The Green Kingdom: Twig and Twine
Own Records

Michael Cottone clearly isn't averse to any ‘folktronica' or ‘pastoral ambient' associations that might be brought to bear upon his work: his latest collection under the name The Green Kingdom is not only titled Twig and Twine but includes a photograph of a verdant paradise on its inner sleeve. Not that such elements are necessary to convey the release's essence, as in their absence the nine settings would establish a kindred impression. In fact, track titles alone—“Autumn Eyes,” “The Promise of Spring,” and “River Bends Park” are representative—on the forty-five-minute sequel to his self-titled debut (SEM, 2007) and last year's Laminae (The Land Of) accomplish as much.

The Michigan-based self-taught musician, graphic designer, and sound artist roots the album's material in the gleam and sparkle of electric guitar shadings and expansively builds it up using digitally manipulated acoustic and electronic sources, samples, and field recordings. What results are transporting electroacoustic meditations filled with tinkling melodies and rustling sounds (“Crystal Window”) and thrumming choirs of creature calls and chirps (“Maplecopter”); the peaceful ambiance nurtured in “Orange Saturday Morning” certainly suggests the image of a park, still damp with dew, being brought back to life by the warmth of the rising sun. Though the material is primarily beatless, “Maplecopter” does animate its softly modulating organ tones and bright textural colourations with a simple bass drum pulse, while a similar treatment surfaces amidst the kalimba plucks and general tonal splendour of “River Bends Park.”

The Green Kingdom's serenades offer not only a break from the too-hectic pace of modern-day life but at times allow one to travel back in time to re-experience, even if in memory only, childhood moments, like the wonder felt upon a first walk through a newly discovered forest or a lazy, carefree walk by the riverside. Cottone chose “Into the Magic Night” as his title for the first track but might just as well have used it as a title for the collection as a whole, even if the album is more sunlit in feel than it is spectral.

December 2009