Field Works

Maples, Ash, and Oaks: Cedars Instrumentals

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Maples, Ash, and Oaks: Cedars Instrumentals Review

by Paul Simpson

Field Works' album Cedars was a song cycle about forests and humanity's relationship with nature, featuring poetry in Arabic and English over organic compositions played on instruments such as pedal steel, oud, and hurdy-gurdy. Maples, Ash, and Oaks is Cedars' instrumental companion, but it isn't merely the same album with the vocals removed. Instead, the tracks are rebuilt, with Julien Marchal contributing piano to a gentle layer of birdsong calling in the background, recorded by Harrison Ridley in the Welsh countryside. On this release, the song titles are all in English, and the track listing is arranged to form a poem about the fleeting nature of the experience of walking through a forest. "To Meet the Company" is representative of the album's space-country sound, with softly spiraling pianos and layers of steel guitar which seem like the aural equivalent of distant mountains in the background of a landscape. "We Know the Moss, Forget-Me-Nots" shifts into a colder mood, with strings that create a feeling of tension and eerie reversed guitar effects. "But We Want to Be Known" is similarly much too dark and dusky to be considered new age, but things brighten up during calm, airy selections like "And Blue-Green Spruce," "We Listen to Maples, Ash, and Oaks," and the faintly rippling "Without Saying, Forget Me Not." Pieces like "Without Hearing, But Not Hearing" provide moments of stillness and reflection that are actually more eventful than they might seem at first, and the piano-driven "What Was That? Leaves Rustle" is a bit more upfront and sentimental. While the poetic lyrics made Cedars such a unique experience, this reimagining is just as carefully realized, and succeeds in its own right.

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