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"They're probably the best band out there doing this type of thing --- ethereal, chorale-type music with exquisite female vocals and minimal chamber ensemble instrumental backup. The songs just fall into place, each piece of music fitting into the next, seamlessly without ever misstepping." - The Big Takeover
Picture the rainy Northwest - - - Seattle to be exact. Silk curtains slowly dance in the damp breeze, chamber music plays quietly on the old turntable as your lover sings quietly to herself across the room. Such is the feeling that is Faith & Disease: minimal, downtempo music . . . ghostly, reverbed guitar, awash with a dreamy mix of cello, flute, piano, gentle percussion, and lilting female vocals. Ten new studio tracks of sonic ambience, gentle melodicism and dynamic restraint, featuring the dark, melancholic beauty of vocalists Dara Rosenwasser and Charlotte Sather, and the minor-key arrangements of Eric Cooley. Subdued and hypnotic, Faith & Disease drizzle a serene mist of calm, shaping a vaporous musical tranquility.
AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Having quietly built up a well-deserved reputation throughout the '90s as purveyors of darkly beautiful, goth-tinged music, Faith and Disease hit the year 2000 with another fine effort, the lovely Beneath These Trees. The core duo of Rosenwasser and Cooley still nail it song for song, her dreamy, haunting singing and his quietly elegant performances on guitar, keyboards, and other instruments in perfect harmony. Drummer Semple deserves note for his subtle, strong-without-seeming-it work, while Sather completes the regular lineup with her work on harmony vocals and flute. It all begins on an almost impossibly great note, with the a cappella duet between Rosenwasser and Sather on the title track shifting into "Rubina Verde." Easily the equal of the best work of Low in terms of hushed drama and atmosphere, it's both a standout track for Rosenwasser's gorgeous singing and the band's collective sense of performance. Some numbers recall the songs on Insularia, which explored a more rural, folk/country side of the group, a vein further tapped here with fine results. "If I Drink From This Cup" features Rosenwasser letting a slight but clear twang into her singing, just enough, while the slow piano, cello, and guitar parts often recall the hushed mood of Mojave 3's earliest efforts. Even more striking in context is "Banks of the Ohio," a traditional murder ballad recorded in an intentionally scratchy 78 rpm mix that really does sound like an archival Smithsonian Folkways number. One of the more intriguing numbers is "To See Her in This Light," which reverses the usual formula for the band in that Rosenwasser wrote the music and Cooley the words. It's still another great number from them, though, with a lovely flute part from Sather to help distinguish it. Add in such other notables as the elegiac "Eventually Again" and Faith and Disease enter a new decade with style and grace intact. -- Ned Raggett
Faith & Disease, the Goth equivalent of a melancholy summer afternoon.
Faith & Disease's 1999 release, Lamentations
, was an excellent collection of songs representing 8 years of creative growth. Though an ideal introduction to the band's many moods and colors, it remains a compilation of past work, and as such, lacks the cohesive tone and texture of a new album. Beneath the Trees
has that cohesiveness, like a slow, waking dream of cool warmth that keeps building upon itself. With few exceptions, Eric Cooley composes the music and Dara Rosenwasser writes the lyrics, but it's Rosenwasser's child-sweet vocals that light the way.
Giving clarity to the murk of melancholy and memory, the album has the goth ambience of lying beneath the trees, contemplating a parade of centuries. There is safety beneath the trees, but soon the rain will come and one will need to find refuge elsewhere. One day your lover's hand will pull away and your heart will be adrift in the darkness. These are the constants of life, the ebb and flow of the light and the dark.
The affecting poignancy of Cooley's largely acoustic compositions and the storytelling poetry of Rosenwasser's lyrics speak of these things. Each song is as good as the last, each like a memory of lying beneath a tree with someone you love.
