashes of snare and metallic wisps from mallet'd cymbals suffice. It may hardly be a coincidence that it's on a song called "The Woods" that the trio break concrete and get their fingernails dirty digging through the soil-crusted roots below. Even on the Tall Firs' traffic island of lonesome sound, it seems the call of the wild is hard to refuse.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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