A decade ago, Of Raging Waters introduced listeners to the colorful palette of multi-instrumentalist Mark Yodice, who records as The June Rise. The album sounds just as contemporary today as it did then, a burst of warm weather ebullience that builds its nest in a crook between genres. Yodice’s acoustic guitar holds sway while strings and drums add adornment. It’s possible that Yodice plays all of the instruments – on Birds, he’s credited with five – but we suspect the help of up to seven of the same performers credited on the new EP.
Birds takes up where Of Raging Waters leaves off, even in a literal sense, as birds sing in album closer “Montauk, Summer (One Blossom to Another)” and the EP begins with the title track. The tone remains warm, welcoming, and confident. The synth is prevalent in the early going, but chimes and violin rules the second half of the piece. While looking at the cover image from Australian artist Carolyn Ridsdale, one imagines a spring walk, the birds returning, greenery proliferating and love in the air. “Eventually”s trumpet initially sounds like a flute, cementing the association. Light choral “oo”s flitter atop cellos, creating a bridge from heaven to earth. All seems well in the world.
And yet, upon release, all was not well. The artist was in the hospital, fighting for his life. The EP came and went, and spring seemed to go on without him. While we’re happy to report that Yodice has made a slow, steady recovery, his ordeal lends a new facet to the music. What appears on the surface like pure joy – save perhaps for the reflective “Summoned by the Tides” – now seems like a memory chest, a collection of happy notes stored in a closet, meant to be reopened when needed. One never knows when misfortune might fall. In light of such uncertainty, we might learn all the more to cherish each rising June: blossom and song, the birds in the trees, the burgeoning colors, the ephemeral, essential goodness of spring. (Richard Allen)