It’s a good time to be Fish & Bird. Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers are playing the Oscars; homage to Americana is everywhere—on flannel shirted hipsters and antler obsessed interior design blogs. Folk, bluegrass and indie are getting more airtime than any other genre out there. And this quintet from B.C. is boasting a calculated cocktail of all three.
“Every Whisper is a Shout Across the Void” is Fish & Bird’s third LP. It’s also their most cohesive album to date. Since forming in Victoria in 2006, the then duo of Taylor Ashton and Adam Iredale-Gray has had a sporadic run. Hopping back and forth across the Georgia Strait as the two led separate lives between Vancouver and Victoria, it’s no wonder that their genre bending discography drips with restlessness. 2007’s self-titled debut felt like more of a mixtape than a cleverly curated album. Although 2009’s “Left Brain Blues” exhibited some major creative chops, the album lacked the narrative of their most recent release. Since then, the boys have expanded their roster to include guitarist Ryan Boeur, drummer Ben Kelly, and bassist Zoe Guigueno, and with their new sound they’ve finally found their niche. “Every Whisper is a Shout Across the Void,” is a consistent listening experience: the kind of record that paints pictures of sunny sepia toned countrysides and mist-soaked mountain ranges.
Despite all the upgrades, Ashton and Iredale-Gray are still the album’s stars. Iredale-Gray’s signature fiddle drives the album—whether its complimenting Ashton’s soulful crooning on tracks like “Effigy” or becoming the lead voice, as it does on the extended intro to “Circle Tune”. Complimented with Iredale-Gray and Guigueno’s vocal harmonies, Ashton’s voice contains more depth, a new sense of maturity. Iredale-Gray also receives production credits on the record, not an easy task when you consider the delicacy required to showcase the group’s complex instrumental layering.
The band is still pushing boundaries but this time the experimentation is more subtle. Unconventional time signatures add bombast to tracks like “Winnipeg.” Bluesy guitars butt chests with screeching strings on “Space Telescope”, while the opening metaphor of the same song – an interstellar aperture on the prairie plains—adds a splash of sci-fi to a genre once reserved for heartbreak and protest music. This is folk rock in 2011: peppered with enough experimentation to turn head, but still true to its roots. Upright bass and buzzing banjo are at this album’s heart.
These days, Fish & Bird have taken up permanent residence in Victoria, and this sense of settlement rings true on “Every Whisper is a Shout Across the Void.” But with a background in exceeding expectations, one expects—almost hopes—that Fish & Bird have another surprise just around the corner. Either way, the band has proven itself to be filled with talented musicians. Ashton and Iredale-Gray’s abilities as songwriters are only improving over time. Keeping up the trend of their most recent release exceeding their last, it’s become apparent that Fish & Bird has their sights set in the right place.
Top Tracks: “Effigy”; “Winnipeg”; “Circle Tune”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)
“Every Whisper is a Shout Across the Void” is slated for an April 2011 released on Fiddle Head Records”