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17 Mar 2012

Review: Achega Solar (Arde Fero)

Arde Fero - Achega SolarArde Fero
Achego Solar
Self-released, 2011

The lowing of cattle and rustling of grass in the opening strains of this album had me thinking: “wow, that’s some very tasteful sample usage, it sounds like it really was recorded in a picturesque rural setting!” Then I read a bit of the album’s back story, and it turns out that this music actually was recorded in such environs (many inspirational photos may be found on Arde Fero’s website). In other words, the first thing that strikes the listener when embarking on Achega Solar’s sonic voyage is the perfect authenticity of its folk pedigree!

Arde Fero, hailing from Portugal, present a raucous, wild, and rich folk music adventure through strange forests and verdant fields. Dancing through orchards and among livestock, the CD sounds like a latter-day Dionysian fertility procession, all drums and chimes and strings and whistles and untamed cheers, cries, yalps, and songs. The use of bells alongside reverb-laden strings and drums creates wonderful drama and even magic. A heavy atmosphere of mist and memory washes over the whole proceedings, invoking mood and spirit.

In addition to the untamed instrumentation, the vocals are truly wonderful. Great choruses cry and shout, resonating with an aggressive joy that cannot be denied. It is as though Arde Fero have opened a channel to long-forgotten ancestral halls, to reveal the happy cheers and laughter of eternally feasting ghosts. Indeed, so much of this album is just plain good fun, in the very best of senses.

Yes the joyousness is tempered by a wistfulness, and even an eeriness. The droning horns, pounding drums, and rhythmic chanting that thread through the songs conjure an introspective element to the proceedings. At times a distinctly psychedelic, even electronic, tendril washes across the sound tapestry. A powerful and terrible sense of reverence suffuses the whole album, if anything intensifying as the songs progress.

It is this juxtaposition, of pensiveness and ecstasy, that cements the authenticity already established by the pastoral frame of the music. Achega Solar is a rich and beautiful adventure into archaic folk consciousness, delving into that special realm of speculation and fancy from which all tall stories of wisdom and grace descend. Its a wonderful musical achievement, and a precious listening experience.

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