Devon based folk artist Julian Langer first began to develop his singing/songwriting career in 2012 before taking things up a notch in 2013 by putting together his self-titled debut album. After venturing onto the British live scene in the wake of its release, he soon set his eyes upon the creation of its ambitious sequel, Forest Floor Pirates.
Featuring a staggering twenty four tracks, the compilation starts off with the interesting acoustic approach of “Through the Door”. Exotic undertones manifest themselves as a tormented melody unfolds across a contrasting collection of instrumental elements. While the vocals are well executed, the various musical motifs don’t always fuse smoothly and can sound somewhat discordant in relation to each other.
“The Road” is another experimental acoustic number featuring a fervent harmony. Its instrumentation blends together a little more seamlessly, meaning that it works better than its predecessor. “Head of Angelus” makes for a refreshingly pleasant listen next. Its mellow mood carries a lot of feeling ahead of a brief interlude entitled “Cows Are Going to Sleep”. This bridges the gap to “Elements”, whose rousing riffs and vivacious vocals represent another step in the right direction.
“Guitar Improv” is exactly what its name suggests, with some exciting percussion thrown in to add an extra layer of personality. “Evergreen” follows as a very solemn and sobering addition that manages to convey a strong sense of vigour, despite moving slowly. “Mask of Time” picks up from here by showcasing a dire and riveting melody. Its instrumentation exhibits an exotic flair once again, binding together a number of cultural characteristics, including those of India, Aboriginal Australia and Spain.
The frantic keys of “Jazz Pianist in Hell” successfully conjure up the image suggested by the title before “Raven” erupts into an extremely absorbing melody that’s reminiscent of a traditional Irish ballad. “Invisible Yogis” is a warm and purposeful piece afterwards, while “Where Has the Water Gone?” continues to keep things unpredictable by being an unexpected monologue of ire and exasperation.
“Roots” comes as a short and bracing acoustic effort that melds elements of country with Native American allusions. “Glory” takes over to distinguish itself as a long and lively composition full of stirring guitars and passionate vocals that features appearances by musicians Yazzy Chamberlain and Benjamin Stenning. “Vahasi” is an ominous instrumental inclusion afterwards, arriving ahead of “Come Take My Hand/We’ve Been Here Before”, the first half of which is reserved and foreboding. This soon changes though as it bursts into a colourful display of tumultuous vocals, didgeridoo and Indian techniques.
Following another brief interlude in the form of “Mary Went to Blackpool”, “Song of the Salamander” is a cool and collected contribution whose constant change in momentum gives it a rather progressive edge. After a couple of quirky sentences during “Plant My Feet”, the playful instrumentation and lighthearted vocals of “Pirates Love Song” combine to create an innocuous entry which develops an affecting ambience.
“The Woodsman” is a vivid vocal performance, free of instrumental interference. It’s succeeded by “At Poo V Milla Passum in Horam”, which is a simple and serene salvo of accomplished acoustic work by guest guitarist Gabriella Pryor. This is before “Wolf” serves as a haunting and heartfelt preface to “You”, whose happy and hopeful demeanour acts an uplifting ending.
Despite a shaky start and a bloated run time, Forest Floor Pirates is an intriguing and original celebration of cultural music from a multitude of social spheres. While the combination of such disparate styles works better in some songs than in others, Langer’s incorporation of such a vast and varied array of traditional traits ultimately results in a fascinating listening experience.