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DEEP WATER ACRES

The website Deep Water Acres ( www.dwacres.com) incorporates archival material from the now defunct Deep Water magazine published in the 1990s; an online extension of the old magazine covering current material; and the Deep Water CDR label, the last of which is the focus of this article. Some members of the collective behind Deep Water Acres are also involved in the bands Evening Fires and The Clear Spots, both of whom have CDRs on the label, with Evening Fires being especially prolific. In addition to the recent Incredible Adventures, which I reviewed earlier this issue, I now have three other albums from them.

Flora and Fauna comes packaged in nice colourful photographic artwork with sunflowers on the sleeve and a cat on the insert. The album comprises three mostly instrumental tracks, two long (between 7 and 11 minutes) and one very long (over 20 minutes). What Plants Crave covers a wide territory over the space of 20+ minutes, incorporating jazzy electric piano, shimmering spacey synth sounds and experimental noise aspects, whilst retaining the overall feel of a wild, intense psych-rock jam session. ...In A Sunbeam is a laid-back, relaxing psych piece. Electric piano is this time employed for a shimmering, ethereal effect, and melodica adds a psych-folk touch. If We Do Not Disappear, We Don't Know What We Are is a flowing, ever-changing piece that combines harsh noise, subtle drones, hypnotic pulsating rhythms, ethereal spacey effects, improvisational psychedelic guitar, and spoken vocals.

Evening Fires' Light from On High features five tracks, starting with Pulpit Rocks, in which a folk-tinged neoclassical piano piece gives way to woozy psychedelic jamming with additional aspects of spacerock, folk and drone. Strange Meridians is an eerie, evocative, filmic piece with a feverish sense of surrealism. Greet the Brand New Day is an uplifting piece incorporating psychedelic and modern classical components. The piece has a strong percussive emphasis alongside guitar and piano. Magic Hippie Force Field (great title!) is a continuation of Strange Meridians and shares that piece's surreal, film score-ish atmosphere. The Molten Fingertip of God Almighty is a meandering psych-rock instrumental with classical touches courtesy of violin, and an impressive drumming style with an intricacy to rival that of jazz drummers.

The most recent of the three albums I have here by Evening Fires is Live Spirits, comprising three extended tracks recorded live at State College, PA between 2010 and 2013. Their Soul Shall Be As A Watered Garden is a laid-back and meandering psych-folk piece based around guitars and violin. The Sky Watchers' Guide continues the laid-back mood but musically opts for an atmospheric psych-rock style, incorporating electric piano and swelling ambient sounds. There Ain't Been a Man Since Moses effectively combines both styles, bringing mournful folky violin together with chilled-out psych-rock, whilst also incorporating heavier, more uptempo, noise-based aspects as the piece progresses.

A while back I reviewed the LP by Daniel Westerlund's project E Gone on Sunrise Ocean Bender, which incidentally is also available on CD from Deep Water. Deep Water have also released Behold a New Traveler by Daniel Westerlund's previous band The Goner. This is a superb album which combines folk-rock and psych with a dark, raw, primal brand of folk. Banjo and accordion appear alongside electric instruments, effortlessly combining Appalachian-style folk with psych and spacerock. The use of banjo and the dark mood many of the songs have recall both Stone Breath and Sixteen Horsepower, whilst mindbending effects, wild psychedelic guitar work and spacey vintage synth bleepery provide much to appeal to fans of psych-rock and spacerock. Really excellent stuff, well worth tracking down.

Stone Breath's live album, The Snow-White Ghost-White Stag, presents a live performance from State College, PA in 2012, packaged within eerie monochrome artwork of a gnarled humanoid tree, drawn in timeMOTHeye's unmistakable style. For this performance, Stone Breath founder timeMOTHeye is joined by Carin Wagner, Brooke Elizabeth, and Don Belch. A wide array of instruments, including but not limited to lute-guitar, banjo, guimbri-banjo, dumbek and bodhran are employed to create a stunning album of dark psych-folk of great beauty. Elements of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, medieval, Appalachian, and traditional British folk are combined with a hypnotic psychedelic atmosphere and bleak, eerie lyrics. An appropriately chilling version of the gruesome trad folk song Bedlam Boys appears alongside similarly macabre originals like To Sleep with Skeletons. If you're already a fan of Stone Breath, this album can't be missed. In addition, this live performance encapsulates a certain spirit of Stone Breath which makes it an ideal place for newcomers to begin exploring this band's catalogue. Very highly recommended.

