Supermoon by Briars of North America is a thoughtful and gently embracing album that could elevate a pleasant Sunday morning into something more far more special. The band are made up of “two long lost cousins and a friend” or Gideon Crevoshay, Jeremy Thal and their friend Greg Chudzik. The cousins initially met through family funerals and were encouraged to hangout by Gideon’s Dad as they lived in the same New York City borough. The fact that they “work at their own pace, with release plans guided more by equinoxes and solstices than any conventional music industry wisdom” may seem less conventional than working around pressing plant and record label deadlines, but when you start pushing through the branches of their magical forest it all makes sense. There is a timeless feel to the way they construct songs that are caught vibrating between the present, the past and the future.
Opening track ‘Sala’ is a barely-there mix of keyboard and falsetto vocal that’s like watching a feather float close to the ground only to be drawn back into the air again. It’s like a call to prayer, but maybe a prayer for nature as demonstrated in the video (below). There’s a woozy Nick Drake feel to some of their music, especially on the second track ‘Island’, with acoustic guitar floating alongside glissando violin, astral keyboard washes and trumpet. But this is no straight-up folk album, the Briars take some of the more conventional musical tropes and deconstruct them, adding more surreal elements. Like on ‘Seventh Brew’ where the vocals are treated like an old 78rpm record which then opens out into dual vocals that repeat, cross and spin slowly around each other. ‘Chirping Birds’ has the wistful feel of a sparse Pink Floyd song and then, nearly at the mid-point of the album, we get the ambient ‘The Albatross of Infinite Regress’, a track full of elongated notes and distant vocals that feel like a less intense version of György Ligeti’s (used by Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey) or William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops.
‘The Albatross of Infinite Regress’ has a companion piece in ‘Ambient Condor’, a dream landscape where we follow the condor in an ever-climbing pattern that never seems to resolve. ‘Spring Moon’ is the most more conventional folk song, with the spring moon signalling a time to move on. ‘Supermoon’ and ‘Sleepy Not Sleepy’ form a two-track coda that draws the album to a close. Title track ‘Supermoon’ brings another dreamscape replete with gently swelling synthesiser chords and vocals that loop and stutter as the song draws to its crescendo and then ‘Sleepy Not Sleepy’ is a 12-minute odyssey that starts with a susurration of strings, over an ambient backdrop with vocals bringing distant Arabic chants and the whole perfectly capturing that lightheaded feeling of tension between sleeping and waking.
The disparate elements that the Briars of North America interlace is not surprising when you understand that the trio have forged their musical and friendships by playing in multiple bands as well as setting up the Found Sound Nation a non-profit new music organisation set up with Bang on a Can, which connects people across countries and cultures to make music together. They have travelled the world together running workshops and I can only image this has led to, not only a stronger friendship between the three, but a deeper understanding of music gleaned from encouraging, hearing and collaborating with so many other musicians from around the world.
So, this many faceted album that can encompass shades of Nick Drake, Talk Talk, Dawn of Midi and Radiohead, demonstrates that this is folk from Oz not from Kansas. Their work ethos and side projects have allowed Briars of North America to be a nexus of ideas; a melting pot of the traditional and modern and, overall, allow them to produce an album that stands up to repeat listening, not only on Sunday but throughout the week.
Review by Paul F Cook