Much like the North Carolina wilds it reflects, Needlefall waxes and wanes from mysterious and unsettling to ecstatic and awe-inspiring, capturing the sacred dimensions of the natural world. “We’ve always been interested in how religious tradition takes on a more mystical form amongst people who are exposed more directly to the forces of nature,” the duo elaborate. “If you spend enough time out in the woods you inevitably see or hear things that are hard to explain. I’ve been in caves where it’s total darkness and you’re enveloped by the disorienting sound of dripping water. The natural sights and sounds in these places are often repetitive, percussive, expressive, sometimes unsettling – the way that water carves patterns into rock or tree trunks appear in endless rows.” The field recording running through “The Hermit’s Passage” into “Water Dripped Upwards” encapsulates such otherworldly experiences, recorded accidentally during a paranormal experience in the woods. Title track “Needlefall” translates the changing of the seasons into Terry Riley-esque minimalism, the group spinning subtly evolving rhythmic layers while striking a delicate balance between composition and improvisation.
Needlefall exemplifies the diversity of contemporary folk movements, placing Magic Tuber Stringband’s work in the tradition of modern innovators like Moondog, Harry Partch, Pauline Oliveros, and labelmate Sally Anne Morgan. The vast forests and mountains that inspire the duo act as a metaphor for living music traditions – ever-changing and yet still standing, shaped over time by human hands while equally shaping the human experience.