"Merrily and easily mixing ethnic musical influences from all across the globe in compositional structures with a heritage belonging just as much to the world of jazz and rock as folk music, this skilled and talented duo has produced an album that should appeal to individuals enjoying many different musical styles. Followers of world music may find this just as interesting as fans of jazz-fusion and progressive rock. Indeed, if you enjoy acoustic instrumental music this release is worthwhile checking out no matter how you define your personal musical taste. I happily recommend "Almeria" for those who enjoy acoustic instrumental music of the stringed variety."
"The bowed-string family of instruments has yielded several hundred years of rich textural notoriety, from simple string quartet accompaniments, to orchestral scores, to today's big-screen cinematic media ambiance. In contemporary music culture, we immediately think of the string "pad," an underlying atmospheric sonic palate generated by a violin section, deepened by the additional timbre of cellos and basses, even the last quarter century of synthesizer technology has embraced and imitated the sound, granted somewhat artificially.
What few arranger/composers have done is embraced the bonus subtlety of plectrum, the layered articulation of multiple plucked instruments like mandolin or guitar, let alone it's more exotic relatives like Bouzouki, Ruan, or Sitar. What the two pioneers of cinematic sound Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellet offer in their recent release, Almeria is a truly stunning and unique array of soundscapes in a "pan-cultural" approach to composition. Self described as "pastoral and psychedelic," their style blends a traditional American acoustic sound with starkly contrasting elements of global influence, including Irish, Eastern European, Indian, and Middle Eastern. It's cowboy, it's jazz, it's Oriental. Despite the extreme diversity, the music of Fernwood is far from confusing, and after listening to the tracks several times, there is a consistently clear, signature compositional identity.
Like the casual beachcomber can hear the sound of the ocean when placing a stray seashell up to the ear, any who listen to this pleasant music can hear their native Southern California (Malibu) geographic setting in their work. It's "no-pressure" art that does not extrovertly "sell," it casually assimilates and charms.
The CD opens with "Sandpiper," major 7th arpeggio cross-picking injecting a reflective, pastoral mood, the opening theme repeated in Rondo form. The extraordinary slide bouzouki lends a linear feel against the rhythmic pulse heard repeatedly throughout the project, and intensely in the subsequent "Open Seas" as the "gallop" of lower strings conveys its title, as if a sailboat were bouncing of the waves at a high, but steady clip.
We are treated to a bittersweet sitar in "Crow," the gentle melancholy harmonic construction woven over a peg-legged 5/4 time. From there, the harmonium is featured in a Balkan "Hungarian Holiday" with what might profess dissimilar voices, a sitar and Rhodes piano, but the duo work it into a convincing textural whole. The haunting melody is consistent and memorable throughout the whole song. The two are expert at crafting fresh, yet recognizable thematic material, and use tremolo effectively as an intense energy builder, especially in the Greek and Irish zouks over the backdrop of rubato arpeggiated plectra and lilting Rhodes piano in "Athenia.".
One might consider the music of Fernwood predominantly modal, were it not for their exploitation of continually evolving shifting tonal centers. The Lydian (raised 4th) vocabulary betrays the "Americana" of "Makena" and "Ruidoso." (Having never actually been to Ruidoso, New Mexico, we're not really sure what the geography is like but from the scoring we get a glimpse of "Old West" a playful horsewhip of strings and hoedown humor. We assume it's nestled in some beautiful forested mountains, with lots of fresh clean air.).
It's the slide/plucked Irish bouzouki telling the story in "Crane," and the curious sitar counter point supports and contrasts at the same time, over the backdrop of a punctuating acoustic guitar. "East Window" is yet another songscape with its own intimate story; melancholy major 7th chord progressions snuggled into descending chromatic lines paint a picture of deep and personal introspection. Montgomery and Ellett are undeniably expert at crafting clever texture, the contrast of Rhodes piano and sitar on "Pelican," and the jazzy upright bass texture betrayed by the introduction of tremolo of Chinese ruan on "County Line."
Arguably, the most intimate of all the tracks, this gorgeous lullaby, "Nightingale" moves slowly but deliberately, fingers and plectrum wringing tone out of each note, Chinese ruan over dulcet Rhodes. It's a great way to sensitively end an inexhaustibly varied compilation of textures and timbres... The whole project is performed flawlessly and multi-tracked by these talented individuals. It's confident and flashy, but never overtly flamboyant.
