It?s been a pleasure to hear Damon and Naomi evolve over the years from ?faux folk,? as one hipster rock journo once described them, to one of the most hypnotic folk pop bands in the world. They?ve always had their detractors, but if ?The Earth is Blue? doesn?t placate those sorts, nothing will. The arrangements, the performances, the songs themselves easily rank among D&N?s most heartfelt and fully realized to date.
As with their last studio album, the duo?s austere approach is opened up by sympathetic players, including guitar master, Michio Kurihara of Ghost and The Stars (his solo debut should be available on Pedal Records as you read this). Greg Kelley of the mind-blowing Nmperign and Cold Bleak Heat lends his expressive trumpet to the fold. Usually known for unorthodox ?free? playing, Kelley alters his style effortlessly to suit more languid, structured approach. Bhob Rainey (soprano sax) and Dana Kletter (piano) supply more harmonic hues to the palette.
We get ten impressionistic ruminations on love, loss, hope and sadness, crystal clear at their core but blurred round the edges. The smooth flow of ?Beautiful Close Double? and ?Malibran? suggests Robert Wyatt and Tim Buckley?s early 70s arrangements with their narcotic layers of sound flowing like fine wine through pristine harmonies. Every note lingers in the air for a brief eternity before wafting back to earth in a gentle spiral. Naomi has never sounded better than she does throughout, and the backing harmonies hit just the right note of 60s folky reverence and subtle restraint.
Kurihara?s guitar playing often takes a rhythm seat to Damon?s lead, but it?s some of the most rich and rewarding rhythm playing you?ll ever here. By the time he steps into the lead spot for the cover of ?While My Guitar Gently Weeps? (a soulful nod to the late George Harrison), the mind is suitably wiped clean, pain and fear rendered moot amid the blooming flowers of his ornate slow blues soloing. The one-two punch of a cover of Caetano Veloso?s ?Ara?? Azul,? which seamlessly dissolves into the closing title track, makes for a stunning conclusion as Kurihara?s e-bowed guitar lends a soaring quality to the finale. Fans of modern psych folk probably already have this. The rest of you have been advised. 8/10 -- Lee Jackson (25 May, 2005)