In 2017, violinist-composer Laura Cannell teamed up with frequent collaborator André Bosman, This Heat founder and percussionist Charles Hayward and members of the minimalist guitar ensemble Ex-Easter Island Head to explore the concepts of a collective and ritual through music. Taking a 43-minute segment from a nine-hour improvisational session, the group’s self-titled debut Whistling Arrow is a coherent and vital album.

Part of what gives this such a singular feeling is its resistance to genre. There are elements here of ambient, folk, jazz, post-rock and classical, but nothing seems to fit it exceptionally well other than the wide-ranging category of experimental. The music at once feels familiar but undiscovered. Not much sounds like Whistling Arrow, and for that reason, it does take a moment to sink into entirely. Thankfully, the album is well-suited to such immersion.

Driven by the galloping rhythm from Ex-Easter Island Head’s patented mallet-guitars, opener “Cuckoo” quickly finds a ’70s-psych influenced groove reminiscent of Alain Goraguer’s score for La Planete Sauvage. The song works as a gatekeeper of sorts for the rest of the album, an introductory setting that guides listeners into the world of Whistling Arrow. About halfway through the track, the nervous chirping of recorder combines with the beat suddenly feels as though an outside force has taken hold, dragging you from one world to another.

The album organizes a massive improvisational session into cuts, and a less subtle cut drops listeners into the brief self-titled second track. The piece isn’t long enough to get lost in but creates a new sense of place. This is the soundtrack to walking through an enchanted forest, not knowing what joys or terrors lie within. On “Forking Paths,” light begins to seep through the branches of the trees in this fairytale, but the wood does begin to creak and curl, lending a sense of uncertainty in which trail to follow. Here, the marching pace of Hayward’s drums is accompanied by squeaking and somber violins as well as bright spots of piano.

“In Wooded Country” and “In Flooded Country” flow naturally off the end of “Forking Paths” and into a more atmospheric territory. The former plays more smoothly, with violins, electronics and guitars implying a warmth and calm that the second track exchanges for a more jittery, uneasy mood, helped by the metallic rattling of hi-hats and more textural playing from Ex-Easter Island Head and Cannell.

The grandest achievement of Whistling Arrow is closer “Magician.” Clocking in at nearly 18 minutes, the epic track keeps along a relatively steady path, with the hypnotic pulsing of Hayward’s drums and the wandering violin, guitars and electronics exploring the deepest crevices of the musical landscape. Each collaborator gets a showcase as the track expands and contracts with moments of airy serenity as well as furious energy. “Magician” feels like a destination, like stumbling upon a Dionysian ceremony after roaming around an uncharted territory with no assurance there is a solid goal.

There is a mystical aura that seeps from the music on Whistling Arrow, a transportive experience that takes full advantage of the possibilities created by the remarkable talent of the group. Whistling Arrow is a hidden gem of 2019 that shouldn’t be overlooked.

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