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A few years ago now, we decided that we wanted Home Normal to evolve into more film work alongside our music releases. It has been a long-held dream in truth, but we needed the right project to pop up before we could take the plunge. Step in, Orla Wren.
The work of Orla Wren caught our ears, eyes, and hearts with his fantastic release on one of our favourite Japanese labels: Flau. The One Two Bird and The Half Horse (flau, 2009) was a beautiful album of tender organically produced electronic sounding music. When he wrote to us a couple of years ago now, about releasing his latest opus with us we were thrilled. Over time the project evolved into working with a common collaborator, namely, Urban9. Previously he had worked with us on both Nicolas Bernier releases, as well as Ian Hawgood's own release ‘Enfants Ruraux’. We also quickly decided that this would be the project to really play with the packaging and presentation, seeing just how far we could go.
The end result is ‘Book of the Folded Forest’. The album is presented in an 8 panel, CD and DVD package, with 6 unique matte-coated double-sided cards, and an uncoated beautiful A3 poster, all designed by Urban9 himself included in each, as well as featuring 7 films by awarding winning directors. Lumacell, Joey Bania, The New Honeyshade, Tippi Tillvind, Elise Baldwin, and Skinofthetree have produced an astonishing set of films which will only be available in this package. You can watch the Joey Bania and Lumacell films at the following links respectively:
Four Feathers Few by Joey Bania: https://vimeo.com/60239686
The Words Under The Wood by Lumacell: https://vimeo.com/68909807
The music is quite simply, stunning, haunting and beautiful. The tender fragmented vocals softly swooning nakedly over the blanket of subtle melodies underneath. Featuring likeminded artists such as Danny Norbury, Aaron Martin, Paddy Mann, Jessica Constable, Eva Puyuelo (Savath Y Savalas - Warp), Keiron Phelan (Leaf label luminary), Katie English (Isnaj Dui), Lori Scacco, Joanna Joachim, Frederic Oberland, Hinny Pawsey, Barry Leake, Phil White, Heidi Elva, and Cyril Secq, we very much hope you enjoy this beautiful, microscopic, melodic gem. - experimedia.net/
Before you even hear the first note, the Book Of The Folded Forest strikes you by the awkwardness of its cover. A bearded hunter from another era looks rather severe, a long rifle in his hand while a dead deer lies on the back of his horse. The background looks like a desolated wood, the morning fog seems to slowly dissipate and while you look closer a small hand-written inscription says: “Guard over my solitude”. Quite an enigmatic first encounter with the album to say the least… As you continue your exploration and open the 8-panel CD and DVD package designed by Urban9 and look at the 6 addition postcards tucked inside, as well as the wonderful accompanying poster, you find yourself transported right inside that strange and unsettling place inhabited by rather awkward characters. A little boy plays with sticks on a drum while his sister holds a sleeping fox. They look at you sternly. Elsewhere another girl and her ghost double are sitting on a stone. There’s nothing around but a couple of dead trees. This goes on and on and all the characters encountered look rather strangely out of place. Their awkwardness is only matched by the unsettling landscape they inhabit. Everything looks familiar and yet it all seems slightly disconnected from reality, like in a tale whose inhabitants are as much real as they are imaginary.
This pretty much sets the tone for the album itself. For an hour or so, the music takes you to this strange and solitary place where you loose yourself in dense woods and comforting clearings while animals pass nearby, unaware of your presence whilst you hear faint whispers emanating from the trees. Like the physical package, the record works as a tale more than a self-contained collection of songs and while the overwhelming presence of this elusive forest give the music a strong sense of place, themes of solitude and mourning seem to hover over the music throughout the album.
As in all of his precedent releases, Orla Wren delivers here a sound of incredible tactility and haunting beauty but overall the 13 compositions are much more ambitious and far-reaching in their scope compared to anything he’s done before. The instrumentation stretching from modular synthesisers, guitars and cellos to toy piano, flutes and singing bowls is still very intimate and wonderfully detailed, while throughout the record a slew of guest musicians and vocalists come and go from one song to the next, and in the process contribute to the otherworldly atmosphere of the album. All the tracks are so carefully orchestrated, so delicately constructed that exploring them feels like walking inside that mysterious folded forest where you meet spirits and ghosts from the past who appear and disappear as you follow the path. Like the physical package everything sounds familiar and yet neither the individual tracks or the whole album itself sounds like anything you’ve encountered before.
