Album Review: Johnny Flynn and Robert Macfarlane // Lost in the Cedar Wood

Enveloping the listener in folksy acoustic guitar and warm, honest vocals, the music of Johnny Flynn has long since been the metaphorical cosy woolen jumper fans have embraced when in need of comfort.

The hearty vegetable soup of the music world, there’s something about Flynn’s music that’s reliable and soothing. From the theme tune of kooky British drama The Detectorists, to the end credits track of Autumn De Wilde’s 2020 production of Emma, to a collaboration with everyone’s favourite folk singer-songwriter Laura Marling, Flynn has been both soothing and surprising us with a string of releases since 2008. This time, he’s teamed up with writer and academic, Robert Macfarlane, to produce something that is simultaneously bold and serene: Lost in the Cedar Wood, set for release this Friday (14 May) via Transgressive Records.

An author whose literary explorations of nature, landscape and places have won him numerous accolades and awards, Macfarlane’s work is a perfect accompaniment to that of Flynn’s, and together they’ve created an album that serves as an ode to nature – one that conveys not only the beauty and serenity of the world, but also its immense and irrevocable power.

Opening track ‘Ten Degrees of Strange’ is a mess of frenzied violin and brash acoustic guitar. It’s tangled tempo and chaotic off-key guitar twangs create a surreal tone, expressing the unpredictable temperament of the environment. Low, off-beat rhythms introduce ‘Tree Rings’, a narration of the felling of age-old trees, and a eulogy for the plants that have existed for many hundreds of years before us – a symbol of the strength and endurance of the natural world. ‘Enkidu Walked’ featuring a figure from ancient literature who first appeared in poem ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ (regarded as the oldest surviving literature of Mesopotamia), appears as another respectful nod to the importance and significance of history.

Feelings of awe and wonder are further conveyed by the tinkly piano of ‘Gods and Monsters’, the track’s philosophical voice yearning with “questions I’ll never have answers for”. Meanwhile, the jazzy, twangy guitar and catchy overlapping vocals of ‘Bonedigger’ create a sneaky, sinister tone that transports you to the underworld – a feeling mirrored in a more gentle, understated way by the lyrics and acoustic strums of final track, ‘Ferryman’.

By contrast, the album also allows moments for nature to be enjoyed, not just revered. The soft vocals and structured progressions of tracks such as ‘The World To Come’ portray a time spent relaxing in nature, the lyrics “as the rising sun draws a kiss from the bird’s song” noting the peace and serenity of the breaking dawn.

Lost in the Cedar Wood is an epic poem of Flynn and Macfarlane’s own creation. An acknowledgement of both the overwhelming power and beauty of of nature, the pair have created a record that transports the listener from the depths of the seas to the rolling fields at sunrise, and that can be enjoyed from absolutely anywhere in the world.

Rating

Johnny Flynn and Robert Macfarlane’s Lost in the Cedar Wood is out this Friday via Transgressive Records and is available to pre-order and pre-save now.

Feature image by Hanna-Katrina Jędrosz.

Author avatar
Kate Eldridge

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