Artist: Ariana Saraha and Flight Behaviour
Title: From The Wild
Genre: Alternative / Dark Folk / World Music / Pagan / Ethereal / Ambient / Middle Eastern
Release Date: 22nd April 2022
Recently I had the pleasure of discovering ARIANA SARAHA AND FLIGHT BEHAVIOUR when they supported FAUN at The Union Chapel in London along with SERPENTYNE. I found the first experience a compelling one, one that deserved further exploration. There was one minor annoyance in the sound but nothing too traumatic that my ardour was dampened. Anyway, FLIGHT BEHAVIOUR are based in the western USA and consist of vocalist Ariana Saraha and Fernando Medina on percussion with an assortment of guest musicians adding their expertly executed textures to the mix. Ariana Saraha has released two self-titled albums (‘Maiden Of Midnight’ and ‘Live At Immersive Studios’) and two under the FLIGHT BEHAVIOUR moniker, ‘Songs For Christmas’ and this gem which I’m about to muse on. So, let’s dive in and see what we find…
Well, from the get go the drums take a central stance within the mix. As I alluded to in the live review, they’re expressively textured, also charismatic and jaunty. ‘Grandmother’s Tears’ is the opening track, the vocal veers between lightly spicy to cavernous mouthiness whilst the drums punch like feet hitting hot sand and leaving as quick as they hit. The drums continue their primal messaging on the next track ‘Cry To The Moon’. Ariana Saraha’s vocals flitting from gossamer delicate to glassy clarity but with a constant eastern sheen that never leaves the scene. There’s interplay on ‘From The Wild’ between the frame drum and the kick drum (?) whilst a Baglama Saz noodles its way through the piece like a cocky spider’s web giving the whole a satisfying magnificence.
‘Beneath The Waves’ soothes. It hypnotises and soothes. Ariana uses her range and flexible throat to paint pictures in the air. Smooth passages followed by fuller sounds interspersed with glottal resonances, whirling dervishes spin in my mind and all the while Sheila Chandra’s name pops up as her silhouette dances, her palmed hands above her head. At the Union Chapel there were two tracks that had a similar percussive motive throughout. The first was ‘White Thistle Garden’. The motive is, I was going to say child-like but it’s more of a whimsy, and that whimsy is played on a Kalimba. It works well on the track and is most definitely not out of place! The vocal here is also higher up the register. It has a wood spirit vibe, the denizens of the deep wood chattering away hidden by the Sylvanian greenery. The second track I’ll get to in a moment.
‘Shelter Of The Woods’ is a bit more pacy than the other tracks, in comparison I find that it gallops. The frame drum still exudes its mystical resonance but Fernando Medina bounces his sticks around as he weaves spells. And then on to ‘Night Ride Across The Caucasus’ which is a Loreena McKennitt cover. The original lolls along in a dreamy Spanish way with clean vocals. This version canters, the frame drum again present. A Duduk flits in and out, ethereal and dreamy, it steers you along like otherworldly reins attached to cloud horses, it also has a Dionysus or Arabian Nights feel to it. So, to the second track with the percussive motive. Well, this is where I am confused. ‘The Last Days’ was the third last track in the live set and it does have a Kalimba motif in it which, if compared to the previous track, is more linear. In the live context the motif was annoying me for some reason but listening to it here it's in no way incongruent or irritating.
That aside, this track feels like a slow-moving river in spring as the icy crust of winter slowly melts on its surface. What sounds like slide guitar dances with the vocal in a par de deux of warmth and chill. I love the guitars in the background, a charismatic sound that does not demand attention, you just give it. Final track ‘Secret Path’ walks! It literally walks. You hear feet, one after the other crunching the gravelly ground whilst flowing water and woodpecker sounds accompany delicate vocals to a fade. The joy of solo walking, no lights or traffic or the banality of urban existence, just the joy of a walk, the sounds of nature your only accompaniment.
The great thing about ‘From The Wild’ is that it does not demand your attention. My ears are not grabbed with force and rammed into a speaker! No, the production and the complex simplicity of the whole just wafts past my ears like the aromas of a Paella caught on the breeze and wafted past my nose. Elements here remind me of Diamanda Galas crossed with Lisa Gerrard / DEAD CAN DANCE crossed with Sheila Chandra and PINK FLOYD. This is great stuff, if you’re into earthy soundscapes that sharpen the mind and hone the imagination, and do not overload you with pretentious sugary shit then I recommend this as an addition to your cd shelf!
01. Grandmother’s Tears
02. Cry To The Moon
03. From The Wild
04. Beneath The Waves
05. White Thistle Garden
06. Shelter Of The Wood
07. Night Ride Across The Caucasus
08. The Last Days
09. Secret Path
Ariana Saraha - Vocals, Kalimba (5 & 8), Frame Drums (1, 2, 3, 4, 6 & 7), Jaw Harp (4), Sound Design (3, 4, 5, 6, 9), Oud Treatment (6)
Fernando Medina - Drums, Percussion
Jesse Manno - Keyboards (all tracks except 6, 9), Baglama Saz (2, 3), Oud (6), Duduk (7)
Scott Bears - Electric Guitar (1)
Dave Willey - Electric, Synth & Slide Guitars (3, 7)
Total: 9 / 10
CD Review: Ariana Saraha and Flight Behaviour - From The Wild
- Written by: Claudia Black
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