Absolutely enchanting, a brilliant mix of interesting textures and layers of exotic acoustic timbers. A tantalizing taste of otherworldly aural delight."
"If I were a sandpiper, I’d flutter up speaker-wise. The tweeters and company are doling out a new album called Almeria by the band known as Fernwood. I would hear my namesake with the mellow intacacy of instruments made out of wood. That’s what Todd Montgomerey and Gayle Ellett, the experienced creators of this set know all about. They wade in and out of my lazy sandpiper’s afternoon. An afternoon brought to me by a ruminating soft-focus ascension.
Almeria may be a city in Spain, but in Aribic, it's the mirror of the sea. While flashes of Ravi Shankar and Donovan twirl thy feathers, the Southern California harmonic wavesplash is how Fernwood seems to be parenthesizing their grooves upon my wocked beak smile.
As a human being, the sounds of actual birds outside of my window sang along to this backdrop of cinematic moments and thus it felt bizarre to think of any troubles I might have. While thinking about how contributing these sounds are to the birds of the city, was as obscure as it was meaningful, my tall glass of sangria had magically vanished into thick air. This duo is already planning another Frenwood release. The next one, be it as thoughtful, shall provide yet another excuse to dance like a sandpiper on the finishing carvings of a mandolin headstock. And why not?"
FARWEST ALMANAC Magazine
“US-based duo Fernwood explore some rather intriguing and unique landscapes with their debut release. Strings is a keyword for this release, as both Gayle Ellett and Todd Montgomery handle a multitude of different string instruments; from your basic acoustic guitar to more exotic varieties like gimbri and rababah. On 11 of the 12 compositions on this creation a multitude of these are used to create structures at times highly complex, with as much as 5 or 6 different melody lines combining, interweaving or performing harmonic layered songs; most often highlighting contrasts in playing style, sound and musical heritage for the various instruments used.
The last tune on the release contrasts the other songs here, a slow moving affair exploring the resonances of the individual notes and licks of a single guitar - a nice way to end an adventurous, acoustic instrumental affair such as this one.
If complex, ethnic influenced acoustic instrumental music sounds interesting, or if you're a jazz fan intrigued by world music touches in music; this release should be worth getting.”
THEIR VOICES ARE STRINGS
"You guys all probably know by now that at Guitar Player Zen, we really like to emphasize finding your own voice, developing into an artist with your own sound and uniqueness, finding creative and subtle ways to set yourself apart from the crowd, etc. Well Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett have done a great job in finding their own niche. What I like about Fernwood and Todd and Gayle, is the fact that they don’t just classify themselves as putting out a guitar album. Rather, it is an eclectic instrumental album, featuring some very interesting instruments. The music on this album is so amazingly beautiful and peaceful. My advice for listening: Put it on your I-Pod, find a nice place outside (or inside) to lay down, close your eyes, and picture yourself on a European beach surrounded by the people you love most. A fun (and awesome) fact about these two is that they have scored numerous soundtracks for film, tv, animation, computer games, music libraries, and other corporate applications. Well enough talk. How bout you listen to a few of their tracks, go to their myspace, and buy their album!"
