Following swiftly on from 2013’s ‘Book Of The Folded Forest’ (Home Normal) and ‘The Blizzard That Birthed Her’ (Facture) the new Orla Wren album ‘Soil Steps’ finds the ever itinerant tui divesting himself from his usual cadre of musical collaborators and travelling, solo, into the Spanish wilderness with a tent and a portable recorder.
Recorded during months of wandering isolation in the Iberian fastness, a process only concluded when our hapless traveller contrived to break an ankle (high in the Sierra Nevada and minus any painkillers, a logical point at which to call time), ‘Soil Steps’ shifts focus from the enveloping ruminations of ‘Folded Forest’ to the more Spartan and spacious tones of the field recording discipline. Orla Wren devotees will not be disappointed, as tui refines and reduces his atomistic approach to composition in order to reveal its luminous essence. Inspired by and taken almost entirely from the natural sounds emanating from his chosen environment; recordings of insects, snakes, street musicians, the movement of warm wind through bamboo on a dry river bed and broken only by Eva Puyuelo’s occasional narration of tui’s words (suggestive that a handful of thoughts could last all day).
Creating, in the studio environment, a rich tapestry from the collected sounds, thoughts and feelings of the journey, tui conjures a music that is not at all lonely yet is profoundly alone. – Keiron Phelan