Arthur & Yu
Hardly Art (HAR-001)Grade: ***
Arthur & Yu are Grant Olsen and Sonya Westcott, a Seattle duo that might just be this generation's Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. "Absurd Heroes Manifesto," which opens the mist-shrouded Central Park of autumnal, '60s folk that is In Camera, would certainly suggest that they are.
Muted bells gong softly before airy flute, lightly shaken tambourine and a steady, rhythmic acoustic pulse announce their coming-out party. Trading off vocals, Olsen's analog warmth glows weakly, while Westcott exhales refrigerated breath, and when they come together, in feathery layers, it's a gentle caress that follows, not a loud bellow.
Nostalgic innocence and restlessness find a home in the carefully crafted nests of psychedelia, folk and country on In Camera. Centered around laconic acoustic and electric guitar strum, In Camera is not quite a study in minimalism, but neither is it a full-blown affair.
It sounds as if it was recorded in an old church, the wind-blown production creating a mystical environment of sound, and percussion ranges from big, windy kettle drums to the bare minimum of stick work. All of which lets those haunting male-female vocals glide in and out like ghosts inhabiting an abandoned sonic mansion, and makes In Camera a sophisticated, tender rendering of country and folk influences from bygone days.
Intricate, slowly evolving guitar weavings create a lovely, stained-glass melody in "There Are Too Many Birds," while the fear ingrained in lyrics such as, "And the wolf got cut up in the barbed wire/And there's a bullet in the wood we use for fire," is cushioned by the psych-pop jangle and hollowed-out country strains of "Afterglow."
A more rustic, Appalachian strain of folk is found in "Lion's Mouth," but the dream-pop sweetness of "1000 Words" exposes the Velvet Underground ? and don't forget Nico ? fetish at the root of Arthur & Yu's beguiling debut. Prepare to be mesmerized.