The moniker The Whispering Tree is rife with imagery and symbolism. One interpretation is the subtle call of natural forces, as if listening to the noises trees make as wind passes through them may mystically reveal answers or profound truths. It’s a “call of the wild” ideal, but for the Franco-American folk-rock duo the concept of The Whispering Tree spoke to them during a period of aimlessness.
At the time, after heaps of critical acclaim, and well-received international tours, the pair found itself in a creative and spiritual lull. However, listening to the music from within enabled the duo to find direction out from the forest of depression and listlessness. Now, The Whispering Tree returns with a milestone album, Invisible Forces, out August, 2018, its second album in 11 years, and first release in 5 years.
“There was this slow realization that creating and performing gives our lives meaning and purpose. Without it we were drifting,” reveals Eleanor. “So, our whole head space was a little different while planning and creating this album because we had very consciously decided that we wanted to continue making music, and, from that space, we had very little to prove.”
The Franco-American duo, which includes singer/songwriter Eleanor Kleiner and multi-instrumentalist Elie Brangbour, craft richly immersive folk-rock brimming with evocative lyrics, nature imagery, perspectives from travel, and a panoramic musicality that encompasses traditional folk, indie rock, classic rock, and 1960s pop and rock n’ roll. The twosome has garnered favorable comparisons to Cowboy Junkies, Over the Rhine and Aimee Mann.
The pair’s debut, Go Call the Captain, was named "one of the year's most luminous albums" by The Big Takeover Magazine, and NYC's The Deli magazine called The Whispering Tree "one of the most talented duos to take stage in NYC." Other marquee career moments include official showcases at the Northeast and Southwest Regional Folk Alliance Conferences; being Kerrville New Folk finalists and Philadelphia Songwriter's Project winners and Eleanor and Elie having the honor to lend their voices to Pete Seeger and Lorre Wyatt's album, A More Perfect Union.
The twosome met at music school in London. At the time, Eleanor was a singer-songwriter seeking to collaborate, and Elie had a reputation of being one of the institution’s most gifted musicians. At first, the pair had a band mindset, but slowly found freedom in creating as a duo, working together to blossom Eleanor’s song seedlings with a full range of harmonic, instrumental, and arrangement possibilities.
Invisible Forces is an intriguing entry in the band’s catalog because the pair have cast aside its purist notions about recording as a live band in a “real” studio. Instead, Eleanor and Elie opted to self-produce and record at their bucolic Beacon, New York home with help from fellow Hudson Valley musicians Otto Hauser, Will Bryant and James Hearne. Freed from the time constraints of conventional studio situations, The Whispering Tree could take their time on Invisible Forces, especially with respect to crafting clever arrangements.
Thematically, Invisible Forces explores duality and the struggle for a sense of permanence in the face of inevitable change, inspired by the pair’s new home in the pastoral Hudson Valley. “I found myself taking photos of abandoned places, there’s a peaceful beauty in watching these great man made structures fall back to the earth,” Eleanor shares. Elie adds: “There is beauty in nature reclaiming this ground.” The idea of the transience of the house appears on the impressionistic “These Houses” and the blues-riff driven “This House Is Split in Half.” The later tune represents fresh turf for The Whispering Tree as the duo integrates a touch of classic rock swagger within its elegant folk-pop. Interesting enough, this bedrock music of the 1960s and 1970s has always been an influence, and prior to the album, The Whispering Tree released several singles re-imagining classic rock tunes as plaintive, harmony driven folk songs.
Other album highlights include the leadoff single, “Fat Cat,” “Heavy,” “Garden,” and the concluding track, “Bells.” The slinky “Fat Cat” has antecedents in Elie’s French background and the old-time gypsy jazz tradition back in his hometown while the satirical, anti-capitalist sentiment of the lyrics is firmly rooted in the protest songs of the 60's folk revival. The track “Heavy” may very well be an aesthetic touchstone for The Whispering Tree, showcasing the breadth of its inspirations in touching upon New Orleans-style jazz, folk, blues, and the 1960s rock and pop harmony vocal tradition, spanning the Beach Boys to the Girl Groups.
Eleanor refers to the Laurel Canyon-flavored folk of “Garden” as a “post-apocalyptic environment ballad.” The song has a dreamy ominous feel in its stirring musical passages and winsome boy-girl harmony vocals. The closing track, “Bells,” is inspired by the rich heritage of the Beacon, New York folk scene in which professionals, including icon Pete Seeger, and amateurs gather around and share stories and songs. “Bells” is a sweetly rousing protest song brimming with bluesy guitar and bucolic New England countryside folk imagery.
Recharged by the creative process, The Whispering Tree will be touring nationally and internationally, and releasing more new material. “I’ve felt compelled to release these songs, and I can’t wait to share this new music,” Eleanor says. Elie adds definitely: “This is the closet we’ve gotten to our ideal vision for The Whispering Tree.”
- #1 Album, #1 Artist, #2 Song - International Folk DJ Charts, Sept 2018
- 2017 Southwest Regional Folk Alliance Official Showcase
- 2017 New Folk Finalist
- 2017 Philadelphia Songwriter's Project Winner
- Performed on Pete Seeger and Lorre Wyatt's "A More Perfect Union"
- North East Regional Folk Alliance official Showcase
- North East Regional Folk Alliance Suzi Wollenberg Folk DJ Showcase
- Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artist
- Featured on "One Tree Hill" and "The Client List
"Great, great voices, wonderful arrangements...a beautifully produced album."
- Frank Hennessy, BBC Celtic Heartbeat
"Invisible Forces is a musically diverse take on classic Midwest Americana sung with the soul of the gospel"
"In the field of excellence, without flights of fancy, without special effects, aiming with measure and taste directly at the fulcrum."
"A socially potent commentary of humankind's modern times"
"The Whispering Tree live is an intimate slice of warm folk roots"
"The Whispering Tree tastily combine wistful folk, mellow rock and pinches of gypsy jazz and bluegrass into a compelling compilation of tightly written tunes"
- Keyboard Magazine
"One of the most talented duos to take stage in NYC."
- Deli Magazine
"Spacious, sweeping, snow peak-scaling folk rock."
- The Big Takeover
"The Whispering Tree manage to be extremely accessible without compromising the intelligence of their music. To say that Kleiner sounds like an edgier version of Tift Merritt, or Shelby Lynne in a pensive, cosmopolitan moment, doesn't do justice to the originality of her songwriting or her unaffected, disarmingly direct vocals. The band were amazing."
- Lucid Culture