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Album Review: Cascadia
Cover image of the album Cascadia by Erwilian
2023 / Wood, Wind & Wire Productions
53 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Cascadia is the long-awaited new album from the Seattle-based acoustic ensemble Erwilian, and what a joyful beauty it is! The album was recorded during a live performance in Seattle, WA in December 2019 and captures the dynamic rapport between the performers and audience without the background noises that can sometimes be annoying on live albums (there is applause between the tracks, but no coughing, talking, etc.). In addition to the recording, Erwilian is releasing videos for all nine of the tracks that are both inspiring and a lot of fun to watch! Erwilian's previous three albums have been some of my favorites for those years, and Cascadia will be, too! In short, Erwilian is amazing and new music from them is always a special treat!

Founded in 2000 by Scott Melton and Jordan Buetow, Erwilian now includes seven artists playing a very impressive variety of acoustic instruments. The group also sometimes includes an ensemble of supporting strings and percussion appropriately named Erwilian+. Erwilian's music incorporates a wonderful blend of Celtic, world and folk genres into their own distinctive sound. Their previous album, Advent (2019), debuted at #1 in the Billboard new age chart. Members of Erwilian have also contributed to Grammy-winning albums Divine Tides (2022) by Stewart Copeland and Ricky Kej and Winds of Samsara (2015) by Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman, and Grammy-nominated Pangaea (2022) by Wouter Kellerman and David Arkenstone.

Cascadia begins with the title track, a relatively short ambient piece that intrigues the listener with a tone of mystery before segueing into "Fantasy & Dance," a haunting piece that allows violinist Keely Rendle to really shine. Gradually, the music intensifies as the remaining ensemble players join in, making it a great start! "Animaux" is a beautiful medley of "La Creche" and "La Faune" with Jordan Buetow in the lead and in duet with Bethel Melton on recorders beautifully enhanced by the rest of the band - haunting and heartfelt. "Angelia" is a medley of ancient melodies from Europe that showcases Buetow's expressive recorder along with guitars, hammered dulcimer, strings and percussion - gorgeous! "Lark Ascending - Excerpts" is quite different. Composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams and arranged as a piano and violin duet by John Hintze (piano) and Keely Rendle, it is both beautiful and a fascinating showcase piece for both artists. "Atta Fossar" is based on an original melody by Jordan Buetow and features harps, hammered dulcimers, guitar, percussion and strings. I absolutely love "Wandering," a medley of "I Wonder As I Wander," "Roving" by Scott Melton, and "The Wayfaring Stranger." Buetow carries much of the melody of the two folk songs with his haunting recorder, switching to harmonium and percussion for "Roving," which features the exceptional string section in the lead - an incredibly beautiful and poignant eight-minute track! Where's that "repeat" button? "Minuit" is a soothing and peaceful arrangement with a fascinating assortment of instruments including bowed marimbaphone, celesta, whistle, harp, hammered dulcimer, chimes, strings and even piano! The closing piece, "Masters In This Hall," is well-suited to being an encore! Based on "Marche pour les Matelots" by Marais and "Danse des Mauresques" by Scott Melton, it is a spirited and animated piece that includes a river-dance by Keely and Anne Rendle (viewable on the video, audible on the recording). It's an incredible close to another outstanding album by Erwilian!

Cascadia is available in both digital and CD forms on Amazon, to download on Apple Music/iTunes, and on many streaming sites including Spotify. I give Cascadia my highest recommendation! Bravo!!!
August 20, 2023