GUITAR PLAYER ZEN
"Fernwood is: Todd Montgomery on Irish bouzouki (slide, plucked and bowed), sitar, mandolin, and guitar (also slide); and Gayle Ellett on Greek bouzouki, ruan, harmonium, oud, guitar (also slide and E-bow), bulbul tarang, gobijen, dotara. organ, Rhodes piano, electric 5-string bass, and upright bass. With all these ethnic instruments, you’d expect a Middle Eastern or Far Eastern sound--but you’d be way off base. Okay, there’s a European flavor to some of the pieces, and a mournful Russian flair in one, but the majority of the music is distinctly Western. And don’t expect the tunes to be strictly folksy, either, because they’re rich with progressive sensibilities. The contrast of such various strings produces a lush pastiche that infuses each track with creative exuberance. Yet this contrast frequently turns around and accomplishes a wondrous amalgamation between ethnic and conventional instruments, resulting in a unique cadence as foreign sound fuse with traditional ones to produce thrilling sonic expressions. Keyboard contributions can be found in some instances. The Rhodes piano injects a very progressive sound to the lilting tuneage, while the harmonium offers the melancholic mood of a Roman campsite... Again, the ethnicity of the instruments is trumped by the performers’ Contemporary Americana and Old World sensibilities, resulting in music that applies modern character to the foreign strings used. These compositions seethe with passion, whether it’s overt buoyancy or romantic heartstrings. The pieces possess a cerebral character that is often overwhelmed by their innate enthusiasm, commingling serious intentions with a carefree cheeriness. The moods generated by this music are quite diverse. One track (“Hobbs Bay”) excellently conveys a salty sea breeze, while another (“White Oak”) majestically evokes the grandeur of ancient trees that dwarf human perception. A lot of these tracks capture the mood of geological locations, most of them coastal regions thick with noble woodlands. Again, keyboards are incidental, well-hidden, but masterful in their subliminal effects, establishing amiable resonance underlying the spry string presence. These compositions are remarkably bewitching, whether the song is expressing cerebral introspection or frivolous exuberance. An agility is found here, not just in the performance but in the melodies, communicating a joyous celebration of life with brisk effervescence."
"Djam Karet’s Gayle Ellett vervolgt met Sangita de weg die hij insloeg met het album Almeria en doet dit wederom samen met de specialist op folkloristische snaarinstrumenten Todd Montgomery en producer Wayne Yentis onder de groepsnaam Fernwood. Hoewel er opnieuw een karrenvracht aan instrumenten uit alle delen van de aardbol gebruikt worden, zijn de composities minder exotisch en divers als op het debuut, wat een meer coherent totaalplaatje oplevert. Dat neemt niet weg dat de oud in opener Kalyan direct Dhafer Youssef’s meest traditionele (Tunesische) werk in herinnering roept. Verder lijkt de sitar op Helen Island eerder naar de titel van de CD te verwijzen (Sangita-Ratnakarna is een eeuwenoud muziektheorieboek, waarin hoofdzakelijk muziekstijlen die in India gemaakt werden beschreven staan), maar als meer westerse snaren ingezet worden, die subtiel ondersteund worden door het ook bij deze opnames sporadisch opduikende orgel, wordt de verwijzing naar dit Canadese eiland duidelijker. Dat is sowieso het mooie van deze samenwerking: al die uit alle windstreken afkomstige houten instrumenten worden in diverse stukken ingezet, waardoor het normaal aan een streek gebonden geluid van een specifiek instrument nu opgaat in een soort wereld-americana-country-folk. Vergeleken met het vorige werkstuk is de algehele stemming wat ingetogener, hoewel de arrangementen nog steeds diverse melodielijnen naast elkaar laat horen. Dit laatste komt vooral goed tot zijn recht als er met een flink volume aandachtig geluisterd wordt; als achtergrondmuziek gaat de intrigerende spanningsboog die Ellett en Montgomery op Sangita hebben gecreëerd nagenoeg verloren."
iO Pages (Holland)
"Fernwood est une nouvelle formation américaine qui se cantonne dans la musique instrumentale et acoustique. Il faut dire que les deux membres du groupe sont des musiciens aguerris qui ont tout simplement décidé de s’associer pour ce projet particulier. Todd Montgomery est un grand professionnel des instruments à cordes. Il a notamment étudié le sitar avec Harihar Rao, le plus ancien étudiant de Ravi Shankar. Gayle Ellett est plus connu des amateurs de prog : il est entre autres le guitariste de Djam Karet, groupe dont la réputation n’est plus à faire. Nos deux gaillards se sont sans doute fait plaisir, mais ils ont surtout réalisé un disque de grande qualité. En effet, utilisant une grande palette d’instruments, ils ont réussi à enregistrer une douzaine de pièces relativement courtes (de trois à cinq minutes) composées et interprétées avec une grande fi nesse. Même si la formule acoustique peut paraître limitée, elle ne les empêche pas de varier les styles, passant d’une atmosphère mélancolique à un style folklorique enjoué avec la même maestria. Chaque morceau est une petite perle fi ne et agréable. Bien entendu, ce disque n’est sans doute pas celui du siècle, mais il est tout à fait recommandable à ceux qui s’autorisent une ou l’autre escapade hors des sentiers battus."
