Review: Orla Wren – Book Of The Folded Forest

It’s bleak but bustling too; a snow globe in which skeletal tree branches glitch and chink against curved glass and voices roll round the perimeter, teased upside down and gently shaken so that electronics shower onto pools of soft synthesiser cream, which in turn dribble down the sides of guitar notes that chime like old grandfather clocks. There is no bottom to any of these pieces – no rhythmic anchorage or melodically-guided clarity – and thus the textures wander the landscape without narrative, powered by the intricate interconnection which causes the instruments to glow in solemn unison; a collective acknowledgement of a shared emotional state.

It’s a disconcerting experience to begin with. I feel like I’ve been nudged off a cliff with only a suspended rope to cling onto, while Book Of The Folded Forest swarms around me as a self-assembling hanging garden. The soft beckoning calls of certain sounds appear to encourage the appearance of others: an oaky chair creek during “Willow Bows And Cats Cradles” coaxes a congregation of gently whooping animal calls that nest in the track’s corners, taking a restless, vocal refuge in the landscape that sways hundreds of metres above the earth. But while much of the sound possesses a certain organic, chiming quality – decaying like leaves on a seasonal time-lapse film – there are jagged electronics that carve up the slowly oscillating equilibrium, sounding akin to unoiled coat zips arduously binding so as to cocoon the listener in the warmth elsewhere.

And so atmosphere is overturned with a strange inevitability. “Shipwreck Seems Sweet To Me In This Sea” stirs itself from its crumple of ocean waves to become a vapour of flutes sparking little flashes of static, its soft edges hardening into a series of erratic, digitalised points. It is a transient home; a peace always destined to dissolve, with rich colours always haunted by their unpreventable quick fade, their energy drained so as to fuel the fresh buds of atmosphere that assume their place.