ALBUM REVIEW: Out of the Woods – Birds and Beasts

Ditte Grub album art.

Ditte Grube, otherwise known as ‘Out of the Woods’, releases her debut album ‘Birds and Beasts’ on 12 June, 2020. The Danish artist recently did an ‘At Home’ session for us ahead of the album release, performing beautiful album track ‘I Remember You’.

The album was recorded at Grube’s home studio in the woods of Silkeborg and is a mesmerising fusing of organic folk, jazz and pop with the joyful sound and feel of nature soaked into the mix. Less ‘out of the woods’ and more ‘deep in the woods’. That’s a good thing.

Grube has created a wonderfully soothing album, perfect during this time of crisis, which transports you into the middle of a forest, lying on a hammock strung between trees, swaying canopy overhead, at one with the flora and fauna and without a care in the world. The production is really subtle and very deftly handled and it is a lovely, lovely album from start to finish.

The songs are very gently constructed with just the right amount of instrumentation, which in the main is Grube, augmented by a range of other players including guitarist Christian Dietrichsen. The guitar playing is light and wispy and the vocals from Grube range from Laura Marling-esque singer-songwriter folk to any number of jazz chanteuses and a bit of Feist thrown in. There are airy voices accompanying Grube and the occasional double bass, piano, trumpet, and atmospheric violin strokes from Iceland but nothing too overstated and nothing that overpowers the mood of calm reflection.

The songs on ‘Birds and Beasts’ are filled with personal stories on everything from insomnia and lost friendships to abstract space travelling and wild animals. The sound of the album is familiar but Grube’s presentation adds a certain quirkiness, with songs not always following the expected structures or melodic routes. This makes ‘Birds and Beasts’ an engaging listen and an album that reveals itself in different ways each time you listen. It’s a bit like going on a familiar walk through the woods but noticing something new each time, both comforting and interesting.

There’s a real purity in Grube’s songs and in her voice which is quite understated but beautifully enchanting. Most of the songs are simply her vocals with only the sparsest of instrumentation; it’s really reminiscent of Damien’s Rice’s debut album ‘O’, and actually at times, Grube’s vocals recall Lisa Hannigan’s vocals off said album.

Perhaps it’s not unsurprising that the album feels so connected to the woods. Grube previously worked as a forest worker in the East Jutland forests, cutting down trees at day, writing songs at night. The sounds of the forest have seeped into her soul and into her music. All songs on the album are written, recorded, mixed and produced by Grube and it’s the result of several years of work in the home studio, including trips with a pocket sound studio to Iceland.

The album was finalised following contributions from a number of guest artists such as Thomas Sejthen (INDRA), Bo Rande (Blue Foundation, The William Blakes, Choir of young Believers) and virtuoso Icelandic violinist Una Sveinbjarnardóttir (Björk, Iceland Symphony Orchestra). Grube explains the album:

The songs on ‘Birds and Beasts’ are about the beautiful and poetic – and the ugly and fearful. Like a metaphor for life, the forest brings both enchanting birdsong and dark haunting creatures. The songs are written in different periods of my life. Often the music has appeared when feelings were hard to handle. ‘Daylight Trail’, for example, is written on an early morning after another sleepless night, where my thoughts couldn’t calm down, until the sunrise and the rationality of daylight would come to mind. ‘I Am An Island’ originated from a feeling of loneliness and having lost my self. ‘The Tiger’ is about a deep anxiety and the art of not getting caught and sucked into the vortex of the anxiety. But to patiently balance on the edge of a knife and move forward, let go.

The overall tone of the album is one of quiet contemplation, so it is an ideal accompaniment for those who are spending time during this crisis reflecting on what it means to them and how they navigate through the world. The influences on the album are clear, whether it’s the Nick Drake inspired single ‘Sunday Reassurance’ or the Feist-like single ‘Chameleon Song’ or the Damien Rice flavoured ‘I Am An Island’.

This 10 song set is full of quality and has been shaped and stripped and honed to within an inch of its life. Final song ‘Daylight Trail’ is just a glorious tune which, as Grube described earlier, is about the clarity that comes with daybreak following a tough night of insomnia. Giving over almost 2 minutes of a song to the sound of birdsong is a brave move but it sounds exactly right in Grube’s hands and is a perfect way to close a fantastic album from a stunning talent.

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