Ryan Hover and Kay Bertholf, composers, arrangers, and principle songwriters of Candy Claws, wrote Hidden Lands on keyboard because they don’t know how to play keyboard. They had to rely completely on what sounded right, rather than rely on techniques they had learned. Strange chords and melodies arose that might sound “wrong” to the trained musician, but sound mysterious and exciting to them.
Each song on Hidden Lands contains a sample of every other song on the album. They’d used this technique on previous releases, but this time around it happens throughout the whole album, creating a very cohesive listening experience. Sometimes you’ll be able to recognize a bit of a song within another, but perhaps more interesting are the references only your subconscious will catch. Without you noticing, your mind (and maybe your heart!) will make the connections, bridging the bridge of one song to the intro of another, taking in the album as a whole, just like albums should be.
Hidden Lands, their second album and first on twosyllable records, is a musical companion to Richard M. Ketchum’s book, The Secret Life of the Forest. To derive lyrics, the band borrowed paragraphs from the book and used translation software to translate them back and forth between English and Japanese until they equalized, finding very cool phrases along the way. The resulting lyrics are almost nothing like the original words, but are actually some very insightful and poetic phrases (“Trees, like all other forms of life, trace their origins back to the sea” became “Tree of life in the sea!”)
While their previous release, In the Dream of the Sea Life sounds very contemporary - it’s easy to place it in 2009 or 2010 - Hidden Lands is timeless. It was a goal of the band to make it sound like they had sampled recordings from the mid-1900s, while in reality every sound you hear on the album was created in their tiny bedroom studio. They also hard-panned everything left, right, and center, like audio engineers had to do when stereo first came out. A bass line in the left trading off with a string section in the right; this is an album best enjoyed in the confines of headphones. On the road, Candy Claws are an orchestra of 8. Friends and musicians from the Fort Collins, CO area bring to life the sounds of Hidden Lands.
It is completely unique and wonderful record. There may be nothing in the world like it.
Hidden Lands is available from twosyllable records on August 3.