“Before I Go” by Best Fern
I first became aware of Nick Schofield via 2021’s Glass Gallery, a collection of airy synthesizer pieces composed on a vintage Prophet-600. One of the songs from that album — “Mirror Image” — ended up on my year-end mix for 2021. I was unaware, however, of Best Fern, his long-running collaboration with singer Alexia Avina until I heard this year’s Earth Then Air — which just so happens to be their debut full-length following several singles and EPs. (And a dreamy cover of “Take On Me.”)
As its title implies, the album’s twelve songs seem completely untethered from any worldly concerns, thanks to Schofield’s delicate synth-work (which sounds like it was carved from the finest glass) and Avina’s ethereal voice, which veers from playfully dancing amidst Schofield’s exquisite arrangements on a song like “On and On” or “Evolving Tide” to something more haunting on “Before I Go.”
One of the album’s more somber songs, “Before I Go” is just as atmospheric and otherworldly as anything on Earth Then Air. Avina’s voice is crystalline in its clarity and control, even when she pushes it into the upper reaches of the atmosphere while singing “Before I go/I hope I learn to love you.” Meanwhile, the duo’s shimmering, glittering music melds with Vangelis-like tones around the mid-point, suggesting rare shafts of sunlight punching through the ever-present rain and gloom of Blade Runner’s Los Angeles.
Earth Then Air is currently available via the Youngbloods label, which has also released music from Nakamura Hiroyuki, Lucy Roleff, Yoh, and one of Schofield’s other projects, Rêves sonores.