I can remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Lost in the Trees. I was in my hometown of Raleigh, N.C., driving in my car, listening to the local college station. The host mentioned that local musician Ari Picker and his band would be performing a few songs. From the band's name I expected simple folk and was stunned to hear what felt like an entire orchestra pour out of my tiny minivan speaker.
Ari Picker has a knack for creating expansive songs that still remain privately his own. "Red," from the band's new album A Church That Fit Our Needs is dramatic and dark without veering into exaggeration or pure macabre.
Layers of sound bend around each other, bobbing and diving under the mix. Even with all the dense orchestration swirling around him, Picker's powerful, personal lyrics are front and center. The song's point of view flips from him ("I heard you weeping through the walls") to his mother ("Your love carried me through today") in a way that makes the song both a celebration and a sad remembrance of his mother's life.
For the video of "Red" the band has created a piece that could accurately be described as David-Lynchian — by which I mean the images within are unsettling and I have a hard time understanding most of it outside of Ari Picker's personal context. As small vignettes the images within are beautiful (especially the bathtub full of dead leaves), but slightly askew in a way that leaves you scratching your head. At times the video threatens to run off the rails and become purely theatrical, but that danger is quickly tempered by quiet moments such as Picker simply standing alone.
Ari Picker told NPR that the video was an immensely personal experience for him:
"When my mom passed, I gathered up all of her art supplies (sewing machines, paint brushes, fabrics) and put them into my writing space. She had also left behind a lot of tapes of her interviewing other artists about their work, a unfinished documentary of sorts. I used the four-track machine to harvest some of my moms conversations with the artist Clyde Jones (a local wood sculptor), and used them as samples on the record. When I was little, we lived in a large unkempt farm house, and my mother turned one of the bigger rooms into her art gallery. Around Christmastime she would put on a show and sell her work. She would take leaves from our magnolia tree and spray paint them gold as decorations for around the house. She would also cut flowers from our night blooming cereus and float the pedals around in the bath tub and take pictures of them. All these little acts of taking normal things and making them beautiful - that is what really influences me. The golden leaves, the swirling paint brushes, they are all intended to conceptualize an intangible place, the place where art is created, as well as a space for passing souls."
A Church That Fits Our Needs from Lost In The Trees comes out March 20 on Anti- Records. If you can't stand the wait you can see the band's Tiny Desk Concert from the NPR Music offices, and hear a live concert from Washington, D.C.