For those of a melancholy turn of mind, Faith & Disease's ethereal, otherworldly chamber music for the damned is an ideal soundtrack for the bleak midwinter season. Built around Dara Rosenwasser's lovely voice, coupled with Eric Cooley's guitar and bass, and perfectly complemented by female backing vocals, flute, cello, drums, keyboards, and synth textures, Beneath the Trees
feels like a long, shadowed walk in a deserted patch of woods on a gray, bone-chilling day.
Most of the tunes are extremely subdued, sometimes so much so that they drag a bit, as on "If I Drink from This Cup." But for the most part, the arrangements creatively blend the perfect mix of instruments and musical styles to create the precise mood the band is looking for on each track. Mysterious and haunting, the lyrics sound like cryptic pronouncements from a dark angel, and are often almost maddeningly opaque.
With its unsettling blend of drums and percussion anchoring dark soundscapes of synth, cello, flute, and guitar while haunting vocals expressing the endless cycle of life and death wash over you, "Mayim--Water Is Flowing" evokes a scene of half-glimpsed figures clad in diaphanous white robes swimming in and out of a gray river flowing through a forest of bare trees, as tendrils of mist drift and curl about your ankles, drawing you toward the roiling waters. "Eventually Again" holds you spellbound with its wordless vocals writhing behind throbbing, deep synth and heavily muffled bass guitars like a drawing within to the heartbeat of emptiness, redeemed a bit at the end by a tiny ray of sunlit hope. And their spare, scratchy, "78 rpm mix" delivery of the traditional murder ballad "Banks of the Ohio," with some fine mandolin and organ work, is almost as chilling as the song's lyrics about a man who murders his lover because she wouldn't marry him.
Vocalists Dara Rosenwasser and Charlotte Sather (also flutist) plus guitarist/bassist Eric Cooley and drummer Barry Semple fit together like the winding key and hour, minute and second hands of an antique Grandfather clock on this one hundred and fifth release for Projekt records. And after five previous releases on their own label they have had many a gold-framed moment to show off their chamber music meets spooky forest dryads-ish music. Beneath The Trees was co-produced by Kevin Suggs (producer of Rickie Lee Jones, The Walkabouts and others) so it's no wonder that the I'm desperately alone on a miserable day writhing in my sorrows and memories - AND I'M CONTENT AS F@CK ABOUT IT feeling is strung through every track like the thick thread holding a pair of Doc Martens together. The music is solid, strong, exciting, provoking - and it's not coming apart no matter which way you pull at it. As strong as thirty oxen, yet frail as a thousand and one posies - Faith & Disease is about as dark as chocolate and as light as the mood you will be in after allowing your ears the gentle, rewarding massage.
- David Paul Wyatt Perko
My favorite aspect of Faith & Disease through the years has been Dara Rosenwasser vocals. On Beneath The Trees, they soar in harmony with those of Charlotte Sather, cheerfully articulating joy and earnestly bearing sorrows with strength and restraint. Stylistically the band retains their Gothic influences, including the use of unusual instruments like serene cello and flute, as well as dark, introspective lyrical passages; the drum lines are consistently slow and gentle. Musician Eric Cooley teams up with d.A. Sebasstian from Kill, Switch...Klick on the production of a few tracks, including the eerie, remarkably beautiful "Banks of The Ohio." This track, along with the haunting "Rubina Verde" and the deeply sorrowful "Born and Died On The 23rd," are my favorite offerings on Beneath The Trees. These songs alone would make it worth your attention, but there is so much more offered on the album, I will simply recommend it.
This is Faith & Disease's sixth release, and their first on the Projekt label. The gothic genre has divided a number of ways, providing a fairly diverse spectrum of bands to listen to. Projekt specializes in the ethereal and darkwave subgenres. Ethereal can be loosely defined (inasmuch as a genre can be) as quiet, slow, and exquisite, often with a focus on subdued strings and ghostly female vocals. I like to think of it as an aural river slowly winding its way through the moonlit forest of my mind.
Beneath the Trees is a lovely example of the genre, gently swaying from track to track. Each is unique, and extremely well done. The album is seamlessly created and produced, brimming over with soft, subtle guitars and a blend of more orchestral instruments. The percussion is languid, meshing seamlessly with the other instrumentation to provide a lush yet subdued backdrop for vocalists Dara Rosenwasser and Chalotte Sather.
Each track is excellent, but a few bear mention above and beyond that. "Banks of the Ohio" is listed as a 'traditional murder ballad' in the liner notes. The subtle effects on the vocals and the gentle twang of the mandolin create vivid images, even if they are a tad morbid (in an oddly relaxing manner). But this is goth, after all. "Born and Died on the 23rd" is also worth mentioning, if only for the way it brings a lump to my throat every time I hear it. The vocals go far above and beyond the already high standards set by previous songs, backed only by mournful acoustic guitar. I could gush about other tracks, but I'm running out of adjectives.
This is a very lucid, calm, and solid release. Definitely worth purchasing for those who enjoy the more ethereal gothic music. For those who enjoy bands such as Mazzy Star, or Dead Can Dance, this also worth checking out.
-Theo Rhodes, PopMatters Music Critic
Faith & Disease is a Seattle trio that plays complex melodic songs with a slow, religious intensity. Coupling ethereal singing (Charlotte Sather and Dara Rosenwasser) with subdued (and mostly acoustic) chamber arrangements (Eric Cooley), Faith & Disease's music approaches a serene, contemplative stance that borders on Gergorian chants, Tibetan mantras and Celtic folk. While one can find similarities with the most elegant psalms sung by Loreena McKennitt and Dead Can Dance, Faith & Disease's program on Beneath The Trees (Projekt, 2000) is humbler and devoid of medieval or ethnic pretensions. Their skills are best represented by the sweet, tender, waltz-tempo lullaby Rubina Verde, whereas the more down-to-earth Shallow could be a staple in the repertory of folksingers such as Suzanne Vega and Natalie Merchant. More ambitious tones can be found in the dreamy, jazzy ballad If I Drink From This Cup. The music even ventures into Enya territory with the suave free-form harmonizing of Mayim and the ghostly requiem of Eventually Again.
- Piero Scaruffi
With five releases under their own label and having appeared on two of Projekt's compilations cds, I guess Sam Rosenthal thought it was about time he brought them into the Projekt ranks. Faith & Disease are in great company but they hold their own no matter what.
Exquisite, hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic and stunning are only a few of the thousands of words that I could use to describe Beneath the Trees. I can only imagine what it would be like to listen to this album in the rain dampened city of Seattle where it was recorded, as it evokes that imagery so easily. Dara Rosenwasser and Charlotte Sather are two of the most amazing vocalists in ambient music. Their vocals lend a dark elegance to the smooth music that Barry Semple and Eric Cooley put forth.
Comparisons would most likely be to a more serene This Mortal Coil, since the feel of the music is there but the vocals aren't meant to be belted out like they are at times within Coil's material. But those that are fans of the band and artists similar will be enthralled by Faith & Disease's latest effort.
Note: I listened to this originally while I was wandering through a forest outside of the city and it heightened the experience for me. I would suggest the same for anyone else.
Favourite Songs: Mayim-Water is Flowing, Rubina Verde
Review by Sparrow
It's impossible for Seattle's favorite ethereal band to be any more melancholy, but none of their previous four albums feel as personal or vulnerable as Beneath the Trees. Starting with a reinterpreted aria by Handel and culminating in the mournful "Born and Died on the 23rd" (in tragic D minor), F&D weave a touching, almost thematic album that really captures the intimacy of their live performances. Eric Cooley's arrangements are minimalist, simply supporting Dara Rosenwasser's delicate and passionate voice, especially on "Rubina Verde," where she almost sounds like a wounded angel. Sadly, the duo recently moved to California, and at the time of year I most look forward to seeing them play here. That breaks my heart, but at least I have this CD to keep me company. - David Slatton