On her seventh solo album, the UK’s Laura Cannell creates a landscape mirror using an array of recorders and minimal effects processing. Antiphony of the Trees is tuned to nature’s frequency, channeling the flight patterns and songs of birds as deeply as spirits woven into the trees. She relays sonorous stories culled from the avian chatter. Cannell’s music comes alive in fleeting moments like she has this innate ability to connect people and places through sound as though she’s a conduit for something greater than ourselves.
Antiphony of the Trees seems impossible; the way Cannell mimics not just birdsong, but the entirety of each different environment. While the album is wrapped in the forest’s damp moss and rain-soaked soil fragrance, it aims well above the boughs. The title track titters with anxiety, soaring higher and higher until the ground becomes a distant memory. Whimsical harmonies glance off skittering, intertwining melodies, featherweight and unshackled. Where “Antiphony of the Trees” ascends, “Awake From Your Feathered Slumber” is tucked inside a warm hollow with quiet morning lullabies.
While each song on Antiphony of the Trees has its own pleasant orthodoxy, the way each becomes part of the larger narrative is the real reverie. “We Borrowed Feathers” skips along in repeating patterns, like the perpetual echo left from the tawny resonance of “For the Hoarders.” Cannell moves from the latter’s ceremonial lamentations directly into the silky tonal swarms of the latter, the woodwinds’ charm connecting them with secret gestures. The contemplations only carry weight if there are moments to let them go and these entrancing bonds are peppered through the album. Even the most pensive passages of closer “The Girl Who Became an Owl” are only able to drift away into a distant realm because the sweet, sanguine tones of “Hidden in the Marsh Thistle” said goodbye. Each beautiful moment is buoyed by different, deeper currents.
Laura Cannell’s interest and experience with folklore are integral to the emotional underpinnings of Antiphony of the Trees. Her sonic tales are timeless, etched into the wood from the fabric of the rivers and soil. It’s an incredible feat and an incredible record. If we stop and listen closely to the stillness, to wings fluttering and beaks rambling, we can hear these ancient spirits singing and dancing along with the wind.