Some big questions get raised on All Alone In An Empty House, the debut by North Carolina ensemble Lost In The Trees. Can classical music speak intimately to the 21st century? Do folk and classical forms diverge so widely that they actually circle around and meet? Can a classically trained songwriter unlearn enough theory and technique to make his virtuosity effectively invisible? Ari Picker, leader of LITT, doesn’t exactly answer those questions, but he does frame one hell of a compelling argument.
A delicate, elaborate sprawl, All Alone sounds less like a folk album bedazzled with strings and woodwinds and more like an earnest exploration of how Western music forms an unbroken backdrop—one Picker uses as a medium for the psychic trauma of a violent childhood in a dysfunctional home. For such a seemingly bucolic record, that tension can be unnerving; with the detached yet invasive feel of someone filming a documentary about his own life, Picker uses songs like “We Burn The Leaves In The Fall” and the title track to pack regret and empathy into symphonic, cinematic vignettes. His voice has strong overtones of Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, but Picker is able to whittle that whine into a sharper, more focused sound.