Left Vessel is a multi-instrumentalist from Portland who creates experimental indie folk. He also creates sound art, which he defines as “any sonic experience outside of traditionally performed/created music that is made to evoke emotion, ideally with a deeper artistic meaning underlying the work, whatever it may be.”
He brings the concept of sound art to his new album One (and Driftless). Specifically, he set out to answer the question “What if you could make music with a tree?” Using what he calls an arbow (a play on the Spanish word arbol), he put strings on a live tree, plucked or bowed them, and amplified the sound. He did all of that without harming the tree. The result is a unique sound that you might find hard to compare with other instruments..
In the opening song “Arrival (Driftless I)”, you hear a sound that seems like something from an Indian song. As the song closes, you hear the wind rustling through the leaves of a tree. In “First Words (Driftless IV)”, you can hear birds chirping in the background. In general, the songs featuring the arbow are more experimental than those without it. It’s not just the arbow that gives the songs a more experimental sound, it’s also the structure of the songs.
The other songs are mellow and somewhat folky, but they have too many parts to be considered coffeeshop songs. For example, “This Year Be” features banjo, strings, and backing vocals that give the sound a rich texture. The vocals are along the lines of Neil Young.
“Please Don’t Stop” is probably the easiest song to sing along with – especially the chorus that features backing vocals that sound sort of like a church choir. The string arrangement gives this song a sort of cinematic feel.
One (and Driftless) by Left Vessel is proof not only of his creativity in creating sound art, but also in his ability to arrange songs. He creates his songs with layers of sound that force you to pay attention to the variety of sounds.
Photo credit: Elisa Terrazas Campbell