Folding Leaves – Message to Bears

Well if this is how 2012 will pan out it will be a good year – the first two releases of the New Year both long awaited material from favoured artists, first Wise Children and now Message to Bears.

With the Departures album on regular play for many-a-month since MTB first pierced my consciousness a year or so ago, I was one of those many people more than happy to pitch into the Indiegogo project to help the next MTB album see the light of day. So here we are, edging towards 18 January 2012, and the launch of Folding Leaves on Dead Pilot Records which can be bought, amongst other places, through the MTB Bandcamp site, with artwork courtesy of Jake Blanchard.

Jerome Alexander’s solo project under the aegis of Message to Bears has already produced some deeply wonderful, heart-warming music in the form of the first EP and the Departures album – both of which are being re-issued (I think) around the time of this, the latest album.

There is something sumptuous, almost indecently gorgeous, about Mr Alexander’s music, and never more so than here on Folding Leaves; music that at one and the same time makes your heart feel lighter, but has riven though it a sense of the melancholic.

The virtually wordless vocals make sure that you ascribe your own chosen meanings and flavours, the predominant use of real instruments – guitar, piano, mandolin, xylophone and especially the violin and viola of Laura Ashby (who has also played on Erased Tapes signed Codes in the Clouds material) – ensures that everything feels organic and rooted, making sure the electronic elements are kept in their place. The use of field recordings of birds and the outside world genuinely only add atmosphere and not the vague hippy-trippy stuff found on some more drone inflected music.

I am far from sure that a track by track account is terribly helpful, but you know from the outset of the wonderful Daylight Goodbye, with its distant but soaring guitar and slowly building structure, that this album is going to be a triumph. The sound is unmistakably MTB of course, but this time around with some welcome extra touches like the scratchy/distorted guitars on Farewell, Stars for example, a little more sung lyrics, and an even greater sense of lushness.

There is a rhythm and common thread that, for me, make this a set one that should be listened to in its entirety – the slow build and fade of tracks, sometimes gently falling apart at the end, the overall feel is like being on a boat drifting on a gently swelling sea.

The turn of the year has found me in an unusually shaky emotional place and Folding Leaves is, at one and the same time, allowing me both to wallow a little in my melancholia but still feel a degree of ‘everything will be alright-ness’.

Folding Leaves is an album that brings back those hard to capture feelings, redolent of the end of summers of your youth, with limpid golden sunshine falling through the gently-turning-to-brown leaves. Here is the sound of hope and optimism with a trace of the loss and sadness that acts as the counterpoint to all our lives.

MTB give a rare performance, and the first in new home town of Bristol, at the Grain Barge, Friday 27 January before heading off a little later for a short spring tour of near Europe – there is a vague promise of more UK dates perhaps to follow later.

After waiting in anticipation for an album, I often worry I might feel let down somehow, but not here. This is transcendent music, and having it in your life can only make your life better.

I am indebted to Sophie at The Sound is not Asleep for the chance to hear Folding Leaves in advance of receiving my official bundle

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