On their debut full-length album Dark Woven Light, the Louisville, Kentucky-based duo Fool’s Ghost softly meander through a gently pulsating soundscape of ambiance-building guitars, poignancy-amplifying keys, and drum patterns that feel like the musical expression of stones scattered along a path through some heavily wooded but bright expanse.
Crafting the Journey
The album takes a frequently spread out, extended approach to constructing melody — rarely, if ever, do the duo sound like they’re rushing. Those behind the piece sound like they’ve carefully set each note like a small, flickering light along the path on which the album places the listener. There’s not an overwhelming sense of what might lay at the end of that path; instead, as expressed via the gently snaking, eventually immersively cloudy music, the collective journey itself feels rich and in focus.
Fool’s Ghost features Nick Thieneman — who’s the bassist for the noise rock band Young Widows — and Amber Thieneman, who’s performed with other projects including the avant-garde groups Liberation Prophecy and Sandpaper Dolls. They explain: “We were working through a lot of emotions while writing this album: grief, frustration, hope, love. It explores several layers of some very personal experiences, but the themes and types of experiences connect us all as human beings. That’s what feels so important about music, how it is a common language for both grief and celebration.”
The gentle contemplation of the limits of familiarity shines brightly on Dark Woven Light. “The words won’t come easy/ the roots grow in our throats/ Everyone and no one/ is listening,” Amber Thieneman soulfully sings on “Golden,” the album’s second track, whose music smoothly surges along with spikes in the force of her singing. As she and Nick perform there and across the album, there’s a sense of a cloud of bright light slowly settling in.
The Sounds of Dark Woven Light
The band end up seeming to rely quite a bit on very straightforward, emotionally enrapturing melodies like might be found in the most alluring Americana-oriented songs. Here, the experience has been carefully spread out with an immersive ambiance.
“We really wanted to make a sonically dynamic record, so when a song kicks in heavy you feel the impact,” they explain. “Navigating how to incorporate bass and drums while remaining a duo was an exciting challenge. Once we figured that out it was just creating whatever we felt the songs needed or didn’t. Many of them had extra drum and/or synth parts that were removed because it became too messy or lost the vibe.”
The songs, down to the sounds themselves, reflect the duo’s personal life experiences.
“Melodies and songs were definitely more free-flowing,” they share. “We kept writing throughout the recording process. Quite a few songs were based off a single loop or part that one of us would bring to build on. “Chasing Time” is a good example of that — there’s a loop that goes for the song’s entirety which began as a piano part from Amber. While writing, we really wanted to take our time and figure out how to create something that was mutually satisfying. Since we wrote everything together it was necessary to achieve that before moving too far along. We often found simplicity as the answer; overthinking usually leads to frustration.”
Going Forward from Here
A press release for the record has described the experience as “a lullaby for ghosts” and “an elegy for the apocalypse,” and honestly, that idea of the music constituting an experience of settling down for a peaceful both inward and outward assessment in the shadow of something ominously grand feels quite fitting. The elements here could be a whole lot louder, but Fool’s Ghost remain restrained throughout the piece, focusing on using their ambiance-setting, sparse melodies like a figure whose actual identity you may have missed gently guiding you through a forest.
“A more open-ended experience is always our hope with any music we create,” they share. “We’ll leave it up to the listener to decide whether there’s a light at the end of the tunnel or not.”
The band look forward to getting to bring their music back on the road soon — they’re among the artists who had to cancel touring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are definitely looking forward to doing as much touring as possible, once it is safe to travel,” the duo explains. “It’s extremely frustrating to have worked so hard on this record and not be able to support it in the way we wanted. We’re already into writing for the next one but that will take a backseat once we can get back out on the road.”
Photo via William DeShazer
Listen to Dark Woven Light below. It’s available in full now via Prosthetic Records, and it features producer Kevin Ratterman, who’s also handled music for Emma Ruth Rundle, Jaye Jayle, and Jim James.