Image credit: Eve Parker Finley
The music captured on Earth Then Air, the debut album from ambient pop duo Best Fern, encourages a gentle wonderment of the world. Musicians Alexia Avina and Nick Schofield recorded the collection of delicately balanced songs while in residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity, surrounded by the elemental glory of the Rocky Mountains. The natural wonder of their environs, along with the access to a myriad of acoustic instruments, helped the duo create their most grounded work to date as they reached closer to earth than air for inspiration.
Beginning with the propulsive rhythm of the opening track ‘On And On’ and the crystalline structure of the lead single ‘Way Inside’, it’s clear that Earth Then Air marks the arrival of form. Throughout the album, Best Fern sustains an ethereal middle ground between ambient and pop, inviting a fluid approach to their roles as co-musicians and co-producers. The result is a seamless blend of their sensibilities: dulcet melodies giving way to trance-inducing pools of texture, empyrean vocals lifting up ribbons of sound. Earth Then Air is centred as much around songs as it is with the atmosphere. Touchstones for the unacquainted listener could be the spacious emotional containers of Majical Cloudz or the fractalized flows of Kailtyn Aurelia Smith.
As the album progresses through the pizzicato wonderment of ‘Evolving Tide’, to the honeyed staccato of ‘See Me’, there is a subtle undercurrent that unwinds the listener. This is most evident at the ending of ‘Jindalee’, where the fading vibraphone melody is overlaid with the sound of guitar lines being time-stretched, literally slowing down. That this unwinding leads into the album’s most vulnerable moment (Avina’s titular refrain throughout ‘Do You Want Me?), is proof that Best Fern has plotted the album’s journey carefully, maximising both mood and emotional resonance. Earth Then Air is a remarkably soothing experience, reminding the listener that we, too, can be soft and sure like pine and fir, supple like the wind around a mountain.
Written and recorded at the Banff Centre for the Arts
Mixing and french horn by Pietro Amato
Mastered by Todd MacDonald
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