“Second album ("Sangita") from the all-acoustic instrumental duo and, while a lot of play is mentioned from the fact that all the instruments are made out of wood and its "world music" connotations, the most important thing about this duo's compositions are their mastery of emotion - throughout the album, there's always a human heart at the centre of operations. Take the opener, Kalyan" for example - the track begins with slow acoustic guitars and what sounds almost like a dobro in the backdrop (but isn't), while the presence of a sitar adds perfectly to the slowly rolling multi-layers, providing the western warmth with eastern exoticism to produce a positively heart-rending slice of instrumental yearning that makes you think of wide open spaces in countryside of great beauty - four minutes of absolute bliss. "White Oak" accelerates the tempo with a country-styled guitar onto which are added crisp guitar chords, soaring sitar and a cyclical acoustic guitar melody, as the whole thing coalesces, adds a touch of bouzouki, meanders through almost violin-like textures before the lead acoustic guitar returns to the riff, and the other instruments return to the source of the piece and build once more - magically constructed and cleverly arranged with so much going on but never overly busy. "Hobbs Bay" provides similar sounding strings from the opener, only here with a more rolling nature to the rhythm, as acoustic guitars, mandolin and other things I can't identify, all combine to produce a chunky five minute track that's solid and melodic, but constantly changing shape as it goes, the latter two things, the key secret to the overall appeal and success of this album. Using other instruments that include dilruba, oud, dotara, swarmandal, rmonium, piano and upright bass, the duo of Montgomery and Ellett give us a further 9 tracks that have at their heart, this wondrously charming sea of melody as well as conveying an emotional state of mind that really makes you want to listen to this music with intent, getting all the joy out of it as much as the musicians are putting in, if not more. As an acoustic instrumental album, its concentration on melody rather than technique, rhythm, musical cliches or conformity, makes it one of the most different, satisfying and gorgeous albums of its kind around today.”
DEAD EARNEST (Scotland)
“Layers of guitars, bouzouki, even sitar mark this as an original amalgam of – what? Something different, that’s for sure. Todd Montgomery (sitar, tenor banjo, slide and plucked Irish bouzoukim mandolin, guitar and fiddle) and Gayle Ellett (Greek bouzouki, oud, harmonium, upright bass, and some downright unpronounceable things) are obviously accomplished musicians. Just as obvious, they are not content to ply the early music circuit exclusively. So they enliven things with a more modern approach that includes the occasion electric piano and organ by Ellett and a sense of fun not always experienced ith early music. Those seeking something strikingly original will find it appealing.”
"Deuxieme effort discographique de deux multi-instrumentistes de Malibu, Sangita incarne le reve Californnien d’aujord’hui. Loin des delires psychedeliques de l’ere hippie ou meme de l’effervescence numerique de la fin du siecle dernier, Fernwood propose un voyage boise et acoustique 100% naturel. L’etude attentive et l’assimilation des maitres du folk global ont remplace l’usage de psychotropes ou d’ordinateurs. Aguerris a l’art du bluegrass, du folk irlandais, familiers des techniques orientales, Todd Montgomery et Gayle Ellett savent faire sonner une multitude d’instruments. Les banjos, bouzoukis, violins, pianos, mandolines, guitares mais aussi harmonium, sitar, dilruba ou oud…n’ont plus de secrests pour eux, lis tirent profit de chacun et les combinent avec gout et talent. Souvent joutes tranquilles manquent toutefois par moment d’asperites."
MONDOMIX Magazine (France)
"Fernwood è un’autentica nuova vita per Gayle Ellett, deus ex machina dei Djam Karet, un’istituzione nell’underground americano. La band per più di vent’anni ha issato la bandiera del no commercial potential con il suo infernale jam-rock, ma ultimamente il chitarrista si è concentrato sul progetto Fernwood con il collega Todd Montgomery. Una world music acustica e “cinematografica”, per soli strumenti di legno del bacino mediterraneo: a ben ascoltare, certe atmosfere lievi e sognanti non sono lontane dai raptus acustici dei DK di Ascension (2001). Sangita è un susseguirsi di quadri, di immagini esotiche e meditative, con chiari agganci all’opera omnia degli Oregon. Un excursus di ricami di oud, bouzuki, mandolini e swarmandal, talvolta punteggiati dai tocchi impalpabili del Fender Rhodes."
