The three-track preview Rootless has released for people to hear and pre-order their upcoming album Live at Rhizome lives up to the genre descriptions on their website. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually heard an ambient folk record before, but this is definitely the real deal.
The guitar parts on the preview of Live at Rhizome are played skillfully, and one hears this immediately with the opening track, ‘Last Man Standing.’ Most of the track is hauntingly beautiful, but descends into synthesized chaos for a little before returning to the initial fingerpicked guitar. Great opener for the preview.
The second track, ‘Hidden Meanings,’ opens with the same lovely chiming guitar tone. I hear the influence of Spanish folk music heavily on this one, even more pronounced than the guitar on the first track. In an era of music where everything seems to be electronic, it’s nice to hear two acoustic guitars harmonizing with each other.
Four minutes into the song, and it’s also clear how this track is ambient. However, the repetition never overreaches and gets dull like some ambient work I’ve heard. I think this is the greatest challenge of ambient music: to make something one can tune in and out of; something repetitive but with just enough variation to engage an attentive listener. Rootless succeeds at this, and I think ‘Hidden Meanings’ is even stronger of a track than ‘Last Man Standing.’
‘Self-Contained’ starts off slowly but once it picks up, the listener is treated to more of the same guitar sounds. I was also surprised at the end of ‘Hidden Meanings’ and beginning of ‘Self-Contained’ that Rootless appears to be a one-man-band using I’d imagine a loop pedal. Wow. It really sounds like there’s two adept musicians playing a duet. ‘Self-Contained’ at 8:07 is the shortest song on the album preview.
Musically it’s a really cool piece, but I prefer the first two tracks. That said, there’s not a dip in quality and I can see this track working really well within the greater context of an album. If the album were only the three tracks presented as a preview, I would place it second instead of third. Again, great tone on the guitar, especially for a live performance.
At the end of the record I hear, “we’ll be right back,” and the illusion that this is the project of one person is dispelled. I really enjoyed Rootless’ Live at Rhizome. It was very atmospheric, and as you can see I had no idea whether it was one or two people playing which is a testament to how in sync the band members must be.
My favorite part about this album is definitely the influence of Spanish folk music. This definitely isn’t a Spanish folk record, but I love the way they incorporated traditional Spanish melodies and chords into something totally different. Ambient folk? Sure. Whatever it is, I dig it.