Boomkat Product Review:
Just as I was getting a little jaded and tired of the whole free-folk thing (okay, I wasn't really... but I can dream), a record like 'Alone in the Dark Wood' comes along to wake me from my apathy. Oh well, I should have known that Tara Burke would pull out all the stops for her latest full length; the psychey lady has been a lynchpin of the whole scene for so long now, with albums on Jewelled Antler, Digitalis and Ecstatic Peace putting her bang in the middle of the psych-folk map. It's hardly surprising really, her list of fans and followers is seemingly endless, and her sound (which she began to explore back in 1999) has served to influence many more recent additions to the canon (Grouper or Islaja for instance...) so it's great to hear her make such a triumphant return. I'd like to say that 'Alone in the Dark Wood' is not one for the uninitiated, but playing it now reminds me of a time when I really hadn't heard much of this kind of music - there's a purity and a deep sense of calm that I feel would easily win over new listeners. Since her last 'proper' full-length 'Lepidoptera' she has incorporated further elements of sacred music, apparently taking influence from Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th-century Benedictine mystical abbess. I can't say I've managed to hear this particular music before, but I can certainly put a finger on the 12th century Benedictine sound in Burke's compositions and improvisations - 'Nawne Ye' for instance, one of the album's stand-out tracks, is basically just an unaccompanied series of chants, layered over each other to create a swirling wordless fog of spiritual sound. It's not all nuns on the run mind you, Burke's carefully crafted pastoral folk is still present and sounds better than ever, as usual caked in recording crackle and sounding like the master tapes were submerged beneath a few thousand years' worth of mud and clay. If you're a dedicated follower of Thuja or the various Jewelled Antler splinters (Franciscan Hobbies, Child Readers etc) then this record will no doubt take you into sub-levels of paradise you've never before encountered. There's something about hearing an artist creating in their element, at ease with their surroundings that is totally arresting and absolutely fulfilling, and 'Alone in the Dark Wood' is easily Burke's most compelling and complete statement to date. Follow the trail of breadcrumbs and step up to the gingerbread house; this is a dark wood that it's worth getting lost in. Huge recommendation!