In April, Wolfgang Voigt revived his famous project GAS with a new album. Fans were transported back to the music’s marriage of ambient soundscapes and techno. But the forests near Voigt’s hometown were always the overarching influence of GAS. Likewise, the Brothers Grimm took a fascination with nature and fantastical forces to infamous extremes through their folklore. Let us also not forget how important such fascination of mysterious woodland creatures is to horror films. It seems in all of these cases that the forests so easily capture the human imagination. Whether European folklore or electronic art music, both tend to capture the beauty, wonder, and mystery of nature. It’s that beauty that Canadian label Silent Season has continually attempted to capture. On their latest release from Amsterdam-based duo Wanderwelle, “Lost In A Sea Of Trees,” they succeed with flying colors.
On this debut album, Wanderwelle researched East European folklore and were fascinated by the forests and its strange inhabitants. Using the folklore and primeval forests as influences, they sculpted an eight track concept album of organic ambient techno. The album’s story involves a traveler being lured by otherworldly forces through an ancient forest. As the forest becomes darker, so does the music. Each step brings the traveler deeper into contact with strange beings and phenomena. Like the ending of a good European folk tale, the traveler becomes lost and perished. To carry the forest theme further, the duo collected field recordings of Czech, Russian, and Dutch forests. The characteristics of the recordings contribute heavily to the brooding mood throughout. If this entices you, then grab your hiking gear and prepare to journey deep into the woods.
Your journey begins on “The Starry Night,” as critters chirp under wintry pads and a thumping bass drum. Soft rhythms percolate as peaceful keys resonate in the air, yet things only go downhill from here. “Where the Wind Howls” howls with haunting whistles and dark flutes. The mysterious sounds and ancient melodies slowly lure you closer to the edge of the woods. At last, you walk “Through The Meadow” as you hear the babbling of the forest’s brook. Your hiking tools rattle with every step you take towards the forest’s edge. But when you’re enshrouded by dark trees and “Lured By An Unseen Presence” in the woods, danger intensifies. A strange symphony of dub chords and distorted howls echo and lure you deeper into the forest. Your life is at your own risk as you verge off the beaten path.
You find that “Across the River the Trees Whisper” after crossing a small bridge. The running water splashes as primeval shakers and ominous melodies flow past. But you realize the unearthly howls have lured you deeper and deeper into uncharted territory. You panic as you see “Eyes in Looming Trees” and begin running. The wind and winter bells clash with the dark chord pulses and ancient siren sounds that disturb you. Suddenly, you find yourself in an open space and on “Unholy Ground,” as the woods have become deadly quiet. The ghostly melodies of centuries-old flutes surround you, and your heart slowly begins to race. At last, you’ve found a decaying shack containing “The Domovoi” that has been luring you this whole time. The wind howls intensely and ancient instruments float warn you that it’s too late to escape. You have now become lost in a sea of trees.
Concept albums are tricky to pull off, and the marriage of European folklore with organic ambient techno may sound cheesy. But on “Lost In A Sea Of Trees,” there is no cheesiness present. The crackling of wood and howling of wind easily weave into the earthy pads and minimal beats throughout. The flute sounds add a folky touch, yet it never sounds forced. The ethereal mood throughout broods an ancient mystery, as well as foreshadows the dread and despair of its main character. All these elements craftily combine to tell a tale of being led astray by an ancient spirit in the woods. The intriguing story aside, this is one of the best ambient/dub techno albums of the year. If you’re up to the hike, you won’t regret getting lost in Wanderwelle’s sea of organic electronics before summer ends.
Title: Lost In A Sea Of Trees
Genre: Ambient/dub techno
Available to download at http://shop.silentseason.com/album/lost-in-a-sea-of-trees! A limited edition vinyl is available at http://www.juno.co.uk/products/wanderwelle-lost-in-a-sea-of-trees/646625-01/, but follow Silent Season’s social media for info on the latest repressing. They’ve been selling out like hotcakes.