[19 July 2007]
If his first proper LP as The North Sea gives any indication, Brad Rose is a force with which the world of folk music must reckon. The Tulsa, Oklahoma songwriter (and head of several indie labels, among other hats Rose wears) relies on a unique artistic voice and incredibly patient hand to guide in the creation of the eight tracks present here. On Exquisite Idols, Rose crafts tunes which, though allowing enough overlap to affect a consistent tone, are able to be sorted into three classifications. Tracks like “Guiwenneth of the Green Grass”, and the 11-minute “We Conquered the Golden Age” employ a wide range of instruments and natural sounds (including birdsongs) to create an antiquated feel and bring to mind scenes of bucolic bliss; the music could fittingly serve as soundtrack to a cinematic epic depicting the lives of forest-dwelling heroes in the Middle Ages. Similarly atmospheric in nature, “Cover Me With Knives” and “And Then the Solstice Disappeared” are more experimental in practice; the former an initially percussive journey which delves into avant-garde territory, the latter receiving its direction from Eastern instruments and tones. Finally, Rose presents a couple of straight ahead folk tunes to bring more conventional material into the fold, the best of which is the ragamuffin spiritual “Take It From Me Brother Moses.” With the exception of these more customary offerings, Rose’s vocals are often obscured or missing entirely, allowing his instrumental invention and inimitable production to make the loudest of the album’s statements. Though more fanciful than functional, Exquisite Idols is a bold step in a strange and exciting direction.