Brave Timbers: Secret Hopes
Sound In Silence

Despite being only a two-member outfit, Brave Timbers, comprised of multi-instrumentalists Sarah Kemp and Andrew Scrogham, produce a particularly luscious brand of chamber folk-classical pastoralia. A member of Memory Drawings, Last Harbour, Lanterns On The Lake, Anna Kashfi, and The Declining Winter, Kemp initiated the project alone and issued Brave Timbers' debut release, For Every Day You Lost, in 2010. The group's sound expanded with the addition of Scrogham, and Brave Timbers' follow-up, Hope, appeared as a joint release between Gizeh Records and Little Crackd Rabbit in 2016.

As the title of its third outing suggests, a connection exists between Secret Hopes and that sophomore effort. In addition to new pieces (which were, in fact, recorded during the sessions for the second album but arrived late in the recording process and so missed the cut), the thirty-three-minute collection includes reworked versions of about half of Hope's tracks. The move didn't arise out of laziness; instead, the invitation to do a couple of session tracks for an Australian radio show prompted the duo to revisit material from the second album and attempt something different with it. Those re-imagined versions now appear on the Newcastle, UK-based group's debut appearance on Sound In Silence, which has made the release available in two editions, the first a deluxe edition of fifty handmade, hand-stamped, and hand-numbered copies and the second a handmade and hand-numbered edition issued in a 200-copy run.

The seven settings on Secret Hopes feature violin, piano, harmonium, and finger-picked guitar, though Kemp's violin is the central instrument. It's a beautiful thing, too, especially when it appears in multi-layered form as it so often does; though melancholy and mournful moods predominate, the sounds the two create offer no small amount of spiritual succour and replenishment. Their music might be relatively simple in construction, but there's no denying its prettiness.

“Stillness” establishes the album's tone when a harmonium's wheeze is joined by violin, the instrument multiplied into a mini-string section on this rather hymnal opener. Finger-picking lends the strings-drenched “First Light” a decidedly pastoral and rustic air; making good on its title, “Seasons Past” is affectingly wistful, while the strings' soothing expressions in “Coming Up For Air” cascade like the gentlest of waves. Presented in layered formation, Kemp's strings appear in unison and in counterpoint to one another, the depth of the sound enhanced by an accompanying instrument; further to that, the strings often swoop dramatically, resulting in a glissando-like effect that likens it to a gentle cry and helps Secret Hopes make the memorable impression it does. To that end the counterpoint generated by Kemp in the closing “From A Mountain” counts as one of the loveliest sounds a listener might be lucky enough to hear.

January 2017