JAM Magazine (Italy)
“Sangita” is undoubtedly a very unusual album. Totally acoustic, and featuring only wooden stringed instruments – some of them with impossibly exotic, unpronounceable names – it has ‘niche release’ written all over it. However, the music showcased on the album proves to be much less unapproachable than one might expect at a superficial glance. “Sangita”, the Sanskrit name for a composite art consisting of melodic forms, drumming patterns and dance, would suggest a disc strongly pervaded by the influence of world music – an impression compounded by the awe-inspiring list of ethnic instruments played by the two Fernwood members. In fact, one definition I have come across – ‘Acoustic World Chamber Americana’ – would seem to fit the low-key, intimate feel of the music to a T. For someone not well-versed in the technical aspects of music, recognizing the sound of the various instruments can be an impossible task, and I do not believe that the main purpose of Fernwood is to engage the listener in a sort of guessing game. As intrigued as one may be by those exotic names, it is much more advisable to sit back and soak in the music, enjoying the subtlety and sophistication of compositions that are only apparently simple. The two musicians alternate moments of playful sparring with others in which they proceed in lockstep, dishing out a series of tracks that are often as multilayered as anything involving a much larger instrumentation - but that can easily become forgettable without any dedication on the part of the listener. This is the downside of music as distinctive as this – it needs attention, even more so than the average progressive rock record, as the risk of turning into glorified background music is always behind the corner. On “Sangita”, just like on their debut effort, Gayle Ellett and Todd Montgomery delve deep into both Western and Eastern musical traditions. The 12 resulting tracks may at first sound remarkably similar, but the distinctive nature of each item will slowly unfold at every successive listen. Obviously, any detailed description of any of the tracks will be beyond anyone familiar with the individual instruments involved. “Sangita” is rooted in the eclecticism of the two artists, their in-depth knowledge of world music, and their search for the most effective ways to blend these often disparate traditions in an original whole. At any rate, the structure of the individual compositions is as complex as anything conventionally labelled as ‘progressive’, even though this is not immediately evident. As it is to be expected from a completely acoustic recording, the music is laid-back, devoid of sharp edges, and quite soothing to the ear. The tracks where the upright bass is prominently featured possess a fuller, almost ‘orchestral’ sound, as do those where the violin is present. This is particularly true of Rings Waltz and Dor Country, the latter a slow, dreamy composition enriched by the lilting sound of the mandolin, and of something sounding very much like an accordion. The full, almost booming chords of the upright bass, underlying the intricate interaction between the other instruments, bring to mind The Pentangle, a seminal prog-folk outfit that, much like Fernwood, merged European and American folk traditions in their musical output. More Pentangle comparisons crop up in Mistral, where the instruments seem to create subtle layers of sound, while Cimarron is a lively variation on one of the staples of European folk music, the Irish jig. On the other hand, the Eastern-influenced side of Fernwood’s music makes its appearance in the rarefied, sitar-led Sargoza, which may recall at times the likes of John McLaughlin’s Shakti project, and especially album closer August, a slow, evocative piece that might have come straight out of a Ravi Shankar album. An album that is both accessible and demanding, “Sangita” is a beautiful slice of eclectic, wide-ranging music, a finely-crafted album, born of the staunch dedication of Ellett and Montgomery to their art."
“Djam Karet main man Gayle Ellett’s desire to find alternative horizons to plunder have resulted in many an obscure soundtrack project. Together with Todd Montgomery, the crux of this new recording surrounds two bouzoukis originating from geographicly dispersed locations. The subject matter comes from your trusty world map to find “Almeria”, an exotic Old World vacation spot in Spain. The mood of the recording is non-invasive using traditional instrumentation to flesh out spirited jaunts and passive themes. Spanish bird observations pose a common thread from the opening “Sandpiper”, bearing arppegiated passages with a few minor twists, while “Crane” lies in a Frisell vein of simple folk deconstructed themes relying on emotive chords and unsettled lead lines. In contrast “Pelican” is Indian sounding while “Nightingale” is a late night sensitive ballad, calming with a firm resolved ending. “Open Seas” is closer to some of the themes developed from early 1980’s Metheny and Mays, maybe even a little “New Chautauqua”. Covering different ground are pieces such as “Hungarian Holiday” where the harmonium gives an Old World carnival feel and a Ukranian dance fade out. One of the best played pieces is “Makena” that uses that sustained open chord somewhat popularized by David Gilmour and Richard Leo Johnson’s pastoral moments. The disc comes off like a musical tour where few things have changed due to modernization and natural surroundings remain intact. Overall it’s a great headphone experience with a joyful balanced mix. “Almeria” is a breath of fresh air and is a welcome alternative to today’s electronic and synth dominated music.”
