Woo, the synthy, spiritual duo of brothers Mark and Clive Ives, began quietly making their music in the early '80s, going on to release over ten albums on various formats and micro-indie labels as the decades wore on. In the early 2010s, people at Drag City discovered key albums from Woo's extensive back catalog, and reissued their standout 1989 album It's Cozy Inside, an album that had unintentionally predicted musical trends years ahead of its time, with moments similar to work that would follow in Animal Collective's freaky folk and the spectral synth tones of a slew of ambient-leaning indie acts. The rediscovery led to a refreshed interest in Woo (who had been continuously active at the time of the reissue) and their massive back catalog. When the Past Arrives doesn't delve into any previously released albums, but instead compiles unreleased tracks from their archive, spanning their late-'70s experiments to tracks crafted in the 2000s and everything in between. Easy comparisons can be drawn to Eno, the Krautrock pulses that sometimes inform Woo's watery instrumental arpeggiations, and the Durutti Column's ghostly isolation. The nine-minute epic "Satya" feels like a strange hybrid of Popol Vuh's hippie commune sunniness and a weird B-side from the Durutti Column's Vini Reilly in an particularly old-fashioned mood. Themes of nature come through often, as on the aptly named watery electronics of "H2O" or the lovely, optimistic folk of "The Garden Path," one of the few songs featuring prominent vocals. It's difficult to discern which era any given song was put to tape during, as the collection stays in a state of spacy wonderment regardless of instrumentation or recording fidelity. The intricate details are of little importance, however, as taking in When the Past Arrives feels more like a comforting stroll through a dream than an archival inspection of another music history relic. The friendly, hopeful, and unassuming tones set forth by Woo are apparent in almost every note.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas