White Pines- “Plume of Ash” EP Review

by August Smith

Joseph Scott, the creative force behind White Pines, has always been interested in the intersection between folk and ambient; one can listen to his 2010 album The Falls to join him at that intersection, finding their ears awash in the thick church-choir reverb of “Across the Sky” or the bright dreamy textures and bird chirps in “Hinterland”. The two genres are rare companions, though the pairing is logical- both ambient and folk rely heavily on atmosphere and mood. White Pines knows this and wields the knowledge wisely, letting his songs take you from wilderness star-gazing to cabin-porch nostalgia with a stroke of his unique pallet.

You might not get all of this out of the first track of the Plume of Ash EP. “Bluebird” is a straightforward but powerful song, with a circular melody carried by organs and a soft-edged piano twinkling in the distance. Scott’s voice is full of the warmth of a campfire, his lyrics unfurl slowly, and his voice often echoes away into a distant croon, lending a feeling of expansiveness and open-air. The second track, “Bending In”, has a quickened pulse and a welcome feeling of urgency, augmented by angry drums with a siren-like synth swinging above it all. The center track, the title track, brings back the thick ambient influence, with voices and a fuzzy melody buried deep within its two-and-a-half minutes, the whole thing sounding like you’re sitting at the entrance of a torch-lit cavern, listening to a song played miles below the earth, the voices bouncing off the cave’s slick walls.

Notably, there is a shift of mood right after the center track. The last two songs are very upbeat, especially “Survive”, which sounds exactly like what a sunrise looks like. There is a theme of destruction, of the passage of time, and of rebirth throughout the EP, inspired “[half] by Michigan wilderness, half by the teeming energy of New York City.” The dichotomy is pretty clear, and the center-piece exhibits Joseph Scott’s songwriting bravery as he continues delving this ambient-folk vibe. The Plume of Ash EP is available from YerBird Records here, and you can listen to the opening track “Bluebird” below.