It really is a shame and a missed opportunity that so many musicians working within the confines of acoustic instrumentation or traditional songwriting stick to playing standard folk music. Songs are raw material that can be warped and sculpted into whatever abstract and alien forms the musician imagines - take John Coltrane's cosmic extrapolations on "My Favorite Things" for example. And acoustic instruments can be made to do almost anything, not just pluck out dead melodies from bygone eras.
Salt Lake City, Utah’s husband-and-wife duo Follow The Weather seem to understand the possibilities that can come from working in folk-inflected idioms. Acoustic instruments, particularly the guitar, seem to carry with them sensations of natural landscapes - rolling emerald hillsides, vast and endless swathes of desert and sunlight breaking through sheets of leaden guitars. These landscape portraits can be smeared, swirled, hazed and viewed through a telescope when you incorporate modern psychedelic production.
Follow The Weather's self-titled debut Follow The Weather is a mostly instrumental record, built around layer acoustic guitars, shot through with bolts of percussion and occasional stringed instruments and painted with dreamy reverbs and delay. The overall effect is of watching some poetic landscape documentary, something with wide-open panning shots showing the grandeur of space and time. The melodies are vaguely Celtic, giving a traditional Irish feel. It could be the soundtrack for a film about Irish immigrants, or a meditation on the Emerald Isle. Either way, it's bound to possess magic and mystery, summarized by the Phillips' truly, truly wonderful musicianship.
David and Danielle Phillips truly work as a pair, playing up each other's strengths and helping to overcome the difficulties. David Phillips did a lot of the mixing, but had a tendency to overdo it on the FX, laying on the EQ and compression a little too thick. Danielle Phillips helped him to dial it back, and keep it natural, which does this record a service. Over-production can be the kiss of death, especially for an acoustic record. Instead, we get a sprawling, breathing, organic journey through emotional landscapes.
The only downside, again on the production side, is the guitar can, at times, sound a bit artificial, having a shimmering chorus-y sound typically found from plugging an acoustic straight into the board. It's tempting to record in that way, to get a hot clean, clear signal, but the results too often sound flat and plastic. In the future, I'd love to hear Follow The Weather record through some good pre-amps or using a quality microphone. Their music deserves it.
It's an eyelash in an otherwise delicious gumbo, however, or a minor fleck on the painted landscape, to stick with the original metaphor. The Phillips are both fantastic musicians, and their melodic lines dance and twine around one another like ribbons in mid-air. For those that love to see something interesting done with folk or post-rock, Follow The Weather will re-ignite your passion.
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