Fortress of the Sun
Among the most artistically successful alchemists of Indie Psychedelic Folk, Maine-based duo Arborea consists of Shanti Curran (vocals, banjo, "banjimer" [a banjo-dulcimer hybrid], harmonium, ukulele, sawing fiddle, and hammered dulcimer) and Buck Curran (guitars, vocals, sawing fiddle, flute, and banjo). Weaving together strands of indie rock, Appalachian folk, psychedelia, and ambient music into what has been called avant-folk, Arborea's songs combine delicate beauty and mystical lyrics with the timelessness of ancient songs (sometimes literally, as they occasionally rework old folk and blues songs into new shapes). Fortress of the Sun is their fifth full-length album, and their first on ESP-Disk'.
Shanti Curran: vocals, banjo, guitar, harmonium, ukulele, hammered dulcimer; Buck Curran: vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, flute, Ebow banjo
With: Anders Griffen: drums on “Pale Horse Phantasm”; Greg Boardman: upright bass on “Daughters of Man” and “Rider” and viola on “Cherry Tree Carol”; Michael Krapovicky: electric bass on “After the Flood Only Love Remains”
Produced, Created, Recorded and Mixed by Buck Curran and Shanti Curran; Mastered by Harris Newman
Fortress of the Sun made All Music's 'Favorite Singer-Songwriter Albums of 2013' list.
The first thing a listener encounters on Arborea's Fortress of the Sun is the clarity of its sounds, all introduced separately and pristinely. On opener "Pale Horse," they slip from the silence to the center of a mix that wraps itself around Shanti Curran's nearly gossamer alto with requisite warmth and space. Buck Curran's electric slide and acoustic guitars, and his backing vocals, color Shanti’s airborne shimmer while Anders Griffen's spectral drumming roots it in the earth. While there is no question that Arborea's music is psychedelic folk, it offers none of the amateurish playing or songwriting that the genre distinction sometimes bears in the 21st century. These songs are composed with precise melodic ideas and produced with great care. There is a series of loosely knit themes at work here as well, centering on notions of travel -- across land, through history -- with the recurring image of a horse as the being that ties together earthly and spiritual dimensions. It’s the combination of musics woven so purposefully that sets Arborea apart from many of their peers. They use the frames of many roots traditions in a thoroughly modern context, from British, Celtic, and American folk music to country to neo-psych to near-Gothic (à la This Mortal Coil), yet strip out anything and everything that doesn’t suit their aesthetic, which, in sum, seems to be the sound of twilight itself." - Thom Jurek, All Music
Rolling Stone's David Fricke called their music "trance-folk that, at every turn in the slipstream, seems to hail from another country: the murder ballads of Appalachia; the plucked-string stasis and Om drone of New York minimalism; the iridescent-Middle East imagination of the Incredible String Band."