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Boomkat Product Review:
Tara Burke's work as Fursaxa has always explored the more interesting outer edges of free-folk, sidestepping the default singer-songwriter tendencies that come with the turf and instead embarking upon a series of dark, witchy albums populated by bedroom-recorded bouts of accordion, dulcimer and ethereal vocals. The lo-fi DIY aesthetics of old are out the door for this latest release, however; Mycorrhizae Realm marks Burke's first studio-based solo album, and it seems to have come about from her work as part of The Valerie Project (the group assembled in tribute to the Czech cult film, Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders). She's joined by fellow members of that side-project Greg Weeks (the Espers frontman who produces the album), Helena Espvall (cello) and Mary Lattimore (harp and co-writing on two songs). The album commences with an ear-calibrating drift of forest floor drones on the intro track 'Lunaria Exits The Blue Lodge', but it's 'Poplar Moon' that reveals the first marker of how far Fursaxa's sound has developed for this record. The additional players help evoke a far richer palette, although old-school fans might feel some of the murkiness and mystery inherent to those earliest recordings has been diluted. That sinister, fairytale sound remains a recurrent theme in Burke's music, however, especially on tracks like 'Well Of Tuhala', on which Lattimore's harp spins some truly eerie arpeggios. 'Sunhead Bowed' has to rank as one of Burke's most conventional works, largely made up of picked acoustic guitar and voice, yet the climax reaches a familiar state of multi-layered, echoing dirge. The eight-and-a-half minute 'Charlote' is a far cleaner piece, and one of the album's finest entries. Once again Lattimore plays a significant part - plucking out beautiful melodies throughout - but Burke's in her element multitracking a one-woman choir's worth of vocal harmonies and segueing into a passage of reverse-looping post-production that finishes the track with a beautiful flutter. By far the most accessible and textured Fursaxa album to date, and unless you're excessively attached to the homespun lo-fi aesthetics of old, it's surely a contender for being her best.