Curling Pond Woods reminds me just how much I hate camping. Honestly, being outdoors makes me want to puke. Greg Davis' newest release is a great album, but it doesn't give all the facts about roughing it. Why aren't there any songs about mosquitoes, leaky tents, or trying not to gag in an outhouse? Davis ignores the dark side of nature and weaves together an album focused from start to end on thoughtfulness, walks in the woods, trees rustling, and birdsongs.
Working out of that beautiful forest called Chicago, Davis released his Carpark debut, Arbor, in 2002. He has a biography loaded with impressive educational credentials, and you hear those years of school in his music. Curling Pond Woods is a tight, well-conceived album. Every note is on path and avoids the poison ivy.
Davis' album is no ordinary excursion, however; it's like taking a walk in a computer-generated forest. Plucking out gentle melodies with his guitar, Davis tweaks the album's atmosphere with electronic noise. As a whole, Curling Pond Woods is driven by slow, walking rhythms and has a sense of movement. With "Shoes & Socks," Davis briefly breaks into a jog, but it's subdued and takes time to appreciate all the beauty. You hear the sounds of footsteps crunching dead leaves and birds chirping in the background. The listener doesn't need to guess at this composition's backdrop.
About halfway through the tracklist, Davis opens up and starts to sing. He isn't a great singer, but it still works. I can imagine the bearded Davis hanging out in the woods and singing to the trees. The reality of his voice is more important than its quality.
Not that this is a realistic album. Curling Pond Woods captures the dreamy contemplative side of the forest and throws out the little things that make camping so horrifying. I'm just warning everyone: Stepping away from the computer and venturing outdoors can be a miserable experience. You're better off just staying in the basement and listening to Davis make nature sound like a good idea.
1. Red Barn Road
2. Brocade (rewoven)
3. Improvised Dreaming
4. Shoes & Socks
5. Slightly Asleep
6. At My Window
8. An Alternate View of a Thicket
9. Curling Pond Woods