Faith & Disease

Beneath the Trees

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Having quietly built up a well-deserved reputation throughout the '90s as purveyors of darkly beautiful, goth-tinged music, Faith and Disease hit the year 2000 with another fine effort, the lovely Beneath These Trees. The core duo of Rosenwasser and Cooley still nail it song for song, her dreamy, haunting singing and his quietly elegant performances on guitar, keyboards, and other instruments in perfect harmony. Drummer Semple deserves note for his subtle, strong-without-seeming-it work, while Sather completes the regular lineup with her work on harmony vocals and flute. It all begins on an almost impossibly great note, with the a cappella duet between Rosenwasser and Sather on the title track shifting into "Rubina Verde." Easily the equal of the best work of Low in terms of hushed drama and atmosphere, it's both a standout track for Rosenwasser's gorgeous singing and the band's collective sense of performance. Some numbers recall the songs on Insularia, which explored a more rural, folk/country side of the group, a vein further tapped here with fine results. "If I Drink From This Cup" features Rosenwasser letting a slight but clear twang into her singing, just enough, while the slow piano, cello, and guitar parts often recall the hushed mood of Mojave 3's earliest efforts. Even more striking in context is "Banks of the Ohio," a traditional murder ballad recorded in an intentionally scratchy 78 rpm mix that really does sound like an archival Smithsonian Folkways number. One of the more intriguing numbers is "To See Her in This Light," which reverses the usual formula for the band in that Rosenwasser wrote the music and Cooley the words. It's still another great number from them, though, with a lovely flute part from Sather to help distinguish it. Add in such other notables as the elegiac "Eventually Again" and Faith and Disease enter a new decade with style and grace intact.

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