By: Roxanne Anderson
Released under Saddle Creek in 2007, “Set the Woods on Fire” was a one-album wonder for Art in Manila. Orenda Fink, who originally made her musical debut as the leading lady of Azure Ray, was merely on a hiatus when she, along with five others, formed the group in Omaha, Nebraska.
Acoustic based, like Azure Ray, the opening track, “Time Gets Us All,” lures in listeners with its delicate, thrumming piano and Fink’s monotone yet sultry voice. The title track “Set the Woods on Fire” is more climatic than the other ten tracks, due to a relatively driving guitar and percussion set up to aid in the song’s pace. It is the title track; therefore, it should be the bee’s knees, right? Honestly though, it cannot stand on its own. Tracks such as “The Abomination,” “I Thought I Was Free,” and “The Sweat Descends” are what truly give this album heart.
Throughout the entirety of “Set the Woods on Fire” there is not much clarity among the strange harmonies and haunting-graveyard-feel. Yes, Fink is consistently monotone throughout the album (not-so-newsflash, she is monotone in Azure Ray as well. If anything else was expected from her voice put down the album now). No, the choruses are not the blood and guts of the songs. Yes, there is definitely a feeling of heavy fog settling into the eardrums and the brain. The fog disappears though. Maybe not the second time or the third time for that matter, but if fog is allowed to thin itself out it is all good and dandy. Art in Manila’s vagueness produces a curiosity and in turn leaves all of their tracks up for personal interpretation. Without the fog, lack of crazy insane instrumentation, and odd vocal effects, Art in Manila’s “Set the Woods on Fire” would be just another piece of ear art that was spelled out so nobody had to think.