Gorgeous, heavenly vocal harmonies meet sparse and spacious acoustic guitars with an aurora of organs and a bare whisper of percussion. Jared Shaw and Chel Browne sing together as if they floated in the womb together and all is lusciously captured and laid to tape, swathed in cottony reverb.
Elstow began in the Jared Shaw & Chel Browne's apartment in Sydney, Australia, in 2012, brought together by a love of '60s sounds like Simon & Garfunkel and The Mamas & The Papas. They have since expanded to a quintet, and have expanded their influences to include '60s revisionists like Mazzy Star or The Brian Jonestown Massacre. In many ways, however, Elstow have already surpassed their influences.
First of all, the original troupe of '60s folk-inspired art could be cheesy as hell, let's be honest. There are moments of sublimity to be sure but there are moments when you want to drop your head in your hands and wish that you had some of whatever the people making the music were on. As for the latter, recreationist bands are almost like Civil War re-enactions, taking pride in their authentic anachronisms. It's admirable, and impressive, but it has very little to do with the modern world, except for our record collections.
Instead, Elstow have created a folk-inspired music for modern times. I'm pretty sure they sing "wake me from this cyborg dream" on album opener "Hope, The Island,” although it sounds like it could be Pentangle singing. This is modern folk that any/everybody can relate to. "Hope, The Island" also speaks as to why folk music is essential in the first place. It seems to naturally conjure pastoral images of place, whether it is the Appalachian Mountains or the Mississippi Delta. As life gets busier and more complicated, these mental landscapes are essential to maintain any kind of peace. It's like an island that you can go to whenever you need.
As The Sun Falls is perfect from start to finish. It's almost painfully short, a slight five tracks. I wish it could be three times as long. The instruments are restrained and purposeful, never flailing, everything in its right place. This creates a solid bedrock for Chel Browne's angelic soprano, and Jared Shaw's warm, cedar-y tenor, to dance and soar, midair.
Fans of Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, Sandy Denny, Jose Gonzalez or Mojave 3, here is your autumn jam. Open up the windows; watch the curtains blow. Let As The Sun Falls take you to a graceful, beautiful place.