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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Future of Forestry
Label: Credential EMI/CMG
Time: 6 tracks /27:17
My review of Future of Forestry’s last project, Twilight, implied similarities to, and influences from, Switchfoot and (to a lesser degree) MuteMath. Travel uses less samples and electronics and is more subdued in tone than the previous release - distancing the sound from the influences of both bands, yet creating sort of a Jon Foreman solo vibe in the process. Travel is, in fact, much more of a solo project (although it still falls under the Future of Forestry umbrella), being written and basically performed by Eric Owyoung with ‘additional musician’ credits going to TJ Hill for Saw, Theremin, and various instruments, Spencer Kim for drums, Ben Wurzell (on “Traveler’s Song”) and Pete Kipley (“This Hour”) for bass, and string work by Elizabeth Lee (cello), Kelly Bennett (violin) and Sean Cimino (guitar). If this looks like it could be the credits of a Jon Foreman solo album, then you get where I’m going. Not only did Owyoung basically write and perform the core of the album, but he’s also the mixer, producer and creative art director, having shot the photos for the project’s artwork (Tamara Owyoung – Eric’s wife – did the art-nouveau style painting on the cover).
Okay, so what do we have here? We have a very personal reflection on the journey of the soul, delivered in a passionate but accessible style that will score well with ‘indie’ fans as well as fans of more ‘commercially viable’ music. Owyoung’s vocal style is full of yearning, is expressive and flexible, and has a warm, inviting timbre to it that occasionally dips into that Jon Foreman area, but once or twice brought David Byrne and FreeSlave’s Haydon Spenceley to mind. Owyoung often leaps a full octave, altering his melody lines a bit to double-track an interesting harmony part - a stylistic device that you’ll find used to good effect throughout the EP.
At its most commercial, Owyoung’s music sounds similar to Jars of Clay’s recent work, while some of the more introspective moments sound inspired by Simon and Garfunkle (the beautiful and haunting, “Close Your Eyes”) or Sufjan Stevens (“Closer to Me”).
The musically well-educated Owyoung, on “Close Your Eyes,” shows an excellent grasp of melody and skilled arrangement of acoustic guitar, bass and strings, supporting the tenderly-delivered vocal: “Time will turn this place around / for the man you call Jesus was still a son like you / Sons will spend their days searching hard, for the things they are made of.”
“Halleluiah,” like “Closer to Me,” picks up a Sufjan / Arcade Fire vibe through the use of bell-tones and a semi-military cadence on snare drum. Using the ‘pick up whatever you can play’ school of production, Owyoung makes a more personal-sounding statement on these songs about trust, worship and relationship. “Halleluiah” starts off, in fact, with what sounds like a wind-up toy music box playing the opening theme and ends in a nice, repeatedly-building classic rock-meets-indie crescendo that brought me back to the days of the first King Crimson album.
It should be pointed out that Spencer Kim, the drummer on Future of Forestry’s Twilight album, makes his presence known with energetic, creative playing that adds to the proceedings without ever overtaking the songs. Still, even though the traditional elements are all there, this doesn’t come off as a band project, and it will be interesting to see where Travel II takes us.
“For this song will shine your light,” sings Owyoung in “Colors in Array,” continuing with, “…For this song that’s more than words will reach into your eyes,” wisely stating that these are songs that travel inside using means beyond the lyrics alone, or the music alone, but ride the heart’s pathways right into those less-travelled areas of the soul.
By Bert Saraco