Twigs & Yarn
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Twigs & Yarn


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"FADER - Watch Three Videos from Twigs & Yarn"

One of this year’s finest releases from the obsession-inducing Tokyo label Flau has somehow gone unmentioned around these parts: Twigs & Yarn’s ambient collage The Language of Flowers. The group was formed in Austin, TX by Stephen Orsak and Lauren McMurray, but the album was recorded when they were apart, when McMurray was living in Japan (and collecting many of the LP’s hallmark samples). The record is a sort of digital correspondence of field recordings, merging Austin and Shibuya into one sonic place. It’s quiet and seriously intimate, but the feeling of distance is there, too—on “If I Were an Artery,” over tiny piano and footsteps through mud, a woman says, If I were an art-art-artery, we’d be together all the time. The Language of Flowers was mastered by Nick Zammuto of The Books, whose group’s quietest moments are probably a good reference point, though even then Twigs & Yarn are more restrained. The best parts are when almost nothing is happening, just a pinwheel spinning or a fountain turning on.
As an intro to their sound, here are three Twigs & Yarn music videos. Watch “Mermaid Wetness” above, directed by the duo. Below is “Flowers Thirsty,” directed by Brandy Lynn, and “Static Rowing,” compiled using footage shot by the Moravian Bishop John Louis Morkovsky. The Language of Flowers is out now in America, available on white vinyl and as hand-collaged CD. Download Flau’s great FADER mix, and read an interview with the label’s founder, here. - The FADER

"No Fear Of Pop Review"

Paper Cloud Improvisations, a series of live improvisations, blend ambient guitar tones with looped sounds of rustling paper and whispers, and the result is hauntingly beautiful. Twigs & Yarn are a duo based out of Austin, TX whose songs are almost exclusively improvised & recorded live. “Bird Whisperer” is a stunning example of an ambient soundscape created by organic sounds. In all of their tracks, though, there’s an undercurrent of tension hidden in the layers that makes it difficult to pull away.

The collection can be heard in its entirety on Soundcloud.

The duo’s debut full-length album, The Language of Flowers, whose album cover is featured above, is set to be released August 22 through the Japanese label Flau. -

"Wajobu Blog Review"

I sometimes listen to shortwave radio, late into the night, or in the early morning, as signals and sleep drift; voices and sounds emerge and disappear. Every so often my radio will lock in on a clear signal, and for a time there are voices from foreign lands, interesting new music, field correspondents reporting, or the strange sounds of open carrier frequencies waiting for a signal to fill them.

The Language Of Flowers is the enchanting (and often quirky) new album by Twigs & Yarn, and it has some parallels to late night radio listening, a mixing of familiar sounds, music and fleeting recollections. Both artists and musicians, Stephen Orsak resides in Texas, and Lauren McMurray is in Japan, and their work takes shape over the airwaves, satellites and international cables via computers and ftp servers. I didn’t discover Twigs & Yarn on my own; I have Michael Cottone of The Green Kingdom to thank for introducing me to their works. I come across new artists by exploring record label websites, visiting the few record shops that are left and (often the best method), word of mouth from musicians and friends. I don’t yet have the LP version, but the CD is packaged in a letter-pressed hand decorated collage (each one is slightly different).

The album opens with the mysteriously diaphanous Laverne, which shimmers like filtered sound-light on a bright morning, then passes quickly into the gentle swaying of Static Rowing. The fourth track Conscious Strings is both the clear reality of a solo acoustic guitar, combined with the meandering voices of a daydream. Some tracks seem to blend together as observations shift, and there is peaceful warmth in the sounds of a given day, whether inward looking as in Mermaid Wetness (with ingeniously repeated cadenced sound-samples) or outward as in the strangely discordant An Honest Moment which merges into street sounds, bells, voices, and then into a tranquil music box and electric guitar reflection in Rosy Cheeked Pumpkin reminiscent of Daniel Lanois’ pedal steel work on his album here is what is.

Bristle Of Mundane is an unexpected contrast, which opens with a heavily-distorted music box, eventually settling into gentle waves. The experience of late night radio listening is present in Flowers Thirsty, tuning in and out from pop-music radio samples to a distant ebb and flow of music and whispers, the mind drifts late into the night, until being awakened by the radio-alarm (this is my favorite piece on the album, mysterious and great keyboard sounds). The gentle pulsing organ of Marigold Ride contains a soft repeated vocal, flowing into acoustic guitar of Strings Of Complacency (sounding a bit like some recent solo guitar work of Ant Phillips combined with light treatments from Eno’s Julie With from the album Before And After Science). Learning To Glisten is the postlude to the album, the purest of all the tracks, with little sonic movement, and is a soothing close.

The Language of Flowers is like rotating a radio tuning knob late at night, or peering into a window overlooking a secret garden, or ephemeral visions in a dream. It’s an assemblage of existence all around, from the broadest landscapes down to the tiniest whispers, and even memories of childhood games as in the gently spirited and delightfully melodic third track, If I Were An Artery. The music, field recordings, samples and instrumentation are assembled with an idiosyncratic aplomb that yield a very cohesive and soothing quality, like a less energetic, more contemplative version of works by The Books combined with gossamers of the dearly departed Sparklehorse. So, it makes complete sense that Nick Zammuto (ex-Book) mastered this album; a symbiotic chemistry. -

"Textura Review of The Language Of Flowers"

It's telling that “Laverne” opens The Language of Flowers, Lauren McMurray and Stephen Orsak's debut Twigs & Yarn collection, even if it is a mere forty-three seconds long. The reason? Like some broken radio transmission, the scratchy, hiss-smothered collage of vocal musings, bell tinkles, and whistling clarifies in an instant just how much the Texas-born duo emphasize found sounds within their song structures. The track that follows, “Static Rowing,” expands upon the intro's sound-world to include a dreamy musical component whose gently flowing percussion, wordless vocal murmurs, and atmospheric guitar textures prove soothing in the extreme. The latter style is the one that is more emblematic of the group's style, but the point made by “Laverne” is clear: this is ambient-electronic material that treats its collage and musical elements as equally important parts of the whole.

