From the Sea

For the final installment of our Futuristically Botanical series, we culminate this labor of love with words of finality and excitement to the future. Futuristically Botanical has continued to return energy to us on many levels. Even though it’s been almost 3 years since its release in 2013, we want to take this time to reflect on the joy it has given us to have created, shared, and performed it through these years. We would like to leave you with what is self described as a “Long-Winded Advertisement” from Flint poet & writer, Glen Birdsall. He sums the album up beautifully, and it’s the best way to send this music into the universe, and prepare ourselves for the future to come. We will of course still be playing the majority of these songs live on stage, and will have CD’s and download cards available, but this is our way of marking a shift in direction as we set our sights to new material with new adventures. So please enjoy the words of one Glen Birdsall.
“This isn’t so much a review as it is a long winded advertisement. Let me start off by saying that this is the best album I’ve heard from a local band in the past 12 years. It also marks for musicians in the area a return to song writing that I haven’t heard in a long time. Futuristically Botanical (or FB how I’ll refer to it from this point on because my fingers will need a breather), is a wonderfully crafted album, and possibly the first by Arlow Xan that truly captures, from beginning to end, who Xan is as a band.
In fact this is my second favorite album of 2013 (Arctic Monkey’s AM is pretty great).
This new album shows that the vision of an end piece of musical art is not limited by studio time, money, or technology. Your vision can be put through the recording process by sheer work, dedication and, well…the right software. This cd comes in a cover that looks like the music you will be hearing; honest, simple, deep, curved, and straight forward (curved and straight forward, how is that possible? Well the music is often straight forward delivering curved vocals and ideas) – these are…all ways to describe this album.

Morning Moonlight– Is a metered meditation with layered spoken word barely poking its head above the surface, contemplative words like broadcasts from other dimensions telling us in whispers that we are not alone. The vocals come in from both Al and Ali rolling along…being pushed by the picking of Banjo notes. The song reminds us that we are here while listening to soft gentle notes beckoning the morning to come…while reminding us not to forget the promises we made to our future. This song ends up being a thank you to…all things.

Trip the Light– This is the jam. A song fully realized and a song that shows that Arlow Xan has found the key to writing perfect hooks. It is the catchiest track they’ve ever written. It is in the repetition of the chorus where they find an anthem not unlike Noel Gallagher’s best stadium anthems (Wonderwall, Champaign Supernova, or Don’t Look Back in Anger). Once you find a song that demands the audience/listener to sing along you have found the magic of turning what you write in music to that of a joined consciousness. This very connection is what makes all want to join together not for anything more than becoming one shared experience with the creator. On this they’ve really out done themselves. Trip the Light starts with the most beautiful of nods to George Harrison with a slide guitar that reminds us of Harrison’s most defined sound during his solo years. The keyboards find a chord turning into beautiful simplistic runs as the guitar follows as strumming becomes sharper more pronounced notes. If this song does anything it evokes a sense of belonging…belonging together…as the lyrics tell us that they can’t make it with us, and we can’t make it without each other. Thus drawing us all into something bigger than us, keeping us from dwelling on our own minute problems. Hopeful contemplation.  

Mannequins– This song was first heard by me at an outdoor event. Old world concertina sounds from Eastern Europe mixed with a beat straight off of Depeche Mode’s Violator. The mix grabs you by the heart and pulls you into the….”melody.” This song brings you into an almost fictional world where magic and childhood are cemented together.

I Want– Is the best way possible to follow up Mannequins…making us feel almost like the songs are connected. This is a great skill in understanding that a great album isn’t a collection of songs but a working whole. Songs in a certain order can help an album become something very special in our lives. I Want keeps us in the fantasy world that Mannequins sends us into. Lyrics again catching the listener off guard and creating something visual to follow, bringing us into a new Alice in Wonderland world. The many time signature changes helps to also keep the listener completely on their feet, and before you know it the song becomes a battle cry. Charging in with Arlow Xan with phalanx in hand, we are taken into a run through this world with electronic beats and banjo making our mind race along with the song.  

