|Portrait of man under hood and tree with guitar, 2001|
My friend Ian Wadley passed me my first CD-R, a beautiful warbly recording of Ian and Alastair Galbraith’s end-of-tour jam in Ian’s Brisbane abode. Just the thought that you could record on a Walkman and make a cd on your computer at home! Worlds of possibility. I had been in the room that day the Ian/Alastair magic transpired. So was Jon Dale, who not long afterwards released my first CD-R Organ Notes on his micro-imprint The Rhizome Label.
Jon was always hooking me up with new things to listen to, a pilotage that happily continues to this day. He told me about a couple of guys in San Fransisco called The Blithe Sons who were recording their music outdoors and had reportedly listened to Organ Notes in the car on the way to one of their locations. Jon sent me their Waves of Grass CD-R and a fresh wind blew through the window.
Here was a new music I could relate to: spontaneous and magical, full of light and space, playful and simple, and intuitively improvised. Fragments of melody nestled in harmonium drones, and the environment bleeding into the microphone. A music that celebrated the natural world. You could smell the grass!
|Portrait of beard with man and guitar, 2002|
And the song titles were like poetry: “Everyone of Us a New Leaf”, “Inner Groves”, and “I Fell Asleep in the Sun-bleached Grass (I’ll just Pass Away)”. Releases were recorded at “True Cross”, under bridges, in meadows, bunkers and headlands. And the bands! The Franciscan Hobbies, Thuja, Of, Buried Civilisations, Once and Future Herds. It was a nature/psych union that felt like the perfect tonic for the time.
An email group called “Routes for War and Travel” linked like-minded CD-Rheads around the globe, with a new axis joining the dots between Finland, New Zealand and the Bay Area. Great labels too: Deserted Village, Pseudo Arcana, La La Lal et al. A steady flow of CD-R releases was arriving in my letter box until at one point, and for the only time in my wonderful underground music journey, I almost had too many things to listen to. Almost.
|Jewel in the Crown|
Glenn had already released a pinnacle of the Jewelled Antler catalogue with The Birdtree album Orchards and Caravans, a beautifully constructed work of fuzzy home studio four-track odes, redolent of English acid-folk, but bathed in a DIY/West Coast glow. The Ivytree release was more paired back, and with parts recorded live to Mini-Disc in a bunker at the Marin Headlands, the environment was a palpable presence. An acoustic guitar and voice soaked in concrete reverb, transmitting a fragile beauty and summoning something other. The Ivytree felt closer to the darkness and light of Haino-san than the pastoral joys of Heron.
|Portrait of keyboard with man and harmonica, 2003|
Cut to 2017, and news that Glenn had dusted off the Mini-Disc and was transferring archival Ivytree sessions to his computer was met with much anticipation in this household, and as you may have gleaned, more than a touch of nostalgia. But there is more than nostalgia going on here…
The resulting album, Unburdened Light, released on the exemplary Recital label, has life force coursing through it’s veins. It’s all there. The field recordings, the quietude, worlds of reverb-drenched dreaming home-spun on an acoustic guitar, casio keyboards and organ. Songs that radiate from the speakers like tree auras in a Charles Burchfield painting.
Hey friends, these times are about as fast as we’ve gone and it’s all happening all the time. Kind of nice to park the car for a while. It seems to me that we need records like this now more than ever. So turn off your phone, lie on the couch and put this record on. Close your eyes, feel that breeze blowing through the window and dream a little. Walk the fields in unburdened light.
Unburdened Light is released on 4 May on Recital - pre-orders available here.