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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Woodland Scenics

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Woodland Scenics plays like the still warm body of a great art-rock dinosaur. The album is the only studio document from the short-lived Ann Arbor band, Elm From Arm, a collaboration between a previously instrumental four-piece and area folk mainstay Matt Jones. For anyone familiar with Jones' solo material, this project's sound is far from expected — but it's an oddly perfect marriage. Jones' gorgeously mangled picking style is cast aside for an insistent, strumming double-guitar assault from him and Josh Tillinghast. This is layered into a deep mixture of keys, bass and drums. The result is a prog-lover's dream; full of synthetic jams, intricately plotted parts and buzzing, humming organic textures. Each song is populated by a number of musical vignettes that could stand as full songs in their own right. But in these knowing hands, the parts are stitched together in prime '70s AOR fashion to create something more epic ... but far from overbearing.

From the humid horn swells on "Windstar" and the rhythmic Pinback-esque percolations from keyboardist Kendall Babl, drummer Chad Pratt and bassist Dylan Strzynski on "Cricket" and "Salad Man," straight through to the dub and post-punk allusions of "Action Arp," this band exhibits a rarefied sound that southeast Michigan songwriters of this caliber have largely left untapped. Unfortunately, there are no plans at the moment to resurrect the group for any upcoming shows, but the majority of the group can currently be seen backing Jones as part of the Reconstruction. For now the album is only available on vinyl, but it will soon be sold on iTunes as well.
Aaron Shaul

Woodland Scenics is currently available at elmfromarm.org/store.

Woodland Scenics is currently available at elmfromarm.org/store.

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