A true main-stay of West Coast experimental folk music, Meg Baird has a slim but potent solo catalogue. A founder member of hugely influential freak folk outfit Espers, her last solo album ‘Don’t Weigh Down The Light’ came in 2015, while a collaboration with noted harpist Mary Lattimore came in 2018. Well worth the wait, ‘Furling’ is the work of an artist who thoroughly rewards the listener’s patience, an atmospheric yet impeccably detailed selection of haunting songcraft.
Opening song ‘Ashes, Ashes’ is little more than ruminative piano chords and a high, keening, word-less vocal, a performance that seems to allow Meg Baird space to feel her way into the project. ‘Star Hill Song’ is touched by ageless Americana, the plaintive guitar strumming augmented by neo-shoegaze effects. ‘Ship Captains’ is one of the album’s most direct moments, the spartan arrangement swirling around that enticing vocal.
Indeed, while concrete meaning may remain allusive on ‘Furling’, the album is undeniably pretty. ‘Cross Bay’ has a Celtic touch, yet one that has been allowed to take seed amid the Appalachians for a few centuries before being brought back towards frosted sunlight. ‘Twelve Saints’ is a beguiling full band performance, while the cyclical guitar part on ‘Unnamed Drives’ is worthy of John Fahey.
‘Will You Follow Me Home?’ picks up the tempo, its urgency recalling Aldous Harding. The pointed nature of that song soon dissipates, however, with finale ‘Wreathing Days’ plunging us head-on into the abstract. As complex as these ideas are, however, Meg Baird’s delivery remains a delight, her sonorous, prepossessing approach worthy of Jacqui McShee or Jessica Pratt. The material, though, remains doggedly original – an artist forging a singular path, ‘Furling’ seems to conjure entire realms, mapping out fully-fledged continents. Unfailingly imaginative, her return offers another vital chapter in her unfailingly riveting career.
Words: Robin Murray