For pure, shimmering, lush beauty, Arborea are hard to beat. From Shanti Curran's ethereal vocals to, with husband Buck, their arrangement of all things stringed in cycling melodies like being surrounded by fluttering butterflies, they're like the voices of the forest.
If you haven't had a chance to meditate in their midst, new album House of Sticks, their first release on the Borne!/Acuarela label, is a fine introduction. It re-releases three songs from their self-released debut, Wayfaring Summer, provides alternate versions of two more, and then gives you three new tunes, never before released. You get their legacy — "Alligator" is a taste of Shanti's wild side — along with their future.
The new version of "Beirut" is even more direct in its simplicity, paired with lyrics that cut to the quick: "Won't you take me down to Gaza town/Won't you take me down to Beirut town/Walls are falling down/I feel the sound."
Maybe they're in a race with themselves to create the sparest possible piece. "Look Down Fair Moon" features halting notes picked out on a banjo (I'm guessing) that sounds like it was made sometime during the Civil War, recorded in a room that makes it glow with sound, then accompanied by Shanti's hum. Then it quickens its pace, and, late song, we get a just a barely breathed, "look down, fair moon" from Shanti that's then mimicked by the banjo. The song starts and finishes with a kind of thrumming static, like the search for aliens sounds, and there is an otherworldly quality to Arborea's general sound — like the sound of electrons vibrating.
In the album's title track, a chorus of Shanti vocals that recalls the gospel tradition, and there is something religious about what Arborea do, a universally life-affirming kind of thing. There are "three long days until the coming of the sun," they say, and on the fourth day, we'll rest.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOUSE OF STICKS | Released by Arborea | on "Us Folk," with Chris Darling, WMPG, 90.9 FM | April 3 @ 8 am | www.myspace.com/arborea2