In 2018, Library of Babel took to the forested Appalachian mountains and came away with the abstract acoustic meditations of Sing to Me of…
The Asheville, North Carolina-based trio improvised the entirety of this woody chamber record on guitar, cello and bass, while drawing from their isolated yet gorgeous surroundings of the Pisgah National Forest. This serene stoicism comes through in the music exceedingly well.
The songs roll with the rhythm of rushing streams and slowly groan like great trees bending in the wind. Sometimes the group pushes this nature dynamic even further by taking seemingly random shifts in tempo and focusing on creating a highly textured soundscape through rustic slide work, cello harmonics and rough percussive knocks on their instruments. This indeed gives the impression that the group is one with the elements.
The space in which the band recorded in itself plays a significant role in the feel of the music. You can just feel the warmth of the room’s acoustics throughout the entire album, but especially on the tracks that feature vocals. Hell, even during “China,” the group utilizes the creaking of the floorboards beneath their feet to harmonize with Emmalee Hunnicutt’s cello. (This is certainly the first LP that I’ve reviewed where a house is literally being played as an instrument!)
The music here is obviously steeped in the traditions and unusual qualities of Sacred Harp music and other forms of early American folk styles, but then twisted or refracted through the loose inventiveness of modern free folk (especially the work of Pelt, Thuja and Spires That In The Sunset Rise). This is perhaps most evident in the somber “Idumea,” with its shape note vocals, scratchy polyphonic bass and guitar duels and ominous cello drones.
While an intriguingly unorthodox recording by all means, Sing to Me of…is nonetheless a radiantly pastoral album that pulls you in and immediately gives you a warm, welcoming place to stay.
You can download this release here or you can pre-order it on tape and CD here. There will also be a streaming show held by the band on the night of the 2nd, to celebrate the release of the album. You can read more about that and RSVP here.