“Fernwood is actually a duo (Todd Montgomery & Gayle Ellett) hailing from Southern California, and they have been working with exotic instruments for many years and in many different styles (Google them both to see where there musical history lies). Almeria is a graceful set of music that carry's you to many locals, and with great spirit. It makes you feel like you are traveling around the world, stopping to hear the local music everywhere you go. Exceptional sound and peaceable acoustic melodies prevail!
Highly recommended!! SKOOPZ (Philippines)
"Projet plus qu’intéressant, FERNWOOD est constitué d’un duo : tout d’abord Gayle ELLETT connu pour son activité avec le groupe Djam KARET (Seize albums au compteur) et qui a joué sur plus de 50 cds à ce jour, joue et compose depuis plus de 35 ans. Il a écrit de la musique pour nombres de films, jeux vidéo, publicités, etc. Ensuite, Todd MONTGOMERY, un musicien qui a appris le sitar avec le maître Harihar RAO (le plus vieil élève de Ravi SHANKAR) et qui pratique nombre d’instruments traditionnels. Il a notamment joué du bouzouki irlandais et de la mandoline pour le film « Chasing The Dragon : The Veronica GUERIN Story ». Ces deux compères ont décidé de s’adjoindre les talents d’un producteur de renom, Wayne YENTIS, éditeur du magazine « Recording Engineer/Producer », inventeur du Clavitar, un contrôleur de synthétiseurs au look de guitare. Il a personnellement désigné et construit des instruments électroniques customisé pour des groupes aussi légendaires que PINK FLOYD, TOTO, Frank ZAPPA, SUPERTRAMP, Herbie HANCOCK, Lee RITENOUR, Joe ZAWINUL, George DUKE, Patrick MARAZ, Terry BOZZIO et beaucoup d’autres.
Avec FERNWOOD, les deux compères ont décidé de créer un groupe entièrement acoustique, jouant à la main sur des instruments faits de bois. Tout au long des douze morceaux composant l’album d’une durée de 48 minutes, c’est un véritable enchantement de tous les instants. L’inspiration est là, les instruments, qu’ils soient seuls ou très nombreux, sonnent tous comme s’ils étaient dans la même pièce que vous. Musique fondamentalement belle, chaude, exotique, elle développe des relents de folk américaine teintée d’exotisme (sans le chant, l’album est entièrement instrumental) et de cinématique (on croirait entendre une bande son de film). Ainsi un morceau comme « Ruidoso » avec son banjo nous emmène vers des rivages pas si éloignés que ça de la mythique musique du film « Délivrance » (« Dueling Banjos » par Eric WEISSBERG et Steve MANDELL). Gayle ELLETT raconte : « c’est une réaction à la musique moderne et vers où elle se dirige : des sons joués par des machines ou des ordinateurs. C’est mauvais et faux. Nous devrions éviter ça ». Etonnantes paroles de la part d’un musicien issu d’un groupe comme Djam KARET ! Todd MONTGOMERY déclare pour sa part : « Je voulais jouer de façon à ce que mon professeur, s’il était amené à m’entendre, ne soit pas offensé. Cela devait être assez indianisant pour qu’il ne se fâche pas, vous comprenez ? ». Ensemble, ils sont parvenus à une sorte d’americana matinée de musique de chambre inédite basé simplement sur des instruments faits de bois. Une musique parfaite pour se délasser le corps et l’esprit. De plus il est superbement packagé."
PROGRESSIVE AREA (France)
"Tucked away in the picturesque mountains towering above the Pacific ocean Topanga Canyon attracts artists of all kinds, each adding their own unique vibration. I've been delighted to discover Fernwood, the eclectic and inspirational music creation of Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett. The duo have released two albums,"Almeria" and "Sangita" which have gained recognition worldwide. Their acoustic, cinematic compositions take the listener on an epic journey colored by the traditional instrumental sounds of Morocco, India, Greece, Turkey, China, and Italy, to name a few. Theirs is the kind of music one can sail away on. It swirls and flows in unexpected and delightful harmonies. While painting, free writing, or journaling it provides the perfect sound scape to entice and encourage creativity."
