A wholly natural folk music from Sunburned Hand of the Man's Keith Wood evokes Pentangle, Gary Higgins, and Six Organs of Admittance, as well as clear water, bird song, and morning sunlight.
Hush Arbors' Keith Wood has made any number of home-recorded albums, some under his current nom de plume, others with Sunburned Hand of the Man and Golden Oaks. Along with Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance, he can sometimes be found playing guitar in David Tibet's Current 93, yet he has little of Tibet's visionary foreboding. In this self-titled album, the first on Ecstatic Peace, he explores an exceptionally sunny, calm, natural landscape with clear acoustic guitar and fuzzy electric one. Every track feels suffused with organic energy, the glow of natural light, the green haze of leafy vistas, the bright optimism of sunny days.
The disc opens and closes with its most distorted, feedback-intensive cuts: the brief, Hendrix-y blur of "Intro" and the final swagger of "Water". Yet even this latter cut parts curtains of wheezing amplification to reveal a feathery lilt of a melody. It's like folksy Tyrannosaurus Rex flanked by J. Mascis and a towering stack of amps.
In between these two monoliths, Wood's songs turn lighter and more acoustic. "Follow Closely" fairly glitters with interlocking guitar pickings, the jangle sharpened by strange, alternatively tuned dissonances. "It's the light that we all know", sings Wood, in looped harmonies and counterparts, and then Ben Chasny, sitting in, tears out a short, scintillating solo.
There's a good deal of variety, even in the more pastoral mid-section of this album. Pentangle-ish "Rue Hollow" is all fragile melancholy. The more rocking "Gone" has the psychedelic echo and mystery of Entrance, though without the death obsession. "Bless You" drones and jangles like a Six Organs song, though its delicate vocals sound more like '70s folker Gary Higgins. And "The Light" is very nearly a power pop song, following a rattling tambourine over huge guitar chords before settling into folk sincerity.
Yet whether these songs are loud or soft, acoustic or electric, major or minor in key, they all seem to live in vast outdoor spaces. There's a deep tranquility in them, a connection with the natural order that makes even the most exciting crescendos meditative and resonant. This very fine album takes you into the light, points out the lovely view, and encourages you to stay a while. You couldn't ask for a better break from the world.