Folk music inspired by your worldly travels without sounding like one specific place or time.
There is something wildly romantic about Michael Beharie’s new album “Promise”. Between his soft and nostalgic voice, the heavy use of gliding flutes and chorus infused guitars that sound like lost Hawaiian ditties -the whole album sounds like a VHS recording. It is a wonderful merger of East and West without really sounding like either side is at odds. Instead, it is a swirling pool of tenderness and vulnerability.
Michael Beharie’s musical palette is distinguished. Guitars, drums, flute, synth and bass. It feels organic and with an Indian flow to it. The flutes emulate a Bansuri flute for example but on tracks like a powerful folk-rock piece “August”, the beats have a Bangla bounce to them. The guitar in the guitar and flute led ballad “Eclipse” circles around notes like a tumbling snake. Zithers and autoharp styled instruments amp up the folkier side of things too.
Leaning into that smudged hazy atmosphere is Michael’s voice. He sings so softly that he glides over the music in a similar way to Elizabeth Frasier at times. For the rockier pieces like “For Days”, the reverb smudges his voice almost into ethereal synth status. For the more Andean styled “Silo”, Beharie’s voice is left clean but his breath and throat are amplified as if you are sat in next to his adam’s apple. It feels so intimate and reminds me of the production style of Asian folk-rock music in the 1970s. This music caresses, it never punches.
The album itself is a treasure of catchy melodies and interesting arrangements. The voice, flute and way chorus effects are added to things really breathe a unique life into the music. That’s why it feels so romantic, almost Parisian at times. I was reminded of artists like C Duncan and Raoul Vignal vocally but sonically the music hits more like something Brendan Perry and Peter Ulrich would produce. “Ghost” is the track where all my thoughts on this collided most and it is a fine example of how Michael Beharie’s music manages to fit in many genres and none at all.
I love it when an album unexpectedly takes me on a journey I didn’t expect. “Promise” does just that. It is an album about crossing borders without the need to cross them. Instead, Michael integrates from different parts of the world and makes something unique in his own image. A genuinely heartwarming and beautiful cloud-folk album.
Recommended track: Ghost
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