"Gayle Ellett er her ute med sitt sideprosjekt Fernwood, som sikkert er en fin avveksling fra det velklingende moderskipet Djam Karet. Fernwood har et slagord som sier at alle instrumentene er spilt av hender, og alle instrumentene er laget av tre! Musikken en slik kontekst avleirer får vi nær innpå femti minutter av på ”Sangita”, som er skive nummer to fra Fernwood. Dette bandet består av nevnte Ellet men også av Todd Montgomery som trakterer mange instrumenter herunder velkjente Irsk bouzouki som jo alle hjem med respekt for seg selv har flere avJ Gayle Ellett har enda flere eksotiske instrumenter som han spiller på, Gresk bouzouki, ruan, oud, dilruba, bulbul tarang, jal tarang, dotara, gopichand, swarsangam, cumbus, gimbri og rababa. Selvsagt skaper dette en musikks om er temmelig unik og som garantert ytterst få om noen har hørt fra andre band før. Det er jo heller ikke å forakte at disse to musikerne oser av spilleglede og regelrett er ekstremt dyktig hvilket nå enn av de mange instrumentene de trakterer. Det er temmelig mange raske og usedvanelig dyktige fingre som står for musikken, og jammen klarer de ikke også å fremskaffe svært varierte musikalske landskap. Rått og riffbasert blir det aldri, men en svært finurlig, intelligent og fengslende musikk varter Fernwood opp med. Malibuduoen sørger for et fabelaktig samspill mellom de forskjellige instrumentene, og har en først blitt fengslet av sjarmen og den gripende musikken til Fernwood er det umulig og ikke å nyte den til det ytterste. Den iboende etnisiteten alle disse ”verdens” instrumentene skaper er pent er vellykket fusjonert med mer velkjente instrumenter og en samtids americana. Skiva krever en våken lytter for at alle de subtile detaljene som finnes skal avdekkes. Skrur en derimot på den musikalske radar, om en da har en slik? så er det en ganske så variert bukett med stemninger Ellet og Montgomery kreerer. Soundet til Fernwood er som nevnt kjemisk fritt for enhver manipulering og urørt av det digitale uhyretsJ tentakler. Bare pur og delikat musisering i en organisk kontekst som er både frisk, freidig, sjelfull og livlig. Noen ganger er musikken nærmest skjør og skrøpelig, mens andre ganger er det et utall av instrumenter i samme låt noe som avleirer et tilnærmet orkestral sound. Albumtittelen ”Sangita” er en løselig hentydning til Sangita Ratnakarna som er en åtte hundre år gammel bok skrevet av musikk teoretikeren Sharngadeva. Oversatt betyr Sangita Ratnakarna noe sånt som hav av musikk, og boken tar for seg de mange og varierte musikkstilene og alle instrumentene som datidens India hadde. Selv om denne skiva ikke dveler særlig mye med India er den på mange måter en etterfølger hva estetikk gjelder. En estetikk som går på å skape vakker musikk av multiple stilarter og instrumenter. Det er hva denne skiva dreier seg om så vidt vi kan skjønne, og så vidt vi kan skjønne har den nok et noe smalt nedslagsfelt, og det er trist fordi dette er så knallbra. ”Sangita” er nok mest for den virkelig dedikerte musikkelsker, men selvsagt håper vi at vi tar grundig feil og at alle vi like musikken her! Uansett så er ”Sangita” er album som ikke er dusinvare, og har rikelig med egenart, fengslende instrumentering, spilleglede og ikke minst variasjon. Denne globale kammermusikken som er injisert med americana er utvilsomt et friskt pust i en verden av ofte likelydende musikk. De som vil ha noe temmelig genuint som også er ytterst velspillt bør kjenne sin besøkelsestid og anskaffe skiva."
