Let me know if I’m wrong, but isn’t it difficult to think about chamber folk (or even just folk for that matter) without thinking Portland, Oregon? These days the two feel like one and the same: fortitude, tranquility, and natural wonder. The retooled quintet Alameda joins the folk music party with its sophomore album Procession, a low simmering cup of tea that you never forget to drink on the saddest days.
That may be a bit misleading, as Procession may not be the type of upbeat flair that will help power you through pain. It may not even be the type of uplifting tales that would be told to help guide through struggles or anguish. It’s more like a memory that keeps hold, no matter where you are—calming. It’s the place you call home; it’s the feeling you find relaxing; it’s the time that’s right.
Led by duo vocalists Stirling Myles (guitar) and Jessie Dettwiler (cello), Alameda (which also includes Jennifer Woodall, clarinet; Tim Grimes, guitar; Barra Brown, drums) creates lush and introspective soundscapes that take you surprisingly far and wide on a relatively brisk 32-minute, nine-song album.
The opening “Colfax” sets a stunning tone for the album with complex and stirring harmonies that help drive the gentle chants: “Windshield view of a crowded street/You pass on through in a vivid sleep/All around in a marching drone/As winter churns in wartime tones.” Even “Limbs Of Youth,” with its more up-tempo melodies, follows with a similar intense passion.
Much of the album’s intensity can be attributed to the collaborative efforts from each band member. Myles noted in a press release that “you can hear everyone’s enthusiasm” on the album, which shows through the album’s consistently expressive ballads. Even though lyrics can seem somewhat strange and confusing at times, there is nevertheless a conscious drive to move forward (best heard on “Swollen Light” with its charging melody and forceful notes).
While this review might seem abstract, it’s because the music is too. There is no story. That’s the point, but if you need to hear it from him, Myles explained, “The intention of this album was looking at and going in and out of perspective.” It’s open. Embrace.