Walking Mirror– This is a song that shows off Alan’s voice that has really developed to perfect pitch and style since the early days of “The Poor Als.” Beautifully written, but more importantly beautifully sung. Alan’s voice makes you feel this love-note of a song. His voice sits in the most realized places of Peter Murphy meets Bryan Ferry. Somehow singing emotion over words, but still making the message crystal clear. The last 2 minutes of the song remind us of the best uses of saxophone from Pink Floyd to Lou Reed, adding a new voice that almost duets with the singer.  

My Aurora– My Aurora first reminds of traditional Irish songs…the beat kept by an organic rhythm (drumming on thighs?) Very meditative and sung like a folk song, folk tale. Again this song takes into other times and other places, drifting in and out…peacefully creating a lullaby to which the listener is hypnotically soothed.  

Animals– A song full realized when heard sung live, it loses nothing here captured on disc. A driving beat and sung to its full potential by Ali. Her voice bringing to mind the best singing moments of Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries). Starting off as backwoods folk it quickly turns into a song rushing, whipping, and crashing through the woods like a pack of wild wolves. The lyrics rolling out in Ali’s vocal performance. Live this song takes on a life of its own as the audience howls during the chorus of, “Wild animals ATTACK MEEEE!” 

Black Magnus– Black Magnus played mostly on percussion instruments taking on a prehistoric spirit. The lyrics speak of “ice wind”, “Shaman”, “darkness on its way”; bring to mind an incantation as well as a warning for a change about to happen. Alan sings the lead as Ali whispers the words right behind/underneath the surface like plains of existence speaking the same story.

Nesting– Again, how Nesting follows Black Magnus makes us think of a continuation in form. It is almost like a segue into the next song. Nesting touching strongly on Black Magnus then gently handing itself off to Whiskey.

Whiskey– This song is probably the second most realized song on an album of brilliant songs. It also has found a harmony in the chorus that makes you want to sing along. This is evident as my under-age daughter upon hearing it only once will walk through the house singing about whiskey…and how it is “inside of me…I know you want to mix me…I know you wanna drink me up.” Here the banjo is playing the song above the beat and it sounds like a song both from the future and from the past at the same time; like a steampunk fueled dream.

Sun Goes Rising– Science Fiction Space Cowboys hunting Dragons, what more needs to be said about this song? You already love it, right? Well after the lead in lyrics are set by Alan, Ali comes in and takes over with her most powerful vocal performance on the entire album (and that is saying a lot…when you consider everything she has put before this point on the album). A truly spellbinding song that takes its own sweet time to culminate, or better yet rise into hair raising perfection. At points the song can and will remind fans of obscurity the War of the Worlds album by Jeff Wayne. The use of recognizable words and those that sound “alien” are what raise the song above the mere normal or “mortal” songs you’d find on an album by a less confident, creative band.

From the Sea– My second favorite song just behind Trip the Light. This song again shows off Alan’s vocals that have arrived on clouds of velvet. Corny, but true. The delivery of these vocals is really a triumph. It brings to mind Bowie’s vocal performance on Putting out the Fire, or more accurately Scott Walker’s performance on The Plague. The vocals are strong and confident of the words. Then at the half way mark the song finds again some of the eerie keyboards of Depeche Mode’s best songs. Ali starts a chanting chorus joined by fellow singers to bring the song and for the most part the album to its beautiful and triumphant conclusion. The harmonies mixed with love.  

Trip the Light (Reprise) with the following sounds and hidden track- A reprise of, what I personally consider the signature song of the album. A stripped down basic version of Trip the Light as a reminder of the character of the album as well as a restatement that “we can do this together.” The song then fades into the sound of air moving in waves (the sound of the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon perhaps?), closing in a basic, acoustic hidden track that is part lullaby and part song to end our journey. The hidden song brings to mind early acoustic songs of Pink Floyd like Fat Old Sun or Fearless. And so we “dream of night” as Arlow Xan’s Futuristically Botanical comes to an end.

“Now how do I end this? I end it by saying that Arlow Xan’s Futuristically Botanical is a great accomplishment, an album that I always wished was born in Flint, and now it has been. A full piece of art that will be cherished, at least by me, for a long, long time.”

Learn patience. Teach love.
Glen B.


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