The Douglas Firs is a project of Neil Insh of Aberdeen, Scotland and this CD-r Haunting Through is supposed to be a taster for a forthcoming full-length, most likely to be released on cassette.
Apparently the material on this disc was recorded over a six year period and its separated into four songs, two in the 3-4 minute range and two in the 6-7 range. "The Quickening" begins with footsteps crunching through leaves and an unidentified rumble that slowly comes into focus as slightly ritualistic tom toms. A melody tinkles along with a chattering crowd and Insh drops in a folksy violin with multiple voices singing and on a dime the track turns into a pop tune. Petering out into crowd noise, the song resets itself to a lovely waltz with echoing piano, humming violin and loping drums. Insh's voice carries the tune to its next passage, a duet with a female counterpart over puffs of accordion. The folk-dance feel earlier in the piece returns before dissapating into an a capella choral interlude. When you think it might go out on a big crescendo, Insh subverts expectations as the piece slips away on abstract field recordings and a lone synth. The song perfectly introduces Mr. Insh's style, at least how I see it. Insh is working largely with traditional or conventional folk and pop influences but chooses to weave them into an elaborate, unconventional fabric over the course of a piece. So rather than delivering something standard like your average indie pop band, his songs feel a little more alive, as they take you somewhere. "Future State," the shortest at nearly 3 minutes, is woozier with a lovely melody and a swelling chorus of voices, recalling some of my favorite Spiritualized moments. Second half of the piece is an interlude of subtle tones. "Grow Old and Go Home" finds Insh and his female counterpart whose name I sadly do not know singing over a sparse piano arrangement until synthetic and acoustic percussion kick in. An array of brass provide a fantastic segue to a more grooving version of the song with shakers and a walking bass line. This doesn't last for long as the final minute or so features a quiet organ and recordings of dogs barking in the distance. The final track, "Soporific" may be the strongest. After an extended intro of ambient synthesizer, Insh's carries a sparse arrangement into a new movement that hints at getting a little more rockin'. The reason I feel this is probably the best piece is simply that the melodies and all the "pop" elements are stronger here than anywhere else on the disc, and there's a bit more grit courtesy of some guitar fuzz. From the rocking middle section, the song tapers off into just voice and piano atmospherics.
This disc has definitely piqued my interest; The Douglas Firs show a lot promise. There's a bunch of great ideas and melodies here, and Insh is certainly approaching pop music from a more interesting perspective than most. I'm looking forward to hearing the Firs on a longer record that will allow them to unfurl their limbs a bit as well. Not to mention, it'll be great to hear 'em on tape.
I really have no idea how to find a copy of this as I don't think The Douglas Firs have a myspace or anything. I guess hit the ol' Google now if you're interested, besides your job just got a lot easier with this new Google Instant thing.