Most of the time, the music doesn’t follow discernible chord progressions and none of the songs on the album go anywhere in particular: they just branch out laterally, spreading like a dense rhizome and sending tendrils to see how far they can go while exploring emotional landscapes more than narrative chapters. Often, the instrumentation mutates throughout the course of a track without obvious shift of atmosphere and yet you feel the delicate impact of Orla Wren’s quiet orchestras taking you to places you’d never thought existed.
Subsequent numbers are neither gentle ambient tracks nor synthetic folk songs. They just follow their path, gently exploring a particular physical, emotional and imaginary space. All the compositions are so open-ended, the main melodic motifs often buried beneath undulating veils of processed field recording and very tactile electronics, that listening to them multiple times leads to vastly different aural experiences. This is one of the main strengths of the album, nothing is clearly explicit, emotions are not forced upon the listener but suggested in the most understated way, so making the experience of this imaginary folded forest is like walking through an always changing landscape where secret voices and ephemeral sounds all breathe in unison below the surface of music and give you the freedom to access new emotional expanses upon each new listen.
In ‘Things you cannot keep’ for instance, as you try to peer through the outer layer of a mournful cello, vivid images appear as if they were refracted through the prism of buried memories. Snippets of child-like echoes, shards of sine waves suspended in space like dispersed sun-light leaking through holes in a log-cabin and processed birds calls are all bound together in such a way they give the main melodic elements an enveloping and warm quality in which to dwell throughout the track. But coming back to the song another time you’ll hear something else altogether, the voices will speak a different language, the light will cast an oblique shadow upon the trees and the birds will fly away, so you’ll now be experiencing the place through an unsettling prism, like coming back to a memory while not being able to grasp what you thought you had known for a very long time. Everything looks familiar and yet slightly alien. In a way, Orla Wren explores here the indecipherable folds and mysteries of memories, how one never comes back to the exact same place twice, only accessing retrieved moments through the changing filter of emotions, in fleeting parts more than in solid blocks of narrative.
In the very last song ‘Ashes from a long fire’, Paddy Mann comes back on vocals and gives a sense of circularity to the whole record. The tone is darker than in the opening track and somehow gives closure to the vast emotional landscapes encountered throughout the album. In a way, it feels like a surprising epilogue more so than a final chapter to the story of the folded forest and as such it will continue to haunt you after the final notes have died away in the receding silence of the listening space.
After a bit more than a month listening to The Book Of The Folded Forest and watching the seven wonderful videos on the accompanying DVD, I still can’t make sense of the mystery and irresistible appeal of this album. It is unsettling as much as it is re-assuring, the soft tones and crystalline atmospheres are always carefully balanced with feelings of solitude and loss. As I spend more time with it I can feel how, upon repeated listens, the music often triggers new fragments of buried memories that feel both disquieting and comforting while they cast oblique and changing shadows on my perception of the record. The album feels nostalgic and mournful on the surface and yet after a while I can see how beneath this veil of sadness and despair run powerful undercurrents of happiness and hope. It’s perhaps what Orla Wren wanted, to make an album simply reflecting the complexity of our nature, to make an album about what it is to be human. If that’s the case then he’s more than succeeded in his endeavours but more importantly he’s done it with such grace and humbleness that it is almost impossible to resist the quiet beauty of his musical world.
Loss unlinked me from you / While friend lit fires for me / On the upward swing, ringing / I found myself alive, breathing – Orla Wren
- Pascal Savy www.fluid-radio.co.uk/
Orla Wren is Tui.
Tui knows Orla Wren best of all ...
North East bred, Tui broke away early from the unnecessary trappings of the modern world ( little things, like bank accounts and living in buildings ), becoming that most unlikely of individuals; a be-dreadlocked, lap-top wielding, soundscape creating Neo-Gypsy.