Pairdown's Aesthetic Guitar is an album of acoustic guitar pieces, both instrumental and with vocals, drawing from a variety of sources. There are interpretations of tracks by such diverse artists as Buddy Holly, Erik Satie, John Renbourn, and Duke Ellington, alongside new compositions. Buddy Holly's Learning the Game is presented like a folk song. Precious Rider is a sophisticated folk-jazz thing with a delightfully skewed approach. Ivy Covered House is an inventive take on the folky singer-songwriter sound. Erik Satie's Gymnopedie no. 2 works perfectly in this dual guitar setting. The D. Putnam Strut puts a lopsided spin on ragtime, which really works. Duke Ellington and Bubber Miley's Black and Tan Fantasy is given a certain dreamlike, surreal air. Elsewhere on the album I'm picking up hints of Bert Jansch, US folk and blues. Whilst Pairdown take their inspiration from an eclectic set of artists and genres, they impress much of their own style onto the tracks, giving a cohesive feel to the album. They have a sophisticated, intelligent and creative style which is broadly categorisable as folk, whilst incorporating so much more. Pairdown are a new name to me, but I will be keeping an eye out for more from them in future.

United Bible Studies' new album So As To Preserve the Mystery is out now on Deep Water. Recorded at various locations across Ireland, Scotland and England, the album is comprised of sophisticated and atmospheric music that brings together aspects of folk, neoclassical, experimental music and beyond. Teampall Mholuaidh is a kind of folky experimental dreampop with prog and psych touches. Deiradh is an evocative, film score-esque composition for which I'm having trouble finding adequate words to describe it fully. Words like 'dreamlike', 'atmospheric' and 'ambient' come close, but fail to portray the full depth of this piece. Winistre begins as an eerie mix of sighing harmonium, church bells, meandering, semi-abstract acoustic guitar work, and ethereal effects; part feverish dream and part chilling incidental music from a psychological thriller. Then an unexpected vocal section comes in, the song essentially transcending genre, but with a deep sense of sadness that aficionados of melancholic indiepop will identify with. Islands is a brooding neoclassical piece combined with dark sophisticated balladry and ambient drones. Fans of Mellow Candle, Flibbertigibbet or The Owl Service may be interested to know that Alison O'Donnell appears on this album, although one is not to expect the music here to sound anything like the bands she was involved in previously. There are folk aspects to some of the music here, but folk is far from the main emphasis. It's a tough album to pigeonhole, but 'experimental, filmic, art compositions with depth' pretty much sums up United Bible Studies' approach.

Four out of nine of the members of United Bible Studies are also part of another project, Raising Holy Sparks, whose double album A Mendicant Hymnal is out on Deep Water. The album is made up of ambient soundscapes with neoclassical and film soundtrack attributes, from the brooding and icy to soaring, uplifting pieces. Plaintive piano and harmonium meet sizzling, menacing noise in Within the Painted Desert. Meteors over the Mesa is an evocative soundscape incorporating a ringing guitar that sounds almost harp-like. At the Confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah is gentle, meandering psych-folk with swelling drones and tinkling piano like light playing upon the ripples of a river, giving way to intense, piercing noise guitar. We Will Rest Forever in the Fields of the Lord is a shimmering atmospheric piece, ambient meets instrumental dreampop. Shadow City, Missouri pairs neoclassical piano with gently thrumming drones.

UPDATE: The latest release from the Deep Water label has just arrived - Rupture of Planes by Prana Crafter, the recording project of multi-instrumentalist William Sol, which follows a limited CDR on Reverb Worship which I reviewed earlier this year. Forest of Light is part gentle folky singer-songwriter piece, part intense psych-rock, with evocative nature-based lyrics - really brilliant stuff. Rupture of Planes is excellent laid-back folk-rock. Moksha of Melting Mind is a multifaceted piece with an improvisational quality, combining soothing soundscaping with wild, noisy psych-rock guitar and hypnotic repetitive rhythms. Tara, Do You Remember the Way is gentle acoustic-based balladry, while Vessel bridges the gap between Americana and lo-fi indie-rock. This is an album that sounds very much at home on Deep Water, and it comes packaged in really lovely forest-themed artwork which completely suits the music.

Find out more about the well crafted experimental music and adventurous interpretations of folk and psychedelia that this label has to offer at www.dwacres.com

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Text Kim Harten, 2015.