Brightonian folk artist and multi-instrumentalist Ian Roland’s latest project “The Wood Wide Web” is a vivid, enthralling celebration of life in all its forms and a lucid love letter to the wilderness.

Beginning with the track “Not Alone” the warm folk sound of Ian Roland’s “The Wood Wide Web” is immediately infectiously cosy evoking thoughts of warm fires and woodland wandering. Delicate vocals and layers of sound cover the listener like a blanket as the song provides the comfort its title suggests. This feeling of warmth and solace continues throughout the record with gentle, acoustic chords underpinning each track and softly poetic lyricism accompanying it.

Alongside the tenderness of “The Wood Wide Web” there is a definite driving force of passion for the natural world and replenishing of the earth. One of the biggest highlights of the album is the track “Wilder Things”, a spirited piece paying homage to the wilderness which is now being lost. An unconventional song structure and experimental, unpredictable nature replicates the mercurial temperament of nature painting a vivid picture in the listeners mind of the power of the earth. Other tracks such as “Beyond Words” emphasise the boundless beauty of nature, soaring through the speakers like a bird catching flight.

Authentic instrumentation such as the finger-picked 12 string guitar, layered vocals and string sections create a sense of naturality to Roland’s “The Wood Wide Web” that is becoming rare in the music of today. With the reminiscent use of fiddles in tracks such as “Giant!” which using metaphorical lyricism targets the corporate greed of the modern world and the communal nostalgia in the lyrics of “Gold in the Dust” there is a sense of longing for a time left behind in Roland’s music. In the melancholic ballad “Nothing Could Grow There” Roland confronts his fears about the future of the earth for the younger generations in a way seldom explored in such a vulnerable way.

Despite this nostalgia “The World Wide Web” is a joyous celebration of life filled with optimism for rebirth and new creation in the future. The song “In It for the Ride” looks towards rebuilding what is broken whilst the instrumentals on the track build up layer by layer themselves reaching a beautiful and hopeful crescendo. The songs “New Life” and “Wildflowers” bring the promise of rebirth with an almost childlike playfulness to its instrumentals and lyrics encouraging the listener to “push the fear away” and not be afraid to start over. Roland’s record is one that inspires growth rather than giving up.

Unsurprisingly, Roland’s magnificent project “The Wood Wide Web” was first pieced together during the spring of 2020, the time of lockdown and the pandemic which drew attention to the necessity of connection to the natural world as well as fellow humans. From this was born an album which links the two together, honouring our bonds with both the natural world and each other. The result is something utterly engrossing.