Although his many years spent on the expansive plains of Wichita, Kansas, wouldn't make it likely that guitarist David Lord developed an obsession with the darker recesses of forest life, his music certainly conveys a deep appreciation of that somewhat otherworldly realm. On his Forest Standards Vol. 1 (BIG EGO Records, 2018) and current Vol. 2 follow-up, Lord's song titles reveal a particular fondness for fungi of all kindsColtricia, Polypores, and other colorful, quietly growing things which nonspecialists will undoubtedly require a serious field guide to navigate. Fortunately, the music itself is much more accessible, with a gentle, ingratiating manner which often belies the complexity and craft behind it.
With a band that includes guitarist Jeff Parker and drummer Chad Taylor, a number of the tracks possess the post-rock sensibility that Parker cultivated in his work with Tortoise and Isotope 217. The opener, "Cloud Ear," has a surging feel driven by Parker's and Lord's cornucopia of ideas, with Taylor's ability to tighten and slacken the rhythm essential to the track's infectious momentum. "Humble Mushroom" continues in this vein, with a steady bass ostinato from Billy Mohler working alongside Taylor's nimble drumming to provide a solid foundation for Lord, whose multitracked guitar creates the impression of a six-string dialogue even without Parker (who sits out on a few of the other cuts as well).
There is a lot more to Lord's muse than a facile "post-rock" label would suggest. A deep debt to the jazz tradition is revealed on "Tubifera," where a melody reminiscent of Miles Davis' "Tune Up" fuels Lord's serious shredding, this time featuring his acoustic chops. And, in addition to its mushroom namesake, "Coltricia" is a partial pun on "Coltrane," with the master's "Countdown" serving as inspiration, even as performed here at a curiously meditative tempo.
The music is inviting even on the first listen, but repeated encounters allow for a fuller appreciation of Lord's meticulous care in constructing the album's fourteen tracks. Vibraphonist Sam Hake is juidiciously employed on cuts such as "Nectaries," adding texture and depth to Lord's multitracked explorations. The synergy between Parker and Lord is especially evident on their duo pieces, "An Amanita," "Mossy Maze Polypore" and "Purple Polypore" which, despite their illusory simplicity, depend on subtle layerings and effects which enhance the music's overall mood of mystery and wonder. Lord's style doesn't overwhelm the listener, but rather insinuates itself. Forest Standards Vol. 2 has staying power precisely due to the guitarist's willingness to use nuance and indirection rather than more obvious gestures.
Cloud Ear; Humble Mushroom; Pin Oak; Tubifera; Turtle Mushroom; Conifer Tuft; Epiphyte; Red Bananas; An Amanita;
Coltricia; Blue Morpho; Nectaries; Mossy Maze Polypore; Purple Polypore.
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