On the enchanting collaborative album Ghost Forests, two accomplished musicians, psych-folk songstress Meg Baird and avant-harpist Mary Lattimore, join forces to create six compositions that marry all the intensity and wonder of their solo efforts.

After the stage-setting opener “Between Two Worlds,” whose title and mood aptly reflect the sound of two musicians getting to know one another and warming up together, the second track, “Damaged Sunset,” begins in a more familiar fashion, with Baird’s crashing acoustic guitar and ethereal, sun-spackled vocals. Other sounds, identifiable and not, bubble low in the mix, as though coaxed from the hum of the natural world. The song is wonderful, though it is perhaps not as immediately suggestive of collaboration as the more instantly striking opener.

Apart from the short interlude “Blue Burning,” reminiscent of something from a recent Bjork album, the songs all take their time, stretching to seven or even eight minutes. The freak-folk-ish “Painter of Tygers,” with its touches of Coco Rosie, Joanna Newsom and even Cocteau Twins, is one of the album’s gems, Baird’s vocals pirouetting with Lattimore’s harp in a melancholy, oneiric dance.

The earlier “In Cedars,” too, stands out as one of the album’s most interesting tracks for the same reason, achieving a balance between Baird’s vocals and Lattimore’s playing—one feels as though the two instruments are truly listening to and responding to one another, seizing and surrendering the reins, sometimes within moments.

The closing child ballad “Fair Annie,” the longest song on Ghost Forests, is (as with the earlier “Damaged Sunset”) a song driven by Baird’s singing and guitar. In structure, it is perhaps the most traditional of the set, with clear resonances of the British folk tradition that is one of Baird’s most important sources of inspiration. It is a stunning song, featuring Lattimore’s flourishes adding accents and sparks to Baird’s melody lines and complementing the percussive elements of her guitar playing.

Overall, this album sounds like an early-career victory lap for two of the alternative folk world’s best figures, ones who have already more than proven their worth but still have decades of work ahead of them. One hopes this will not be the last of their collaborations, and that future releases will mesh and confuse their sounds even more than this debut does. But as it stands, Ghost Forests is a striking and captivating collaboration, especially when it is at its most experimental—in some ways, “Between Two Worlds,” is the most promising in this regard, and might point to what the two can do at their least restrained.

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