"Fernwood is a group that's hard to pin down. They mix Americana elements with Appalachian strings along with bouzouki's from the Middle East and Ireland and sitars from India. Headed up by Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett who also plays guitar in the ultra-progressive rock band, Djam Karet, Fernwood creates a global chamber music with Americana accents and cinematically inclined melodies." .. DJ John Diliberto described their music as "Acoustic Americana World Chamber Music"
"Number 4 ALBUM OF THE YEAR"
This is a real gem! It’s one of the most deliciously satisfying albums that I have heard all year. On their second Fernwood release, Gayle Ellett and Todd Montgomery (no relation to the reviewer) have assembled a masterpiece of progressive acoustic music. While Ellett is perhaps best known for his excellent work with the magnificent Djam Karet, Fernwood is very much a departure from the dynamically shifting, progressive powerhouse of Djam Karet’s alternately intense and atmospheric oeuvre. Fernwood is more delicately stated, eschewing electric intensity and concentrating on the great sea of possibility of the sounds fashioned by acoustic instruments. What is impressive is that Sangita does not complacently plod along, but rather moves seamlessly and buoyantly through a rich sonic palette that possesses both great variety and overarching cohesion. It is deceptively traditional and simple-sounding without becoming precious or predictable. Careful listening reveals a staggering array of changing textures, sonic colors and tonalities that make a superlative statement of an all-too-rare breed of progressive music – acoustic, instrumental, reflective world fusion. Is it a “prog” album? Not in the sense of sounding like any of a number of discernable styles of progressive rock. Sangita is, however, a profoundly progressive album in that it sounds fresh and new – pushing and progressing beyond familiar musical paradigms. Simultaneously exotic and familiar, eclectic and cohesive, Sangita offers a lyrical, melodic, and rich collection of tone poems for a new era of acoustic progression. This is an album that warrants many repeated listenings. Each of the many times I listen, I hear something new, some rich variation. There is so much going on, yet it is so subtly and fluidly blended, that it takes many listens to catch the full array of shifting textures. It is not a busy record, but a complex and tightly orchestrated, yet astoundingly subtle and rewarding listen – one that keeps giving with every spin. This one is something new that should please discerning and open-minded progressive fans as well as appealing to non prog-heads who enjoy exquisitely wrought compositions of tremendous grace and beauty. Free your ears and your mind will follow.
Comprised of twelve relatively short (3-5 minutes), tightly-focused pieces, Sangita delivers a satisfying smorgasbord of songs that are distinct yet adhere nicely, creating a smoothly flowing album that could be construed as an instrumental song-cycle. Sitar, bouzouki, dilruba, oud, mandolin and other instruments from virtually all over the globe are used (in a single song) to create a rich tapestry of tones that continuously surprises and delights while maintaining a gentle continuity – constant, but varied….perhaps more constantly varied. It is a mental soundtrack to a virtual pilgrimage around the globe. But the varied musical traditions conjured meld into a rich, complexly textured amalgam of sounds produced via a geographically and temporally diverse ensemble of instruments. This journey is undertaken largely through an impressive bevy of stringed instruments – plucked, strummed, and bowed. As the back of the CD case notes, it is “all music played by hand, on instruments made out of wood.” What we get is a lush forest of sound comprised of varied cultural trees. This is not spacey New Age quasi-global music (not that there would be anything inherently wrong with that), but rather well-constructed compositions that adhere tightly yet vary expansively. It is thick without being dense, complex without sounding overwrought, holding together in Arcadian tranquility and pastoral variation.
A point of reference might be the work of Stephen Micus in terms of the abounding admixture of tonal textures achieved through the use of a diverse array of instruments garnered from widespread global music traditions. However, Fernwood’s music is more tightly composed and less like the expansive meditative space of Micus’ music. Comparison might also be made with the sublimely textured work of Popol Vuh, particularly their 1970s output that melded varied instruments and musical influence into a dynamic yet coherent layering of shimmering sound. But, Fernwood does not sound like the above-mentioned musicians. While holding certain affinities with these other medleys of musical tradition, Fernwood is patently distinct and original. There is something new on offer here and it is a delicious treat for the ears. Fernwood do not “rock”, but they certainly do roll nicely, abundantly satisfying with their exquisitely vibrant aural tapestry. The production is crisp and clean – felicitously so, as it allows each instrument, each varying tonal quality to shine forth. I shall eagerly await future offerings by this dynamic duo comprised of Ellett and Montgomery. Sangita is most rewarding and truly brilliant – a genuine masterpiece.
Music Street Journal (Review by Scott Montgomery)