|Reverent Artistry | Posted November 21, 2013
Future of Forestry is the exquisite indie brainchild of Eric Owyoung, a California-based musician who is known for the freedom and surprising success with which he experiments and creates. Between his four shining studio efforts and a plethora of EP gems, his work has become an underground treasure for indie-style music fans.
This year's Advent Christmas Vol. III is, as its title would suggest, the continuation of a series. Advent Christmas Vol. I was released in 2008, with Vol. II following in 2010. This third offering is meant to add to the first two, much as Future of Forestry's Travel EPs bear a certain stylistic and thematic continuity.
Listening in on the way Owyoung approaches Christmas music is intriguing, given that he is working with very structured pre-arranged material, rather than synthesizing his own. There are moments of tentative vocals and soft instrumentation that mark the tracks with a sense that Owyoung is exploring these classic Christmas carols and their history with us. Brandon Zedaker is his fellow explorer, aiding in the often creative and layered instrumentation.
One such example is on "Carol of the Bells." They opt for muted and restrained rather than the bombastic approach common for this track, employing a wide variety of bell and chime sounds, layered with guitar softened by an almost '70s-style fuzz. This approach serves the haunting melody well.
Indeed, overall this may be the most gentle of the Advent EP series. "Silent Night" is delivered with a sense of intimate awe, vocals scratching over ethereal climbing piano chords. In addition to solid instrumentation, Future of Foresty excels at the art of knowing exactly when silence serves the song best. "O Come All Ye Faithful" holds a similar tone of childlike wonder tempered by a more mature reverence, carried by a beautiful interplay between piano and percussive elements.
One of the decisions that sets the tracklist apart from most other Christmas releases is the inclusion of "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring," sung in its original German. Foreign language pieces are always a gamble, as they run the risk of alienating English speakers who cannot understand the lyrics, but this rendition is tasteful and never overbearing in its presentation of the Bach piece. The places where the German might seem slightly stilted to native speakers are smoothed over by exceptional instrumentation choices (particularly a notably rich string section) that give this song the most joyful posture of the EP's selections.
"Still Still Still" is another unusual inclusion, but it is both thematically appropriate and perfectly placed as the collection's closer. Vocally, Owyoung chooses a technique bordering on falsetto to add to the almost angelic sound of the piece. With its deeply calming sound and sense of peaceful resolution, this track lends a sense of closure to this chapter of the Advent collections.
A sense of continuity with the previous EPs is certainly achieved in Vol. III, though with an added level of musical maturity and enough individuality to make this well worth adding to your collection. This EP strikes a balance between calming and engaging with its restrained arrangements carried out with diverse, often surprising instrumentation. Owyoung also shows wisdom in choosing to take on traditional carols in manageable portions, pacing himself rather than trying to accomplish everything in one release. This EP is a holiday must-have for anyone looking for refreshingly unique yet deeply reverent takes on seasonal music.
Song to Download Now:
"Carol of the Bells" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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