A typical Twigs & Yarn song grounds a multi-tiered arrangement woven from non-musical sounds and simple melodic structures with a slow-motion rhythm base. In that regard, “Flowers Thirsty,” which finds Japanese radio snippets abruptly supplanted by a drowsy, crackle-drenched mass of breathy vocals, bass pulses, and shimmering guitars, can be seen as a near-perfect exemplar of the forty-four-minute album's style. The duo gives its sound a slightly different twist in “If I Were an Artery” by adding the sunlit tinkle of a child-like melody and vocal fragments left over from some Boards of Canada session.

Field recordings are an integral part of the Twigs & Yarn sound (traffic and beach-side noise, people talking, etc.) but so too are the musical patterns that Orsak uses to lend the material structure and coherence. Apparently McMurray collected many of the sounds while living in Japan, things such as radio noise, temple bells, peoples' voices, and her own fragile and ethereal vocalizing. Orsak then wove the elements together, augmenting them with guitars, electronics, field recordings, and sequencers, to form the album tracks in their issued form. Their approach was to some degree set by a year-long separation that found them exchanging files using e-mail and FTP servers and progressively shaping the songs' diverse micro-elements into coherent form. There's a lo-fi quality to the songs, too, due to the basic recorders and homemade microphones that were utilized in the recording process.

Whereas much of the album plays like a meandering stream of acoustic guitar strums, electric guitar shadings, bells, and music boxes, the songs that stress the melodic dimension, such as “Marigold Ride” and “Strings of Complacency,” are more memorable than those that emphasize texture and mood. In the wistful latter song, for example, piano tinkles and a synthesizer's soft wheeze interact alongside soft vocals and lulling acoustic guitar patterns to create a lullaby-like effect that's arresting, while “Learning to Glisten” ends the album on a peaceful note in merging twilight musical textures with night-time field recordings of insects. Of course the Twigs & Yarn name itself implies much about the group's approach, given that it suggests the stitching together of sounds originating from unconventional sound sources, and certainly the album makes good on the implicit promise of the name.
October 2012 -

"Foxy Digitalis Review"

Twigs & Yarn sound right at home on Japanese label flau, and some of the sounds on this album were recorded while one of its members was living in Japan, but they’re actually from Austin. The duo utilizes homemade instruments, found sounds and field recordings along with ethereal vocals, static/glitch sounds, and general loveliness. “If I Were An Artery” has a minimal drum machine and bass pulse framing the sample collage into more melodic, songlike territory. Most of the rest of the tracks use rhythm more freely, ranging from acoustic free-folk to tracks which break into a crunchy, non-linear beat only when they’re ready. “Rosy Cheeked Pumpkin” begins with the sound of a music box, is loosely guided by a loop of a plucked bassline, and features all sorts of whispering voices hidden in the architecture. It’s no wonder Nick Zammuto of The Books mastered this album, as there’s such subtle, intricate use of found voices and melodies, but at the same time it doesn’t really sound like The Books. It doesn’t quite weave together a narrative the way the Books did, and it’s much more interested in creating dreamy soundscapes than The Books’ comparatively more poppy collages. To be honest, I prefer what Twigs & Yarn do much more; they keep the tempos low or abstract, and it’s more conducive to get lost in. -


The Language of Flowers (flau, 2012)
Field Recordings Compilation (Annie Street Arts Collective 2010)



Twigs & Yarn is an ambient, mixed-media folk duo based in Austin, Texas. Small children’s toys, found objects, field recordings, clinking cans, guitars and a variety of other homemade items comprise their subtle textured soundscapes and performances.

Twigs & Yarn's debut LP, The Language of Flowers, was released in August of 2012 on the Japanese label flau ( The album is an intimate story pieced together between continents and bedrooms, a collage of musical messages assembled from traditional instruments, trembling voices and lonely nights. The songs range from simple improvisations to meticulously arranged soundscapes with subtle textures and melodies held together by a drowsy fuzz that will leave you sleepy-eyed and dreaming. The album was beautifully mastered by Nick Zammuto (The Books, Zammuto).

Recorded during a yearlong separation, The Language of Flowers embraces the discovery of sharing sounds from across the sea through ftp servers and email. Utilizing lo-fi recorders and homemade microphones, the songs developed slowly from the random joining of sound clips never intended for each other, creating beautiful unexpected moments. Many of the sounds for the album were recorded by Lauren McMurray while living in Japan: radio frequencies, people talking on the streets, temple bells, and quiet vocals hummed into coffee tins in the dead of night. Her voice is ethereal and strange, and she uses it to create textures from dreamy whispers to full choruses. Final compositions were augmented and stitched together by Stephen Orsak using guitars, electronics, field recordings and sequencers.

Lauren Mcmurray is an artist and musician currently living in Kimitsu, Japan. Past projects include recording and performing with Dana Falconberry, Cuushe, Silver Pines and Linen Closet.

Stephen Orsak is a musician and producer currently living in Austin, Texas. Past and current collaborators include Pure X, Weird Weeds, some say Leland, Dana Falconberry and Shakey Graves.