Arch Garrison – I will be a pilgrim (The Household Mark)
An album of folk/classical guitar tunes paired with kosmische-like vintage keys, giving a beautiful, celebratory and sometimes pastoral feel.
It follows a long line of like-minded and superb work by main man Craig Fortnam, taking in two earlier Arch Garrison albums, plus three under North Sea Radio Orchestra along with his wife Sharron and a cast of regular collaborators. Here Craig is joined by James Larcombe who is also part of NSRO, the William D Drake band and Stars of Battledress (of whom more later in the month).
‘The oldest road’ and the title track leap out on first listen, giving a sense of the ancient pathways running underneath our 21st century lives – the tunes are sturdy but they also bring a welcome level of whimsy missing from most modern discourse, not to mention modern pop music.
Sharron makes an appearance on the utterly lovely duet ‘O sweet tomorrow’, a brilliantly wrong-footing waltz rhythm with intertwining classical guitar lines, chimes and brushed hi-hats.
‘Other people’ follows and takes that thread of shifting time signatures, giving a hint of the avant garde in the service of hummable tunes.
Similarly, the beguiling ‘Six feet under yeah’ swings along on a synth bass pulse, reaching a distinctly prog-pop bridge – the arrangement is superbly inventive, synth and guitar lines swapping and overlapping to great effect, and you’re likely to be singing it to yourself all day long. It’s also folk music given a fresh and vibrant twist.
In fact it's hard to keep track of all the memorable tunes - 'Bubble' is another one, a circling bassline folding over itself while twinkling bells and meandering synth lines chime support.
Two gorgeous instrumentals act like chapter headings, ‘Vamp 1’ and Vamp 2’, with the modal Malian style of Ali Farka Touré, among others, a clear influence. In fact, on second listen it’s possible to trace that influence through the entire album. It seems Fortnam has forged a sound that could only be English, while drawing on a variety of global styles and traditions.
The result sounds completely natural and unforced, a music quietly ecstatic and transportative, and another minor masterpiece in the Fortnam body of work.