The Birdtree

Orchards & Caravans

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The Birdtree is the solo project of Glenn Donaldson, an affiliate of the Jewelled Antler Collective. Orchards and Caravans first came out as a CD-ROM on Jewelled Antler's own label, and was quickly given a proper release by Last Visible Dog. It surely deserved to reach a wider audience. Personal and intimate, the album sees Donaldson laying down bouzouki, guitar, banjo, percussion, keyboards, and field recording tracks to create dreamy songs that share the Antler's post-psychedelic naturalism, yet reside in their own microcosm. Orchards and Caravans would have gained from a better balance between songs and instrumentals. The first category produces the best moments. "Red Midnight Raven" stands out -- its beautiful melody haunting you long after it has vanished. "Everyone of Us a New Leaf" and "The Bluish Vapor of Tall Eucalyptus Tree" also provide highlights. The track sequence is abrupt, with harsh cuts between tracks, evoking the collages of the artwork (like most artwork of Antler-related releases). But this crude editing technique contrasts sharply with the obvious care put into the arrangements of the tracks. This may be a low-budget, lo-fi project, but it betrays a certain meticulousness and a precise artistic vision (even though Donaldson obviously likes to blur the picture with tracks like "Raven Returns/The Uppermost Forest," a trite drone). The musicianship is not great, the voice is little more than a falsetto whisper, but Orchards and Caravans takes us into a well-defined sound world that sounds slightly alien despite the fact that it comes back to a certain form of roots music.

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