With a title like Ghost Forests you’d be forgiven for quickly forming the belief that Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore have produced an album that’s explicitly supernatural in theme, or that death, or loss of direction, is the crux of the matter. However, nothing of this new album, released via Three Lobed Recordings, is so obvious, easily cataloged, or deconstructed.
Fans of Lattimore’s experimental harp work will dig deep into this project with Baird. Baird, whose work with folk bands Espers and Heron Oblivion seems to extend her tendency for ethereal pursuits here. So, yes, things are supernatural, but perhaps not as specifically focussed you’d have initially thought.
This album, recorded over a four day period with producer Thom Monaghan, delivers a textured account of a space, and the events that occur between places. It’s the undulation of pressures that is relayed well, so even when clear portraits of a subject aren’t delivered we get a deeper sense of the dynamic, and effects of a person on the world around them.
“Painter of Tygers” is a track that plays with the darkness against the light, and the light that waits in the distance. The narrator is an archetypical explorer of the other-worlds, running parallel to this. Lattimore’s harp issues a purity that’s sustained with Baird’s vocal pattern – but beneath the melodic clarity is an inky grit that suspends progress. The final bars of this track cascade in on themselves, and the dissolve is fantastic. Just as the lyrics come in and out of audible clarity, so the rest of the track falls into a mist of its own making. The result is the kind of confusion that invites a deeper, more pleasing disorientation.
Progress through these tracks gives the sense of an odyssey that could never be repeated. If you replay these tracks immediately after the first spin you’ll notice new landmarks, altered points of reference, and a kind of life that wasn’t first made obvious. A third spin offers yet another account of the journey. Like Jim Jarmusch’s movie ‘Dead Man’ there’s a sense of inevitability about conclusion, a beauty in loss of direction – because all directions lead to the same destination.
The speed with which this album was written and produced lends gravity to the impulse that’s captured. Like a minimalist painting, it’s the negative space, and the power of suggestion; reliant on investment and engagement of an audience, that brings strength. In explaining just enough, the whole universe is unfolded with a veiled clarity. It’s all here, you just have to listen.
‘In Cedars’ opens with a slightly twisted harmony between harp and guitar phrasing. The guitar reveals itself through distortion, and the kind of finger-work that shows the prints of heroes. When Baird’s voice breaths in it calls back to a time before recorded music, when the ‘now’ of performance was all there was. That’s not to say things are urgent, or hurried in expression, but there is a solemnity about process; a rare respect for what is being channelled.
Ghost Forests is the kind of album that’s going to linger in the collective unconscious. For the initiated it is an album that underlines the unique talents of the two collaborating artists. For newcomers it shares a new alternative; countering chaos with uncontrived beauty. In capturing something of their time together, and a vision that is particular to the moment, Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore have produced an album that carries with it a timeless quality. This is extraordinary work.
HURRY – BUY – MEG BAIRD & MARY LATTIMORE MUSIC