His itinerant lifestyle found him busking throughout Europe, sleeping in forests and travelling the length of his adopted Scotland selling his multi media art work on the streets. En route he found time to release the critically acclaimed first Orla Wren album “Butterfly Wings Make” ( Expanding Records, 2006 ).
Tui has a happy obsession with rendering the minutiae of nature into sonic form, combining the oldest, wonkiest most organic of possible sound sources,
instrumental or otherwise, fashioned into textures of pinprick detail.
Orla Wren is a dream child. It’s surfaces may be brilliantly modern, but it’s soul is ancient and gently unfolds itself in a contemplative manner,
revealing the antiquated isolation of the environments that have inspired it.
'The seven years since I set out, her tiny hand in mine' ... - www.flau.jp/artists/orlawren.html
ambient folk alchemist - Loosing Today
An excellent marriage between digital music and traditional folk music. - Vital Weekly
'otherworldly’, tends to some up what makes Orla Wren works so magical – and again ‘magical’ feels like an excellent word for it...Orla Wren is the solo work of a pixie-like woman of Gaelic descent...a Kate Bush for the world of micro-minimal folktronica - Fluid Radio
Tui colourfully blends instruments and textures in a palette of digital sound, where every fragment is made lucidly apparent – enabling the listener to fully examine not only the recording process, but the artist’s environment - Barcode Magazine
En pourvoyeur de musiques pour doux rêveurs, flau continue son bonhomme de chemin, et Orla Wren l’y aide bien. - Autres Directions
Tui planque ses micros un peu partout au milieu de cette agitation, et les voix sans paroles viennent compléter les histoires. - Delicous Sculpture
The music of this artist is as endearing as himself, offering a shy and sweet sensibility. We are invited to fly over pictures (his or ours)
of the most charming moments captured at other parts of the world.
That’s the beauty of tiny things that gives a meaning to life here:
when a bee comes in your ear to awake you, the feeling of a sunny day on the skin, fresh grass between the toes or a child’s laugh floating in the air. The work of Orla Wren is highly comforting, with a respectful care to details from nature and childhood, or time stopping. As sound flies by the studio, we can feel a friendly hand caressing our neck while repeating everything’s going to be okay.Tui reveals those magic instants to others while preserving their fragility and their innocence, their intensity and plainness - Marion Garbierl, VOIR,CA
The One Two Bird and The Half Horse (2009)
The One Two Bird And The Half Horse' is the second album from Orla Wren. Recorded over the last two years in the environs of an isolated cold water cottage in the Scottish hills, it develops Tuis happy obsession with rendering the minutiae of nature into sonic form, combining the oldest, wonkiest most organic of possible sound sources, instrumental or otherwise, fashioned into textures of pinprick detail. A wide array of stylistically disparate musical and vocal collaborators, from places as varied as Japan, the Georgian Republic and 'down-home' U.K., lend their weight to the process, alternately spooking and soothing the music, filtered through Tuis wires into an intensely colorful democratic weave.
Orla Wren is a dream child. Its surfaces may be brilliantly modern, but its soul is ancient and gently unfolds itself in a contemplative manner, revealing the antiquated isolation of the environments that have inspired it.
A graduate of Expanding Records, Orla Wren decamps to the Flau label for an achingly lovely collection of waifish soundscapes and vaporous vocals. It's an incredibly delicate blend of sonic elements, reportedly influenced by indigenous musics from places as wide and varied as Japan, the Georgian Republic and of course the UK, but in truth this really doesn't sound like music that could be attributed to any real-life territories or cultures. Compositions like 'Book Of Frost' and '33 Fainting Spells' are remarkably well-assembled, lifting field recordings from the natural world and intermingling them with intimate snatches of abstract instrumentation and human utterances. None of this is anything particularly new, but the execution is uncommonly refined. Bring into the equation pieces like 'Seven Papers Torn' - which occupies a more tangibly song-like framework, complete with disembodied folksy instrumentation - and the album begins to flesh out, becoming a deeply involving listening experience. Recommended. - boomkat
"It distils sublime wood smoke folk atmosphere and pointallist digitalis to the subatomic level, until it becomes effectively the same stuff that makes brooks babble and winds whisper. Its the music that Fennez and Lau Nau might make after a night laying beneath the glittering constellations."